Perspectives: Build those family ties and traditions while we can

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OPINION — The last family get-together we had that wasn’t a result of sending off another family member was last October when my mom and her two surviving siblings got together for their annual pre-Christmas dinner.

It’s a tradition that they’ve been doing for several years now.

Before the snow flies in earnest, my elderly mom and her siblings would meet at their favorite restaurant for a turkey dinner and to exchange gifts. It was funny to see all three of them making their way into the restaurant with canes and walkers.

Since I live near my mom’s younger sister and her husband, they’ve asked me to chauffeur them to and from these events. It’s an assignment I’m very happy to do as it allows me to spend time with them as well as to help them connect with distant family.

When we met this past October, I was struck by how even simple opportunities to meet like this could no longer be taken for granted. It’s a life lesson that has been a long time coming.

Nearly 23 years ago, my cousins and I all gathered for the first time in more than a decade for our grandfather’s funeral. We marveled at how much each of us had changed since we’d last seen one another.

When we gathered a couple of years later for my grandmother’s funeral, we joked about how our gatherings all seemed to have a common theme of someone dying. We made an informal commitment, at that time, to have more regular family get-togethers.

As with many things, it’s something easier said than done.

On the bright side, those family reunions are taking place with some regularity, unfortunately, they still seem to take place when we’re gathered to bid farewell to yet another loved one.

Despite our good intentions, all of us get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that it takes something earthshaking, like a loved one’s passing to get us to actually break out of our routines.

I get the sense that time is not working in our favor and that has me wondering what I might do differently to avoid squandering the time we have.

Here are a couple of things that occurred to me as I made the drive to and from Southern Idaho this past weekend.

Family is one of the easiest things to take for granted. This fact doesn’t automatically make us bad people but it does illustrate how shortsighted we can be when we’re not in crisis.

The stuff that would cause us to drop what we are doing and purchase a plane ticket to fly a thousand miles or more to be with family tends to be be pretty intense. A life-threatening illness, a birth or an actual death are the times we feel the call of duty strong enough to step out of our routines and be there for one another.

There’s nothing wrong with this and, at the same time, wouldn’t we be well served to stay in contact through the good times as well?

This doesn’t have to be something formal and complicated. It can be as simple as establishing the habit of checking in with one another regularly. This can be accomplished through social media – one of the good uses – or even through a weekly phone call or text.

The key here is making the time to communicate regularly. Even a short 5-10 minute phone call can bring family members closer together, if done on a regular basis.

Whether that time is spent commiserating, complaining, joking or laughing with one another, we have the opportunity to become part of a highly effective support group for one another. This doesn’t mean that family members will no longer have disagreements or get on one another’s nerves.

The key is, we’re not looking for reasons to disagree with one another. We’re long past trying to change one another.

That means that we can strengthen our bonds to one another through consistent contact and regular small acts of service. Those may seem like small things but they pay rich dividends in terms of creating meaningful relationships that provide us shelter and comfort in times of need.

The second thing that came to mind was the importance of creating new traditions, even if they may be small or silly things that are only observed by our family.

The Christmas-in-October meeting that my mom and her siblings have been holding may have started out as a curiosity, inspired by a bunch of old folks who hate driving in the snow, but it was a legit fun time.

The fact that it brought us all together for a short but purposeful visit was the important part. Considering that we can no longer take such events for granted, this makes every gathering something genuinely special.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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