In January, before all of the pandemic shit hit the fan, it became clear that Einstein, my precious white fluffy 17 year old soulmate, wasn’t going to decide to leave us on his own, that we’d have to make that heartbreaking decision for him.
His body was giving out, his senses were depleted. He was disoriented in moving to this new house a little over a year before and had never really regained his bearings. His world had become small and restrictive, and I could feel his stress at navigating it.
So we let him go, in our home, surrounded by love and his favourite treats, with the assistance of two mobile veterinarian angels. They wrapped him carefully, arranged his beautiful body and ears on a miniature litter and carried him away.
And our house became emptier than I could bear.
We decided to take a road trip. We packed the car for Toronto, our happy place hotel where David would settle in to write and prowl his favourite haunts while I took the train to London for a personal retreat I had planned as a birthday gift to myself.
We had a long overdue and wonderful visit with my son who lives in Toronto; ate and drank extravagantly, dipping into my severance pay, auspiciously deposited into my bank account on my birthday.
There is a deep bone comfort for me that comes from wandering and basking in a gallery of creations by my favourite artists. I have been known to, and undoubtedly will again, sit with tears of joy and gratitude streaming down my face in the presence of such beauty and energy. This visit was no exception. Maude’s work come to life on the walls was stunning, overwhelming in its simplicity and beauty.
Every gallery visit concludes with a stop at the gallery boutique, where this time I purchased the exhibit keepsake book as well as an activity book for our grandnephew Clarke, 5 years old, who lives in Stratford Ontario, our next stop.
I’d always wanted a sister, having grown up with two younger brothers. And I could never have imagined having in-laws, finding David later in life at the age of 48. He came with the built-in blessings of two children, his mom and siblings and their families, who all became mine.
David’s sister is my sister, the comfort, the love, the appreciation, acceptance and inclusion something I cherish and didn’t know I was missing until they were showered upon me. When shit gets tough, I want to be with Cathy. Her love and support have become a touchstone for me. That’s just how it is.
It’s how it was in the fall when my mother passed, not unexpected but suddenly, while I was away from home working an election campaign in London, not far from Stratford. I just needed to stop there for an overnight on the way to the funeral in Northern Ontario. I sat on the couch in Cathy’s living room, surrounded by warmth and love and lulled by chatter, doing a lot of nothing but cuddling under a blanket and it was enough; it was what I needed.
And now, after saying goodbye to Einstein I wanted the comfort of my big sister again. So we travelled to Stratford, our visit extended by a winter storm that afforded the time to visit with the whole Stratford family. Clarke was happy with the Maude Lewis activity book; I showed him my souvenir book to compare his activities to the actual paintings. Cathy and Clarke’s mom told me the story of someone in the area finding a Maude Lewis painting in a thrift store that ended up being sold for thousands in support of a local charity.
And when the storm subsided, we headed home
Not knowing when this pandemic will end, when and if the world will return to ‘normal’, has been destabilizing to say the least. But also stabilizing. I didn’t know what was coming next for me before the pandemic hit. I wanted more, and still do. In many ways, the resources and breadcrumbs to follow a path to creating more have been abundant and flowing as a result of the stay at home.
The emotional upheaval, the bottom falling out of all we construct for ourselves to feel safe and secure and comforted, when the truth is that nothing is really ever safe and secure and comforting except that which we find within ourselves, is trauma.
Up until now, we have been quite successful in distracting ourselves from that truth, too willing or too passive to recognize that we have been manipulated into believing that the machinery of capitalism, profit, systemic racism and colonialism is inevitable and impossible to redirect.
I see glimpses of a great awakening in these times, and I hope it’s true.
On the morning of May 2, in the middle of all those feels, while having coffee in bed, David and I received a message from our grandnephew, transcribed by his mom:
“Hi Zia and Uncle Dave; I made this picture for you. Love, Clarke”
And it is everything
Is it possible that somewhere in our hearts and souls we knew what was coming? That we’d need to store up some resources of family connection and love to call upon in the days when that kind of physical connection isn’t advisable or possible?
I’m so grateful that we took the time to do what our souls called us to do, to be with the people who soothe us and love us, and whose love and soothing we make an effort to return; because doing that feels so impossible and vital and elusive right now.
These times, these great escapes, these moments with friends, family and my happy places, are my touchstones now.
And they are everything.