Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

We are family, Sort of.

Family.

 

“The importance of family history.”  I’ve noticed that physicians love to throw that phrase around, as do people who HAVE a family history.  The doctor’s office will hand you pages and pages of documents to fill out, front and back, where you are asked to identify which immediate family members have/had certain diseases or deficiencies and   your medical condition is then judged by this.  Turns out, far-flung relations can also be brought up when an opinion is being formed about you and your lineage.  At least by some people.  Hmph.  Bloodlines, schmudlines.  Ain’t got a bit of use for ‘em.

 

Over a decade ago, my ex-husband found out, at the ripe old age of 47, that he was adopted as an infant.  It rocked his world in a way that left him incapable of regaining any sense of equilibrium and was, I believe, one of the very large contributing factors to the demise of our 23 year marriage.  Since that time, I’ve heard more well-meaning individuals say to him, “Get over it.  Move on.” Along with a myriad of other ridiculously “helpful” suggestions, as though it were simply a summer cold that would pass.

 

Not so fast.  See, part of the problem was that he was raised with a sense of not only family history, but obligation and accountability as one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  The name “Katz” is one of the oldest surnames in the world.  It is an acronym of two Hebrew letters (kof & tzadi) and means kohein, the first high priest in the time of Moses.  Katz sons are considered the direct male descendants of the biblical Aaron, brother of Moses.  You may trace your family luggage tags to the Mayflower, but Moses?  Seriously, heavy baggage.  To find out it was all a lie?  Heavier baggage, still.

 

To cap that bad boy of erroneous information off, whatever medical history had been presented for nearly half a century was null and void.  Which, really – in the cancer arena?  Not the worse news ever.  Small consolation to a man whose entire historical rug was ripped out from under him (during a time when some men I know have teetered on the brink of the midlife crisis Cliff of Doom and Stupidity).  Say what you will, but this was not so easy to bounce back from, my friends.

 

My own adoption wasn’t revealed until elementary school, when I overheard my mother talking to a friend in the car, since they thought I was asleep (GREAT WAY to get information, BTW).  The partial sentence “…hysterectomy after my sons were born” caught my ear and I asked a neighbor what a “his-tor-ect-ta-dec-toh-mee” was (I was a precocious reader at 3 years old, but that word kicked my butt.  That and gladiolus).  Long story short, I knew from that moment on that those people weren’t “my people” – and in a house full of crazy, drug-addled, alcohol-fueled manics… BONUS!

 

It has taken a lot of time and life experience for me to understand that the word “family” is as difficult a word to define as “love” (although poets and writers keep tryin’).  Mostly because we all have our own firmly planted ideas of what family (and love, for that matter) means to us.  For my friend Geraldine, it is the ancient roots she and her husband can trace back to Ireland.  For another family I know named Katz, it is their sense of rich tradition handed down generation-after-generation (which they’ve assured me, because of my own limited history, I could never fully comprehend).  For other families, it is their American roots that they are tremendously proud of, which they pore over in journals and ephemera from the Gold Rush, Civil War, and some of them even have that whole Mayflower thing going for them.

 

For me?  Family has always been the word that describes the people who love me most.  My list of “family” is longer than most commercial family tree charts will allow me to fill in, but that’s okay.  Documenting my loved ones isn’t that important to me.  Besides, when my children and I speak of our extended family, we sort of need a John Madden strategy graphic board and dry erase markers when explaining to strangers the honorary Grandparents (quick shout out to Bubbe, Pop-Pop, Granmasahn & Grandpasahn!), aunts, uncles and cousins – to whom we have no true ties whatsoever.  Not blood.  Not law.  Just love.  For my kids and me, each and every “familial” relationship we have has provided us with a sense of pride, purpose and a love we will probably never adequately describe.  Our sense of “family” has given us a deep appreciation for times past, present and yet to come.  And isn’t that what family is for?  We may not have the paper trail to show for those we love and who love us, but the human heart isn’t very good at filing, anyway.  No, we may not have roots that go very deep, but there’s something that other Mrs. Katz (no relation) should know: We most certainly do understand and, can truly comprehend, the importance… of family history.

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."  – Anne Frank


 

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