“Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. ‘Be still’, they say. ‘Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” -Author Unknown
During the past several years as the inevitable effects of aging have started to affect my family members, I have come face-to-face with situations that have required a change in long-held attitudes and beliefs. Even though I have spent over half of my life assisting others professionally with aging and family issues, it is very different when the aging process affects those you love (and yourself). These changes have forced me to re-examine the roles that we all play in our families. They have also forced me to ask myself what exactly ‘family’ means and why is this important.
The traditional meaning of a family system includes biological kin. Mom, Dad and siblings born out of their union. Full-blooded siblings. But my original family unit is anything but traditional or typical. The early death of my father and the re-marriage of my mother and step-father has produced siblings that are not all full-blooded. Our family includes; full-blooded siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings and step-parents. Different members that have blended blood types, characteristics and traits. But are we still family even though we don’t all share the same bloodline? My answer is yes. As we all shared similar experiences as children and have common memories, these shared memories and the feelings that they produced have bonded us together. Our perspectives may be different but that is what makes us individuals.
So, to me, family is more than blood. In fact, folks do not even have to be related to feel like family. All of us have people in our lives that we feel completely comfortable and safe with yet we do not share one drop of blood. In fact, some feel closer to these ‘friends’ than they even do to their biological family members. Family disagreements, hurt feelings, and unresolved issues may have resulted in conflicts between biological family members that are difficult to heal. Sometimes they never heal. So the members remain family in name only.
For some, biological family ‘answers’ can be a longing that can turn into a life-long search. For these folks (like me), this search can provide much-needed contact and connections. Did you know that a genealogical quest can reveal much more than just the names of ancestors or the dates that they lived? It can lead you to meeting real live relatives. Websites such as http://www.ancestry.com have made this search much easier too. All it takes is a little bit of basic information to start you on your way. I warn you though, this quest can be addictive….in a good way 🙂
What does family mean to you? Does it mean shared memories (good and bad), intense feelings (love, happiness, anger, etc.), or just the inevitable holiday get-together and reunion that you wish would go away? Whatever meaning it has for you, one thing is certain. Good or bad, families are here to stay. Why not make the most of yours and treasure those familial bonds that you do have? After all, you never know what the future will hold in store for you or them.