As of this weekend my wife and I, along with the rest of the school district, are on our winter break and ready for the happy obligations to begin. Obligations like children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and you get the idea – family. When I was younger family took a back seat to the almighty career until one day my wife Denise (who was not yet so) and our mutual friend Becky instilled in me the importance of family. As a result regular visits began to take place with my near relations. Later, after our marriage, those regular visitations even took place out of state where my mother was a regular passenger on those extended excursions, sometimes with and sometimes without me.
Yesterday I received a Facebook message from a student of mine telling me that she had found out who and where her biological father was and was planning a meeting. She confessed that she was both excited and anxious as well one would be. I recalled my own excitement at meeting an older sister several years ago, a sister who had only been a rumor up until just before our first meeting. We had much to catch up on and one of those things was that we had met before – back when I was the barefoot, snot-faced, son of an Oakie farm girl. I was all of perhaps three or four years old, which would have made her twenty-three or twenty-four at the time. It was a meeting I did not recall and was saddened to learn that my sister had been denied by my father and thus was denied to her a large portion of her family. One can only imagine how our lives might have been different.
It’s been three decades since Denise and Becky redirected my ambitions to where they should have always been. It has been sixteen years since the unexpected death of my youngest brother Robert taught me how ephemeral and precious life is after all and the most valuable lesson of all, which is not to turn your back on a family member in need. This Christmas Season I once again have three family members that are incarcerated and I know that they, more than most, need the support of family and friends and so I send letters, cards, books, love, and pray that it helps in some small fashion.
This past Thursday my wife and I drove to the Juvenile Court in Inglewood for what will likely be the last time. As before, what I witnessed gave me much to ponder about including that family we used to talk about back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was the family we called the Family of Man and this Christmas I wish my entire extended Family of Man the happiest Holiday Season possible and encourage everyone who possibly can to reach out in love to someone and wish them a wonderful Holiday Season as well.
Whatever holiday you celebrate I wish it to be your very best.