Most people define family as the people that are of blood relation to you. Some, are fortunate to have family members that are a bit more than that. The people that choose to love you are far more precious than the ones that feel obligated to. Because let’s face it, we all have family members we sometimes wish we weren’t related to. My family is different than most. My immediate family is phenomenal, but the rest are, at times questionable. I haven’t spoken to my maternal grandmother in eleven years, and it’s not at my will. It’s a choice she made, and she now behaves as though I do not exist, in the most literal way you can imagine.
Other family members live so very far away. People say “you love the one you’re near”, and I’m sure the fact that they’re thousands of miles away, and we haven’t seen each other in years is why they don’t know when my birthday is.
As an adult, these things don’t bother me. I know the majority of my family love me, and for the others, I’m better off without them. When I was younger, having such a small circle was something I had trouble with. But, god blessed me with people who, though aren’t blood related, love me more than I could ever deserve. For example, my “Grandparents”.
My best friend brought me to church with her when we were freshman in high school, just months after my family ties were severed with my maternal grandmother and all those she could convince to join her. This church was filled with some of the most incredible people, some of them have had such strong impacts on my life.
I recall being upset one Sunday morning, because the service that day involved something special for grandparents and their grandchildren. I walked out of the worship room, and right into the chest of the sweetest man I’ve ever known. He had a heart of gold, and the best hugs I’ve ever gotten. He would often wrap his long arms around my shoulders and bury my face in his white beard, calling me “sugar” as he hugged me so tight I couldn’t breathe, and I loved every second of it. His name was George.
As I literally ran into him that morning, tears in my eyes. He asked me what I was upset about. “I don’t have any grandparents”, I said, crying as if my world had ended. Teenage hormones are intense. Without asking why, or what to do, he simply grabbed me tight in one of those magnificent hugs, and said “baby, I’ll be your granddaddy”, and the rest is history. He would grab me up every chance he had, and profess to anyone that would listen how beautiful his granddaughter was, and how proud he was of me. I’ll never forget the way his cologne smelled on my hair after he got done loving on me.
The moment he said he would be my grandpa, I diddnt understand how serious he was. My heart was so full when he and his wife, my grandma, showed up at my high school graduation. I remember being so upset when no family members showed, but they did. They brought me flowers, and took pictures with me. No one would have ever known they weren’t really related to me. No one else is as lucky as I am, because my grandparents chose me.
When I got married, their names were on the programs. Our brothers were ushers, and my grandma was seated just like Michael’s were. They sat in the front row when I got married, and no one could have known how lucky I was, because that sweet southern man in the front row, in his bright white cowboy hat, and cowboy boots, was my grandpa. That beautiful woman on his arm, in her dark blue dress I helped her pick out, with a smile on her face so big she brightened the room, she was my grandma. Her name is Dorothy.
My grandpa is in heaven now, a few years ago he passed away, and I cried more at his funeral than I ever had. He was my granddaddy, and loved me more than most anyone. He was a magnificent man, and I’m so lucky to have known him so well. I am lucky he called me his granddaughter.
In the years since he’s been gone, that sweet woman he volunteered to be my grandma has shown me love I don’t deserve. She will drop everything to make sure I get a hug when she sees me, and they’re not unlike grandpas were. She squeezes me so tight, and lately she will just hold on to me, telling me how much she loves me. I thank god for her every moment I can. She is as honest as they come, and her faith is unwavering. I often try to be more like her.
When I was in labor at the hospital, she was one of the first ones there. As she walked into the room, she came right to me. My faith had been so questioned that day. I was so angry, and I was sure no God would do this to me. I remember wanting to see her so deeply, and that very minute she walked in the door. As she hugged me tighter than she ever had, I asked her the one question I hadn’t the strength to ask anyone else. “How could God do this to me?” I thought, if anyone had an answer, it would be her.
As my face was still buried in her shoulder, she told me she didn’t know. She had no explanation for why these things happen. But, her words comforted me. She told me I would get through this, that I was strong. She reminded me how much she loved me. I then realized how lucky I was to have her in a whole different way. I had always been so guarded, but I could be exactly who I was with her, and she would never love me any less.
When my sweet Skylar was born, she was there. She heard me cry harder than I ever have as I held my first baby boy, and realized no matter how hard I wanted him to, he was never going to open his eyes. She was one of the first people to see him. She stayed there at the hospital the entire time I was in labor. At 2:17 am she walked into that hospital room and it filled me with so much love.
When I talk about my grandmother, it’s her. She’s been there for me at every eventful moment of my life. When we announced our pregnancy, her reaction is the one I think of, and it is one I will never forget. She screamed with so much joy that it literally startled me. When I think back to when we told everyone what we were having, it is her voice I hear, when I think “it’s a boy!”
When I question my faith, it is her I look to. Because she has been there for me. She loves me so much, and she doesn’t have to. Family is not defined by who’s blood runs through your veins. Family is defined by who loves you unconditionally. Family is who is there for you no matter what. Family is those who are proud to have you, and will claim you as theirs to whoever will listen.