Tuesday, June 29, 2010


When you're an only child, especially when you have older parents, extended family and friends take on special importance. When you're an only girl child with older parents, that importance triples as you and your parents age.

I come from a massive family, both maternal and paternal sides. I have 21 first cousins on mom's side and 9 on dad's, (plus another family that are cousins' cousins and just like family). Factor in my cousin's kids, and you get the picture... Geography meant that I was closer to mom's side growing up than dad's. Of  the 21, I am closest to the Allison boys. My mother and their mother were sisters, 13 months apart in age and closer than close. If we weren't at their house, they were at ours. All holidays, first communions, first brownie and boy scout...we spent it together. They were more like my brothers than my cousins, and we continue to be close. They lost both parents at a young age, and my mom has been their 2nd mom for years, and is grandma to their children. She's the only grandma their children know on that side of the family.

It's an odd business sometimes. I don't know what it's like to have real siblings, but I sure know what it's like to love someone like siblings. I remember feeling horribly hurt one time when one of the Allison boys was staying with us for a family wedding. His other brothers were all staying at a nearby hotel, but because he had a small child, he and his family opted to stay with us instead. One night, the rest of the family were convening for dinner, and my cousin staying with us was feeling put out and hurt, and blurted out something to the effect that he just wanted to have dinner with his brothers, his blood family. Since "real" family is a bit of a touchy subject when you're adopted, I suppose I reacted a bit more strongly than was appropriate, but I was still hurt. I forget that we don't share DNA, and sometimes, I forget that we don't share parents either.We've shared so many life experiences that I forget sometimes that we're not siblings. We certainly fight like it.

We've just had news that one of the 4 Allisons has a life threatening health problem. It's come out of the blue, and my mom and I are having a hard time processing it. On top of my mother-in-law's cancer diagnosis, it's been a bit too much to handle and to cope with.

You see, it's Murray. Of the four, Murray is the most like his mother. He has her gentle and kind nature, her patience and her ability to give you his undivided attention and make you feel like the most important person in the world. Murray is 7-8 years older than I am, but was infinitely patient with his pesky girl cousin who trailed after him wherever he went. Murray was my first dance partner, teaching me dance steps and dancing with me when I was just a little kid stumbling over my feet. Imagine how I felt, this teenage boy dancing with me. The last thing Murray tells you before he hangs up a phone call is "I love you."

Life circumstances sent Murray out to Field,BC when I was still a child. From then on, I kept up an annual Christmas letter that outlined everything that was going on in the family. I don't know if he read them or not, but I wanted him to be up on the family news. His wife, Cathy, told me he looked for those letters every year. When I finally met Cathy for the first time, she said she felt like she knew me from my letters. I knew that she had made Murray happy and I loved her because of it.

Murray and Cathy have had a rough go because their son has an aggressive form of MS. Allie went from a hockey playing, soccer kicking, planning a career in sports management, to a man who cannot get out of bed somedays because his leg won't work-literally. And now, Murray has a serious illness. The how and the why don't matter. The what now does, and it's serious.

Death is no stranger to my life, and I always knew that I would lose my "big brothers" at some point. I wasn't ready for it to be this soon.

I was already feeling pretty raw and stretched with my mother-in-law's cancer. We have ugly days looming on the horizon, and I simply don't want our family to have to go through what we will have to go through in the days, weeks and months ahead. I try hard not to let my husband see me cry for my mother-in-law. It upsets him, it upsets our daughter, and I need to be strong to support the rest of the family. My daughter was pretty upset the first time she saw her daddy cry. It won't be the last time, and I have to support both of them. 

My strength has left me with this news about Murray. He's "only my cousin", except no one told my heart that. He's been my surrogate big brother all of my life. We might have seen each other only a handful of times over the years but the heart doesn't recognize time or distance...only love.If it was humanly possible, and I needed him, he'd be on the next plane.

This wonderful country of ours can be a detriment when someone you love and you want to help and support is miles and hours by plane away. Instead of being able to stop by with food, or a visit, or a hug, I have to be content with a phone call or a blog post.

Murray taught me how to overcome personal adversity. Murray taught me that kindness and gentleness are not weak, but rather, strong traits to have. Murray taught me that there is no distance when it comes to loving your family. Murray taught me that dancing with a child is one of the best gifts you can give to that child. Murray taught me that even the bleakest situations can be overcome. And Murray taught me that you don't have to be "blood" to love someone like a brother.

I love you, Murray and I pray that all will be well.

No comments: