Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Redefining the Meaning of “Family”

Recent events have caused me to examine what the word “family” means to me and who it describes. Traditionally one’s family is thought to be those you are related to by blood and by marriage. But that’s genealogy. After what happened this weekend, I now believe that for me, merely sharing the same blood does not give someone “family” status.


To me, family means those who uplift you, those who add joy and love to your life, those who are there for you when you need them. Family does not forsake you. Family does not beat you emotionally until you crumble, bloody and broken. Family does not kick you when you’re down. Family does not unapologetically treat you badly, and expect you to carry on the relationship as though nothing happened.

So with this new definition, I had just one family member left—my sister. She was the only one who supported me when my 87 year old mother (who I believe has advancing dementia) started treating me like she hated me this summer. The meanness inflicted by the one who brought me into this world was incredibly difficult to bear, but the complete lack of empathy of my so-called family magnified that emotional pain a thousand-fold.  At least I had my sister. Or so I thought.

This weekend, she got mad at me and for a good half hour she ripped me a new one; actually several new ones. We’ve only had one fight our entire adult life, and that was nothing compared to this. She said such demeaning, hurtful things that I wondered if she’d become possessed because I couldn’t fathom how all of that loathing could be inside her all this time and was only now coming out.

When she was done with her diatribe, she said “You know, you do have family who care about you.” I pointed to my three cats and said “I know I do. One, two, three.”  This enraged her and she stormed out. But as I looked at my precious, sweet and loving earth angels with fur, I realized it was the truth. Annabelle, Mickey and Rocky are my only family.

That does not make me sad, though. I feel so blessed to have these three family members who will always love me, who will always be there for me, who will always offer a comforting purr when I’m sick and an uplifting head-bonk when I’m sad. The human beings I’m related to by blood or marriage are not my family. Blood is just blood. It does not determine who deserves the title of family.

23 comments:

  1. Too often one's blood relations fall short of one's expectations, even when those expectations aren't very high. I can always depend on my cats to make me laugh and love me.

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  2. Oh gosh. I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm hoping that, with time & a little distance from the disagreement, things might improve between you & your sister.

    But I DO agree - "family", true "family" can indeed be the people YOU select. Just because you're related to someone by blood doesn't mean you'll get along - or even LIKE each other.

    ((hugs)) sent to you from me & the Clowder ...
    (And MomKatt)

    Purrz,
    Selina

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  3. We're so sorry, Julia. You're so right, though ... the BEST family is the one who you choose for yourself, and who love you unconditionally.

    Hugs and purrs to you, dear friend.

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  4. it is sad that those who are "supposed" to care most for us sometimes don't. but....your family - the furry ones and those of us online that love you too - are the ones that count

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  5. Sadly, I can relate to this, all too well: "Blood is just blood. It does not determine who deserves the title of family." my heart goes out to you. ((((hugs))))

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  6. I feel for you, I really do because I have the same situation except mine us a brother. You have a Great family in your cats, also please count friends, as I am with you 100%!! Keep your chin up!
    Connie Marie

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  8. We're sorry your human family treats you that way, Miss Julia. Stick with us cats...we'll love you unconditionally, as you well know. :)

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  9. Animals are the best at teaching unconditional love. Hugs. - Crepes.

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  10. My Mom cut herself off from her family and doesn't regret it. It's too bad we can't choose our family like we do our friends. My Mom's advice would be "move on".
    xx Trish

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  11. My human's friends and her cats have always been her family. She is closer to her boyfriend's family (who are nice people and not dysfunctional human cartoons) than her own, and she does not care. She emotionally separated herself from her family when she was a child and is happier for it.

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  12. You get to pick your friends; you don’t get to pick your family. I’m not even sure you get to pick your cats cos sometimes WE pick YOU and there’s nothing you can do about it. TW’s Mom and Dad are long deceased and sometimes she cries that “not even the cat loves me” cos I bite and attack her. Be thankful your cats love you.

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  13. annabelle & crew...de food serviss gals sister N brother hada fight sew manee yeers ago they due knot even noe what de fite waz a bout any more...N this goes bak inta everee generation...noe joke...ya can love sum one, ya don't have ta like em, ya can like sum one, ya dont have ta love em, N ya can pick manee things...but sad lee, knot who ewe iz ree lated two....any purrson who tellz ewe ther familee iz all bout carin N sharin N livin ta love one another iz see in de werld thru rose colored glasses with a bad presciption...

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  14. Many of us can relate in our own ways. I have scars the size of an ocean caused by family. Some of the scars have healed, some have not. For those where the relationship is irreconcilable, I no longer carry the burden in my heart for it is there loss, not mine. This Christmas I will be blessed to have my family with me - both blood and through Dan. We have all had our ups and downs, but thankfully we care about each other so much. I am sorry to hear that your family has brought you heartache and pain. But you are right, you have Annabelle, Mickey and Rocky, and you also have your friends who care about you as well.

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    1. I meant to type ... it is "their" loss...

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  15. No one has an automatic right to treat you poorly. It doesn't matter whether they are related to you by birth or not. We have gone through this in our family over the last year, as well, and are keep repeating the mantra: A family is a circle of friends who loves you. (And of cats, too.)

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  16. Family are the ones who care for you, and it doesn't matter if they have four paws and wear fur. Much love to you this Holiday with all of us who do care.

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  17. Oh Julia, that is hard for sure...family dynamics can sure be tough and tricky. Your precious kitties are your family as mine are mine.

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  18. I certainly can identify with that......and came to the same conclusion - I prefer the unconditional love my non-human family gives me sometimes MUCH more than the human.....keyword: unconditional!!

    Pam

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  19. Merry Christmas to you and your true family, the ones who love you.

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  20. It takes strength to recognize this. It is a first step. So proud for you

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  21. I sorry and I hope u feel more betterer. :)

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  22. happee 2014 guyz….heerz ta happee nezz, health, loves N hope two nite ya get sum high qualitee grazz N nip N hope ya findz a donut shoppe open round 3:18 AM when ya haz de muncheez !!

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