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My Sister Rocks

Sometimes I like to throw myself little pity parties when things aren’t going my way, forgetting at times the myriad ways I am so damn lucky and letting the nonsense make me blue. Then I think of my sister, the struggles she has endured and triumphed over, and I snap myself out of it even more.

A little history to start: Amie isn’t my biological sister, but you would never know that to be around us. Oddly, she and I are more like my dad, who is not either of our biological father, than my two younger siblings, who are his blood kin. Nature vs. nurture, we have an answer for you! Amie came into our lives over a decade ago as one of my little brother’s best friends when they were in junior high. Amie’s mom, Janie, was sick, and as the next few years wore on, her illness grew worse and worse. Mama Janie passed away when Amie was 15. Even though her sickness had been taking such a tremendous toll on her for so long, nothing could prepare any of us for the eventual loss of a truly loving, caring, and beautiful woman, a woman who used every bit of energy she had to give Amie the support and love she needed, who always had a smile on her face and a funny quip on the tip of her tongue. I didn’t know what to say to Amie when she died, had no words or ability to comprehend what she was feeling, so I went to her house and took her shopping. Perhaps if shopping wasn’t always my answer to every question life throws at me, I wouldn’t be dealing with the amount of debt I currently have, but whatever, it’s what I do. Losing your mom is one of the shittiest things that can happen in one’s life; then three years later, Amie’s dad died in a motorcycle accident. By the time she was barely out of her childhood, she had lost both her parents. See now why my pity parties make me feel pathetic?

As if all that isn’t disheartening enough, her remaining family sucks. Okay, that might be a little harsh, but her mom’s sister, the one appointed trustee and guardian to her, is a horrible, horrible woman. She is the kind of religious zealot that gives others of her faith a bad name, passing erroneous, hateful judgments on things she knows nothing about and spreading lies and hurt to anyone who will listen. So Amie became ours, and we became hers. I don’t even remember how it started, how the integration occurred, but over the next few years, it became complete. Our parents introduce her as their daughter, the grandmas send her her own holiday grand-kid cards, and even our oldest brother, the most curmudgeonly and resistant to change of the lot of us, calls her “Sister” instead of by name, as we are wont to do. She is as much my family as any other member, whether she likes it or not. Those who seek to challenge our definition of “family” have been informed that their opinions on the situation are not necessary, warranted, or asked for.

Yes, we all wear matching outfits on Christmas morning.

With the troubles life threw at her, I doubt anyone would blame or begrudge her feeling or acting like a victim; none would denounce her for bouts of rage or unhappiness, and no one would fault her for a short temper or lack of patience with the inconsequential whininess of others. The thing is, she isn’t and doesn’t do any of those things. My sister is one of the most positive people I know, much more so than my cranky ass. She seeks out and finds pleasure in the simplest and most random of things and places. She is unapologetic in her love for Justin Beiber and the Jonas Brothers, even though she is a grown-ass woman (as the husband and I are often reminding her). Her perfect man would bring her Taco Bell and daffodils. She loves karaoke and beer; she hates wearing pants. She is goofy and ridiculous, quick to laugh and first in line for anything with the hope of being fun. She inspires me every single day, whether it is to take more joy in little pleasures, or to not wallow in my own self-pity, or to just wear pants less often; it is something all the time.

I love that my family tree looks more like a huge, overgrown, tangled-up bougainvillea bush than a tidy little oak or whatever they typically use to illustrate them. Half-siblings, adopted siblings, step-parent adoptions, the random dude down the street – who is anyone else to tell us what defines our family? Blood is not thicker than water, and we do ourselves a disservice if we can’t see a bigger picture than the one we were born into. While you are dealt a certain hand at birth, I don’t believe that you don’t get to chose your family. Family is what you make it, family is what brings you joy, family is what supports you when the world seems to have left you behind. I am very, very lucky in that the family I was born into is an amazing one (minus my biological father, but only him), and the family that has been created around me as I have grown older gets richer and more fulfilling everyday.

How about you, dear readers? Who do you consider your family? When someone says “family,” who pops into your head? Maybe it’s your mom, or your aunt, or your best friend, maybe your partner. I would love to hear more about the families we create on top of the families we are given from you all.

