In the evening of Tuesday, November 4, because my mother didn’t want to distract me from work (I would have called her right away), I learned that my maternal grandmother, widowed three years ago, had passed away. She hadn’t been sick that I knew of (but apparently had been sick for several days) so it came as a shock to me. She was 94 years old or even older, it’s hard to say.
Kindly people would ascribe my lack of reaction to not being able to process it immediately but, simply put, she was an ever diminishing part of my life for several years. It took more conscious processing on my part to remember back to the times we saw her periodically in Toronto over summer or March Break and even longer ago, we spent the whole summers staying at her apartment in North Point, Hong Kong.
I hemmed and hawed for a few days about whether or not to go to Toronto. The visceral reaction to the damned high flight prices was, “Unfortunately, no.” BC observed Remembrance Day (a Tuesday) as a holiday so we were looking at long weekend type of high prices on top of booking at the last minute. Heading out on Friday night or even on Saturday to get most of the weekend was out of the question. I learned of who was going from the cousins generation and everyone in Vancouver who didn’t have kids was going. I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the price if it was a normal weekend so it was merely a $150-200 premium. I had been to my grandfather’s funeral three years ago when I was living in Toronto and Grandmother C was by and far a larger presence in my life.
And… I am glad I went! The funeral events were family-only and our numbers were enough to round out a decent party: all seven children, eight of 12 grandchildren and three spouses and a boyfriend. Last year’s two weddings couldn’t bring us all together like so.
The schedule of comings and goings was a sight to behold with people coming to Toronto from Halifax, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Seattle. Except for one married couple, no two others had the same travel schedule, not even cousins Alan and I which was close but different. We are a family, I would observe during my time away, where every single one of us in three generations either doesn’t live where he or she was born or has spent significant time living elsewhere before returning to a hometown.
My company generously granted me three days of bereavement leave and Tuesday was a holiday so my travel schedule was Sunday to Thursday and I felt guilty because I would have taken just one day had it been in town and I was planning on having a bit of fun by way of seeing my BFF and spend time with my cousins. But this family time is important. It’s important for me to be there when my mother sees all her siblings because who knows when (if) it will happen again.
My Vancouver aunt and I were on the same outbound flight but sat separately. A Toronto cousin picked us up and his brother who arrived an hour later, saving my sister from four airport runs in five days. We hung out at the cousin’s house and met his infant son and got to know his toddler daughter. In no particular hurry, I was given a ride to Richmond Hill and Lil Sis and I went for Korean (couldn’t resist) at Oh Geul Boh Geul [Yelp]and got the authentic basement dining room experience and we tried an Asian dessert shop, Sweet Note, Lil Sis has driven by countless times.
On Monday morning, my sister and I made the first of three airport runs to pick up my mother and we went to the grandparent’s condo where we went through the contents of the apartment and figured out what to do with it. Now I know why the bereavement rate included one free checked bag, we all have mementos of Grandmother C.
The visitation and ceremony was in the early afternoon and it was interspersed with customs that the funeral home director guided us through. We dispersed for an hour during which we could spend the loonie in a pouch we were given then we had early dinner at Legend because afterwards, we were back at the condo for the siblings to discuss inheritance matters. It was funny how we are still treated like children and not invited to the round table that wouldn’t support us anyhow. Yet we were right next door, eavesdropping from the living room. And as the discussions drew longer, more English would enter the dialogue!
On Monday, I learned that some filming locations of my all time favorite movie, Sullivan Productions 1985 version of Anne of Green Gables, were just outside Toronto and my younger cousin Meg was eager to visit them. I arranged to get use of my sister’s car for the day following dropping mum off at the airport at 0715 (second airport run) and dropping my sister off at work in Aurora. We started near the grandparents’ condo in Scarborough where Meg was staying with Green Gables (7501 Steeles Avenue East) then onto Unionville where the pilot for Gilmour Girls was filmed (156 Main Street is Luke’s Diner) and finally Stouffville for the Lake of Shining Waters (just behind 3993 Stouffville Road). I will blog in full about that day.
I had some plan to work on Tuesday but obviously Meg’s proposal was much more interesting. I don’t know if I will ever travel with family in the way I would want to (like my in-laws who travel in a pack) but sightseeing with my cousin for a day was kind of like that because I’m not exactly local to Toronto either.
We had dinner with the family at Vince’s [Yelp] and it was more relaxed that the evening before, the wine was flowing. After each dinner we had to remember who was leaving next who would see who soon or not. “Goodbye. Take care.” “You, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I finally made it downtown on Wednesday and dropped by the office. I showed up at my Toronto counterpart’s desk and greeted her and she thought I looked familiar (from our internal instant messaging profile photos) before realizing that I was out of context! I also visited my old group and guided myself on a tour of renovated office spaces on a floor we just expanded to.
Wednesday and the next day would be caffeine heavy as I took to the King/Yonge Starbucks to get some work done then the Starbucks in Brookfield Place to meet up with the BFF. That meet-up was way too short and we parted promising to try to meet up again the next day.
I had gone through the BlogTO’s “Top 10 places to work or study in Toronto” and Rooster Coffee caught my attention. It was a little distance out from Yonge but worth the trek. The cashier was so pleasant I tipped for once.
We had dinner at my cousin’s because his two young children did not attend the other events. We really are the bridging generation now that both grandparents are gone; we exist between our parents and (for those of us who have them), our children. The Annex area where they live is so adorable; it’s where I’d want to live, next after living five minutes from work. ;-)
I made it downtown on my last day, very appreciative that the GO Train I take has added trains so I don’t have to rush to get the train that gets me in at 8 a.m. I looked for some of the most iconic Toronto street art but lost patience and didn’t know if some of it didn’t exist any longer anyhow.
One of my other goals was to check out the accessories shop in Chinatown Centre but I didn’t see anything better than my last successful raid so I wandered into a clothing shop and bought a cute bikini for $16! The sales lady gave me a further discount without me asking!
I finally got to check out Dark Horse after walking by it so many times. It was a great place to work, but not so intimate or cozy as the day before and my beef is with how I couldn’t find a power outlet there or Rooster.
One more Starbucks trip to meet up with the BFF for an hour and I was walking at a quick clip back to Union to catch an early GO Train back north.
We met up with two aunts left in town for one more dinner at Asian Legend and it’s obvious to me I don’t carry the conversation in the group and the dynamics were different when our numbers dwindle. I’m super impressed my sister’s boyfriend came out all four evenings. That’s dedication… or he’s in it for the free food. :-P He got a full dose of the family. So did I, and it was great.