What comes to mind when you think of the word “family”? It’s an ordinary word that carries such complex and diverse meaning. When I think of family, I Imagine a host of different images. My parents, little brother and I, sipping egg nog, blasting Nat King Cole, and showering our hand-picked Frasier Fur with Christmas ornaments. My grandma and I, chattering on the phone for hours, making up the distance with conversations full of laughter, politics, and Oscar predictions. My tight knit group of lady friends, all piled in the basement watching crappy TV, eating our fill of empty carbs, and planning our futures together. I’m sure many of you have similar images running through your head right now. We have family we choose, family we’re (thankfully and beautifully) stuck with, and sometimes, we are given the precious gift of family where you least expect it. This summer, by happy chance, I was given an unlikely family.
Towards the end of last spring semester, my dad called my with a suggested job opportunity. I am a personal care worker, and the mother of a girl I knew from my summer job at a day services for individuals with disabilities was looking for another worker. Something told me this would be the perfect fit, and I called her up right away. We enthusiastically agreed that I would start working in June, and I was already looking forward to the summer. I knew it would be fun, and I would enjoy the work and extra cash, but nothing could have prepared me for the impact that the next three months would have on my life.
Over the course of the summer, I got to know my girl Cal and her family extremely well. They are immensely supportive, accepting, and loving, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with them. I remember coming home from my first night working at her mother’s house, looking at my mom, and saying “I was supposed to have this job. I am supposed to touch their lives, and they are definitely touching mine”. I felt myself looking forward to going to their house each night, playing games together at the dinner table, watching her adaptive softball games, going to concerts in the park, and racing through the streets of downtown, laughing our heads off the whole way. I could feel myself changing. The unwavering love that they extended to me, a love that I wholeheartedly returned, was one that I was unprepared for, yet I know I was intended to experience. The last days of the sweet summer were tough. I was dreading leaving my jobs and starting school, but I knew that it would make every weekend home that much more special. After all, this girl, a strong, happy example of what it means to embrace all that life has, gave me more than just the best summer of my life; she gave me an unlikely family.