Whispers of the past…

I was sitting in the van with Colin and my parents on the way to Bon Echo Provincial Park. It’s a place we’ve gone camping for decades now, a popular campground in Ontario. I was looking out the window, not really thinking of much, just noticing all the sights of nature as we whizzed past. Then I looked over and, for half a second, I expected to see heads with brown and black hair in the seats in front of me, instead of the grey I saw.

My parents’ camping days are numbered and their numbers are less than the fingers on my hand. I commented to my Mom about when we go camping next year but what I really meant was if.

It was really noticeable with my Dad this year. Would he be able to walk down to the deep beach this year? Should we take a van to the day beach? This is a man who was scouted for the Montreal Canadiens farm team, an opportunity he missed because he was out fighting forest fires in BC and no one knew where he was. A miss I’m grateful for because otherwise he wouldn’t have met my Mom and my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. A man who played “oldtimers hockey” and walked the track for exercise. A man who enjoyed getting into nature for a good walk. Now we’re worried if he can walk a few blocks.

My Mom commented sadly a few months ago that things just weren’t the same. When she was little (and when I was little for that matter) the dishes were ignored for a while and everyone sat and chatted. Now everyone finished, cleared their plates, got right into washing, and then went to do their own things, while my Mom and Dad sat at an empty table, a table that should have been filled with chatter. That one was easy at least. I messaged everyone and asked them to hold off on clearing the table to chat and, thankfully, it’s taken off and become something everyone enjoys. But there’s nothing I can do about age.

It’s seven and a half weeks until Kait has her baby, bumping me into the grandmother position and my parents into great grandparents. I wish my Nana could see this baby, when she was still strong and cheerful. She would have loved him so much (and equally loved knitting him little outfits). My Nanaimo Nana (great grandmother) would have loved him too. But I can’t dip into the past and bring them forth, they only exist in memories. There’s a chain of family connections and my parents are next on the list to get bumped off, then, eventually, it will be my turn.

I’m reasonably sure my grandfather had similar thoughts because he set out to write down the more memorable family stories that he remembered. I don’t think he got all of them because there’s been a few times I’ve mentioned a story he’d told me and got blank looks. Sometimes I think maybe I should write some family stories down too but I don’t know if anyone would be interested in the coming years.

But the past is the past. We honour them by remembering them and remembering their advice. Well except for my Nana’s advice to have me leave Kait in her carriage outside for a nap while I cleaned inside. That’s terrible advice when you’re in a third floor walkup in a not so good neighbourhood. But the good advice.

The future is coming, like it always does. Soon there’ll be a new grandchild and the beginning of a new generation. Soon there’ll be new ideas, dreams, and goals. And I hope my parents are there to see it unravel and to watch the little wee one grow big and strong.

Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary

Mom and Dad on their 50th wedding anniversary

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When the past hits your heart…

Colin saw the Chiquita banana sticker on my bananas this morning and gave me a lecture on the evils of banana corporations and how they destroyed Guatemala with the help of the US government back in the 1950’s. It wasn’t exactly the conversation I’d expected but he has eclectic tastes and a love of politics so I wasn’t too surprised. That being said, all I’d really planned on doing was making banana bread.

I got the banana bread in the oven, chatted with my sister for a bit, then got ready to wait for Kait to come over for a visit. The wait segued into a browse on Facebook and a trip through memory lane via the “On This Day” feature. One of the first things that popped up was this…

Lenny

It was a few years old (obviously) which means I made friends with him seven years ago today. I don’t know what I expected to feel when this surprise post popped up. Grief? Anger? Disappointment? What I didn’t expect to feel was nothing more than a vague sense of sadness.

It’s been just under two years since he blocked me. At the time I was devastated. We talked all the time, stopping only for sleep and work. I’d message him on my way to work, during both my breaks, then on my way home again… only to start up again after dinner and right through to bedtime. He was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last at night. He was my love and I was ready to pack up my whole life, leave my family and friends, and move halfway across the world to be with him.

I was actively suicidal when he blocked me and I couldn’t grasp the thought that the block might be forever. I hadn’t done anything to him, surely he’d calm down in a few weeks… maybe a month or two. But the days continued, each one without him. It almost physically hurt at first because I was coping with losing him on top of gaining a couple of serious mental illnesses. My entire life had flipped over and the person I talked to the most was gone.

I slowly started rebuilding myself, piece by piece. I began spending more time with family, made amends with my daughter, and coaxed Colin to try new things. I reached out for help and gained three groups to attend each week and a care team that checks in on me every two weeks. I have a friend in the building next to me and go to karaoke with her and her husband about once a month, among other visits. My life has almost completely changed from what it was before.

I don’t know what I’d do if Lenny unblocked me at this point. I wouldn’t be mean or rude by any means. Goodness knows he has his own issues to work through. But it certainly wouldn’t be the same. I can’t imagine devoting almost my whole life and all my attention to one person anymore. It’s a moot point since I can’t imagine Lenny unblocking me now. And, for the first time in several years, I’m okay with that.

