In elementary school I used to want to be the most popular girl in school but that never happened because I was never very successful at juggling multiple social groups, and if we’re being honest I was also a big dork. Instead what I learned was how to thrive in small group settings and cultivate close relationships with my friends nearing the point of co-dependency. Fortunately as an adult some things have changed because I’m a lot more independent now or at least more than I was, which isn’t saying much. However, what remains the same is that I’m still most comfortable in smaller groups and lack the social grace of entertaining large parties, unsure and uneasy when all eyes are turned on me. This spring however when we got news of my dad’s cancer, all these people in my life – some expected and others not- came together and rallied support for me and my family. All these little groups I had formed independent of one another suddenly became one large entity and it was nice; it was nice to feel supported from all sides. It’s not that I ever questioned any of my friends and/or family for their ability to love and support me – many of them could teach a Master’s class on the subject- but because I kept so many aspects of my life compartmentalized, I didn’t think anyone outside of my immediate circle would find out. This was not the case. Now I’m learning how to be more graceful in social situations and while there will certainly be some sort of learning curve, I think I’m getting better at it.
My brother Eugene and sister Annette have never had the same problem and have usually floated between multiple social groups introducing friends to one another with an ease and talent that seems to have escaped me. For them, during those turbulent weeks this spring the question of having enough support never came into question, it was constant and unwavering. In my brother’s case, nowhere was this clearer than the support he received from his karate club, Hogosha Canada at the University of Waterloo.
Eugene took up karate a few years ago during university because it was something he had always been interested in and with access to great training resources, he decided to devote some time to properly learn and train. The club quickly became important to Eugene, as more than just a group of people to train with – they became his friends and his extended family (he even met his girlfriend there). When the club learned of my dad’s diagnosis, they did what any family would do: they called to check up on my brother, they cooked (and cooked and cooked) food for the family, and they reminded him and our family that we are loved. Their support continues even now that things have settled a bit with the club organizing a special karate seminar/workshop to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society this fall, in part to honour my dad but also to remind Eugene – and by extension my entire family – that we belong to something so much more: we belong to a community.
In trying to find the words to describe this realization, lyrics from Florence and the Machine’s “Third Eye” off How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (an album that has meant so much to me) return to me, and so I’ll leave it here with this:
“You don’t have to be a ghost // here amongst the living // you are flesh and blood! // and you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given. // And oh, how much!”