The idea of family is comforting, for the most part. Oh, it can be a difficult construct to deal with, and there are problems in any family. We know each other too well sometimes. Itís too easy to push buttons, and way too easy to forget how much we love each other and only remember why weíre jealous and why we fight. But in a happy family, fights and all, we always come back together, either in person or in spirit.
We often accept as members of our family anyone willing to put up with us, at close range and for extended periods. Blood relationships are important, but so is kinship of the other kind, the kinship of thoughts and feelings. Sometimes weíre closer to people we choose as our family than we are to people who were born into the same bloodline.
Still, thereís something to be said for shared history, and we have no more shared history than the people we grew up in the same house with, and the people we saw on birthdays and holidays so often when we were young. Thatís why this time of year is so special, and itís also why it can be so difficult. People who were such rich parts of our lives at one time might not be with us any more, and this is the time of year when that fact hits home, almost literally.
As with many families, ours seems to have a bittersweet, star-crossíd connection with this time of year. Weíve had many births and not a few deaths during the season. Today I learned of another death in the family. My cousin Sharon, five years younger than I am, died during heart surgery yesterday.
All of us, Suzanne and I and Sharonís brother and sister, were very close as children, although Sharon moved across the country as an adult and raised her own family. We had not seen her since her father, my Uncle Tommy, was very ill in 2001. He died in December of that year. Sharon was fun to be around when we were kids, and she became a wonderful mother and grandmother, among other accomplishments. I will miss her, even though I didnít see her often.