Family vs Heredity

Yesterday was extremely stressful at work and when I got home nothing seemed to go right either.  I sat there battling a horrible headache trying to sort out why for some reason parsec was not streaming at all.  I had to jump through a bunch of hoops involving restarting the clients on either end of the connection before finally returning full service.  On the positive I now know the best way to restore functionality of Parsec has just gone south on a box…  but on the negative it took practically all night to reach that point. To make matters worse… the evening culminated with a bit of a fight with my mother that I am at least in part going to talk about today.

On Monday night my last remaining Great Aunt passed away and I had been expecting to hear from my folks as to when the services were scheduled.  While I have fond memories of Aunt Lucille, she isn’t exactly someone I had seen regularly over the last decade or so.  When my Great Uncle who was the blood relative passed away, it halted a lot of their coming up to visit other family that I did see more often.  That is just sorta the way of your related family, is as various linkages disappear so to do the get together that surrounded them.  This is a reality that I guess the pragmatist in me has accepted this reality far better than I probably should have.

Where the source of the spat comes from…  is not necessarily the Funeral but instead the family reunion that was scheduled for this same weekend on my father’s side of the family.  She has been trying to tell me about all of these people that are coming…  for example one individual she was trying to convince me that I had met…  she eventually realized was last seen at my parents wedding.  This is where the conflict kicks in because in my mom’s mind the fact that you are related to someone trumps everything… and makes it immediately important that you drop everything you are doing to placate them.  For me the fact that I may see them once or even twice in my entire adult life…  makes me question if they are even really family?

I mean yes I understand heredity and relationships so we don’t need to go into a discussion about that.  What I mean instead is why should I invest any emotional resources in caring about a bunch of faces that ten minutes later I won’t remember any of the names that associate with them?  For me family is more the people you interact with on a regular basis and can count on, not some third cousin twice removed that my mom once remembered seeing at a reunion when my parents were still dating.  Again this is where I differ from my mother and became a great source of frustration, because I simply do not believe that blood is thicker than literally any other connection out there.

You can’t choose who you are related to, but you do get to choose the people that you make your family.  So the people that I record AggroChat with every single week…  those are family.  The neighbor down the street that we’ve been close with for two decades and literally cleaned up my blood after the human sprinkler incident…  that is real fucking family.  Rae who moved to Tulsa from Ft Smith Arkansas to take a job in my department…  and has since moved on to bigger and better opportunities…  is real family.  The little man around the corner from us who walks with my wife every night for a single blocks length…  and occasionally cooks meals for us is absolutely actual and legitimate family.  All of which I have a real tangible connection to that isn’t blood related but is far more real and important to me than some random stranger that I am told should mean something more to me than they ever will.

So ultimately I am wondering… am I just odd in the way that I make my familiar connections?  Is this a generational thing and there are others out there that are more like me than are my mom?  My wife and I had a discussion about this and she theorized that once upon a time folks simply didn’t move far away from each other so it was very easily to get back together regularly…  and in an era without free long distance and facebook people made more of an effort to do it on a regular basis.  I mean on some level the blood family that I think about of being family… are all within a few hours of where I live right now.  However I have to admit I don’t really put in the effort to see them on a regular basis.

We used to do this thing among the members of my generation, where we had dinner out on a regular basis and in truth we probably need to start this up again.  I do really like my cousins that also live in the Tulsa area and we tend to get along swimmingly…  but at the same time we are all also very busy with our own lives and careers.  With the existence of social media… it gives the illusion that you are spending time together that sorta salves over that feeling that you should really see each other more often.  Maybe it is simply because my wife and I met through IRC…  that I consider internet communication methods to be just as real as face to face ones.  Whatever the case there is a significant difference between how I view family and how my mom does.

So I am curious… how do you my readers out there define family?  Are you more like my mom or are you more like me… in finding family in your closest relationships regardless of heredity.  The truth is I will be taking my mom to the funeral and then driving her to the reunion afterwards… since they are on the same day.  Regardless of my personal feelings…  it is important to her and I want to make sure she gets there safely given she has fallen quite a few times lately.