Four years of writing…

WordPress informed me today that I’ve been writing this blog for exactly four years now, that my first post was written on December 22, 2013. Back then we were using pseudonyms. I was Michelle, Colin was Jeremy (the male name I’d picked for Kait), and Kait was Emma(the female name I’d picked for Colin). We showed no pictures with faces and made sure to mention only that we were Canadian and near Toronto. Colin was still in high school, which he’s since graduated from (refusing their additional program called school to work) and Kait was working for No Frills, a Canadian grocery store chain. I was working full time for Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee chain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Four years later and so much has changed. I’d always struggled with mild to moderate depression but it wasn’t enough to affect my job. Then it burst into full blown depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and extreme anxiety. I take a handful of pills a day and my psychiatrist doesn’t think I’ll ever work again. Which is a blow since I’m in my 40’s still but it wasn’t a surprise. I belong to a couple of groups in meatspace and do a variety of activities such as bowling, yoga, making bath bombs, and extreme couponing. Both groups are near a walking trail so I walk on the trail either before or after group to get my 10,000 steps.

Kait no longer works at No Frills, instead she’s a store clerk for a gas station, working their midnight shift. She’s doing an amazing job there, they say she’s their best night shift worker ever. Plus she loves her home and her two kitties. She’s been with her boyfriend for about as long as the blog and is doing well with him.

Colin is the focus of the blog and he’s the one who’s gone through the most transitions. He started out wondering if he were bisexual then realized he didn’t like-like boys, only girls. Right from the first post he identified with Jazz Jennings, a trans teenager from Florida, except he wasn’t uncomfortable with his body at the time, he just had a “girl’s brain”. Then, a little while later, people started doing those genetic tests. I used to hang out a lot in a forum called Regretsy (sadly it no longer exists) and one of the people did one of the tests and posted the results. I read them aloud to Colin and he got excited right at the beginning when it said the sex was male. Could he take the test too? I had no idea what he was talking about until he added “so I can find out what sex I am”. I explained it would only tell him his birth sex, not how he feels inside. Another time I pointed out we were having a lot more trans readers and Colin’s response was, “That’s not a surprise.” It took me a long time to realize that Colin wasn’t cisgender but he was patient with me. Then came the sorting out. He started out as bigender (feeling both male and female) then pangender (feeling like all genders) then started exploring more towards being female. He drifted into being female and picked out the name Emma (which was the name I’d chosen when I was pregnant with him). He was happy with the name and being referred to with female pronouns. Then he started worrying about fertility. He’s wanted to be a parent since he could talk so that wasn’t a surprise but the lack of fertility preservation was a shock. Freezing sperm only works 50% of the time and is expensive and stopping hormone therapy has an unknown success rate because it seems like only trans people are talking about it. The doctors claim 100% infertility once the hormones take effect. So now Colin’s still female but not sure about transitioning. I use Colin on the blog and both Colin and Emma at home. He’s happy with that. He’s also in school, taking mostly math, and hoping to eventually go to college. He builds and rebuilds computers in his spare time and plays PC video games.

Kait and her boyfriend are coming over for dinner, stockings, and presents tomorrow. I’m going to make Kait’s favourites; pasta with pumpkin sauce and Christmas Crack. I’ve included the link because the dessert is easy and amazingly yummy. They claim it’ll last a week, like you’re not going to eat half a pan standing over the kitchen counter. I don’t have a link to the pumpkin pasta, sadly. It was a recipe from the Today’s Parent forums, another site that no longer exists.

Colin and I are going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and sleeping over that night. Which saves a heck of a lot of driving, rather than going back and forth each day. Kait’s going to be there on Christmas Eve too.

I wonder where we’ll be in four more years. Where ever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fabulous!

 

Happy Holidays!

Childhood woes…

Jeremy had the best childhood I could give him*. Dolls to cuddle and trucks to play with (and cuddle). Trips to the park. Camping. Birthday parties. Trips to the indoor playground (oh the noise). Bedtime stories. Excursions to Centre Island. The Old Spaghetti Factory. If he wanted a pink stuffed bear, he got one. If he wanted a skateboard, he got one. I did my very best to suit his childhood to him and not to gender norms.

gender creative Jeremy

But there’s one thing I can’t give him. I can’t give him a girlhood. He’s got memories of wearing his sister’s dresses but they were her dresses… at home. He’s never had a fancy dress or a gaggle of female friends. He’s never been able to grow his hair long without people urging him to cut it because he looked “too girly”. He’s never been able to bring a stuffed animal or doll to school without being teased… even in grade one. He’s never had a period. He will never give birth. And he wants all these things.jeremy-in-2010

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop everyone from telling him how much better he looked with short hair, that only girls could wear dresses and he couldn’t, that he was too girly, too much of a f*g, and he needed to “man up”. For every person I talked to there were three others I didn’t find out about until later. Sometimes much later.

Jeremy went as Julie to PFLAG last night. She wore her Doctor Who shirt from Emma and a plain brown long skirt. Her nails were neatly done with purple polish and her makeup was subtle. Everyone was friendly at the meeting and only two people laughed on the way home. Maybe they were laughing about something else? We never asked.

