December 03, 2015

Family ISN'T Forever

Growing up, I always had an “off/on” relationship with my family. Perhaps it was because of the phases I was going through… childhood…puberty…adolescence…teenage…young adult… that made it so difficult for me to get along with my family at times. 

The older I get, the more I realize that in addition to my phases, it was also my family that made it difficult, too.

I spent a lot of my early teenage years “hating” (for lack of a better word) my father. I spent every other Friday afternoon begging my Mom not to send me to his smoke-filled apartment, and every other weekend wishing I was anywhere but there. My father and I argued all the time, and I always felt like he never understood how to be a “Dad”. I wanted a real Dad. I spent my wishes on my birthday candles, and shooting stars, and 11:11 wishing for a real Dad who would take me for bike rides, or out for breakfast, or dance with me in the living room to Bryan Adams. I got sad when he didn’t show up to my piano concerts, or dance recitals. I got mad when his girlfriend made rude remarks towards me, and he laughed them off like it was nothing. I got sad when he stopped calling every day. I got mad when he didn’t support my decisions. I got sad when I saw my friends with their Dads. I got mad when he spoke negatively about my other family members. 

Eventually I gave up trying. 

I spent many years trying to form a healthy relationship with my Dad, and it only seemed that the harder I tried, the more that I failed. We didn’t speak or see each other for a long time. Days went on, and I pretended that I didn’t even have a father. It was easier to say “my Dad isn’t in the picture”, then to explain why I only saw him 3 times a year and spoke to him on the phone once a month (to argue, of course). I was scared every day that I would lose contact with him, and that what used to be a healthy relationship with my Dad turned into a thing of the past, forever. 

7 years. 

7 years of my life is how long it took for my Dad to realize that he pushed me out of his life. That the decisions he made reflected his relationship with his daughter.

My Dad is a man of many things. He is smart. So smart, that I can remember keeping my jaw hung open for minutes straight watching Jeopardy! with him as a child. So smart, that to this day, I swear he is one of the world's smartest people. Not only is my Dad smart, but his sense of humour is only that of a Dad, but 10x funnier. He could make anyone laugh for hours at his ridiculous jokes, or from his insane impersonations. He is sociable, and charming. He is someone that anyone should take the time to get to know, because you will always benefit from a conversation with him. Always.

He calls more often now, and he asks me how I’m doing. I tell him things; I trust him. I see him more than I used to, and it’s not awkward or tense. We laugh and we hug, and we spend time together like fathers and daughters should. He supports my decisions, and tells me he is proud. Of course there is still an empty spot in our relationship — I have reserved it for the small bit of resentment I still have for him and the things he has done. But I love my father, and I know he loves me, too. Things improve between us everyday, and I can only hope they continue to do so. People change.
I'll always be your Angel, Dad.

In 2010, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. If you have ever had a parent, sibling, or close loved one diagnosed with cancer, then you’ll know that the feeling you have when you find out feels similar to a knife going through your heart. It feels like someone kicked you in the back of both knees, and took all of the air out of your lungs. You get dizzy, and you suddenly can’t hear anything. My Mom was so calm when she told me. I can remember the exact expression on her face, and the way the words flowed out of her mouth wth such ease. I didn’t even let her finish explaining before I ran away. I cried all day, and all night. I hid in the dark, under my sheets, and I CRIED. I continued to cry for days following. I screamed, and I hit things, and I asked “Why!? WHY her!? WHY!?!?”

Everyday, I got a little bit stronger. I held her hand. I hugged her. I stayed positive around her. "IT WILL BE OKAY. IT WILL, MOM. I PROMISE. IT HAS TO BE OKAY.”  

It will be five years in March that my mom is cancer free. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how thankful I am. My Mom is my best friend, and I won’t let anyone or anything take her away from me. Not even cancer. 

We fight, though. About stupid things, mostly. But we do. We have had our fair share of expressing our negative thoughts about each other out loud for one other to hear. There have been times I’ve wished she wasn’t my mother, and there have been times, I know, that she has wished I wasn’t her daughter. I resent her at times for the things she has said about my father, and for the times I felt as though she favoured (cared, loved, supported, etc.) my younger brother more than I. There have been times that she has not been proud of me or the things I have done. We have conflicting personalities, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on the same things. We say mean things to each other time and time again, But we always find a way to forgive and forget. Above all, we love each other unconditionally. I tell her anything and everything. She is my go-to, my support system, my shoulder to cry on. She has been my biggest fan, role-model, and teacher. And more than anything, she has always been there for me near and far, and always will be. (Tip: If you love your mother as much as I do, don’t move 2000km across the country - you will miss her FAR too much).

If you don't already know my Mom, then you won't know how immensely selfless she is. She is kind, empathetic, radiant, beautiful, forgiving, unprejudiced, witty, hardworking (she never stops, I swear), maternal, patient, brave and creative. Of course I could go on for hours about the many things my mother is, but these are just a few that come to mind. If you have ever been fortunate enough to get to know my mother, then you are one of the luckiest people alive.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey."

In addition to my parents, I have many siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (Rest in Peace - Nanny B. and Poppy). I don't talk to all of them. Some are considered acquaintances, others are considered best friends. I live close to few. I can reach out to some more than others. 

I have a totally dysfunctional family. There’s a 50/50 chance I’ll get along with any one of them at any given time. It’s the quirkiness, the flaws, the eccentricity that makes me love every last soul more and more. Every. Single. Damn. Day. I'm so very thankful to be a part of this family. 

Your family won’t be around forever. Eventually there will be life-changing circumstances that take your family away from you, forever. You have to embrace every moment with them. Embrace every feeling, every emotion, every good time, every bad time, every heart ache, every smile, every positive, every negative. Hug them. Kiss them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Make wonderful memories with them. Just embrace your family. They were the people who were there when you were born. They were the people who watched you grow up. They were the people who looked up to you (if they were younger, of course). They were the people who worried about you. And many times, more than you may realize, they were the people who gave up sleep, meals, money, time, and energy for you. They were the people who LOVE you, and still do.

In the end, they are always, ALWAYS going to be the people who love you. At times they may say they don’t, you may not have talked to them in years, and you may resent them for things they have done. But hell, you love each other anyways. It's a different kind of love than you will ever experience. It's painful, almost. It's true, unconditional, unexplainable, beautiful love. 

Family is important. Family is many things. But one thing family ISN'T, is forever. 

Dedicated to my family - the Reid’s and the Boutilier's. I have and will love every single one of you until the world stops spinning. 

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