NKOTB concert a few years ago. Our outfits were EPIC.

9 replies on “My Sister Rocks”

I love this! Since we live hours away from family, our family here consists of good friends- the kind who will drop everything on a moments notice to lend a hand. We also have our kid’s biological families, who are most certainly family to us (one of the many bonuses of open adoption). Oh and hubby is one of seven, so there’s plenty of traditional family to go around too. We send a lot of Christmas cards/gifts ;)

OH, I love hearing about open adoption stories! Have you ever read Dan Savage’s book, The Kid? He and his husband have a son through open adoption, and it’s the story of their whole adoption process. It always warms my heart whenever I hear him talk about the mom, who they still see 13 years later. If we ever decide to do the kiddo thing, we have talked about open adoption being the most awesome option. It sounds like you all have created a pretty amazing group!

My family definitely fits into the “big” category. People that are there by blood mixed with people who aren’t. Case in point – my family Christmas celebration has outgrown the possibility to be held in a house. We now use the fire department (one of the benefits of my dad having served up until this year). Our family includes Uncle Bill and his family – who everyone calls Uncle Bill, even though the 6’7 jolly black man quite obviously is not of the Polish ancestry of the rest of my family. He’s been a part of my family longer than I have, though! Most of these types of families have come in through my parents, but the rest of my family (the other 4 brothers and sister of my dad) are getting around to inviting their families too – we have in-laws of in-laws attending Christmas now, and it’s so much fun!

It is so awesome that your family gatherings have to be held at a fire station, I can’t stop grinning about it. That sounds like a freaking blast! How awesome to have such a huge group of people to share life’s wonderfulness with!

I started this post and then I had to leave…I’m glad I finished it. Your family is awesome! My family is really just my parents and my sister and I. I don’t really care for most of my extended family, my grandparents are all dead and my sister and I don’t even talk to our half-sister after she no-showed at my sister’s wedding. Not that we were close before. I love the idea of being a part of a big mixed up caring family like it sounds you have.

You’re half-sister no showed to a wedding?!@? Argh, that is really frustrating. It’s hard when people show you how truly self-absorbed they can be. If you’d like, I can kick her in the shin, then you, your parents and sister can come hang out with us! I do love having a gigantic family, but I sometimes wonder what life would have been like as an only child….

My family is just the three. Mom, Dad, me. The extended family is pretty far away, either by location or ignorance. Only recently did my mom’s younger brother move near us with his wife and baby daughter.

It did not take long for my mom to scoop up Baby Payton and cart her around. She is family, of course, but she’s almost like that half way point between granddaughter and daughter. I don’t have kids yet so there are no grandkids for them. But then, there is also the neighbor’s daughter who is a junior in high school with parents that are both over 60 (her dad is turning 80 this year – though, you’d put money on him being 60.) so she’s over at our house a lot. My mom and her even went to see Twilight together (thankfully because I was sure as hell not going to see it). She’s in that space between teenage daughter and friend. Mom is also the one keeping an eye on her boyfriend activities and college plans.

These are just a couple of examples.

So, while there are some relations that are blood and some that are not, there is the fact that some are just held closer than others. (In Baby Payton’s case, a little too literally for her comfort :) )

Sorry for my delayed responses here! How lucky your neighbor and little Payton are to have you all around to support them. I can only imagine how much it means to your neighbor to have you and you parents looking out for her, and Payton will grow up surrounded by so much love, it is awesome. Being the surrogate auntie/cousin/sister/mom/etc. to someone is often a totally overlooked relationship in children’s development, but I find those ties can have such a powerful affect on kids that they should be seen as vitally important.

So, true. Those ties are incredible.
I have my own extended non-family and explaining their relation to others has always been a challenge. My godparents’ son is like my brother and they are like additional parents. And vis versa for him, my parents are his godparents. But explaining that to others? “Oh, him? Well, he’s sort of like a brother? We’re not related. Yes we look alike but that was luck.”

And my other neighbor had an at home daycare service where she became another grandmother (they all actually graduated from high school the same year!). She is truly as close to my heart as my biological grandmothers. Pseudo-Grandparent needs to be a thing.

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