I can love Jeremy and support him. I can stand by him and stand up for him. But I can’t go back and change the past. I’m sorry Jeremy. I’m so sorry that I didn’t know.

*Jeremy’s current choice of pronouns.

It’s the most wonderful time…

When I was very little, my parents used to ask me what I wanted for Christmas and my answer was always the same. A pretty tree with lots of sparkling lights. Things haven’t changed. Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love it all. The lights, the decorations, the glitter, the music, time with family and friends, pretty cards, baking, presents, and an ever present feeling of hope and goodwill. This holiday is me.

This is also the time of year I started writing this blog… three years ago. So much has changed since then. Back then Jeremy identified as a femme, bisexual male (who felt a bit like a girl on the inside) and I was completely and totally straight (and deep enough in the closet I could hang out with the lion in Narnia). Now Jeremy’s straight, agender and alternates between masculine and femme while I’m a demi-romantic, pan-romantic asexual. So the fabulous has broadened to include both of us.

Three years ago Jeremy wanted a hair straightener and Jaffa cakes. This year I got them a strand of light up mirrored disco balls and a big stuffed Freddy Fazbear from Five Nights at Freddys. Meanwhile this is what I want for Christmas…

  1. Self-cleaning kitty litter boxes
  2. Self-washing dishes
  3. Magic refilling fridge
  4. Copious amounts of writing time
  5. A huge green space beside my building
  6. Endless supply of free books on my e-reader from my favourite authors
  7. Winning lottery ticket for $15 million dollars
  8. A stay at a tropical resort

Pretty much the only one that can fit under the tree is the lottery ticket. I’m looking forward to seeing it on Christmas morning 🙂

This year we’re staying overnight at my parents’ house, which is new for us considering we live a 15 minute drive from their place. It means we can hang out on Christmas Eve and open stockings with them on Christmas morning. Plus it’s more like the Christmas I was used to growing up, when we stayed at my grandparents’ house with a bunch of relatives. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them, Karen and her family, and my cousin and his fiance.

Three years ago Jeremy and I would be watching Doctor Who on Netflix but they’ve taken it off the Canadian line up. I did promise them that I’d watch Supergirl with them as soon as they finish the dishes. I hope the show’s good.

An Evening of Hope…

It was Spirit Day and, in our city, also An Evening of Hope; a yearly event centered around the LGBTQ community. Every year it rains, as if the earth itself is remembering the lives lost. And every year there’s laughter, as we remember the ones still here.

crowds

Soggy yet bright and cheerful

metis-drum-circle

The evening opened with a Metis drumming circle

cupcakes

And plenty of baked goods 🙂

liberated-washrooms

The bathrooms were liberated for the evening

remembering-orlando

And Orlando was remembered with a great deal of ceremony (and some shuffling)

colin-making-pinsJeremy was in their glory at our UU congregation’s button making machine. They cracked jokes and hammered down buttons for almost two hours… until the baked goods were gone and the pouring rain made everyone cold and tired. Then we headed home to warm blankets, hot drinks and, in my case, Pride Kitty…

pride-smudge

I’m sure she’d be a real party animal.

Until next year… *hugs* and stay safe!

100% human…

“You’re Irish!”

I looked up in surprise. I’d only just opened the door to the office when the receptionist blurted those words. Maybe it’s the green hair… maybe it’s my features or skin colour. I’ll never know.

“I’m [insert my real and very Irish name here],” I said awkwardly. “I’m here for my bone density test.”

I could argue that I’m only a quarter Irish… but which quarter? That amount seems so much smaller than the great-grandmother I clearly remember. I sleep in the same bed she once did and curled up on her lap when I was small. Her croon comes out when I cuddle small children or animals.

“You sound Irish,” one of my fellow patients commented as I sang a lullaby one night.

“My Nana and Nanaimo Nana sang like that to me,” I replied simply.

I’m a mixture of English, Irish, and Scottish but how do you measure and by what? Are my eyes English? My hair Scottish? How do we divide ourselves into parts? Each ancestor is important, no matter how far back. Every one of them has value. They all have some part in my existence, just as I’ll have some part in every child who goes on beyond my children. If one of my ancestors didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here.

When I look at myself, I don’t see parts, I see me. I wasn’t born with national borders or clan colours or family crests imprinted on my DNA; each part of me is melded together, woven into blood, sinew, and flesh. A tapestry of various threads… all combining into one whole.

Yes, I’m Irish, and Canadian, and English, and Scottish (and likely a whole jumble of other cultures as well, right down to Neanderthal ancestors sharpening stone blades by firelight). I’m all of those at the same time, all in the same blood.

I remember my hand in my great-grandmother’s. How her skin was paper thin and soft. How her breath smelled like her favourite white peppermints. I am not a quarter of her ancestry. She is bigger than that. I am a part of her and she’s a part of me. I’m 100% part of every person who came before me. We are all canvases woven with the threads of family, blank slates waiting to be painted by time.

Nanaimo Nana and Nana

Nanaimo Nana and Nana