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I never really knew what it was like to have a functional family at home. I can’t even remember when I first started visiting my dad on the weekends instead of seeing him every day at home. When I was moving out of our rental home of seven years, I found the divorce papers in my room. I wasn’t shocked. I was thirteen, and I had already pieced together that my parents were separating. However, it didn’t stop the discovery from being a mocking reminder that my dad wasn’t an active part of my life anymore. Sure, I visited him on weekends, but beyond that I never saw him. I realize I had taken those weekends for granted.

In the winter of seventh grade, my dad was hospitalized. I didn’t find out until I got into my step-dad’s car that day when he turned and told me, “Your dad’s in the hospital.” The drive was silent, and I wasn’t sure when I broke the silence with my tears. At the hospital, all I could do was stand by his side, croaking out ‘Dad’ like a broken record as I watched his chest rise and fall with a machine’s assistance. I left hours later, sparing one last glance at him as if it would be my last.

The years up until now were rough. I was disconnected with my family following the incident. I was so afraid that they’d end up in the hospital bed comatose like my dad. I didn’t want to have to go through a graduation where everyone else would be taking photos with loved ones while I had no-one. It was terrifying. I couldn’t sleep for a while without the thought crossing my head. But what I lost in my fear, I found in the people I worked with through the years. I realized that family could be beyond blood too.

Everytime I stepped into a messy office of hazardously strewn newspapers, I saw something more— I saw a family. A family of questionable kids who barely scraped by each deadline, but hey, we scraped by together and that was what counted. At home, I was already trying to bridge the gap in my own ways.

I was aware of how tired my mom and step-dad could be sometimes. So I took on some of their daily household tasks whenever I could, even if I had to push off homework. I bonded with them over break and vacations, and I felt the support and love wash over me again. I made time to keep visiting my dad to talk about everything that’s happened, even if I wasn’t sure he’d be able to hear. I may not know what a functional family feels like in the end, but I know what a loving and supportive one does.

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