8 thoughts on “Family vs Heredity

  1. I’m a great advocate of that old adage “You can’t pick family, but you can pick your friends”. Blood is not thicker than water as far as I concerned.

  2. I wound up doing a lot of rethinking about family when I was pretty young, soon after my parents divorced. I don’t mean my immediate family, even, but the extended family. Dad’s side did a (slow? fast? I don’t remember) fade from my brother, my mom, and myself. I was old enough to understand they might not want to stay in touch with Mom, but it was so weird to have grandparents and uncles and cousins fade out like that. I don’t remember it upsetting me, but I can’t really trust my memories – and even if I could I might have been just trying to “Be strong” and all that jazz. I do remember flying out for my Grandfather’s funeral while I was in between Basic Training and AIT…and all the family telling my bro Grandpa would have been proud of him for being in Civil Air Patrol and no one mentioning the part where I was in the Army? It was weird and even made my brother uncomfortable.

    I’ve been reminded of this a few times as an adult – a few of them have expressed interest in getting back in touch over the years, but I just can’t seem to summon up interest. I know they’re family but they’ve been out of my life for so long it just feels weird now. I was also never super close to a lot of them to begin with, in full honesty – we lived across the country from his family for most of the time my folks were together.

    My mom’s side was kinda spread out all over, though mostly in the Midwest. I was very close to her parents and still miss them very much, but the older I got the less often I was able to take time off work to travel out to see them. (I regret this now, but it was also the best I could do at the time.) I was semi-close with my mom’s sisters and their kids, but they were also people I normally only saw at the regular get togethers up north at my Grandparents’ house. My uncle on that side and his kids I honestly rarely saw at all – he was always a super busy lawyer with (I think) 6 kids and was often too busy to come to those family gatherings.

    I value my extended biological family, but it was my mom, my brother, my close friends who were actually *there* for me throughout my life. I always found it kinda weird when my friends were always having these huge family get togethers – they never seemed super excited to see most of the people there, it was more like this assumed automatic family obligation. I didn’t get to see some of my fam as mucha sI would have liked, but the ones I saw were the ones I really wanted to see, and I valued that time with people I loved.

    Anyway, I don’t know how much of this is just me, how much is bc even the extended family I was close to I rarely saw bc of distance, or if dad’s side pulling away affected it…but it was *definitely* before I ever got online.

    I have some biological family on social media that right or wrong, I’d probably not even be in contact with if not for that, so for me (at least in a lot of cases) that’s more creating some small connection than taking away from a larger one I’d otherwise have.

    (Also, sorry this got so long! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about family lately since I’ve moved away from the ones I *am* still close to, I suspect!)

  3. I had this same issue crop up recently with mom. She called in the middle of game night (when I get together with 3 other people who, very much like you say, are my *legit* family) and wanted to talk about family that had just passed and began talking about all these people that I *may* have met when I was 10. She became very agitated when I honestly said “I really don’t know that person and have no desire to hear about their life story while I am spending time with people who literally change their plans around this night so we can all be together”.

    We’ve had this discussion a lot. She will talk about family like it’s this holy thing and that I should care about someone who I have never met but is the son of someone I may have met when I was a kid as is distantly related to me. The only family I really spend any time with are my brother, my nephew, and a cousin and most of that is on facebook. I haven’t even visited my brother in a couple months irl. I spend more time with Sarah’s family than I do my own.

