(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)
Other than being born, perhaps the greatest blessing in my life is my family…mia famiglia. I have written numerous blog posts about family in one way or another, but I must at least touch on the family here because it is certainly something I am indeed grateful for. (see some of the posts – 1 2 3 4)
The word “family” is very unique actually. It can mean so many things…a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household; all the descendants of a common ancestor; a group of people who are related to each other. Many societies may have different meanings. And, in the United States, the definition has certainly changed over the years as the social norms have changed.
As I noted in yesterday’s post, I was born into an Italian family in Cleveland, but my family life through my youth and teen years was a long way from normal. Growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were many TV shows that depicted families as stable and the homes as a place of safety and solace.
But for me, I had instability and dysfunction. By the time I was six, I had been through two divorces, two remarriages, gained a step-brother, had a half-brother and by the time it was all said and done, I was in a new family altogether…without either of my biological parents. And I had no control or say on the situation.
As I spoke to my natural mother on my birthday a couple of days ago, she had lamented that she had to leave her husband back in the 1950s and what it had done for all of us. She wished that she could have had that back. But, as an afterthought, she noted, “but if that had happened think of all of the posterity that wouldn’t exist.” Indeed, the direction my life took from the day I left Cleveland in August 1957, most certainly has me where I am today.
Over the years, I have most certainly felt that my Father in Heaven built a pathway for me to trod upon and journey to where I am today. I had forks in the road and choices to make. Some were difficult, some were unfortunate and many were wonderful. I didn’t realize the joy of “family” until I was married and on my own.
Credit must be given to Joe Kravetz and Marge for raising me and the other 4 children in the family. It was not easy and we were certainly dysfunctional. I wanted to be in that “perfect family” situation…but it never happened. I even ran away from home twice as a teenager in hopes for a better life. But, looking back, I can see that they tried hard under the circumstances thrown their way.
As for me, on my pending approach to 60, I look at family much differently. Instead of begrudging the situations of my early years, I actually am grateful. For, unlike others, I have many “families” in my life and they all bring me joy and happiness.
Ultimately, my dearest and most precious are my wife of 36 years, my five children and my ten grandchildren. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a wonderfully joyful arrangement. Mind you, things have not been perfect, but my children grew up in a stable family without divorce and with love in the home. And many of my children are now fostering the same.
But, through my life with Joe Kravetz and Marge Tudor I gained other families. I am truly a part of the bigger Kravetz family and have great Uncles and Aunts and Cousins who have accepted me as their own…adopted me in if you will…and I have forged amazing relationships with many of them. I also have had good aunts and uncles and cousins on the Tudor/Hanks side of the family.
In recent years I have had the blessing of developing meaningful relationships with my Laurienzo sisters and brother, as well as other relatives. Though life has never provided me the opportunity to be around them much, we have stayed in contact and I truly feel a part of the family that I was so forcefully extracted from so many years ago. And I am grateful to know of my wonderful heritage.
And with marriage comes new family…new parents, in-laws, and new brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. When I married Julianne I inherited this new family and grew to love them dearly.
I never really had parents that were there for me. I don’t begrudge that, but I sincerely never felt that love and care that I so craved. But, through marriage I did gain that and after a few years the Batemans — Maury and Arlene — were like parents to me. I felt like I belonged. And when they passed away I was stricken with a broken heart as if they were my own parents…and, in reality, I think they were in a sense. And I am so grateful for them.
To me, family means many things. I am grateful for the massive and extended families I have now. They all mean the world to me. I am not sure what the good Lord had in mind for me as he set me on this long arduous journey through dysfunctional and broken families, but, looking back, I am grateful to have so many loved ones… three sets of parents, two sets of brothers and sisters, an amazing bunch of cousins and nieces and nephews.
I have been blessed. I love my families. Amo lo mia famiglia.