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“Not to be lonely, not to be scared – Boaz had decided that those were the important things in life.” – The Sirens of Titan

A friend recently passed on a lesson about family. We grow up and cultivate relationships of our own choosing, but our families show up for us, he told me, in ways no one else can.

I thought of you then – of how lucky I was to recognize the truth in his statement. I recalled all the sentiments scribbled on birthday cards purchased in haste, and wondered if I could do better this time.

Easiest to articulate is gratitude for the gifts I can grasp with my own palms.

The door to a home whose warm comfort we’ll seek always, even if we protest your refusal to adjust the thermostat (“Why don’t you put on a sweater?” you say with a smile).

The meals and recipes that make it possible to fill newer homes with the familiar scents of old traditions. Dishes piled high with enough food to feed an army. The chicken soup that you fret over despite our insistence that each batch is better than the last. All the carefully labelled lunches packed in our bags when we go.

The arms outstretched to greet us, to soothe us, to say goodbye. Never too hurried, even as we hurry away.

Harder to compose are thanks for gifts that cannot be held, though we grip them just as tightly.

The hours, years, and adventures we’ve stitched into a rich tapestry of shared history. The reassurance that we are not the sole keepers of the stories we’ve collected, both wonderful and strange. The laughter that grows louder with each retelling.

The voices at the end of the phone, listening patiently, devoid of judgement. The advice that is given with no strings attached. We fail to heed it, fail again, forget the words entirely, and your patience is an astounding blessing.

The knowledge of our capacity for ugliness, and the acceptance you extend when we say things we wish we’d never said. You weather the onslaught of anger, frustration, and grief reserved for those we trust will see who we are, and love us still. You forgive first so that we might forgive ourselves.

I am certain that this is the source of all my attempts at bravery. Every chance I take, I take because I know that I can fuck up completely and return to the same home, the same laughter, the same understanding. I can navigate pangs of loneliness and moments of uncertainty with occasional ferocity, because I am fiercely aware of your presence, wherever I find myself. There is no greater gift.