I recently had a friend say he was stagnant in his writing and I encouraged him to write. Silly me…his response was that I should write too and challenged me to a topic. I accepted on the condition that he wrote as well and somehow linked our writing through the magic of technology (which is waaaaay beyond my understanding). I let him choose the topic and he chose “The Illusion of Family”.
Having accepted this challenge (because I love reading Mike’s writing and want him to write!), I looked up both the definition of ILLUSION and FAMILY.
Illusion: A deceptive impression or a false idea/belief
Family: 1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household or the children of a person or couple.
2. all the descendants of a common ancestor.
This got me to thinking about definition 1, a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. I was raised in a loving two parent household; the much younger sibling of 4 children. My oldest brother left for college a thousand miles away when I was about 4 and all my siblings were out of the house by the time I was 10. My grandparents and cousins lived in other towns and honestly, I was not that close to any of them. My family was in a variety of places, but I happily lived with my parents and saw my siblings when able. After graduation from college, I got married and lived 2500 miles away from any “family”.
This is when I really started to re-examine the notion of family. If going with the strictest definition of family, I no longer had any family because I didn’t have children under my roof yet and lived away from parents and siblings. In the broadest sense of definition 1, I did correctly have family because the children of my parents, while scattered across the US, still remained my family. I must add here that I know I can always count on my fantastic siblings for love and support, regardless of how far away we live (which for most of my adult life has been hundreds to thousands of miles away). I am ever thankful for the ongoing relationship with both my brothers and my sister (and their spouses) which has actually grown closer as life has progressed.
With all my travels and relocations, I have to say that definition 2 has come to be my broadest and most applicable definition of family. If I look at my family as “all the descendants of a common ancestor”, I look at all of humanity (descended from my Creator) as my family. I know many people speak of ‘the human family’. I can understand and appreciate that we are all connected in our human experience, but for me, it goes much deeper.
I have almost always lived away from my Definition 1 family, but have made Definition 2 (which includes and embraces my siblings and parents) my truest definition of family. My family includes these and many others:
-My good friend from church who sat with me for 3 hours when I was alone for the first time after being separated
-The selfless friend who offered his United miles to bring my daughter home from Colorado when she got sick on her wilderness trip because he knows how he would feel if it was his daughter (if Sofia only had an ID!)
-The three (and more) dear single women friends who listened and counseled me through way too many relationship issues and laugh with me throughout it all
-My kids who have put up with countless meltdowns from me
-My parents who actually do support me even though they have dementia and don’t always remember me or what’s going on
-A guy who I dated who was brutally honest with me when I needed to hear it, even when I didn’t want to hear it. I learned and grew from that
-My former in laws who were so generous with the love and support. One of my favorite memories is how they spent their time and money redoing my porch area in my California home so I could have a place to relax with my baby
-My siblings who emotionally and financially supported me when I most needed it
-My sister in law’s Houston family who invites me to most of their family functions as though I was blood related
-My recovery friends who I turn to before any others when there is a crisis or a celebration…or anything in between
-My close church family who sat on either side of me and held me and the kids when the parish found out my family was crumbling, They still with me through the daily struggles
-My dear friend who asked me to sing today at the 2 year memorial for his daughter who was tragically lost in a drunk driving crash
-My friends in Colorado who I haven’t spoken to in a few years who willingly asked what they could do to help Sofia when she was sick on her wilderness trip
-My dear friends who open their home in Galveston and treat me like a sister
-Friends who tell me I can stop by/stay at their home hundreds of miles away if I’m in the area and I know they mean it. More importantly, I wouldn’t feel strange doing it!
Upon reflection, I’ve decided I have no illusions. I have a small, wonderful definition 1 family and a huge and amazing definition 2 family.