Tag Archives: cousins

I want a “do over”…

Just back from watching The Great Gatsby. It astonishes me how different all these books are from what I thought they were when I was forced to read them in high school. The whole feeling of Gatsby was so different than what I remembered (truth is I just lived for Robert Redford (still do) and dreamed of being his Daisy). I never understood the significance of the damn green light at the end of the pier.
I didn’t have the life context to even begin to understand the story. The endless striving for a dream only to find that the dream had changed while you strove, and hey, it wasn’t worth the striving anyway…you need life context for that. You need to have lost a few dreams enroute in order to understand the terrible terrible innocence of Gatsby, the horribleness of the people who used him.
If only we had the chance to redo our lives with the information we know now. Think of how much easier it would be if you knew the bumps ahead?
I was at the mall today, marvelling at the amazingly intricate strollers people were carrying their kids around in, and wincing at tired parents yelling at tired kids.
If I had it to do over, I’d be more patient. I’d enjoy my kids more. I’d force their dad to enjoy them more, too. What’s work, anyway? I’d have fought for our marriage, too, and forced him to be present in it. Even if I had to sit on him. I’d have sat on him more often, in a different way…
If I had it to do over, I’d have fought more to stay in the same place, to form lasting friendships with people. My friendships now are what sustain me. I don’t think I was always as good a friend as I could have been, and I’ve been lonely a great deal of my life. If I had it to do over, I’d work harder at being a friend, less hard at being a career success. I’d spend more time with my cousins. They’re like family bright – not as competitive as siblings, easier to just love.
I’d exercise more, if I had another chance. I’d spend lots more time enjoying the freedom of moving my body, of walking and running and flinging my muscles around while I could, before MS made every such exertion a guessing game, subject to sudden limitations. I’d tell my ballet instructor at Harriet Hoctor’s school to take her flat shoes and stuff ’em and demand to be on point even if I was shorter than everyone else.
I’d spend more time on creative pursuits: writing, music, art. They are truly the only things of value in this cynical depressing world. Well, those and chocolate and ice cream and single malt. And full-on laughter.
I’d travel more. I’d stop spending money on stuff and spend it on seeing other places while I still could. I’d go volunteer in Africa or something, where my skills could be some use and where the kids (I’d take them with me) could see that I had value to others. They already know how privileged they are and do good things, but I have this irrational urge to make them proud of me.
Probably cos I’m so proud of them.
Yep, a do-over would be great. I might even be able to protect my kids from things that hurt them as they grew up – I’d know to be aware that some people were not to be trusted, that school was nastier than it was when I grew up, that drugs were so present.
Probably not. It’s hard to be everywhere, and I always valued my kids’ right to privacy. I still do. I just wish I could try it all over again.
Maybe do it just the teensiest bit better.
Or, at the very least, appreciate it more.

Facebook birthdays

Opened up Facebook today to see that it is my cousin Mary Brown’s birthday today. Nothing really surprising, except that my dear cousin is no longer with us – she passed away last year. It was horrific, her passing – a sudden onslaught of cancer, lack of ability to stop its inexorable progress, the loss of a life force so filled with charm and love that I honestly felt the earth change shape. It broke my heart, and the hearts of her closer family and friends and associates and probably just the people she passed on the street and shared her smile with.

But she lives on on Facebook.

In a way, it’s a good thing. I like having her pop up from time to time on my family list, though I am somewhat glad she hasn’t sent updates – I like the suspense of not knowing and besides, I’m hoping that she is having too wonderful a time in the afterlife to think of us back here. I still regret not knowing her better, I regret not going to see her dad the weekend before he died, too. Seeing her still there on Facebook reminds me of the times when I focused on other things, rather than relationships, and how wrong I was to do that. I’m trying to make family and friends more of a priority, though my body, with its traitorous MS, is making that difficult.

I’m going to keep trying, though. Because Mary is there to remind me.

Love and all that to family and friends everywhere. I’ll be in touch…


It was my birthday yesterday and the very best part of it was having a chance to reconnect with friends far and near, chat with them briefly or longer, hear about their lives. I spent the day smiling thinking about my past lives, the people I’d met there, and the joy they bring to my current life. It was a glorious snowy day that caused me to be cozied up inside with only brief forays out to watch Chutney the dog leap about in the snow like a cat with wrapping paper. I wallowed in my friends instead of the snow.

