First Family

By Lloyd Graff

Commitment to family is a bedrock value to my wife Risa and I. It comes before career, money, religion, friends, even the Cubs. It wasn’t something we preached about frequently to our children, but we built our lives together giving each other space while always staying in touch and caring about one another.

We spent last week together, the 12 of us, in San Diego. We own several weeks at a timeshare resort, and we have been using it as a gathering spot for a dozen years. Trying to pull together the schedules of busy business people, clergy, software engineers, therapists and students can only work if they really want to get together for a week, because it ultimately is not about the dates, but the desire to be with one another in person—not on social media.

Aside from Noah, the rest of our family rarely posts anything on Facebook. Over the last week I never even heard Facebook mentioned. Throughout the year we do talk on the phone to one another, send a lot of photos, and get together face-to-face, even though my daughter Sarah lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three kids. I work with my son Noah, so we are in constant touch. My son Ari is married with a baby living in Chicago. We try to see each other twice a month.

Holidays like Thanksgiving, New Years, Passover (around Easter), and President’s Day open up the calendar for extended weekends.

The Graff and Roy clans at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Feb. 21, 2017.

But family gatherings only work if you really like each other. You can love someone deep in your gut yet really not want to spend any face-to-face time with her, but on our trips we all like to break off into various pairs or small groups to spend quality time with people we don’t get to see very often. I put out a sign-up sheet requesting a walk with each of the 11 other people on the trip. I particularly wanted to walk with my grandchildren to learn about their lives without parents or siblings chiming in. I also wanted to talk to children’s marriage partners who I do not converse with so frequently. And I wanted to get to know Noah’s wonderful girlfriend Stephanie better without Noah hovering close by. This is how you build family, I think.

I will never forget eight years ago when I was fighting for my life in the hospital and Ari’s then girlfriend of short duration, Elissa, stayed close to Ari when she should have been at work. She defied her parents saying, “this is where I have to be now, school can wait.” We “talked” by me writing her notes while hooked up to tubes. Those 14 days at the hospital were truly days where family meant so much to me and especially Risa. During the first critical night people slept on the floors at St. Francis Hospital keeping a vigil. It was a family hovering together for support.

The trip to San Diego this past week was probably my best one ever. Sarah’s girls were finally big enough to play our competitive games of Taboo, Scattergories and Snake Oil. I was even able to talk about some heavy stuff like the Vietnam War to my oldest granddaughter, Eliana, on our walk.

On the last night of the trip we capped everything off by watching a fantastic documentary chronicling our trip made by Eliana on an iPad.

It was Family. It was great.

Question: What is your favorite TV show about family?

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14 thoughts on “First Family

  1. Mindy Mikami


    What a beautiful story about your family. My family is very small (each parent only had one sibling), but still it has been over a decade since we were all together. I feel a plan brewing, however, thanks to you.

    Also, since my husband is Japanese, half of my family lives on the opposite side of the globe. I was lucky enough to visit this month, and had to hide tears as my 84-year-old mother-in-law said, “this may be the last time I get to talk to you in person.”

    My favorite TV show about family? That has to be the current hit “This Is Us.” It might be a little too edgy or a little too liberal for some, but it tugs at my heartstrings every week. I try not to watch when it airs because I end up going to bed with my emotions all worked up. It’s better to watch Saturday morning when I can then go out for a refreshing walk or some other diversion.

    Thanks for a topic that really made me think about what’s important!

  2. Lloyd Graff

    Hi Mindy.

    I love “This is Us” too. Favorite show n TV. DVR it so we fast forward through the ads. Created by Dan Fogelberg who also did “Pitch” about the first female pitcher to make the Major Leagues (San Diego Padres).

  3. Art Santana

    Unfortunately the world is going more and more away from families; with divorce rates so high and cohabitation being the norm what a sad state of affairs for those people.
    My dear wife teaches elementary school and this year has a class of 25 children; 19 being raised by single parents or grandparents.
    My sweet 91 year old mom has a descendant line of 113, soon to be 114 (all alive), getting together in one place? good luck with that but nothing beats that feeling of knowing that you are part of something so special. Call me old fashion if you must but Happy Days still is my favorite family show, a retro time when innocence was still around and there was no need of sexual innuendos or foul language to make it fun and entertaining.

