Morris: A Quaint Expression Rings True

April 17, 2023

by Leo Morris

A few months after my father died, I asked my mother how she was doing.

“I miss having him to talk to,” was all she said, but that’s all she needed to say. No matter how many friends and relatives she had to talk with, no matter how much her children tried to fill the conversational void, there was something about the casual banter of lifetime partners that could never be replaced. A comfortable presence in her life was gone forever.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “kith and kin,” one of those quaint expressions you seldom hear anymore.

Kin I still have – though, heaven knows, fewer than I used to. Not so much “kith,” who, as the dictionary explains, are “acquaintances, friends, neighbors or the like; persons living in the same locality and forming a more or less cohesive group.”

It’s that “living in the same locality” that’s the tricky part, and I blame technology.

First, of course, came transportation technology. Roads took us away from our homes to work in remote locations, and the automobile and national highway systems increased both the distances and the tendencies. My brother and sister and I grew up in the same tiny place in Eastern Kentucky, sharing a small house with our parents and seeing each other all the time. Now, we live in three different cities in two far-apart states.

And communications technology has kept us all apart. We no longer have to rely on the Post Office to deliver our letters and imagine how our friends and relatives are reacting to our thoughts days after we have expressed them. We can email or text them for instant communications and even see their faces if we want to make a video call with our smart phones.

But it’s not the same.

Our brother just visited from Texas, and we spent a week with our sister in Indianapolis. We get together like that only about once a year, and it’s always – I hate to use such a theatrical word, but there it is – magic.

And it’s not about anything specific – not anything we do together, though we find enjoyment in common pursuits; not necessarily what we talk about, though there is always the usual enjoyable outrageous nonsense only longtime siblings can conjure up,

It was just the sheer physical presence of family members, a comforting closeness that can chase away the overwhelming sense of isolation we sometimes feel as a tiny speck in the vast universe. Even if I was reading a book or watching something on TV, just knowing my brother and sister were in the same room gave me a sense of well-being. And knowing they would still be there in the morning and for the next day brought true peace of mind.

I suspect you’ve had the same feeling at times. Remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas when you were surrounded not just by the immediate family but by extended family from all over – your “kith and kin”? There undoubtedly came a moment amid all the bickering and fussing when you simply thought, “These are my people, and I’m grateful we are all here together.”

And it was bittersweet, wasn’t it, because you knew the moment was fleeting?

I feel sorry for the younger generations today, who have grown up knowing nothing but the ubiquitousness of instant communications yet seem to not know how to relate to one another. They spend so much time on their devices trading quips and showing off that they don’t know the sheer comforting presence of other people. Heaven knows how much their Covid-induced absences from school reinforced that inclination to isolation.

I read recently that Millennials are starting, at least in small numbers, to buy dumb phones instead of smart ones – devices that can only make and receive calls – having decided they were spending far too much screen time.

Good for them. Maybe they will start putting the kith back in kith and kin.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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