I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Family and friends

Whatcom Falls
Yesterday my sister-in-law Luena returned back to her home in southern California, after a four-day visit. Although we have been married for a quarter of a century, this was the first time a member of SG's family has ever come to visit us. I knew little about her, except that every day on his birthday she called him, and he did the same for hers. Luena had married a man that SG didn't much care for, and consequently they stopped having frequent personal contact. Her husband died a few years ago, and Luena has sold their home and moved into a gated community.

By the time I came into his life, almost every one of SG's relatives had died, and Luena is the only living relative that I knew anything about. Long ago, when SG was married to his first wife, I think they socialized a little, but as he has grown older he does less of it and has become more settled in his ways. It was interesting to watch their interaction; at first tentative and after they became more comfortable with each other, there was more reminiscing and plenty of laughter.

It's so different from my own experience of family. When you come from a large family, you have lots of relatives and it can be overwhelming to someone like SG. He came to visit my family once, when my mother died, and it was difficult for him to find any peace and quiet among the tumult of so many of us. And we tend not to be very quiet when we get together. Of course, it feels normal to me, but for others, it can be overpowering. I know this from experience.

Now, after twenty-five years together, we are family to each other, and I've grown quiet and serene in our own world, with little need for the kind of experience that was once normal to me, with huge gatherings for holidays and plenty of drama going on all the time. Once a person reaches the eighth decade of life, you need the peace and quiet that we now enjoy, rather than being constantly on the go. Times change; people change, but every once in awhile you can get a glimpse into the way things used to be.

Although I have five siblings (well, four now that my sister PJ has died), with all the concomitant relatives, it's an amazing spectacle when we get together. The only one of my siblings that I visit annually is my sister Norma Jean. We grew up together and share memories that now no one else is alive to remember. I talk to her on FaceTime a couple of times a month, and fly to Florida every winter for a visit, and I look forward to it very much. I travel alone, which is how it should be, to my mind. SG looks forward to my absence, when he can do as he pleases without thinking of my needs. Everyone needs a break to appreciate how good it is when you're back together.

I am closer to some friends than I am to other family members. It doesn't really matter to me if I've known someone for a long time or grown up with them; it's how important they are to my daily life. When I think of my friend John at the coffee shop, I realize how much I enjoy just sitting next to him and commiserating over the state of the world, or sharing a bagel and laughing together. I appreciate his sense of humor and have learned a great deal about gardening from him, too. He's an important person to me, and sometimes I wonder just how that happened. When I first met him, I didn't like him at all, but as we spent more time talking, I realized that his outward appearance had made me think he was just an old rednecked farmer without any redeeming qualities. How wrong I was! Appearances can be deceiving. I'm learning that lesson on a daily basis, it seems.

Friends are just family that you didn't grow up with, ones you get to choose rather than having a relationship you've been born into. When I think of how important some people are to me that I've never even met, such as my blogging friends, it gives me a lovely feeling of inclusion in the larger world. I learn about their lives, their worries and accomplishments, and I rejoice that I have so many friends who really matter to me.

I just spent a good deal of time trying to find the right quote about friends and family to add to this post, but nothing seems quite right, so I guess I'll skip it for today. Wait: I'll give it one more try.
My friends and family are my support system. They tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear and they are there for me in the good and bad times. Without them I have no idea where I would be and I know that their love for me is what's keeping my head above the water. --Kelly Clarkson
Well, that about sums it up and gives me a good place to end this post. I've finished my tea, partner just went to the bathroom and now has snuggled back into his spot in bed, and the day is calling me. After the coffee shop, I'll be going to see the movie Book Club with my friend Judy. It's got a few of my favorite actors of a certain age in it, and although the reviews aren't great, I'm just looking for a little entertainment.

I hope that between now and when we get together again next week, you'll have found some time to spend with family and friends, too. If not, come visit me here and we'll catch up. Be well until we meet again, dear ones.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful waterfalls!
I love to visit relatives and spend time with them, but nobody in turn turns back to visit us. So now a days i am dropping this and i only call and speak to them. I am enjoying the days with my neighbors and friends around me.
My family is a nuclear family but my husband family is a big family. Both of them seem to be same to me...

Linda Reeder said...

I too come from a big, noisy family. When I married into Tom's smaller, quieter family, I loved the smaller, simpler family holiday celebrations. Of course his extended family is very large, as seen in the Phosie Pertie photos. Those gatherings are fine once a year.

I like blogging and "meeting" with my blogging friends. Blogging is also an outlet for my photography, which I have developed a passion for. I was just commenting to Tom yesterday that I get wonderful feedback from my Facebook and Blogging friends, but never even a like from any of my family except for one sister, from whom I get a "like" click.

