[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] Show IPA noun, plural fam·i·lies, adjective.
a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whetherdwelling together or not: the traditional family.
a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.
the children of one person or one couple collectively: We want a large family.
the spouse and children of one person: We’re taking the family on vacation next week.
any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins: tomarry into a socially prominent family.
all those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor.
Who thought it would all be this complicated? Welcome to my family tree, there are mathematical problems less complex, but far less fulfilling when the answer is finally deciphered. Definitions aside…..family, to me is a wonderful expanded network of individuals who by blood or not, create our life story……a wild colourful, sometimes frustrating, but always loving network that makes our life purposeful.
This blog is dedicated to all the individuals who make up my family, whether related by blood or not…..I love you all
From the time I was able to understand notions past, “don’t touch the stove, it is hot, ” and “don’t eat your crayons, colour with them,” I knew I was adopted. Although my memories from my childhood are somewhat foggy, I do remember clearly the day I was sat down with a book called “The chosen child.” (I still have this book to this day.)……We read through the book together, I thought it was a wonderful story; I asked my mum, “could I be a chosen child?” she sounds very special!!!! My mum and dad carefully explained to me, that I WAS a chosen child, I was one of those special children. My heart leapt with glee, someone had loved me so much that they gave my mum and dad the present they had wanted more than anything in this world…..a baby!! Remember, I was about 6 years old….Santa, the Easter bunny and tooth fairy were very real to me, so it is not a large leap to understand that I did not see the couple who put me up for adoption, as my parents who gave me life. They were very much like the above mentioned characters, they were like the parent fairies…..they gave my mum and dad what they could not have……ME!
Shortly after this revelation, I decided that I wanted to be called by my birth name, Deborah Ann, it was after all the name I was born with, and would not answer to anything but. My mum and dad gave into my whim, and in short time, I grew tired of not being Karen Keene…..K2, my dad after all was Ken, and the K1, so Karen it was. I am sure a collective sigh of relief could be heard up and down Kilmer Avenue that day. As they years passed, I took great pleasure in letting others know, that I was a special, chosen child. Most would look at me like a precocious chatterbox, others would give my mum and dad, as I like to call it, “the stink eye”……”a child doesn’t need to know that kind of damaging information.” Remember folks this was the 1970’s, not a lot of things were socially acceptable, except perhaps the ability to drink your scotch in your car while driving home from work.
During this year, my dad became very ill…..very, very ill, he was in a coma….suddenly phone calls were being made, being made to my brothers…,…wait a second brothers??? I was an only child, where did these brothers come from? Now, me, being the inquisitive child I was, wanted to know immediately why I had brothers I did not know of. Timing is not always a great thing with small children, but I felt, even in the chaos of the situation, that I deserved an answer to my question. Who are my brothers, and where did they come from? God bless my mother, who took the time, to explain to me that I had five brothers……I was so excited, I had siblings to play with!!!
During the next three years, I had a chance to meet my brothers. I was disappointed, they were old, and definitely did not want to play!!! I was hurt, I couldn’t understand why they were not as excited to meet me, as I was to meet them. Maybe this is how all “old” people were. At my father’s funereal, I met my brothers again, I don’t think a word was passed between us. I didn’t like “old brothers”, they were mean!
Years passed, and I held onto the fascination of this family that had given me up for adoption. When I was 16, my mum placed my name on an adoption registry list, when I was 18 she put an ad in the London Newspaper in the personals, looking for information if anyone knew anything about me or my adoption. I was ecstatic, someone would see this, someone would know me, they would immediately respond….I was wrong. It is funny how we are so egocentric, that we truly believe, in this highly populated world of ours, that, one little clip of your story in a personal column will stop everyone, get everyone searching for the parents of little Deborah Ann.
In 1989 my mum, remarried, and yet again, I found myself as part of a new family. Nineteen years, is not the best time to try and find familial harmony, as I was a rebellious, nasty piece of work, and when I say nasty, I mean nasty all in caps! People would ask me about my family, and I would just shrug and mutter some scripted piece that I had composed in my mind. I didn’t want more family, I had enough already, my mum and I were just fine!
Ten years passed, and if you have read my other blogs, you will understand the terrible place I was in my life…..I can’t tell you much about this decade, as it was utterly wasted…..until the end of 1999, enter Michael.
From the moment I laid eyes on Michael, I knew…..I just knew that this was the man for me, the one to complete me. I fell immediately in love with him, after a very short courtship, we were engaged and shortly thereafter married. Enter more family! We started our life together, our family.
Shortly thereafter I received “the phone call.” My mum had called me, and I immediately knew something was upsetting her terribly. I asked what was wrong, she said, they have found your birth parents. I was ecstatic, probably too much so for my mum’s liking. Anyone who has gone through this process knows that the search, and everything that follows is very long and hard; for those that don’t, just trust me.
On October 16th of 2000, my 30th birthday, the phone rang, and for the first time I heard the voice of the woman who had given birth to me…..her name is Connie, my father, his name is Rob……my brother and sisters, Shawn, Amanda and Robyn……more family!!! We talked and talked and talked. I liked these people, I really liked them. I felt so blessed……
In October of 2000, Michael and I discovered we were pregnant with our first child. I called my mum, she was in tears, I called Mike’s mum, she was thrilled, I called Connie, and I remember saying, “I know we haven’t known eachother for more than a couple of weeks, but you are going to be a grandma!” Rob and Connie flew Michael and I out to meet the family, my head was spinning!!! From the first time I met them, it was like walking into a set, that you had left for a short time and returned to. We were all so very similar, yet I hadn’t even been raised in the environment…..my first foray into genetics and what a role it plays in our lives. It was such an amazing moment in my life.
