Looking back on my life journey I realise that I have always questioned the meaning of ‘family’ and whether ‘blood is really thicker than water’. This was a phrase that I heard a lot whilst growing up. Deep down I have never really believed the phrase, for life has come to show me that when the storm comes, our family of origin will not necessarily be there to hold us in love and let us know that the storm eventually passes.
When I look back at the storms that have crossed my path, I have found that it is mostly those to whom I have had no blood ties that have been there to comfort me through the dark nights. It is those people who have encouraged me to live an authentic life, rather than remain bound in the shackles of shame and denial.
I lived with foster parents in Kent, England between 8 weeks and the age of 5. It was the late 60’s and a number of Nigerians who had come to the UK to study made similar arrangements for their children. The arrangement enabled them to continue with their education, which after all was their main reason for leaving the shores of their homeland.
By the time I left my foster parents in the early 70s’ to move to Nigeria with my parents, I was calling my foster mum, ‘mum’ and my biological mum ‘aunty’. That was over 35 years ago and throughout the time in between I have kept in touch with my foster mum. During the intervening years when I lived in Nigeria, we communicated through letters and when I returned to England in the late 80’s we finally were able to hug each other and reminisce in person over the first 5 years of my life.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which I ‘came out’ to my foster mum, but I do remember her saying to me ‘you are still my son and I still love you’. This was in contrast to my birth mother who had the exact opposite reaction.
I remember calling my foster mum many years ago after a relationship had ended. As she consoled me, we talked about our individual relationship journeys and compared notes on the type of men we attracted as romantic partners. After that, whenever we spoke on the phone she would always ask ‘Are you now dating?’. More recently she has been asking ‘How is your friend?’. She had said in an earlier conversation, ‘I am old-fashioned and my generation would always say ‘friend’, instead of ‘partner’’ – bless her!
In my conversation with her last week, we talked about what being in relationship means and the difference between looking for yourself in a relationship and bringing yourself to a relationship. Yes, she is such a wise woman and I feel really blessed to be able to say that when it comes to my foster mum, blood is not thicker than water. She is rock who has been there for me through the storms, she asks for nothing in return and simply lets me know explicitly that I am loved regardless of whom I decide to date or build a life with.
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