So today’s post isn’t about adoption. Well, in a roundabout way it touches on it, I guess. Ultimately, it’s about childhood memories, love, and someone very dear to me.
Growing up, most of my memories aren’t of where I was raised. Instead, they’re of a small village, two hours away from home. A village of around two hundred people, where I’m related to pretty much everyone, somewhere along the genetics trail. This is where my Mom was raised, along with her twelve other siblings. We would travel there every other weekend as I grew up. When we would go up, we stayed at my grandparent’s house. There were only three siblings besides my Mom that moved away, and like us, if they lived close, they would come and stay at my grandparent’s house on weekends like we did. If not, they came home for summer holidays, long weekends and the big holidays like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. I always felt very lucky that I saw that side of my family so often. My Dad’s family was more spread out, and sadly we didn’t get together with them as often. Many of my friends would only see either side of their families once or twice a year, and some barely knew their extended family at all. So I grew up with an early appreciation for having the family I have.
Most of my memories center around spending time with a group of cousins who were around the same age as me. We played from the minute I got there on Friday night, to the minute I left on Sunday night. I lived for the weekends. So there was always disappointment as we waved good-bye to everyone standing in the driveway. We’re all grown up now, and have families of our own, and sadly, don’t see each other near as often as we used to, but when we do, it’s like picking up where we left off the last time we got together. That bond is still strong.
As much as I loved hanging out with my cousins, there was someone else who I loved spending time with; my Aunt Yvonne. Not unlike many of my Aunts on my Mom’s side, she is funny, loves to laugh, dance and carry on. She’s not afraid to be silly. Yet as boisterous as she can be, she also has a shy and bashful side. Generally, just a sweet and fun person to be around. I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with her. Probably my favorite memories, are when she would call down to Gram’s house on Saturday morning and as if I wanted to “go into town” with her. I can’t remember a time I ever said no.
We would drive out to one of the neighbouring towns to do errands like running to the bank, grocery shopping, or picking up something in particular that my Uncle Kenny needed. I didn’t care where we were going because inevitably, somewhere along the way, we would go on “a little adventure”, as she called it. These adventures led us to yard sales, or antique shops, or a visit my favorite little bohemian store, “Grumblin’ Ganny’s”. Other times it was stopping at the Dairy Bar for lunch and ice cream. But even on the rarest of occasions when it was a quick trip, and we couldn’t go on an adventure, we still had the best time.
It wasn’t just the destination that I enjoyed. The half hour drive each way was equally fun. I have such vivid memories of us driving with the windows rolled down, allowing the smell of the truck to mingle with the fresh country air. Her turning up the radio extra loud when a favourite song came on, singing at the top of her lungs, all while grooving in her seat. Sometimes I would join in, but other times, I would just stick my hand out the window, smile, and enjoy feeling the wind blowing through my hair, as I just absorbed the happiness surrounding me. Those are probably some of my earliest memories of being cognisant of just being in the moment. I can remember the exact feeling I had on those trips. Thinking about it right now, I’m a kid again, and I’m back in that truck. I can see her glancing sideways periodically to smile at me, as she belts out the tune on the radio.
Then there are the yummy memories. Some people are great cooks, and some people are great bakers. She’s both. It was always a treat to stay for dinner at Aunt Yvonne and Uncle Kenny’s. At one point, they had opened a restaurant, attached to their house. So whenever I was up playing with my cousins, Aunt Yvonne would come into the house and ask us what we wanted to eat. We were able to order anything off the menu. How cool is that?! My favourite were her fish burgers and Boston cream pie. To this day, I have never found a Boston cream that wasn’t full on disappointing compared to hers. I gave up trying years ago.
