Sometimes weeks, months, seasons go by without any huge changes that impact our lives. Things sail along in the harmony of routine. Sometimes boring perhaps, but equally offering a sense of security and foundation.
The summer of 2011 has not been one of those seasons. Beginning with the wedding of my dear cousin and visit of one of my Edinburgh friends to California, to the death of my dear grandmother in early July. August will take me to another new country, and summer will hopefully end with less grief and more positive moves for my future.
I had an awesome trip to the US over Memorial Day through mid-June. It began with my friend Yara visiting, which was exciting for numerous reasons. She was my first friend who I met in Edinburgh to visit my home in California, and she (being raised in Cyprus and Lebanon) loves and appreciates the sun, sea, and outdoors more than the lure of Hollywood (thank goodness...I can't handle LA for more than a day at a time). We spent a lot of time with my parents as well, and I'm pretty sure they would adopt her if she suddenly found herself in need of a new family! Later this month I will be travelling to Cyprus to see her and her family, sunshine ahoy!
Yara and I in Ventura
After her trip came the wedding. My lovely Lauretta married Ed, her longtime boyfriend who has been a part of our family since she was 16. The wedding was amazing, set in the stunning mountains surrounding Yosemite National Park. The couple, so clearly in love and easily moving into the next stage of their relationship, made their special day such a beautiful testament to all of the people and things that they love. I had so much fun with my family, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins...it was definitely a special trip!
The Bride and Groom
Fam at cocktail hour
Jesse and Grandma Barnes
Aunties and me!
The last leg of my trip was a bit more bittersweet. I went up to Seattle for a few days to see my family and friends up there. It was so nice to see my Auntie, my lovely friends, my cousins and Uncle, and my Grandma-but it was also very hard. I had not seen my grandmother since she had her stroke, and when I got there she was ill and in quarantine, still unable to talk, and having a hard time both communicating and getting around. It was devastating to see her that way, after so many years of knowing and loving her personality and idiosyncracies-now both shadowed by silence, confusion, and forced submission to her confinement while sick.
Getting Pedicures for Grandma's birthday
Hot tub fun!
While I spent much of my time with her not knowing what to say to a person who cannot respond back, and feeling both awkward and uncomfortable, small moments reminded me that my grandmother was still inside the shell. Her strong hands that would squeeze mine, her laugh, and her long hugs. THese helped bolster me, and made it easier to continue telling my one-sided stories. And I'm so glad that I did.
Three weeks after returning to the UK, my Grandmother passed away. I was devastated that I could not be there for my family, that I was not there to say goodbye in person. But I know that wherever she is now, she is so much better off than she was here. She can probably talk, and laugh, and walk without aid. And I hope that her and my grandfather are dancing through eternity together to the sounds of never-ending big band music.
Although the sadness is still raw, especially when I write about it, I find it cathartic to do so. My paternal grandparents were dynamic, fantastic people. I'm so glad that I have so many memories of them left, and I have them to thank for my love of travelling, cultural appreciation, and experiencing new things.
On a happier note, my newlywed cousin is also expecting her first child. More apropos timing could not be possible. One life ends and another one just beginning. I know that her child will be welcomed by loving parents, surrounded by an extended family full of equal love, laughter, stories, and strength. My maternal grandparents have nurtured a large family that keeps growing. We are all family by birth, and I am happy to say that we are friends by choice. This side of the family gives me my love of large families, the knowledge that different beliefs and lifestyles can be celebrated, and the reality check that drama queens sometimes need!
If there is one thing that I know now that was a less defined belief before June, it is this: family really is an amazing thing. Family has the power to build you up, appreciate your uniqueness, accept our differences, and move through all stages of happiness and grief with a strong, yet intangible thread binding it together. Family is also what you make it. I have some family members that feel like strangers, who do not attempt to nourish the relationship, and some friends that are closer than blood and bonded to me as such. These things happen in life, and all we can do is try our best to be understanding to those who cannot appreciate the human familial bond, and hold on all the more to those in our lives who do.
My fabulous family!
After a winter/spring of maddening routine, I am still living this summer of change. Lets hope August doesn't let me down!