Thursday, October 11, 2007

We are the Shattered Pieces of a Family

See this picture? I believe this is my grandmother's family, taken back when she was a little girl. My purpose in showing it is to illustrate how families used to get together, to live, to laugh, to love and yeah, to even get their picture made together. I can remember going to my grandma and grandpa's house sometimes for family get togethers. My two aunts and their families would be there, my two uncles and their families would make it whenever they could. (My Uncle Wally - some of ya'll might know him better as Aunt Sandi's husband - was in the Navy so sometimes he was stationed too far afield to come for these visits and I really have no idea what my Uncle Mac was doing during those times. Sometimes we saw him, sometimes we didn't.) Anyway, the point is, these were wonderful times for me. All these relatives running around, all these cousins, all that laughter and fun...gosh, I miss that. I can remember when someone was ill, everybody who was able to would get involved. When my aunt had surgery, my mom traveled to Mobile, Alabama from Del City, Oklahoma to be with her. When Uncle Wally and Aunt Sandi came home to Selma, Alabama for a visit before they shipped off to England, we all converged on Selma to say good-bye to them. When my grandpa was baptized sometime in the '70's, everyone in the family who could come to witness it, did. We were a close family. And it was something special, at least from the viewpoint of a child (namely me and my sister). But then, in late 1979, the family started to fracture. My parents got divorced. Having been married for 18 years, it was hard for the rest of the family to "divorce" my dad, though. My aunts still thought of him as their "brother", my grandparents still thought of him as their "son". Dad and Uncle Wally had been buddies way back in the day, too, so I know it was hard for either of them to accept the end of a relationship. I look back now and wonder if that may have been the beginning of the end for all of us as a family. It's not that my parents' divorce was the first our family had experienced. And maybe I just perceive that event as having more of an impact on our family as a whole than it actually did. After all, it was my parents who split from one another, therefore maybe I'm giving it more "weight" than it really had as far as how it affected everyone else. But, regardless...the '80's brought even more turmoil to our family. Another aunt divorced her husband and it was quite similar to my parents situation in that she and her husband had been married for something like 20 years. He was as much my uncle as she was my aunt because they had been married for as long as I could remember, basically. But their divorce was much, much uglier than my parents' divorce. It pitted relative against relative, sister against sister, son against father, etc., etc., etc. It was ugly. Period. I don't think we (the family) ever really recovered from that. My heart aches at the sadness of it all. So many harsh words were said by so many of us. And, when the dust seemed to settle (much, much later) nobody really wanted to go over the wounds we had inflicted on one another. Nobody seemed to want to talk about it at all. It was like everyone just sort of swept all the pain and bitterness under the rug and tried to move on. Of course, everytime something bad would come up afterwards, somebody would "shake that rug out" and all those harsh feelings would come flying out again. And since nothing was ever discussed productively, the bad stuff never really left. It's still there. To this day. It comes out in so many little ways and now, it's come out in an even bigger way. One of our family has suffered a grievous physical injury. My cousin, Joey, was hurt at work a few days ago. He was life-flighted from Monroeville down to USA Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama where he is currently listed in critical condition. And here's where the shame of our family comes in. Not only were some of our family not notified through the family grapevine of this tragedy, but those that were and live relatively nearby, haven't even gone to the hospital. I know that there's nothing anyone in the family can actually do for Joey right now. He's in a medically induced coma and is in ICU. But why isn't any of our family there to help support his wife and his children during this time? Isn't that what we're supposed to do? I don't want to judge anyone, really I don't. But if we don't pull together during a time like this, then why do we even bother calling ourselves "family"? I spoke with Joey's wife, Karen, yesterday and, while she sounded strong and seemed to be holding it together, I couldn't help but hurt for her because of what she's going through, seeing her husband hooked up to all those machines and not knowing if he's going to make it or not. Surely a little help from us, Joeys' relatives, would allow her at least a moment or two to, I don't know, just...breathe, maybe. What the heck happened to us? How did we get this way? Aunt Sandi and I were talking yesterday and we both decided that maybe Grandma was the glue that held us together and once she passed over, some of us just forgot to hold on to each other. I truly (and literally) weep at the state of my extended family. So much has happened over the years that it's hard to know just who is to bless and who is to blame. Some of us just seem to hold onto the bad, like a shield of righteousness, and I believe that all that bitterness and anger has eaten away at our humanity. God knows I can feel how it's affected me. Why can't we see our way clear to change that, though? Does no one care about being a family anymore? I guess what I'm asking is, how do you stop loving your sister, your brother, your aunt, your uncle, your niece, your nephew, your cousin,......your family? I am as guilty as anyone else in the family. Believe me when I say that. I got angry at my mother and sister and didn't speak with them for over a year! And that situation, which happened fairly recently, had nothing to do with all that previously occurred in my family, except that maybe it's where I learned how to cut a family member out of my life. Not trying to blame anyone else for my actions, I'm just saying that it's not something I hadn't seen up close and personal before I actually did it myself. I'm ashamed of the way I handled what happened with my mom and my sister. I shouldn't have stopped talking to them. I should have screamed, stomped and hollered instead. At least we would have still been connected, you know what I mean? The road back is hard and bumpy and not at all what I thought it would be. But the three of us are trying. I wish the rest of our family could or would try, too. But maybe there's been just too much water under the bridge. Maybe love really wasn't meant to last forever. Maybe years of neglect can erase it as if it had never been. It sure feels that way to me sometimes.

