It has been a whirlwind, folks.
My grandmother died at 11am on December 2nd. I genuinely appreciate the supportive comments you left on the Nov 30 post. And I did mull it over, but I was given time off by my work, and so was M, and the bottom line was that I wanted to be there for my mom, and go through this with my sister, who has the same feelings as me on this whole situation.
Mom let us use her air miles (which didn’t actually work but we found crazy cheap flights anyway), and I found this lovely little AirBnB near a bougie part of town convenient to all of the places we were going to have to trip around, and it was at least half the price of a hotel, but with two bedrooms and a kitchen. It’s still too much money, but it’s definitely a fraction of what we thought we’d be spending.
And honestly, on the other side of the “celebration of life” for a person I’d stopped grieving years ago, it could not have gone better.
We flew out of NS on Sunday evening, into Mount Hope, where Mom and my Sister met us, and drove us to grab dinner. We headed to the AirBnB (“the apartment” as we’ve been calling it, which I told M yesterday has been both weird and comforting as that’s what we used to call Gran’s place when she still lived on her own), ate our take out, while catching up with Mom and my Sister. Eventually they left, and we settled in, and went to sleep.
The week was filled with the twittering birds that are my mom, her sister and their aunt (who is the same age as them). Stress was high and sometimes patience got short, but it was thankfully short lived, and quickly forgotten. My mother is not immune to the gravitational force that is their blood and family culture, but once upon a time she was right there in the fray with Opinions and Suggestions and Criticisms. She was markedly better, this time. It was THIS that I was most concerned about, in guarding my mental health. These women are sharp and impatient and if you don’t measure up in the moment you will know about it. But mostly that didn’t happen, or when it did it didn’t drill its way into my psyche. In fact, I was mostly praised (along with M) for helping my aunt get shit done around her house that her sons hadn’t done for her in the last TEN years. WTF boys.
Every night M and I returned to the apartment to relax, check in with each other, and reconnect a bit. I am also not immune to the gravitational force that is my blood and family culture either, and M was an excellent balm to the pull of getting worked up over “nothing” (you know, nothing, just the death of our matriarch, and all the unpleasantness that come with that).
On Tuesday M spent the evening with one of his very best friends. As we talked over the rest of the week it came out that this visit was very cathartic for M. His last months to years living in this city were fraught and miserable, joining the military was his escape from what he felt was certain homelessness and probably death. This guy was there through it all (with another mutual friend who now lives in MB), he’s a great guy, and super into cannabis culture, and he sent us away with as much weed as we could legally carry. Which resulted in M and I going for nightly walks, smoking joints and talking long into the night.
It has been an exceptional time of bonding for M and I. We existed almost an entire week without a TV or computer screen in front of us. I got to say things to M that in a daily context would seem trite or too much, but given the sensitivity that stress and (other people’s) grief was saturating us with, felt absolutely appropriate to say out loud, and was received with gratefulness and reciprocation. It is so so incredibly good to know that the intensity of my feelings for him - even as much as they have increased or gotten stronger in these last few years/months - is being felt equally by him, for me.
M’s openness and my vulnerability has been a revolution, for us.
On Thursday M and I called dibs on the day, and we did all of the things we’ve missed being able to do. It started with breakfast at Steve’s Open Kitchen (last time we ate there was after AB died and we returned for her funeral), then a lovely walk (with lovely pictures) of Tew’s Falls in Dundas, then a stop at Kool Stuff Toys where he caught up with the owner for a long long time, and of course, came away with a box of collectibles. We went back to the apartment to eat lunch - we had leftovers from this incredible Italian restaurant, Capri. After lunch we headed out of the city, I tried to stop at a yarn dyer I have been admiring for aaaaages (but she was closed. She’s since invited me to come by the studio any time, and I sincerely hope I can take her up on the offer), and then to Kori’s Roti. It has been over TEN YEARS since we have enjoyed Kori’s Roti, and it did not disappoint! When we were looking for the restaurant for dinner the night before we found a shop with a hilariously suggestive name, basically “M’s Cream Pies”, of course they sold cream pies of all varieties, coconut, banana, chocolate etc. So of course we had to stop there and THEY HAD SHIRTS, which of course M had to buy. We got two mini pies, M got coconut and I got banana. Conveniently there was a beautifully packed little plant shop right next door, and M even came in with me, looked around and actually talked about the plants with me. He doesn’t normally show much interest in my plants (which is fine, my thing doesn’t have to be his thing), so this was a nice change.
When we got back to the apartment we rolled a few joints (one THC and one CBD, which was a tip from M’s friend) and set out for a walk around the neighbourhood. It lasted an hour and a half, and we talked about all kinds of things while getting lost in neighbourhood parks and also apartment complex parking lots, and back alleys and side roads.
Of course, because we are us, after we got back to the house and warmed up, we ended the perfect day with a bang haha.
Friday was more family tasks and getting ready for the “Celebration of Life” on Saturday. (Aside: Please don’t ever use the phrase “Celebration of Life” for whatever happens after I die. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little.) We ducked out a little early to get ready to have dinner with a local friend. Let’s call her Janeane, because her dark hair/glasses/straightforward/nerdiness reminds me of one of my oldest crushes, Janeane Garofalo. Like, she could play my friend in her biopic hahah.
We went to this amazing restaurant on Locke Street, talking for almost 2 hours. It was the first time M has met Janeane, and they got along like gangbusters, especially for two staunch introverts. We had to cut things short but she and I made plans to see each other before I head home.
Saturday was The Day. M and I had as casual a morning as we could. We had to drive Mom and the ladies to my cousin’s place, where the event was held. M and I got saddled with running errands, which suited us fine. M and I also spent a considerable amount of time assembling a collage, which got lots of praise from the family, so that was nice.
