Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TLDR....a very long post

Well, I’m sick. How sick you ask? Sick enough to throw up in our local Netto (grocery store), right while everyone seemed to be checking-out. A perfect ending to the perfect week. However, this does give me some time to do some writing, so not all is lost.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this week. Mostly to family, but also to the odd friend too. I’ve been trying to keep contact with the kids from Winnipeg. Sorry, I shouldn’t really be saying ‘kids’, as they are young adults. I’m only a whopping 3-4 years older than them, so I think that I’m not allowed to do that quite yet. It would seem as though Keith and I have become mini-celebrities within this small private school, or so they say. Hopefully it was the ‘this guy was practically the Fonz’ type of popular. I have to say that I’ve come a long way from being quite unpopular in my own high school to being recognizable in pictures to teens in a small private school in Winnipeg. I’d like to thank my family and my friends for all of their support.

I’ve just finished a book by David Sedaris, who is by all accounts a very talented and humorous writer. Most of his stories are about his life and his family, and something that I found very strange is the fact that I could really relate to the narratives. While his stories are, in a number of ways, highly disturbing, I could honestly really see the same type of stories happening to me and my family.

I’d like to say that my family is just ‘different’, but to be honest we are weird, and not in the sense of quirky weird (‘Oh, I bought crazy pants made out of sequins today! Isn’t that weird?’), but more like the kind of weird that people like to talk about in hushed voices. One of my sisters told me last week that she wants to move into a monastery with European monks. This was after she was talking about her friends from the French School of Circus Arts. We talk about these kinds of things regularly.

Family is such an interesting topic of discussion. When you talk to me the first, and most likely only thing, that you’ll learn from me is everything about my family. I take a large amount of pride in knowing that my family is not boring, and that my siblings tend to lead a life that is usually far more exciting than my own.

I had a family friend visit me this week, someone who is close with the rest of my siblings. Our two families have astounding similarities, so much so that we are even related on both sides of my family, even though my step-family. We have the certain members of the family that seem to correlate to each other; the nutty sister, the wild popular brother, the quite ones and then us. I wouldn’t presume to define my own role in the family out of fear that I would have a bias opinion of myself, but if I had to take a stab at it I would go with ‘the one who means well, and likes to dish out advice but rarely takes advice himself and seems too lazy to really make any sort of change’. That seems about right in my eyes.

I often find myself wondering how things are going to turn out in the future. I have a theory that the heavens will part and the stars will align and peace shall reign forth in our family when a child arrives. Once there is a baby to focus our small talk on, there shall be peace. Babies have this effect, even on those who don’t really like babies (I include myself in this pile, as I have a fear of dropping them).

I suppose family hostility is sort of a given. Like throwing up in the grocery store, sooner or later family fights happen, even if you really, really don’t want them to and there are lots of people watching. I am the oldest of 6 kids, and in a family like that (especially since we are all around the same age) you have to fight for what you want. What we needed was there for the most part, but if there was anything you wanted you had to fight for it. If there was a pizza pocket in the fridge, you had better eat that damn thing before someone else did. Even if you weren’t really hungry, it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t be there when you were.

I feel now for my youngest sister Natalie. She was the smallest in the house hold, and while she was the baby, she was also as tough as nails. As kids, it was common practice with us older kids to punch her in the head as a greeting. This eventually died off once she grew big enough to punch back, but it is still so much of a greeting ritual that we still tell her that we are going to punch her in the face when she answers the phone.

When you have younger siblings its hard to realize when they’ve grown up. By the time my sister entered high school I had already graduated. When you move out of the house and they are just 14, you have a tendency to remember them as such. Coming back you don’t realize that you are talking with an adult, to you it’s still someone with a curfew and a bedtime.

The last argument I had with my sister before moving away was about the fact that we were eating all of her snacks for her school lunch box meals. My mother rarely bought junk food, other than things she knew that we didn’t like. This was a sort of safety device that we all had developed. We developed different tastes so that only we could enjoy whatever it was we were enjoying. In high school I had a tendency to drink root beer and ice tea together because my father hated ice tea and my mother hated root beer.

If we bought food we would often hide it or write our names on it or do both. This in turn in would infuriate my step-father who would threaten to write his name on everything he bought. He didn’t like the fact that we helped ourselves to the food that we bought but did not return the favour, especially when it was a cereal that he had developed a taste for.

My step-father is a man of morals and rules. He liked to teach my brother and I lessons that often involved being tricked or doing something we really didn’t want to do. If we didn’t remember to take out the trash on garbage day, then he’d often give us the option of finding somewhere else to put the usual 6 bags garbage or sleeping with them in our room. I know all of the best places to dump large amounts of trash in the Markham-Stouffville area of Ontario.

He was always very good at tricking me. First, let me clarify that a prank is something that someone does on someone else that usually has funny repercussions for both people involved. A trick is when my step-father convinces me to do something willingly that usually has large short term negative effects for me, and long lasting positive effects for him.

One day my step-dad came home and told my brother that he was going to take us somewhere special and that we should get in the car and wait for him. My brother and I were thrilled at this special invitation. My step-father, in addition to being a man of rules, is a man of mystery. He rarely tells us anything about himself so to go somewhere ‘special’ for him usually means somewhere really dangerous and exciting.

After swearing that we weren’t just going to Giant Tiger (the local Stouffville dollar store) we were off on our adventure. My brother Tim suggested that we were going to a munitions dump, while I had a vision of a secret industrial junk yard. We were excited and my step-father drove us off into the night.

After several hours of guessing and disusing what we would do with our bounty my brother and I started to get cautious. We had jumped into the car rather quickly...almost too quickly. As we turned into an unknown building centre we both saw clearly that we were in fact heading to the Whitby Mental Facility. The horror of the situation instantly gripped us. We had been tricked into visiting our Aunt Dona, who is very nice, but very scary at the same time. We both clawed for the doors as my step-father sat back in the car seat and filled the small vehicle with is shrill high-pitched laughter. We were in the middle of no where. We were doomed to sit out every awkward moment of our visit.

In hindsight, this was a clear lesson learned about the importance of family. Having heard horror stories, I was not very pleased to be in Whitby to say the least. As it turned out, Aunt Dona, while still very lively, was also very nice. The lesson that family is important and deserves love no matter how weird they are was a hard taught one, but one that I’m glad I learned all the same.

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