My (almost) book is a collection of 23 projects and 11 essays. This is one of the essays ...
Several years ago at a family reunion, my brother, Cougar gave us a new way to think about our extended family (which now consists of more than 35 people, spread across five states) so that we could more readily call upon the love and concern that we have for one another. He asked us if we remembered the Verizon Wireless commercials, where the Verizon Guy, in his signature gray jacket, stood holding his flip phone. He was always surrounded by dozens of people, which visually represented the wireless network, or the support that you would have and feel if you were a Verizon customer. The question, posed by the test guy in most of these commercials, which became the subject of countless jokes, was, “Can you hear me now?” which of course is always a resounding YES, IF you’re lucky enough to own a Verizon phone plan.
Our family, explained my brother, like this wireless network, is always there. Even when we can’t see each other or be together physically, we can think of the extended connections we share as a network. The family network. Speaking to the teenagers, he said, “If you’re faced with a decision that feels overwhelming, you can think to yourself, “I bet Aunt Kristin experienced something similar, when she was my age” or “I wonder what would Uncle Kevin would do in a situation like this?” He didn’t paint some unrealistic picture of absolute wisdom or perfection, but he did suggest that our younger family members could find support in older members’ past experiences and that we could all look to one another as a part of an invisible force for personal support.
We have loved and often referred to this analogy of a family network! Interesting to me, is that one of the last commercials Verizon made (back in October, 2007) depicts the idea of “double” networks (Verizon Telecom and Verizon Wireless) coming together, or joining forces, to give customers the best all around coverage. As I’ve started to learn more about our ancestral family, I’ve thought more than once that I’m joining the forces of my known network, with that of a new, even bigger network. As I become acquainted with the stories of those who have passed on, I am essentially doubling my coverage. I’m giving myself even greater access to our family narrative, which is rich in people with trials, troubles and triumphs. Can you hear me now? Is a question that I can pose, not only to my parents and siblings, who are just a phone call or text message away, but also to those, with whom I am comfortably conversant, because I now know their stories. I’m invested in their lives and this allows me to draw on their collective experience and their wisdom.
You can build a stronger network of family. One that doubles the support, by relying on both the branches and the roots!