In times of celebration, growth and uncertainty, the most significant people in our lives extend companionship and support. Sometimes by chance, important bonds are forged instantly over an unplanned event. In other instances, ties develop gradually throughout years of shared experiences. Here’s what 10 people had to say about their connections with their family, friends, partners and even pets.
Especially being a single dad, Leo, 5, is everything to me. I love him more than anybody else. Right when he was born, I felt an obligation to raise him the right way. He totally changed my life for the better. Quitting alcohol was a big thing. I can’t be going out and partying, or put myself at risk in any way. My ex-wife and I have a really good relationship, and she is very much involved so we co-parent. Leo is No. 1 and when I find the next relationship, she will still be No. 2.
Alex Milzer, 34, an owner and founder of Senior Directory, a multimedia advertising company in Denver
My mom, Kenia Liriano, 47, makes light of things that give people stress. In a lot of ways, she is a person you would think is all over the place and kind of wacky, but in my eyes, she’s this motivational rock. Nothing really worries her much. She started out very poor, living in the Dominican Republic. There was a lot of violence. She came to visit the United States when she was 19 and ended up staying. She had to learn English and got a master’s degree in social work. Now she helps women with domestic violence issues, L.G.B.T.Q. individuals, homeless youth and people looking for H.I.V. testing. Her attitude gives me direction and hope. If she came so far, having so little and gave me so much, I can make it too.
Gabrielle Liriano, 24, senior retail sales associate, Montvale, N.J.
She’s not a normal grandma, as my mom puts it. My mom was a single mom as of my sixth birthday, so they’ve raised me together and we live in the same house. I call my grandma, Katie Yi, 74, “Halmeoni,” which is Korean for grandma. After dinner every night, we go on a walk to get some exercise. I speak to her in Korean and she’ll speak to me in English, so we both practice languages that we’re not the best at. She tells me about the drama at the senior center or church, and I’ll tell her about the drama at school. I was having an issue with friends, so my grandma called the parents of the girl who was being mean to me. I was mortified but afterward my friendships improved. My grandma inspires me to take more initiative. I definitely stand up for myself more.
Cassatt Boatwright, 14, middle school student, San Francisco
My Business Associate
Eleven years ago, I was introduced to Micheline Wakim, 55, through a mutual friend who described her as an excellent home cook. I was opening a restaurant in January 2010 and looking for a chef. I went to Micheline’s house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and she prepared coffee, hummus and falafel. I really enjoyed the food, but she didn’t have experience in a commercial kitchen. I was willing to take a chance on training her. She became part of the company. We developed a relationship like sister and brother, and I consider her family. To a certain extent, we‘ve lived together every day for the past 10 years. Her world and my world have come together. I share with her what’s going on in the business. She gives me her shoulder and she always listens.
Roland Semaan, 40, the owner of Balade, a Lebanese restaurant in New York
My only sister, Nadiah Mohajir, 39, and I were very close when we were kids. She’s always been the more mature one who grew up faster than anyone in the family. As she got to high school and I was in junior high, we started butting heads. As I got older, I saw that my sister wasn’t out to get me in trouble. She spared me from making a lot of mistakes. Today our relationship is super strong. She’s got three kids, and we spend a lot of time together with the family. As our parents have gotten older, she’s helped me understand the importance of spending time with them and making time for them.
Sami Ahmed, 36, a founder and president of Hunt Club, a recruiting firm in Chicago
My Family Friend
I have a person who’s not my parent but is essentially my parent. Linda Smith, 59, and my mom were really good friends living in Hawaii when my mom got pregnant with me. My mom was young. Linda was like, “We’ll figure this out.” We all lived together for a while when I was a baby. Linda doesn’t have any kids of her own and thought of me as her kid. She has provided support emotionally and financially. She lives in Nanuet, N.Y., now. She calls me constantly — some would say too much — but it’s very sweet.
Kenna Capalbo, 23, film production freelancer, Crown Heights, Brooklyn
My Other Family
I grew up in a big family and never expected to join another. I was reading the newspaper one day, and there was an ad. A mother needed someone to take care of her kids because she was going to have a baby. I answered the ad. I sat down with Mei Lai, 57, and Charles Gabe, 66, and I was hired within five minutes! I worked for them from 1991 to 2019. Over time, I grew to love their children as my own. They often remind me that I had helped shape their kids’ lives. All three children have grown up and are out of the house. I love that we keep in touch. They’re always calling and checking on me.
Other than my daughter, my most significant relationship over the past decade has been my mom’s across-the-street neighbor Richard Colucci, 84. I met Dick two years ago. My mom would cook meals for us to share — pasta and shrimp, or pasta and chicken. She would make an extra dish for Dick, so I would walk it over to his house. He had an old Mercedes in his garage. One day, I was commenting on cars, and he told me about the cars he had and a project he just finished — he laminated his own house floor! We became friends. Now I visit him every day to make sure he has food and someone to talk to.
Franz Feijoo, 59, retired health information specialist, Greenacres, Fla.
The most significant person for the past 46 years has been my husband, John Woods, 66. We met at the University of Notre Dame during my last semester of college. I went off to grad school and taught high school in Iowa. He’s younger, so he finished school and went to work in Atlanta. He contacted me, and we decided we would get together. It was a long-distance love. He had this undying belief that I was the one for him. I think he is mistakenly convinced that I can do anything well, and it’s been that way for a long time. It tickles me because I never feel like I can do things nearly as well as he does. When I feel really nervous about something, he’s the one with the encouragement. We’ve been married 43 years with a son, Dillon, 33, and a daughter, Cecily, 30. There have been ups and downs, and a tremendous amount of comedy.
Casey Woods, 68, a manager of clinical services for Oasis Center, an organization for at-risk youth, Nashville.
I am not involved in any relationships now, and I probably won’t be for a few more years because I’m on the road with work. I have a roommate, and Tank, 7, is my roommate’s dog. He’s half mastiff and half Rottweiler. I am the adopted doggy daddy. Tank came into my life trusting me from the beginning. We do more together than anybody else, but I don’t take him on the truck with me because he’s too big and too energetic for this lifestyle. There are no words to describe how satisfying it is to see him learn the world through his own eyes and witness how he perceives everything. I imagine it would be the same thing through the eyes of a child, if you have one.