The Real Meaning of Family

Sometimes it takes a big event to make us stop long enough to appreciate the things we have and the people we love. A vacation, a wedding, and a death, all within a span of four weeks this summer, did just that for me.

At the end of June my husband’s aunt and cousins drove from Oklahoma to North Carolina on vacation to visit us and to spend some time at the beach. It was the first time my two girls had met their cousins from Oklahoma and they had only visited with their great aunt a handful of times.

It didn’t take long before we were all comfortable with each other and getting along great together. By the end of the week we felt a true kinship. It wasn’t because of blood or DNA. It was because of all the things families do even when they live over a thousand miles away. We had all heard stories about each other through the years. We had prayed for each other during tough times and we had celebrated good news. It didn’t matter that some of us had not met in person. We are family.

At the beginning of July, just a couple of days after saying goodbye, we traveled half way across the country to attend our niece’s wedding in Dallas. It was a great opportunity for my kids to spend time with my husband’s brother and his family whom they seldom see due to the distance.

Besides the wedding itself, sitting up late one night listening to my husband and brother-in-law tell us stories from their childhood was the highlight of the visit. They talked about growing up in a small town where they often walked to the local ball field, then later to the small store downtown for a cold drink. It was a world my kids have only read about in books and they loved listening to their uncle tell stories about he and their dad as children.

Their favorite story of all those he told was about how he used to make handkerchief parachutes for his toy army men. He and my husband would drop them out the window and watch them float to the ground. Seeing how well the handkerchiefs worked, he thought the same would work for him if executed on a larger scale. He told the girls about how he took a sheet and tied it under his arms and climbed onto the roof of the little pink house they lived in at the time and jumped. (Yes, I said the roof of the house.) When he hit the ground it knocked the wind out of him.

Well, he told them, he decided what he really needed was more height and a running start. So he got to a higher part of the roof where he could get a bit of a run before jumping. When surprisingly he was still unable to fly, he determined he was too big and heavy, but he convinced his little brother (my husband) that it should work for him because he was lighter.

During the story, which had all of us laughing to the point of tears, my husband kept pointing to his brother saying, “Remember, he is supposed to be the smart one.” I don’t remember exactly how the story ended, but I know they both survived the great flying experiment.