My uncle Buster died on December 6th.
While mom tried to jog my memory about meeting him at least once, I have no memory of the man. Marion "Buster" Snyder was someone I just heard her talk about sometimes. It's the same for her dad's side of the family. I remember meeting them once, after grandfather Dean Snyder had passed away, but the memory -- now some 20+ year ago -- is a foggy one.
When mom and I went to Buster's visitation on the cold night of December 11th, driving from Champaign to her hometown of Clinton, we weren't quite sure what to expect. After mom was born, Dean and my grandmother (Gummy) broke up and Dean started over with a new family with the lovely Hazel, comprised of several children who are my mother's half-siblings, Buster among them. Mom hadn't been extremely close with the family, so we approached the visitation with some trepidation.
The family members in attendance were nice. It was a solemn occasion, of course, but it was good to be there, to be in the presence of blood relatives -- however unfamiliar I was with them -- and to see how nice they were to my mom. Pictures of Buster, young and old, adorned the visitor line, and as I looked them over and mom told me things about him, there was a tinge of sadness as I thought, 'He might have been someone neat to know.'
Alas, life often works itself out in odd ways. I never really knew Buster. I never met Dean, dead for twenty-five years now. I never met my other grandfather, Oscar Gladney, as he died over a decade before I was born. As for family -- the Snyders, the Gladneys, the Langleys, etc. -- I know some better than others, and some I don't really know at all. So it goes.
The common phrase is that "blood is thicker than water," but I haven't always found it to be the case. That isn't a commentary on friends, or family. If anything, it's probably a commentary on myself. Of course, the definition of family is not always an objective one. There's blood, there's friends, and then there's family. Sometimes, the first two mix together to form the third. I've certainly found it to be the case.
Life, like family, often fluctuates as it continues, and so it likely will for me in the days, months and years to come. Not long after Buster's visitation, I connected online with Aunt Rosemary, one of my mother's half-siblings. The definition of what constitutes my family continues to change and be redefined, and I look forward to where it takes me.