My mom’s older half-sister passed away yesterday.
She is the first on my mother’s side (of her generation) to pass away, and unfortunately, it was both unexpected and not peaceful. She suffered a fall and never recovered.
If this sounds clinical and impersonal to you, it somewhat is.
Both of my parents are middle children. They were in their very early 40’s when they had me, and they were the last of their various families to do so. There’s 15 years between myself and my next youngest cousin. Then 15 years between myself and those cousin’s kids. It was the same on both sides of my family, and while my father’s family was mostly located in Toronto, my mother’s family were mostly centered in Saskatoon and we stopped visiting them together after I was 12. She continued to go out nearly every summer, I didn’t. Fast forward a decade+ and I’m almost 30, and barely know anyone on that side of my family. It’s weird.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a good understanding of my family.
There are landmark conversations in your life that you will likely remember with perfect clarity from the moment it happens until the end of your days.
I have one such memory from my childhood.
I remember walking into the garden in my backyard, my brow furrowed with confusion.
The sun was high in the sky and the electric wires hummed with their high pitched buzz.
The summer smelled hot and humid, as onto a deep summer in Toronto can.
My mother stood in the back of our large yard, deadheading, pruning and planting.
“Mom?” I started, carefully standing out of the path of her throwing path for the clippings. “Is it true that Insanity runs in our family?”
My mother paused, clippers in one hand, and stared off into the distance for a moment. She turned and replied, with the utmost sincerity “Chloe, insanity doesn’t run in our family. It gallops.”
See, we had recently come back from a trip to Saskatoon, Sask., to visit my mom’s family. We’d spent a good chunk of the trip on my aunt and uncle’s property outside of ‘toon, where I could wander a field all day and my mom didn’t care where I was or what I was doing so long as I wandered home before sun down. That was around the time I first remember my mom and aunt talking about my aunt’s trouble with bipolar disorder. They had recounted a time during one of her episodes where she was found, dancing in a farmer’s field, au natural. Apparently, she told my mom’s younger sister (who’d gone to get her) that she’d seen the flowers in the field and just felt like dancing. It sounds freeing to me.
In my teens, when I was going through normal, teenager mood swings, my mother used to try and scare me into ‘behaving’ by telling me she was concerned I was bipolar. Took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, my mother’s words to me as a child actually became a reassurance. I figured, a little insanity in my own life was nothing compared to what others in my family or the world have to deal with, so I could clearly handle it. The voices in my head are still rational, and talking me out of doing the *really* stupid things. We’re all a little crazy, and to me, it’s just a matter of degrees and ability to handle it on your own (or in cases like my aunt, have help from the meds).
Besides, it’s more fun to gallop along, wind mussing your hair, or to dance, wild and buck naked. Both allow you to feel free and alive.
Life is frail and inconsistent, so live without regrets.