Have you ever forgotten a family member? Not like Home Alone where you walk out the door and leave for a vacation but you forgot your young son at home.  I mean, somebody points at a picture of someone and says, “Who’s that?” and you have no idea who they are or why you are being asked the question.  That happened to me a few weeks ago.  My husband pointed a picture of one of my cousins and asked me who it was and I had no idea.  It took a few minutes (and some Facebook sleuthing, then a text to my mom to confirm) to figure out that it was a cousin.

There is a certain degree of craziness that comes with a mixed family.  And by mixed, I mean one that is combined by marriage, and not necessarily by blood.  There’s a lot of learning and growing.  You have to work yourself into relationships that have existed before you were around.  And you have to figure out how to work other people into your existing relationships.  We have a mixed family.  My mother is married to the man who is, for all intents and purposes, my father.  Their love story is long and adorable and involves middle school sweethearts and years of breaking up and years of making up… years and years… and years… it’s a long love story.

Fun Fact: Once, when they were in middle school, they wrote up their guest list for their “someday” wedding.  My mom held onto it and they had it up at their actual wedding.  A lot of people were on both guest lists.  And if I’m not mistaken, the best man remained the same. 

Having your family grow due to a marriage is kind of bonkers.  One day it’s just the family that you have known all your life.  Then the next day, BOOM, look at all these cousins!  There were three, now there are a million (and a million is not too much of an exaggeration.  I now have a HUGE family.  Let’s just say the family name is not Smith, but it’s close).  It has worked out really well for me so far.  My mom’s side of the family was small, she only had one sister.  My step-dad is one of nine.  My cousins make up some of my best friends (both the new and old ones).  And just about everyone knows that cousins are the best things you can have.  Way better than siblings because you actually have to share stuff with siblings.

Which brings me to my siblings.  I am one of FIVE now.  That’s right, FIVE.  It used to be just me and one brother.  Now it’s me, three brothers and one sister.  Due to age, distance, and a host of other things I won’t get into, I am only actually close with one brother and the sister.  For me it’s as though we have always been siblings.  Sometimes I forget that we’re not actually blood related (as was evidenced recently when I told my brother that his expected baby would be cute because my baby is cute and it’s hereditary).  They have both stood for me at my wedding, and I for them, at theirs.  We have fought, made up, laughed, cried, and been there for each other.  I don’t think I would have it any other way.  It was like we were all waiting for the perfect time to enter each other’s lives.

All of this naturally means I have about twenty aunts and uncles.  Aunts and uncles for days is what I always say.

Note: this is the first time I have ever actually said that.

I can’t even begin to talk about the awesomeness of my grandparents.  Both of my grandfathers passed away almost six years ago.  Both of my grandmothers are still busy being the strong and impressive women that they have always been.  Getting more grandparents is almost always a bonus.  Grandparents are the bee’s knees.

This doesn’t even include my in-laws.  And I may have hit the in-law jackpot because I have some of the best around.  Or my out-laws (family from my mother’s previous marriage that I didn’t keep in touch with, although with some of them, I wish I had).

Now friends, I bet you have reached this point (or maybe this thought came to you a few paragraphs ago) and are wondering what any of this has to do with you.  Absolutely nothing (unless you are a NotSmith, then HOLLER FAM).  This has more to do with the fact that I probably don’t tell any of these people often enough how much they mean to me.  The day to day stuff of life pushes so much to the back burner where it sits… simmering?  It depends on what you keep the heat of your back burner at.

For instance, I wake up thinking about my cousin and want to text her to check in. Then something catches my attention, then it’s something else, then it’s time to make lunch, then two days have passed and I think of it again but it’s too early.  Or it’s too late.  Then a few more days have passed and I realize that I wanted to talk to her two weeks ago and I didn’t.  Things come up, we forget about a lunch we talked about scheduling or a dinner we had talked about planning.  Then things really come up.  Someone gets sick, someone gets hurt, someone passes away.

When my grandfather passed away (six years ago next week), one of the things that really haunted me was that I felt like he never really knew how much I loved him.  I didn’t say it to him anywhere near enough.  Sure, my actions probably showed it.  And he was a smart man so I know that he knew, but I still had some guilt with a capital G (that’s Guilt, for you visual peeps).  I vowed then to make sure that never happened again, to always tell my family how much I loved them, and to not take them or my time with them for granted.

Then, guess what happened… EVERYONE DIED.  Just kidding.  What happened was something caught my attention.  Then it was something else.  Then it was time to make lunch… you know where this is heading.  Everything got back burnered again (it’s a real phrase, look it up).

And, the worst part of all of this is that life goes by too quickly for back burnering (also a real phrase).  People do get sick, they do get hurt, and sadly, they also pass away.  All of this happens before, during, and after I am busy making lunch or folding laundry or whatever it is that I do with my time these days.  Life doesn’t stop for me to make time to call my sister just as it doesn’t stop for me to grieve the passing of someone I love.  It also doesn’t slow down because someone is sick and I want to spend more time with them.  Laundry may wait, but I still have to make lunch and read to my daughter (unless I want to scrape her sobbing, kicking, and screaming body up off the floor).  Everything keeps going no matter what I want.

So, yes, this has nothing to do with anyone except for me and my one million new (but not really anymore) relatives- and the, like, five old ones.  Know that I love you and would do anything for you.  I just suck and letting you know.

And for anyone else that is reading, take time to tell the people in your life that you love them.  Unless you are surrounded by assholes.  Then it’s okay to tell them that they are assholes.  You don’t want them to die not knowing how you really felt.

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Lastly, everyone please make sure you keep up with your annual exams.  Early detection is key in most courses of treatment.  And ladies, make extra sure you keep up with your annuals.  Those cold hands may save your life!