Missing Pieces of a Jigsaw Puzzle
I’ve been thinking about extended family a lot lately, not only because of the holidays, but also because of the shifting nature of my own family. I guess you could say I’m feeling a little guilty. You see, in a recent post, I referred to “all” of my nephews and nieces by name. Since then, however, I realized that there are others whom I did not name. They are the “exes.”
My sister-in-law has been married and divorced twice. She birthed three children during her first marriage, then married a man who already had eight children of his own. My wife and I came to know and love these children as our very own nephews and nieces. Many of them have since grown to adulthood.
My sister-in-law and her ex-husband were “together” for several years, but legally married for only one. Now that they are divorced and the children are scattered, should we still count them among our nephews and nieces? It may hurt the feelings of my family if I do or those of the kids if I don’t. After all, they weren’t related to me until my sister-in-law married their father, and now that she is no longer married to him, the kids are no longer related to me, right?
We think about those five nieces and four nephews often. My wife occasionally garners news about their lives on Facebook. But, man, Christmas is tough, my friends.
Talk about missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
But, of course, my wife and I had taken those children into our hearts, and that isn’t something that one can just dismiss as if it never happened. This was not a dream. This was real. The day we ran out of work and drove two hours because my wife’s sister had gone off on a cruise, her (then) boyfriend was in bed with the flu, and eleven children needed to be taken care of. The night we called the cops when one of the teenagers failed to come home on time. The time when the five year old thought that Tums are colorful candy and ate a carton full of them. The searching for just the right gifts for eleven children, the wrapping, the Christmases, the birthdays, the Sundays ferrying them to church, the assembly line making of tamales in the kitchen. I could go on and on. This really happened and I cannot make it go away just because you want me to.
Then again, we rarely hear from any of those kids anymore. I hear that a couple of them are married, some are working and others are in the Armed Services. A couple are still in high school. Most of this is third-hand information at this point.
This unresolved situation hit me right in the face recently when we attended the funeral for my wife’s grandmother. Two of the girls showed up, one with her husband and the other with her fiancé. It was good to see them, but man, it was awkward.
We’re not really auntie and uncle anymore, but we can’t simply blot out their names with a black Sharpie either. That’s not the way love works.
This post dedicated to Ica, Brittany, Dessirae, Clarissa, Frankie, Jesse, Michael and Raymond.
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