For the Love of Family

I’m not sure why we build these walls around ourselves, especially to keep out the people closest to us…our families. As we get older, more independent or whatever, these walls become longer or deeper or taller—layers and layers that stick together on their own somehow.

There are a lot of things we should protect ourselves from in this world. Family probably shouldn’t be one of them, right?

Then, something happens. Like a trip to the hospital. And we scramble over these walls—hell, we’ll do anything to get past them—because we’re not sure if we’ll ever see the person we love on the other side again.

holding baby

Right before Thanksgiving I found out my dad had a heart attack. Because there’s no need to build suspense in a blog post, I’ll tell you now that it was a close call but he’s okay.

I felt pretty much the same way I fid when I found out my mom had breast cancer again a few years ago. Helpless. Stuck behind a wall. On the other side of the earth even though I was only a handful of states away.

And, on a deeper level. I felt like a part of me was fading away. When you come from a pair of humans, you can’t help but think that.


Both of these times I tore down a chunk of that damn wall with the most menacing imaginary object within reach. Otherwise known as…I bought a $300 plane ticket, because I was hell-bent on hugging them in person and never letting them go.

The crazy stupid thing is this…it wasn’t all that hard. And each time with both of my parents, I wondered: Why the fuck does it take something so scary to get me here?

And, like the last time I saw my family, I realized just how insanely lovely they all are. All of them. Those I talk to regularly, and those I don’t.

I think it takes a while to arrive here…for everyone. Because we have all built these walls.

mom in a hat

Some walls were built out of disappointment, some out of loneliness—others were built during the years of forgetting the unique laughter of those we love. It’s like our very own fortress of stuck energy.

When I first saw my dad, I can’t even tell you how that felt. In my mind I kept replaying the first words he said to me on the phone at the hospital: “Hi, baby.”

Hi—how simple and beautiful that two-lettered greeting was. How my heart broke when his voice cracked as he called me “baby,” like I was still his little girl instead of a grown woman.

out with dad

I didn’t care anymore about coming to terms with that whole “death is a part of life” bullshit. I wanted my dad to stay with me—to live forever, to live past me even. I would have traded my life for his if it was an option. No contest.

I’m still suffocated by my own emotions just thinking about a moment that almost didn’t happen. When my dad said “Hi.”

He’s my hero…my dad, ya know?

And, it was surreal and bittersweet to see so many poignant things tie together during that one trip to Texas a few weeks ago.


We went to an estate sale and I did this silly pose with a cardboard cutout of Indiana Jones. As a kid I was obsessed with Indy. I loved his clumsy, heroic nature—how he saved the day with intelligence and strength he didn’t know he had.

Strangely, before I got on the plane to come home, my mom gave me a pile of never before seen pictures. One was this old picture of Dad, dressed up like Indiana Jones for Halloween.

indiana jones costume

So, I guess what I’m getting at—especially with the holidays upon us—is a request. To break down some of the walls you’ve built. Right now.

None of the presents matter, the money you’ve spent to make this seemingly perfect experience with the plastic decorations you painstakingly hung to celebrate glittering togetherness. Your family is the gift. None of that other shit matters.

Love your family now as much as you can. Not when it’s too late and they don’t know how much you love them. Pick up the phone. Buy a plane ticket. Break down a chunk of the wall.

And love them.

32 thoughts on “For the Love of Family

  1. Audrey Kalman says:

    I’m so glad you went. What a great reminder for all of us. I feel lucky to have knocked down those walls in the last few years before my parents died. I can’t imagine how awful it would feel to lose someone and realize only then how much you cared about them.

    And your dad made a very convincing Indiana Jones!

  2. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    I’m so glad your dad is ok. You know how that in particular matters to me… You’re so right, it is so true. Tell your loved ones you love them, now, always, every day. Because it’s too important to not do. I can’t really go back home for Christmas this year, but there’s skype every other day lately, so I can see them all…
    Be well, darling. Hug your dad a lot, tell him you love him a lot. Have a lovely holiday seasons with your loved ones.
    and may 2017 be only about that.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Yeah, it definitely doesn’t hurt to tell our family we love them as much as we can. Most of the time we don’t say it enough! I understand how tough that distance can be. This is one of the first holiday seasons I was able to see my family in years.

      Have a lovely holiday, beautiful friend! xo

  3. Letizia says:

    I love the photos – they are so beautiful. And I am so glad that those walls are being broken down. I’m lucky to be close to my family, but I know I have walls with some other people – it’s human nature, I suppose, and Christmas is a good reminder to let our guard down and share the love.

    Love you, Britt and wish you a happy and peaceful holiday season!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thanks, hon! I looked at them in the car with my mom in a parking lot on the way to the airport. It was crazy to see new pictures after all these years!

      Yep, it’s a good time to forget all that and share the love.

      Love you, Letizia doll! Happy holidays to you and your wonderful fam!

