We now return you to Canada, on November 19th. Now that we've all had a chance to stop crying over my previous entries, here's the wrap up. It's going to be photo heavy. Dripping with snapshots! Not all of which are taken by me, either.
This is what throwing the second biggest party of your life leaves you looking like (she's gonna kill me for this one!):
Update: Excessively exhausted younger sister photo removed, due to sibling pressure.
But she'll soon forgive me for these pictures! (I hope!) Here's Daniel indisposed. Of course I photographed it! Look at the expression in his eyes! He loves his momma.
And his Aunt Hatchet, too. I, unsurprisingly enough, love him back. It was a whirlwind romance. I'm hoping he remembers me when next we meet.
The beginnings of a shoe fetish? Mmm! Leather!
Here he is, being ridiculously cute. Everyone should have one like this! He was very cuddly.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to fall in love with someone that delights in you?
On Sunday, we had the After Party, as we usually do, at Mom and Dad's house where thirteen people all tried to jam into my parent's tiny kitchen. As we usually do.
Have you ever noticed how when you throw a party everyone wants to be in the kitchen with you? That's love. They say the kitchen is the heart of the home and in my experience, while growing up in my parent's home and now in my own, I find that to be completely true. When you're cooking, everyone wants to be right there with you. When you're icing the 4 layer coconut cake with coconut buttercream icing, they're right there. Watching. Chatting. Laughing. Oohing and aahing.
Here we all are: parents, cousins, siblings, in-laws, niece and nephew.
Cousin Marilyn. They were checking out Cindy's wedding album.
Second step-cousin-in law once removed (Oh yeah, we've got complicated relationships, too.), Jen. She's way cuter in person than this picture captures.
Tom. The sweetest cat. He's a ragtag ragamuffin. He showed up around ten (?) years ago looking for handouts and has stuck around ever since. I'm not certain if he was a feral cat or just an outdoor cat, but my parents fell in love with his gentle personality and fierce protectiveness. Not pictured is their psycho cat Xanth. Those two don't get along. All of those scars? Raccoon fights!
Pet the kitty. Niiiice kitty!My older sister, Dawn.
My little brother, Ian.
My cousin-in-law Colin, my brother-in-law Jason and my nephew Daniel.
We're a mixed bag, eh?
So here we all are, emotionally wrung out, but happy, the day after the big party. Eating ackee and saltfish (YUM!), meat patties, Ghirardelli chocolates, fruit cobbler, ham and veggies and who knows what all else. One of the comments I'd made at the party was that it was the only party any of us were ever likely to see Mom not cooking at. I was right, of course, since she spent pretty much the whole time during this party cooking. Another reason why we all squeeze into the kitchen.
Here's a card my cousin Jamie made/Photoshopped for my Dad. Fabulous!
You have to view it larger to read what it says, though.
Just so you know, the weepy part is coming....
Dad and the grandkids. One of each! By the way, my dad is afraid of small children. He's terrified he's going to drop them. Word is that he didn't hold my older sister as an infant until she was one years old. Ack! Mom apparently had had enough of that by the time I came around and thrust me at him at 6 weeks. Cindy ambushed him with Daniel by just popping Daniel into his lap and walking away. I had no idea that worked....
Here? He's smiling. At me. Rare are the smiling Dad photos. I will treasure this one for a long time to come. OK, maybe it's just the weepy for me part.
You know what's funny? I can finally see how I look like my dad here. All together now!
I like this one. It's a great snapshot of life in our house: chaotic, food is at the core, and we're quietly happy.
Yes, these were all shot with ambient light, so there are a lot of shadows, however a flash would have killed the moment and make them painfully aware that I was shooting. Of course, it's hard to miss my enormous camera and lens set up, but if I move quietly and slowly I'm less likely to scare the camera shy off.
Cindy has a different dynamic with my dad than all the rest of us. She turns him into a big teddy bear, I have no idea how she does it, but they're really close.
Caitlin beeps Daniel's nose. We like beeping noses. You never know what sound they'll make.
With that experience, Daniel tries to beep my mom's nose.
I look like I'm giving Daniel what's for here. This, by the way, is my favorite shirt. My friend Dan calls it my Super Chick shirt. I'll take that.
After much eating and mulling over the previous night, it was time to say goodbye. Caitlin and I made the long drive over to Cindy's house to get our gear since we were going to spend the last night with mom and dad. It was very very late when we returned (1 am) and Caitlin was in major meltdown mode. We immediately put her to bed and said goodnight, planning on waking up at 3 am for our 6 am (yes, we ARE insane) flight home. It was cold and foggy and I was so glad that I wasn't driving since I was exhausted and get road hypnotized/fall asleep easily (leading to crashing and great unhappiness - I'll relate the semi-truck incident another day). Dad was completely knocked out, so it was just mom, Caitlin and I. It made me very glad that I'd said goodnight to dad the night before, kissed him goodbye and told him that I loved him.
Twice in the same weekend! In person!
Yeah, well. There it is.
Mom and I had intense discussions about family and illness and death and secrets in the car on the way to the airport. Why? Because that's what I'm good at! What?! I was supposed to spend my last hour with her talking about the weather or something frivolous? Get real!
I told her that I was truly glad that I had come, that I loved her, that I was glad that dad had finally gotten his hernia surgery (now there's a story!), had at long last gotten diagnosed (with Alzheimer's) and medicated and that I was deeply distressed by the thought of him forgetting everyone. I can only imagine what it's like for her on a daily basis. She says that she's coping (hang in there Mom!) by just going with the flow and answering his repeated questions (What's today's date?) just as if he'd asked it for the very first time.
I learned, yet again, that love comes in many different guises.
Love is not getting frustrated with someone else's forgetfulness; holding your grandchildren even though you're afraid; dancing together 11 years later; ackee, saltfish, hard-dough bread, cobbler and Jamaican fruitcake; digging two feet of snow out of your driveway and going to the rescue; telling the truth, even when it makes you cry.
Love, most especially, seems to be forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and forgiving others doesn't come easily or quickly, but it is life changing when it happens.
May all your lives change for the better, day by day.