Family: In loving memory of Big Don and Lovelace McNelley

I have been married two times. My first marriage was with a handsome young man, a surfer, a southern California sun-bleached blonde, with a big smile and lots of good humor and a warm and welcoming family. They happened to be from Alabama, and as my first husband and I got acquainted in our early twenties, we read it as a “sign” that our mothers were cheerleaders in rival high schools in Lower Alabama, and that our fathers were both from the Birmingham area and Air Force attorneys. Fate!

We had a wonderful marriage and beautiful daughter. I got close to his parents and they embraced me like their own daughter. At that time in my life, these in-laws were indeed like another set of parents for me, they offered advice, a shoulder to lean on, their wry southern wisdom.  They were interested in teaching us I think about life as we embarked on a new life as a newlywed couple. My two new in-law sisters took me into their fold. It was a beautiful time and it has remained dearly held deep within me though the marriage came to an end. It still breaks my heart to think of it.

My firstie and I have remained friends. We worked together to shield our daughter from the difficulty of two homes and divorced parents. We never spoke ill of each other, we kept our struggles between us and tried to work through them with care. For a few years after our divorce we celebrated Mothers Day with his parents and our daughter, together. Lovelace McNelley passed away this week, just 60 days after her husband of 62 years, Big Don, passed on. They leave a hole in my heart, but I count myself lucky to have known them, to have been embraced by them, to have been taught by their example of faith, love, generosity and broad expression of southern hospitality. Thank you and goodbye.

My understanding of family has been expansive, through the first marriage, through another that I hope will at some point evolve into a friendship, and into this time in my life where my daughter and her loved one, and my new partner provide a whole new frontier of family love and connections.

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