Wednesday, February 4, 2009

and that's family

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.

26 comments:

Emma Rose said...

Hello Andrea and Sophie! You are so right about what a family really is. We came to visit your blog and had a most enjoyable time. And we are quite excited to have met new friends too!
Thank you for your comment on Emma Rose.
Emma, Sir Bear, and The Duchess

Joanne said...

Families come in so many shapes and sizes, and if you look closely at your life, as you have here, it's amazing to realize that we're often a member of more than one. How fortunate!

Mildred said...

Hi Andrea, This is such a heart-warming post. Nalley and I never had children but we love other people's kids, nieces/nephews etc. and we have our pets also. Family is anyone or anything that supports you thru both the happy and sad. Your photo of girlfriends reminds me of my group from college days. Unimaginable changes have occurred in each of our lives but our love for one another has never changed. What a blessing!

Kathy said...

You are so right Andrea. I think that family is defined by each person individually. I am glad you and Sophie found each other.

Nicki said...

adorable dog!

Ed said...

To me family is where the heart is, no matter who you are with.

gigi said...

I have many famlies and we are all different in so many ways. I have my family, Harry's family, Our own children and grand children, our work family and our church family. They all make our life so full and complete. None are perfect but we love them so much any way. Loved this post.

Selba said...

Hi.. I'm blog hopping in here.

As a dog and cat lover, I really enjoy looking at your dog and cat pictures :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Family cannot be defined it must be felt, there must be some soul type connection..if it is not there, it is just not there. When it is, it is wonderful. I have many friends who are closer than family. Great Sophie photo! :)

Tom and Tama-Chan said...

Beautiful post, and so true. Our #1 always says that we are her family. And she felt the same about our brother, sweet Sen-Chan, who left us a month ago. So, imagine how she felt when someone "took back" condolences when they realised she had lost "only" a cat, and not a dog! Love and friendship, the core qualities of family, come in many shapes and it is only fools who don't appreciate that they can be found in a multitude of places.

Sharon said...

simply:)
You are a wonderful soul and I look forward to your post every day.

Natashya said...

We do make our own families, I believe that. It is not a right but a gift and an honour to be a family with someone - old, young, sick, healthy, male or female or animal. I love your perspective on family.

Debbie said...

What a wonderful post. You are right - there are so many different definitions and forms of family.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Families are so diverse now. They are always changing. It's sad to hear that lady say these sorts of things, but there are many people like her out there.

DogsDeserveFreedom

b&g girl said...

"It is built around our connections with others and it brings out the best versions of ourselves." love that part....

Neas Nuttiness said...

You are absolutely, positively, 100% correct!!! Family is who you love (2 and 4-legged), and who loves you back!!!!!!!

Suldog said...

I couldn't add anything useful to this. You are absolutely correct. Family comes from all places and types, not just your immediate blood.

Dughallmor Beagles said...

Wow....your header photo is stunning! I also love the one of your dog just gazing out across the lake, gorgeous!
Thanks for visiting us :o)
Slobbers xx

Joey said...

Hi Andrea and Sophie! Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice to meet you! I don't know much about families, but my mom says there are those you are born in and those you create. Sounds good to me!

See ya!
Joey

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

I have always felt that we alone can define who and what family is to us. Some people are related, some are not, we can all be family. I is our choice, not societies.

Jen

findingmywingsinlife said...

Yes Andrea, I believe you are right about what is family.

uought2b.a.dog said...

Hi! I love this post and totally agree with you!

Maggie May said...

this is beautiful and true.

Barry said...

Beautifully written, Andrea.

And so true.

SassyDog said...

Oh, I so agree. Family is what you make of it. It is so much more than a man, woman and child(ren). I have an 18 yr old daughter and all my dogs and cats. They are my family even tho I have a sister and brother. You have a wonderful family!

gtyyup said...

You are so right. I always love coming here to view your beautiful photos and read your insightful words...wonderful post~~