Monday, January 9, 2012
But this photo is a favourite and I want to share it. My good friend Anne and her two kids, now all grown up, have spent Christmas with us for many years since her husband, their daddy, died suddenly in 1995 when the children were very young. They are family. Every year Anne takes a family photo, this year being no exception. Actually it was her son Jesse (bearded, in grey shirt at the front) who set it up this year by perching the camera on our staircase then bolting back into the photo in time for the shot. He is the reason we are all beaming so broadly since seconds earlier we had all been screaming and laughing loudly, cheering him back into the scene during his mad dash.
Jesse's beautiful sister Lily sits to his right, holding his arm. Anne, dressed in a red cardigan and as close to me as a sister, even sharing her name, sits next to me. I am in the back wearing purple. Darren, soon to marry Anna, sits to the left in the dark sweater with a sisterly arm draped over him. My four children: Emily in the back; Laura in the middle in front of Anne; and right in front of me, William and Anna glued together as they always were when she was ten and he an infant.
There is my brother with his wife who join us for Christmas when they can. They are seated to the right of the photo, Linda in front of Peter. Of my immediate family of birth, Peter is my only surviving family member after our father, mother, sister and her husband all died over the past eight years (though if you look very closely you might see they are with us in photographic presence on the shelf above). He has been my rock as his name suggests.
Missing and missed are Michael's family, celebrating a quieter Christmas together elsewhere; our son's fiancee Rhian, traveling with her family; and Laura's boyfriend, another Mike, yet to be introduced to her siblings. And, of course, two exhausted old dogs who spent their day trying very hard to be well behaved around the mischievous teasing of our son's visiting kitten.
Then there is Michael, seated to my left, my arm hovering protectively around him. My handsome man who has to work so very hard now to produce that smile, the smile that used to be so warm and quick, now reduced either to a leering contortion while in the throes of dyskinesia, or a rigid, blank mask when the medication fails which is most of the time.
It was a rough day for him with all the people, all the noise, but he made it through despite a few difficult and frightening episodes before Christmas. I was so busy I don't even remember if he had to retreat for a nap; the kids take on much of the Dad-care on Christmas day.
It was a day of animated conversation and wild, physically interactive video games that saw most of us leaping about in the same space that we occupy in this photo, a very welcome and lively interlude for me, so completely different from our normal day-to-day existence. It was a wonderful day, immortalized in this photo. And I can share it with you because I finally had the courage to figure out how to do so.