The definition of family according to the Oxford Dictionary:
- A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
- All the descendants of a common ancestor.
I certainly cannot argue with the above definition. Most people would agree family members are those people related to you by common DNA. But, I have discovered that the word family means so much more than common DNA. I have a large group of people I could and maybe should call family based on our common DNA, but based on what I have discovered I more identify family as stated in the Urban Dictionary:
A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other. Not to be mistaken with relatives sharing the same household who hate each other. REAL family is a bondage that cannot be broken by any means.
The household in which I grew up was not focused on love, security, trust and safety. Yes, there were some good memories, but more not so good memories. I moved a great deal as a child because bills were not paid and my father had trouble finding and keeping a job. My mother suffered from mental illness she did not know she had nor what name to call it. As I grew older I realized the dysfunction I was growing up in was not what I wanted for my own life. I certainly loved my parents and my siblings, but I just knew there was more and family should not make you feel scared, sad and distrustful to those around you. My mother and father also came from very dysfunctional and abusive childhoods. As a result, my mother developed survival skills to groom those around her to take care of her. She used fear, intimidation and guilt to get me to take care of her needs and responsibilities. During my adult years I tried to look the other way and keep my feelings to myself in order to maintain the mother/daughter relationship. But, each time something would happen and I would speak up. Because I would not give her what she wanted and needed we would be become estranged. We would not speak for years at a time. My guilt would surface and I would think how horrible a daughter I am not to see my mother. It is not that I stop speaking to my mother I just stop giving her what she requires and as a result she stops speaking to me because she cannot obtain what she needs to survive. She is not a bad person, just severely scarred. I never felt I could trust her to not use me (too many stories to tell). The same can be said for others in my extended family ( too many dysfunctional stories to tell, and at this stage in my life, no longer important to me.)
As I have looked inside myself and continue to look inside myself to be the best me I can be I have discovered I have picked up people in my life along the way. These are the people I surround myself with; the people who make me feel loved, safe and whom I can trust with my life. Some are related by blood, but most are not. Some have passed but when they were in my life they enriched it in ways I will never forget. My adult mother, Sharon, will always be in my heart. She came to me as a babysitter for my daughter, but she became the mother I always needed to heal. She guided me in my role as a mother, she helped me navigate the hard times of my marriage. She loved me and never expected anything in return. She helped me break the cycle of my family and helped me live a better life. When my husband died, my baby brother, Jimmy, came and sat with me all night. He was there for me through this difficult time and continues to be there for me no matter what and I am there for him. I could not ask for a better life partner than I have in George. I feel loved and secure with George. He trusts me and I totally trust him. We have wonderful children and I love his son as my own and he loves my daughter as his own. I have accepted George’s family as my family and they too have embraced and accepted me as part of their family.
I was born into one family, but through life’s journey I have acquired another family. If you are fortunate enough to have the nurturing family through DNA that is wonderful, but know that DNA is not the only thing which determines what a true family is supposed and should be. Family is about people not necessarily blood.
The above picture is of George and I with our children.