I came home from work this afternoon, to find my family furiously cleaning. My dad looked up long enough to say, "Hey, Danny & Danielle called, they may come over later today." Danny is my cousin who lives in Virginia, and Danielle is his daughter. They are in SC only because Danny's mother is in the hospital in very serious condition.
About 5 minutes later (or so it seemed), there was a knock on the door. Danielle's sweet face was the first I saw, followed by..... my other cousin, Danny's brother Ray. Danny was right behind them. I hadn't seen Ray in probably 8 or 9 years. It was fantastic to see him, and he was amazed to see the changes in me. He hadn't been told until they were on the way to our house, when Danny said, "Oh yeah, by the way, don't be surprised when you see Annette, she's dropped a ton of weight."
They stayed for a while -- which heck, they could have stayed longer but they had just a short window between visiting hours for ICU. And they have to hit the road again tomorrow, as the new semester for Danielle kicks off Monday.
As they were here, and for the rest of the night, I've been thinking about family.
I am one of two grandchildren on my mother's side, the other being my brother. On Dad's side, I'm one of fifteen grands. But in my early life, I tended to associate "family" with my mother's side.... after all, I grew up in her hometown, with her large extended family. I had cousins galore on that side, but only saw my first cousins on special occasions -- holidays at Granny's, the occasional Sunday afternoon trip to her place, etc. I wasn't as close to them, because of the distance -- most of them lived within a 15-20 minute drive of my grandmother, and I was about an hour away.
But as an adult, I have grown to love the relationships I've forged with my first cousins. They are so very precious to me, not just because of the genetic link to them, but the bonds that the heart forms. I see the little posts on Facebook sometimes about "Cousins are our very first 'best friends'..." and I get a little wistful. My earliest best friends were never related to me... they were kids from church and school, and then the various cousins' children, but not to the same degree. And I'm glad for social media -- it has allowed our family to keep in touch even more closely, for the big things and little things. From a distance, I get to see my cousin's new baby. And I keep up with the happenings of those who live a little more closely. I get to find out more about my family, and get to know them better.
So thanks, Ray & Danny (and Danielle) for stopping in today and giving me a wonderful gift: your presence, even for a short time, and a good reminder of the beautiful things in our families.