- My maternal grandparents were a pastor and a homemaker who valued education and music. My mom inherited those traits, as well as a very strong dedication to family, even though her dad died when she was a child and her mom wasn't particularly attentive.
- My dad's family fell apart when he was a toddler, and his adoptive parents were simple country folks. But they were big-hearted and loved him deeply.
- Dad was a policeman, a musician, a church goer, a bowler, a golfer, and a study-from-home lawyer in training. He aspired to be a judge. He was killed by a drunk driver when I was seven.
- My mom was very close to her eldest sister and have lived with her family for a time when she was a teenager. After Dad's death, my cousin from that family came and stayed with us. She influenced us deeply, helping us grieve, showing us love, bringing humor into our dark days. I still adore her.
- Mom and my step-father had known one another when they were young and ran into each other shortly after his divorce. He had four kids. Their marriage made us a family of nine, and the birth of my half-sister made us ten in all.
- We learned to share, to bend, to compromise. We learned to value things that don't cost money, like hiking, snow, eating dinner at a family table, music, the value of language, and so much more.
- Mom and Dad worked very hard to make a healthy family out of the raw resources, and they succeeded brilliantly. They sacrificed a lot. They were strong and determined and focused. They were wise with money. We all had access to college and most of us graduated, even though Dad was a laborer (installing carpet and linoleum). They were smart, and they taught us to value intelligence. They were active in church and taught us the value of belonging to a community of moral, generous people.
I've had my ups and downs in my adult life -- financial success and failure, divorce, a happy second marriage, health problems, delightful jobs. Through it all I have had my family. I can call on any of them at any time, and they know they can call on me. We don't see one another very often, but when we do, we just pick up where we left off. We camp. We sing. We laugh and hug.
It's almost too much to bear when I see so many people without any of that. Alone. Cold. Desperate. Some turning to drugs or alcohol or crime to try to meet needs that I've never felt. I pray every day for guidance to help those I can, to encourage those with plenty to share a bit with those in need, and most of all, to never, ever, take for granted the truly amazing family that continues to hold me up, inspire me, and love me.