The search goes on
Photo by Luana Azevedo
I lost a dear friend a few weeks ago. I hate that expression. It sounds like I didn’t look hard enough for her, that she might be hiding under a bed, and if I were smarter, I might locate her. Actually, she died, and while I am well aware that, as she told me so many times regarding others, “It was time.” I am left profoundly sad.
My hand still reaches for the phone at exactly 8:30 a.m., the perfect time, as she had already taken her blood pressure, long distance with her son, and it was still before the hour that civilized folks called, so I was likely to catch her. (Don’t wear white after Labour Day: Don’t telephone someone before 9 o’clock).
She was family. That ephemeral word.
I am often inclined to take a pretend bite out of my baby granddaughter, and my son reminds me, “Babies are family, not food,” a reference to the shark in Finding Nemo who says, “Fish are friends, not food.”
Families are good to have, and my present one, three children, three in-law children, four grandchildren and a Labradoodle are, of course, the best.
As a general rule, families are also sometimes hard to hang onto and often we must take matters into our own hands.
When two out of the five people in my nuclear family died by the time I was five, the remaining three of us became a floundering mess. Despite everyone’s best intentions, we all struggled, each differently. I found a family who lived down the street with lots of kids, and I inserted myself into theirs in my imagination. I had done the complicated math and ascertained that there was, in fact, nine months between me and the child closest in age to me, so I guess it was possible, right?
They were blonde and blue-eyed to my dark hair and eyes, but I had been taught that dreams do come true. They had barbeques and family vacations and a station wagon and a treehouse and their home was noisy and kinda messy. I just loved it.
And so, I began a lifetime of chasing families. Marriage gave me a new one, and divorce removed it as quickly as a baby rips a pop-up book. It’s like a canoe: no room for everyone. Last in, first out.
My remaining sibling went off to form his own family, a private one with a sign that read, like on an exclusive country club, “No Sisters Allowed.” As, of course, was his right.
The aforementioned older lady lived in an apartment building, and over the many years that I visited her there, I became friendly with several of the doormen, a bunch of the kindest souls you’d ever want to meet, and I suspect that their job was no sinecure. I usually stopped in, in the late morning so the gentleman behind the desk and I were well-acquainted. He asked after my grandchildren, I his. Both senior citizens, we were on a first-name basis.
When my friend passed away, another word, I despise (passed where? passed who?) I made a large concerted effort not to be deeply unhappy. That honour was not mine; it belonged to her progeny. She had a unique talent for making everyone she spoke to feel as if they were the only people in existence, and for that reason, as well as many others, she was blessed with many friends. I had no right to a monopoly of melancholy. And so I shed few tears and tried to be helpful.
Until the day that I returned to that apartment building to pick up a package. I was unprepared for my reaction.
All of a sudden, I realized that this route would no longer be a part of my weekly routine, and I was overwhelmed.
“This is a sad day, Joseph.” I greeted the man behind the desk.
“Yes, Ginny, it is.”
I thought I was there to grab a parcel and run, but my feet seemed firmly planted.
“We won’t see her like again soon.” Could I be any more trite? It just flew out of my mouth, and I was embarrassed.
“You are so right,” he answered.
“And I won’t see you either, I suppose.”
I cringed. It sounded like I had just invited him on a date.
“Ginny,” he answered. “I have coffee in the courtyard every day at 12.30. Come join me one day.”
And I will. Because he, in his own way, is family too.
I firmly believe that we make our own families, and they are not always blood-related. I am fortunate that I have several families.
In Finding Nemo, Dory sees a supposedly dead Nemo, and says: “I look at you… and I…and I’m home. Please, I don’t want that to go away.”
That’s what family does. It makes you feel home. No matter where you find it.
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