Monday, November 24, 2008

Thoughts on Family

Thanksgiving never was a religious holiday for me. It was never a day to give thanks to some master of the universe who dispensed goodness and to whom we all should be grateful. But I "got" the meaning of Thanksgiving, in the secular sense, despite the fact that my family was never one to do much beyond partake in the edible traditions. Turkey and dressing and masses of foods of all kinds were the center of the celebration, even though in our deeply unexpressive hearts I think we all truly appreciated the family we were and knew that's what this tradition was all about. We celebrated being a family and having one another, though we wouldn't verbalize it.

My childhood family is widely dispersed now and it's hard to simply come together, much less recapture that feeling of belonging that was palpable when I was a child. We're rarely together and even when we are, there are too many years of being apart and too many divergent experiences to get through for us to really be a family anymore.

My parents are long gone and there is stress and strain in the relationships between some of my siblings, including me. It's a heartbreaker to realize that family was a fleeting thing and that, once grown, our family morphed into a group of related, but disconnected, people, some of whom are ill at ease with others and don't understand one another and, from the look of things sometimes, don't want to.

I'm still close to several siblings, though apparently I've been discarded by one or two for reasons I can't begin to fathom. But that sense of family is tenuous for many people nowadays.

So, this Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I will eat a traditional family meal at a not-so-traditional restaurant. One sister will eat a Thanksgiving meal prepared by a church and shared with folks whose fortunes are slim and who can use a helping hand. One brother will go hunting with friends. The other two brothers and another sister? I don't know. They won't break bread together, since they're scattered about from Texas to Mexico to California. The niece and nephews similarly will be strewn about the country, enjoying grandparents or extended families or friends or, possibly, their own company.

That's the way families in our society tend to spread apart. And then, as time takes its toll, one by one people grown infirm or die and the ones left behind wish and worry that they didn't take the time and extend the effort to be together for that "one last time."

I wonder if the dispersal of the extended family and the creation of millions of familial diaspora have contributed to the existence of a society whose members often are distant and disconnected and lonely. I guess that won't be a subject of conversaton around my family's Thanksgiving Day meal this year.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Well, you and your wife will be together. That is family.


Ursula said...

There's the family that you're born into, and there's the family that you make yourself.

Happy Th'giving.