Friday, October 6, 2017
The last of
My father's side of the family is not as dramatically demonstrative as my mother's side of the family. We don't efficiently pass news of literally everyone and everything in real time like my mother's side does, but we are close nevertheless. With my cousins on my dad's side, there is no doubt that help, should we need it, is a phone call away. My father's side specializes in swinging into action, unlike my mother's side, which one might say never really swings out of action.
I'll never forget when I was maybe 9 years old, the news came that my dad's youngest sister, who had migrated to Toronto, married a Canadian, and was raising her family there, fell upon a hard time. I won't go into details about it, but she had been committed to an institution against her will. As soon as my dad hung up the phone from the family friend who apprised him of this, he rallied his other siblings, all still living in Jamaica. It was late evening, but they all arrived at our home within the hour for a family meeting. The very next morning, my dad and his brother were on a plane to Toronto, where they succeeded in straightening things out and getting their baby sister's life back on an even keel. What stays with me was their absolute lack of hesitation.
And the year my dad was dying—he and my mom were living in St. Lucia then—my Aunt Jo flew to be by his side, and help my mother care for her brother. I traveled there from New York at one point to give blood for my father, as I was the best match in the family. My daughter was eleven months old, and very attached to me, and when I left her in Aunt Jo's care to go to the hospital with my mother, she cried inconsolably. She refused to be comforted, and even fiercely pushed Aunt Jo over as she stooped to try and hold her. This endeared her to Aunt Jo forever. She loved how spunky her grand niece was, and never tired of telling her that. My daughter, for her part, was horrified that she had pushed over her then 76-year-old aunt, even if she was not yet a year old.
Fly free, dear Aunt Jo. I imagine you shaking off that gray earthly mien, getting up out of your wheelchair, the light coming back on in your eyes. Say hi to everyone on that side of the cellophane for me. Tell them to blow us some love.