New Pathways

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Family Drama at the Holidays

Is there such a thing as an existing family that doesn’t ever sprout leaves of discord from one of its branches?

Actually, why do they use a tree to symbolize family connections?  Is it because at its best the leafy shade provides a welcoming shelter from the hot sun of life?  Or because certain seasons can cause the tree to go bare leaving limbs exposed and vulnerable to the elements?

Drama has been a part of my extended family for years.  No big issues, just hurts and slights that built up over the years.  Grudges, held from long ago, that fester unforgiven have caused estrangements.  I grew up in a family that valued presenting a good face to the world.  Disagreements were handled quietly and cold silences, rather than loud confrontations, signaled disapproval. My father was the sturdy trunk of our small family tree.  Family appearances were very important to him.  He always admonished us to stay calm and not show our upset, argue or raise our voices.  While other families may have loudly worked out their differences, our family quietly ignored issues allowing them to take root and grow beneath the surface.

Ironically, simmering resentments within the extended family boiled over as he was dying from complications of Parkinson’s disease.  Without him to protect the branches, our family tree was buffeted by the winds of long held resentments and slights that have grown over the thirteen years since his passing.  And so our family tree stands in shallow ground, clinging to remain upright.

As we approach Thanksgiving, the ultimate family holiday, I am confronted by images of families clustered around tables laden with feasts, even as I know the idyllic scene is often interspersed with family dynamics that can make it difficult to digest the meal.  I feel sadness at the holidays for fractures I can’t mend and past hurts that still bleed.  However, I am thankful for the family that remain, clinging to the narrow branches.  I also am thankful for the friends that have sprouted over the years like tender shoots of new growth that have added welcome greenery to our family tree.

I wish for everyone to be able to enjoy this Thanksgiving with people you care about…the family you were born into or the family that you create.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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