Older Than Dirt: In our family, even the exes are forever part of the clan.

Now that the holidays are behind us for another year, we can exhale at the thought of things getting back to what is normal in our everyday lives. Hopefully each of us has enjoyed spending a little more time with friends and family.

When we talk about friends and family, I often do have trouble separating the two. Sometimes it is only a very thin line that makes or does not make someone a family member.

My mother used to say that our family was tough to get into, but once you did you were in for life. She was so right about that. Ex-husbands as well as ex-wives were always considered to be part of our family. It did not matter even if they had remarried someone outside the family. They were always welcome.

Today I had a wonderful breakfast visit with family. My brother, his ex-wife who is now his current girlfriend, plus my sister, her ex-brother-in-law and his wife. Matter of fact, the ex-brother-in-law and his lovely wife will soon be moving here to Kingman. For some other families this might not be a GOOD thing. For us, it is all about having more family close by.

Some people find it odd that we remain friends with people who technically are not family. Some of them really never were, as far as being related by blood. I remained friends with my exes, and my parents always treated them as family.

Come to think of it, between us four children we had quite a few exes.

When we were growing up we did not know much about divorce. Our parents and all of our aunts and uncles stayed married. Seven children in my Mom's family, and they all married for life! Our generation, sadly, did not always stay married. When things went wrong, we often just bailed out! I won't speak for others here, but for many bailing out was the best choice.

We had a girls lunch when I was still living in Washington state. As I looked around the table, it was amazing how all these women came together. There was sister and I, of course. Next to me was my youngest son's ex-girlfriend. Next to her was my sister's ex-daughter-in-law. Across the table from her was an ex-girlfriend of my sister's oldest son. The son who was previously married to the ex-daughter-in-law is sitting beside her.

Are you following me so far?

I managed a very large apartment building, and many family members worked with/for me. At one time, my ex-husband and his girlfriend lived on the property and the ex-husband was one of my maintenance crew. My sister's ex-brother-in-law was one of the painters. My sister's ex-husband was part of the cleaning crew. Her ex-daughter-in-law was actually my assistant manager for a while.

I know this may seem a bit odd to some people, but it worked quite nicely for us all. Everyone got along and no one drifted into any old habits, if you know what I mean.

I always consider my dogs to be family. I still continue to refer to them as the brother or sister of my two human sons. They are used to that.

I never thought our family was so unique in acceptance of people in general. When I hear of siblings who have not spoken for YEARS, it is unfathomable to me how that could happen. Hard as I try, I cannot imagine anything one of my family members could do that I could not forgive them for. I know that we are certainly not perfect and we have done things to upset and hurt each other. But how could you stay mad at family for YEARS?

If I have learned anything during my time on this Earth, it is that none of us are guaranteed a certain number of years to live our lives. We never know exactly when we will say "I love you" to someone we love and it will be our last opportunity to do so.

And what if you did not say it at all, because you were angry?

Very often life really is too short. But family is forever. Especially ours.