My Real Family

What is a family?

For me, it used to mean Mom, Dad, three brothers, two sisters, and me. A group where I was welcomed and loved. I was the fifth of six, the youngest girl, with one little brother to pick on. Most of the time, life was good

But that family became distorted with my father’s attitude and actions. Although never diagnosed, Dad exhibited bipolar symptoms, fluctuating from ecstatic to irate in seconds, often without warning. And instilling fear in me and all my siblings.

(Happy faces, pretending to be a happy family.)

Family became a place I didn’t want to be.

As my brothers and sisters became adults, some started acting just like Dad – alienating their own children by their anger and actions. One sister went to the grave not speaking to her daughter, which created friction at the funeral when said daughter showed up. The other sister doesn’t get to see her children or her grandchildren and now refuses to talk to me. Family? I don’t think so.

So what is a family, really?

It’s a group of people who love each other unconditionally, support one another, and spend time together just because they want to. Ideally, it’s the folks you grew up with, but that’s not absolutely necessary.

Last summer, I sold my house and moved closer to my son, his wife, and their children, my two young granddaughters. They spend time with me just because they love me. Even the girls ask to come to my house. And that’s gratifying. Maybe it’s the playroom in my basement that’s just for them. Yet they give me big smiles and hugs and say, “I love you, Gramma,” before they head downstairs.

But I have more “family” that I’m not related to:

My mother-in-law from my first marriage has become a close friend and even attended my second wedding as the mother of the bride. She has filled in for my mother, who died too young. I call her Momma and she calls me her “other daughter.”

All three of my brothers and one sister are dead and the other sister has removed herself from my life, so I have replacement siblings.

Since my husband’s death, several single ladies around my age at church have included me in their Bible study, lunch on Sunday, free concerts in the park, and vacations. And we’re all going to a Colorado Rockies baseball game on Saturday. They are now my sisters.

Several guys at church treat me like their little sister, giving me hugs, helping me move, and doing home repairs when I need them. They’ve become the brothers I thought I had lost.

My Heavenly Father has always loved me unconditionally, supported me, and spent time with me when I wanted it. He won’t force Himself on me, but I know He’s always there. And He’s not bipolar: He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So I have a real family: a Father, a mother, siblings, children, and grandchildren, only One of whom was in the house I grew up in. But they’re family to me now.

Life is good again.


Debbie Hardy is the author of the “Free to Be Fabulous” series, and she’s convinced that your happiness and contentment are up to you. Or, as Chuck Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” So go and make your life fabulous!

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