The world at large defines family as multiple members or generations of a bloodline, the most common perception being a single household containing a mother, father, and approximately two children. The childfree are often bruised at this definition, as it is rarely if ever is used to define couples. We rally around the cry of “Families of Two!” But that’s not very accurate, is it?
I’m estranged from my family of origin. There is not a single person on this earth who is both blood-related and close enough to me for me to consider him family. I am part of a couple, but we aren’t a family of two, either. My family is an odd mix of people who have been a part of my life long enough for me to love their vices as much as their virtues. Some would call these people friends, but I think they are far too close to fall into that category. They’re family.
There’s my partner. He’s my center. He keeps this notoriously unstable woman on level ground, sometimes simply by being there. He’s my lover, my roommate, and my best friend. He drives me crazy some days, and keeps me sane some days. Some days, he’s just my buddy, someone to laugh and joke with, and muddle through the mundane aspects of life with.
There’s his daughter. While she’s not a part of our everyday life, she’s around often enough for me to have a link to the next generation through her. I love the relationship we’ve built. I’m an authority figure to her, but she doesn’t make me use that position much. Usually, I’m just her older friend, the crazy lady who lives with her daddy, takes her for walks, sits on the porch with her to talk or just stare at the sky, and tries make her eat more vegetables. What that child has against having green pepper in her salads, I’ll never understand.
There’s my best girlfriend. She doesn’t live close by anymore, but when she did we were inseparable. She’s the only woman I can stand to be around for extended periods of time. Even now, when she’s been away for nearly two years, nothing has changed between us. It’s the same friendship it’s always been, it’s just conducted more by phone than before. Over the years, we’ve helped each other through break-ups, medical issues, parental squabbles, and even passed around the same boyfriend a couple of times (one nearly ended our friendship, she ended up with the other one). She’s the closest thing to a sister I’ll ever know and I can’t imagine having a sister is much different than having her in my life.
There’s my best guy friend. We met during rough periods in our lives, and were so wrapped up in our individual issues, we didn’t take time get to know each other. We were loose acquaintances who said hello on the rare occasions we saw each other, and it stayed that way for more than half a decade. When (by mere chance) he started working at the same place I did, we used our past acquaintanceship to break the ice, and found a lot in common beneath it. I’ve developed a bit of a protective streak with him, and mutual friends joke that I’m his big sister. I suppose they’re right. Had circumstances been different, my relationship with my biological brother could have been much like this one.
There’s my partner’s best friend. A man of our parents’ generation, he’s lived “a roller coaster life” in the extreme sense of the phrase. He’ll call us out of the blue to invite us to the marina for dinner and to have a drink with him on his boat. His routine is to catch up on our news, ramble about politics for little while, and sit up all night telling us crazy adventure stories from earlier periods of his life. Shouldn’t everyone have an uncle like that?
Someone once said, “Friends are the family you choose.” I don’t know that I chose well, as my judgment often leaves much to be desired, but the right people tend to find you when you’re open to it. Somehow, I ended up with a bunch of people around me dear enough to call family.
Not one of them is a blood relative. Only one of them shares a home with me. None of them knew me when I was little. All of them have helped me and accepted my help. We all care for each other, worry about each other, and try to get together for special occasions. Isn’t that what a family is?