My Family Tree is Broken.

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Why does understanding who is and who is not family have to be so black and white?

It seems like the more I try to identify or normalize what family is supposed to be or should be, the more my family evolves in to something much stranger and farfetched.

For example, the other day I got a message from a woman claiming to be my half sister, and from that moment on–I knew that my family life could never be conventional. It’s amazing that by blood I have this small and rather disconnected family, while through marriage or life, I’ve gathered the closest and strongest family around.

To give a better understanding, I was three when my parents divorced. They separated before I could ever know what it was like to have my mother and father living in the same house. My idea of family time was spending every other weekend visiting my dad while my mother raised me by herself. There weren’t many Christmas or Easter traditions because the majority of those holidays were spent with different sides of the family and often times in different cities.

Since my mother grew up on the East coast, her father, sister and my only cousin lived in New York, while my father’s side of the family lived in Washington. I was either traveling on Christmas day to be with one side of the family or it was a untraditional gathering with family friends. Needless to say, it was never the same.

Also, my family was constantly changing. My father remarried to another woman a couple years after his divorce from my mom to a woman who has been in my life since I was born. While her two daughters officially became my sisters, we were already extremely close–nothing but the label changed. To this day, I still consider them my sisters, and they truly are the most amazing women I know.

Almost from the beginning my step-mother included me in her family, and continues to do so even though her obligation ended long ago. Even her parents (my ex-step grandparents) continue to send me birthday cards every year. Even though we’re now just people with a couple degrees of separation, but they are part of the best family I have.

And then a little less than ten years later, my step-father came in to my life when my mother remarried, and while I still have my dad in my life, Kevin has stepped up to the plate by raising me while he continues to be the stability, or the rock I need in order to become the person I want to be. He’s been one of the most amazing mentors in my life, and his family has been just as loving and welcoming. From a teenager on, his parents, brothers, sister, aunts, grandparents and cousins (he comes from a large family) have been a huge blessing in my life–while none of them ever had to be.

What my intention of writing this was not to bore you with my family tree, but to sort of envelop that family isn’t always something you’re born with, and while I have another sister out there, I have already been blessed with three. I just wanted to share my story to give a better understanding that it’s okay if your family tree colors outside the lines, it’s 2013 for goodness sake–nothing is normal anymore.

For me, family is whatever you need it to be. I’m an only child who has two sisters by marriage, and a sister and brother by many years of friendship. I have a mother, step-mother, second mother, and father, step-father. Not including a whole bunch of family that doesn’t share any of the same blood, but believe me when I say they’re more of a family I could have ever wished for.

& while I’m excited to meet and learn all about my new sister, she just has to keep in mind that in my world, family is what you make it.

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