The truth about my weird family

There’s nothing like a road trip to share some life perspectives.

Oldest daughter and I hit the road last weekend to meet up with her grandparents, the parents of her first mom who passed away when she was eight years old.

It’s an act of love.

We drive two hours to a little hole in the wall diner, eat fried catfish with them for about an hour and turn around and drive back.

Somewhere between the 100th pothole and 76th crazy truck driver, Daughter asked a question I was actually ready for.

“Do you think all families are as weird as ours?” she asked.

Her question does have a basis in fact. You could say ours is a family built around early death, divorce, various religions, and different races.

Throw in some estrangement, disappointments and hurt feelings and you pretty much have the extended clan.

I had a story in my back pocket for this very moment. It comes from the days right after my father died, a time before I was married and had kids.

My mother, brother and sister decided to have a funeral and “rent” a rabbi. My father wasn’t religious, but we had to do something, given the messy state of our family.

The others left it up to me to explain our family. I launched into rambling stories of how my parents were divorced but had still lived together; how my charming but compulsive gambler father was beloved by some, but had burned just about every bridge with anyone who really knew him.

I could go on, but this rabbi didn’t have all day.

He nodded his head in that understanding way they must teach at clergy school and said, “I get it. For comfort, would you like me to tell you some stories of families I’ve served who are totally normal, have no drama, and everyone loves each other unconditionally?”

“That would be great, Rabbi,” I said thankful for a moment where I could transport myself to The Land of Normal Families.

The rabbi looked back at me and smiled.

He didn’t say a word.

His silence told the story.

“I’ve got nothing,” he shrugged his shoulders.

If we were paying the rabbi to provide leadership and comfort, this was the moment the rabbi truly earned his fee.

This was when I understood and accepted that all families have something.

Some are more obvious with their dysfunction, but even the ones that look Instagram perfect have something going on.

It’s allowed me to look at my current family with more grace and acceptance.

Yes, we are all the friction causing things I listed above. I prefer to see that we are a family built around love and mess.

I share in case you’re coming off one of those weeks, Dear Reader. The family drama and weirdness are overflowing.

It’s not you.

It’s family.

As I explained to Daughter.

It’s not about getting to normal.

Just go for the ride, weirdness, mess and all.

Daryn Kagan is the author of the book “Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts On Losing Her Job, Finding Love, A New Career, And My Dog, Always My Dog.” Email her at

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