Writing Challenges

Over the last couple of months I've had a heck of a time writing blog posts not because of the daily schedule, but because the process is suboptimal. The vast majority of items on this site have been written as a "stream of consciousness" style with very light editing to ensure that something -- anything -- can be both written and published on the same day. This allows for articles to sound conversational and light, making it relatively easy for people to read while distracted by the day-to-day. This has been the general concept for almost 500 consecutive days and it's worked out relatively well. However, there are some subjects that I find incredibly hard to write about in this fashion due to a lack of cohesion across ideas. Family is one of the most difficult.

Today is my mother's 62nd birthday. This is quite the number, as some of the colleagues and acquaintances I look up to are nearing this age and already discussing their retirement plans, bucket lists, and signature project wishes. Despite sharing quite a bit of genetic history, we've not kept in touch very often since 2002. We had one phone call in 2008, which is the only time my mother had a chance to speak with Reiko, and we have relayed messages between one of my sisters on occasion since then, but this is the extent of our communications since I left Ontario.

The reason behind the general silence at this point is moot. Whatever reasons I thought there might have been to not communicate have either been forgotten or the memories outlining justifications have been warped over time to the point where they cannot be relied upon. What I do remember is that the side of my family where my mother was a central figure "got weird" around 2000, which resulted in quite the disintegration. My mother spent some time at a women's shelter with my youngest sister before moving into an apartment1. My two older sisters went to live with my father. My youngest brother -- the instigator -- went … somewhere. My step-father had an empty home.

I don't know exactly what happened and, even if I did, the knowledge likely wouldn't make the deterioration of the largest segment of my family any more logical. Families don't operate on logic and, for this particular page of history, ignorance is probably bliss. The fragments I've heard from my sisters do not seem plausible, but what do I know? I was living in a basement apartment in town when everything fell apart. I bore no witness2.

My mother and I would get together every so often over the next two years as she rebuilt her life after yet another divorce, and every time she would ask that I pick up cigarettes or lend3 some money. However, things started to get weird when my mother would try to explain why she had to leave yet another home without taking her kids4. The story kept changing and the details that were added did not add up. The characterisations she made of people I had known most of my life did not align with the people I thought I knew. To add to the confusion, one of my sisters had broken off all communication with my mother, accusing her of outright lying.

I didn't want to take sides. I didn't want every visit with family to turn into a he-said-she-said. I didn't want to deal with it.

So I stopped talking to people. For years.

Over time I did rekindle some relationships, though they're still rather fragile. We may have spent a lot of time together in the same house in the past, but we've all become very different people in the time since. How does one bridge a moat that spans decades?

The easy answer is that one doesn't, but this is also a cowardly answer. The correct response would be something along the lines of pick up the phone or hop on a plane. The worst that could happen would be that the people I've avoided will say "You're no son of mine" and close the door. The rejection would be warranted. However, by holding out the olive branch and seeking to rebuild relationships, it might be possible to overcome any misunderstandings and forge a new connection. My son could meet a larger group of family, and they could meet him.

As one would expect, this is no small feat. This would be a personal challenge that would require a good many internal walls to be torn down. Personal growth. Change. And change is hard. However, by doing so, it might be possible to pick up the phone on future January 15ths to call my mother5 and wish her a happy birthday from half a world away.

  1. The apartment they moved into was not too far from where my father and I lived for many, many years after the divorce. It was a part of Hamilton I knew very well.

  2. My step-father and I did work at the same company at the time but, even then, he and I never talked about it. He would ask if my mother was doing alright, as she and I had regular communication back then, but we hid the topic in the fog, so to speak.

  3. By "lend" I mean "give". Do kids ever ask their parents to pay back money that was incorrectly labelled as a "lend"? I never could nor would.

  4. My youngest sister did go with my mother, but not immediately. Just like with the first divorce, my mother went alone and later collected a single child.

  5. The phone number I have for my mother has been bad for years, and the only sister that does have it is very difficult to get in touch with. Of course, nothing tried, nothing gained.