For me, family is something that I have been lucky enough to choose.
I am an only child…..so there are no siblings to hold shared memories with. My parents were born in another country, and much of their families were left there when they immigrated to the United States. So I didn’t really grow up with the cousins and aunts and uncles that I might have had otherwise. I chose not to have children of my own, so there is no family in that arena as well. This all leaves me in an interesting position.
I think that being an only child has made me very comfortable with a high degree of solitude…in fact, I need solitude and space and quiet to replenish my spirit. I do love to be around people (small groups work better for me than large groups) when I feel comfortable with the people, but find that after some time, I need to come home to restore myself in quiet.
And yet, I have found myself thinking about some of the things that I can indeed miss about having family around. With the death of my parents (my father died 26 years ago, and my mother died 11 years ago) it has become an increasingly poignant thought to me that I miss having others to help hold some of my history with and for me. There is no one that I grew up with that can help me reminisce or laugh or cry about things past. There is no one that holds pieces of me from the past that I may have forgotten about. I am divorced, so even my relationships have been part of the lesson of letting go…although I still cherish memories of them and always will.
My ex-husband re-connected with me several years past and that has been such a gift to me. To have a connection with someone that I have loved (and always will). To have someone that has memories with and about me. To be remembered seems more important as I continue along this aging journey.
Several of my other partners in past relationships have died….as I continue to befriend grief more and more as each year goes by. And some dear friends have also passed away….aging is truly so much about loss. Its about more than that, for sure, but definitely about dealing with loss (and learning to appreciate each present moment more and more…) It’s easy, sometimes, to feel as if the pieces of me that were in those relationships have gone as well.
Yet, there are such gifts all around. I recently was lucky enough to be able to attend the 75th birthday party of a dear friend that I used to work with. This woman and I worked closely together, and we have maintained contact through the years. Indeed, she and her family “adopted” me in many ways and have been so kind as to include me in some of their family functions. One of those was a family reunion….I felt so honored to be included and seen as “family”. They have become a family of mine.
As I walked up to the front door on the way to the party, I ran into another dear, dear friend who also worked with us – I had not seen him for years. The welcome and joy and love that we felt was beyond description. I entered the house, saw my dear “birthday girl” friend and her many daughters and their families…..and felt such a sense of being included and significant to them. It was such an honor and privilege to be there….to be able to absorb some of the love that was flowing all around.
And so I realize, I do have family. Family that I have chosen that has chosen me. Family not by blood, but by love. Family that holds my history with them and sees me now. Family that remembers me and my presence on this earth. Family that I mean something to and that means so very much to me. Family that helps me reconnect to pieces of myself that I had somehow lost along the way.
I want to let you know, dear readers, that you have also become a family of mine. You read about my innermost thoughts and feelings, and when you respond, I feel the connection and the relatedness. When I feel the need to write and share, I post on this blog and feel as if I have been received and welcomed. And heard.
Isn’t that what family is about? A place to go to be seen, heard, accepted, included…..?And I hope that I offer you the same when I read your many wonderful blogs…..I really treasure that connection. We find family in so very many ways and in so very many forms. And I am grateful for them all. For each and every one of you.