Thicker Than Water (2007)

After three tries, I finally got through to her.

Today (28 February in the US, 1 March in New Zealand, except on leap years) is my Grandma’s birthday.

We spoke about a lot of different things, and, with my Grandma being from quite an extended family (she was the youngest of 13 children, and, as the youngest, she was the same age group as some of her older siblings’ children), I asked her how everyone was doing. She spoke about different people, and how they were moving on in their lives. I prompted her with several names along the way, and she, in turn, told me how they were or what they were up to.

Now, for some reason, my Mom doesn’t mix that often with the Bauer/Dittrich side of the family, so we mainly see them at, as Noel so lovingly calls it, “hatches, matches and dispatches”. I, on the other hand, think family are family; our ties are thicker than water. We share some part of our DNA or may be related by law or marriage, and, to me, that’s just as good. Despite maybe not having the same tastes in music or clothing or having different backgrounds, we still share one thing in common: a common relative or ancestor, without whom, our bond (or even our existence) would have never been.

In 2004, my Grandpa died. I’d rushed from literally one end of the world to the other to say good-bye, made it with enough time to spend part of a night, a day, and part of another morning with him before he passed away.

With such a radical change in my life within a few days, my world felt as if it had been tipped upside down and that some greater power was shaking the world to try to get me to fall off too. I often say to people, when I describe what it was like, that that period in my life felt like I was a guest star in my own life, as if I was one of the main cast who started the show, left for greener pastures, but was brought back for an earth-shattering event. The writers gave me lines to say, only enough to keep everyone happy. It was very surreal.

There were no writers, no show, no lines though; this was life.

At the wake, the Dittrich side of the family (my Grandma’s family) comprised most of the visitors. (The Fack side, my Dad’s brothers and sister, their spouses and children, my cousins, were there too.) It gave me a chance to catch up and talk with cousins I hadn’t seen in years.

The only place to eat dinner was Little America across Central Road from the funeral home. Brian, Darcie, Jeremy and I took Grandma over there, and, in the middle of the restaurant, there were some of our older cousins. We sat down, amongst them, and talked. It was such a break from everything devastating that had occurred in the days before, and, for maybe an hour, we unwound, eating and talking and sharing stories. Bill Middleton kept giving Brian aggravation (for some reason, he thinks he looks like Cary Grant). The family told funny stories and fond memories of Grandpa, and wasn’t that the best thing to remember him? I think I laughed at one point: such an alien and foreign thing at that point in time that I remember at the time I didn’t think it sounded like me.

But they took our minds off everything, spinning the positive.

I remember my cousins filing by, Grandpa’s immediate family sitting and waiting, to say their final good-byes. What stuck out most was my cousin Chuck putting his hand on my shoulder and saying something like, “It will be okay,” and my eyes welling up with tears.

Another strong memory: the younger cousins, the ones my age (and I am sorry if I got this wrong but it was such a blur to me, I am trying my best to piece it together!) being the pall-bearers. Chuck, Darren, JJ, Jason, Brandon and Greg bore the casket because, to be honest, my Mom, Dad and Grandma felt Brian, Jeremy, Darcie and I wouldn’t be able to handle it emotionally (and they were so right, at least for me). I hope I said thank you to those cousins, because, I do know some of them (if not all of them) loved my Grandpa very much as well.

I know some people are not as fortunate as I am to have such a wonderful ans supportive family. At night, when I pray before I go to bed, my prayer thanks God for such a great immediate and also all-round family.

My whole point is family, no matter how distant, if they are our own flesh and blood or people who we’ve collected along the way and love just the same, is the blood in our lives. They are those people who, like our immune system, rush in to fight our battles for us when we are weak. They hold us together when we need it, act as a support crew and, funny enough, we don’t bat an eyelash when they need help; we rush in just the same as they did for us.

So they are right; blood is so much thicker than water. And we have so much to be thankful for in having them in our lives.

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