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On Having Family …

May 23, 2011

This morning, I sent the kids’ schools an email asking them to be patient with us as we get our feet on the ground. The devastation back home has torn us apart limb by limb even though we are no longer planted in the destruction zone. Our hearts are broken, stripped raw of their bark like the ancient elms and oaks that used to exist in downtown Joplin.

Teachers and administrators were quick to reply and naturally, after an offering of prayers and support, asked the question—“Is your family there?”

Technically? No.

Legally? No.

But, each time, I answered with a resounding, “yes.”

I may have something bigger than a family there.

There’s a certain expectation of acceptance and love from the family you’re born into and Rob, the kids, and I are all blessed with parents, siblings, and relatives that love us generously and affectionately. In our Carl Junction home, the phrase “Family is Everything” was printed in bold green letters above the entrance to the kitchen. We believe that. We stand by it. Family *IS* everything to us. That must be why it hurts so damn badly to see our Missouri family struggling with the devastation they suffered last night.

That family isn’t our birthright. It isn’t mandatory in any way. It is a gift—a precious gift given over many years with open arms and wildly loving hearts. They took us in and gave us the acceptance and love we desperately needed when we arrived with two tiny babies, two preschoolers, and one very sad fourth grader and today I sit here desperate to give them something in return: one more Christmas Eve dinner or a ride to the ball park, a jumpstart or a couple of eggs to make brownies—a few words to sum up how desperately we ache for them. I want to wrap them up inside my sweater and squeeze all of them until it hurts.

I want to smell Bahar’s perfume and make a joke at Jane’s expense. I want to hear Abigale giggle and give Hayden a hug before he leaves for Tennessee. I want to fly into town with a cargo load of water and blankets and food. I want to find every one of my Panthers and Sevies and wipe away their tears, remind them of their incredible girl power. I want to lie on someone’s floor and play UNO or eat chili dogs. I want to hear that familiar Sweet Home Alabama ringtone and hold Ella and Tegan in my old yard by the dwarf redbuds for just one minute. I just want to touch them, all of them, every single one of them, that precious family … just once, for only a second, so I know they are okay.

So they know how much I love them.

Not like family, but as family.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 1:32 pm

    Love to you and yours.

  2. May 23, 2011 2:02 pm

    So, so sorry. It is devastating to me just from looking at the film on television, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you and yours. Prayers sent.

  3. Ann Hunt permalink
    May 23, 2011 2:28 pm

    My heart hurts for you. As you know, we too moved from our biological family and our “Gladys” family years ago and we still miss them so much and hurt whenever they do. There is just something about a family of friends that is special. Our biological families “has to love us” so to speak, but our family of friends wants to love us! I will pray that all of your Missouri family is okay.

  4. May 23, 2011 4:58 pm

    This was absolutely stunning, poignant, beautiful. My thoughts and heart go to your second family in Missouri. You’ve got a great wonderful way with words and your post made me cry. Hugs.

  5. Bill S. permalink
    May 23, 2011 5:09 pm

    I don’t have family in Missouri but I do in Georgia. I have been saying a quiet prayer every day for all of the people in the devastated areas.
    I hope ALL of your family is safe and sound, Annie – both the blood relatives and the chosen ones.

  6. Candace Mann permalink
    May 23, 2011 6:33 pm

    some friends become so close they might as well be sisters and brothers, and they stay that even if you’re separated by driving distance. i hope your missouri family is ok and they get through this. it was a horrible yesterday there.

  7. Marlene Dunham permalink
    May 25, 2011 10:41 am

    Most of my friends are closer than family. My heart goes out to them all. And to you, Ann

  8. July 15, 2011 9:28 am


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