"families are about love overcoming emotional torture"
matt groening

one of the great things about family is that you experience so much of life together.  it makes it easier to get through the tough stuff, knowing you're not there alone, and it makes the joys more full when you can share them.  but families don't always work out, or work together symbiotically.  and sometimes they're downright dysfunctional.  as i've grown older, the definition of family has mutated.  when mom died, traditional notions dissolved rapidly around me. just as it did for my parents, years ago, when they didn't see eye to eye with members of their own families.  they set out on their own, in search of a paradigm shift.  and so did i:  i began to build my own version, a nucleus of friendship, comradery and love that could keep me safe in stormy weather.  i held fast to the ties that were healthy, the ones that made me feel secure and lifted me up, and set the rest adrift.  it was both scary and liberating, being at the helm of that ship.

i was reminded of the comfort of good family today, when mark came to visit.  you see, james grew up not knowing his biological father.  mark so generously stepped in and filled those fatherly shoes as "cowboy dad" for as long as he could.  a true outdoorsman and the spitting image of chuck norris, mark taught james the virtues of the out-of-doors, of harvesting food and respecting the land. he is a huge part of the man james has become.  but mark and james' mom couldn't make it work, so mark had to leave.  he started a new life with a new beautiful family.  still, james and mark kept in touch.  and today, after a long hiatus, they talked excitedly, smiling, laughing, barely skipping a beat, reminiscing telling stories about fishing and boat-riding cats and the old stomping grounds, back and forth, back and forth, like a good game of pong.  and in that moment of reconnection, they were as much father and son as any other father and son, anywhere.  if not more so.  

how we as humans need that loving familiarity, called family.

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