Recognizing That This Is The Last Time

When you’re little, there are birthdays and anniversaries and holidays, but then people grow up, drift, and move away. Suddenly, it’s been ten years since you’ve clapped eyes on them. That’s where the big celebrations like marriages and funerals come in.

I understood the concept of funerals getting everyone near and dear together to help the family grieve, but what I didn’t understand, prior to my grandmother’s death was that this is the last party that is just for her. It’s the last party where you can talk all about her without seeming like a crazy person or stuck in the past. It’s the last time that you can demand of everyone you know to share a memory.

My sister and I always joke that our Dad, Aunt and Uncles always give hour long speeches at every family function. But instead of preparing to grin and bear my way through pages upon pages of dry retold family stories and hokey Dad-jokes, on the day of, I found myself wishing for more. Because this was the last time; there would be no more birthday celebrations with Grandma holding court in a funny birthday hat while her children reminisced behind a podium, and her grandchildren not so patiently listened. This was the last of the protracted speeches about my grandmother’s thriftiness. As my oldest Uncle stepped down and finished his speech, I longed to hear more.

Luckily, my cousin had challenged her Dad to share some untold stories about our beloved matriarch. My Aunt did the same- I learned that my grandmother had been a secretary when she was younger. I grabbed hold of these small new pearls of information about my grandma and held them close, turning them over in my mind as they revealed previously unknown facets of the woman I loved and admired so much. My own story was deemed inappropriate for the funeral, so I sang instead.

It was a feat for me to perform- I’ve lived several lives since the time when I pretended to be a musician and aquamarine pleather pants were a staple of my wardrobe. It took all of my focus to stand up and follow along with the music. The song ended and I was swept away in a deluge of grief.

I was crying in earnest when I returned to my seat. My cousin Candy reached over and held me in a hug, from behind I felt another cousin squeeze my shoulder. In that moment, I was transported to all of the times that my little cousins and I crouched underneath my grandmother’s pool table, hiding during a family game of sardines. I thought about how magical it was that we had all those memories together, that Grandma was the linchpin of it all. In that brief group embrace was the love of decades.

My entire life, I have lived in a big family. And for my entire life, my Grandma loved and gathered all of us together, she accepted us for who we were and that in turn fostered a culture of tolerance and support in my family. As a weirdo who has always marched to the beat of my own drum, I have depended on this unconditional love for the confidence to be myself.

Through my sadness, I marveled at what an incredible achievement it is to have a person’s life be a legacy of love and acceptance. That no matter what, our family had this one last time together to appreciate what an incredible woman my grandmother was. Then I sat and listened to who my Grandma was to each of my cousins; sports fan, role model, drill sergeant. All the while, I wished for one more story, one more prayer, one more song to remember and celebrate her life, because this was the last time.

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You Are Aware Of How Rude It Is When You Stare At My Burgeoning Winter Babies, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Right?

Jeremiah and Ezekiel are my fat babies- I made them out of chocolate brownies and Nutella. I swear that there is some sort of biological response that FORCES everyone to stock up on adipose for the cold months. Sometimes, one can avoid it, for example last winter, I spent a lot of time strapping my tiny toddler baby to my back, throwing a parka rated for -40 Celsius over the both of us and traipsing about our rough northern town. Something about regularly hauling around almost a quarter of my body weight prevented me from putting on excess weight.

This winter? Not so much. For starters, my baby is a baby no more; he’s all but outgrown his carrier and can no longer fit comfortably in the parka with me. Meaning that going out involves shoving Mini-Tex into HIS parka, a garment he loves, and by loves I mean despises with the wrath of a thousand shrieking toddlers, if my son knew what matches were, he’d play with them in an attempt to rid the world of his evil blue snowsuit. As you might imagine, getting a disgruntled two year old into a full body parka is a challenge, one that ended with me receiving a black eye after a particularly forceful headbutt earlier this winter.

Even our ever hopeful, ever perky, twelve year old babysitters won’t take on the task- and they are up for anything. Consequently, my son and I have spent a lot of time inside. Like a lot a lot. During the day, I gaze out onto the snow covered mountain top that is our view and think “someday” and then I eat some goldfish crackers and wonder when I developed a mommy butt.

