Reader, please meet the Rutenbergs.
They say hi.
We’re not blood related, and I don’t have an ounce of Rutenberg DNA, but when I’m with them, we tease each other like family, we disagree like family, and we obsess over vacation plans, dinner options, and holiday gifts like family.
Debbie and my mom were pregnant at the same time with Michael and me. When my father was sick, my mom ran to Debbie on her way to the hospital in the early morning, thrusting Infant Me into her arms. Only later that night when my mom returned did she realize that it wasn’t Debbie’s arms she had placed me in – it was Debbie’s mother who had received me.
This is how our families operated. There were no questions, no formalities – just unconditional love and unspoken understanding.
Michael and I grew up as extensions of each other. I taught him how to climb the monkey bars; he introduced me to curse words. I edited his English papers; he gave me pep talks before important Varsity soccer games. Jon and my father talked sports, politics and varietals of vodka. When Jamie was born, the same seed that was planted in Michael was planted in me: to always protect and nurture her until the end of time. When my mom was sick, Jamie immediately assumed the role of protector despite being three years my junior.
My mom and I celebrated birthdays with them, shared holidays, and we visited one another when someone was sick, broke an arm or had wisdom teeth removed. “Our dearest friends,” my mom called them. But when she died, something remarkable happened.
They opened their home, giving me a bedroom in their house, and wordlessly answered the unasked question of where I would spend holidays from now on. They get me and my sometimes crude sense of humor. (Like when I said that I’m their “Big Mike” after we watched The Blind Side.) We call, text, FaceTime and email around the clock. They remind me that their family is five people strong now, not four.
I have other micro-families: My closest college friends, my threesome from business school, my high school girls, and my relationship with my boyfriend. I don’t miss my mom any less, and I struggle with issues and challenges of being parentless daily, but finding Family in my interpersonal world brings me comfort through connection – the type of connection that no previous loss can break.
What types of family do you have? Micro, surrogate, nontraditional, etc.? Am I missing any?