This photo includes my daughter, her husband, my granddaughter, my daughter’s father and his wife, his sister, my daughter’s sister….if you have trouble keeping all the specific labels straight, then do what I do.
Call them family.
The other night, I stopped to pick up my daughter at the home of her husband’s parents. And I teased her father-in-law, and hugged her mother-in-law, and they gave me a piece of the best, yummy cheesecake I’ve ever put in my mouth.
They are friends, but I do, completely, consider them to be family.
This woman was to have been my daughter-in-law. She is my grandson’s mommy, and my confidante and friend. She calls me Momma Bear.
I call her family.
A week and a half ago, my former husband – the man who raised my kids – died. We were married for eleven years, and he was the man who chased off the boys who broke my daughter’s heart, who sat in the bleachers and watched my boys play sports. Our marriage had failed, but those life events weren’t magically erased. At the funeral, his sons (who I helped raise) called me Mom.
We grieved together as a family. And kids – now adults – who had spent much of their childhoods at our house were there grieving as well, and also called me Mom. Not because they don’t have wonderful mothers with whom they have close relationships. Rather, it was their was of honoring and remembering the bonds we have shared throughout the years.
This is a woman who has been influential in my life for more than 35 years: my daughter’s grandmother. She taught me how to cook, and how to take care of a baby when I was nineteen years old. When our legal relationship crumbled, it is she who taught me that family is family and made not just me but also my boys feel included when there wasn’t a convenient label with which to identify us. She mothered me, and any woman will tell you how precious and inviolable that is.
I believe in the Words in Red, and Jesus Himself was very inclusive about his family relationships, and taught that to his friends and family as well. “Woman, behold your son.”
I’m very well aware that the way I define family – and the way I’ve taught my children to define family – goes against the grain. In fact, it can make those with whom I share legal and genetic bonds feel as if those bonds are not special sometimes.
But I honestly believe that the world could do with a whole lot more Family rather than less.