The following is an excerpt from The Nameless Man [Homebound Publications 2011]. It was taken from Chapter XIII: The Orphans. In this passage the nameless man sits with a husband and wife discussing what defines family. Is blood the only prerequisite needed to establish familial bonds or is something more not required?
…After thinking to himself for a moment the man proceeded, “Perhaps there is something else I should tell you before I go into my family’s past. It has to do with what family is.
“You see, just as union has been belittled to equal only a legal bonding, so too the ties of family have been belittled—boiled down to the presence of a blood-relation; removing love from the equation.
“In the time before evil came into being, when a child was born unto their father and mother there was no doubt that the bond of family was genuine. Now however, everything has changed. Now a child can be born unto a man and a woman who are not that child’s parents. As odd as it may sound to you, a child can be born to a woman who is not its mother and be put into the arms of a man who is not its father.”
“I do not understand,” Maria said. “If a woman bears a child she is that child’s mother. If a man creates a child he is that child’s father. How can it be any other way?”
“No, not always…not now,” the man replied. “Forming a bond between parent and child is not a matter of conception; the genetics do not hold the bond. Shared blood does not create a bond. Parentage is decided solely upon the presence of love.
“Only those who do not believe in love, would disregard love as the defining element of family. In the old world it was different. Love created the bonds between people, shared blood was just a by-product of the creation of the physical body. But in a place that is devoid of love—that was founded upon an abandoning of a belief in love—a new method of denoting bonds had to be conceived of and it was the concept of shared blood that was fallen back upon.
“This idea of shared blood denoting a family bond is as absurd as thinking a priest pronouncing two people as married can forge a real union between them. The coursing blood does not bring love to the heart. The emotional bonds that create a family are not encoded within our DNA.” The man paused; he still did not see comprehension in Maria’s eyes, this was not surprising. It takes more than a few words to change a lifetime’s way of thinking. Samuel likewise, was reaching to understand this idea.
He continued, “Blood can reveal shared genetics but nothing more; our blood does not dictate who we shall love or who shall love us, as such blood does not dictate who we have bonds with. Bonds are created from the presence of love. The depth of the bond is defined by the depth of the love felt. Family cannot be defined by the vein. It must be defined instead by the unseen substance that flows from the heart. We must define our family, not by who we share blood with, but by who we share love with.”
“You would say then that a man and a woman who give birth to a child are not necessarily the parents of the child?” Maria said, recapping.
“A woman carrying a child in her womb and giving birth to the child does not make a woman a mother. I know this is a different way of thinking,” the man said, understanding the difficultly they were having. “But in the end, my point is a simple one. The question is, what denotes parentage. I would ask you this: What is it to be a mother? Is the one and only prerequisite for becoming a child’s mother the act of giving birth? Or is the woman not required to love the child she bears in order to be known as that child’s mother? Is love secondary to genetics? Or are genetics secondary to love?
“A woman gives birth to a child, though, instead of nurturing the child she stifles it; instead of caring for the child she neglects it; instead of protecting the child she attacks it; instead of being that child’s source of life she becomes a threat upon it—a drain and a plague.
“However, in time, as this child grows it meets another woman who does the opposite—who is loving, nurturing and cares unconditionally.
“Now, which woman is the child’s mother? Which of the two women has fulfilled what it is to be a mother? Is it the first woman, whose only motherly act was that of giving birth, before in essence, abandoning the child? Or is it the second woman who, while having not given birth to the child, did help bring that child to life? What is it to be a mother? Is it a title that all women who have bore a child can adopt? Or is it not a bond made by the presence of love?
“If who our family is, is a matter of blood alone then the woman who tries to suppress her child, can be called the child’s mother; for her’s was the womb that brought the child forth—the two have shared blood and that is the only factor that is taken into consideration. Whereas the woman who would have loved and cared for the child could not be called the child’s mother; for her blood is not the same as what runs through the child’s veins. Do you begin to see the absurdity?” the man commented, at a loss as to how such a backward notion could be so widely accepted.
“If the title of mother and father solely belongs to those who share blood and is not determined by the presence of love, then the man who beats his child would have the same right to be called a father as the man who protects and provides honorably for his child.
