When my dad and I woke up in Watertown, NY last Monday morning, it was snowing. In May. When we left Virginia the day before….it was a balmy 65 degrees (Farenheit) and the temperature steadily dropped the further north we drove. As we crossed the border into Canada and headed towards Ottawa, the snow continued… just flurries and flakes swirling on the air….worrisome only for the fact that I didn’t pack any real winter clothes, and the warmest shoes I had with me were my trusty and oh so thin canvas converse because SPRING.
It’s been over 20 years since my last visit to Ottawa. My only memory from that trip is that we tried to stay in a hotel near the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York, but couldn’t find a room due to a sports tournament in town. So we democratically voted and my dad drove through the night. Which felt very adventurous to my 11 year old self….sleeping on the back bench in the van probably without a seatbelt because 1990s.
How did I get Canadian relatives, you ask? Good question. My grandfather (Bubba), and his sister Ann, were raised by their Aunt in New York City during the 1930’s. Bubba joined the Coast Guard and made his way to Cape Cod where he met Nana. Ann met her husband (a Canadian sailor) at some sort of USO venue during World War II in New York. They corresponded for the remainder of the war and then married and moved to Canada. Then they had 10 kids. Which means I have roughly a MILLION CANADIAN COUSINS. Family has visited back and forth over the years, but most of my Canadian encounters have been when several of the cousins have visited us in Virginia….like when Bubba died.
And then Brian passed away after a long battle with cancer on May 1st. Brian is husband to Joan and father to Dyllan and one of the few Canadian cousins that I have known. It felt important that a few of us make it up to Ottawa to be with the family and so Dad and I, the eternal road trippers, took on the quest.The two days we spent in Ottawa were a beautiful reflection of the life and legacy of Brian Frank McFall. The wake was at times loud and boisterous and while there were plenty of tears, there was also a lot of laughter and so. many. stories. Collages dotted every corner of the room and I give Brian mad props for keeping up with the styles and trends of each decade…. the seventies and eighties being my favorite for his clothing choices and hair styles.
I did not anticipate an overwhelming sense of joy in meeting this extended family of mine. I instantly fell in love with so many of the “kids” of my second cousins…. Dyllan, so authentically kind and plays guitar!!! and Charlie, who literally is a part-time tour guide in Ottawa (FRIENDS I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE IN MY FAMILY LIKE THIS!)…. I would equate last week to being introduced to an entire playground of brand new playmates and then being told it’s time to go home….I just want to go back.
And the time spent with each of the 10 siblings…all the hugs and kisses. Every hello. Every goodbye. Sometimes twice. :o) At the reception following the funeral, each sibling stood up (in birth order) to say their thank you’s and goodbyes to Brian. One of the choir members from the service remarked that only in big families do they organize themselves in by number order.
I also did not anticipate how well known among the family I would be as the “singer” or “girl from the CD”. I knew Nana had sent copies of “Coming Home to You” to various family members….but what I didn’t know is that they would ACTUALLY listen to it and still have it in their cars. :o) Canadian family famous. Who knew?!?! Good thing I threw my guitar in the car last minute to have a little impromptu house concert the second afternoon. We had a brief moment with “Draw Me Closer” and then many laughs with “Lovers” and “Bob Ford”.
Our last evening in Ottawa was a quiet dinner with Joan and Dyllan before watching a Senators hockey game (which they won!). I’m incredibly thankful that we were able to be with them even for such a brief time. I’m already looking at this summer for a return playdate…. I mean, trip. I WON’T LET 20 YEARS PASS BY AGAIN!!!
Also I only took like three pictures the whole trip….. but man, Canadian grocery store sushi….so good!