I had a family once. I had a father, a mother, a brother, a dog, paternal grandparents. Cousins once close to vanished into their own lives.

From the time I was born to the age of fourteen my family life was good, basically. A two parent household, although my father worked six days a week and he wasn’t “present” much. All I thought I really needed was my mother so I was ok with that. A beautiful home I was proud of and feeling blessed to live in. Great neighbors and friends. My brother was four years my senior and from the moment I was born there was conflict. He told my mother to “take her back, we don’t need her here” upon bringing me home from the hospital. As it has turned out to this day, that indicator has rung true. No brother….he is alive but not a part of our lives.

My paternal grandparents lived in the town that would become my own. I was born here by the sea. I stayed with my grandparents as my parents traveled often, so I was always comfortable here. Looking back, I’m glad we relocated. My father was born here and my grandparents started their married life here in 1924. At the time, I was adamantly opposed to moving. I was angry, furious by my parents decision to move us from our beautiful home, my friends, our neighbors…to a place I hated in terms of structure and location within the city. It changed me dramatically.

I had become a wayward teenager as my family broke apart. Spiraling out of control in so many ways. Looking back, I was so unhappy. Never scared, just unhappy as I tried to find my way.

Fate would direct me to places no young teenager should have been. One of the brightest things that happened along the way was receiving the gift of lasting friendships.

During the “storm” of my teenage years, I met and to this day have a few very close friends who have become my family. Having no one left on the planet who knew you from a very early age is quite unsettling.

One of the most heart-wrenching things I feel is that none of my family got to meet my son. My parents would have been overjoyed. My grandmother held him as a newborn, but she was ninety seven and not really cognisant of my baby. ( I did get a picture of them that I treasure!) My parents were close to my brothers children when they were young, as I was for a brief moment in time. That all changed drastically as I will write that story in this blog. Needless to say I don’t have a brother any longer, or a niece or a nephew. They made choices, serious choices. I have forgiven my brother’s weakness and abandonment. The way he wasn’t there for our mother through the fourteen year battle with lung cancer. I was the primary caregiver. He has never met my son. I think, what a loss for David.

For over twenty seven years now, there have been no family gatherings. Thanksgivings, holidays, birthday celebrations, graduations, accomplishment celebrations, pivotal life moments where family could be together to share in the joy of life’s blessings. It’s lonely.

I have adapted as has my son. My hope is my son will have a big family and not have to experience the quietness of not being surrounded by the love and joy of family.

When I had my family I made mistakes early on, who didn’t?….but I always knew they loved me, except for David of course. I will write stories in this blog of my grandmother and her traditions that I observe in her honor to this day. My mother’s brilliance, her deep love for her children, her career, her quest to make a difference in so many people’s lives, her courageous battle with cancer. My father’s humor and zest for life ( something I am so thankful for, as he passed suddenly at sixty two years old).

No matter what type of family you have it’s an important component of a life if you want it to be. It’s a lot of choice. Family is what you individually make it. Sometimes you lose everyone and you adjust. I was so fortunate to have mine while I did. If not for their love and unconditional support early on in my life, I would not be the mother or the woman I have become. I have learned along this path that you don’t have to have the same blood in your veins to have a family. You need willing, loving humans ( and pets ) to form a bond that is family. I am so grateful the people I love the most stepped up to fill voids I never thought could be filled.

Last week our neighbor Louise celebrated her 100th birthday. We, the neighbors all stood in her driveway with balloons and smiles to wish her happy birthday. She is the most active 100 year old person I know, gardening everyday. I asked her, “What is the secret to living this long?” She smiled broadly and said “family” then hesitated and looked all around her and said “and friends”.

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