People who were not a member of your family but were still treated as one.

Companion thread to this one.

In this thread I’d like to have a look at the opposite: people who were not members of your biological family but who were still considered part of it.

Uncle Humphrey was part of my life from the day I was born until his death 28 years later. I knew that, although I saw him every day at my grandmother’s house, he was not my grandfather. When I grew older, I learnt that after she was widowed several years before I was born, she had a fling with Uncle Humphrey. Their relationship didn’t last but their friendship did. So, every single day he’d come to her place to spend the afternoon with her and chat. They’d also bicker like an old couple. They’d go on holidays together, driving down to the same place in France every year. Me, my brother and my parents went with them a couple of times.

And he was the kindest person I had ever met. He always had sweets in his pockets for us. Or toys. In the summer, when his workplace was closed for the holidays, he’d often take me and my brother there and let us roam through the premises all day. That was a wonderful playground. He would tell us stories on how he fled to England in 1940 then got injured during the Invasion of Normandy four years later.

If there was a family reunion, even a small informal one, there’s no way he would have been left out. That would have been unthinkable. He was always invited, plain and simple even when some relatives were not.

He died suddenly about twelve years ago. My grandmother survived him by more than 10 years. As I arrived at the funeral home where her wake was taking place, I glanced at the sign near the entrance that showed the names of the dead and there was only one name apart from hers. It was a certain… Mr. Humphrey.

That made me smile.

My Didi (big sister) is not a blood relation but she’s actually been in the family longer than I have. When my aunt was teaching in school in India, one of her TAs and her got along really well, to the point where they moved in together, and that was sometime in the 1960s (I was born in 1975). They’ve lived together ever since and never been apart.

People did wonder if there was anything sexual between them but I don’t think there is - I think they have just elected to be heterosexual life partners. I know that they will never be apart until one of them die, and I think, good for them.

In the beginning I think she was unsure about being a part of the family but like I said since she was in the family since before I was born I never set her apart or thought she was anything different from family, and she was one of the guiding lights in my life as I grew up. She wasn’t always kind, but she loved me dearly, and bought me things and took care of me just as much as any family member.

My aunt will probably go first (she is older) and I worry about my Didi after that. I don’t know how she will cope.

I am not related by blood to my best friend, Blue Elk, but we are brothers. His wife is also one of my best friends. I met both their children within hours of their births and love them as much as I love my sister’s kids. I spend at least part of every holiday with them, have taken trips & vacations with them, etc. When I go to their house, I knock and enter, and even the dog greets me like family.

I am very proud and happy to be in their lives and to have them in mine and I can’t imagine us all not being close for the rest of our lives.

Helen would qualify in my family. She was going to marry my father’s Uncle Bob (not sure if they were formally engaged), but he died of a heart attack. Although Helen later married, she always carried a torch for Bob, and was close to my father’s sister Karen and mother until those "blood kinfolk’ died. When I finally met Helen at Karen’s funeral, she told me she (Helen) had loved me since I was born, as I was named Robert as a tribute to her beloved Bob (as well as my dad’s baseball idol, Bob Feller). Actually, Helen had seen me years before, as she remembered me reading “all the labels on the soup cans” when I was two years old.

My maternal grandparents took in the child of their best friends who were killed in a tornado. Betty was 16 at the time, so they didn’t adopt her, but she did live with them, they sent her to college, and my mother considered her to be a big sister. I always knew her as Aunt Betty and never knew we weren’t related by blood until after she had died. Her three daughters are, to me, still my cousins, and we still keep in touch.

My brother’s first wife was like a sister to me and a daughter to my mother. When he divorced her, she remained dear to all of us until her untimely death from cancer; my brother, not so much.

We have had a lot of people like that going back for generations. One place where maybe my kin (at least on Dad’s side) are unique is that we extend the privilege. If Cousin Mike and his family treat Katie as a third daughter, all the rest of us accept that and refer to her in that way. My wife and I have a couple friends who are closer than usual; not quite adopted children but people we would trust with our lives and making life and death decisions for us. The two of them could attend family functions we can’t make and no one would bat an eye or say a word. And if they needed help, it would happen with no question asked and nothing expected. For us family is more a matter of fact and heart than blood; you may not be able to pick your relatives but we can and do.

Flip side - we’ve also dropped blood relations from the family. The generation or two before me one of the cousins badly treated her brother and sister. After they passed away she was kindly but firmly informed that she wasn’t welcome anymore at gatherings or family functions. Don’t know if she tried to push it but ---- knowing our crew they would have pushed back.

Seems to happen a lot in my family.

Start with my Grandfather. My uncle never had any children of his own, but married two different women who had children from a previous marriage: his first wife had 3, his second had 4. Grampa made no room for discussion on the issue: those were his grandkids.

My oldest brother married his high-school girlfriend, and our families had been close (occasional cookouts, I took piano lessons from her mom, etc.) But her older brother was closer than most.
Both my brother and his future wife attended the university that was in the town we lived in. My brother lived in a dorm for a year, but then wanted an apartment. So he shared an apartment with her older brother for about two years, only moving out when he got married.
Shortly thereafter, her brother got another apartment and was looking for a roommate, and … my other brother was looking for a new apartment and moved in. they lived together for something like seven years.
One day my brother was introducing him to a friend and said, “this is Stan, my … there really is no word for how he’s related to me. He’s my brother’s brother-in-law, his sister is my sister-in-law.”
Lastly, there is Mike. Mike was a friend of my brother who just sort of opted-in to our family. His mother was very young when she had him, and he’d sometimes say she had been more like a friend than a parent, and his father was … not a big part of his life. My brother was much older than Mike, but they became good friends.
When my brother and I got an apartment together, my father would stop by once a week to visit. Mike made an effort to visit at the same time so he could keep touch with our Dad. And then Mom started referring to Mike as “My other son”. And it stuck.
My brother’s kids are adults now, and they know that “Uncle Mike” is not a blood relative, and his son is not really their cousin. And they also know that genetics is not the sole basis of who your family is, and he really is their Uncle, and his son is their cousin.

My husband and his cousins had no idea that they aren’t blood-related until they were adults. Turns out his mother and their mother are such good friends that the kids assumed they were sisters. They still refer to each other as “cousin”.

I’m an only child but when I was a teenager I had a friend who was like an older brother to me (we lost touch many years ago.) When his children were born he asked me to promise him that I would be their “aunt” no matter what happened (he and the children’s mother had a very rocky relationship and broke up shortly after the youngest was born.) Of course I agreed and they are my niece and nephew, no questions asked.

My brother and I are not brothers… but we are. His mom and my dad dated for >10 years, and he “grew-up” (ages ~ 7-18) in our small subset of the family. Dad never married his mom, though.

I think it mostly boils down to how much he loved and respected my father. He always considered my dad as his dad. For years we joked that we were pseudo-step-brothers, but now it’s simply brother. I am proud to have him as part of the family, esp since I never dreamed I’d have a brother.