Influencers, Part 2: Kindred—But Not Kin

Some family members aren’t related by blood, but they’ve had a tremendous influence on my life. These elders were mentors who lifted me, steadied me, pointed me in the right direction, and stuck with me for the long haul.

“Uncle” Bob was Dad’s roommate before my parents married. He was the best man at their wedding, and I was the maid of honor. I was ten, and the wedding pictures show me standing next to him, both of us beaming from ear to ear. Uncle Bob moved to Hollywood and became a dialogue director for “Happy Days” and other television shows. I treasure the memories of visiting him on TV and movie sets and meeting celebrities. He often house-sat for stars, and sometimes he’d invite us to stay at their homes when he had such a gig. He provided a venue for my mom to teach me some manners and I gained a little bit of poise and confidence while doing so. Besides, he was an awful lot of fun.

Gino and Saxe were my best friend’s parents. They welcomed me, an only child, into their family of five, providing me with a sense of siblinghood. They treated me as the daughter they never had. Saxe helped me with science projects and taught me how to fix my bike. Gino bicycled alongside me, eventually taking me with her to Europe. They provided a solid backstop as I started to explore the world.

Terry, my mother-in-law, was the epitome of kindness. She not only raised my husband well; she spent a lifetime in the service of others. In her mid-sixties when I first met her, she volunteered in soup kitchens and thrift stores, took care of homebound elderly, and tithed faithfully. She reminded me to turn the other cheek and to put the needs of others before my own. I sorely miss her.

There were others, too. Steve and Barb from Tempe nurtured my early forestry career. Ed from Columbus and Frank from Post Falls encouraged my journalistic ambitions. In North Idaho, Tess and Virginia taught me self-sufficiency and Bruce showed me how to start and manage a business.

These people gave me the life skills and tools I needed. I think I turned out okay. It does, indeed, take a village.

#influencers #kindred #elders

Photo: Terry, the world's best mother-in-law, in 2011

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