They say "blood is thicker than water," which usually means that family ties bind us to our relatives more strongly than any bond we may have with outsiders.
Ideally, no matter how difficult or strained our family relationships are on a daily basis, families are quick to circle the wagons when one of their own needs protection or provision. But is this really true of families in 2010?
These days busy families don't get together as often as they used to, especially extended families like aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws. All too often, even relatives who live right in the same community find themselves reluctant to turn to each other for assistance. When they need a ride, a babysitter, or help finding a job, they are reluctant to ask relatives because often they haven't even talked to each other for a year or more.
My family has developed a hedge against that extended-family estrangement. I call it The Breakfast Club. It started many years ago, sort of accidentally, when two households of relatives in Avon Park started eating breakfast together at a local restaurant every Saturday.
A few years later, groups of extended family (brothers, cousins, in-laws) started coming down from Michigan every winter. They found accommodations close to the local family so, naturally, the snowbirds were invited to join the Saturday breakfast group during the few months they were here each year.
After several seasons, those few months stretched into half the year and eventually, some of the retirees moved to Florida permanently. Consequently, they became permanent members of the Saturday Breakfast Club.
That was years ago. Today, a second generation is beginning to retire to Florida and now, especially in winter, The Breakfast Club that began with just a few people grows to as many as 20 some Saturdays. At the local restaurant where we usually go, they know us all by first names, and most Saturday mornings they have already pushed several tables together for us before we even begin arriving. As we come in the door the waitresses are already bringing our drinks - coffee, decaf, Diet Coke - they know who takes what, even who needs cream and who wants water on the side.
Occasionally, we find it necessary to move the meeting place for one reason or another, which engenders numerous phone calls to make sure everyone is informed. Lately that has become such an ordeal, we generally avoid it because the group is so big there are few places that can accommodate us. Plus, some members don't come every week and we forget who needs contacting. So now it's strictly a drop-in affair - come one come all.
Last Saturday we numbered 16, but then Mike dropped in unexpectedly so we just pulled up another chair. He's not my cousin, but he's my uncle's nephew on the other side so we're related, sort-of. After breakfast, Mike followed us home to borrow John's wet saw.
And that's how it goes with the Breakfast Club. We're not all related, exactly. But every one of us is related somehow to at least one of the people bellied up to that string of tables. We all have different jobs - two teachers, two auto workers, two contractors, a bank teller, a tool and die maker, a hospital employee, a realtor, a machinist, a pastor, and even two writers.
We don't all go to the same church, not even the same denomination. Most of us are on the same side of the fence politically, but we root for different teams including Michigan, Florida, Alabama and even Notre Dame. Sometimes we share jokes, sometimes it's prayer requests.
But one thing we always share is our love for each other, and that means our homes and our arms are always open to each other. Blood, you see, truly is thicker than water, especially among those who rub elbows every Saturday morning at The Breakfast Club.