There are very few things in life that matter as much as family to me. However, I define family much differently than most. I was blessed enough to have both an incredible Godly family as well as the military to teach me how to define my circle. My military experience has taught me that there is a certain type of loyalty and integrity that accompanies the title of “family.” They taught me that a family travels as a pack. They taught me that there will be; Alphas, there will be Alpha-Beta combinations and there will be just Betas. They taught me that it doesn’t matter what your title or nomenclature is only that you have the person to your right, to your left, behind you and in front of you in mind. They also taught me that you aren’t family just by the virtue of being “born” in. Boot Camp did not automatically make me family with everyone else in the military. Neither did my job and neither did my unit. I was family with those people by CHOICE, both theirs and mine and because of what I gave, ALL DAY EVERYDAY. My blood related family has taught me that once you are family NOTHING comes before that, with the exception of God. Family is a priority that supersedes all else because your family is who will be there in the end. Interestingly enough they both taught me that you do not have to be born in to the same blood or bond in order to be family. My family was the family that “adopted” every stray that came through. And they literally adopted others thand at fit into our clan. My children have been walked out on by blood relation reminding me that the depth of family is far more abysmal than the concentrated version of DNA that most people associate with the umbrella of family. My parents used to always say to us on our way out the door that we we’re leaving with an honorable family name and we should return it un-tarnished. The military won’t let you run around town in your uniform or allow you to speak to the media without guidance because you are representing an entire family… An honorable name that should remain and return untarnished. They both asserted that family is always loyal and that your family always comes first. They both demanded respect, loyalty, unconditional love and protection among the pack. I was given the best of both worlds. I know what true family looks like. I know what loyalty looks like. I know what it feels like to be inside the protection of my pack. I know that family is forever, remarkable, inexperienced by all and it is raw. I also know that family can be angry and ugly at times but it always wraps with unconditional love and the promise to always be in the same corner as your pack. For these reasons I will always fight for and make myself available to my family.
I met Kallena while assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2004. We hit it off immediately. Why? I’m not actually sure. Perhaps it’s because females to bond with were in limited supply. We were definitely very different creatures back then. She was this mythological energy that could not be contained. She had a free spirit and a reckless abandonment. Maybe I was looking for someone to release me from the bondage of my absolute authoritative regard. I loved my boundaries and I loved regulations. I excelled at my job but was missing out on life. All these years later I’m convinced that God put her in my life to teach me how to fly. Regardless of why we met we definitely formed an inseparable and immediate bond.
I was there through her party years. In fact, that’s where I really learned how to cut loose. I was there when she found out she was pregnant with her first child and my Godson. WE were there for one another’s marriages… plural and our divorces… plural. We saw love, war, abuse, drugs, alcohol, birth and life together. We made friends together and we lost friends together. I will always remember the day she asked me to be Godmom to her son “K”. The image is ingrained in my mind. I remember feeling so honestly humbled and in disbelief that she would choose me of all people for such an admirable task. With the announcement of her second child I’m not sure that I even gave her the option as to whether or not I would be the godmother of “R”. I was so in love with those kids! When I found out she was remarrying and would have a stepson I just assumed that she would also allow me the honor of being his godmother. And to say that that was a humbling and emotional moment of yes may be the biggest understatement I will ever make.
She now has four beautiful children and I have two biological and two ex-stepsons ( both that she took part in helping me raise and would never turn her back on.) And the connection of her family and mine is a type of real and genuine that the majority of the world will never have the privilege of knowing. Which is why when she asked me to come witness not only the children getting baptized but her being baptized it was all I could do not to break down in tears of joy. In our unabashed youth I was the Godly one. The pastors’ kid who would draw the line of safety and pull the rip cord when we were too close to the fire. She was the antagonist. I showed God the best I knew how by living him and not preaching him. She encouraged me to let loose and wiggle a little on my faith. For her to be getting baptized all these years later was a shift in our dynamic and it came like a welcomed blow to the stomach. Then when she called and told me that I could have my hands on all four of them going into the water I was aghast. Moved by the changes in my sister and her spirituality and humbled by the opportunity to participate in the spiritual growth of my God babies (7,8, and 9) it’s no surprise that I had the car packed for the 13 hour trip and the kids ready to go on a moments notice.
My circle being what it is, I had a friend over for dinner that evening. Hearing the connection and reality of the situation, (hear he knew me well enough to know I was about to drive 13 hours through the night) my buddy asked to join me. Being me and loving spur of the moment I agreed and we set out within the hour. Let me assure you there is no better way to get to know someone then traveling with them for a week but the added element of surprise and spontaneity definitely revealed our true character. Once again I can say that travel has fortified a forever friendship in my life ( I will share more on this in the upcoming blogs.)
We left around 11 PM and drove through the night. It’s amazing what 5 mg of melatonin will do to two children for a long car ride. We got to our final destination right around 8 AM and we could not have been any happier to be pulling into the driveway, my beautiful goddaughter waiting for me arms wide open.
I spent the next few hours hugging and cuddling and kissing children. My heart melting into our forever promises to one another. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to get back into a routine with your family no matter how many years have passed since seeing them. It felt like a day hadn’t passed since the last time I held my sister and laughed with her in the kitchen. I met her husband for the first time. We had often spoken of him and I have even spoken to him. I had sent him birthday treats but we had yet to meet in person until now. He was everything I expected but so much more! He loved her in the unconditional way she’d always deserved but never received anywhere else. He loved my babies the same way. He was laid-back and funny. He was genuine and real. He was our kind of people. It’s not that I was surprised… actually, it’s definitely that I was surprised. She and I both tend to choose poorly because we are alphas. We like to help the weak. We are protectors and it shows. But that wasn’t the case this time. This time she found an alpha counterpart. This time they were strong. And it was just crystallized by the fact that it was like I had run into my long-lost brother. The hazing, the teasing and the laughter immediately commenced. That evening was spent in the pool, bonding and reminiscing over my favorites (whiskey and cigars) with some of the most incredible people. This feeling in my heart reminds me that home is definitely a state of emotion and never a location. Tonight I am home.
As always I cannot wait to engage on this journey with you. Please feel free to; like, share and follow of course! Email me your travel suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to sharing this with you!