We Are Fa-Ma-Lee

My brother and sister-in-law are visiting from AZ. Yesterday we drove (well, actually my sister-in-law Sami drove and I sat in the back seat looking at scenery and trying not to pay attention to the fact that she was driving 80 in a 55 mph zone, quite effectively by the way) to Fort Collins to have lunch at what is Dave’s favorite wing place in the whole wide world: Jim’s Wings.

Jim’s Wings, by the way, is a family favorite. After Bill’s eldest son Allen married the lovely Emma, he went on a mission to introduce her to some American favorites. Emma, you see, grew up in Paris, and, well, chicken wings weren’t exactly on her menu. Allen had offered her wing options, and she had always been disappointed. However, Jim’s Wings are his favorite. So one day when they had been near Fort Collins camping or hiking or some such thing, he took her to Jim’s Wings on the way home. Soon the wings they had ordered were delivered to their table. Allen told us, “I held my breath as she took her first bite.” Lo, and behold, she liked them. Life was complete.

Anyhoo, on our way home from lunch, we stopped to visit our stepmother Shirley, who lives in Loveland….

We had a really nice visit with her, as we always do. As we drove home, I began thinking about the definition of family.

I have mentioned before that my mom was the youngest of 13 kids. As the youngest, you can imagine that a few of her elder siblings were already married when she was born. Still, we grew up knowing our aunts and uncles. I don’t know how or why her family stayed as close as they did, but we visited often, we knew our cousins, we loved them all very much. Our mother was committed to staying close to her siblings. Our father — whose family was considerably smaller — felt the same way. Family is important.

The definition of family, of course, isn’t necessarily clear-cut. Shirley, for example, became my father’s wife after my mother passed away. It took some time, but eventually we all came to love Shirley. She is part of our family.

I have nine grandkids. Three of them have my blood flowing through them. The other six have none of my blood. I love them all. It’s true that I will look at Court’s kids to see if I can recognize something of me in them. Kaiya, for example, crosses her legs twice (over her knee and around her ankle), just as I do. And just as my mother did. But love comes from the heart, not the genes.

When Addie was just a baby, Bill brought her to my office to visit. The receptionist — who didn’t know that Addie was my stepson’s child — immediately said, “Oh my, she looks just like Kris.” I always loved that. Of course, at that time, she couldn’t have looked a bit like me beyond light hair and blue eyes. She was too little to have my mannerisms. Still, love made her my grandchild, and that’s what our receptionist imagined.

I’m happy Shirley is in our life. It reminds me that family doesn’t have to be related by blood. It only has to be related by love.

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