I often say that I was blessed to be born into a family I would choose all over again as friends. I have two sisters (Susie and Cindy), one brother-in law (Leo), five (living) nieces, three nephews, four nephews-in-law, three great-nephews and one great-niece. And McGyver (a/k/a Mac, Macster-Baxter, Macaroon), the three-legged family dog. The photo below is almost all of us — minus Susie’s son and daughter/family of four, all of whom live Away. It was taken last Thanksgiving.
We also have adopted family, such as the family of our parents’ closest friends; their three daughters and we girls were of parallel ages. The middle (like me) daughter lost her 38-year-old son to a congenital illness last week. Also last week, an adopted sister with cancer who Cindy had been caring for died peacefully, leaving us to shelter her college-aged daughter. We have been very mindful of Grace as we have slipped in and out of hospice rooms and funeral services.
The last two weeks have also marked two deaths very personal to me — the 3rd anniversary of my mom’s beautiful death at 91 and the 35th anniversary of my husband’s chaotic death by suicide at 35.
We have extended family, such as everyone in southeast Texas and Louisiana during and after the storms. On the ground we are represented by niece Kelly and her Jeremy, fortunate to live in a Houston suburb that (so far) is outside the flood zone, and spending their days volunteering in an impromptu distribution center set up by their church.
My professional extended family circles the globe and includes members, students and colleagues on six continents. You inspire and motivate me to go to work every day and to do small things with great love.
And because I have books and programs instead of children and grandchildren, my family considers all of you–my professional extended family–as part of our large extended family, too.
Imagine all of us in one big group photo. Bring along all your family and adopted and extended families, and all their actual/adopted/extended families, and let’s all crowd in together and have a big family picture taken. Then let’s talk about how we can reach across aisles and borders and the forces of nature to co-create a shared world.
Kay’s Big Family except for Susie’s kids and grandkids – Thanksgiving 2016
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought,
This is the world I want to live in.
The shared world. –Naomi Shihab Nye, “Gate A-4”
The above link is the author reading the prose poem. THIS LINK will take you to the text of the poem.
Your turn! Who is your extended family? What is the world you want to live in? Tell us in the comments below.
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