Last week our family went back to my home town to attend my grandmother’s 90th birthday, an event that saw my extended family together for the first time since my great-grandfather’s 100th birthday, some 15 years or so ago. The “festivus of grandma” saw 75+ of our extended family coming back to Winnipeg to pay homage to a woman who in part raised her siblings, raised her children, was a strong supportive aunt and always made her grandchildren feel completely adored.
The visit, had a series of family events that culminated with a tea, dinner and BBQ on behalf of grandma throughout the weekend. Prior to the weekend, we were tasked on coming up with a speech from the grandkids to say at the dinner Saturday evening. So we went out for “Cousins Night Out” a tradition that has started over the last few years (now that my younger cousins are legal!) of heading out with all my immediate girl cousins for a night of conversation and cocktails, a formula that works very well for us. We catch up on our lives and what’s going on, yammer about our similarities (since we all come from the same maternal grandmother and grandfather), share secrets and usually one of us or a multitude of us end up in tears. Not because anything mean was said, but because this seems to be one of the few outlets where any of us feel we can really talk, a safe haven if you will…sharing our sadness or challenges without judgement..and feeling the support of family..unconditionally. It’s the only place I have been able to have an in-depth conversation about my son and autism (outside of my parents) with that side of the family…until last weekend.
You see, as much as I know my immediate family loves all of us deeply, supports us fully and cares for us completely, we have a habit of not talking about the big things. Don’t get me wrong, we are TALKERS…put the entire brood of us in a room and it was louder than a bingo hall. But we have grown up taught that we just don’t talk about the deeply emotional parts of our lives.. those moments stay quiet, not to be discussed publicly, not to burden anyone.
Up until recently I really didn’t have a problem with that….
Except now on two fronts where “talking” has become really important for me.
1) Not talking is not healthy- I realized that as much as I worry about “burdening” people in talking about Autism, I have a number of relatives who also don’t know HOW to talk about what’s wrong or feel terrible in not wanting to “bother” anyone with their problems. Something I totally get…Somehow we can’t seem to give ourselves permission to let go. But if you don’t let go every once in a while (which I definitely have these last 2 years), at some point that pot IS going to boil over. I’m worried about them but again as is our family nature, I’m not exactly sure how to tell them that.
2) Family history I have been asked numerous times in various assessments whether or not Autism runs in our family. I have always said no, until last weekend, I found out my second cousin also has a son with Autism. I had a lovely chat with he, and his wife and was inspired by what they are doing in their community to help raise funds and awareness to support Autism. In some ways, this provides comfort to me, that there is an element of genetics at play (since I had read everything from vaccinations, a stomach bug, the environment and one’s diet could all affect Autism and I really didn’t want to go into major guilt mode that I somehow could have prevented it) It also made me sad, as if it IS genetics, it will be something that our children will have to aware of as they start looking towards having family.
My heart is full from this family reunion.
An abundance of love and chatter with people I got a chance to reconnect with, laugh with and enjoy the company of.
They say you can’t pick your family, but ultimately I would pick the same one anyways…cause well…Family is everything…