From Where I Sit – Part of My Tribe

I felt like a funeral crasher recently when I drove my elderly mother and aunt to their cousin’s service. I didn’t know the deceased man from Adam. In the room of three hundred I knew precisely three people outside of my mom, aunt, and uncle.

When first asked to drive (because my mom isn’t confident in unfamiliar areas of Edmonton) I was conflicted. My first reaction was hell, no; I don’t want to give up a precious day. Especially for someone I’d never met. I said something about not knowing any extended family on either side. I meant it as an accusation. As we were growing up why had we not been allowed, encouraged to meet and know relatives outside of her favourite sister and her two sons? As I’ve thought about that question since, I see Roy and I have done the same. We haven’t kept close contact with our extended family and made sure our kids knew them too. Oops.

Before agreeing I considered how much I needed to accomplish before leaving for a three-day conference. But as with most mother related things It’s never simple. Guilt is a huge driver. I said ?I’ll do it because you’ve done a lot for me?. No doubt she’d had other, more appealing options each time she chose to help me. Damn.

I left home at 8:45 AM and returned at 5 PM. We left early to allow for construction delays and not being sure of the church location in Mill Woods. I had a sinking feeling when I saw the internment would be at a Sherwood Park cemetery. Naturally, they wanted to go to that too. The funeral procession slowly snaked the thirteen kilometres there. The graveside part wasn’t terribly, terribly long. Back we headed to the church. Finally, at 2 PM we had lunch. Then cue the mingling. I stayed put and spoke to two of the people I knew. When a brother of the deceased found out I was the driver he asked if I minded driving back in the dark? His clever way of saying my mom and aunt have a knack for staying and staying and staying, talking and talking and talking.

I became observer. I was clearly trapped for what became an all-day excursion and I might as well be gracious. The service itself was unlike the Ukrainian Orthodox funeral service I’m familiar with. It was interactive with responses expected and group singing of hymns. Before the service began I visited with my mom’s cousin who sat next to me. The eulogy was well delivered by a son-in-law and illustrated with laughter and anecdotes a well respected and much loved man. Something I guess we should all be working towards.

Saturday’s stories before, during, and after convince me families are all the same. There are favourite relatives and others we don’t like. Memory is unreliable. There are successes and scandals, saints and scoundrels. Grudges, misinterpretations, differences of opinion and values exist. The aging process doesn’t treat us all fairly. But for better or worse these people are part of my tribe, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.