If you're lucky enough to have family all around you, be grateful. I'm currently 2090.99 miles away from mine (thank you MapQuest) and sometimes I miss them so much it hurts. I miss being able to drive down the street to see my aunt or Grandpa at a moment's notice. I miss being included in the big family gatherings, the holiday barbecues, the weddings and baby blessings. I miss family dinners with all their squabbles and tensions and uncontrollable giggles. I miss having afternoons where my mom and/or sister and I hang out and do absolutely nothing together. I miss lunches with my Grandma. I miss laughing and visiting with my cousins, being buoyed up by the love and testimonies of my uncles and learning of service and motherhood from my aunts. I miss the big things and the little things but mostly I just miss the security of knowing that there is always someone there, someone I can call on at a moment's notice for help or advice or a shoulder to cry on or any number of things.
Being adrift on my own in the big, wide world I've had to learn to find substitute family. Friends and ward members have stepped into shoes otherwise filled by blood relatives and for the most part they've done a pretty decent job (though they're never quite the same.) But I've been blessed to have a few people practically adopt me and become as close to family as possible without actually being related.
When I first moved out to the East Coast I had a second cousin who was living out here with her husband and kids. We'd known each other a bit growing up but not well (her dad was in the Air Force and they spent most of their growing up years in Japan.) So, first I had the great opportunity to get to know them better and have the benefit of a family unit to spend time with. And then my cousin's husbands parents (confusing yes? but no relation to me at all) moved out here as well and we spent a lot of time together, having Sunday dinners and game nights and such. When my cousin and her family moved to Chicago I figured I would never see Phil and Meredith again. But I was so mistaken! They have taken me under their wings and accepted me into their family in a big way. They've been there to help me move, to take me to dinner, to share evenings of laughter and entertainment, introduced me to some fabulous movies, sent countless emails and made dozens of phone calls checking in to make sure everything is okay in my solitary little world. I've taken to calling them my aunt and uncle, first as a simplified version of the convoluted story about who they actually are but now as truth. They've helped to fill a void that only a select number of people can fill and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Friends, who in your life do you look to as family? Do you have someone you can count on for the ugly as well as the good? Is there someone who has blessed your life simply by being in it? I'd love to hear about them. Leave me a comment!