[Editors's Note: This is the latest installment from former 'Survivor' winner Jenna Morasca as she chronicles her supporting role in boyfriend and fellow 'Survivor' winner Ethan Zohn's battle with cancer.]
‘Tis the season! This time of the year has been my favorite time of year since I can remember. My family always makes a huge deal out of Christmas.
As I wrote in my previous post, my Dad sets up lights that would put Clark Griswold to shame, and the family get-togethers are frequent and usually last all night (red wine anyone). Ethan and I have always made the trek up to Pittsburgh and stayed for as long as possible to enjoy the festivities.
Last year I went home around December 9th and stayed until right before New Years! I have great, warm, loving memories of the holidays; most of them include my mother, who I miss dearly around this time of the year. However, this year I might not go home at all. It’s likely Ethan will be in the hospital at that time. He’s going in for a stem cell transplant.
Ethan’s treatment obviously usurped everything. But still, when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to go home for the holidays, I went into shock. I had never missed a full-on Morasca Christmas celebration. Not EVER!
To make up for it, Ethan and I went to my family’s house for Thanksgiving. We took drove to PA, taking it longer, slower, and spending that time together not rushing per usual. It’s a six-hour drive , and I have to say it wasn’t bad. I drove the whole way and forced Ethan to listen to Christmas music (I wanted to get into the spirit).
While there, I realized – or perhaps was reminded again and again – that family is such a precious and important part of our lives, and for some reason we often take them for granted. But it’s important to remember it’s because of them that we are who we are. Beyond our genetic makeup, they shaped us, influenced us, scolded us, let us cry on their shoulder, listened to our problems, and loved us even when no one else did.
Over Thanksgiving, I was reminded my how much I love my family and how important their support is to me. My family and high school friends were the only people who were with me every step of the way through my mothers’ illness. They sat by my side year after year and consoled me. If they ever sent me a bill, I would be paying them off for the rest of my life.
And my high school girlfriends are a treat themselves. They aren’t NY women running around the hustle and bustle, but I feel like anyone who has known you since 7th grade gets bonus points! We got together over the break and I pulled out some old high school pictures of us. Three hours and two bottles of wine later, we couldn’t breathe – that’s how hard we were laughing. Plus one of my girlfriends decided to unleash some stories in front of my dad that I didn’t think I was old enough to share yet, but he just laughed as hard as we did at the stories.
Living in NYC, I sometimes forget how important these people are to my character. For example I spent almost two hours sitting with my Gramma Suzie (who will be 90 next year – yes 90 years old) listening to her tell the story of how she met her husband, my late Grandpa Sam. The stories were hilarious because they were so vintage. Talk of just holding hands and getting a soda for a date were priceless. Those are memories I’ll never forget.
I have to say how nice it was to spend five days with my dad. My dad and I are the best of friends and he is my rock, the eternal optimist. I honestly don’t know what I would do without him in my life and it was nice to spend time with him, Ethan, and our dog Rocky uninterrupted.
I’ve rambled, but here’s my point. Family is a unique gift that needs to be appreciated and treasured, even when they’re driving you crazy. As much as they make you mad, interrupt you, annoy you, curse at you, try to control you, these are the people who know you the best and who love you.
My advice: Take a second out of the day today and be thankful for your family. They are our backbone, the people who made who we are, the people who gave us the ultimate gift, that being our life. I would not be as strong as I am today without them. Take a second to call your relatives, email them and tell them you love them, or call your grandparents and just reminisce with them about the old days. I promise you they will love it, and time goes by so quickly we won’t have the opportunity to do things like this forever.