Well, as we mentioned in our beginning post for this week, our grandson was born just over a week ago and this makes him the newest member of our family. His arrival also got me thinking about what ‘family’ means, and that brings us to the topic for our ‘He Says, She Says‘ post this week. There are at least two different ways of looking at family. From one perspective, we have genetic family – parent to child to grandchild, aunt to nephew, cousin to cousin… With modern DNA decoding we can distinguish familial lines going back hundreds even thousands of generations. That’s one definition of family, but there’s another one too.
In his book, “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah“, Richard Bach wrote:
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
In some ways, that’s a definition of family that works better for me. There are several reasons for this. For one, my own family is rather strange and convoluted. Just for example, my biological parents begot my sister and I, but my parents separated when I was about a year old and I didn’t see or hear from my father for over 30 years. Both my parents remarried, and I have a half-sister from one of those pairings and two half-sisters and one half-brother from the other. There’s also a(?)-sister from my dad’s previous marriage, but there’s no genetic link there at all. I won’t go through all of the links because it’s simply too convoluted and I can’t keep track of how many cousins and second cousins and… I have from which relationships. I’m sure your own family tree is somewhat the same.
I’ve often said I’ve never been a father, but I have a lot of kids. I’ve always seemed to adopt them as I go along. That’s the way it was for me, too. My dad showed up when I was little, but in all of the ways that count he was my ‘true’ father. He’s the one who taught me how to ride a bike, how to play hockey and throw a baseball. He’s the one who took me fishing. He’s one half of the pair who taught me my values. So as I grew up, I became a part-time father/ uncle/ big brother/ mentor to those who were smaller and/or younger than me. It seemed natural. They became a part of my family too.
It may seem strange (not to mention illegal) that my newest grandson came from the joining and marriage of my ‘son’ and my ‘daughter’, but in an extended sense that true. I’ve known the little one’s mother since she was about a year old; I was her first baby sitter, and I used to change her diapers. She’s always been like a daughter to me. My grandson’s father I inherited when Marcia and I were married. Legally that makes me his step-father, but he’s already got a dad. I do my best to be his friend instead. My grandmother used to say, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Maybe that’s true. I was also a part-time father to two of my nieces as they were growing up; one of them is a mother now too, and although she’s my niece, she feels like a daughter to me. Is her son my great-nephew, or my grandson? In the end, it doesn’t matter what terms we use. They’re loved, and that’s all that matters.
Some of my family I’ve lost track of over the years. They’ve grown up, gone off on their own and didn’t need an uncle, a mentor, a big brother anymore. Some of them have their own families now. But in exchange I’ve gained new family too. Some are children, some aren’t. Some of them I’ve never met, at least not in person. That’s one of the powers of the Internet. I am closer to people who live in different countries and on different continents than I am to some of those with whom I am genetically related. That brings me back to Richard Bach’s quote. Families are groups of people who share similar ideas, similar Ways of Being. Families share respect, they share in each other’s joys and they offer support in times of challenge. I think families should be inclusive, not exclusive. In a way, every child in the world is mine. Yours too.
Follow this link to read Marcia’s View.