True Family
by Holly Varni
May 30, 2022

Family is a funny thing. Blood may be thicker than water, but that genetic roll of the dice sure can have different outcomes. I attended a wedding recently and studied the fish in my own genetic pool. I don’t think it’s uncommon to wonder at some point during any family gathering, “How on earth am I related to this person?”

You’d think the DNA running through our cells would make us more similar than different, but I looked at some of the people at the event and thought, “You’re an odd duck.” I don’t think I’m the only one who has had these thoughts. I’ve heard friends talk about the outliers in their clans, and there is comfort knowing there are common components to every family. No family tree is without the wild one, the boring one, and the embarrassing one. The really fortunate are gifted with the know-it-alls and troublemakers.

Then there are always the family members who over-do and those who don’t do enough. Those who are the first to show up and those who are the last. You’ve got those you are close to and those you can’t get far enough away from.

Family is what it is.

Or is it?

What about the tagalongs who come into your life and stick around? The college roommate who became like a sibling? The woman at church who seems to get you like nobody else? The colleague at work who laughs at all your jokes and smiles every time you see each other? The neighbor who collects your mail when you’re gone and shows up with cookies at Christmas? Or the parent of one of your child’s friends who ends up becoming your best friend?

I don’t think we give enough thanks to the people we adopt and who adopt us. Some people may or may not have been there as we grew up, but now they stick to your side through the good and bad. They are the individuals who remember and celebrate your birthday year after year. They are the ones you call in a crisis. They keep your secrets, are the first to cheer at your wins, and sit with you in the losses.

They are the people who wander into your life and eventually became a part of your heart. They make every day less lonely by coming to your home on the weekend or staying on the phone into the night when you need to talk. Their support and love aren’t bonded by blood but by choice.

I think what ultimately connects us may not be those who we are related to but those who can relate to us. The heart is fickle about love, and sometimes strangers end up meaning the most.

I don’t know where I’d be without all the adopted souls in my life. I only know that life would be less—less happy and less full. Don’t get me wrong—I’m thankful for family, but I’m even more thankful for those who complete my family.

Whether by blood or bond, family are those we choose to love and who love us back.