It's all relative; or, focusing on a family

There are stories I don’t tell here because they really aren’t mine to tell, but sometimes I find myself thinking about them anyway, and that’s what led me down this particular path…in search of an angle from which there might be a story I could claim and tell.

After almost 27 years as an only child, yesterday my son just became a big brother to a baby sister. (NOT from me – I would have told you THAT, people!) Well, he’ll have a baby half-sister – both of them will share half their DNA with their father. And I’m not sure why I never thought of it this way before, but it dawned on me that my son has no full-blood relatives. He is half-related to me, genetically, and half to his father; soon he’ll have that half in common with someone else, but he’ll never have more than half that connection with anyone.

I married into this family in 2006.

So much for blood being thicker than water. When you really think about it, the only full-blood relations any of us have are siblings with whom we share both parents. At a cellular level, there’s no one with whom we have more in common. My only true relative, biologically, is my sister; my husband’s only true relative is his brother. My sister and I are also very good friends; my husband and his brother, sadly, are not. You may not be able to choose who you’re related to, but you do get some choice regarding the kind of relationship you have with them.

I never questioned that I only wanted one child. My son’s actually never minded being an only child – and as that ends for him, he’s old enough to be a parent himself (and several years older than his parents were when they had him). While there have been times that I’ve thought, in passing, that he might have missed something by not having a sibling, it’s mostly occurred in reflecting on my own sibling relationship, which happens to be good one. Perhaps if I’d thought to frame it earlier in terms of the genetic connection, I’d have felt differently about it; now I feel as if he, quite literally, doesn’t have anyone.

In truth, though, he’s got plenty of people, because I also believe that to a large extent, we make our families. He has friends that he’s closer to than he ever will be to his half-sister (granted, age and geographic differences are factors too, but they’re outside the scope of this discussion and so I’ll ignore them). He, his father, and I will always be connected through family history, although we haven’t been together as one for nearly a decade. I have a family with another husband and the two children he brought with him, although there is no blood connection between any of us (and never will be, as Tall Paul and I will not be having children together – the world should breathe a sigh of relief over that).

I’m really not sure where all this is going, but I’ve ended up with this:
No, you can’t choose your relatives, at least in the biological sense, although I guess you could make a case that our natural parents choose our relatives for us. Thanks to those choices, some of us may not have any relatives at all, and some may have relatives of varying degrees. However, we can choose our families…and most of us do choose to include at least a few of our relatives.

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