There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I’d have to say that hasn’t been the case for me.

Last week I got home from two glorious weeks in Hawaii…with my ex-boyfriend’s family. That might be a little weird to some people, but it’s not weird to me. From the time I met these people I loved them; right from the start they took me in. They’re Hawaiian and I’m part Ukrainian, so we come from big families with strong bonds where money is not the most important thing, love and being there for one another is. I mean, whose boyfriend’s mom lets you move in for a month AND makes you hot cinnamon rolls in the morning while you sleep in? HELLO. And that’s only about 0.007% of all the kind things she’s done for me over the past 15 years.

After it all shook out they made every effort to keep in touch with me, even when I wasn’t so good about it on my end. I was wounded and wrecked up and not sure how to handle it. Together we’d been through births, deaths, illnesses, moves, chicken enchiladas, job losses, job gains, numerous Ghirardelli brownie mixes, meltdowns, shit fits, and more backyard barbecues than any person could dream of. Now what? It bothered me a lot. I mean, WHAT ABOUT THE POTATO SALAD RECIPE? And every other thing we’d come to mean to each other.

Over time I realized I was mourning the loss of my place in their family. Understanding that kept me plowing back in to maintain the bond, even when it stung. And really, our individual relationships hadn’t been broken; they were just a little different. When I started dating Chris, they accepted him like I was their kid and he was the newcomer. It broke my heart in the best way possible.

Last week when we parted ways in Hawaii I cried walking onto the plane (and most of the way home), but they were good tears. Sad to say goodbye, but happy we’d had such a great time together again. I felt rich inside. ‘Ohana is a strong word and I feel so fortunate to understand it in my heart and my life in the deepest way. If you have Hawaiian friends, you know what I mean; if you don’t, I hope you meet some someday.

Mahalo nui loa (hope I got that right) to my Hawaiian family. I could never thank you enough.

*Ohana, the Hawaiian word for family, extends beyond core family to include both blood and informally-adopted kin.

North Shore


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