“Is it not a contradiction to call a woman or man who hates their child, the mother and father of that child? Must one not embody what it is to be a mother or to be a father before they are allowed to be called such. Or is love not required and even the meanest, embittered, hurtful person, whose very presence is toxic to a child, can be given the sacred title of mother and father?
“Only in a world where love is not central would family be determined in such a cold way.”
“I do not have a loving relationship with my family,” Samuel shared. “They have not been as aggressive as Maria’s family—they never slapped me down or sought to control me. They never hurt me per se but they also never gave me anything…” he stopped short.
Maria picked up his thought, “Not everyone has a loving mother and father. But what can be done about it? Regardless of it all, they are our family. Aren’t they?” She asked.
“Abuse is not always what people do to us but what they don’t do—the love that is withheld and the closeness that is never experienced hurts just as deep as the strike of the hand. Whether or not you meant to Maria, you just now summed up the belief that is instilled in us—the backward belief that makes those in abusive, loveless relationships resign themselves to stay in them forever.
“An unloving mother or unloving father is a contradiction in terms. We are led to believe that blood alone defines family, that when shared genetics are present, familial bonds are inalterable. Nevertheless, we all know deep within ourselves that a mother and father are meant to be loving and nurturing. This is why it hurts us so badly when they are the opposite. Blood determines nothing. When a person who has bore a child does not live up to what it is to be a parent they have lost their right of parentage.
“Define what it is to be a father? The father is the protector and the provider, he is the gentle strength, the steadiness—he is the guide. Define what is it to be a mother? The mother is the nurturer; she is the living womb—others develop and flourish under her care.
“Birth of a child and love of that child once went hand-in-hand. In the old world when a man and woman gave birth to a child they were the undisputed parents of that child; for in the old world, not loving your child was inconceivable. Here however, in the time since evil rose, things are different.
“Here children are born as a consequence of lust and loneliness; they are born as a mistake or miscalculation—outrageous terms to apply to one’s child. And it is because a child can now be born unto loveless people, that a child can be born into the arms of those who are not their parents.”
“I have never felt close to my parents,” Maria confessed. “There were never, I love you’s or I miss you’s we have been together out of obligation and blood. I knew this was wrong—that things should be different in a family. But I simply thought, I did not have a loving family. Now I see the contradiction in those terms…that love equals family and where there is no love, there is no family.
“I don‘t know if I could simply leave them,” Maria said, still struggling with guilt. “Regardless of what they have done it seems wrong to abandon them. I mean, even with all that they have done wrong, how can I break apart our family?” she asked, feeling as though she were going against the natural way of things.
“I feel the same way,” Samuel reasoned. “My family was not loving but we also were never left to want. I would feel guilty to leave. I would be afraid to stand up to my parents regardless of how deeply they have hurt me.”
“Fear and guilt—these are not things that bind a family.
“You say your family never hurt you but what you mean is that they never struck you. Because, in the end, if they did not give you love they did hurt you. It is a passive abuse, but depriving another of what they need to flourish, be it food or love or shelter, is abuse.
“I will not push you, I would simply suggest that you look at your relationship with those you call family and tell me if you do not believe family is meant to be more than what you have with them.”
“In the past, I have thought that, perhaps I could talk with them? Point out what our relationship has been lacking and they would change,” Samuel said, knowing he was deceiving himself. Maria said nothing to this; for she too knew it to be a desperate attempt to avoid a painful truth.
“I have found that those who love us—love us. And those who don’t, do not,” the man replied in a regrettable manner. He wished he could have simply agreed with Samuel’s idea but he couldn’t. “If you spoke up change might come but it would be only superficial and most-likely only temporary; for nothing has changed in their heart.”
Samuel picked up Maria’s hand, holding it tightly in his own. He knew the man was right. All their lives Samuel and Maria had known the truth, the man simply confirmed it.
“…you know what you each have with one another,” the man reasoned in a heartfelt voice, trying to ease their heartache. “You know what your bond means to you both…. Don’t you want that same depth of love from those you would call your parents?
“In the end,” he said, “I know your story. You don’t have to tell me all that you have been through for me to know the situation. The point to my sharing these truths with you was to free you from your misplaced obligations.
“You each must choose what you will do.”
“If we were born to parents who never loved us,” Maria asked in a sad voice, “does that mean, we will never have a family?”
“No,” the man said in a consoling voice of imparted hope, “not at all.”