As I mentioned in my previous post, I just got back from visiting with hubby’s family. There were fun times, stress times, happy times, and productive times. My SIL – that’s hubby’s brother’s wife – is expecting their first child, and though she is seven months along this is the first I’ve seen her plural. I got to feel the baby kick her insides, and I had to watch all color leech out of her face as the baby stretched her abdomen organ to the point of intense pain. I sat and waited at my MIL’s condo for word from my BIL who was sitting in the ER with his wife, trying to find the cause of these pains. (The bad news was, they don’t know what is causing it. The good news is, they know what isn’t.)
I ripped my MIL a new one more than once, because she’s arthritic, diabetic, and has MS, so for God’s sake SIT DOWN! Make yourself, and your health, your first priority. Follow the advice of the nurses and listen to your body. Let the kids – including that 45 year old child of yours – get their own drink. Let someone else cook and clean for you and the four extra people who landed on your doorstep. We are family. It’s what we do. I’ve been in your house enough times that I know how to load and unload your dishwasher.
But there was one 24 hour period of this trip that has to be the best day in memory; a side trip to hubby’s hometown. Though his immediate family all moved to The City over the past decade, he still has cousins and friends in DV. This small town of less than 10,000 strong is where his roots are.
The friends in this community are lifers. They are the people you don’t see for years, yet when you meet again nothing is altered. The friendships are continuous, the loyalty strong, the trust absolute. I’ve known these people as long as I’ve known my husband (21 years) and I love them as family.
On this recent trip, “Jim” (not his real name, in case the quotation marks made you wonder), one of hubby’s best friends throughout high school, invited us to stay with him and his family on their acreage. Jim has a son, “Don” a couple of years younger than Dimitri. These two boys are joined at the hip whenever they get together. Don has a fort in a little woods, a lawn bigger than a football field, a swing set, and two dogs. Jim’s wife is gifted with plants and gardens, and she has a huge plot of flowers and vegetables.
That day was bliss. Dimitri and Don played, and played, and played. They talked, they planned, they swapped ideas and stories. They relished the company and never once complained of being bored.
Shayla stimmed. She story-planned, she role played, she renewed imaginary friends. She slept 12 hours, and woke happy and refreshed.
There was not a single moment of inappropriate language or behavior from either ASD child. Not. One. Moment.
And they had freedom. The house is set far off the highway, and even a good distance from their country road. Kids roamed and ran. They took up space. They were safe, in view, and happy.
We made it down around dinner time on Saturday and stayed all day Sunday. Saturday was the important night, because “Ken”, another friendship lifer, had a party scheduled, an open-mic jam session in his barn-sized workshop. We were all invited.
Ken has a little girl, “Anna”, a sweet little cherub who stole the show for awhile. There were assorted other kids, all much older, but it was Anna’s comment to Dimitri that brought something into perspective, something about good friends.
Dimitri came running out of the house excitedly. Anna had told him, “Your daddy is my uncle.”
Now, Dimitri gets blood relations. He has an uncle-and-aunt set on his father’s side and on mine. He has two cousins and one on the way. He also has second and third cousins, and he knows they are extended family. He loves his cousins, and gets excited whenever we plan to see them.
So, my little boy understood that an uncle’s child is his cousin. Anna just called his daddy an uncle. The connection made him giddy when he asked me, “Does that mean she’s my cousin, too?”
Think fast! Not a cousin, not by blood. But apparently her family calls my husband by the title of Uncle, which is very cool in my books. And we don’t want to say the child is misinformed and start that sort of heartbreaking argument between the kids.
“She’s not a cousin by blood, but her daddy and your daddy love each other like brothers.”
And then the truth showed itself to me. Exactly the right answer to the question. “So, yes, she is a cousin of sorts. By love, not by blood.” And then, so no child was excluded, “Don’s your cousin in the same way.”
Knowing that kids overshare while never getting a story straight, I made a point to tell both moms in case they got confused in the days to come. They each glowed at the story. Me, I thought it was a handy explanation. They made me feel like I was inspiring.
These are the friends I want for my family. The kind that stay with you, the kind that shrugs off odd behaviors, that presumes the best of you, that you know will love you because they have seen your worst and accept it as part of your package. They are family by love.