The Family Plan

The people I’ve felt closest to in my life include both natural and found family. Many (though not all) of them are on Facebook, where they might see these words. But only a rare few live close enough to drop in on for an evening. My heart family is scattered like a handful of diamonds cast across a wall-sized National Geographic map. This state of affairs began with high school graduation, accelerated after college, and became more pronounced as the years rolled on.

A long time ago I used to fantasize that if I were only rich enough, I could somehow draw all of my friends together in a kind of co-housing Shangri-La. But I was never in any danger of being that kind of rich–and, besides, by now my friends’ lives are firmly anchored in at least a score of different cities, most of which are in other states, a few even in other countries.

This was less obviously a problem when I was in my 30s and early 40s. Gwen and I often went out of town to spend a weekend with friends, and almost as often hosted visitors. We made regular pilgrimages to the Flying Island of Fandom, attending as many as ten cons a year. We took longer trips to see family and explore little pieces of the country. And something called a modem appeared on the scene, changing the nature of long-distance relationships and creating the possibility of dear-friends-I’ve-never-met.

Then, unexpectedly, it all got much harder. An hour’s drive was a hurdle, not a trifle. A weekend away became vastly more complicated, especially if it was for a con. Depression hit. Chronic illnesses sapped energy. Parenting had first claim on all resources–emotional, financial, physical, temporal.

I’m waking up to the fact that we’ve allowed time, distance, health, and/or money to separate us from far too many friends for far too long. Maybe we could begin to do something about changing that–preferably before we start to find that it takes someone’s illness or wake to bring us back together.