When I was young, I thought everyone had a family like mine. I thought families where the aunts and uncles and cousins and sometimes grandparents lived out of state or far away were the oddity. For your birthday you got to celebrate twice. One time was your actual birthday, the second was your family party. If you were unlucky then your birthday fell on a weekend and the two were combined, so you only got one celebration that year.
Everyone got together with both sides of their family for Thanksgiving, for Easter, for Christmas. You'd do breakfast/Christmas Eve with one side, then for dinner/Christmas Day you'd celebrate with the other side. You all went to each other's football games, plays, performances, special events. Everyone lived no more than a 45 minute drive from each other, and you saw everyone in your family a lot. Most of your second cousins and so on lived in the area too, so you'd usually see them all at least once or twice a year for other things such as First Communion or Christmas Parties. That's what everyone did, and that's the way I thought the world was.
Then I grew older and began to realize that it was my family that was the oddity, and not the norm. Most of the people I knew didn't have sixteen grandkids on just one side of the family. Quite a few of them didn't have grandparents the lived close by, and almost none of them had all four grandparents living still. For birthdays and holidays, they didn't get together with all the extended relatives. Either they lived out of state from the rest of the family, or most of their family lived scattered around the country. Their families were not like my family.
As I have come to realize this, I have come to see how truly blessed I am to have the family that I do. Of course we have our differences and our disagreements and things come up that strain relationships from time to time. But we have still all stayed close and stayed family. When we get together there is a lot of laughter, and a lot of fun.
When my grandpa went into the hospital suddenly last month, because we all lived close we were able to be there. We all camped out in the hallway outside of critical care (the hospital staff was awesome enough not to make us go sit in the waiting room) and where there for each other as we watched and waited for those two days before my grandpa died. During the week that followed, we had the blessing of being together, and being close, and being able to be there for each other and I looked around at my siblings, and my cousins and aunts and uncles and the boyfriends and girlfriends - who truly are a part of our clan and not just the significant 'others' - and everyone's extended relatives who came and where there for us, and I thanked God for giving me such a big, wonderful and loving family.
With my family, I've been given a wonderful blessing. They are the greatest people that I know, and I am proud to be one of them.