Five Years Later

One thousand eight hundred twenty five days (give or take). That’s how long it’s been since my life changed, since my world changed.I’ve recently been thinking a lot about family and what family means to me. As those who know me will tell you, my world begins and ends with my kids. My son and daughter are my everything. They are my North. They are my constant. I am who I am because of them. I live the life that I do for them.

Beyond my children, I have a loving, giving, and exceptionally fulfilling relationship with my wife. We fit together. We complement each other. Our marriage is not always roses and it’s far from perfect, but we are indeed perfect for each other.

My mother still lives in South Florida and I keep in touch with her at least once a week. My mother in law lives with my wife and me, and it’s very nice having someone else around the house to interact with and make us coffee in the morning (thanks, Patsy).

My brother and I maintain a good relationship, although he has his life and I have mine. We probably don’t keep in touch as often as we should, but with Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, we do alright to keep each other abreast of the important things going on.

Outside all the above, I’ve been staring at the concept of family with a sense of amalgamation as to how that word applies to my life.

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine about this very topic. She was adamant the label family applied only to those related to you by blood or marriage. I apply a more broad approach to the word, allowing it to incorporate individuals with whom you have no blood relation but are still critical people in your life. She told me there were words other than family to describe those relationships. I proceeded to tell her she was the sister I never had.

It was five years ago this weekend, Memorial Day 2006, when my eyes were opened to the idea that family could be something greater that DNA and marriage certificates. Lee and I traveled to Isle of Palms, South Carolina for the first ever Sister Hazel Hazelnut Hang. It was a great experience with three days filled of amazing music and fun times. More importantly, it’s where we first met the wonderful collection of individuals with whom we interact on a regular basis. It’s where we were introduced to our Hazelnut Family (and my wife did an excellent job capturing exactly what that family means to us).

Amidst recent commentary from the South Florida home front, which included snarky comments about fleeing Miami and implied assertions of family abandonment, the idea of what family is has weighed heavily on my mind. Yes, I love my aunts and uncles, and I miss my cousins because they’re the people with whom I grew up. Thanks to today’s technology and the continued proliferation of social media, it’s a lot easier to keep in touch with them. I’ve even found renewed relationships with several of them as a result.

Still, my life is in Tampa because my kids are in Tampa. I make no apologies for that at all. In a perfect world we’d all live within an hour’s drive of each other, and we’d routinely get together like we did when we were kids. But the world is not perfect, and we all should be focusing on the life ahead instead of the memories of what’s now so far behind us.

Living in Tampa also affords me the added bonus of being near some of the people who make up my other family. These are individuals with whom I’ve bonded over the years. We came together as a result music and that weekend trip Lee and I took five years ago. We stayed together because we share a commitment to and for each other, a passion for doing right by others, and a desire to share the magic of music with others so that their lives can be positively impacted as ours have.

I can say honestly and without equivocation the life I lead today and the world in which I live is a direct result of Memorial Day weekend 2006. My music family has helped me grow into who I am, and I will forever be grateful for the many wonderful and blessed relationships that were created as a result of that event.

You and I may disagree on the definition of family, but there’s no disputing the power and impact the love of family can have. In my case, it was life changing.

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