Mirror Mirror - 2019


The Necessity of Family

By Jennifer Allen

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof." ~ Richard Bach

When we think of the word family, it seems that everyone has a different definition depending on their circumstances in life.

For most, it is a word associated with close relatives such as parents, siblings, cousins and so forth. For others that word can be interpreted as a bond between you and your closest friends.

The word and its personal meaning to you certainly have sacred quality to it, regardless if your families are blood relations or not.

For many cultures, there is a sense of obligation to persistently be in contact with your close family. You preserve ties with your mother, father, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, and anyone else whom you have a blood relation to. Now it tends to get a bit more complicated if something like a divorce, death or remarriage of a relative occurs, of course. Often, especially in the case of a remarriage, there is the factor of the new spouse's family which can get tossed into the mix as well. Of course if you get married, there's your spouse's family to consider. Add in if you're adopted, and possibly find your birth parents later on. You then have your adopted family and your birth family and….

Well let's just say that keeping track of all your relatives can potentially get extremely intricate and confusing.

For some others, there are those people whom you have been so close to for a portion of your life that you feel that they are just as important to you as your blood relatives. This can also potentially get confusing such as someone you love like a sibling but isn't actually your sibling or an older person whom is like a surrogate parent to you.

Are they any less family just because they don't share some of the same DNA as you?

I had two recent scenarios which have placed my own definition of “family" in a very challenging position.

I went to visit a friend whom I've known for over 10 years for a weekend. He recently lost his wife to cancer (I was also very close with her) and he simply needed to get out of the house and have some fun. We had some fun moments and some embarrassing ones, and of course we took some time to remember and celebrate his wife's life.

She never wanted a funeral, so I felt this was a good way to honor her memory. While we may not be actually related, these two always felt like close family to me. Hearing about her sickness and later her death seriously affected me. Her lack of presence in the house was also very apparent during the visit which made the experience very surreal. In the end, it was an enjoyable time and we both felt that she was properly remembered.

On the flip side, I also recently went to visit my stepmother and father for his birthday. They've been married now for almost 30 years, so my stepmother has been a part of my family life since I was in my mid-teens.

Over these 30 years I've grown more distant from them due to our gradually diverging ideologies. I won't go into detail but let's just say that my parents have become increasingly more… not me.

There's still a few small moments that remind me of my childhood and “when things were simpler" but for the most part going to visit them has felt more like receiving marching orders to head into battle. After four days I wanted to just hide in the bedroom and not interact with them at all in fear that a heated argument would ensue. I felt like I was a stranger in that house the longer I was there.

My husband and I have always had differences on how we relate to our relatives, and honestly most of my actual family have such extreme personality traits or have done such bizarre things in their lives that you would think I come from the Addams Family lineage or something.

To be honest, even with my Geek lifestyle I feel that I'm one of the more “normal" ones. Due to each family member's “unique" personality traits, I've just never been as close to them as my husband is to his family.

On the other flip side, my close friends feel more like family to me even with our personality differences. I have another close friend whom I call my brother even though we're not technically related. Spending time with my friends does feel like I have to become a social chameleon in order to adapt. I can be more real, and they can do the same in turn. To me, that is more what a true “family" is all about.

I guess it's all about perspective and your own life experiences, but in my case I have become more aware that being connected by blood doesn't always make for the best definition of what a family should be.

Ultimately, it's all about respect and acceptance… and that is much more important than simply being part of someone else's ancestral tree.

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Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer & Graphic Artist.