I am cautiously making my way back to the living after suffering through a bought of stomach flu that started on Sunday. It’s taken me a week to work my way up to chicken soup! Honestly, I haven’t been that heinously sick since I was a child! But I will spare you the gory details and just say that is why I have been MIA for a whole week. (And, my little fetus is just fine.)
Being so sick, I had some time to think (once my mental faculties resumed functioning). There’s been an issue on my mind for some months, probably since I got pregnant. But as my husband (God love him!) was losing sleep taking care of me and dashing out the door to get chicken broth, medicine, Gatorade and the like at all hours I had this feeling that we were so alone. Poor Hubby had to do it all, even when he started feeling sick. Who can you call when you’re lying on your bathroom floor with bits of vomit and diarrhea all over you? (I’m telling you, it was the worst sickness EVER!!!)
Lying there I thought, what we need is family. It’s an awfully big thing to ask a friend to help you with that kind of problem. But you can call a family member day or night and unless you have some real asshole family members, they will come. They might not be happy, but they will be there for you even in the most humiliating or disgusting circumstances.
This is not the first time I’ve found myself thinking about this lately. When I went to do the baby registry a couple weeks ago, I was amazed at how many mothers-to-be had not just their significant other but sometimes a whole family of people with them. Having grown up in Alaska far away from all but my immediate family and now living in Las Vegas, a city of transplants, I have to admit that seeing all those families surprised me. Frankly, it had not occurred to me to invite someone other than my husband to register. And its times like those that I realize what effect living life so far away from relatives has done. I just don’t think of calling a family member in times like that. And yet, it is so clear by all the mothers, sisters, aunts, etc that I saw that day, that so many other people do. I had the strange sensation of feeling left out of something or that something was wrong with me that I did not have those same automatic urges. (Although, in reality, who could I have called? My husband and I live thousands of miles of away from our respective families.)
And it makes me feel a little silly to be thinking about all this. I have not lived within 100 miles of my extended family since I was eight-years-old. This is not new in my life. And over the years I’ve found ways to stay connected with my family despite the distance. They are there and they love me.
But I don’t worry that my little family unit will not have the experience of extended family. If there is one thing growing up in Alaska taught me, it’s that sometimes you make “family.” And I certainly have a wonderful family of friends, who upon hearing of my state sickness fell over themselves to come to my house and help. I am not alone. My Las Vegas family is a loving one.
And I certainly know by now that there is no need to stand on convention or tradition when it comes to family. I learned how to ride a bike with my step-mother. I keep my toothbrush in a mug my dad’s third ex-wife gave me for Christmas. My now-ex-step-father took me to the music store to pick out the flute I played for eight years (and led me to meeting my now-husband!). I have four brothers and they do not all share the same parents. The first chapter book I ever read by myself came from my now-ex-step-grandmother. One of my best friends adopted his two children and raises them with his husband. My other best friend, an only child, has asked me to be the “aunt” to her daughter. Likewise, I am the “aunt” to my cousin’s son since she was an only child, too. Because of all this and more I know that “family” is a relative term (no pun intended).
Perhaps it’s times like these that you are reminded of not just what’s important, but what it means. Baby Bristol is not going to be lonely and neither are we.