Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Hey there-

The holidays. Spending time with family.

But.......which family? Whose family? What is family?

Family can be a tricky concept these days, even trickier for those of us who have been widowed.

In Webster's dictionary the first definition listed is a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation. #2 is a group of person's of common ancestry.#3 is a group of individuals living under one roof.

Hmmmmm.....a while after Bob died the boys and I were in the car line waiting to drop Henry off at pre-school. Out of the car in front of us came a mom, a dad, and a child.

"Wow, the whole family is here today," I said to Henry idly.

''We aren't a family anymore," he responded wistfully. "Now that daddy is dead."

Silence..............dead silence.............

The car in front of us pulled ahead, we pulled ahead and it was our turn to get out of the car. The tears standing in my eyes were nothing new to the teachers that year so we made the exchange of Henry without discussion.

After telling my sister-in-law about the incident she bought us The Family Book by Todd Parr....about all different kinds of families. I read it to Henry often and now I read it to Arthur. I still choke up at the part that says....all families are sad when they lose someone they love.......

These days when I read the line.....some families have 2 dads.... Henry always chimes in; "Arthur and I have two dad's. Our dad that is dead and Mike, our step-dad"(I know that is not what they are really referring to in the book people, OK, but it is very cute all the same) and when we get to the part that says......some families have a step-mom Arthur always says; "We won't ever have a step-mom" and then Henry chimes in again; "Yes, we could Arthur, if mom dies and Mike gets married then that woman would be our step-mom." (thanks for that bit of information Henry)

But seriously, if that lovely scenario played out, is that woman indeed their step-mom? Just who is the woman married to your step-dad?

So then there is the question of in-laws. Recently the boys and I went to their aunt's (Bob's sisters) for dinner. On the way home Henry asked why the Hogan's (his step siblings) hadn't come to dinner.

"This is your dad's family, buddy. They aren't really the Hogan's family." I tried to explain weakly.

"Well, then why did YOU come? You should have just dropped me and Arthur off." Henry (of course) said bluntly.

"How do you figure?" I asked, trying to stay amused and not annoyed.

"Well, dad is dead and you were only related to Aunt Jane and Aunt Kathy and Grandma because you were married to him. But we are his children so we are related forever. So why do you still come to Aunt Jane and Aunt Kathy's?"

Yikes!! I am too tired for this.

Webster's definition of an in-law is a relative by marriage.


So then......on Halloween the boys were deep in discussion regarding the difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate. We all decided we liked milk chocolate much better.

"I guess we are a milk chocolate family," Arthur announced.

"Your dad loved dark chocolate," I said to Arthur as I stood at the sink washing dishes.

"Mom," he said to me with that sing song tone he had to have learned from me, that tone that says you should understand this already, but your young and still learning, so I am going to go over it one more time. "Dad is dead, remember, he isn't part of our family anymore."

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! I am WAY too tired for THIS.

Death is defined as a permanent cessation of all vital functions.

Well that clears it up for me.

Is "family" a "vital function". When a person dies do family ties cease?

I know we aren't living under one roof, not physically anyway, but I still like to think of Bob as part of the family. We have blocks for everyone in our family on our mantel with their initial on one side and their birth statistics on another, and the 'B' starts off the line up. BIMANSHA, that is who we are, too bad we can't fit it on our license plate.

And, despite what Henry might believe, I will always consider Bob's family to be my in-laws.

I think the point is family is anyone you consider family to be. It can't be defined by ancestry, marriage, affiliations or houses. And it doesn't have to be ended by death.

Thanks for checking in-



  1. Hi Irene,

    Never had a chance to reply! But I feel like I have a little understanding of your situation. We still consider Andrew's Grandparents to be a part of our family and we treat them that way. They are welcome to our gatherings and to stay at our house. We treat them like they belong. I guess that would be the definition of family to us. And Aidan calls them Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt June and Uncle Marc. It is a matter of respect and giving a place in your children's life. But then I have a best friend that I have always had Andrew and Aidan call Aunt Diane. Those are our dynamics! Hope it helps!!
    Love, Aunt Cathy

  2. So many toughts.
    1) One more thing Bob and I have in common, good dark chocolate.
    2) Glad Henry has 2 dads. :)
    3) I hope the boys never have a step mom.
    4) I would say Bob still plays a vital role in our house. Which reminds me of the quote agsin, "Death ends a life, not a relationship.
    5) I hope it is OK that I consider Jane and Kathy as family too.