March 9, 2017 My Uncle Dan posts on Facebook. Happy National Cousins day! He posts the following 2 pictures.
On my moms side of the family it's always been very small. Just my Grandma and Grandpa Uncle Dan and mom. That's it, no other family so of course, I have to ask, who are these people? The lady in the second picture in the middle looks JUST like my Grandma, so I knew right away who it was! It was my moms Aunt Jacqueline! When I was younger I recall talking to her on the phone a few times. Afterall, my sister is named after her!
That day my whole world opened up! All these random people on facebook started say hi, we are your moms family from Ontario Canada. Wait, what?!??!? Connections to my mom?? Right away I started to get so emotionally attached to every picture I could find, every friend request that was coming in, every word anyone had to say about us being family.
Mom has been gone for 8 years now and anything connected to her has been gone a long time. We never see my Uncle and I am really bad at going to visit my grandpa Andy. Since my Grandma passed 93 years ago really any connection to my mom has faded. There is the occasional time I get to see my Aunt Sharon or my moms best friend April. Those are some of the only people in the world that make me think of my mom the second I hug them and feel so connected to her. Not really sure why those people, but they just do! I get this crazy overwhelming feeling of my mom when I am around either of them. March 9th felt like one of those feelings!
The next two days I couldn't sleep, I couldn't get ANY work done. I wanted to live on facebook and look through pictures and ask questions and just find out anything and everything I could about this family that had been so far removed from my life.
Now, let me just back up a second... I knew my mom had an Aunt Jacqueline and heck I even knew there was an Uncle Albert there somewhere. Couldn't really have told you if they were alive or not. Holidays that we spent with my Grandma we would chat with a few random family members on the phone or all yell hi from the dining room as we were eating dinner. I even have two quilts that "Aunt Jacqueline" made sitting in my closet 10 feet from me. I about lived in one of those quilts years ago, it was the only thing I would sleep with for years! I even joked to my friend Jenny at some point that when I die, I wanted to be buried in it. It was just one of the most comfortable blankets I owned. So to say that I didn't know my mom had family in Canada would be a lie. I really just never knew the extent and anything about them!
First off a girl named Patricia (same as my mom) sent me a message on FB and was very interested in finding out who I was. As was I to her! I then heard from Holly. My moms direct cousin. Like, bloodline to my mom! Holly was so sweet and said she wanted to write me a letter, so I gave her my address and got hers in return. The next few days I spent hours up at night building a family tree. Adding pictures and dates. Just for my immediate family really. Nothing too extended. Hell, i wasn't even adding spouses on there at first. But the more I built and added the more addicted I became to knowing birthdays and death dates. I was building a family tree that maybe my kids would be interested in learning about one day! That week Patti sent me over her family tree and I got to see just a very small portion of some of my moms family in Canada.
That week was really rough and emotional for me. Again, connections to my mom that I hadn't felt in so many years just brought so much out of me! Apparently Jacquie was feeling the same way. Which, of course she was. Her and I are so different, yet so similar in so many ways when it comes to mom. Patti had mentioned that their Canadian Thanksgiving is in October in Tobermory and we should come for a visit. HELL YES! First of all, hearing the word Tobermory was so great! It's one of those things from my childhood where I knew the name but really knew nothing about it. My Grandma had named her little black doggy Toby and had it for many years when i was growing up. I knew it had something to do with something... but again, that was many years ago and my memory is bad! I'm sure Grandma told me at some point. Hell, I'm sure my mom and I had conversations at some point about Tobermory. Maybe? But how can I really ask her.
Jacquie and I right away started looking at flights and saying, we are going to Canada in October! We have too! I started to vision how it would go! We would fly out there, walk into a big Thanksgiving dinner and hug everyone! I would cry every time I meet someone new. It would be another connection to my mom.
I'm pretty sure I spent the next few days chatting with Patti online and asking her a billion questions! About family, about us coming out there. Where should we stay? How was the drive from Toronto to Tobermory? Jacquie and I knew we were going to go and would work out all the details, but we were going to make it there and meet everyone!
