Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Incredible Power of Family

My final turn at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport led me away from Terminal 1 and guided me toward Terminal 2 where my mother was patiently waiting. It had been four years since I last saw her in person, which would explain why my heart was racing in anticipation. Would I recognize her? I asked myself as I slowly applied the brakes and approached the pick-up zone on the lower level of the terminal. Within seconds, I noticed a slender silver-haired woman sitting on the bench and she was looking in my direction. With a huge smile and a violent wave through the windshield, I let her know that I had arrived.

As the car slowed to a stop, she stood up from the wooden bench with a small carry-on bag in hand. She was dressed comfortably with her hair pulled back and a black badge holder dangling from her neck. She walked briskly toward the car and jumped in the front seat. I couldn't help but smile as I waited to give her a big hug from the driver seat.

It felt surreal having my mother here. As she adjusted herself and put on her seatbelt, I noticed her long straight hair running down the center of her back. This was new since the last time I saw her as she often kept it much shorter.

She appeared healthy, but slender. Her cheekbones and jawline looked more defined, which would lead me to believe that she had lost some weight. While she has continued to age gracefully, she didn't look old or worn out. Outside of the few lines and gray hair, she was still the woman I've known and loved my whole life. She seemed vibrant and excited about being here, which went a long way to break the ice.

After the initial salutations, the first thing out of her mouth was, "Are you thirsty? How about Sonic?" I laughed and agreed quickly. I knew exactly what she was after, a nice cold and refreshing fruit slushie from the one place that does it right, Sonic Drive In.

Over the next few hours, we talked about everything. I was as eager to share as she was to listen and it felt great. I wanted her to know that her son was doing alright and that she should be proud of where I am today. Not that I or my situation was perfect, but that I was happy and making progress.

For me, this was an important trip. First, it had been four years since I've seen her. Second, the kids had grown up and I wanted them to reconnect. Third, I wanted her to meet my girlfriend, Brandi, who I had been dating for almost 3 years. If I was going to consider moving us to that next step, meeting my mother was essential. Not that I wasn't capable of making my own decisions, but when you think about building a life with someone, you want your family's blessing, if possible.

While I don't have the space to go through her entire visit, what I can tell you is that it was completely enjoyable and enlightening. She had an opportunity to meet Brandi and hang out with the kids. We continued to talk and exchange stories about our lives, successes, and opportunities for growth. We are more alike than I realized and that's a good thing.

Lessons from Family

Family: Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one. ~ Unknown 

Family Keeps You Grounded

While I understand that each of us may have a different experience with family, I have come to learn that those special people in our lives have a way of grounding us. For some, this could be a bad thing, especially if you come from a negative and destructive bunch, but for me I found that family helps me remember who I am at the core. I am still that loveable, caring, smart, determined, creative, and eager little boy who has grown up through a variety of experiences into the man I am today.

I remember the flavors from my favorite foods and how it made me feel inside. I recall the funny and touching stories of my youth and the people who played their influential parts. It is in these moments that I appreciate my journey and vow to pass them forward to my kids for safe keeping. It is in these traditions and forgotten experiences that we find ourselves united across the many miles and aging years. It is what keeps us grounded. 

Family Finds a Way to Encourage You

Even now, I can still hear my mother telling me how personable I am and how proud she is of me. Just those few words of encouragement ringing in my ear gives me the energy to brush off any negative thoughts I may have had and to keep pressing forward remembering to do the right things.

In these few short days, my mother helped me recall the dreams of my younger days and reconnect with my core beliefs and values. I am loved. I am appreciated. I am special. I am a good man with lots to give. You never know how powerful those words of affirmation are until you experience the feeling of a cup that runneth over. It's magical.

Family Isn't Always Blood

Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life that want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what. ~ Unknown

While I could go on speaking about the many blessings of family, I think it is crucial to stop and say that family isn't limited to just those with whom you share blood. No, I believe true family is a connection between people who want the best for one another. It is caring individuals who love on and encourage each other to be better, to be stronger, and to keep fighting the good fight when all we want to do is quit. Family is a shoulder on which to cry and a bond that will never break.

Whether you have been brought up in a loving family or have adopted one along the way, know that you have the power to be a blessing to someone else by the words you use and the actions you take. As we go into this day, look around at your tribe, your family, or your community and surround yourself with people who will uplift you and love you no matter what.

The best things in life are the people we love, the places we've been, and the memories we've made along the way. ~ Unknown   

Let's make today a great one!

Next Steps

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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