As the holidays approach, I’ve been giving some thought to “family.”
My birth-family was very small. My mom had one brother and one sister. Her brother never had children and her sister had two daughters. My dad had one brother and his brother had two daughters and a son.
Getting into spouses’ siblings is irrelevant. I don’t know them or if they had progeny. Several years ago, I did meet some of their nieces and nephews at funerals, but I’m not in touch with any.
I have two brothers. One died from suicide. The other lives in town but rarely gets in touch. I’m in contact with his step-daughter more than I am with him. It’s as much my fault as his. An effort has to be made on both sides.
I’ve lost contact with all but one of my cousins. The two on my mother’s side have dropped off the face of the earth. I’m in touch with the eldest of the three on my dad’s side.
And that’s it for my relatives.
I’m realizing more and more that while relatives might be considered by most to be family, sometimes they are only part of a bloodline. Genealogy can tell me about bloodlines. Only I can decide about family.
When I was younger, I had friends whose parents wanted us to call them “aunt” and “uncle.” My mom didn’t like that. I called them Mr. & Mrs. O to my mom, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Dottie to them. Mom was ok with that.
In college, my parents moved from our hometown and I was still there attending university. That’s when I began to realize that I gathered a group of nearest and dearest. They became family. They had my six and I had theirs. These were the people who knew me better than anyone else, except for my mom.
Over the years and through many transitions, I gather family. Membership is never stagnant. It is a living thing, and like any living thing, it breathes.
People pass through. We sometimes have to say “goodbye for now,” but they are always welcome if they come back. There’s always a place at the table and a space reserved for them in my heart. There’s always room for more because the heart is limitless. Mom, dad, Dan are there still, even though they’re dead. Kathy, Judy, Deb, Beth are there even though I haven’t seen them in years. Scott, even though we don’t stay in touch. That’s just naming a bare handful. They are all still my family.
So as the holidays approach, I might or might not have somewhere to go with people of common faith and traditions to celebrate with me, but I do have family.