Blessed by two families

The year was 1993. I had just began my junior year at Lynchburg-Clay High School and for some reason the start of the school year seemed different. I couldn’t really explain it then, but I think it had something to do with the upcoming basketball season. There was a buzz surrounding us going into that year. Everyone felt like it could be our year to do something special. As it turned out, we did. But that is not where I am headed with this story.

As with most new beginnings in life, we approach them with apprehension and excitement, and the first day of school was no different this year. New classes, new responsibilities and new friends. I had no idea that my year was about to take an even bigger step. Homecoming time came, and a freshman had began hanging out with me more and more, and I heard rumors she was going to ask me to the homecoming dance. As crazy as it will sound to most who know me, I was a little bashful back then. As luck would have it this beautiful young lady did, in fact, ask me to the homecoming dance. We had already decided that we had a lot in common, and it was so easy talking to her that I realized the relationship may be going somewhere.

We had a great time at the homecoming and our relationship continued to grow. It has now been 26 years since that day on Jan. 22, 1993, and we are still going strong. That beautiful young lady is now my beautiful wife Becky. We have been married for 22 of those 26 years, and it is crazy to even think back to those early years and what we truly didn’t know at that young age.

I was recently attending a banquet and an acquaintance came up to me and said he really enjoyed my articles, and I think you should write one about your mother-in-law. We chuckled about it, and my mother-in-law, who was standing there, didn’t seem to think that was a good idea. But I did. You see, it truly does take a village to raise kids. The day that I came into her daughter’s life, my mother-in-law took me in, too. She was my mom away from home. I won the lottery so to speak with the awesome women in my life. From my grandmas to my mother, to my wife and even now to the in-law side with those women in my life as well. I cherish them just as much as my blood family because at the end of the day, they are my family. They see me in my good and bad moments, they support me in my peaks and in my valleys. They are good people, and they hold value to me.

My first date with Becky was the homecoming dance. I picked her up in my brother Mike’s 1987 Iroc-Z Camaro. It was black with T-tops, and it was an awesome ride. I couldn’t believe he let me drive it. Fast forward to date number two and my ride changed. It was no longer a black, shiny Camaro, but a 1985 White Chevy Chevette Scooter. It was my Mom’s car, and since I didn’t have a car of my own, I had to use my mom’s most of the time. What made it worse is that the doors had rusted so bad that my dad had purchased a black, junk Chevette, so the black doors were now placed on the white Scooter.

Yep, you guessed it, I looked like a saddle-oxford going down the road. How in the world I ever got my wife to go on a third date with me is beyond me. What I didn’t realize is that one evening after dropping Becky off back home for the evening her mother asked her, “Does that car even have a heater?” I laugh and smile just thinking about that question now. It did have a heater, but what she didn’t know is that it had a hole in the floor board that my Dad covered over with an old license plate. I guess if my mother-in-law catches wind of this story my secret will be out.

I will keep their names a secret, as they may not want too many people to know they are related to me, but my in-laws had a part in shaping who I am today. My father-in-law is an avid sports fan, so we naturally became close quickly. I also had another admirer other than my wife at the time, and that was her little brother. I can still remember him having his mom or dad write on his white t-shirts my basketball number, or some other number, so he could act like he was one of us shooting the basketball in the house day after day. In those days I likely spent as much time with my girlfriend’s family as I did my own.

I also gained another sister. I had two sisters growing up and they can never be replaced, but this sister became a different kind of sister. She was just a year younger than I and we even had classes together. She is now one of my best friends. While their house was being built her family lived with us for nine months. She may not have thought of me as fondly after that experience, but what great times we have had — celebrating Christmas, late nights hanging out in the living room after the kids went to bed, watching movies and telling stories and raising our children together. My sister-in-law and her husband are irreplaceable in our lives.

When my father passed away it was a difficult time for us. I can remember just a few weeks before my father passed away that we were in church together and my in-laws had come to our church that Sunday. We had a greeting time before the message and my father took his large left hand, made a fist, caught me off guard, jabbed me in my arm and said “blue one,” in reference to the VW bug game. The jab nearly knocked me off my feet, and my father-in-law once told me that story was one of his favorite things that he remembered of my father. I didn’t even know anyone saw it.

Someone asked me the other day why I tell stories, why are you so open with your life on Facebook and in the paper? How do you let people in to see private things that they themselves would never share? The answer is simple in so many ways. I like to live my life outloud. I love to share my stories because it is how we share our story. My life has been filled with so many great memories and stories that if I didn’t share them they would die. God gave me a life to live and I only have one chance to live it, so I want it to count. I want people to see the good in life, the good in people, and the love that I have for the people in my life. Don’t you?

My in-laws are now part of my story. I really don’t feel like they are even in-laws. They are my family. They are my journey, too, and they have shared with me their daughter, my high school sweetheart. Their story is now my story as well. Every day we share this thing called life, and I am blessed to not only have my family surrounding me, but my wife’s family, too.

Share your story today. Share the memories of your youth. Tell your journey.Because one day someone will share your journey with someone else, and the rest becomes history.

It takes a village, as they say, and sometimes the village becomes your family.

Chad McConnaughey is the Highland County recorder.