Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kith and Kin

Yesterday, there was a cryptic phone message on our voice mail from my mother, saying that my brother was in their local hospital with "double pneumonia." Since he also suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) this could be very serious indeed. 

I resolved to phone the hospital to see how he was doing, since a trip at this time of year would not be feasible ... unless it really were serious, in which case I would go. 

This morning I phoned and spoke to his nurse. I was not listed as "next of kin," she told me, and therefore she was not allowed to discuss his diagnosis. She then proceeded to only give me general information. I was able - because I knew how - to pry enough information as I needed to reassure myself as to his condition. 

The bottom line is that he was admitted FIVE DAYS AGO with shortness of breath (not yet diagnosed). The general feeling is that he has some sort of flu, but that his fever is gone and he has good days and bad days - much like he was before - only he does cough at night and this is distressing for him. 

I mentioned to the nurse that I may be calling again to check on his condition in a couple of days. She warned me that someone else might not give me as much information as she did. 


I am very relieved that his condition is not as grave as my mother made it sound. However, the fact that she waited four days before telling me, that I wasn't even listed as an approved family member, and that she used such alarmist tactics to get me to re-establish contact with her, leaves me with a rather sour taste in my mouth. 
Family ties vs friendships : some people are lucky
enough to have both.

Photo courtesy of photostock at

Over the last four years, my definition of "family" has evolved into the kind that allows me to not be around people who make me feel like I'm "less than." 

These days, my "family" is those who build me up, those who value me as a person and who don't judge me or manipulate me.  

Just today, I started thinking of the expression, "kith and kin" - and I was curious as to the difference between the two. So, I consulted Professor Google. Kin refers to blood ties (genetic markers) one has with one's family of origin, or with one's siblings or children (possibly cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.) It implies warm feelings; the word "kinship" speaks of a heart affinity. (Some folks aren't lucky enough to have that with all of their family members; if you do, be VERY grateful!!!) 

However, the word kith refers to one's friends and neighbors, and comes from (depending on the source you read) the Old English or the Germanic root words for "knowing" or "to be known". Kith are the people who know you, who love you, whom you love - not because you HAVE to (i.e., because they are your relatives) but because you WANT to. 

I am grateful to have been blessed with kith. Friends - not acquaintances, but real true friends, those who really do care and about whom I care. Deeply. People who choose my company rather than feeling obliged to spend time with me. People who depend on me (not in a clingy way but who know that they can come to me if they need someone to talk to) and on whom - I have learned - I can depend. 

That is a marvelous feeling. 

I want to pass that feeling on to the people in my life. I want my children to feel that kinship with their parents; I want my friends to consider me to be 'kith' to them. I want to surround myself and my loved ones with that sense  of safety, the one where you don't feel you have to be on your guard around someone because you know that both people are going to handle each other's hearts with the respect and consideration they deserve. 

And that feeling of being safe, of being with 'kith' ... is a priceless commodity.

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