This picture above was taken back in 1979 at my Grandma and Grandpa's house in Selma, Alabama. That little dark eyed kid in the foreground is Joey. The second row is my sister Sherri, my cousin Tammy (Joey's sister), and me. The back row is Uncle Wally and Aunt Sandi's boys, Wallace and Michael. Just a few of us cousins, sitting for a picture back when our family acted

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  1. I can relate...with my own extended family "disfunctions"...I don't know why either...

    But I think I'll sit here and virtually hold your hand and say a prayer for your cousin Joey, that he gets his health back and that the rifts in your family will be healed...

    Love YOU!

  2. Well Kari, once again, I see parallels to our lives. I can understand what your saying all too well.

    My first husband and I divorced in 1981 after 20 years. It was not easy, but, we remain friends to this day. He has remarried, too. We've participated in all our childrens sad and happy times. I feel so blessed by this! On the other hand..J's 1st marriage ended with much anger, after 7 years. He and his ex-wife have not spoken since the early 80's. They have one daughter, who is 34. She is estranged from J. We're not sure what happened there.

    Four years ago, J and his brothers sold the family farm. J lived on that farm almost 60 years. One of the brothers lived there, too. The tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Since those final papers were signed, none of the brothers have spoken and will go out of their way to avoid each other. J is so sweet, he didn't understand why all this happened. I don't have answers or a reason why this break happened.

    It is sad times when families break apart. I remember being at my grandparents every Sunday. It was a tradition. It seems those days are gone, for folks, these days.

    I hope your cousin Joey, pulls through and recovers, fully, from his injuries.

    I'll say a prayer for him and you. I can only hope things can be mended. As I've hoped for this with our family.


  3. That was so well said. Families are farther apart, too. I remember when all my family lived in the same spot. Now we all live miles apart.

  4. Kari,
    Once again you blow me away with your honesty and your willingness to "show" so much of yourself. It was a very well said post. I have experienced the hurt that families can inflict on each other also and I don't think there are any easy answers. People let their pride get in the way etc..I honestly don't know. You remind me so much of my friend who died 12 years ago, she was also a straight talker and you always knew where you stood with her and I think those are wonderful qualities. I will pray for your cousin.

  5. Frankly said and well done at that!
    Being military we've moved around a lot and our family is very spread out! Same sentiments on a lot of your thoughts.