That next weekend on a beautiful Saturday morning I took my pad of paper and a pen and sat outside and started to write Holly a letter. I wasn't quiet sure what I was going to say or what I was going to write. Anyone who knows me knows that I am old school when it comes to mail. I LOVE snail mail! I love to get it, I love to send it! I'm that person in 2017 that sends thank you cards and birthday cards, and just because cards. To your house by snail mail! So this was so exciting to have some new penpals to write to!
My letter to my moms cousin started with, please excuse my writing and spelling, it's been a long time since I've sat and written a long letter! I wanted to tell Holly about my family. About my sisters and their families and all about my husband and kids. What did she know? Did she look at the billion pictures I have on FB, would she be bored if I told her more about them? What did she want to know about mom. She knew she died, but did she know how? Did she care? I wasn't even sure where to go with it all. But oh man, once it started it just flowed out like I had a great plan. The first 2 pages were about mom and how she died. Super detailed for some reason, down to the last morning in the hospital and what lead up to it. I say for some reason because I'm not really sure why I wrote about it. But I sat outback in the sun crying and writing. Wiping my tears and I talked about my moms last days to someone I didn't even know but had already felt this very strong connection to! It was really nice to get it out honestly. The only place that I really ever talk about that week is here on my blog and well I don't blog anymore nor do I ever really read the ones I did. But when mom died, I blogged about it and I'm glad I did. But 8 years later, I don't ever really talk about it. I certainly don't tell anyone the story. I cried, and re-read the first part like 5 times, asking myself if I should just start over to Holly and take all of that out. But what the hell, it was already on the paper, in pen, so why not just leave it.
Alana wanted to add something to the letter so since I talked about the Beatles and how much my mom loved them, she drew a picture of the words "Let it Be" and colored it in. It was beautiful! I wrote 3 pages front and back. I tried to say a little about everything, but not too much all at once. I mailed it along with Alana's drawing and a few printed pictures I had here at the house. I know they are all over facebook but there is something special to me about having printed pictures! Even if I do nothing with them. The mail took 10 days to get to Canada, felt like a lifetime waiting for a note from Holly telling me she received it! I was so nervous! Nervous that I had written WAY to much detail about mom dying and she would either ball her way through the letter or she would think, why the heck did she tell me all this? Holly finally got it and sent me a message thanking me for it. She really enjoyed all the details and couldn't wait to write me back!
Alana and I were checking the mail every day! Waiting for a letter back from Holly! Finally on Friday, 4/14 it arrived in my mailbox! Alana and I were so excited! It wasn't just a letter, it was a package with stuff in it!! Holly send Jack and Alana both a Canada coin purse with a Canadian dollar coin in it! They both were super excited to receive a nice gift! In the package there was a Canadian flag, a typed out letter and some pictures! I was so excited to jump into the letter and find out more about the pictures!
The letter was filled with knowledge! About family, about Tobermory and the deep roots we have there. About my Grandma and her siblings. My Grandma's parents. I learned that day that my Great Grandmother was born 1.5 pounds and her mother wrapped her in quilts put her in a pan and kept her warm on the "cookstove". WHAT?!?! That shit is crazy! My Great Grandma was born in 1898 and barely survived. I also learned so much about the family and the pictures that Holly sent were so amazing! I will post some of them here soon. I honestly can't wait to sit down and write Holly another letter! Actually I would just love to receive them from her. Mine are boring as hell compared to hers! She is a great writer and story teller! I honestly don't even know what else to say in a letter to her, but I feel like getting this stuff on paper and documenting my family history is worth it! Maybe my kids will care, maybe my grandkids will care, but this last month has just been so amazing! My brain is fried with trying to remember a family tree... Grandma Tiny, Grandpa Danny, Uncle Danny, Dode, Jacquie. Just so many people and so many names and faces. Each one of them a bloodline to my mom. A connection to who she was when she was little and how she came to be.
I'm pretty sad that her story in Canada pretty much ends at the age of 13 when they left there to head for California. Why did I not ask my mom all these questions when she was alive? One thing I will say is that some of that family out in Canada is just as excited to connect with us and we are with them! That just makes my heart so happy! There is family out there, there is pieces of my MOM out there that I haven't heard about. That i don't know about. Undiscovered pieces of my mom! October can NOT come soon enough!
Documenting all this on my blog because, well... I forget everything. I used to blog often so I could remember things. So even when my memory goes (worse than it is) i will still have my blog to look back and and remind myself. I want to remember this month!