I grew up in a big family. Wherever I looked as a kid, there were people of all ages enjoying themselves. There was so much noise at birthday parties and during the holidays you'd think we owned the city and then some, too. Smelly old farts sitting on a couch my Momma insisted were not her blood; aunts and uncles dancing who, in hindsight, were still pretty young and vital (much younger than I am writing all of this), and truckloads of happy kids a couple of years my senior ─ the generation I belong to. Somehow I thought this overcrowded world of mine would never change, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
My parents got a divorce in the mid-seventies, a couple of years down the line my mother's father died and the whole family came apart pretty quickly. Before any of us could say, "Cheese!", the sounds of fun and laughter were reduced to the occasional flashes in my mind that are still faintly recognizable yet always slipping further away. It's unbelievable how little we see coming until the unexpected is staring you in the face like a lion ready to bite your head off. We are supposed to be a smart species, but I'm slightly begging to differ. Well, make that a whole lot, but what can you do about it, right? Call your cousin Vinny to solve the problem? I don't even have a cousin Vinny.
As I sit here reminiscing, I'm painfully aware of the fact that I don't have children ─ not even imaginary ones ─ and for some unfathomable reason, the majority of my cousins are pretty much the same. Not only don't they have children, most of them don't even have a husband or a wife. It's the damnedest thing. At least I have my Bollywood Bride to keep me company (knock on wood, no not that wood). Yes, and my couch has, for some time now, been perpetually owned by Mongo the Fatcat and his skinny sister, Pebbles, the wannabe opera singer slash Headache Inducer: Part I.
Instead of feeling sorry for my future lone-ass self, I should be grateful my Mom is still among us, and doing a pretty good job at that. I should be grateful her elder sister and her elder sister's husband, Uncle Bob, still haven't perfected the art of fighting, though they're well on their way. Because I'm always exhausted and their incessant quibbles tend to give me tremendous headaches, I have sort of neglected them a bit by not visiting their place as frequently as I used to. Maybe I should reconsider now that they're still among the living ─ loud and clear and very much alive. I'm grateful for everything they've done for me through the years (discounting the headaches). I know they are looking forward to the holidays. I know I am too.
Yesterday, a private student of mine ─ a man almost my age ─ said it was time for him to devote more of his time to his family and to focus much less on his career. His first child had just been born and that life-altering event had made him want to reshuffle his deck of priorities. He said, "I need to cherish every moment while I'm still here." I sighed and smiled. That line sure struck a chord with me. I need to start separating work from leisure even more... I need to spend more time with my family...
Now is as good a time as ever.
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