    Have a great weekend!
    Sandy ;)

  6. Oh Kari...I send a big hug to you and lots of understanding. There is so much pain in so many families and I never understand why it is allowed to fester. I sometimes want to scream at my brother in law...he has a special brother (Bill, my husband) and never sees him. They live 30 miles away and zip. It got really bad when he married this wife.
    LONG story. But there are kids involved. We would love to see more of their boys (who love us too) and Grace barely knows them. Dan has actually come to really dislike them...mostly because of the way he sees they treat us.
    We invite them here or to meet somewhere and they always have an excuse. They never invite us to anything. They did occasionally (once a year) when when my in laws were alive as a way to make them happy but when they died, poof.
    Why?? I wish that we could all just be a family but some people never get that. At least until it is too late.
    And it is there in the extended family too. On both sides. Who profits from silly pettiness? Families used to be loving and warm and forgiving. Now? More and more distance and cousins who never know one another...

    I am so sorry, can see your pain from here and do so understand it. I will say a prayer for Joey, for you and for you all. I really am so sorry.

    I wish I could do something to help.

    I do send love and hugs to you...


  7. I hate the term "dysfunctional family". My family fits that bill, but then so does my husband's "perfect on the outside" family. I have pulled away from my family for my own sanity. We are polite to one another and get together occasionally, but I just can't spend too much time with them.

  8. I think my family put the f in dysfunctional. You always think everyone else has the Rockwell family and guess what they don't. What can you do except make your own little nuclear family the best you can.

  9. You have just spoken for so many families. It is so true what you said in your post and it is so sad. I think years ago we were in a time when the pace was slower and we had more time. A time when Mom stayed home and when the small family ate together and talked about where they would visit over the weekend. Things have changed over the years and not for the best. Very good post......

  10. Yes, 1979, we were leaving for the airport in Montgomery getting ready to go to England. I see Michael is holding the on flight bag holding our boarding passes, it's a wonder they let us on the plane. Talked to Karen a bit ago, advised her to take a nap. She sounded wiped out. We love you
    Aunt Sandi

  11. Kari, im so sorry for your pain. I do agree that families used to be blood no matter what. This day in time it only takes a soft wind and it blows families apart. What happened where families stood by each other? We have had divorce in our family. Thanks God my mom and dad never did. But like you we used to all be together all the time and now it seems life is passing us by.It hurts so bad. I feel that the devil comes to devide and he is winning in many areas. You know my son Rian that has been in Qatar? He came home a few weeks ago and today his wife and him split up. He had to choose her or his family because from day one there was division. I hate it for him, but he loves his family. Even though she never felt I loved her( and I really did) my heart hurts and feels the pain.

  12. Kari, that was a brave and honest post -- beautifully written from the heart. I have seen my husband's family torn apart over his father's illness. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. You know, I just had to say something else. My family ideal was Leave it To Beaver. And Make Room for Daddy came in a close close second. But I would have loved for Andy Taylor to have been my dad...I don't know why these seemingly perfect families enthralled me so. Don't you think that when the camera's lens was blank that maybe Ward yelled at June, Danny stayed out to late and Andy had a beer? I know he smoked, I saw him on several gun, though. Me, I'd have felt naked without my gun and thank God I gave up the cigarettes. The point is, all the ideal families on tv were just that, someone's idea of a perfect family. We tried to make sure that our family (the four of us) was as near to perfect as we could make it...did we succeed? Of course not, this is real life...I'd like to think that our children were happier as children than we were. Were they? I don't know, they haven't written the definitive book on our parenting skills, and Wallace, Jr (being the writer in the family) is the one I fear.

  14. Kari

    First, I have to say, I love your heart. I love your willingness to share your feelings.

    This was a beautifully written and very touching post. I know it wasn't easy to write either.

    It's sad, but I really don't think there is a perfect family out there. Mine certainly isn't, nor is my husband's. Or anyone else I know, for that matter.

    I think we grow up watching TV shows, reading books, etc. which all depict such wonderful perfect families and we feel ours is lacking. Just like the ads, etc. which make us all feel like we're not good enough or pretty enough or sexy enough, etc. since they portray perfection.

