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I was born into the biggest family you can imagine. No – I don’t have 17 siblings and my parents didn’t either. But if you go back to my grandparent’s generation (the surviving 2 are almost 95 yrs old) there were 5-6 kids in each of our local families and they were very close and still spend as much time together as possible.

4-5 generations later… Last night my “baby” cousin Lydia (who is a married Doctor and speaks Japanese) stopped for the night on her way home from a quick trip to Pennsylvania. As we munched our burgers and drank beer – laughed and shared pictures, it struck me that each of them are home to me. And there are HUNDREDS of them.

The (still) annual descent on our little beach town in NC was an amazing thing for me growing up. It was the most stability I could ever imagine. I knew without a doubt, that every August, come hell, highwater or hurricane (we have experienced all), I would be enveloped for a week or two by my enormous family. My mother would relax into the southern atmosphere (and libations) and leave me the fuck alone for a while. My cousins and Aunts and Uncles always seemed to understand that I came from a home that was less than perfect and they would spend the full extent of our trip loving me and building me up. Some years it honestly was enough to carry me through the next twelve months. My Uncles (who have all passed away now) Vance, Marcus, Jack, Bill and Guy(the most recent loss and biggest sting tonight) would remind me how strong I was. It was as if they just sensed what I needed by some strange psychic genetic thing. My aunts (most are still here) taught me all the southern belle things my mother DETESTED about her heritage. I laughed at most of it but to this day still embrace a lot of it!

When I got older, the time I spent with my various branches of said family served as my “refresh” button. I processed things by talking about what happened and hearing their opinions. Events in my life seem to attain status and meaning in my life by being known to my family. Heartbreak, medical things (small and big), my mother’s deterioration… When my Lydia left this morning I just took a deep breath, processed the past few months and moved forward with strength in my heart.

They are mostly crazy, very drunk, so hysterical it hurts, loving, accepting, judgemental and strong. They marry and procreate and divorce and die. They leave big marks on this world or are hardly heard. The span every inch of the states and parts of the world beyond. But they are ALL mine and I am all theirs. I can not imagine a world without any single one of them. We fight, we forgive, we welcome babies and say goodbye at funerals but mostly we stand fiercely together no matter how far apart we are and make sure we are all ok. Its nice to realize that I no longer need to be at the beach to process and move forward with my life. I can achieve the same thing in one day with one of them. Any of them.

This morning my cousin Jane (Lydia’s sister) called and we had a long conversation about her boyfriend. She and I haven’t spoken in almost 8 months but as always it seemed as if we have never been apart. I could tell she was processing. I provided her with a touchstone and a loving voice. We may not speak again for a while, but we both know we could and come hell or highwater we will spend a week or two together in August.

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No matter what they say about him, he was a 24 year old athlete with a new daughter and a new lease on life.

Rest in peace Sean.

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Sometimes it feels as if I started as the seed of some beautiful rare flowering plant that needed to be cared for in a very specific way in order to thrive, but someone planted me in some swirling filthy nutrient poor bog of madness with partial sunlight and very low temperatures.

Realizing that my “dysfunction” is not something I caused (no matter how many times my family told me I did) but from the craziness surrounding me has been the biggest relief of my life. Even with that transforming realization, however, the patterns I grew with are part of me now and difficult to change. I will change them no matter how long it takes me and I have made a tremendous amount of progress since my 30th birthday.

Figuring out what “normal” means has plagued me forever. And now as I find myself 13 years into parenthood I wonder what normal will mean to him when he is my age. I am a good mom. I have raised him with more love and care than I have ever been shown in my life. He has been so amazingly healing to me. Noone tells you before you give birth that the child growing within you will heal you in so many ways.

Hopefully when he is 34 he will blog about being grown in love and being cherished.

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