Let’s start with some basic housekeeping of sorts and provide some family background about me.
My parents divorced when I was one. I was their only child. I lived with my mom and I remember spending weekends and even entire summers with my dad and my grandparents and extended family on his side. I was the first grandchild on my father’s side and I was in the middle of the pack on my mother’s side. My dad was the oldest in his family and had four sisters and my mom was the youngest in her family and had four brothers so they both came from homes with siblings. Both sides provided grandparents, many aunts, uncles and cousins and I truly cherished the times I spent with all of them. I have many fond memories, funny stories, and treasured times.
My mom remarried and I went from being an only child to the youngest and only girl with four older stepbrothers. To this day, that is my family. My father remarried and after years they divorced and then he met and married his last wife whom he was happily married to until the day he passed away. When my father passed away, I was still his only child. And although he is gone, I still enjoy a wonderful close relationship with his wife and she is also my family.
Here I am as an adult, married and a mom to an adult daughter and she is an only child. Sadly, I no longer have any living grandparents. Despite the tragic loss of my dad, I am still blessed to have my mom, step-father, four stepbrothers and their families, step-mother, as well as in-laws and my husband’s siblings and their families. And we can’t leave out, the uncles, aunts and cousins. Families really branch out and there are connections just about everywhere. Family can be defined in many ways.
So I found myself wondering about the definition of family and the labels we all have. I was an only child, but then I gained step-siblings, so what happens to the only child label? Am I no longer an only child? In terms of DNA if we want to get technical, I am still an only child. Honestly, I could care less about labels. I care more about relationships and bonds and I believe family has individual definitions that are so complex that one cannot be rigid and inflexible when trying to figure it all out. In the end, I think family is not always about DNA, but about the connection.
I would be lying if I didn’t disclose that I have always felt a little part of me was missing a blood sibling. It’s funny because my daughter thrives on being an only child and emphatically states she is happier as an only child. I’m happy that she is happy in her family role. For me, even as an adult, there is that little part of me that has always felt just a little something missing.
Life is journey and nothing seems to remain constant. “Just wait” is one of my favorite simple sayings because life has a way of changing things up when you least expect it.
For me, one of those life changing moments happened when my dad passed away. Obviously it was devastating, unexpected and tragic in every sense, and these words don’t do justice to the gravity of that loss and the experience around it. But as I was attempting to navigate everything that the loss of a parent encompasses…I was presented with a photo that would set me on this journey of connection.
In the next post I will dive into the murky waters of that photo and everything else that would soon follow.