Family is more than genetics. Family can be your best friends and best friends can be your family.
My father was recently diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA), an identity stealing degenerative brain condition. While his body may remain healthy for some time, it will rob me of my father, my role model, and the person I have spent my life emulating. I have always been proud to be called "his clone" (although it isn't always intended as a compliment.)
I worry about my mother, as she will have so many additional burdens: watching her husband disappear before her eyes, transforming from a partner to caregiver, and ultimately facing the world by herself. Not that she isn't a strong woman, with all the support she could need, but she will have to rediscover that part of herself.
It may be that the passing of one's parents forces everyone to consider their own life: where you've come from, where you are, and where you want to be. The irony of life is that's only long when you're looking at it. When you're living it, it's always shorter than you can imagine.
My own children are suddenly that - my children. Jerry just had his seventh birthday; a milestone I couldn't comprehend seven years ago. He's a real boy: in first grade, reading books, climbing trees, playing baseball, and getting in plenty of trouble along the way. Momoko has suddenly become a young lady; at just three years old she provides a glimpse into the young woman she'll grow to be. Earlier this year, I took steps to ensure that we would be a two children household. Jerry and Momo are everything I could want and all that I have. Eriko seems happier than ever, having developed her own extended network of friends and activities.
My brother, Zack, is months away from being a father of his own and for the first time I will have the ability to be a real uncle (as we have the fortune of living not only in the same city, but merely blocks away). My eldest sister, Melissa, has five children but they are far away and our lives are not nearly as intertwined as I could imagine them to be. I hope that someday Katrina, my little big sister, will give up the sun and move to Seattle.
My other family, my work family, has grown up as well. I've made many great friends, seen many lives grow and change, and have grown tremendously myself. I've seen many grow up and move on, move out, and watched their journeys from afar. I now approach my eleventh year, with amazing memories of the past and tremendous uncertainty around my future.
But I'm certain of one thing. I have an incredible family.