When I saw this blog post about how some senior citizens are learning to defend themselves with “cane fu,” I had to smile. My great-grandmother was years ahead of the curve on that one.
Her bedroom door had a deadbolt on it, but that didn’t stop thieves from breaking into the house — twice, the second time a year to the day after the first time — and busting through that bedroom door, looking for loot. Each time, she rose from bed, grabbed her cane and chased off the intruder, shouting “Get out of my house! Get out of my house!” And amazingly, they did.
Mamo (pronounced “maw-maw”) died in 1999, and these incidents took place relatively late in her life. She was shrunken, frail and in declining health. But she was still strong. It was the same strength she used when she pulled her children miles down the road to Princeton, West Virginia, in a pony cart after she left her husband because no one could give her a lift. And it’s a strength I don’t think I appreciated during her lifetime.
I just got back from a whirlwind roadtrip with my brother through the South, culminating with a visit to Virginia and West Virginia to see family and visit family landmarks. I am sure I will explore some of this in greater detail in the months to come, but I think one of the most important realizations I came away with from this experience is that the family framework is important. It’s bigger than just one person; it’s bigger than your own idea of what it is. It’s everything, and everyone. But it needs to be maintained. And you do that by accepting your place in it and maintaining your connections to everyone else — past and present — within it. That doesn’t mean it’s positive all the time, but staying present within it is critical. What does this have to do with Mamo’s “cane fu” strength? Since I am part of the framework, it’s in me, as well.
Another interesting observation I took away from my trip was the idea of being treated like family — how you can come out of nowhere but, if you’re a part of that framework, you can be treated like family. To me, that means unconditional acceptance. I understand that not all families are like this, and that there are often strains, divisions, rivalries and bitterness, and that sometimes even acceptance can come questions and doubt. But I venture that only within the family framework is it possible to experience that level of unconditional acceptance and welcoming. I say this because this week, I saw it happen.
If you had told me this 10 years ago, I would have vehemently disagreed with you. Friends meant everything; the idea of family had not lived up to the hype, and I was over it.
But little did I know, I was just beginning.