What Makes Family?

This past weekend we went to my dad’s 80th birthday party. I met a cousin I’d never known and visited with another I haven’t seen in more than 20 years.

Yesterday morning a life long friend called me and we talked about family and friends, some still with us and some already gone. One thing we both appreciate about our 40-year friendship is that we know we can always count on each other.

Last night my husband helped #1Son start figuring out summer employment ideas before heading off to college, while I made sure #2Son had the correct charger plug and cable for his iPad.

This morning I chatted with a friend of just 15 years. I truly appreciate this gal, because she is sassy and forthright, sort of like my sister was.

All these little snippets bring me back to the opening question: what makes family?

Blood is certainly one way one makes a family, marriage another. I like to think that shared history and experiences can also forge those bonds.

There are times I’ve lived through with friends that have been so significant and deeply important that in the aftermath, there is no other answer than that person is my brother or sister.

Since Dad’s party several days ago, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the concept of family, what that means, and the curious notion that sometimes those bonds are hugely strong between people who grew up together and other times between people we meet along the way.

The family I grew up in was one of three distinct possibilities. I am adopted and my birth parents did not stay together. So, I could have grown up in my parent’s household, with my birth parents (had they stayed together), or with my birth-mother (and the man she eventually married).

Because I absolutely adore my husband and sons, I would never trade my life, from beginning to end, for anything. All the people and experiences that have come and gone have added up to me meeting Les in May 1988, and the rest became our history.

The family I grew up in is largely gone. It’s just Dad and I left and we’re not close. We love each other, but there are just some times when the best you can do is take a step back, stay in touch, share what you can, and let God take care of the rest.

The family my kids are growing up in is small but old. Les’ sister traced the Heen family tree back to the year 600 AD. There are no oodles of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who gather at the holidays. We are honest with each other. We yell sometimes and laugh a lot. My kids know that no matter what, no matter where or when, they can count on us.

For me, that’s the most important part. The people I count as family are those I can count on no matter what.

What makes family for you?

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