Wednesday Word of the Week: February 9

9 Feb

All A Family Requires Is Love

The word of the week is FAMILY.

Although it seems straightforward, this word is a tricky one. What is a family?

Many prominent, outspoken groups exist with “family” in their names. Family Research Council. American Family Association. Focus on the Family. What do they say?

Apparently, a family is a mother, a father, and their children; end of story. Each organization has slightly different language and dances prettily around “other models” of family. With careful reading, however, the definition, and its message, are clear.

Let’s deconstruct that with my family, shall we?

My father was born in Poland in 1942. His entire family was dragged off to concentration camps; not one survived. A brave American soldier named Arthur Kahn brought him home to the States, where he and his wife subsequently adopted the orphan. Is that a family?

Dad died when I was 19. I was in college but certainly still reliant on my family. My mother and her parents together gave me the support, care, and love I needed to finish college and graduate school and set up a life of my own. Is that a family?

I had a girlfriend named Melissa for four years during college and graduate school. Her parents were divorced. The whole group comprised her mother and stepfather, her sister and half-brother, her father and stepmother, and two stepsisters. Everyone assembled in one place for each holiday and landmark birthday. Even though her mother and father were still uneasy in each other’s company, they felt it was critical to the children to feel a sense of community. I attended some of those gatherings; they were always joyous and loving. Is that a family?

My best friend, Drew, lives in Boston now. In 2008, he married his partner of five years, John. I was lucky enough to be their best man. Their love for each other is one of the most beautiful things I have ever beheld. Is that a family?

All those “family values” organizations and their ilk would hint (strongly) that none of these arrangements are quite right; at least one of these families would be outright condemned, albeit with christian love for the “sinners.” But what is a family?

1) a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head

5) a. the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children; b. any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family

— Merriam-Webster Online

I include this mostly to show how far into the definition we get before the narrow “values-” based definition appears. Notice, too, the parallel definition given equal prominence. Literal words fail to support these self-appointed experts. Where do they draw their inspiration? So-called biblical values.

These values are derived from the same source that tells us of Solomon’s monumental polygamy; that regales us with Lot’s daughters seducing their drunken father; that has Job’s happy, prosperous family destroyed while his loving heavenly father plays games with the devil. What a great source of family advice!

Those Faulty Founts of Family Fundamentals so often fall on their faces. Newt Gingrich, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, the list of adulterers, chronic divorcees, and hypocrites on gay rights, goes on and on. Why do they get to decide what makes a family?

Now let’s look at my friend Drew’s wedding again. He has a mother, father, stepmother, three brothers, and two sisters. His mother and one sister attended the wedding. John has a mother and father and eight siblings. Not one of them was in attendance. They all cited “traditional family values” when rejecting these fine men. Is that a family?

I may be an only child by birth, but I have a brother named Drew Carnahan. Through his legal and spiritual marriage, I gained another brother named John Carnahan. (Carnegie + Callaghan: strangely neither man wanted to keep the name he started with.) They would do anything for me, and I for them. We are bound by love, trust, and respect. That makes a family.

Like much of my generation, I’m trying to reboot my life. While I’m struggling with finances and (lack of) job options, Granddad and Mom have welcomed me back into their home, no questions asked. That makes a family. If Drew and John needed help, they’d be welcome too. That makes a family.

Drew and John are a loving, supportive couple. They complement each other perfectly, truly becoming so much more than the sum of their parts. Their love and joy is contagious, bringing comfort to everyone in their circle. That, too, makes a family.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

With gratitude and thanks to:

  • Melissa, for sharing your wild, wonderful family with me and letting me share it with the world.
  • Michael, for welcoming into your online family with such warmth.
  • Phyllis, the kind of caring, crazy, adoptive aunt every lost lamb should luck across.
  • Drew, John, Granddad, and Mom, thank you for being my family.
  • Grammy, Gramps, Grandma, and Dad, your departure from this world in no way unravels you from the fabric of my family.

All my love, Lex

4 Responses to “Wednesday Word of the Week: February 9”

  1. Drew & John February 9, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Beautiful, Lex, just beautiful. We are proud to have you in our family. Thank you for letting our story be part of your powerful message.
    Hugs and chocolate,
    Drew & John

    (Shout out to Michael – GREAT blog!)

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 9, 2011 at 6:16 am #

      I must confess, I found Lex’ article so powerful that even upon the third reading, I cried. Beautiful and Brilliant job, Lex. It is nice to meet you Drew and John:) Sounds like you have a lovely family.

    • webwordwarrior February 9, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      Thank you DCJ! I appreciate your willingness to be a part of this post. Nobody could have finer family.

  2. jenny68 February 9, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    That is a family.
    It’s about love and respect. Thats it for me.
    We all have to gather strength from one another.
    I personally think Michael and Robert would make great parents- but I think they would look after anyone needing that support. They’ve been married longer than I have- and treat each other with love and grace…. What makes a family is right there. Two wonderful men looking after each other, grateful everyday I bet that they found one another in this big sometimes silly wretchedly unfair world…

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