The Family We Choose


Today’s post is a special one.  So special it takes two bloggers to write about it.  Don’t miss the companion piece over at HR Ringleader.

We often find ourselves drawn to people of similar backgrounds, interests and temperaments.  We share with them, we bond with them, and we make them part of our lives.  They are our friends, and they are the family we choose for ourselves.  At least, that’s what they say.

Returning from Chicago recently (after a fantastic ILSHRM11 conference), I reached out to one of those people in my life, friend of the show Trish McFarlane.  As she shared in a recent post, Trish most her aunt recently, which is why I was calling to talk instead of sharing a ride back to St. Louis with her.  We had talked previously on the subject, and I was checking in to see how the family was doing.  After some discussion, she dropped this little knowledge bomb on me.

“We’re heading down to this little town called Patterson for services this weekend.”

Not noteworthy, right?  Small town a couple of hours away.  Just a comment made in passing.  Could have just as easily been left out.  Except it wasn’t.  And, as it happens, Patterson is right next to a small town named Piedmont.  These towns, about 10 miles apart, happen to straddle the house my grandparents lived in for most of my childhood.  My mother’s family all either live of have lived in Piedmont most of their lives.  Crazy.

Then we go deeper.  Her aunt and my aunt were about the same age.  What are the odds?  We start to exchange notes and promise to call our respective moms for more data.  At this point, my mom rings in, so I switch lines.

I relay the information to my mom, who searches through her memories for the names.  Yes, they sound vaguely familiar.  Yes, the family name is common.  Yes, the ages are about the same.  Then I mention Trish’s grandfather.  That’s where it gets even weirder.

“Oh sure, I know him!  Your grandfather traded him a pig for a Shetland pony.  Or maybe it was a cow.  I forget.”

Um…what?  Yup.  Different times, kids.

My mom is a horse lover.  (She still hasn’t forgiven me for eating horse in Europe.)  She begged for this pony, and my grandfather, who was a trader at heart, made it happen.  I’m betting it was a pig, since he raised them.  This would have been a pig near the size of a pony, I’m guessing.  Big piggie.  That was his style.

A few more notes are exchanged.  Among other things, I confirm that the location of services Trish is attending is the same place my grandparent were laid to rest.  Like I said, it’s a small town.  At this point, Trish rings me back, so I switch lines again.

Indeed, her mom confirmed the story.  Remembered my mom, though they are not quite the same age.  Then comes the fun part.

“So, as it turns out, my mom knows your family.  She dated your uncle.”

“Um…which uncle?”  If you knew my family, you would know why this was an important question.

“Roy.  She dated him while he was in the military, I think.”

Here’s what you need to know about this situation.  When my uncle Roy was in the military, he was well liked.  Had a good friend whose family was in Oklahoma who would come home with him on weekend leave.  He would spend the night, hang out with Roy and my grandfather and talk baseball.  I’m not sure if they had any nicknames for him, but I call him “Dad.”  It was while he was dating my mom that the aforementioned pig-for-pony swap happened.

There’s more to this story.  Hay acquisition, foundation digging, preacher acquisition.  Yearbooks are being reviewed, dates discussed, notes exchanged, rumors neither confirmed nor denied.  Crazy.  It will take a while to sort out all the details.

Paul Smith, another friend of the show, once referred to HRevolution as the “family reunion” of HR conferences.  With HRevolution Las Vegas just around the corner, that’s more true than ever.  Not quite family, but the next best thing.

Chosen family.


  1. Dwane: Not sure if you remember me — I’m the guy you bumped into at SHRM IL, who swore that he knew you from your name, but couldn’t recall how. As it turns out, I “know” you from reading Trish’s blog and all comments. It’s amazing how much we can glean about a person through the blog world. I was convinced we had met before.

    By the way, I’m now following you on Lean HR. Thanks for your thoughtful insights.



  1. […] **To hear Dwane’s side of our story, click through to his post “The Family We Choose” […]

Lean HR is using WP-Gravatar

%d bloggers like this: