Most people get a little nervous when they are introducing someone new to their family. Now multiply that feeling by ten, and imagine that the person you are introducing is yourself… The last time this happened to me, was almost 20 years ago when I met my former in-laws. It took several visits over the course of a few years before we were really at ease with each other, but they were so warm and welcoming (which is how it should be) that after a while I had no doubt they loved me like a daughter, which is precisely why the divorce was so hard on all of us.
Who knew that that experience with my in-laws would be the perfect prep for what I would go through in January 2011? People are amazed when they see how close I am with my dad and his whole side of my family, but I have to emphasize that we all put in a huge effort to make this happen– and it did not happen overnight. We took our time getting to know one another- and that is how it should be in any relationship. Both sides did their part to travel and remain connected– and again, this two-way dynamic is a key component in any healthy relationship. Only after a lot of hard work did we get to where we are today, where I am happy to report that our interactions are quite normal ones that everyone can relate to– well almost.
I may not have any of the baggage that others have with their siblings, so that is nice, but it is still weird when they all talk about the village where dad grew up or other relatives that we have in Vigo, which I have not been to yet. I’m sure one day soon I will be able to put all of this into better context, but for now I am just grateful that we can all be ourselves around each other. After nine visits (and weekly phone calls) with my dad, I can finally just leave him alone with my son and let them bond while I go take care of other things. We no longer act like guests in each others homes– everyone now just helps themselves to whatever they need, we own up to our mistakes and can be honest about our likes and dislikes without fear of offending anyone.
Before, I was painfully aware that we were all trying to feel each other out, trying to understand where we developed certain ideas and habits, while also realizing with great shock when things we held in common were clearly just genetic. By now, we have gotten over all that–we all know where we stand on major issues like religion, politics, and sex, and even though we may not all agree with one another, the fear of being rejected or cast out is completely gone.
Slowly but surely, more of my friends have been meeting my not-so-new family, and it is now with great pride, and zero apprehension, that I introduce loved ones from my past to the loved ones I just found in early 2011. It may have taken us a while to get to where we are today, but all I care about is that we got here, and so for others that may go through a similar journey, all I can say is give it all some time. If you believe that time is on your side, everything will fall into place at just the right moment.
Life is really funny. Growing up, I longed so much to have some inkling of what my dad was like– how he might smell, what his touch would be like… and then last week, it all just came together. While walking with my dad, it started to rain. Luckily, I brought an umbrella, and I opened it so we could share it. Very gently, he pulled me close to him with such amazing familiarity, and together we walked along side by side, as I took in his smell, all his movements, and my present reality ceased to exist while I seemed to revert back to that little seven year old girl whose wish had just come true.
We may not always think that time is on our side, but it is. Especially with human relationships, which are so complex and fragile, don’t rush things. It will all work out for the best– as long as you stop trying to control the outcome. In other words, don’t worry about the end-game, and just savor each precious moment. Everything will fall into place exactly as it should.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.