I often have ten thousand things running through my mind at even given moment. Things I have to do, things I need to do, and things I want to do. I’m easily thinking of the next dessert recipe I want to try, the next craft project I want to start and what I want to eat for dinner in the mix of things going on at the present time. One thing that is generally always on my mind and almost always at the forefront of my thoughts is family. Especially the past few days. Recent events of the loss of someone I loved very dearly brought about strong feelings of sadness, happiness, joy, pride, anger and fear. Death always seems to elicit a myriad of emotions from me and is a topic that I would love to write about in the future. However, it is not the topic at hand that’s on my mind currently. What I want to write about is family.
Webster defines family as: the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children also: any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family. It also states: a group of persons of common ancestry : CLAN. The last definition is more of the one that I was looking for; and remember that highlighted word, as that’s important for this post. I have a very large family on my mother’s side (my mother’s side is what I am going to be referring to in this post). My dad’s side is not that big and lives just a couple of hours away, but my mom’s side of the family lives fairly close together.
To do a quick breakdown and to not get too confusing, as it is very confusing to me and I’m in the middle of it, my mom’s dad (my grandpa) had 3 brothers and a sister. Out of those 5 came 19 kids (if I am remembering correctly). Then those kids had more kids, and their kids had kids, and somewhere along the lines there’s even more kids. I live on my grandpa’s old farmland behind my parents and my God-parents (my Aunt and Uncle). Beside them just a few steps further is my other Aunt and Uncle. Across the street is my Uncle and my 2 first cousins and their families. Mind you, this is just on a few acres of land. If you go even further up the road, either way, you run into more of my family. We were born here and for the most part, we just kinda stayed here. This part seems pretty simple to understand, it’s when you branch out a little further that it gets confusing to an outsider. Yes, you are an outsider if you don’t understand the fundamentals of how this family works.
My Uncle Charles just passed away. He was such a kind, loving, sweet and God-fearing man. He loved his family, he demanded honest work and he was always smiling. His body was weary for a good while and we are rejoicing knowing that he is whole in Heaven. There is nothing confusing about how great this man was, what is confusing is that he isn’t technically my “Uncle”. He is my mom’s first cousin. When I tried to actually figure out how we were related, some sites suggested he was my second cousin, or my first cousin once removed (where did he go?). It was too much to figure out and much easier the way I grew up. I grew up with knowing him as Uncle Charles and his wife as Aunt Linda. Their kids were not my second cousins or third cousins or any removed cousins, they were just my cousins. Plain and simple. Simple is good right? You see, ever since I can remember, all of my mom’s first cousins were known as Uncle and Aunt to me. That’s how I introduce them. That’s how I refer to them. That’s how they are in my heart. It only really occurred to me how confusing it was when I was trying to explain the family to my husband. He was a bit confused at how many brothers/sisters my mom had that would explain that many Uncles and Aunts. And if we’re being honest, we’re a bit clannish, which I’ve heard more than once in my life.
You see, around here, we don’t really pay much attention to the branches on the family tree and we just focus more on the roots. When you try to look up at the branches and see who branches off from where and who they are attached to at the trunk, you just get a bit dizzy and your neck hurts from staring up into the sky for that long. When all you really have to do is look at the roots. It’s simple. Again, I like simple. The roots for the Sears family run deep and strong. They have to in order to hold up all the branches from this massive tree. Have you ever seen a really tall big beautiful tree with little tiny roots? Neither have I. The roots on our tree go back many, many generations, but the one thing that matters, is that they make up one strong family. So my Aunt and Uncle are like parents to me. They literally helped me grow up and helped me get into school. They even helped me build my house. My technical first cousins are like siblings. I was technically an only child, but I had cousins that I grew up with that I am closer to than most brothers/sisters are. My mom’s cousins are my Aunts and Uncles and my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th cousins are just cousins. There is no need to figure out which ones, since I love them all much more closely than most people love their 2nd cousins. Do people know their 4th and 5th cousins? I might know mine I guess, but I probably just look at them like 1st cousins.
To get even a little more complicated, I have cousins who aren’t really my cousins, but are my cousins’ cousins and I had grandparents that weren’t technically mine, but I called them Grandma and Grandpa. When giving a family history at the doctor I have to constantly remind myself that just because my Aunt’s sister had this doesn’t mean I need to write it down because she isn’t really my blood family. But where it really counts, she’s family.
The other thing that really gets people freaked out is that I see them a lot. I mean a lot. I eat with my parents everyday almost, but I definitely see them everyday. I see my God-parents almost everyday too. My Uncle and cousins across the street, we eat with them several times a month and see them at least 4 days out of the week. The rest of the family, all of those not really Aunts and Uncles and all those who-knows-what degree cousins, I see them as often as I can. Some family moved to the beach, which is fine because I love the beach, and some moved states away, but I still keep up with them and I still see them as often as I can. When one of us is in need, an entire posse comes running. We can fill a hospital waiting area like no ones business, and we can get pretty loud and boisterous too. A lot of places are probably glad when we leave. But we are there for each other no matter what. We’re clannish. And we’re ok with that. But we aren’t exclusive.
Part of the reason our family is so big is that we are constantly welcoming people in. If you marry in, you never get out. Never. And if you are friends with someone in the family, especially if you don’t have any family close by, you’re stuck with us. You are automatically a Sears. I can’t remember how many times people have come up to shake my dad’s hand and said “Mr. Sears” and he just rolls on with it. They do it to me too. I’ve never technically carried the name Sears as my name, but that’s what I’m known as. Almost every time my husband and I go into town we see someone I know that comes up and gives me and hug and asks me about the family, my husband goes “is that family” and every time my response is “might as well be”.
Family is community and community is family, which is a whole other post in itself, but it’s the truth. No matter the actual designation, my life will be full of Aunts who aren’t Aunts, Uncles who are cousins, Parents who aren’t biological, siblings who are cousins, and family that isn’t technically family at all. But you know what? My heart stays full because with so many people to call family, you never run out of people to love and love you back.
Rest In Peace Uncle Charles
We will see you soon!