  4. Andrea Stephenson says:

    I’m so glad your Dad is okay Britt. My Dad was my hero too and I’d love the chance to see him again. Both my parents are gone and I’ve found myself thinking about them a lot over recent weeks. I was very moved by your words.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Britt. Glad you had a chance to see your parents and that your dad is okay. I’ve been seeing a lot of my mom and stepdad lately too. Even though we’re separated by a 10+ hour drive, I never mind making it. I’m just grateful I still can.

    Happy Holidays to you!

  6. danniehill says:

    You make me think almost too much sometimes, Britt. But your post is so right. We all have people we love and have influences our lives,but for whatever reason we can’t the words out to tell them. We expect love to be felt without words, but those little words are like a light in the dark for many of us.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Oh, Dannie! I hope the thinking too much is a good thing? 😉

      Those little words absolutely still matter. And, showing up is another big one. Both times I didn’t really know what I was going to be able to say to help my parents, because I struggle with saying the right things most of the time (I write better than I speak, naturally!). I just showed up on their doorstep. And, I said: “Here, I am. This is the best I can do!”

  7. joey says:

    Ugh. This hits me heavy today. I’m not saying I didn’t need to read it, but you hit me with some truths.
    My father moved across the country when I was 15. I have seen him three times since. We speak regularly. He is terminally ill now. He doesn’t want me to see him as he is. He is hopeful he can gain weight and come out one more time before … This period of time is … hard. Sometimes he can’t talk, can’t even text back. Sometimes I freak out because he’ll go 13 hours without the “Read” showing up under my text. Sometimes “Read” is the only way I know he’s still there. Then he’ll get better and he’ll call and sound good. Is he faking it for me? Sometimes I think he is. Honestly, my emotions are all over the place all the time, but I suppress, mostly. I wish I had a sibling, or anyone really, who could understand the complicated feels. People mean well, but it’s a lonely place to be.
    My mother moved to the bottom of the country when I was almost 30. We speak regularly, too. I hate the south, she hates the north, and our visits seem to be once a year. All this father sick stuff makes me think about what if mother was sick stuff … and that, too, is hard.
    I’ve had a lot of scares with them over the years, but nothing can prepare us.
    I think I walk on the tops of the walls with my parents and sometimes fall over unexpectedly.

    I’m really glad I have them both right now. No matter what, I remain Daddy’s Little Girl and Mommy’s basketcase ❤

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Oh, honey. That’s SO hard. My heart ached thinking of you waiting for “read” showing up on your phone. I totally get it.

      We all do our best. Maybe it’s not what we expected to happen in life, but showing our love however we can is all that matters. I’m sure your parents feel very loved, Joey doll!

  8. Minuscule Moments says:

    Damn straight Britt, you never know. I got to be with my Dad when he became ill with cancer and I got to tell him how much I loved him and what an awesome Dad he had been. Some aren’t so lucky but I wish I could sit and have a chat and a beer with him at xmas as he was the entertainment at all out xmas parties. So happy your Dad is doing okay. Hugs to you, its not easy watching our parents age. Happy new year too, hope its full of open doors and no walls.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Awww…so glad you got to tell your dad all of those things. Though my dad is no spring chick, this really snuck up on us. Good reminder to appreciate our loved ones every day!

      Hugs back at ya…Happy New Year, doll!

  9. Sheila says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad your dad is doing well and continues to be your hero. You can really see the love you have for each other in that photo. My dad and brother live in Michigan and I don’t see them enough, but somehow we’ve always felt close. Yes, we need to make another New Year’s pledge to love more in the coming year! No matter how much we already love, there’s always room for more love in the world. Love and hugs and Happy New Year!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Oops…sorry to make you cry, love! I think even saying we don’t see our families enough is a true sign of how much we care. So, it sounds like your dad and brother are very loved by you!

      Absolutely on loving more. That New Year’s intention never gets old! Happy New Year!!!!!!! xoxoxo

  10. Oliver says:

    Moving lines and a wonderful reminder indeed! The present is a gift, especially sharing time with the loved ones. Even though our “busyness” somehow tends to obscure this feeling.
    Britt, I hope you found those moments of gratitude, magic and joy during Christmas and may there be many many more to come in the new year… 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Totally agree, Oliver! Busyness is typically the culprit these days, more so than not loving our families. I think we all fall into that on both sides—kind of a sign of the times, sadly.

      Wishing you plenty of awesomeness in 2017! 🙂

  11. Browsing the Atlas says:

    Beautiful words, Britt. I know just what you mean and try to break some walls down even as I remember why I put them up. But in the end, family is family. And since we’re human, like you said, that means something.

  12. Gallivanta says:

    Phew! Glad your Dad is okay. I have always lived far from family members. 😦 Skype and the internet have been game changers for our family. It’s 7 months since I last saw my parents, my sister and my daughter. I am about to see them soon. With my parents at 96 and 94 every visit could be my last, so it’s very hard when it comes time for me to leave them.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      i imagine that is super tough to leave your parents! But wow…how lovely to have both of them in your life at their age. That’s very unusual and special. Thank you for the kind wishes for my dad! xo

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