FAMILY: Relative Strangers

RELATIVE STRANGERS – HOW TO GET TO KNOW YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AGAIN

I’ll never forget that time at our annual family picnic I said to a cousin nonchalantly, “Hey, we should get together and go to lunch!” After a dead pause, she said, “Why? We don’t know each other anymore.”

Wow! I swear that hurt my feelings as much as if we were kids again and she had sucker punched me. But, you know what? She was right. We didn’t know each other, and that’s the gosh darn problem, people!

Family is family, no matter where we are. Y’all know I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and now live in Chicago. I had to get out!  And my mom was the first of 10 siblings to leave the Ft. Wayne roost. But we have a lot of my kin still back there. Even though I’m gone, I still want to be connected to my kinfolk because what else do we have without family? #familyiseverything

Some of y’all are lucky like me and have big ‘ole family reunions to go to once a year, and you get to meet new babies, and see little and big Pookie, and hug on great Aunt Fat. And if that isn’t the case for your family? You gotta find something that keeps you connected, especially during the in-between times. For me, I use Facebook.

I only have about 400 Facebook friends. Some are friends and work colleagues I trust. But most are family. (You might remember me mentioning that I have sixty-four first cousins!) If your last name ain’t “Wattley” or if somebody doesn’t tell me you’re family, I’m pretty much not adding you as a friend. Why? Because I need to stay close to my family, not somebody I met on an airplane and had fifteen minutes of great conversation with. I use my Facebook like a family cheat sheet, y’all! It’s how I know who the kids are and who they belong to and what grade they’re going into. I use it to keep in touch with that cousin who said we didn’t know each other, so that we would. (C’mon ‘cuz, you know who you are!).

You want to know something else? There are certain things about family that I DO NOT want to find out about on Facebook. Call me old fashioned, but when my mom died, my siblings and I picked up the phone and started calling people. It was our duty for them to hear the family news in person via our voices, just like in the old days. And I knew the news would be carried on via our family phone tree to those who needed to hear it first and not read it on a news feed. Nuthin’ worse, in my humble opinion, than having something as tragic as the loss of a family member shared first on social media before it’s shared directly with family members. This ISN’T the way I want to find out somebody in my family is getting married or has passed.

Do yourself a favor and don’t be a relative stranger. Reach out to family members and make yourself known. Start with a Facebook message or even a text, “Hey, Georgia, I’m Dana. Mary Ellen’s oldest. I just wanted to say ‘Hi’ and to reconnect with you.” You may not get a response right away, or you might get back a huge smile emoji.  I had a relative on my father’s side of the family reach out to me this way and I will forever be grateful that she had the courage to do so. (Thanks Chaka!). The point is that you’ve opened the door to getting to know each other again, and that’s a great way to keep you rooted. It’s never too late to establish roots.

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