I lived in a normal family with a pastor for a father and a nurse for a mother. Fours Swedish grandparents, and three brothers. We had cousins and many relatives. When I was 15 my father bringing me to Jr. High we were hit by a car and who was at fault isn’t important. What was important was what this accident did to my family and what I have learned over the decades since the late 1960s.
My brothers had the hardest time. They were awake. They were around when my father died, when there was a funeral, when they had to come home to a place missing a man who had raised them along with a loving mother. I was in intensive care at Fresno Community Hospital I guess blissfully ignorant of the pain in my family since I was recovering from serious injuries. I hurt less than they did and took on a role in my family I did not want for my mother who put me into the adult male role at an age where I was not capable.
It was eight years of tragedy in my family and there are things each of my two surviving brothers and I don’t know about what we experienced. I know there was great pain and great evil and great mistakes made by those who meant well. I know that we fractured as a family into four independent pods until my second youngest brother died of complications of diabetes at 18. Then we were three pods since mother died from a stroke at the same age, but six years after, my father was killed.
Our family was blessed by grandparents on my father’s side who were wonderful. A grandmother who made sure my grandfather lived till a very old age with type 1 diabetes. She lived beyond him as a vibrant woman my brothers would know and love until she died at 92.
When my grandmother died I disappeared from my family for 18 years. I didn’t know my brother married the angel who is is wife. That my other brother married the woman who is his soul and life. I didn’t meet my nephew and nieces, some of the neatest people I have ever met in my life. The friends of my nephew and nieces. I didn’t meet the people in my family’s life. Their friend and housekeeper, her wonderful children. Their lawn guy and a good man he is.
It was my friend. A man from my High School who decided it was wrong that I go into quadruple bypass surgery without my family knowing contacted my brother without my permission or help. He too is an angel for good in this world. My brother came to me and nursed me after surgery. I lost everything due to the illness but I have something that matters a lot. I know my brothers’ children and wives.
I know and learned from my friend from High School, though he is of a different religious background and has a very different life, that knowing the people who are my blood matters a lot. We can be difficult with me and the Lord knows we have serious challenges. But if it weren’t for my friend Randy I wouldn’t know my nephew and lord what a man he will be, and my nieces who have no ceiling too high. Without Randy I would not know my sisters in law.
I know now that the change in my life to gain relationship with my family is worth all of the difficulty. I know that the horrors there were we surpassed in one way or another. I know that a gift from a friend, who I hadn’t talked to in 35 years and who found me, can change my life. I know that the greatest gifts come from the friendship and love of family and friends even when connections were lost for decades. I know because of Randy what an extraordinary job my brothers an their spouses have done in raising extraordinary kids. I know that love matters in a way I didn’t know it two years ago.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.