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Family Ties

My family attending my graduation from ASU

My Denver family is fairly close relationship-wise and now it seems that we are somewhat distant at the same time. As a child, I remember the big family get-togethers at my Aunt Rosie's house and at her sister's house, my Aunt Dolly. One example of how close we were is these two aunts of mine, who are sisters, were next door neighbors. They shared a fence. Their other sister, my grandmother lived three streets away, all of them in the 3000 block of Park Hill. We lived in the 2600 block, one street over from my Grandmother and two streets over from my Aunts' One of my Mom's sisters lived in the 2900 block two streets in the opposite direction from my Grandmother. Within a four block by five street radius, I had a built-in support system. Aunt's, uncle's, cousins, neighbors and grandmother. They taught me, they fed me, they paid me for odd jobs, they scolded me, they cared for me and they were all around examples for me of how a responsible, productive citizen should live their life....and how maybe they shouldn't. My family wasn't and isn't perfect. It seems that we were closer when I was younger but that could be because my generation are now all adults with our own lives to tend to. We also live in different cities. My neices and nephews and their children might be as close relationship-wise as I was with my first cousins when we were younger but not proximity-wise. Only my Mom and her sister's live walking distance from each other these days and most of them are too old to take that walk. The three or four houses we lived in up till I was in high school hardly ever had a phone. With the way we rely on our smart phones today, how did we manage to keep up with what was going on when we had no phone? Here's how: Local TV & radio for happenings in the city. National news for happenings everywhere else. Gossip for both neighborhood & family happenings. By gossip, I mean the kind that was both in front of and behind the subject's back. Until we were bused across the city, we went to the same school as my cousins. My Mom looked after them until their Mom got off work. We knew each other's business. We played together with other kids in the neighborhood. We spent the night together at grandmother's house. We got in trouble together doing stuff we had no business doing. All of my first cousins have kids and some of their kids have kids and I can only name a handful of these second and third cousins because I just don't hang out with their parents/grandparents like I used to. I'd like to think that if I lived in Denver, I'd make time to spend with family. Sadly, I lived in Houston where my sister and cousin live and I hardly spent time with them. That one lived in Humble (way north) and the other in Richmond (way south) is no excuse. As more of us have become smart-phone savvy, group text chats have become one way we connect and stay connected with each other. FB may be another way but I am out of the loop on that. My family has multiple group chats that come and go depending on what is happening within our circle. I'm in one with just my brothers & sisters and there's not been much going on with that one lately. I'm in one with a few cousins, a couple of aunts and some brothers & sisters Then there is one with at least one person from each branch of my Mom's side of the family tree and in some instances all the people from a branch. It is this group chat that has had the most activity recently. My cousin Debbie was hospitalized with COVID. My aunt announced it to everyone in the family chat but that was mostly for the benefit of those who don't live in Denver. The news had gotten around already to most of the Denver residents. It is interesting how we communicated about Debbie in these group chats. There were a ton of prayers texted out to everyone and Amens and even hallelujahs when a bit of good news was shared. Imagine how different any family's communication would have been about a family member being hospitalized in the 70's. I don't remember a time as a kid when our family gathered together and prayed but it has been happening for weeks in our family chat. That is partly because we are more spiritual now than we've ever been. But, it is also because it is easy to do a virtual gathering. Staying connected, really connected is not easy. And that is why nobody knew my cousin Debbie was in the hospital until a friend of hers told someone in the family. The explanation for this was many-fold: Debbie made it difficult to connect with her. She would change her number and not tell anyone. She would go long stretches without taking her medication. She wouldn't answer her phone when we called and sometimes wouldn't answer her door when we visited. The updates about her hospital stay kept coming in the family chat. Hopeful one day, not so much another day. More prayers, more hope, more texts. Interestingly, there was no text to announce the final result. For me, that came by way of a phone call. I hope I never answer the phone to the sound of my Mom's tears ever again. A new family chat was created and many of my family members were inspired to share pictures of my cousin Debbie and other family members who have died. So many memories triggered by these pictures made me miss the days when we just told each other face to face what was going on in our lives. Funeral details, logistics for the gathering after the funeral, where we would meet, what time, who is bringing what food, who will serve the food, who will help clean up, etc. is pretty much all that's been in the family chat lately. I am typing this on the airplane that's about to land in Denver. The funeral is tomorrow (Friday) and I will see my family. My only hope is that when I see them we all can enjoy being in each other's presence fully with no giving in to the temptation to jump into a virtual connection via texts, emails or the latest hilarious TikTok. I want face to face updates and happenings so that I can check in later by phone or family chat for results. I remain grateful

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