I had a favorite aunt growing up. You know the one. The cool aunt. Growing up she was my absolute favorite family member. I adored her. She was 11 years younger than my mom and gorgeous and totally with it. She’d been a model and actress and for me the sun basically rose and set on her. Over the years she and her husband joined us on our family trips. We’d visit her at my Grandmother’s cottage. I’d spend hours pacing outside her bedroom waiting for her to wake up. We’d celebrate holiday’s and special occasions. She was wonderful. I was never more excited than when she was joining us. As time passed however her relationship with my mother became strained. They couldn’t see eye to eye over the care of my grandmother and the control of her finances and things became increasingly tense. They stopped joining us for events and holidays. There were no more trips, communication broke down and things were said that were difficult to forget. Essentially, as it is with many family dramas, it came down to money. As I understand it my aunt felt cheated out of a part of her inheritance because my grandmother decided to include me in her will. She felt my mother had somehow deliberately (and maliciously) orchestrated it and, despite the fact that many of my friends had received inheritances from their grandparents, my aunt felt grandchildren were not typically included in wills and she was the one losing out. My mother tried to keep me out of it. It was her hope I could remain a neutral party retaining a relationship with my beloved aunt despite the fact that hers had broken down. As I saw it, my mother went above and beyond to make sure my aunt felt compensated and taken care of and I kept believing the whole thing would blow over. It didn’t. In the end my aunt made it clear that I had to choose between her version of the story and my mother’s. There was no middle ground and this summer when I wrote her to see if Loch and I could visit when we were home, she turned me down. She didn’t want to see me. Family dramas are terrible, hurtful things. Family is supposed to look out for one another but all too often – especially around care of the elderly and questions regarding money – things have a way of going off the rails.
The thing is, even with all signs pointing to let it go, it’s over, it’s never going to happen, I still believe the relationship is salvagable. I just don’t believe in lost causes. Look, I was told I had a maximum of 3 years to live and I’m still here. Who knows how long I have left but I don’t believe it’s a done deal. I realize there are times in life when you have to just walk away. When you say hey, it’s time. I can’t change this. Things are not going to be different and I can’t beat myself against the wall any longer. There may be times like that but I don’t believe this is one of those times. I think if you aren’t ready to give up, you have to continue to fight, to hope, to believe.
I have a old friend in Toronto who’s battling metastatic breast cancer. They’ve found it in her breast, lungs, and kidneys. It’s aggressive and hideous and my heart is broken for her. Two girls from my High School died this summer of a similar thing. I recognize the threat is real. I know terrible things happen to good people every day. I know being a mother, or a wife or a dear friend doesn’t make you safe. I realize my friend is dealing with a terrible diagnosis but I also know that miracles happen every day and I choose to believe she can be one of those miracles. It’s not over until it’s over.
Recently I spoke to a friend who’s struggling with her place in the world. What she should do. Who she is. What direction her life should go. She told me she believes people are only able to be positive when things are on an upswing. That without the upswing, it’s difficult not to get mired down in the negatives. I thought a lot about that. In many ways I suppose it’s partly true. I struggle on days when I’m feeling really sick or things aren’t looking good. My hopefulness has a way of becoming clouded by fear and doubt and I’ve been known to wallow.
That being said however, I’ve never stayed in that place for very long. Even before I was sick, when my career or love life was in shambles, I never felt hopeless or believed things wouldn’t eventually work out. I believed I just had to keep working till my life met my dreams and, in those cases, I think the positivity came before the upswing. I believe my attitude changed my circumstances and not the other way around. I’m convinced that’s how I met Sean, how I found writing and, for the most part, how I’ve learned to live with my disease. Talking to my friend it was as if she no longer believed anything good could happen. Every hopeful thing I said was met with caustic, laughable disbelief. It was like throwing a life ring to a drowning person who keeps kicking it away. She seemed adrift in a sea of hopelessness and it was exhausting to watch. It’s hard to help someone who refuses to be helped.
Thinking back I hope I just caught her on a bad day. That, despite her attitude, she doesn’t see her future happiness as impossible. I hope she’s not buying the “everything is crap and always will be” line she seemed to be selling. I hope there’s still a part of her that sees her amazing potential. A small voice that trusts all her education and passion will eventually be rewarded. A hidden part of her psyche that believes she’s worthy of love and that the tragic events of her past don’t define her. That’s what I see when I look at her. Despite all her confusion and negativity she’s an amazing person, and if she could just believe in herself, I know she’d find her way.
I have hope. I hope my aunt realizes one day a mistake’s been made. That she forgives my mother for her supposed slight and my mother is able to forgive her for everything that came after. I dream my son will get to know the woman I loved so much and we will have the opportunity to reconnect. I believe a friend of mine who seems to have moved past our 20-plus year friendship will eventually come back to me because we have too much history to let things go so easily. I pray a miracle makes my friend cancer free and she’s able to recover and raise her adorable twin girls. Finally, I have faith my genius friend will eventually find her place in the world, set down roots and believe in love again.
I don’t believe in lost causes. I believe in hope.
Look at me, I’m still planning to have grandchildren.