Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Blended, Extended Family Father's Day

It's funny how things change. When I first moved to Iowa in 1984, it was just my first wife and me. My parents, brother and sister, and all my relatives were in California. Most of my wife's parents were in Washington state. Now, thirty-seven years later, my first wife has passed, her parents, my parents and brother and sister, and all my aunts and uncles except one. 

This is not a Father's Day lament, though, about my isolation and old-age angst. I am very fortunate. I did remarry, which was actually a wonderfully funny surprise to us both . . . but that's another story. Over the last sixteen years, there were many comings and goings of our children, my wife Sandy's son and daughter and my first wife Barbara and my son. At times we were alone with our children scattered across half the continent, but on this Father's Day I can say that happily that is not the case. 

All our children are now here in town with us, having settled here--along with the children of Sandy's daughter and those of my son and his wife. Also with Sandy's son and his girlfriend, that makes us a total of thirteen: Grandpa and Grandma (Sandy and me), three children and their partners, and five grandchildren, including my son's blended family. On this Father's Day, I am definitely not living in isolation, sitting on my porch and watching other people pass by, walking or driving or bicycling, living their lives while I increasingly dwelling in the past.

I am sitting in my living room at dawn right now, the window open for a while before the day heats up, and just from where I'm sitting I can see the dynamism of my family interactions. Over below the TV table is a galvanized tub filled with odds and ends of toys we've brought over from Sandy's daughter's place. Sitting kind of in the middle of the room is a box full of food staples that we had too much of and Sandy's son is coming to pick the food up. Beside the box of food is a burlap carrying bag that my wife uses for swimming necessaries when she heads up to the city's local lake. Along with towels, she'll stuff it with juice boxes and snacks for the grandkids. 

To my right next to the sofa is a stack of books I researched on our local public library's website and then checked out for Sandy. You see, I'm heading out tomorrow to a local campground for a week in our new Airstream Basecamp travel trailer, and I wanted to make sure that Sandy has plenty of reading material on hand. We're planning on Sandy coming to camp with me next weekend, if not sooner, depending on what her business requires. Speaking of reading, I'm on my computer and realize I also have regular communication with my first wife Barbara's family in Washington. It's a big, connected world.

I am surrounded by family, planted deeply in the rich soil of family (even if sometimes we wonder if we're planted a little too deeply), and am as busy and connected as I can possibly be. This evening when it cools, my son and Sandy's daughter's husband are coming to fix a leak on the roof. When I'm gone camping, my son will keep the garden watered. Later this summer I will buy a big load of firewood, and I'm pretty sure and hope to god "the boys" will come over and help me stack it. 

On this Father's Day, I wish to celebrate the idea that "families are made in many ways." My mother was adopted; my son is adopted. Right now Sandy and I are the paterfamilias and materfamilias of our extended, blended family that includes thirteen wonderful souls. We all have many opportunities to create family, and it doesn't even have to be through marriage or partnership. It has to do with reaching out and giving and receiving. It has to do with including, not excluding--reaching out rather than pushing away. I am lucky, I am fortunate. I am so far away from "lonely" that I'm looking forward to a little quiet camping time. It is summer, though, so Sandy and I won't be at all surprised if our little quiet camping getaway is interrupted by the arrival of at least one car full of kids and grandkids. And that will be just fine. Happy Father's Day, Tom.

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