This past week I have been thinking about family even more than usual and what it really means. For those of you that don’t know me, you could say I come from a rather dysfunctional family, and that’s putting it lightly. My mom and I have had a rollercoaster of a relationship, I have thought at times that I would never speak to her ever again and would be ok with that, but then we always patch things up – because she’s my mom. My dad would have turned 68 on Thursday, August 15, but he did not as he died June 22 of this year. I only really built a relationship with him in my late teens, and it had never been one that flowed super easily, but I did love him and do miss him. My kids haven’t seen their dad since January 13th and haven’t seen their grandparents or any of their other family on their dad’s side since Christmas of last year. Nobody has made any attempt at seeing them or talking to them, the only effort has come from them, two little girls wanting what every child wants.
I wanted so desperately to give my children a “better” family than the one I grew up in. I wanted them to grow up having cousins who they had an unbreakable bond with, I wanted them to have a dad who they would grow up calling dad and whom they knew they could always depend on. I envisioned large family gatherings, reunions, their having a dad who would proudly be at every milestone in their lives; every time they spoke, sang, or played an instrument on stage, every time they scored in a game or advanced in their chosen passion, every time they graduated, when they first moved away, when they got married and had babies of their own. I hoped for them that they would never know the pain of feeling neglected or abandoned, that I could keep them from being hurt by people they cared about at least until they were old enough to go through their first inevitable break-up.
Instead we have sisters who don’t speak for great lengths of time and one sister who bounces around the country like a gypsy, which makes it difficult for cousin relationships to flourish. They have a dad who has never really made an effort to get to know them, who even when they spent weekends at his house, he was rarely present, available, connected; and they felt more like an inconvenience than a welcome addition to the home. They have a dad who has chosen not to make any effort to see them or talk to them or remind them of how loved and important they are in over 7 months. They have an entire half of their family who acts like they have forgotten that they even exist. They have people in their family who are complete strangers to them. And I am here, to pick up the pieces, to try to comfort them, to remind them that they are amazing, intelligent, compassionate, funny, young ladies and that they don’t NEED anyone else to know that. I tell them that those whom choose not to get to know them are the ones truly missing out, as they are two people whom I would eagerly want to get to know even if they were not my daughters! But no matter what I say or do, I know I can’t give them the one thing they really want – the close and loving relationship they envision with family members whom they hardly know or have anything in common with.
Why is it that we have this yearning for family? That we want to feel connected to and loved by those who we are related to by blood? Can we substitute and build those kinds of relationships with those whom we have no kinship with? Can we form bonds and connections and have the respect and love of those whom we are not related to, and have that be sufficient? When two people stand at an alter and profess their love for one another, they are deciding to become a family, to form that tight and unbreakable bond that one thinks of when they think of family. Can’t we chose to form those kinds of tight bonds then with others who we do not share a bloodline with, and let go of trying to force relationships that just aren’t there? Let go of being in and out of unhealthy relationships just for the sake of that other person being “family”, of being treated like yo-yo’s, of expecting people to live up to our expectations of words such as “dad.” Can we only hold onto and nurture those relationship which actually lift us up and are healthy for us, and let the rest go?