Monday, July 2, 2012

Family Matters

We've had an eventful weekend. Severe windstorms Friday night and severe thunderstorms the whole time since have sidelined my ability to post. Sorry about that, but I'm willing to bet a good number of you out there haven't had the ability to access any sort of communications in that time, so we'll call it a wash.

The harsh weather and brutal heat (in the hundreds again) conspired to keep most of us inside. Sure, there were guards and sentries out on the walls, but only a skeleton crew. We're still enjoying an extended break from zombie attacks because of the heat. Most of us hung out in our homes or those of our friends, working on small projects and generally spending time together.

I'm really glad for the inclement weather. It gave me a chance to meet someone new and to get a better understanding of what family is.

Her name is Judy. She's one of the few older folks in New Haven. I don't know what her age is exactly, but her hair is more gray than not and she has the worldly air of a person who has Seen Things. In the constant bustle of activity as we've dealt with the new plague (the treatments for which are going fairly well), dealing with the New Breed zombies incessantly buzzing our walls (though no right now, ha!) and the hundred other details of daily life, I missed the fact that Judy took over the education of New Haven's children when Aaron left.

She's a funny lady. She talks fast, corrects herself often, and never shies away from uncomfortable truths, even ones about her. By sheer chance she was over at my house last night as Jess, Becky, Patrick, and I played cards by candlelight. She was good conversation. I learned a lot about her, and since I'd only met her once or twice since she joined New Haven, there was a lot to learn.

She was a teacher before The Fall, but other than the fact that she has taken on that same role recently, her history before the world fell apart is mostly irrelevant. What caught my attention is how, since coming here, she's made herself everyone's favorite aunt. Not in a biological sense, of course, since she has no family here. Judy always made herself available to watch kids or to help out when someone was sick or injured. She spent a tremendous amount of her free time doing this. Flittering between houses, using her personal time helping out. Just amazing.

To be honest I'm not quite sure how she ended up at the house last night. I think Pat might have invited her to join in the card game. It's been a while since the zombie threat has been low enough and people have been healthy enough to allow for a little R&R. When she showed up I expected to deal her in. Instead she chatted with us as she made snacks and filled drinks, laughing at our dirty jokes and telling far, far dirtier ones of her own.

I asked her why she does it, why she tends toward serving others rather than sitting back and relaxing. She told me that she has always been that way, and loves to see the little bits of happiness that she brings people. It was a simple answer and a good one.

People see her as family. Judy has become a part of many people's lives in New Haven. Not in a huge, flashing-neon-sign kind of way, but with a thousand small acts of love. In a way it's a microcosm of New Haven itself; she supports the group, the group supports her. She has become family in the ways that matter.

Many of us are that way. Family was and is important to me. Before The Fall, my extended family was gigantic and spread out all over the place. That didn't stop us from keeping in touch and caring about what was going on in our respective lives. I've been blessed (and damn lucky) that so many of my family members have survived, but I never forget how many have passed on. In some small way, New Haven itself has become a surrogate for those who have gone on. Though I have actual family here, it feels like many of my friends and neighbors have become family as well. I feel that deep sense of belonging, anyway.

Maybe I'm just blathering at this point, but I can't help thinking that by helping nurture this place and by putting so much of myself into it, that I've given my family a small portion of immortality. Though most of them are gone, their spirit and values live on here.

We live and die for one another. We help when others need it, and get help when we need it. There are shoulders to cry on, ready hands to shake in moments of triumph, and words of comfort when we fail. If that ain't family, I don't know what is.

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