Sunday, June 21, 2009


Father's Day. A day set aside to honor those men whose vocation is being dad. A day that is a joy for some and a heart ache for others, depending on their circumstances. Above all, it is a day for celebrating not only dad, but also the entire family.

Today was a perfect example of what I mean. I have had the fortune to marry into a large family, robust and alive. Today, as I sat amidst the hubbub that is the trademark of this family's gatherings, I suddenly became aware of the life around me. Sadly, my mother-in-law passed away a few years ago but her presence is felt at every family gathering. Never does a holiday or birthday go by without some mention of the family matriarch. What made today unique was that all five brothers and sisters were in attendance.

Now I am an only child. Family gatherings for me meant meeting a cousin somewhere on a street corner by accident. It was nice and fun, but not the lively meeting I am talking about here. This is no street corner meeting!

No, in this family, there are very distinct personalities! One common thread among all the characters in the room is passion. Now that can get messy. Little pockets of bickering can break out, not necessarily at the gathering, but throughout the year. Arguments over some of the most trivial things can break out during the course of a simple phone call that was originally ntended to see how the other was doing!

Rivalries from the past still exist to some degree only now they are at adult levels. That just means that they exist at a louder volume! And while there is the bickering and the infighting that goes on from time to time, there is also the love. And this is never so evident as when the brothers and sisters gather around their father. I could see and feel that passionate love that each has for him. Each one of them relates to him differently and I am sure he is swept back in time and can often see the little girl or boy in front of him. I am equally sure that this vision is one of the most precious things in life for him for he clearly revels in his family.

Today, at the Father's Day celebration, several generations of the family were in attendance. Not only was there the patriarch and the siblings, but there were the grand children and great grandchildren sparking the day with youthful energy that we all remember but somehow can no longer sustain without certain aches and pains creeping into the picture! They, too, clearly love the chaotic environment, embracing it with youthful enthusiasm spelling good things for the future of this brood.

The love flows in this family because of one thing. They all respect and love each other very deeply. They may fight from time to time but let some family emergency come up and they rally around to bring aid and comfort to the suffering member. I honestly do not believe there isn't one thing that one of them would not do for the other in times of trouble.

This family is an amazing thing! It lives and breathes. It has its spasms and sometimes becomes ill through misunderstandings and mistrust. It reaches out to others and welcomes and loves the new generations that are either just coming into their own or just starting out in life. Each individual struggles-just as we all do-with the day-in-and-day-out wrestling matches with life. Yet, there is always the pervasive knowledge that they are part of a unit bigger than themselves and that all they need to do is reach out to the other and the strength of this family will be theirs.

This family's life, at times, is not easy and, as I said, can even messy. It can be clumsy and awkward and appear, at times, like the Hatfield's and the McCoys. But they are always welcoming and nearly always smiling. It is a sheer joy to be in and around this dynamic group. Their great gift to me has been a totally different experience of family and I revel in the experience. They have accepted me as part of the clan through no merits of my own. I have never felt like an outsider and that is a tribute to the kind of love they have graciously extended to me simply because I had the great fortune to marry into the family.

And so, to the father of them all, I add my Happy Father's Day! But I also add a heartfelt and monstrous "thank you" for letting me be a part of life in the unique ways you celebrate it. This is what family life is all about, after all. The family brings life into the world, energizes it, encourages it, rejoices in the successes, comforts in the failures, and loves in the darkest of moments. There could be no other appropriate way to celebrate this day than to have the great opportunity to be a part of this family! I am blessed.