Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Short Yet Heartfelt Conclusion

Sorry for the delay, but I've always found the posts that aren't comedy-based or theory-based to be a bit harder to get out. All right, some background here. My aunt passed away a few weeks ago. It was from a brain tumor that had been growing for years now, and her quality of life had been diminished for quite some time. The wake was held on Thanksgiving weekend, and since a flight out to her home province would have cost upwards of $800, I talked it over with my parents and decided that it wouldn't make sense for me to fly out to be there. It wasn't an easy decision, and I struggled with it. I would have liked to be there with the family. By large, my interactions with my aunt had always occurred in that setting: family trips, weddings, birthdays. And that would have been an appropriate circumstances to say goodbye to her.

But, well, I didn't go out, so I needed/need to say goodbye to her in a different way. I was hoping this series of posts would help me work through what she meant to me. There's no single answer; in addition to what she meant with me in the context of our mutual family, there's also the undeniable fact that I associate my aunt with the city she lived in. I doubt I'll ever be able to go there without thinking of her--visiting her house and staying with her there has seeped into my bones from all the times in my childhood to my adulthood. (If you're curious about the city, I'll give you a hint: start in Winnipeg, and travel waaaaay west. If you've hit Victoria, you've gone too far. And you're also very wet.)

It's funny; when I think of a person, I often can't divorce what they mean to me from the time and place that I knew them in. (Or maybe not so funny. We're human beings, and we live in one place at a time, linearly.) Who is my aunt to me, what defines her to me outside of the family position, and her geographical location?

My aunt was a strong person.

Not physically, since her height and frame didn't really lend itself to that sort of thing, but in terms of an strong will, and a strong sense of self. Without getting into a past that I really have no right to divulge, she spent a long period of her life alone. And compared to the family I was used to, she drank more, smoked more, and, um, used saltier language (which, to the mind of a young boy, just made her that much more appealing yet feared). She bore her adversities--brain tumor and all--with a lot of pride and a lot of dignity, and, consequently, a sort of grace. She was a strong person, and for that strength, I'll always admire her and look to her as inspiration.

To connect this more thoroughly to my previous posts, and without diminishing my admiration for my aunt in any way, strength in general is a hallmark of the women in my family. On both sides, the women are no wilting wallflowers; they stand their ground, and if you cross them, believe me, you'll know it. (Unlike the men. We're kind of the strong, silent type.) My family tree is a cornucopia of empowered women, working as teachers (lots of teachers), nurses, concierges, zoo workers, paralegals, and film-makers. (And I'd imagine a few significant positions I've forgotten. Which I'm sure I'll hear about later in great detail.)

To tie back to the first post, one of the reasons I felt so indignant towards the effacing of the Little Mermaid's female family is that I've felt so gifted for my own. And to tie it back to the second post, I don't know why I've been less drawn to women creators in my fiction or research. But I know for certain it's not because I think that women don't have anything to contribute. I've lived with example of example of strong, vibrant women all my life. It never occurred to me that they'd be any other way.

So here's to my aunt, and all the other proud and independent women in my life, family or otherwise. I'd say keep up the good work, but frankly, I'd like you to slow down a bit; you're making the other genders look bad.

Later Days.

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