Last January, I was playing volleyball in the Richards Building. I leaped to block a player with a particularly pernicious swing, but as I came down (with not even a touch of the ball, darn it!), I landed, not on the hard wooden court, but on someone else’s foot. I felt my ankle touch the floor before any other part of my body (not good) and landed in a heap on the court. Of course, everyone rushed to my aid, tried to help me up, asked if I could walk on it. Trying to affect an unconcerned air, I told all that I was fine and valiantly hobbled off the court, trying to downplay my limp and telling my teammates I just needed a few minutes. A sainted RB employee offered me a chair and rushed to get me ice. While I waited, averting my eyes from my ever-swelling ankle and threatening my tears with horrors untold if they slipped passed my eyes, I thought, “Wow. I just really want to call my dad.”
Have you ever had an experience like this? You go through something scary, painful, or otherwise traumatic and all you can think about is getting in contact with someone you love, with someone you know will empathize with you, take care of you, protect you?
Is the person you think of in those experiences a member of your family?
Let me tell you the rest of the story.
After getting my ice, I decided that I needed to call my dad (Dad is the one to go to for medical emergencies in my family). I grabbed my cell phone and wobbled to the girls’ locker room, where I found the furthest, darkest, most secluded corner, and called my father.
Thank the heavens, he answered on my first try.
“Hey, Jess. What’s up?” he asked.
I struggled for maybe three-fourths of a second to stop those blasted tears – But, good grief, but my ankle hurt! – and then I let it all out. “Dad,” sniffle, sniffle, “I was playing volleyball,” gasp of air, “and I landed on someone’s foot,” sniff, “and I think I sprained my ankle, or broke it, or something–”
“And tomorrow morning I have an interview for a job I really want,” more sniffs, “and I had been planning to walk to it, but I can’t now–” gasp, “–and if I get the job, how am I going to get there with my ankle? I don’t have a car! And I have to walk to campus — how am I going to get to class? And I have work tomorrow after my interview and then I have that date tomorrow night and then the next day I’m supposed to give a talk in church and I haven’t even started working on it…” I started blubbering into the phone unintelligibly. I realized that it wasn’t so much my ankle but these other stressors that were causing me to bawl.
“Alright, Jess. It’ll all be okay. Where are you right now?”
“In the girls’ locker room…”
“How do you want your mom and me to help?”
“Well…” I had been thinking about this since I’d made it to the locker room. What I really wanted was for my parents to pick me up (they lived about a half hour from Provo), take me home, coddle and comfort me for the night, drive me back down to Provo for my interview in the morning, and then immediately after drive me back to my hometown for work. That was what I wanted. But that was a lot of driving for them. And a lot of gas. And a lot of babying of their 22-year-old daughter who supposedly had been living on her own for almost four years. That was a lot to ask.
But I did ask, because I needed some comfort right then.
And what I had wanted them to do is exactly what my parents did — happily.
So why did I share this story with you?
I am no expert on family relations. In reality, I know very little about why the family is so vital to a functioning society. But I do know that family is critically important to me. It is because of experiences like the one above, when my family deals with mountainous inconvenience to help me, that I realize why I need my family: for help, for comfort, for love.
In subsequent posts, I’ll focus more on why families are needed on a wider level. It will be as much a learning process for me as it will be for anyone else. Together, we can discover why families are central to society. And perhaps help keep them that way.
—Jessica Neilson, Stance