Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blood From a Stone

Family has always been incredibly important to me. Perhaps because I'm an only child. My parents were always amazing, close, protective - they gave me the world, often at great cost to themselves. Throughout, though, their attitude was always "that's just what family does." They showed me that equally with our "found" family. Living thousands of miles from our closest relatives, it was often their close friends that filled the gap of aunts and uncles. I learned early on the title "Uncle" was just as applicable to my father's fellow linebacker and best friend as it was to his brother.

As I got older, I too began to build a found family, who became as precious to me as any blood relative. To this day, these friends are my support and hope and everlasting love.

But the lines that connected me to those who share my blood, my genes, my smile, my eyes - were always precious to me. I see them as an invisible map, tracing paths and routes and roads from one to another, stretching from the past to an indescribable future. I find endless fascination in how I can stand with my feet pointed out, just like the grandmother I never knew long enough to remember. Or how I can so resemble my Nana - she captured forever smiling at nineteen, me laughing so familiarly at 31. So much connects us we cannot name.

I dance with cousins' baby and marvel at how like my long-lost-to-me Papa he is, or laugh at my father and how very much he resembles photos taken of his father half a century ago. What else entwines us? How amazing is it that we have these amazing similarities, reaching out across our families - a cobweb of smiles and postures. Of vernacular and sarcastic remarks. Of eyes and hands, style and song. What runs in our blood that refuses to be lost to time?

Is it the red hair, the easy smiles, the quick tempers? Is it somehow more than that? Are we charged with carrying through what makes us, in essence, our namesakes? Charged with somehow passing that on? And how amazing it must be, to gaze at your child and see in them all the generations that came before.

This river, this running ubiquitous tie that overruns us, pulls and tosses us; forms us in so many ways . . . it is impossible for me to ignore. It places me in a specific moment in time, with so many like me behind and so many before. It makes me want to do them proud. Share my grandmother's smile as often as possible. Learn to dance like my Uncle Larry. Perfect Jack's wink. Carry my Aunt Judy's grace.

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