Tag Archives: Family

Family Reunion

My extended family got together yesterday, Saturday the 25th of July, for our sixth annual Family Reunion and Picnic. This year we met at a park just a stone’s throw from the Santa Monica Bay, which was a welcome change from the location of our first five get-togethers at a park in Redondo Beach that was situated in a wind tunnel that each year kept us jacketed and wrapped in blankets in the very heart of the summer. Of course, with every positive, some of us have come to expect a negative, a tradeoff of sorts, but yesterday was an exception in that there were none. Being so close to the beach one must always expect that parking will be an issue and indeed it was tight but everyone found a spot.

One of the highlights was that my son, his wife, and their two daughters left Phoenix for Kingman the night before (because of the bridge that washed out on Interstate 10) and then left Kingman early yesterday morning in order to make the Reunion, stayed for the duration, and drove back home late in the afternoon because he was required to open a store this Sunday morning in Phoenix. For my son it is clear that family is quite important to him as well as to the rest of us who attended including my niece Lisa who took it on herself to be the catalyst who made it all come together in the month after my older sister and mother, her grandmother, passed away.

Another highlight of the day was that my nephew Peyton, who had been shot nine times by college police officers this past January, was able to attend and could even walk from where his grandparents parked to our enclave at Barbecue Area 2. It was all I could do to keep from tearing when I saw him arrive without the wheelchair we had expected and looking so much better than the last time I saw him. It’s enough to make one believe in the power of prayer.

This Reunion sent my mind back to the late 1970’s when my career at Xerox, the pursuit of an MBA, and then to the early 1980’s where there was a leverage by out of a division of TRW, and a corporate vice-presidency, all of which had pushed the idea of family completely out of my life – except for every other weekend when I had my daughter and son with me. Fortunately, in the middle of the 1980’s my wife Denise and her friend Becky came into my life and rekindled the spirit of family within me. My wife, whose family is scattered from Colorado and out through the Midwest, could not understand why I did not make the effort to visit with family she considered local as they were mostly within one-hundred miles of where I lived. Well, Denise and Becky pestered me until I made the conscious choice to reach out and back to my roots and my family. Then when Denise and I became a couple I moved from the outskirts of Los Angeles County into an apartment in Hermosa Beach where she joined me within the midst of the family that was to become hers as well.

Yesterday’s Reunion was a very good day for my family after a span of nearly a year of witnessing yet one more tragedy after another. It demonstrated a commitment on those who attended to not only keep the family ties in place but to work to strengthen them. I know that commitment exists in those who could not attend, as for example: my youngest daughter who could not get time off from work, my youngest son who is living in Colorado, my nephew the fireman who was on extended duty, and my niece and grandniece who have been incarcerated since the end of last year.

I have drifted away from family and was pushed back to them. Drifting was easy. Being pushed was not without resistance but the reconnection to family was worth it because, even though one can live without family connections, it’s the connections that make us human.

Downsized

My wife and I have downsized. That is to say, we have moved into a double-wide mobile home in an over fifty-five community. The real truth is that the mobile is nearly the same square footage as the home we left behind so that our daughter, her husband, and four children could move into because they had sorely outgrown their two-bedroom.

The four-bedroom (plus office) home we gave up was finished in the Craftsman style (by me) with extensive built-ins and storage galore. The double-wide is a two bedroom with large rooms, loads of wall space, and minimal storage, which of course met the necessity of a yard sale. Now, I loathe yard sales, but I trimmed my possessions and sat it up, but left the running of it to my daughter and son while I boxed belongings.

As our previous home had the built-ins we were forced to purchase new furniture. After all you can’t just take chests of drawers, bookcases, desk furniture, and entertainment centers out of the walls that they are an integral part of. The mobile is slowly taking shape but the expenses (including some large unexpected emergency outlays) have slowed us down in replacing what we gave up, which were things like a desk, a piano, and storage space for my things. My current desk is a little 2’ by 4’ white plastic craft table but it supports my laptop perfectly well and now that we have reliable Internet things are slowly getting normalized.

Not only have we downsized but we’ve become empty nesters because in order to make this whole transition work our youngest son (21) and daughter (19) have moved into that aforementioned two-bedroom, which is some 40 minutes away. The good news for them is that, not only are they closer to their respective colleges (they don’t even have to get on the freeway), they get somewhat of a sheltered independence. The bad news is that they are learning how to be independent and I miss having their voices around. A double-wide can be a lonely place when you’re in it all alone and a little scary when the normal creaks and groans sound like footsteps and people mumbling. You see, I’ve never lived in a mobile home before and so it’s a different experience, to say the least.

I have learned, although, that downsizing is a lesson in letting go. Letting go of record collections and stereo equipment, of books and hobby magazines, and handmade furniture and fixtures, of the accumulated knickknacks of twenty-eight years together, and of all the familiar sights, sounds, surroundings, neighbors, and routines. It seems almost that letting go is a lot like pruning the deadwood and overgrowth.

