“I Do” – Take 4?!
I am wrestling this week with a variety of emotions regarding Jim’s “family”. I did not anticipate the jumble of events after Jim died. How could I?! People whom I have called family for 30+ years continued to be involved in my life and the lives of my kids. We continued to celebrate holidays together. We spent time investing in each other’s lives. After all, they are still Jim’s relatives, even if we don’t share the same blood or legal ties. And some actually do share the same blood as my children! It never occurred to me that we were no longer a family and when Jim’s brothers needed to be “found” and cared for, I decided to act according to what I felt Jim would have done. For example, I paid some bills, provided moving assistance and a cell phone, continued to pick them up to enjoy holidays with the family and kept in touch.
But as time as gone by (and it really has not been that long yet), things have changed. They have been not a very tight knit family and there is a very wide gap in beliefs and values, but for some reason their relationships remained intact over the years anyway. I suppose blood is thicker than water as the saying goes. Traditions change, families are fluid, time passes, and now we find ourselves wondering how to move forward.
My mother-in-law, who is not Jim’s mother, is getting married for a fourth time in September. She will be joining a new family and since it is already strained to host Jim’s family at holidays anyway, I think this is more than I care to deal with. I think that “family” is more about feelings and relationships than it is about being related by blood and yet?!. Legally speaking we stopped being family when Jim’s dad passed away. Linda is not blood related to anyone we are related to (except for Ed, her son who married Pam, Jim’s cousin) and yet because of familial and emotional ties we still refer to her as mom/grandma. Genealogically, she would still land somehow on the family tree, but at the same time, her remarriage ‘supercedes’ previous marriage relationships. From a ‘social’ point of view, it may be convenient, and possibly desired, to maintain a friendly interaction, but it would be simply that – a friendly interaction for me; my kids will probably always consider her grandma! The correct terminology of address would then be ‘my former mother-in-law’ or ‘my late husband’s stepmother’, nothing more. As to her new husband, he is not in any way related to us legally or by blood. Further, He will not be ‘papa’ to my adult children.
We have had conversations about our family relationship since Jim and Lionel died, but it never included what to do when one or more of us decide to move on. Of course I am not hurt that Linda is choosing another marriage and I am grateful for the relationship we have enjoyed since their deaths, in part because the bond was in tact for so many years prior to their deaths. I really have grown to care for them, love them and value the things we have been through together. Even though she is not their biological grandmother, she is the only grandma from Jim’s side of the family that my children have ever known.
And so, in some way, we are about to experience another loss. I have very mixed feelings about doing the ceremony but I feel obligated to do it, even though it is weird; and I am grateful that she helped bring Lionel to a saving faith. I am also in love with Jim and Tammie and my niece Alex and her family. We can always gather for events and they will be invited to weddings, showers and the like but it will be different. Here we go again