I’d like to share a story that begins with a joyful and deeply meaningful event in my faith – more than a dedication; it is a knowing that a soul becomes a part of the body of Christ. I’m talking about, Baptism or Christening; a holy ritual ensuring that when and if our parents fu*k up, we’re still in the best of hands. (In this regard, the earlier, the better.)
My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, and my mom complied with pretty much whatever Baba said; mostly because my mom got pregnant with me before she was married, then proceeded to marry a man my entire family despised. In Baba’s mind, mom owed her big time! What couldn’t be agreed upon through reason, was agreed upon through careful and loving manipulation.
Since my mom had eloped, my grandparents didn’t have a chance to put on a wedding celebration, and so they turned my christening into one hell of a party, (just ask anyone who was there.) They held it at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, complete with flaming Baked Alaska, and a champagne fountain. It was BIG!
One of the “decisions,” mom was asked to abide with was the choosing of Godparents. My Uncle Eddie was chosen to be my Godfather, (as he was the apple of baba’s eye – and her sister’s only son,) and my grandmother picked her cousin’s daughter, Valerie to be my Godmother. Needless to say, my mom was not happy about this decision, as she wanted her best friend Julie to be my Godmother. Nevertheless, Valerie was thrust upon her. So let it be written, so let it be done.
My Uncle Eddie was and continues to be a constant in my life, like bread on the table. He was always there, whether in passing conversation, stories my mom would tell about their childhood together, or seeing him at every family gathering – Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc. He was the brother my mom never had. He was not only the bread but the butter too! He was the model dad. He played with us, chasing us around the backyard, eliciting squeals and shrieks. He built skating rinks for us in the winter, and an above ground pool in the summer. He took us to corn roasts, and drive-in movies. He kissed us good-night before we went to bed, and barbecued hamburgers and dogs for us when we were hungry. I say “us,” because I’ve always thought of myself as one of his kids.
As my mom was a single parent, she would send me to my Uncle Eddie’s and Aunt Raldine’s to spend a week with what she called, a “normal” family. She wanted me to see how a real marriage worked; how true love could make you feel, and I did feel it. In fact, I never felt more loved than when I was with the two of them, and my cousins Jori and Jeff.
“Auntie” Valerie, on the other hand, was a complete mystery to me. No one talked about her, except to say that she had married a doctor, and lived not too far away. In fact, I knew where Valerie lived, and decided to take it upon myself one day to pay her a visit in the hopes of getting to know her better. Surely, she took her role as Godmother as seriously as I did, right? I hopped on my bike and went flying down Islington Avenue all the way to her house near the Westway. I was very excited. We had a lot of talking to do!
I knocked on the door and waited anxiously. Finally, a face emerged from the barely open door.
“Hello, Auntie Valerie?”
“I’m Valerie. Can I help you?”
“I’m Kim, your goddaughter.”
“Oh. What can I do for you?”
“I want to get to know you better,” (or something like that.)
“I’m sorry, I’m busy.”
“I’m a little thirsty, can I have a glass of water? (Totally dejected)
“Not know, sorry. Bye.”
I was crushed. Was this the person, Baba in her infinite wisdom, had chosen to guide me in matters of faith? When I asked why she’d chosen her, she just shrugged and said, “Well, she’s family!”
From that moment on, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I thought about a woman I could count on through thick and thin; one who was kind and sweet, one who never seemed to tire of my incessant talking, never rolled her eyes at my silliness, never said no to my childish company. I immediately went to my Aunt Raldine’s and asked her if she would be my Godmother. Her response?
“I’d be honoured, dear.” She’d be honoured! A little different than having the door closed on a thirsty little face.
It was one of the best decisions of my life.
My Uncle Eddie and my Aunt Raldine (or Auntie Ral as I like to call her,) are living testaments to marriage, parenthood, friendship, and faith. They are a blessing to all who know them. Loving unconditionally, they are beacons of light. Never a harsh word; without judgment, fanfare, ego or conflict they have been the finest examples of human beings that have ever inhabited this earth. I love them so much that sometimes I feel as if my heart will burst. They have been the two single greatest influences in my life, and I could not imagine anyone better. They have loved me, sheltered me, fed me body and soul and cared for me as their own.
I know they have no doubts about how I feel, as each time we talk on the phone, or Brad and I go over to play some Euchre, each visit ends with reciprocal, “I love you’s,” all around.
Life is short. Some of us already have a time-table, while most of us are left guessing at how and when we will transform to another plane. Have a living memorial, don’t wait until it becomes an “In Memoriam.”
There is never time to leave things unsaid, especially if those words are, I love you.