Jul 16 2012

Who says you can’t choose your family??

My sister stopped over the other day. She wears flowers in her hair, everyday. In winter, she wears a halo of them around her hat. She rides her bike everywhere; her legs are stronger than any athlete. Her eyes are as blue as …. Well, when I painted her before I had to use a combination of cerulean blue with a touch of cobalt and lots of water. I still missed the mark. I don’t think the colour comes from any pigments on earth. She is one of the most “sparkly” people I know.


She sat across from me at the kitchen table. We talked about the newest developments in each of our lives and how far each of us was on our quest.  In one of our pauses she looked me straight in the eye and with all truth and sincerity said, “I don’t need you, you know”.  I thanked her from the bottom of my heart and told her that I didn’t need her either. It was perfect. What an amazing complement. We don’t need each other, we choose each other.


We are not related by blood. Our families of origin do not know each other. I have no idea how old she is. I met her on a chilly spring day when the crocuses were just poking through earth, while the small mounds of snow still lay stubborn on each side of the driveway.


I had noticed her before, when I was a young girl. She wore a hat and flowers in her hair then too. She occasionally rode her bike past my neighborhood. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of her pedaling along while I was riding the bus on the other side of town. I was curious about her. .


Years later, after my husband and I moved to the house we are in now, I saw her more often. She only lived a few blocks away. That spring afternoon, I saw her walking her dog in front of the house. She was wearing her usual flowered hat, a black and red checkered lumber jacket and rainbow striped leg warmers. I had guests over but the pull was too strong. I excused myself and told my husband, “That’s it; I’m going to talk to her”.  So I put on my coat and slipped on some shoes and went out to her.


We have spoken to each other for hours at a time, every Saturday or Sunday morning since that day over the last seven years or so. She is my sister, as sure as the ones I share DNA with.  I am so glad that we found each other after all those years.


You know that saying, “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” That’s not true. You do get to choose your family. You just have to let go of the notion that your family has to have the same genetic coding. You have to get out of your head that the people that sat across from you over dinner as a child or that you find yourself surrounded by at family reunions are your only family. Everyone knows that just because a group of people live together under the same roof or they share certain similar physical attributes doesn’t make them family.


The families I had seen on television in my youth were nothing like mine. Some of the relationships that grew under the roof of that house were and still are pretty wonderful while others were filled with fear and confusion and painful distance. Some were just dangerous.  I used to get pretty upset about the ones that were painful. I used to feel a little cheated or defective. “Why did this or that happen, what did I do to deserve this or that? Why can’t I have a normal family?”


I took a good look at this idea of family and what it really meant to me.
I had proof that blood alone does not make a family.


For instance, in my family of origin I have three brothers. One is by blood. The other two are adopted. I had no idea as a young child that this was the case. When I found out, I remember not knowing what it really meant, I thought adopted was just another name for brother. At the same time, I had a deep understanding of what a real brother was. I can say with all honesty I have two real brothers. I do not know what to call the other one.


In the worst of times, when I really started to see what was going on around me, I snuck into my father’s room hoping to find a hidden adoption certificate of my own. I thought it might explain a few things.


 I just wanted to feel normal and have a normal family.


Then I got to thinking. I did and still do! I have the most perfect, wonderful amazing family; the kind that dreams are made of. I’m not just talking about the family that I created here with my husband. I’m talking about my mothers and my brothers and my sisters. I have a ton of them. I just had to be open enough to the idea that they weren’t all going to be sharing the DNA.


At every point in my life, I could see that people came into my life to nurture and challenge me; encourage, comfort and support me; and to provide a safe place to rest my head at exactly the moment I needed them.


I could have missed out on this wonderful family if I had put limits on who those people could be.


My family has changed so much throughout the years. Some of them were only here for a little while, just long enough to set me on the right path or to share a difficult part of the journey with. Some of them have left for a while only to return years later to reunite. Others have never left my side, after all these years, both blood related and soul related. Some of them that are around me now are both.


I have a large family; a big, amazing, wonderful family. We choose each other over and over again.

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  1. Tim Stewart

    Happy to be part of this wonderful family sis.

    1. Constance Stewart Meloche

      Thanks for choosing me too!!

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