If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ve heard a lot about my mom. Now I want to introduce you to the other most important woman in my life: my sister, Marsha.
To you, this may look like your typical cell phone picture, snapped while we were at a restaurant. To me, this is one of my favorite pictures in the world. Why? Because I don’t have many pictures of my mom and my sister together. Partially because my mom is just as skilled at hiding from a camera as I am, but mostly because my sister has lived halfway across the country for the majority of my life.
I have a few memories of her before she got married and moved away. Mostly things like me being the typical little sister and trying to play with the things in her room. Specifically a fuzzy pencil and a puzzle that looked like a can of sardines. Why those two things captured my attention, I have no idea. I pestered her, we argued like siblings do, and I looked up to her because she was my big sister. Then, when I was 5 years old, she got married, my parents packed her things into a U-Haul trailer, (My tv included, right in the middle of a Scooby Doo episode that I didn’t get to finish until I was 25. Not that I’m bitter or anything), and off she went, with her husband and her daughter, to the most God forsaken part of Idaho you can imagine.
My brother-in-law was in the Air Force, so after Idaho (and the birth of my second niece) they went to Alaska, and after Alaska came California. The chances of any of us having a close relationship were pretty slim.
But against the odds, we are as close as two sisters could ever be and my nieces know us just as well as if they had grown up across the street. We are a tightly-knit family and my mom deserves all the credit for that.
You see, the key to making sure we all stayed connected was the effort she put into it. For years my mom sent them care packages every month. It wasn’t always something big, sometimes it was photo albums with pictures of our town, pictures of our family, and anything else that would give those little girls a glimpse into our lives here in Oklahoma. We talked on the phone several times a week. Every summer that we could afford it, we made a trip to visit them, wherever they lived at the time, and, when I was old enough, I’d spend a few weeks of my summer breaks with them all by myself. Thanks to all of those things, we grew incredibly close, we made great memories together and the distance between us didn’t keep us from being a part of each others’ lives.
It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It took work, it took time and effort, but it was worth it all to build the relationships we have today.
The thing is, this applies to every relationship we have in life, be it with friends or family. Relationships take effort and commitment. You get out of them what you put into them. They have to be a priority if they are going to grow into something meaningful and continue to thrive. And the distance isn’t what matters, it’s just as easy to grow distant from a friend who lives next door as it is from one who lives on the other side of the world. No, what matters is what you are willing to pour into it. If you don’t have those meaningful relationships because you haven’t put forth any effort, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Your closest friend lives an hour away and you haven’t talked in months? Your fault. Your best friend from college moved to another state and you’ve lost touch? Your fault. Your grandkids live thousands of miles away and barely know you? Your fault. Your brother got married and moved to a different country and you hardly even know his family? Your fault.
Sure, you can sit back and blame the other person for not reaching out, it works both ways, afterall. Or you can do something about it yourself. Pick up the phone, send an email, write a letter (yes, people still do that). Sure, your life is busy. Newsflash…everyone is busy. But keeping in touch now is easier than it has ever been. There’s truly no excuse but your own laziness to keep you from it.
Twenty years from now you’ll either have a life full of people you love, or a life full of regret for not valuing the relationships you once had. The choice is yours, and it’s one that has to be made now. What are you going to do?