In my family that has an extended meaning…we were two families blended as one. As children we found ways to annoy each other to no end. And of course, our children did much of the same annoying things as we did to each other. An example would be the “stop coping me” saga. One of us would copy everything the other said, and they would scream for us to stop…only to have each word, expression and gesture continue to be copied until the hair pulling began. I’ve even had my grandchildren do it to me…I’ve laughed my head off trying to get them to stop until I thought I would pull my hair out and then kiss them endlessly. But as a child battling this game…kissing my annoying sibling wasn’t exactly what I had in mind (insert a vision of your own choosing here).

We were raised the word “step-family” was not allowed in our vocabulary…we were a family and the blending of our lives was to be strong. We started as twelve (my mom, my new dad, one boy and nine girls) pushing and shoving to find our place in this new life. Then our youngest brother was added to the family. We had no choice but to learn about each other because we lived in a three bedroom/one bath house. Finally my oldest brother was given a make shift bedroom in the basement…freeing up the couch. I laugh now as I think back to us packed like sardines in our house, but the day our little brother Billy was born, some of us were running up and down the street screaming in excitement of having another baby in our lives. How did we do it? Sometimes I wonder. If you saw us around the dinner table, you would think we were trying to create a new Last Supper. Packing all of us in our car on Sunday for the long drive to south Seattle to attend church was a challenge of its own. You guessed it…no seat belts. But with that many kids to play with, help out or clean up after, you were never bored. We were not a Leave It To Beaver type of family, but we made the best of what we had…l’ll just leave it at that.

As life went on, we went our separate ways. Some stayed in the city, others to the open ranges outside the city life, and yet another to a different country (though Canada isn’t that different). We stay in touch as much as our crazy busy lives allow. With our grandparents gone, and no parents to give us that “I’m still young enough” feeling…our generation became the “older generation”. Thank God for Facebook, email and the occasional phone call, we’ve managed to share pictures and stories as our families grew. Even if I have just spoken to one of my siblings, I still wait in anticipation for their Christmas card to arrive…sealed with love. Having a large family had many blessings. It meant HUGE family reunions, lots of laughter…of course you can’t have that many siblings without breaking up a few fights…daily. With the holiday gatherings that are a story of their own…everyone had a friend or two that would soon become a fixture in our home…there always seemed to be room for one more. I’d like to say it was all fun and games, but unfortunately we have shared many tears as well. We have lost three sisters, Cathy, Patty and Peggy and now recently we lost our oldest brother, Steve.

As a Christian, there is no doubt in my mind Steve was greeted by his sisters, parents, grandparents and welcomed by God into his Kingdom. The reunion they are sharing now is surely filled with love and laughter as they all keep an eye on those of us still here on earth. As my heart aches for loss, my heart also swells as memories flood my mind. As a youngster, Steve would convince me if I pushed his car (so it would start), he would give me a ride to school…yes, I stood in horror as he would drive off without me. You don’t want to know how many times I fell for that one….I can only shake my head at myself and how naive I am….I mean was….lol.

I can’t speak for how each sibling felt about the other, but I can say every person in my family taught me something and my love is deep for each and everyone of them. It may have been something as simple as how a car operates, how to iron my blouse just so, how to ride a bus downtown or how to get over making scallop potatoes from scratch and start using the box mix. Trust me when I say each memory holds a special meaning and always will…because you see, it isn’t how often you talk, share pictures, play table games or share a meal…it’s about the memories we build together, about what is in our hearts…it’s about family…it’s about love.