Once upon a time, when I spent my evenings doing, well to be honest I can’t remember what I actually did in my late twenties but rest assured it wasn’t singing “Old MacDonald” over and over a thousand times while I cooked dinner, anyway, once upon a time, when I was young, well youngish, during the winter, I’d name the winter weight on my butt. The belly pooch was “Jeremiah” after an obscenely attractive model that I once dated. And bringing up the rear was Erasmus. It’s been a number of years and one child since then, so I’ve since accepted my new posterior which moves both side to side AND somehow back to front. There’s a lot more butt which extends beyond my hips, thus allowing the forward and backward motion. At least that’s my personal theory on my newly mobile bum.

In light of the fact that this newly shaped butt is unlikely to go away, I’ve ceased calling it names, especially one so unfortunate as Erasmus. But in the meantime, the front of me is looking so large, that Jeremiah now has a twin- Ezekiel. And I’d prefer if everyone would stop looking at them, or at least stop caressing them and asking about my “good news”.

What the Hell Wednesday: Drunk Vampires Eating Nachos and other High Points in my Life

So there’s this site called “Storyworth that will send you or a loved one, questions and then compile the answers into a book to then be cherished by your family for generations. No one in my family, including myself, would be dedicated enough to complete such a task, however I thought it was an incredible idea, thus I’m sharing it with the world. As it is, Storyworth has a page of questions, each time you refresh the page, new questions pop up. The questions are taken from their bank of thousands of questions.

I’ve wanted to do a daily or weekly writing prompt and even though I’ve never actually looked at the WordPress prompts, I’ve concluded they’re too “uppity” for my style. So I’m going to shamelessly steal some of Storyworth’s questions, all the while plugging their business. For serious, if you have a more literary family than mine- try it! In the meantime, here are some questions that I’ve lifted from their site, in a new series that I’m calling “What the Hell? Wednesdays”

 

What were your favourite courses in college?

Actual college or Mickey Mouse college? Because I went to both. Well actually I went to university and then decided I was too successful, so shortly after, I enrolled in Mickey Mouse college. In university, I loved the history courses taught by this one professor who had a passion for the North, Canada and rural issues. I used to audit his courses because they brought me joy.

As a part of the Mickey Mouse college program, to fulfill the requirements for the J1 visa, everyone had to attend classes. I have this theory that Disney bought half of the school, a theory which was validated by the giant plaque thanking Disney for paying for a wing of the school. I’m assuming that included in the deal was the understanding that once a week, the international college program kids would descend upon the campus, and the instructors of the school would teach jokes instead of courses to meet the United States Visa requirement. Excerpts from my memories of this educational experience were: the “Leadership” course in which 80% of class time was spent watching Obama speeches, the “Timeshare” course- the highlight was when we visited a timeshare and got out of going to our other classes for the day. Without a doubt though, the piece de resistance will always be the “Wine” course.

It might have been titled “Wines of the World” because I have hazy recollections of France and Australia being mentioned but it just as easily could have been “Wine Consumption” given that’s what it was. Every afternoon, once a week, I would sit with a whole bunch of underpaid youth from all over the world and listen to a portly man drone on about wine. Exactly one person listened, the day before the exam, we all took turns pretending to read her notes. The rest of us sat and waited patiently for when the instructor told us that we could sample our wines. Each week we “appreciated” three wines. Whether the TAs in the course were looking for a Disney World ticket hook up or whether they just enjoyed watching all the tiny Mexican girls get drunk, I’ll never know but those were generous “tastes”. The large samples combined with our youthful choice of entertainment over groceries meant that most of the class entered slightly hungry and exited a little buzzed. I feel all post-secondary institutions could learn a thing or two from this class-it was one of my top moments in a classroom ever.

 

What is your favourite joke?

Question – “What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?”

Answer – “Nawt yo cheese” pronounced as “nacho cheese”

I love this joke so much. It makes me giggle hysterically every time while others groan and secretly plot to avoid future interactions with me. I wholly encourage you to share this awful joke with everyone you know. The only better piece of humour that I have is a knock knock joke told to me ten years ago by a four year old who didn’t understand knock knock jokes.

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Vampire eat yowr FAAAAACE!”

It works best if you, the teller, laugh maniacally at your own joke afterwards.

 

When in life have you felt most alone? What gave you strength during those times?

I’m a mom. I am never alone. I actually just go to the bathroom with the door open because it’s easier than trying to open a closed door while peeing because your two year old is having a nuclear meltdown over not seeing you for thirty seconds.

What gives me strength during these times is wine. I’ve established that I love alcohol and my love of truly bad jokes proves that I’m an irresponsible adult.

 

If you could choose any talents to have, what would they be?

The ability to drum with my feet, obviously.