That’s what family is for

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I’m writing this early on a Thursday morning, reflecting on the last few days and our latest visit from Benny’s second-oldest brother (he has three big &uot;bros&uot;) Bobby, and sister-in-law Pam.

Even though Benny and Bobby are almost a decade apart in ages, with Benny taking more after his Daddy’s side in looks and Bobby the spitting image of their late mom, they remind me a lot of each other.

&uot;You two boys are definitely going to have some extra stars in your crown someday,&uot; Pam said with a sweet smile the other night. The four of us were relaxing at the kitchen table after a delicious supper she and Bobby had prepared.

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It’s true. As Pam’s dad’s health grew steadily worse in recent years, Bobby was always there to help out (Pam, adopted by her parents when her dad was stationed in Germany, is an only child).

Pam and Bobby, both working full-time, also divided their free time between their two homes, spending two weeks at her dad’s, then moving him to their house for the next two weeks, back and forth.

I know it had to be exhausting for them (&uot;I’m surprised we don’t both look about 80 now,&uot; Pam said with a rueful laugh), tying them down to the San Antonio area, but bless them, Pam and Bobby hung in there.

You do what you can for the ones you love.

Just as Bobby had to sometimes display &uot;tough love&uot; to his dad-in-law to keep him safe from harm, Benny was often forced to play &uot;high sheriff&uot; to my own father after the catastrophic stroke causing his vascular dementia.

It’s a place you never want to have to go – to see a beloved parent or in-law grow confused, fearful, ever sicker and weaker is heartbreaking.

Somehow, it’s a little easier when it isn’t your parent. That’s where the help both Pam and I received from our dear spouses during those painful times kept us from losing our own minds.

I doubt we could have done it without them.

So, it is good when we can be together, as we have this week, to visit, to talk and reminisce without the cloud of serious illness and death casting a pall over our time together.

We enjoy chatting about our two favorite reality shows, &uot;The Amazing Race&uot; and &uot;Survivor&uot; and sharing funny pet stories (they are animal lovers, too).

Turns out Pam and I are both dedicated &uot;BBC America&uot; nuts and could easily spend hours and hours hanging out in bookstores together. I introduced her to the charms of &uot;Southern Lady&uot; Magazine. And Benny and Bobby could probably talk computers together until blue in the face.

On Wednesday night we got together with Benny’s brother Paul, sis-in-law Donna, and two of their three children and the grandkids, et al. – a dozen of us in all at Buffet City in Montgomery. It was a most lively evening – my two great-nieces and nephew are true livewires. Of course, they are also all cutie pies (we don’t allow no ugly folks in the family, you know how that goes).

The steroids I’m currently on didn’t make me the most scintillating of dinner companions (I was afraid my General Tso Chicken would end up in my nose when I crashed face first into my plate, but luckily such a crisis was diverted). But I was with family, after all, and they didn’t mind if I was a bit more out of it than usual.

Real family understands. They keep loving you and putting up with you even when things aren’t the rosiest, holding on to the good memories and trying to leave the painful ones behind.

As Easter approaches, here’s hoping you and yours can make some wonderful memories together.

That’s what family is for.

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at