What is family is meant to be and what that word family really means to me? Well, 1st, family is defined as parents and their children; the members of one household or; a group of persons related by blood or marriage. This is one definition and one way of looking at what makes up a family structure. But a family and its dynamics can take on so many different forms and be shaped through so many different bonds. Whether we’re born into or inherit it through some marriage or if you build it on like values, morals and principals.

In my personal experience… a family that is chosen can have more of a connection and a more real & substantial bond, than that of some related through blood alone! Shit, I have family I was related to through birth, who try and pretend that I don’t even exist anymore. I won’t “shout out” any names, but I look at these “family” members, as just another group of people who are insignificant in the grand scale of my life. And being the “black sheep” of this family… I have to believe that this same feeling is reciprocated?!

But besides them, I grew up with a loving Mother who would do what she could to give me, as much of the world as she could provide. And until I was 12 yrs old, my Grandfather was in my life as really the only Father figure I knew… when he passed it left a hole, that all the love my Mother tried to shower me with… couldn’t fill. I mean, I had a good home life, but without any siblings, either… it left me with a feeling that something was just missing. And, I began to seek that out through others who could fill that space. I made friends, who through our love & respect for each other, created a sense of loyalty to one another… that then became a relationship and a bond that we would honor by becoming like a “street family”.

These had now become the brothers & sisters I had been seeking in my life. They became the people who wanted the best for me, as I wanted the best for them… we would be there for each other to celebrate our victories or be there to pick each other up when one might fall. We shared similar dreams and goals and inspired each other to strive for success and in turn… help each other to thrive. For a lot of us (some more than others), this was the closest thing to a family that would be known. Now, over the years, we became more and more like real family… loving each other & hating each other; fighting and then making up and; eventually disowning some (like blood relatives) who were disloyal and betrayed the rest of us! Those are all actions of a real family, whether born or chosen!

Then there has been a few other people, who have blessed my life and become almost more than family… Some of these are friends I made in prison, who through our time together (some from multiple joints together and some for over many years) have stood true and proven time and time again that our bond is unwavering. No matter the odds or struggles that we might face together or separate… I have never questioned their support or loyalty! These people will forever remain in my heart and have my love, no matter what may come or what changes may happen in the future. These are parts of my family, who have my unconditional love & support… thick or thin, good or bad, love or hate… that bond will never change or be broken!

I have been told that I can be loyal to a fault… I understand where that comes from, but I just can’t see the fault in having loyalty. There can’t be fault, when it’s something given without any expectation on the return… that goes for loyalty or love. Both at the foundation necessary for a strong family!

Ok, so I’ve talked about a couple ways, that I view family as well as how it is “defined” according to the dictionary. Family was always a subject, that was so important to me… I always prided myself on being so family oriented and wanting a family of my own. This was something I wanted so much and for so long! For whatever the reason… it just didn’t seem to be in the cards, which was difficult to accept at times.

I had so much love and so much desire to be the father, that I never had growing up. So, when I got outta prison the 1st time, I was lucky enough to be blessed with the opportunity of maybe making that a reality. 1st you have to understand that I had tried so many times to have a child… so many! That I came to the reality that it wasn’t gonna happen for me and that was a dis-heartening thing to try and accept. But, coming out of prison, I had gotten into a relationship that would allow me the chance to have that family and be that father, I so desired.

It was almost too good to be true… I had found the family, that I had always wanted, but believed was outta my reach at this point. My plans automatically went to how much of a better father I would be (than my own was, when I was young)… just by being present. I was so excited and in love with her from the very beginning! Of course, we all fall into those same cycles & patterns and it was almost like I became what I said I never would… and I almost lost everything. For some reason, I was allowed another opportunity… and was accepted, by the daughter I always wanted, with open arms. I had it all… shit I planned out dances, birthdays, 1st cars, graduations, weddings, etc…. all when she was still just 5 yrs old. Only to fuck it all up AGAIN, through my own actions and selfishness… all I could do now was pray that I wasn’t going to lose my family on top of losing my freedom!! And even though her Mother and I were no longer together, she always helped and encouraged this relationship by allowing me to remain in her daughters life and try and be a father to her.

Now, here I sit, 15 yrs later… and although this may not be the most ideal situation, we remain in contact, to this day. The years have been plagued with ups & downs… struggles & victories, but we’re still here and I love her more than anything else.

To me, that is the truest definition of a family… people who stick by each other through the good times, but more importantly who stick by each other through the very worst of times!

So, this is why when I think of family, I think of so much more than what I could ever find through some “23 and me” or some other DNA test… and look to those people in my life who’ve earned the designation of family. Those who have my love & loyalty unconditionally… those I would stand-up for as quick as I would lay-down for… as well as those whose happiness and well-being are a priority ahead of my own!

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