Monday, October 29, 2012

Families of blood and affiliation

Families have been on my mind a lot lately. So, please forgive today's deviation from more writer-ly topics.

As I see it, there are three different types of families:
   1. Blood;
   2. Surrogate ; and
   3. Affinity.

For me, blood means the family you were born or legally adopted into. You don't get to pick this family, they or fate pick you.

The second group, surrogate, are the people with whom you had a near blood relationship with growing up. These people tend to be your parents' close friends, and your close friends' parents. You have a little more choice over who falls into this group. There are only three people I consider part of my surrogate family.

The rest of the people who are more than just acquaintances to me fall into the last group - my family of affinity. They are the people I chose to share my life with. You know who I'm talking about. They are the people you can call up the day before a move, and have them show up on your front door to help for nothing more than the promise of pizza. They'll even show up when the last time you talked to them was two years earlier when they moved you into the place you're now moving out of. Those people. My husband - in case he was wondering - falls into this category.

I haven't forgotten the pets and other critters that share our lives. But they're their own special class of family.

So, why is family on my mind? The usual reason. If you read my blog post over at the Fictorian's site, you'll get the sense of it.

I had a very June Cleaver-like childhood. My mom worked, but not until we were all in school, and then only on a part-time basis until I was in high school and stopped coming home at 3pm. A few years back, I asked her about something that was bothering me, a mother myself now:

"Mom," I said. "We always had dinner at 5:00, right?"
"Yes," said Mom.
"HOW?"I  wailed. I struggle to get dinner on the table by 8:00, and am often still in the office at 5pm.

So, she told me that she only worked until 2:00 until I was older and my siblings were already in college. AHHH. Okay, now I get it.

Anyway,  my surrogate family was a tangible force. And I've been blessed with a wonderful family of affinity. No one likes the knowledge that one, or in my case all three, of their family groups is going to be smaller in the near future. But that love, and loss is what makes us.

Weighed on the scales of the somewhat idyllic family life I had is my husband's job. He is a Guardian et Litem, or a lawyer appointed to represent the children who get caught in the American justice system. Sometimes these kids are the victims, usually of people who were suppose to protect them, and sometimes the kids are accused of crimes.

So, what's been on my mind other then the looming threat of loss lately?

Why do people insist on telling us things about those we've lost when that information will change how we see the person?

How does a parent abandon her child from an earlier relationship in favor of her current lover's children?

How does a parent neglect or intentionally harm a child?

Does the loss of a surrogate parent cut as deeply as the loss of a biological one?

Why is it easier to accept the decision not to treat a terminal illness of a surrogate parent than a biological one when that choice is probably the best for that person?

How in the face of all the ugliness in the world, do some people find the  love to take in other people's cast off children?

Why is is sometimes easier to rally around an affinity family member than a biological one?

Is the only real difference between my somewhat arbitrary definitions of "family" just the amount of baggage we carry into the relationships?

I don't know. But these are the thoughts that keep me up at night lately. Maybe I write to try to figure out the answers. Maybe the answers are unknowable. But I do know this, losing family, regardless of how you define it, is tough.


Sloane Taylor said...

Excellent blog, Nancy. I see why you stay awake at nights thinking.:) For me, I always more affection and trust in my affinity family. But then again, I was more selective in choosing them. lol

Holley Trent said...

Yeah, I struggle with that 5 o'clock dinner thing. I was raised by my grandmother who'd already retired by the time I came into the picture. We ate dinner EARLY. Like, I'd get off the bus in the afternoon and barely got my shoes off before food was on the table.

Now, I'm lucky to get the family fed by seven and I'm home all day.

Nancy DiMauro said...

The differences between the life we had as kid and the life we can give our kids is a bit amazing. It's not just that the work/school balance has changed, there are ripples throughout everything. I use to ride my bike for hours, alone and through three or four towns. Heck, I'd never let my boys do that now. The world's changed and not for the better.