    It's sad. It truly is. And it's a bummer when you stop and think about it.

    I'll pray for Joey and his family. And you, sweet girl.


  15. Hi Kari - I'm catching up too! This post was really sad but obviously very heartfelt. I really think that when you have the sort of emotional depth and maturity that you have, there is no choice but to keep the doors (and heart open) but you also have to grant yourself acceptance that others may not be able to. The big thing then is not to resent their rejection, just accept it. PS Your sister's visit sounds as though it was a lot of fun.

  16. I hope your cousin is doing better now.

    My own family was the same way, but once the granparents passed away the whole thing fell apart.

    I think it's easier, now, to walk away rather than deal with whatever problems are going on. Other then keeping your heart open and invitations flowing, there's not much you can do to bring back "your family". Perhaps, though, we could raise our own children to realize how important family really is and let them know NOW that keeping the lines of communication open is desired and expected. You may not have the "family" from 1979 back again, but your grandchildren might have an even better one.

    God bless.

  17. Hey Kari
    Thanks for letting me know you missed me!!!

    I have some comments to make on your post today--how true, how true. But, I'll have to wait til I have a little more time.

    The pics were fantastic! Don't they just break your heart when you realize all the water under the bridge?

    Your heart is in the right place dear.


  18. Kari,
    This was such a poignant letter. I have to admit, I got a little weepy over it. But, thankfully, my family has always been close. My aunt just had a big picnic at her house for the entire family this past labor day. When we (meaning the grandchildren and there were 23 of us) were younger my entire family would still eat Christmas Eve dinner together. But as the grandkids started having kids, no house was big enough. Then for years we had get-together between Christmas and New Years. I posted about this a few weeks ago. My family is not the norm and I thank God for that.

    But, if I may be so bold to offer a suggestion...This post was so beautiful, very frank and not accusatory to anyone individual nor did you take any blame from yourself. Why don't you print it and mail it to members of your family. There's a good chance they're probably thinking the same thing but have no idea how to pull it all back together. Your letter may just encourage them to get together.


  19. I'm so proud of myself for recognizing you in the last photo!

    What happened to you happened to me, exactly~ my mom's side of the family especially, was really close. We saw each other all the time, all of us! Then, we saw a little less of each other, and when I was in my 30s, we were only seeing each other on the holidays, and there were some who were feuding.
    After Ma-maw died, there was more feuding, and with both my grandparents gone, the family seemed to fragment off. People are busy living their day-to-day lives, and we're not in each others' day to day lives, and it's a shame that gives me pain.

  20. Kari, I'll be praying for Joey and Karen and for the rest of your family.
    Take Care.

  21. Dear Kari, First, we are holding good thoughts for your cousin and hope he has a complete and speedy recovery. You are completely right. Now maybe you will be the glue that holds the family together. My father came from a large family and I remember the good times when we were all together. Hang in there!

  22. Kari, when I read you and your aunt's posts about this I felt really choked up. I am thinking of all your family, and saying my prayers for your cousin Joey. It must be such a terrible thing to have to go through for you all.
    And reading what you say about your family rifts-sadly I think it's all too common. My dad no longer speaks to his brother or sister over a similar matter, and they're the only family that he has left.
    I hope things manage to work themselves out somehow-thinking of you all xxx

  23. Kari,
    My heart just breaks reading this post. While I am thankful for the close-knit family that I have, there are broken and bruised branches in our tree. It is a sad thing. I hope to make repairs by teaching my children how important family is -- going to those reunions, and spending holidays toghether. Making phone calls and stopping by just because. If I live like family is to be treasured, maybe our tree will flourish and thrive because my children tend it's branches well. I am praying for your cousin, his wife, and family. Love to you, my friend.


  24. I've been playing catch up here Kari. What you are describing in your family is also going on in mine. I can think of lots of families who never thought they'd have 'splits' or problems that have them now. Awful, isn't it?
    Well I'll pray for your cutie-pie cousin and his family.


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