We had listened to one of our parish priests lecture in his homilies about how important family was, which wasn't so very different from what anyone else will tell you. Every day we read about how some hard-charging executive, winning coach or popular celebrity is making a career change to "spend more time with my family."
But Fr. John McCarren put a little twist on his advice, telling us that spending time with and "knowing" your extended family was just as important as knowing those in your immediate family.
"You don't have to like your family," he would say with a smile, "you just have to know them."
Why? Because that's the only way we learn about ourselves, he said. These relatives who fill out our family trees can hold the answers to questions we have about ourselves. Spending time with them -- and allowing our children too, also -- will help us feel more grounded with what we have inside. You'll have an easier time understanding what makes you tick if you've explored what makes those in your family tick.
Now that some of our time constraints may be lightening as our children move on with their lives, it's a good time to renew those relationships we may have let slide because we were too busy with our immediate family needs.
That old cliché about seeing far-flung family members only at funerals and weddings rings true because it is what happens to many of us as we move through life.
We were fortunate to attend a family wedding recently and have the opportunity to visit with family members over two days. Sitting down and chatting with relatives over Southern pulled pork sandwiches was a good time. Like your family, I'm sure, we just don't get together often enough. We agreed to do better.
You don't have to wait for a wedding or that other thing to get together with family. Set something up soon, keeping in mind that it doesn't have to be elaborate. After all, it's just family, and that's a very good thing.
P.S. On the "Surprise! We really are Baby Boomers" front, though, it was funny in the weird sense when my sister-in-law leaned over at one point during the wedding reception and said, "You know, WE'RE the old aunts and uncles we used to see at family functions when our kids were young."
Yikes! How did that happen?
By Teresa K. Flatley