Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Post

Because it's time. Because CHANGE is in order! Well, ain't it? Oh, it's a new year. I resolve to redirect these energies elsewhere. Not that I abhor the blog, or anything like that, but I think the effort has been fulfilled. The title feels used, the opinions, redundant. There's no further need to clarify things. You know where I stand. I've done enough damage to my reputation. And now's as good a time as any.

The Most Significant Thing has always been the following seven: Family, Friends, God, Country, Work, Health, Passion. On hindsight, I should have set up those labels early on and just ascribed every post to one or the other, with an additional label for those days where I just showed up and voted "present" (but who really uses those labels, anyway?) So, such are the most significant things. Ignore one of them, I hold, and your life falls out of balance. Not saying it's easy.

The truth is I have found myself unspectacularly coming back to one of those things in particular: Family. Over the years I've found myself changed up to that point -where the family was once a source of pain, dysfunction, disappointment, and despair, now it is my reliable foundation, a hopeful destination, and an unexpected source of pride. I guess I'm growing up.

It's New Year's Eve and I'm surrounded by the whole big clan. Last night there was an impromptu talent show (I was a judge) that seemed straight out of Dan In Real Life, my new favorite gem of a film. I was sitting there on the couch with a glass of wine, alongside my siblings and their spouses and kids, and we were all hollering and laughing -and it seemed a perfect moment. But I noticed something significant: the simple fact that nobody there made the moment fun per se, but it was the collection of everyone that made it unforgettable. No one in the group was perfect, but everyone was indispensable. No single person held any right or privilege, any authority or preference, any grand talent or unique quality that superseded anyone else's -but the mere collection of us, with little more in common than blood, made the moment whole. "Wholeness" may be more important than any sort of balance, or it's at least the necessary construct of it. What I mean to say is, "balance" -which I have always sought with some sort of Zen indifference- is impossible without all the pieces and parts. When you're trying to get the engine to run, you can't just ditch a few gears. Some 500 posts, or so, and if I haven't made my point by now then I'm not sure I can. Hey. We're running out of metaphors here.

People have told me how lucky I am for having such a loving family, such a big family. And I am. I'm lucky. But frankly I believe it can be had by anyone. Start today: have six kids! (And try and love them!)

That's crazy, I'm sure. But my mom did. And my family has been through a world of incomparable hurt, unmentionable whatnot, and has come through to the other side. My parents made mistakes, but if it was a mistake to have six kids, then at least one wrong thing went right. There was thick and thin in my family over the years, feast and famine, hurdles and harbors, but somehow we're all still together in spite of us all. I would trade nothing for them, nor could I. I have walked away from friends and watched friends walk away over the years, but my Family has remained. What is there to do besides, make it work.

Families are funny things: born, made, assimilated, adopted. They take all sizes and shapes, and mine is not like yours. But one thing they all are: necessary. It begins and ends with family. They are there when you're born and, if you're only half-lucky, they are there when you die, but first things first -you're the family. Some folks fall off, for whatever reason, but you hold on to it and make it real. I have one sibling who goes out of her way to make every event a real party -always, at a minimum, unforgettable- and I'm lucky. And grateful. You do your part by at least contributing with your presence at the births and deaths and the significant in-between things like holidays and weddings. It took me a long time to learn it, but if you don't show up, you'll lose that most significant thing, and unwittingly replace it with something lesser. Without family, you're an orphan. And, hey, maybe you've always been an orphan. If so, endeavor to build a family. Eventually, they'll thank you for it. (And, hey, how do you think you'll feel as a result?)

As for me, I'm a father. And that means, above all else: keep the family together.

It's a new year.

(My mother last Easter with her, so far, eight grandchildren. She's a saint.)