Family or Relatives?

the older i get and the longer my journey gets,  the more i am able to see how different my life has been from the majority of people i have intersected with.   not better…not worse.   simply different.

growing up an only child made me quite a celebrity among my friends.   most everybody i knew came from families with multiple siblings and lots of extended family.   i was always looked at as privileged and pampered.   it don’t think it was true,  but i clearly had it better than most!

three of my four grandparents died before i ever met them.   my parents relocated from kansas to san diego before i was born,  so there was little or no interacting with aunts, uncles, or cousins during my childhood  (and beyond, for that matter).   i had a handful of moments with my one grandmother before she passed away.

my mom died when i was 33.   my father lived for another twelve years.   wanda’s family is not quite as small as mine,  but because of hard decisions we made when our kids were born,  interaction was limited for their good.   her father passed she was 28.   her mother lived for another 10 years.   my boys have little memory of their grandparents.    no aunts or uncles.   no cousins.

a few huge things happened to our family dynamic due to it’s size and lack of breadth:

first,  our circle of relatives has always been just the four of us.   no family reunions.   no awkward family holidays.   no pressure to blend our lives in with others.   simply the four of us.

second,  this has all changed for our boys now that they are married.   they now have to blend their lives in with the families they married into.   they inherited wonderful,  loving  extended families,  but this whole blending thing is still brand new to them.   we definitely didn’t prepare them for any of it!

third,  i have seen the incredible love that exists in many extended families.   there have been more than a few times that i have wondered what it would have been like to have a brother or a sister…or  aunts and uncles and a bunch of cousins.   there is no question that i would have loved to experience the joy of generational relationships with grandparents.   but it never happened for me.

fourth,  i have also seen the grief and guilt pressure and manipulation and drama and hurt feelings that so many families inflict on each other.   most of the time,  there is no appeal for me whatsoever…

finally (for tonight,  anyway…),  the role of the church in my life has been shaped and defined by my need for extended family.   the friendships and comradery in the church that i have experienced throughout my life and marriage and parenting mean everything to me. everything.

i had my friend kris remind me of a basic truth…one that is true for all of us:

relatives:   people who you are “related” to…people with whom you have a connection by blood.

family:  people you choose to let into your life,  some relatives,  some friends…people you can trust…people who will stand by you no matter what…people you love and you know will love you back…consistently and deeply.

do you know who your “family” is?


for my friends and “family” who either don’t know…or forget…that i am really a grandpa,  here are a couple of new pics of the great holden:






i wish you could all know him…


4 thoughts on “Family or Relatives?

  1. Family or relatives…good question. I definitely have some relatives. I have many people by blood and not by blood that I call family. Your post makes me stop and think…are there relatives that should be family? Are there friends that I want to move deeper into relationship with so that I can call them family? I think this helps in considering my priorities.

    Great pictures of Holden! Thank you for posting. He’s one special little guy.

  2. Interesting thought Debbie. I have some relatives that probably could be family if it weren’t for other relatives that stand in the way. Maybe I need to make a bigger effort to go around those people and not let them block relationships.

    On the other hand, sometimes distance plays a factor regardless. “Family” are the people I live out my life with, and I think sometimes it’s hard to be family if there is physical distance.

  3. I have been blessed with LOTS of family. I also have lots of relatives.
    I have had to work hard keeping my family, family and not have them turn into relatives. Unfortunately ,some of them are relatives now.

    family=friends and relatives.

  4. I want to comment, but not sure I can comment. This hits so close to my heart at this time in my life. My relatives became very dysfunctional when my father died unexpectedly. My brother and basically broke off ties with our mother because we finally figured out how toxic she was in our lives. I guess our father was a buffer and yet we never knew. His mother is my only living grandmother. I went from having a family of four grandparents, parents that were together 40 years and some cousins to not having any “family”. The friendships I have developed since I’ve been in Dallas are slowly moving off into another dimension. We don’t have too much “togetherness” with Larry’s family because their religious beliefs are more judgmental that we ever could be. I guess I could say we are at a turning point in our life, where our family is our children, but they have pretty much gone off on their own, so we have each other. It makes me sad because I always wanted to have the extended family concept. I have my brother but due to both our financial situations, we rarely see each other any more.

    I sound like a whiner… let’s just say we are at a strange stage in our lives…

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