When you think of your family, you think of those relatives immediately close to you - and that is normal. After a while, your thoughts may drift to extended family members you feel close to and those cousins that you grew up with. All of that goes into making up what we commonly refer to as family. But does it end there?
Vin Diesel is famous for overusing the word family in his movies, but maybe the guy has a point. There is some threshold that many people have where a friend becomes more than a friend. Where someone you have spent years of your life with becomes more than a "buddy of mine," and turns into "one of the family."
So what is family? To me, family is a very big word. My family is as much a collection of people not related by blood as it is people who have direct DNA contact with each other. Many of the people who mean the most to me are people who do not share the same gene pool that I do. I have a brother who is actually from another mother, and I have a son who has turned into a spitting image of me in every way over time, but he didn't start out that way.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that family is only family because they make your life easier. I once had a very close friend tell me that conflict is the spice of life. Besides, if you cannot argue with family, then who can you argue with? While not every family member makes your life easier, the honorary family members are there because they do enrich your life. That is what makes them family.
In your life, you have family you are stuck with and family you choose. Yes, believe it or not, you actually can choose parts of your family. The important parts, like your parents and grandparents, are set in stone for you. Those you cannot change. But the people you grow closest to, the ones you refer to simply as family, are the ones that earn that station over time. They are the ones who show up at the hospital at 3:00 a.m. when you are desperately waiting to get admitted for treatment and don't think anyone really cares. The ones who care are the ones who are your family.
Am I saying that you should turn your back on blood relatives? Blood is blood. But even blood can fall out of favor with their actions. Everyone has blood relatives that have done such horrible things that they are no longer allowed in their lives. They are still family, but they are no longer actively a part of the ups and downs of your life.
Take a look around you and think about the people you really rely on. When the chips are down, who are the people you call without even thinking because you know they will help? Are they blood relatives? Maybe. But no matter what kind of DNA they have, you know for sure that they are family.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident with lots of family. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at email@example.com.