Wednesday, November 17, 2010
My source of survival... Family
Family has always been very important to me. Ever since I was a small child I have looked forward to spending time and making memories with my family.
I eat... sleep... breathe them.
I was lucky to grow up with the two most amazing parents any child could ever ask for. At 20 years old, my father was left to raise me on his own while attending college and working multiple jobs. His amazing personality, sense of humor, advice and intelligence never ceases to amaze me. I know that without him, I would not be the person that I am today. After all, I owe my life to him. Not very many people can say that their father is their best friend... but I can.
My mom Brenda entered my life when I was just six years old. At 26 years old she took on the brave challenge of being a step mother to two small children... and she succeeded in giving Andrew and I an amazing mother. Not only is she caring and kind... but she listens. I have always known that if I ever want to talk or need a day away... she will be there for me. My mom is my best friend... my rock... and my inspiration.
I have always been a person that expresses myself through my words. I grew up telling my family how much they meant to me and how lucky I was to have them in my life. I was lucky to have to opportunity to show my parents how special they are/were... Now I would like to tell my second family how much they mean to me... something that I should have been done a long time ago.
Bryan expressed to me, a few years ago, that he always felt so guilty about growing up in such an amazing family. He thought that he had the most amazing mother and father and felt like he was given the best life any child could ever ask for. His mom was the super mom. She made all of his Halloween costumes, drove him to all of his sports, made him amazing home cooked meals and loved him more than life itself. His father was his idol. He was all that Bryan aspired to be when he grew up... he was smart, caring, patient, an outdoors man and the best father any young boy could ask for. They were the "perfect" parents.
After meeting Bryan's parents ... anyone would agree with him right away. Bill and Lori are two of the most giving, loving, and phenomenal people I have ever met... and Bryan was right... he was so lucky to have them as his parents.
Ever since I can remember I have always felt the pressure to impress people and make them like me. I remember when I started dating Bryan, in 2002, I always felt so nervous and insecure around his family. They already had an amazing soon-to-be daughter in-law (Rachel) and a wonderful grandson (Brendan)... and I was dating their baby boy. That was a lot of pressure. I never thought that I would be good enough to be a part of their life... a part of their family... a part of their world.
What if they did not like me?
What if I did not fit in?
What if they did not think I was good enough for their amazing son?
When I pictured my life, I always knew that I wanted to have an amazing relationship someday with my husband's parents. That was always VERY important to me. Feeling the pressure to impress the Prairie's and make them like me put strain on Bryan and I's relationship at times. I knew that it was all in my head and I needed to just relax and be myself... but that was always easier said than done. I just had to listen to the quote by Dr. Seuss and do "me".
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." –Dr. Seuss
It was not until a few years into my relationship with Bryan that I decided to just be "me". I remember the night like it was yesterday (probably because I am still a little embarrassed). We were all playing a game that asked questions about how we thought the other person would respond. The question was... How funny do you think (Ashley) thinks she is on a scale of 1 (not funny) to 10 (really funny). Well, everyone read off their cards and said 2... 4... 2... 5... 3. Well this is when I said "Seriously, I gave myself a 10 guys... I am F***ing hilarious." Not only was this the first time that I swore in front of Bryan's parents... but it was the first time that I showed my sense of humor and personality. I was finally (somewhat) comfortable being me.
After Bryan passed away, Owen and I lived with Bill and Lori. I was so worried that because Bryan had passed away... my relationship with the Prairie's would slowly fade away. After all, they really did not need to hang out with me any longer or be there for me... I was "technically" not a member of their family any longer... I was not their daughter. That realization was very hard for me. I felt like not only had I lost Bryan... but I was about to lose his family as well. But, because they are the most amazing people in the world... they took me in with open arms and never let me fall. They literally held my hand and helped me grieve and raise my son.
Looking back at that time... that terrible terrible time... I am pretty sure that Bill and Lori are a huge reason why I was able to survive. Their incredible strength, compassion, love and support was so genuine and constant. Time and time again Bill and Lori come to my rescue and save me in one way or another. I know that some people may never understand the unique bond that I have with my in-laws but to me... they are not my in-laws... they are my parents.
So... because I know that they read my blog... I wanted to tell them how important that they are to me. Bryan gave me many gifts... he gave me unconditional love... he gave me a son... he gave me amazing memories... and he also gave me a fantastic family.
I now know what Bryan meant that day when he felt guilty for having such great parents... because I feel guilty for having such amazing in-laws. We cry together, we laugh together, we grieve together, we remember together and we live each and every day loving one another the way that Bryan loved all of us. We are all so very lucky to have such an amazing bond... such a powerful source of survival... FAMILY!