They say blood is thicker than water. Well that’s just crap. I mean, except for literally. I suppose blood does have higher viscosity than pure water, but as for as the colloquial meaning of that saying, right now I kinda want to punch it. Because it’s So. Completely. Wrong.
“Found family” is a concept I’ve thought about a lot since I met my “Doctor Who family” and started going to conventions. Don’t get me wrong, I love my biological relatives. But the idea that I love other folks less, simply because their DNA doesn’t match mine closely enough, is patent nonsense. In fact, when we actively choose people to bring into and then keep in our lives, I think it’s a much stronger statement than an accident of amino acids and meiosis. Shared experiences create a stronger bond than a similar pattern of nucleotides. (Of course, those choices and experiences can happen with people to whom we’re also related, but that’s beside my point here.)
People come into our lives at different times and for different reasons. The fact that an entrance doesn’t come via a relative’s birth-canal has no bearing on what those people mean to us. (Or at least to me.) Some people don’t come into our lives; they’re there from the start–we come into their lives, and not even all of them are biological family. Sometimes those found-family ties are so right and so strong they span generations. When I was born, my parents were already fast friends with Bob and Cathy. Their daughter Jennifer used to babysit me when our parents would go out doing whatever parents did when their kids weren’t around. I may never have called Bob “uncle” or Cathy “aunt”, but that didn’t really mean anything. They were always family. Heck, I saw them more often than I saw my far-flung biological aunts and uncles.
When I heard that Bob passed away, I was gutted. Grief doesn’t do genetic-identity testing. It roams across the borders between blood-family and found-family without even pausing to declare baggage at customs. I can’t quite get my brain around the idea that there’ll never be a “next time” I see Bob. As I grew up, went to college, started my own life apart from my immediate family, and then emigrated to another country, I gradually pulled further away from the life of my first home and home town (as is natural–I don’t regret it; it’s a part of life). Despite that, I always knew I could count on seeing Bob again. Whether it was chatting with him and Cathy at one of my parents’ band’s gigs, or a get-together at Mom and Dad’s, or even something as wonderful, kind, and surprising as the time Bob drove all the way up to Eau Claire to support my dad when he lost his father, I could count on seeing Bob’s delightfully infectious smile and getting one of those great big bear hugs he was so good at giving. I may be 1500 miles away from where all those things happened, but the loss of them still cuts deep.
I don’t know what happens after we die. I don’t even like to hazard a guess. I figure I’ll find out for sure eventually, and I’m content to wait and see. But for my Bonus-Uncle Bob, wherever you are (if anywhere), I genuinely hope it’s glorious and utterly joyful. Because that’s what you deserve. And to my Bonus-Aunt Cathy, I send mountains of love, towers of hugs, and overflowing bushels of gratitude that you have been (and will continue to be) a part of my life. I’m sorrier than I can say that I wasn’t able to be there to tell you this in person.
My heart goes out to everyone who loved–no, loves Bob, whether you’re biologically related to him or not. Because we are all his family.