“In many situations speakers are not aware of what may appear to be an indirect but conscious hint.” ~ Robert Haskell, Ph. D.
There was a time when I would refer to people in my life as my “sister,” “mom” or “grandmother” to my children, until my real mother and sister came back into my life. We often fill gaps in relationship with such referrals to others. Others who, rightfully, should be valued for their actual relationship to us. A good friend is just that, a good friend. And good friends (who often turn out to be great friends) may be like a sister or brother but they are not our sister of brother. The parents of our friends may have the qualities we believe make for good mothers and fathers, but they are not our mother and father, not our parents.
It’s easy to construct a family when you don’t have one. It’s easy to construct a family because we can emotionally give each person the attributes we feel a sibling, or parent, or extended family member, should have. I know — been there, done that. However, when you have been given the opportunity to connect with your real family, your true family, the reality is that relationship with family is not always a tapestry made exclusively of warm and fuzzy textures. It can rub against you rough at times.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things…and now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11 & 13
Although I was already a mother and grandmother when my own mother and sister came back into my life, acknowledging their rightful relationship status to me is important. We share blood — and while water may be easier to drink, it isn’t as rich in life-sustaining qualities.
Relationship is hard work. If it were easy, then everyone would be a part of the proverbial (and mythical) “one big happy family.”
Recently, I had the good fortune to meet some more of our people — cousins. They have come into my life as grown adults, not as children with space to share and secrets to hold close, and that’s okay. I and my daughters, along with my grandchildren, now have a mother, a grandmother / great-grandmother, an aunt, and cousins we can claim as naturally and truly our own.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing I realized about relationship with true family is this: logically I know that I haven’t spent my entire life with my mother or sister, or surrounded by my cousins; emotionally, however, it feels as though I have. There is both a physical and emotional comfort and familiarity that runs deeper than the years we’ve been apart.
Family statuses — my family is my family, my in-laws are my in-laws, my friends are my friends. I love them all. Relationships made healthier by embracing the reality of who we are in relationship to one another.
I was listening to the call of family. I was ready when I heard it. It is a gift worth proudly displaying on the mantle even if it doesn’t match the décor.