But, letting go has also met leaving behind things that exacerbate my middle-aged onset of allergies and physical trauma. Letting go of mowing the lawn, of pruning the fruitless mulberry that left bumps all over my body, cat dander, of the mule on the next street braying in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, with the voice of a thousand pained banshees, and of letting go of those nasty allergy medications. I’ve even let go of the idea of being downsized and I have embraced the changes. I have even drawn plans up for a storage cabinet to sit below the window next to my desk, and for two window tables to sit behind the two couches and under the two east windows in he living room, for DVD cases to sit on either side of the LCD TV (we hope to have before too much longer), a wine rack, and I am now dreaming up plans for a replacement desk in the French Country style.

I think being downsized can be a lot of fun once you recognize it’s a bit like starting over and maybe, just maybe, it can all be done even better this time around.

Time Enough For Love

Way back in 1973 Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel “Time Enough for Love” was first published. I was a nineteen year old student at El Camino Junior College and the novel made quite an impact on me at the time although I did not yet learn the lesson of having time enough for love until much later.

In 1973 my youngest brother Robert was an adorable nine-year-old Cub Scout and the favored offspring of my father who was later to be in a state of denial over the shortcomings of youth. I married in 1973, began working full-time as a model builder for Xerox in El Segundo, and was a full-time college student who did not seem to have enough time for love. It was to be a disease that would prevail for the next decade of my life.

Robert, like many bright young people, was introduced to and swallowed by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was a topic of discussion at our “A Course in Miracles” meeting yesterday as we read from Chapter 25 and a too oft repeated story. Now, while my brother Robert was alive and struggling with his addictions I made the mistake of judging him using his drug use as the scale. Of course, I did not know that passing judgment upon him was a mistake at the time. That would not come until his weakened body gave up the struggle in August of 2000, the month I would turn forty-six, and begin a long period of wishing I had taken time enough for love.

We have been on the road this first part of August making a circuitous journey visiting family through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and then back home to California. One of the highlights of the trip was a short stop over in Las Vegas to reconnect with a woman who was, for all intent, my little sister. Visiting with her, and her mother, excavated many fond memories that are indeed nothing short of little treasures that I do so cherish as I stare down upon my fifty-ninth stalking through the underbrush of years gone by.

We were driving from Kingman to Gallup on the thirteenth anniversary of my brother Robert’s death – after some days visiting with my son, daughter-in-law, and our two granddaughters. Today we are all meeting at my daughter’s house to join in celebrating our grandson’s seventh birthday, which is to say that sometimes it might take a little effort, or maybe even a huge effort, to take time enough for love but the rewards are well worth it.

Jobs, careers, addictions, and a myriad of other forces work to push us off our path from “womb to tomb” but I’ve learned the best defenses against those dark interlopers is to abstain from passing judgment and to take time enough for love.

Foundations

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This past weekend our family went camping up in the Ventura Ranch area near Santa Paula. It was a great opportunity to get to know and bond with our two newest granddaughters, who arrived in the family with the recent marriage of my oldest daughter. She, my daughter, along with her family brought their cabin tent but my wife and I along with our two youngest (who aren’t so young anymore being 20 and 18) spent our nights on mattresses inside a large teepee. It is a comfort that we’ve come to cherish, as we’ve gotten somewhat older.

As you can well imagine keeping company with an active almost seven-year-old grandson, an almost four-year-old granddaughter, and a two-year-old granddaughter can be quite wearing. Then couple that with sleep deprived nights that include long walks to the restroom under perfectly starry skies and you can understand that by Sunday morning some of us were quite exhausted. So it’s no wonder that after arising early to help my daughter and her family pack up, because they unfortunately had to leave early Sunday morning, that I found myself dozing in a camp chair.

As I was dreaming in that semiconscious state my wife awakened me by softly pinching my arm and warning: “Don’t move.” I opened my eyes, turned to where she pointed, and had to smile because while I napped an itsy bitsy spider was busy constructing a spider web using me as one anchor point and the mesquite shrub next to were I reposed as the other. I, of course, was quite honored to be thought of so highly by my little friend that I continued to sit and watch its technique for a little while but, as I could not remain there forever, I coaxed the little engineer onto my fingertip and released it onto one of the branches of the mesquite.

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My service to the spider as a foundation for its livelihood was but a brief encounter but a camping trip is also a way to construct foundations of more permanence as I was so reminded on the day before. Near my daughters tent site was a playground that had, among other things, a space ship in which all three of my grandchildren crawled inside while I pretended to be the evil space alien who growled and scratched and reached inside to tickle the unsuspecting astronauts. At one particularly scary moment the two-year-old squealed and said: “I love you grampa Sam,” and soon after the almost four-year-old crawled up and out onto the roof of the space ship and then, quite unexpectedly, flung herself off into outer space never doubting that I would catch her. Now, what better way is there to build a lasting foundation?

I have long known that family is not so much about close blood relationships but is much more about people just coming together and building relationships upon a foundation of love that will withstand the rigors of time. As you assemble your own foundations consider that all of us, including my little friend the spider, are all part of one large blended family.