I used to not value my family quite as much, taking them for granted. The past several years, though, has shown how very important they are, each and every one.

The meaning of the word has changed for me over time, too. It's not just the parents, siblings, and children if you have them. Friends are family to me, too, closer than some relatives. And of course, I would direct you to the Pets page for a more complete listing!

This is Karl and Emma Meissner, my great-grandparents, probably holding my grandfater as a baby. The thing that strikes me most is how my great-grandfather's eyes are sparkling exactly like my oldest brother, John.

And though you can't see those sparkling eyes in this picture, here's John with his best friend ever, Charlie. When John died, I made sure this picture was in the center of the collage. When Charlie was very old, he was nearly blind and deaf, and in a lot of pain from arthritis. John was visiting one day (he didn't live with us, hadn't for years), while Charlie was asleep. Charlie woke up, slowly getting up, groaning as he did so. He wandered on over to me, briefly waved his tail once and licked my hand, then made his way over to my step-dad, then my mom, and did the same thing.

But when Charlie got to John, he sniffed... and sniffed again. And started to wine and woof, shifting on his front paws, his tail going like I'd not seen it in a long time.

His boy was home. And John, for his part, just teared up with a smile, petting his dog with such gentleness as only he could manage.

We all teared up a little bit, filled with happiness at how deeply they loved each other.

And here are the brothers together -- Curt, John, Peter, and me holding one of Curt's wonderful golden retrievers.