Saturday, January 8, 2011

Family

I believe that family is more about what is in your heart than who shares your bloodline.  DNA (or marriage) only determines your relatives.  Though there may be a great deal of overlap, these are two very different concepts.

For starters, we've all got those relatives that we only ever see at weddings and funerals: aunts, uncles, second cousins three times removed (what exactly does that mean, anyway?  how do you "remove" a cousin?).  I've got nothing against them; it's just that we don't really know them.  It's hard to think of someone as family if you haven't seen her since you wore footie pajamas, you couldn't pick him out of a line-up, or it takes two breaths to explain how you're related to your mother's cousin's half-brother's uncle's sister's stepfather's niece.



Then there are the people who share your genealogy, but not your life.  Though it takes two sets of genes to create a child, all too often it's only one set of jeans who actually raises that child.  If a person abandons his child, he certainly doesn't deserve the name Dad.  He may be a decent human being (in all fairness, some may not have been given the choice to take on that role), but he is certainly not family.

Laughter and love - way better than blood!
On the other hand, there are people we've known our whole lives, who are certainly more family to us than any of those mentioned above.  They've been there for all the important moments, and for a lot of the trivial ones, too.  They've watched us grow up, and shared the joys and the sorrows, the struggles and the triumphs.  When we think of them we smile, and feel the warmth in our hearts.

The annoying kid brother (L)
and the really cool older guy (R)
Then there are the kids we grew up with.  When we were young, everyone played together.  We looked up to some of the older kids, and developed crushes on the really cool one(s).  We tagged along with our older siblings, so we had to accept the younger kids who tagged along with us.  As we got older, though, some of those friendships became much more meaningful.  The little kid who was "like an annoying kid brother" at times somehow lost the "annoying kid" part.  Now, he's just like a brother.  To my husband (the older kid I had a crush on), there is no "like" - he is his brother in every important sense of the word.  

The good reason I got hurt in HS
Sometimes it's the school friends who stick around long after the class is over, and the family connections continue to grow.  As I wrote in another post, everything happens for a good reason.  From a freak accident in high school grew a whole new branch to my family tree.  Years ago my mom "unofficially adopted" my friend as her son, and since then both of our spouses have become enmeshed in the family circle.  There is no greater Thanksgiving than when we spend it together - football, food, and family: truly a day to be thankful.

The Buttah to my fly
It's expected that we'll make new friendships through various experiences in our lives.  It's amazing when the most random connections become so deep.  Face time is not even necessary to develop this bond (though it's always fun). Through the magic of the internet, there are many ways to share experiences, thoughts and advice.  When someone encourages you, supports you, and inspires you to become a new person, surely the word friend is just not strong enough.  She is family.

I love my family ... and that even includes a few relatives!

** If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!