Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I Know About Family

A year ago this month, my father had a massive heart attack. As my daughter's school bus was arriving in our subdivision, I received the mind-numbing call from my mom saying she was following the ambulance to the hospital. A flurry of calls to family and friends here in Michigan and within two hours, the kids were packed to go to Mike’s parents’ house and we were on our way to Missouri.

That entire 10 hour drive, all I could think about was what if he doesn’t make it. What if… Was I going to have regrets? What were the things that I’d give anything to say to him? What would I say to him when/if I did see him?

We arrived at their house early the next morning. After a few hours of sleep, we drove to the ICU to see him. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – aside from hearing the doctor predict my unborn child would have special needs, was to see my father’s skin gray and practically lifeless, tubes in his chest, monitors making their zigzag proof-of-life, yellow iodine stains on his skin, hear the beeps of the machines keeping him alive… then listen to him rasp at the nurses demanding they bring him more ice and water.

He was mostly incoherent. However, there were moments when my brothers and sister and I stood around him and he looked up at all of us confused. “Why aren’t you guys at work?” were his exact words. We told him that he was in very serious condition, as in he almost died, and why wouldn’t we drop everything to be with him. He still could not understand. I’m not sure he ever will. 

Family was not something my father ever understood. To him, family was something you couldn’t count on; they might bail on you. There was no one you could count on except for yourself. Unfortunately, that was a practice he demonstrated for us and all of us have copied. We believed his example.

It was not until I met my husband and his family that I began to understand that everything my father lived in regards to his belief about family was absolutely false.

After 9 years, this is what I know about family…

Family is the group of people who know you the best and accept you for who you are - believing the best about you.

Family is who you call when you are excited about your good news, who you tell your greatest fears, and who you rely on when you need help.

Family is not perfect. They most certainly have flaws and baggage and “schtuff” they’re dealing with too… but they are your family.

You love them. You get irritated with them. You feel frustrated every now and then, but you still get excited when you hear their ring on your cell.

Family is hard sometimes too. There is conflict at times. No, it’s not fun, but as in marriage, you have a safety net of relationship – a choice. There is a relationship underneath this conflict and that relationship will bring us through. Not only that, it will make this family stronger because of it. 

Uncle Dave and Aunt Debbie
That heart attack, one year ago, was the turning point in my relationships with my brothers and sister. We began to see each other in a whole new light - one that was highly humorous! That week together was a blast. Never did I realize that could be so entertaining - but when you add 3 guys and sound effects - the ICU waiting room becomes comedy central. 

The family who laughs together?  They really do stay together. Laughter is truly the best medicine!

So, go ahead and laugh tonight with your family! Even when your son makes sounds that you normally wouldn't endorse as proper behavior at the table or when your daughter's belch sounds like a Macaw in the Amazon jungle... just laugh with them. :)  

You'll be glad you did... and so will your family!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post. You made me cry and laugh. My father had an arrythmia fibrillation of the heart in January, that caused him to completely pass out. He was hooked up to all kinds of machinery, daddy is alive and well today thanks to the grace of God :) :)..but I do remember trying to find humor in the hospital...and learning to appreciate my family even more.

    Hm....that website sounds interesting :) :) I'll have to file that away s omewhere for possible future reference :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)