I had a few really nice interactions with my cousin’s kids, their eldest is a confident young woman, and the middle child was a like a little fairy, flitting around in her pretty dress. I’ve been wearing these snowflake barrettes in my hair, and she asked me what it was. I told her, but she seemed confused so I took it out and handed it to her. She was so smitten with it, I asked her if she wanted it. At first she tried to say no, but then said, “are you sure?” I said yes and asked her if she wanted me to put it in her hair, she did, so I did. She was so excited to have this thing in her hair, she immediately ran to the bathroom to look at herself, and then to her mom to show her what she had. Apparently I was the highlight of the party for her, which made my day :)
Slowly the family congregated. Eventually food was served and M and I staked a table out, away from the majority of people, since we’d waited for everyone else to serve themselves first, and, oops, the table was full. We sat there for the rest of the afternoon, chatting with my Sister, Mom, and a rotation of family members who sought us out.
Let me tell you, apparently Gran’s favourite drink was a mimosa. I’ve had mimosas, but I’m pretty sure none of them were worthy of being immortalized in my writing. These mimosas were amazing. I cannot express how good. Apparently the key is the champagne or sparkling wine you choose. I guess Asti Spumante was Gran’s choice, and holy shit it was bang on. Instead of it tasting vaguely like spoiled orange juice it was sweet and tart and complex. I drank two of them! 10/10 highly recommend.
There were several uncanny moments of catching my Great Aunt (one of the three ladies) out of the corner of my eye and my brain telling me it was Gran. It was uncomfortable, but also kind of nice? Maybe nice is a stretch.
I did end up having a decent conversation with the cousin I’ve been harbouring negative feelings for this whole time (we’ll call him The Golden Child), and it was fine. I don’t know if he’s acting or putting it on. I didn’t feel like I was acting too much. I was extremely worried about betraying myself, masking too much or too little, and worst of all, actually getting into it with him. Even M had said he didn’t know what to do if The Golden Child got nasty with me, that he “didn’t want to punch him at [my] Gran’s funeral”. Fortunately we needn’t have worried about all that.
My Sister and her family showed up, the only ones masked (there was a whole thing in our chats that morning about masking, I said I would, but when I showed up there was all the people and no masks). They sat at the same end of the room as M and I, and we had a nice time, I think.
Eventually The Golden Child clinked some glasses and started to speak. He was Gran’s favourite, and it showed. He talked about how she wrote him letters and taught him about hard work and loyalty and I had a hard time keeping my face neutral. Bitterness boiled in my veins. My Sister said to me later “Did Gran ever write you letters with life lessons in it?” Not fucking once, and I later said to M how that moment felt like a kick in the teeth. I mean, it became more obvious the older we got that we were not the favourites, and eventually My Sister and I solidified our place in the family as the black sheep, which I mostly expressed by being absolutely fucking ABSENT from the lives of my extended family. My Sister mostly expressed it by having and raising kids who do not conform to family expectation. I love that.
After The Golden Child spoke, Mom told a story about Gran, holding two babies and trying to wrangle two toddlers and her skirt getting hiked way up in the process, but it was ok because she was a proper lady who wore “petticoats”… I’m not really sure what the story was supposed to impart, but people laughed. My aunt also spoke, but I honestly don’t recall what was said.
And that was that. People went back to their conversations, desserts were doled out (a childhood favourite of mine, no-bake cheesecake), and then people started to leave.
M and I ducked out just after my sister left with her family, and went back to the apartment. We got out of our nice clothes and bummed around relaxing and chatting until figuring we should probably eat something, and we settled on a burger place up on the mountain, which we ate at Sam Lawrence Park, overlooking the city, another place both of us spent time at when we lived in Hamilton, long before we ever met. He wanted to take a picture of us, backlit by the lights of the city, our faces entirely in shadow. It’s a great picture. It’s one of two I would like to frame out of this whole week.
We went back to the apartment, put on at least one more layer of clothes (the weather had turned way colder than it’d been all week) and tried to go for another walk, but the vape died and it was bitterly cold and we ended up back at the apartment much sooner than expected. We looked at local real estate, absolutely floored by the cost of these homes. And after a few more hours of talking, some banging, and a snack, I passed out hard.
Then this morning. I woke up before M so I ducked out to grab coffees and freezer bags for the weed. He was still in bed when I got back, he had no idea I’d even left, so he was very confused to see hot coffee waiting for him. He finished the packing he’d started the night before, and got him ready to get out the door. We stopped at a McDonald’s for a snack to tide him over and ended up stuck in the drive through for OVER TWENTY FIVE MINUTES. It was fucking mind boggling. We stopped at my aunt’s, picked up her and mom, and drove M to the airport.
Where he waited 2.5 hours past departure time for his flight to actually leave. He was pretty furious by the time he landed, he couldn’t find the truck in the parking lot and realized on his way home that he doesn’t have a key, so I called our neighbour who was looking after the cats and got her to drop it off before he got home.
While M was having his terrible adventure My Sister and I visited a few local plant stores and chatted. We got bubble tea between stores 2 and 3, and afterwards I dropped her off at her place, and returned to my Aunt’s, where they were just heating up dinner. I joined them, and then we chatted about ADHD and Autism and I probably revealed way too much about my personal life because that’s what happens when someone asks questions about my latest hyper-fixation (which is reading about neuro-divergence, these days).
I ducked out around 8pm, and headed back to the apartment, which seems sad and quiet without M pontificating all evening. But it did give me time to write, finally, so sorry about this massive block of text.
TL:DR Shit with family went more smoothly than expected. There are no words to express my love and affection for M. Hamilton is RAD.