I have wondered about this, as we claim to be a close family. I certainly look for any chance to acknowledge anything they post, but, come to think of it, most do not use social media or even electronic media much. Well, it is what it is. Family is important. So are friends. Thank you for being mine.

Marie Smith said...

My husband and I enjoy peace and quiet since we retired. Neither is from a big family but worked as teachers which put us among children and young people for most of the week. Weekends were down time. Now it’s all down time, doing as we choose. Even volunteer work is for us to set times.

Our only family is our daughter and her three kids, my brother and SIL and their daughter and my MIL is still alive. We enjoy company but it is nice when it is just the two of us again. Life has a rhythm as you age together and that rhythm is comfortable.

My husband doesn’t understand what it is to have a sibling and neither does our daughter. That shared life with your parents makes a sibling a unique person is all the world. How fortunate one is to have multiple siblings. I cannot imagine that though I would like it I am sure.

Have a great week Jan.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

I love to read about your week and your thoughts DJan. For some reason you make me feel content. That is a very good thing.


Elephant's Child said...

Friends are the family we choose. Like you, I am so very grateful for those I have found in the blogosphere. Many of whom (you included) have become very, very precious to me.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, That is a neat story about John at the coffee shop. You are so right that appearances can be deceiving. It seems the older I get the more I can appreciate differences in others. I enjoyed reading about friends and family and thank you for sharing. Have a happy week ahead! John

Tabor said...

What a beautiful post. I just love what you say about friends and you are such a perfect friend for others. I am not as outgoing as you and thus my friends are smaller. You have to work to get at me. I also came from a large and noisy (Italian) family. My husband is an only child but has lots of Irish blarney and fits right in. He loves the noise and talk and I am the one that has to find a quiet space most times. Odd how our genes are all different.

Gigi said...

Friends (even internet ones) ARE family that you've chosen. I've seen that in my own life. I am closer to some of my friends than I am to some people related by blood.

Have a fabulous week, DJan! And I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the movie!

Red said...

I wouldn't miss visiting you. You say things that make me thing and helps to place things in my world. There are many different types of friendship. we have to put effort into those friendships. ...effort that helps our friends. I wonder what John thinks of you and what he thought when you first met him?

Far Side of Fifty said...

I saw the preview for that movie and I am certain I would like it too! I hope you had a good time!
I am glad your Smart Guy had a good visit with his sister.
Interesting how you didn't like John at first...and now he is one of your best friends.
We are so hermit like that we don't do much with friends anymore...our social life sucks! We visited outdoors with my brother and his wife this evening...and we play cards with the neighbors...a quiet life we lead.
I hope you have a wonderful week! We have appointments and places we have to be everyday but Friday and I suppose something will come up then. :)

Rita said...

Some of us are just a lot more social than others. I'm lucky the people I love more than anything on this earth live close-by and I get to visit with them regularly. I feel closer to pen pals and friends than the rest of my family, but that's because the rest of my family doesn't keep in touch. I kind of gave up trying a long time ago. We're just not close. And that's okay. I have more in common with my pen pals and friends--my chosen family. :)

So nice SmartGuy and his sister got to get together and reconnect after all those years. I hope they stay connected now.

That old saying is very true--can't judge a book by its cover. Every person has a story...and you never know who you might really connect with. Just as you can meet people you think you should really get along with and there's just nothing there--no connection.

I hope you enjoy the movie. It looked interesting to me and I plan to catch it on Netflix later. I'm always interested to hear your reviews. :)

Have a fulfilling week. :) :)

Galen Pearl said...

although my immediate family was small (one sister) growing up, I came from a big extended family like you. LOTS of cousins! I have five kids myself and all are in the area so we get together several times a year, along with their spouses and kids. My youngest daughter married a wonderful guy who is not as close to his own family, so our gatherings are sometimes a bit much for him. I love it that he and my daughter often host the whole family (they have the best house for it), and he is such a good sport about the whole tribe descending upon their house and life. One of the many reasons I am so grateful he is my son in law!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, did you enjoy the movie? Like you I've read several reviewers who didn't find the movie exceptional in any way. I'm wondering what you thought.

It's so true that our family and friends keep us situated--our feet on the ground. I need that because I tend to have my head in the clouds much of the time--always thinking of what I'm writing and what next to write. My family and friends also truly support my efforts with regard to writing and are a blessing in my life.

You, too, are blessed, especially in Norma Jean and SG. I know you know this because so often you write about the gratitude you are feeling. I believe that when gratitude fills our heart it is one of the biggest blessings we receive. To live in gratitude is to embrace our lives and rejoice in them. Peace.