    Part of that is the abuse I suffered from mom (that almost no one really knew about until a few years ago, yay family secrets) and part of it is that my dad’s family are mostly all racist pricks. But really, to be honest? The largest factor is that my family is Jeremy who I went to college with and has been a brother to me for the 20 years since; John who I’ve gamed with for almost a decade now; Karl who I love dearly and was a coworker for a decade; Kris who has always been there for me; Sarah who is my other half; Sarah’s brother Jason who I only wish I could be as cool as. Those are my family. The people I lived with till I was 20 or spent time around once a year at family reunions…those are 20 years ago now. I’m busy and complicated and have limited time… I choose to spend time with the family I have made rather than the family I was dumped on. (This sentiment excludes my brother and his sons..who I have *chosen* over and over to be my family, lol)

  4. When I was growing up, my immediate family lived in the Chicago area, while the extended family all lived in northern Utah and eastern Idaho. Dad felt it was important to know them, plus they were my parents’ immediate families, so we’d take an extended trip out west every summer, and sometimes a shorter trip over the winter school break too. There was also a bi-annual “reunion” on Dad’s side that quite honestly never really felt any different than any normal visit, becuz they all lived close together so we’d see them all on every trip anyway.

    I did have an aunt and her husband, plus 2 cousins in Illinois, as my dad’s sister had come to work for him for a summer and met a guy out there she ended up marrying, so she stayed. As a result of that, I had a closer connection to those 2 cousins who were only slightly younger than me, and almost consider them younger brothers (emphasis on the almost…).

    As we grew up, though, the family reunions stopped as people moved farther away. My parents divorced and my dad relocated to Mineapolis, 1 sister has lived internationally for 12 years now (Dubai, Shanghai, Sohar, Delhi) and another sister spent a year in Astana, Kazakhstan and still visits there regularly, though she lives in southern California. Oddly, I’m less than a mile from my oldest sister, and less than 30 miles from my younger sister. But if my mom (about 20 miles) didn’t have a monthly family dinner, I’d never see any of them. I like them all well enough, but we’ve all moved on.

    So that puts me in the position where my blood relations don’t really feel like family to me, though I’ll still attend the “family events” out of a sense of familial duty. But I also don’t stay long at them either — it’s more of a “show up to make mom feel good” thing than anything.
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  5. I’m like you. Most of my blood-relations, aside from my parents, live far away and I rarely see them or have contact with them. It’s the people I surround myself with, that I can trust, that I consider close enough to be family. This does happen to include my sister and brother-in-law, but I was pretty good friends with my sister growing up, so it’s not surprising.

    I’m kinda a hermit and I don’t open myself up but to a select set of people, so “friendship” is rare, and “family” even more so.
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  6. Personally, I don’t really consider most of the people that I’m biologically related to to be my family. Long story short, there is a history of abuse that I needed to get away from. My biological family rarely contacts me, and then, its only because they want something from me. Honestly, it’s a relief that the worst ones have finally decided to leave me alone.

    For me, my close friends are my family. They are the ones who stuck by me in times of trouble, and times of celebration, and I’ve done the same for them. I’ve made an effort to let them know that I consider them to be my family. None of them live near me, but when we are able to connect (via internet, phone, or in person) … we pick up right where we left off.

    Oh, and my husband and I met through Yahoo Personals back in the day. So, I totally get what you mean when you said that you and your wife consider internet communications methods to be the same a face to face.

  7. You’re not weird.

    When I was younger we’d spend almost every other weekend visiting relatives in RI, where my mom was from and where her sister lived (in the same building as other aunts and cousins, etc). So my brother and I grew up very much attached to my mother’s side of the family.

    When my mom died, her sister was still alive; elderly and living in an assisted living home, she was…not well. Suffering from some kind of dementia. She had gotten duped by con-artists and had lost a lot of money. She got kicked out of her living facility and we lost track of her for a while until we learned she was in a hospital. Not long after, she died as well.

    Thing is, once my mother passed, we didn’t really keep in contact with her. We visited her a few times because when she was of sound mind she would call my father, but my father wasn’t her biggest fan; he repeatedly warned us not to get involved in her trials in her later years lest we be on the hook for her debt or end up as the contact for any issues her caretakers had.

    Sadly, I didn’t argue this point. Despite the connections we had with family when we were younger, it wasn’t that difficult to just let them drop. My father talks with his siblings, but if he were to die, I doubt my brother or I would maintain connections to our aunt and uncle. I don’t know why. It’s certainly not out of malice, and I think fondly of them, but our lives are structured just so and during a time after familial involvement was the norm.

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