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Presidio, 2013Family is funny. Take mine for example. We are small and powerful and tend to overreact to most situations. We can bicker over politics and then laugh over drinks. We involve ourselves in each other’s business, whether we want to or not. And personally speaking, although being told what to do and not to do by siblings, parents, and even aunts and uncles can be frustrating at 35, it comes from the truest, most sincerest parts of all of our hearts; we care. We probably care too much.

This past week, I just wanted to see my parents. I wanted to catch up with them and just spend time. SPEND TIME. And we did just that.

My trip to Ireland a few weeks ago did not go as planned. I was traveling with my uncle who had two major health issues while we were there. The first was he was super sick–pneumonia sick. And the second was he collapsed on me twice in a Tesco in Killarney, and was rushed via ambulance to Kerry General Hospital in Tralee. I followed in the rental car for 30 minutes, debating whether I should call my parents. The only time I lost it in front of him (and fortunately, he was completely passed out) was when he collapsed, and I was screaming, yes screaming for someone to help me.

We were checking out and had water and crackers, and he looked at me, said he was dizzy, and that was it. He’s a big guy, and somehow I managed to catch him–sort of, and that’s when I lost it. A sweet, very calm couple in front of us, who just happened to be an EMT, helped me and when he collapsed a second time, called an ambulance, and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea.

A cup of tea. Actually, it was the owner of the Tesco who asked me if I wanted a cup of tea, and the woman in front of me grabbed my hands and said, “Take the cup of tea, love”, so I nodded. I never got the tea, but when the ambulance driver told me to get in the front with her and she would drive me to our rental car and wait, the shakes started. Uncontrollably. She asked me if I was okay, and I started bawling crying. And it felt good to talk. Or sob.

Last night, I didn’t think anything of the call from my dad, until he was on the phone with me for an abnormally long time, talking health issues. Abnormal is anything longer than two minutes. He had been having back problems for a while, and had overall been feeling horrible pain all over. Now, this isn’t unusual for an average Joe in their sixties. But my dad is far from average. He doesn’t just partake in your run-of-the mill activities. He was a serious runner for a decade a while ago. He fly fishes. He sails. He plays golf. And he wrestles with children and dogs. He’s the guy who lifts everything and anything by himself. So when he told me he had to drive four hours on a Saturday to see his doctor because his blood tests were slightly askew, I did immediately worry. Worry. I worried. I did not panic.

But while I was hiking today, I did receive a phone call of slight panic. It was from my mom, and she brought some doubts. She mentioned that this appointment was much more serious than my dad let on. And then the C word came up, and I could hear it in her voice. She was panicking, and he was out of sight and earshot.

Turns out my uncle’s overnight hospital stay in Tralee was due to an existing heart condition he has had since he was a child. And it was bad. But, the EMT hooked him up to an EKG machine right away, and for the first time in 60 years, it documented the attack, which had never happened before. When we got back to the States, he gave all the information to his doctors, and they came up with a diagnosis and a solution which will hopefully change his life. Before I knew all of this, I placed a very expensive (shit, several very expensive) calls to my parents, sobbing uncontrollably about the situation. And then I fixed my eyes, put on a bright shirt, and went to see my uncle in the hospital, acting non-chaulant about the entire experience.

Mom did this with Dad last night, and then she did what I did–placed a call to me and lost it.

This is what we do. My brother called me in a panic early this morning about Dad’s appointment while I was still half asleep. This is what we do. We don’t lose it to the person involved; we rely on the rest of the clan to help us through.

When we finished hiking today, my best friend and I were taking the ferry across the Bay to Tiburon, and I saw a very little boy who clearly had cancer. He had stitches on his bald little head, and he was wrestling with his dad, but his dad kept putting his arms around him, trying to calm his child who could be dying, I don’t know. And it may not be cancer, but that’s irrelevant. I looked at my best friend, and weepily said, “Things could be so much worse.” And she nodded.

Three minutes later, I got a call from my mom with news–not the best news, but it wasn’t cancer. The situation is treatable and will maybe never go away, but he’s fine. It’s not life-threatening. And that’s when I lost it.

The five of us are so deeply rooted. I don’t discount my sister-in-laws, or my aunt and uncle. But we five, we support.

Like every other big issue this past year in my family, and there have been a good handful, we came away with a warning so to speak. Fix it now, all is well. And I think to myself, all of us think worse case scenarios. I wondered what I would do if my uncle died while we were in Ireland, and I would be alone. I bet my mom was thinking the same thing about my dad. So were my brothers. And I was too.

Life is short. Last year, I had a bad health scare, and it resulted in my losing 30 pounds. Have I been an angel with my diet and lifestyle? Absolutely not. More not than I care to admit. But today was a bit of a reality check. Fix it now, all is well.

So today, I am grateful for my crazy, over-reacting family, and their amazing ability to stay calm in a crisis until the room is clear, but always knowing that one of us is around the corner, across a phone line, on the other side of the world, telling us that we will be okay together.

To quote the very embarrassing Chicago song today, “I could never make it through my life if I had to make it on my own.” It’s true. Forget friends. Forget relationships. The Five Of Us is my core, my home base. I don’t take days like this for granted. Because I know many, many others are not always as fortunate.

I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love–Chicago

You’re So Cruel–U2

The Mountains Win Again–Blues Traveler

Ma Ma Ma Belle–ELO

The Distance–Cake

You Like Me Too Much–The Beatles