In 2001 our daughter, was born, and life changed for me, unlike anything I ever could have imagined. I was now a mother, I had my own family. My Cameron family came out to visit their first grandchild, and my mum, Bruce, Rob and Connie, my brother and sisters were all in one room. I was thrilled! In retrospect, I am sure, I was the only one who felt that way, I am sure everyone else was on the verge of vomiting from nerves. I felt blessed to have family around me, bitter sweet would probably be how others describe it.
In 2002 my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, and 3 months after our sons birth in 2003, lost her battle. During this time, I was very torn, and angry about the correct thing to do regarding family. Rob and Connie were coming out to see our newborn son, their second grandchild. I received a phone call from my step dad, asking me to call them, and ask that they do not come out, as mums condition was so dire that she could not handle it. I could not make that phone call, my wonderful Michael did……I felt such guilt, and still do….I was being disloyal to my mum and disloyal to Rob and Connie. Too much family!!
It was on my mum’s deathbed that she made a confession to me……she told me, “Karen, I am your mum, I raised you, saw you through all the terrible times, shared in the good ones, please never forget me, don’t let my grandkids forget their grandma” The power of this statement left me speechless……how could she think that I would forget her, how could she believe that I did not consider her my mother. The joy I had felt about “more family”, ultimately was my mother’s worst nightmare on her deathbed. Two weeks after this conversation, she passed away, but I assured her that her fears were only that, fears…and anyone who knows me, knows that I have kept my word.
A couple of years after my mother’s passing, and having a few years of mothering under my belt, everything in my life began to make sense. I am so, so blessed to have a mother who gave birth to me, and loved me enough (to make the ultimate sacrifice of saying good-bye to her child) to give me the life that she knew she could not at the time. I had a mother who raised me, taught me, loved me, gave of herself for me, sacrificed for me. I have a father, that also saw that his new born baby girl deserved a life with a family. I had, a father that like my mother, raised me, provided for me and loved me. I have a step father who is always there for me too.
Rob and Connie are a huge part of my life…..yes, I call them Rob and Connie. I would love to call them mum and dad, but do not want to overstep my bounds, and am not sure about those words escaping my lips, as they are such sacred titles. Would I be breaking my promise to my mum by uttering them? Would it make Rob and Connie uncomfortable, how would my siblings react to this? This is something I am still working on. There comes a time for everything, and I am sure the “aha” moment will happen, and everything will be crystal clear, or at least clear as mud!
Our kids have had to draw a family tree for school projects, and on both occasions, we sat down and explained “our” family to them. In both instances, we were met with the “deer in headlights” look. Michael and myself explained our family as best as we could, and finally told them, there is just that many more people out there who love you, and no matter what anyone tells you, that is not a bad thing! Confusing, but definitely not bad!
When I started this blog, I introduced to you a long list of characters. I have not gone into extended stories, as I would probably be in my 90’s and still writing! It is a brief overview of how what I stated and perceived as “too much family”, becomes how you can never have enough family.
I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, particularly in this day, and the more “family” you have to love and encourage each other, in my opinion, the better. My answer to my children and to myself, as to why our family is so complex, is now simply “When God closes a door, he opens a window”…..be forever thankful for the new breeze that blows, it is amazing!
To my husband and wonderful children: Words will never describe how much I love you. The lessons about life, and unconditional love that you have showed me can not be measured. You three are my life, my ultimate greatest blessing.
To my mum and Dad: Ken Keene and Glad MacNeill, Rest in Peace…….you are gone but will never be forgotten….you made who I am today.
I want to tell Rick Keene, Chris Keene, Terry Keene, Robert Keene, and Terry Keene, that I am so proud and happy to be able to call you my brothers. It doesn’t matter that you are “old, and don’t want to play” I am old now too, and playing Barbies isn’t as fun as it used to be.
To Bruce MacNeill, thank you for being my dad…..it was a bumpy ride at first, but I think we have it worked out, and I am truly grateful that you were brought into my life.
To the Richmond/Morrow, and the rest of the MacNeill clan…..some of you are “old” family, and some of you are “new”…..every single one of you (and there are a lot) are very special to me…. thank for the memories and the future experiences I can look forward to with you.
To the Patrick/Belanger Clan….thank you for accepting me into your family, you have made me feel welcome and loved from the time I first walked through the front door.
To the Johnson/Cameron family….thank you for accepting my into your lives after such a long time…..you are all very special people with hearts the size of New York City!!
To Shawn, Amanda, and Robyn….I can not tell you enough, how much I love you guys. I wasn’t raised in the same house as you, but you opened up your hearts to me and embraced me as part of the family. I know I don’t share the bond that the three of you have, but please know I am proud to call you my brother and sisters. You have completed a part of my life that was missing. I love seeing you guys grow, I love seeing your families, you are on my list of my life’s greatest blessings.
To mum and dad Cameron…all I can say is thank you, and I love you. For the first time, I am at a loss for words. Thank you for everything will have to do!