The Suitcase Lady


March 13, 2018, 10:18 pm

One of the oddest and most unforgettable conversations I ever had took place at my uncle’s assisted living apartment many years ago. A male acquaintance of my uncle stopped by, and my relative introduced me saying, “This is my niece Mary from Wisconsin.”

The elderly gentleman looked directly at me and said, “Are you blood or law?”

It took me a few seconds to grasp his meaning. However, I did recover quickly enough to reply that in my family it didn’t make any difference, but, for the record, I was “blood”. The fact that I had come 1,200 miles to help out my ailing relative would apparently have been diminished if I had been a “law”. I couldn’t have been more surprised if he had asked me, “Are you gay or straight?”

I am extremely happy that my husband and my families don’t view the world and our relatives as a large caste and clan system based on blood lines and categories. In fact, we even claim relatives who aren’t technically ours because we enjoy seeing them so much.

I suspect other families do this as well. Here is one of the many ways these relationships can happen.

When your aunt or uncle gets married, you call the spouse uncle or aunt as well. However, the sisters and brothers of your “married-into” aunts and uncles aren’t related to you. And their children aren’t your cousins. No matter to us, we call our non-cousins, cousins anyway. They are wonderful friends plus we share a common relative.

We are lucky to have many of these unidentifiable relationships: our niece’s mom and dad, another niece’s sister or my cousin’s aunt who’s not my aunt.

The English language should have a word for these special people. Blood lines be damned…..we are all family.

Brilliant Star Magazine

1 Comment for this entry