This column originally ran back in July of last year...when I used to take the train to work. :)
I heard a woman on the train the other morning talking to her friend about family. “A family,” she said, “is a husband, a wife and their kids.” The way she said it was so absolute and so final. Afterward, her statement tumbled around in my mind for days. I came to the conclusion that in a world that is so diverse, so ever-changing, and so rift with conflict and challenges, that her definition was simply not going to cut it. While I have been lucky enough to have that kind of family in my life, through my parents, my siblings and through Jones, my time with Sophie has shown me that there should be a much wider definition to that word.
I know of a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On one sunny afternoon in June, this man and his wife attended a backyard party hosted by another man and his three sons. This man and his wife had stood, unwavering with love, behind these four other men almost two decades ago and ever since, when a wife and mother was lost to an earlier battle against that same terrible disease. And on that June afternoon, the sweet summer air was rich with deep feelings of friendship and generosity and compassion. And the wall of support that these two groups of people have built around themselves was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch it. And that’s family.
I have four girlfriends that I have grown up with through the years. They are my constants in this world. I can count on them to celebrate my greatest moments, to mourn my deepest sorrows and nothing I do in this life would be complete without them. Almost all my memories, all of my laughter and all of my heart is wrapped up in them. And that’s family.
I have one dog who has led me down a path of discovery that I could have never imagined. She brings a kind of joy into my life that I find difficult to put down on paper because it is so all consuming. Her unconditional love makes even the toughest days bearable and my bond with her is important and valuable and precious. And that’s family.
I don’t believe that family can be defined in terms of roles or even species. It is built around our connections with others and it brings out the best versions of ourselves. It is made up of the beings in our life that stick with us through the hard stuff. That keep us grounded and whole and content. That touch our souls. That love us…no matter what. And that’s family.
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