My most recent memory is from this past winter. She was admitted to a hospital here in Ottawa after having broken bones in her legs. The trek for my parents to visit was only an hour, but my Mom came down with a bad cold/flu, and didn’t want to bring that into the hospital. It was longer than that for anyone else, and two hours for her husband and sons to get down. Even longer with the snowstorms that kept hitting the forecast. For me, it was only about fifteen minutes, so I tried to get over every day to spend time with her. The first few days she was sleeping a lot due to medication, so a lot of my visits consisted of sitting and reading, and watching her sleep. But one of the last days I visited, she was wide awake for a long while, and we had a great chat.
During that conversation, she asked about Mike and I adopting, and told me how excited she was for us. We talked about it for a long time. She had all kinds of questions about how it worked, and how we would get matched with a child. She told me that I would love being a Mom. She talked about how excited she was when Derek and Jason were born, and re-canted some adventures in motherhood, from when they were little. (They were both little handfuls.) She also told me how special that time is, and how quickly it goes. She glowed when she talked about her grandchildren Michelle and Daniel, who meant everything to her. She told me I was going to be a great Mom.
We talked about a lot of other things that afternoon. The remainder of which will stay between her heart and mine. I will always remember that afternoon. An afternoon when I was selfishly thankful for a snowstorm that made it just the two of us.
Sadly, as I write this, she is back in the hospital. This time, there are no snowstorms to keep family at bay. They take turns keeping a bedside vigil as she clings to the last days of her life, after a long hard fought battle with cancer. She’s managed to stave it off for some time, but unfortunately, the scales are fatefully tipping in cancer’s favour.
As losing someone often does, it’s had me thinking instead of sleeping. Contemplating in the dark why this is happening to her and her family. Silent pleas quietly dampening my pillow, despite the fact I know there is no answer. At least not one we’re to be made privy to. Even if there was a definitive answer given, it wouldn’t be enough. So tears will continue to flow in the wee hours and random moments at the unfairness of it all.
Maybe it’s an attempt to lessen the pain in my heart, or maybe it’s because there’s no answer, but I find myself trying to focus on how lucky we all are to have her in our lives as long as we have. All the treasured memories we have had time to create with her. Memories are a beautiful legacy. What if when someone was gone, all of our memories went with them? How doubly tragic would that be? For a time memories are just a reminder of our loss. They sting and make an already seemingly broken heart, break a little more. That heartbreak never goes away, but eventually, it intermingles with reminders of love and blessings, making the pain slightly more palatable than it is early on. Although I’m bitter that all I’m about to be left with are recollections of her, at the same time, I’m so very grateful for all that she has given me, and all that she will leave me with.
My deepest sadness though, lies in the fact my children will never be afforded the same blessing of having her in their life as I did. That was not meant to be. But they will know about her. They will learn where our “little adventures” to their favorite places stemmed from. They will spend time in the truck with the windows down and the radio up, and know the pure, unadulterated happiness of singing along to your favourite tunes with all you have. And they will learn that there is no point in hunting down the illusive and sinful Boston cream pie, because sadly, there are no more to be found.
How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard? ~Winnie the Pooh
Edited to Add: It took me a couple of days to post this, because I just wasn’t happy with it. I actually wrote it on Monday, but didn’t post it because I felt like it didn’t capture just how special she was. After many reads and futile attempts to edit it, I realized I wouldn’t ever have the perfect words, because there just weren’t words to do her justice. Yesterday afternoon, I gave up. I thought, the hell with it and posted it. A couple hours after I did, I received the call that she’d passed.
It’s funny, grief is a very private thing, but there was something in me that just had to put this out to the world. Many people who read my blog don’t know me, and obviously don’t know her. Many that read are friends who don’t know her either. So why was I compelled to post something? Why did I later post the link on my Facebook page? Why did it matter so much? Maybe it was my way of trying to get it right; publically wearing my heart on my sleeve. Maybe I needed something tangible to be out there, when she no longer would be. Maybe it’s all of that and a whole bunch of other stuff my heart doesn’t understand. Whatever the case, she was a beautiful soul. I wish you all could have known her. You’d have loved her too.