Early on, I heard from a former “significant other”, who remains significant to this day. We met the first week of university, spent so many silly times together – will I ever forget the Boston Cream Pie fiasco? We lost track of each other, then reconnected a couple of years later. It was … incendiary … I spent days enclosed by a mist of lust and longing and total addlement. We reconnected again a while ago, briefly. It was … incendiary! Again! Plus friendly and loving and caring and completely unexpected and thrilling. And yet innocent. I can’t help smiling thinking about it. So, what does it mean? Soulmates? Oddly attuned pheromones? Shared love of the muppets? Who knows. All I know now is that somewhere on the planet there’s a star that shines, that warms my heart. We’re unlikely ever to reconnect again in a physical way, but our friendship remains solid, warming, and comforting. I am so grateful for it.

Then, later in the day, my girlfriends checked in. A wonderful group of women, my gang of ladies who lunch, who circle around my sis-in-law-once-removed, and who welcomed me in, arms open, despite my ungratefully divorcing my ex. When I lived in Ottawa, we’d visit once monthly for a lingering lunch of conversation and support and affection. I miss them so much.

My nursing buddy called. We’ve been friends since I arrived at Queen’s, we suffered nursing school together, she saw me through disastrous boyfriends, drunken evenings, vicious nursing profs. She’s been far more successful than I have – she leads her field. I am agog at her accomplishments and so thrilled at her continued friendship with her peripatetic friend.

Many other wonderful wishes came my way throughout the day, from old friends and new. I can’t tell you how much these mean to me, as I perch on the edge of the continent and look back in gratitude for the life I’ve lived so far. How lucky I’ve been! From high school buddies to new friends, from cousins to sisters to kids to loves, my life has been and continues to be so very rich.

It heartens me, braces me to step forward, heart open, arms open, to embrace the future. My humble thanks to you all.

The joys of reconnecting

I was granted a blessing this weekend.  I was invited to share in the joy of my uncle and aunt’s 60th wedding anniversary, and was thrilled not only to attend, but to reconnect with so many of my cousins and meet so many I had never seen. It’s a wonderful and large tribe, my dad’s family. They are friendly, caring of each other, loving and close, and I feel sad for the years I have passed where I didn’t know them well.

Way back in the dawn of time, sometimes we’d get together with these cousins, but we lived far away and it just seemed that the times were too far apart for us to feel really close.  Yet we reconnect and the family similarities pull us together. Life hasn’t treated all of us well, but we find enough in common to talk and laugh and treasure each other. The joy of seeing them all is beyond measure.

My mum’s family, particularly my Aunt Dorothy Anne’s family, are the same – always caring, always willing to put up with their slightly odd cousin. I cherish every moment I can spend with them as well. The Browns tell me I look like my Aunt Mary (in the habit); the Vachons and I joke about having the same cheekbones. We link up shared experiences, stories of our parents and our childhood adventures. Feeling the links through the years warms my heart, makes me feel like I am attached somewhere.

I’ve always felt rootless.  My parents are long gone, and my siblings live far away now – or rather, I live far from them.  I moved to Canada from Boston and never looked back, detaching from my hometown almost too eagerly.  When married, we moved too often for me to develop a longing for a home town – I became, instead, proud of my ability to fit in anywhere, to settle in whatever strange land I found myself. I left chunks of myself in some places – the short grass prairie of Western Manitoba, the cool sea breezes and celtic harmonies of Nova Scotia, the grey sullenness of Kingston. I left friends behind in these places, and miss them. Now, my ex has remarried, my children are grown and are scattering to the four winds. As for me, I’m still seeking for a place to settle for once and all, still searching for that place that I can truly call MY home.

Meeting with my clan of family that I wish I knew better, I start to get the feeling that perhaps this could be my home – close to the people who without question have welcomed me back into the fold. It’s rare, that welcoming.  I’m fortunate to have it.

My feet are still itchy.  I still long for the sea. But I’m so grateful for these moments of connection.