Monday, 28 December 2009

We are family (5)

Yesterday I visited my grandfather and my grandmother. Separately, they're from different sides of the family.

My grandfather has a family tree on his wall which my mother updates regularly (last update, 15th December). At the last count he had 25 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren, which is why he needs a reminder. On 1st January every year he sits down and writes out all the birthday cards, with the dates written in pencil under where the stamp will go, and arranges them in date order, month by month, so he doesn't forget.

My grandmother, on the other hand, has three grandchildren, and that's it. (And she's from the Irish-Catholic side of the family!)

The reason my grandfather has so many descendants is partly because he has stepchildren, and some of his children/ grandchildren have stepchildren too. Technically he's not my "real" grandfather, he married my grandmother nearly 40 years ago, after she was widowed, but he's definitely "family". Whereas my grandmother is my "real" grandmother but I didn't meet her until 10 or 15 years ago, and don't really know her that well.

I don't know quite where I'm going with this, other than to say, families are sometimes messy... I have five half-sisters but they're just "my sisters" to me. The two nephews I was with last night have a stepbrother and two half-brothers, but if you asked they'd each say they're one of "five brothers". Perhaps we've lost out from not having grown up in 'nuclear' families, but I think we've gained an awful lot too.


Steve said...

Big families can be a blessing, my father came from a large family, his father remarried after being widowed and eventually my Dad was one of thirteen children! So we have lots of cousins that I have never even met! Funny thing families, it is a shame the local GP/Doctor is not able to tell you who you are related too That would be fun!

TonyD said...

I have just the one brother and one sister but my mother had nine siblings and my father six almost all of whom have gone on to have families of their own. As a result I have somewhere in the region of 50 cousins and, because almost all of them still live in a relatively small area of South Bristol (Bedminster, Hartcliffe and Knowle West)and have also gone on to have families of their own, our most recent Christmas party involved about 300 relatives.

Growing up, I felt overwhelmed by the constant presence of "family" and, in early adulthood, tried to separate myself from those family members outside the immediate circle of my own parents, brother and sister.

However, I have now come to realise what a blessing a large family can be, especially in times of difficulty (whether economic or healthwise) and realise that writing a few letters or making telephone calls to MPs, councillors and bureaucrats is a small price to pay for the benefits that a large family support structure can provide.

A bonus is that they also provide me with a sort of "opinion poll" of what pretty average working-class people who don't really care too much about politics and policies are thinking, which helps to counter-balance the views that often inform the media.