The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 29, 2014

Family matters shouldn’t matter, because family matters

ENID, Okla. — Learning a language, any language, is certainly not easy.

Various sources rate a number of languages as among the most difficult in the world to master.

Among those considered the toughest to learn are Chinese, Hungarian, Arabic, Japanese and Icelandic.

But my vote goes to English.

We go to the store to get two bananas and some milk, too. We write a list to make sure we get it right. We try not to desert our dessert in the desert. The farmer left his sick sow to go and sow wheat.

How about this one, family matters. Put the emphasis on the first word and it refers to relationships among relatives. But emphasize the second word and it refers to the importance of those with whom you share blood (or at least the ink on a marriage certificate).

Family matters, with an emphasis on the first word, encompass a vast range of interactions. Some families are loving, others fractious, while some are sadly fractured.

Family dynamics are tricky and often ticklish. Someone has their feelings hurt over some slight real or imagined, gets into a snit and the infighting begins. Communication is cut off, other relatives begin choosing up sides and it eventually escalates into a full-scale family feud, which is certainly no game show.

Families used to be close, literally. They used to pretty much stick together, living in the same neighborhood, in the same town, if not in the same house.

But these days they scatter from coast to coast and beyond. They stay in touch via Skype, phone, text, email, Facebook and Twitter, but those are poor substitutes for face to face communication.

Some families get together at regular reunions, complete with cookies, punch, Solo cups and “Hi, My Name Is,” name badges. Most don’t. They see each other only on occasion, on holidays and birthdays, during graduations and funerals.

Increasingly, as the years pass, tripping over one another in a headlong rush as small rocks pushed along by a mountain stream, families seem to gather only to say farewell to a departed member.

And on those occasions, one question is inevitably asked: “Why is it the only time we get together is for funerals?” Invariably nobody has a good answer.

Also invariably, a chorus will go up: “We can’t keep doing this, we have got to get together on happier occasions, not only when the family has just gotten one person smaller.”

Updated phone numbers and addresses will be exchanged, and amid the hugs and tears will be a sense of fierce determination that this family will grow closer, both emotionally and physically, because, after all, family matters, with the emphasis on the second word.

Normally, all this determination goes for naught.

Our family gathered over the weekend to mourn the untimely passing of one of our ranks, a mother and wife not yet 50.

She was eulogized by her husband and two oldest children. Through their tears they related their fondest memories of their departed wife and mother. Their words were different, but their message was the same — family matters, emphasizing the second word again.

Don’t get mad at each other, they said, and if you do, don’t stay mad. Get over it. Nothing’s that bad that it is worth carrying a grudge over.

Tell your family you love them, early and often. Never part on bad terms. Never depart from one another without expressing your love.

Don’t let family matters, with the emphasis on the first word, drive you apart, because family matters, with the emphasis on matters.

So what if your family member, you fill in the name and title, makes you furious? Get over it. Life is short. Once a relative dies, that’s it. All the crying in the world won’t bring them back, and won’t repair your tattered relationship. All the regrets in the world won’t change the past.

So swallow your pride, give a little, agree to disagree, whatever it takes, but mend those fences before they become walls.

Through our grief our loved ones told us how their mom was about loving everybody, friends and family alike, but especially family, because family matters. I’ll let you decide where the emphasis belongs.

Our family’s not perfect, none are. There are disagreements and bruised feelings galore. One young woman was so upset with her mother they hadn’t spoken in months.

After the memorial service there was a brief reception for friends and family. This young woman allowed as how the sentiments expressed during the memorial service had touched her so deeply that she wanted to reconcile with her mother, but didn’t know how. She was advised to simply reach out to her mother.

So she did. As the two women left the reception, they stood locked in each other’s arms, weeping.

They took the message of the memorial service and that embodied by their lost loved one to heart.

Family matters.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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