OPED: The concept of family

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MEEKER | I have been thinking about the concept of family recently. On my side of the family tree, I am extremely proud to claim two brothers and a sister of which I am the eldest. Although we live in three different time zones, four different states, have diverse political and economical lifestyles, we stay in touch and can always be counted on to share both the great and frustrating aspects of life.

Our dad lectured us even as young children to share everything and eventually divide everything equally that our inheritance would provide. He had experienced much strife in estate settlements in both his and my mother’s families that resulted in many hard feelings.

Ten years separated us in age, but we were always taught to play together, share one bathroom, eat together, and love each other. I feel my siblings and I have always carried Dad’s lectures forward in how we and our families relate to each other as we have moved forward through life.

When my mother, a widow, moved into senior care, we didn’t fight over who got which possessions. Instead, when it came to something really special like her silver placeware setting that graced our table at many special meals, we each encouraged each other to take ownership. After many texts along the line of “you take it” or “you should have it” we resolved it for now by leaving it in storage. No fights needed.

As our parents aged and had medical complications that needed help, we would confer. We were all working and raising children and didn’t live near our parents, but we did come up with a support system in every situation. One person had extra airline miles, one had a discounted rental car deal, one’s schedule was more flexible—we just worked it out as great families do.

As well, I am reminded of all the support our family has received over the years from friends. We have always lived far away from any family and thus were always on our own to survive catastrophes. As we were raising our children, we were very fortunate to be supported by the best kind of neighbors. You might take this caring for granted in Meeker, but in metro Denver many people don’t even know their neighbors.

One of these neighbors died recently and caused me to remember just how helpful she was. She not only watered plants while we were on vacation, but would check on our kids if something prevented us from returning home from work as planned, or handle any request.  Just like my family, I knew if we needed help, even in the middle of the night, I could call her and she would be there immediately.

Likewise, since we moved to Meeker, our friends and neighbors watch over us and pitch in without complaint. When I broke my ankle a few years ago, wonderful friends brought me books, flowers, wine and just sat with me since I couldn’t move much.

Recently I listened to a Colorado Public Radio story about a family who is temporarily hosting immigrant children who have been separated from their families. Regardless of your beliefs about immigrants, surely these children need help in the meanwhile. The mother of this family said that the immigrant children called her “Mama” and I guess that says it all.

A family can be many components these days. Friends far and near, social media buddies, neighbors, and our relatives from afar. I am grateful for all of you.

By KAYE SULLIVAN | Special to the HT

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