    1. Emily

      I disagree. Yes, family makeup is changing, but I feel that as the world becomes a scarier place to many, people are turning to their families more and more. The father, mother, two kid model did not work out well for everyone. I think it’s great people are creating family units that work for them and include many generations.

  4. Jeff Lambing

    Wonderful read Lloyd. So great to have family that enjoys being together.
    My wife’s family has been going to the same rustic resort in Northern Ontario for over 50 years now. For many of those years, we’ve had the entire place to ourselves and used every available cottage. There really is no better time than being with family and spending quality time with them. Group ‘floats’ on the lake, long campfires, volleyball games, steamy saunas, and lots of family games, a family wedding followed by a baby born at the cottage – have made for some pretty awesome memories for four generations with this family. All the best to your family!

  5. Nancy

    Lloyd, I want to go away with my whole family just so I can do the sign up sheet and take a walk with each of them. I love that idea. I suppose I could try to have a sign up sheet for a breakfast or lunch with each since all of my kids and their families live in Chicago… I just love the idea of the one-on-one time.
    I have two favorite shows about family and they are politically far apart:
    This Is Us and Blue Bloods

  6. rick

    Every modern TV show is looking to push the limits, cause a stir, break down the moral boundaries, the distinct line between good and evil and have the greatest shock value.

    This is one reason there is NO cable TV in my home.

    So many modern shows extol the virtues of single mothers as if they were Mother Theresa, When in fact the single parent households are one of the greatest scourges on our society. I am not speaking of those who lost a Husband – we call that a “widow”

    Single mothers are causing so much of the incarcerated youth it is mind boggling.
    It is unfortunate, that so many on this blog are well versed in failure analysis and “Root Case”, yet it is politically incorrect to say that the generational welfare system, promoting this promiscuity and promoting reproduction for the sake of increasing government handouts is the cause of so many ills in our society. The Hollywood crowd and the left thinks this is great and promotes it in any way possible, including any current TV show.

    A few stats:
    85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992]
    63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
    90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
    85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
    80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
    71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
    70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
    85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
    90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
    75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]
    Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]

    I look forward to the current administration greatly cutting “entitlements” (what an interesting word they use to describe getting FREE stuff for doing nothing but existing and breeding because it is your right to something you did not earn) in The President’s speech this evening.

    Oh yes, a family TV show.

    We still watch “Little House on the Prairie”.
    This is a great show – we have all the seasons on DVD.
    Each episode shows love, traditional nuclear families, crisis, learning to overcome adversity, challenges, crises, and moral dilemmas. Looking to The Good Lord for Divine Providence on very difficult times.
    There is always a lesson to be learned.

    A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others…

  7. Vicki Bohl


    My family is going on the third annual “Grandpa’s Last Ski Trip” in a few weeks. Every year he swears this is it, and every year we talk him in to One More Time! It’s a week of 12 of us ranging in age from 26 to 81 (!), with skiing, fine dining, and board games. Philosophically, we don’t agree on much, but we do agree that family is most important.

    I love This Is Us, also, but I’d like to throw Shameless out there as well. Another family that thinks that family comes first.

  8. Keith

    Hi Lloyd and thanks for sharing,
    My dad started a tradition of family vacations. All of my brothers and sister were born and raised in Hawaii. We moved to the Bay Area when I was fifteen and even when we were all living at home, at least one family vacation of a week was planned for each year. As we all grew up, moved away, got married, had children, he still maintained the tradition. We were lucky as he often arranged for a beach house on Oahu. After my parents were gone I have tried to continue the tradition but with a smaller family. We also connect with our Chicago family ( go Cubs) about every other year. Family is really the only reason .
    With best regards,

  9. Mike

    My Grandfather was one of twenty kids. His father’s last request was his kids get together every year. So this June will be the 80+ continuous family reunion. Few make it every year but 40 to 50 people gather every year. My Grandfather’s and Dad’s generations are gone the newer generations continue to gather.


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