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Someone came up with the clever acronym for the word Family: Father and Mother, I Love You.  Isn’t that neat?  You betcha, that it is, and so true, too!

I come from a big family: 2 brothers and four sisters, and four step brothers from my dad’s first marriage.  We were always bunched together, but, unfortunately, weren’t a close-knit group.  My step brothers, who were older than us 7 kids, visited us often, but it seemed to my mother, they did so just to drink with my dad, which bothered her.  Many things bothered my mother!

For the most part, she was stuck with her seven [unruly] children, while my dad worked long hours, six days a week, to support us all.  And, trust me; all seven of us kids were people with our own characters and needs, and this variation of personalities and special demands drove mother up a wall!  Then there was this thing about my parents’ marriage that always seemed to push them out of their bedroom and into view, in some sort of brawl, or something scary as that!  She never shared her secrets or marital woes with me, but, as I sit here, a 53 year-old woman today, I think I pretty-much get the gist of what was going down in their union.

At any rate, we weren’t the Brady Bunch, growing up.  Their parents, Mike and Carol, at least involved themselves in “damage control” and “conflict resolve” when those kids fought!  Not so with us.  In our home, mother ruled the roost, and beat our asses in; father [Mr. Passive] did as she ordered and let her get away with all the corporal punishment, and we kids grew up – just as trained: waging war against each other, the same way that haters fight with other haters!  Sad, but true!

I’ve been thinking about that, a lot these days.  How, here we are, adults, 5 of us siblings left; two of my sisters have already passed away, as have both my parents; and three of the step brothers; and the remaining ones aren’t even on speaking terms!  I have issues with them, they have issues with me; and we have issues, just to put it plainly!  How foolish is that!  Yet; how bittersweet it is, also, for other reasons!

I’m the oldest daughter in the clan.  Mother placed a load of heavy responsibilities on my back, growing up, which prevented me from enjoying any childhood activities.  She would pop out children, year after year it seemed, and haphazardly pass them down to me, to look after and rear them for her!  And God-forbid I should let a mishap slip by; well, I got hit, a lot, if you know what I mean!

My siblings, and my parents, all seemed to depend on me, a great deal throughout my life.  And, in part, I had only ever really learned the role of caretaker, of being Mother Hen, even to nieces and nephews that later came along.  I always felt I was the heart of the family; the Mom they all went to and relied on, and felt safe with, except, I also always felt “alone” in this big family; misunderstood, disrespected, and cast aside when I didn’t agree with any one of them.

On one hand, today, I can count the family members that have stuck with me, through thick and thin: my two kids and my first nephew, and that’s it!  The rest of my siblings and other relatives are, dispersed persons, living their lives elsewhere and away from me.  I miss them, somewhat, and really…really wish that it had been different, from the beginning, for us all.  That my parents had taken the time to sit each one of us down, or even as a group, and spoken sense into us, instead of ignoring our issues and just imagining that each of us already knew right from wrong, and would use those ropes in the future!

I would have liked to have entered my elderly hood with my siblings at my side; to have my sisters, with whom to share womanly things with, and my brothers, with whom to feel protected and guarded by; like dear old friends!  But it didn’t turn out that way.  Each one of them would surely have a long list of stories and complaints to share with you, about me, just as I would give the reasons why it might be for the best that we remain apart.

I don’t know…I still don’t like the sound or the reality of this.  In my view, God put us together as “family” for a reason, and somewhere along the way we should have truly known how to place great value on these relationships.  But, it is what it is and life does go on.  I’m able to forgive & forget, and restore these relationships, but, honestly, only with the “promise” that each one won’t have too high a standard for the other person.  And if not, at least, and in spite of everything that I grew up seeing and experiencing, I know enough today, to still say, Family, and Father and Mother, I love you…