The family has gone through some changes over the decades and without giving up my age I can tell you I've witnessed some of the apparent changes. I'm not going to tell you that families are worse off today than fifty years ago, because who am I to make such a claim? However, statistics of the census bureau show a decline in many areas of what was called a traditional family such as the percentage of children living in families with two parents. The number dropped 19% from 1960 thru 2016, and the decline continues.
If you grew up with two loving parents, you know what it is to have a traditional family and if you are like me, there are fond memories attached. There are also those that grew up with two parents, but there was a lack of love and even sometimes abuse. When I was thirteen back in the sixties, there was this pretty girl, named Debbie that lived a few blocks away from my home. I would often see her coming home from school and would walk with her. I told her about events I had with my family, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and vacations. She never talked about her family except for once when she said she hated her dad and wanted to run away. I asked her why but she didn't want to talk about it. I didn't understand hating a parent and wondered what he could have done to make her have such ill feelings toward him. When I asked about her Mom, she said she was sick, but wouldn't elaborate. She had a pleasant personality, and I liked talking to her, but I soon realized that it was best not to talk about her family because her beautiful smile would instantly disappear. I walked with her often and even contemplated asking her out but never got up the nerve. We were friends, and I wanted to keep it that way. I didn't see her over summer break even though I tried to walk by her house in hopes she was outside and also tried to knock on her door a few times. I went through the whole summer not seeing her and was excited to see her again when the new school year started. The first day of school was chaotic with hundreds of kids trying to get acclimated to their new classes. Debbie told me her teacher and homeroom class before leaving for summer break, so before heading to my new homeroom, I ran to see if I could see her. I stood outside her classroom waiting as long as I could to see her before having to go to class myself. The end of the day I waited outside school but never saw Debbie.
It didn't make sense to me that she would miss the first day of school, but I was hopeful I would see her tomorrow. Walking home I saw a girlfriend of Debbie and asked if she had seen her. The girl's sighed with tears in her eyes. Then she told me that Debbie committed suicide a month ago.
There have been some painful events in my life that made me contemplate what is important. This is one of the earliest life lessons I can remember. I thought about Debbie’s unhappy home life that she didn’t want to discuss and how I should have tried harder to know her pain but as much as Debbie's death devastated me, there was a part of me that felt blessed to have a loving family.
I still have a heavy heart when I think about Debbie. I wonder why some children are born into a loving family and others are born to dysfunctional parents and never know the way family is supposed to be. They’re deprived of the love that is needed to have a happy childhood. All families have issues of some kind or skeletons in the closet, but when there is love within a home, there is always someone to help overcome adversity.
So what is a family? It all starts with two people falling in love, a bond that results in marriage and then children. Yes, this is the way God intended it, and when people bring children into the world through casual sex and have children out of wedlock, there is rarely love involved, and the child suffers a deprived childhood, and the lack of love creates a void that they spend the remainder of their lives trying to fill. The children that can't accept their loveless life can sadly windup like Debbie.