Kevin and I don’t come from large families. He is an only child who lost both of his parents in college. I am the youngest of three, but I have never been close to my brother or sister. We just weren’t raised that way.
When you are a young adult and you have your whole life ahead of you, you don’t really think about how your family will be when you are older. (At least we didn’t). Kevin’s friends have been important to him since we met, having lost his parents so young. I was very close to my parents and my sister-in-law, and we really didn’t have a care in the world when we moved to North Carolina.
I feel like we developed a whole new respect for our family when we moved away from Indiana. I missed my parents so much sometimes it physically hurt. We were very lucky that we made WONDERFUL friends in Hickory, most of which we are still in contact with. But, we missed our family and friends so much, we only lasted three years before we moved back to Indiana.
For years, we had a great family life. We were two hours away from Fort Wayne and two hours away from both sides of Kevin’s family. It was perfect, until it wasn’t. My family’s demise was slow and sneaky. My mother’s health started deteriorating slowly and she became very bitter to her family members. My sister-in-law and I started growing apart and I started not wanting to go home for holidays because there was just too much drama.
When my mother died, things really changed in my family dynamics. Kevin, too, had lost some close relatives and we started to realize that our little family of three was on our own. Many people criticized us for only having one child, but it was the right decision for us and we stand by it. We taught Molly to value her friendships and she has many close friends.
The three years between when my mother passed and my dad died were very special. We got to spend lots of time with him and it was wonderful. After his death, whatever relationship I had left with my brother and sister disappeared. That was July 2011 and life has changed tremendously since then. After my father’s death, we started to realize that “family” doesn’t mean just parents, brothers and sisters. It means the people in our lives who love us, not because they have to, but because they truly care about us.
Kevin has been blessed with many cousins and two of them are like brothers to him. They were both able to visit us in Oceanside at the same time this February and it was such a special time for him. Kevin and I have become very close to my cousin and her husband, in fact; we consider them surrogate parents. We were just blessed to have a visit from them and we already miss them. I have two girlfriends who I consider sisters and I know they will always be there for me. They too are coming to visit soon. Our “Fort Wayne” family is a group of dear friends we have known for over 30 years and we were blessed with a visit by two of them in March. We have my “brother from another mother” who was Kevin’s roommate when we met (I knew him from classes at IPFW) and his beautiful girlfriend (of over 20 years) who we want to convince to come live with us for retirement. They are coming to visit in August. We were just lucky enough to visit in San Diego with my long time girlfriend from when we were young “partiers”. We haven’t seen each other in years and it was as if no time had passed. Her oldest daughter lives in SD and we are looking forward to many more visits together.
I just got a text this morning from my high school girlfriend this morning. We have known each other since we were 15 years old and we are still close.
Many people wondered why we wanted to move so far away for retirement and all I can say is we knew it was right for us. This past Christmas we were able to spend time with my nephew and his sweet family in Ventura. It was the first time since my father passed that we had spent any time at Christmas with “family”. My cousin, who we are so close too, youngest daughter lives in Santa Barbara. Even though we weren’t close growing up, we are getting to know each other as adults and look forward to visiting together soon. (They have a daughter who lives in the Caribbean too, who we have gotten to know better thanks to Facebook!)
One of the funniest coincidences is that another of my cousins, who has lived in Indy longer than we did, and Kevin, have a connection that goes back to their childhood. Her mother and Kevin’s mother were best friends in Fort Wayne while working at ITT! We have gotten to know her more over the last few years and love her dearly.
So, the question we get asked the most is “do you think that Molly will move to California one day?” Our answer is always the same-probably not. You see, Molly learned from us to “make” a family of friends. We are so proud of the life she has built for herself in Louisville and the strong “family” she has there. We have been blessed with visits from three of her close friends and look forward to more visits.
Now, in Oceanside, we are adding on to our family. Our next-door neighbors have “adopted” us as THEIR family and we are honored to have their friendships. I have met many women in my “Meetup” groups and I am starting to form what I believe will be strong friendships with many of them. It is a wonderful time in our lives. We know who we are and what we value and we are so blessed to be in this wonderful city of Oceanside.
I still hold out hope that my relationships with my sister and brother will be healed someday; I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But I am okay because I have this wonderful network of “family” all over the country (and the Caribbean!) I didn’t mention any names in this blog, but our “family” knows who they are and that we love them all dearly. So, this Easter, Kevin and I will be spending the day just the two of us. Molly is spending it with her best friend since Kindergarten and her family in Fishers. We are so happy she has them in her life. Whether you are celebrating Easter, Passover or just another Sunday, I hope you take the time to be thankful for the “family” in your life. I know I am.