I took this in New Westminster in Queen’s Park
In a week I’ll be heading back into training again and I will continue to share my journey with you. It is my hope that I can improve my physical well being enough so that I will feel confident in training for the 1/2 Marathon that will take place in May 2015. The 1/2 Marathon running clinic will begin in January. I’ve got to shake off these shackles that smack of defeat. I’m a hell of a lot tougher, stronger and resilient than the ravages of cancer treatment.
I’ve been in an oddly reflective mood as of late. After discovering that one of my bosses’ is in fact my fourth cousin and I’ve been considering this thing we call family.
Family ties became damaged then non-existent at an early age for me. When I was a little girl I believe we interacted with family members on a regular basis.
Cousin Mike & me at age 4
The violence in our home, however, and the acerbic attitude that my father often displayed resulted in a string of damaged relationships that unfortunately he never tried to mend. The trickle down effect was that my sisters and I were estranged from extended family as well.
By the age of fourteen I had very little contact outside my immediate family.
I got into this thing of sending out Christmas cards, however. That became my way of letting extended family know that I was still on this planet and that I still thought of them and wished them well.
Our dog Trixie, sister Norma & Me
I may not have seen you for twenty some odd years, but guaranteed you’d receive that seasonal greeting from me.
I’ve carried on with this tradition of mine for some 35 years or so.
I get that our family has known many tragedies. It’s tough to bond with people when they are in crisis. I know this all too well as the majority of my youth was spent in this mindset.
Hell, I didn’t even like spending time with me…
And how the fractures and traumas that occur within a family affect each of us can vary quite dramatically as well.
I pulled out all these photos that I’ve never really taken a particularly good look at. My dad’s girlfriend had inherited his estate, whatever that was, and upon her death her son Mike showed up and dumped broken bowling trophies, a moth eaten blanket my grandmother had made and grocery bags filled with old photographs that were in very bad shape along with my father’s ashes on my kitchen table.
I tucked everything away, including the ashes. I’d deal with it all in good time.
Nine years later and here I am peeking through these images and I think I appreciate them more now than I would have back when they first came into my possession.
From left: Gr. Grandfather James Pilling, John, little Arthur (my grandfather), Annie, Emma (Gr. Grandmother), Walter & Ellen
There was a framed image that had been haunting me. Today I discovered it was the Pilling family. In it, my great grandfather, great grandmother, my grandfather and his siblings. The photo was taken circa 1905-07 or thereabouts.
The Pilling clan dates back to the 1,700’s in the Yorkshire vicinity of England. I do know that we came over during the Battle of Hastings in 1066 from Normandy.
Gr. Grandmother, Emma Pilling (Burrows)
As I researched these people, a part of me became incredibly curious about them. What were they like? What moved them?
My great grandfather was a carpenter. The photo of the family is so very proper. The oldest boy, John, died at 25. Another son, Albert, who was born in 1886 died the same year.
Gr. Grandfather, James Pilling
There were tragedies just as today there still are, but then you have those moments when you just rise above it all. I found myself wondering about each individual and if they were happy. Had they been given the opportunity to garner an education? Were they pursuing their hearts desire?
Then I ventured off looking at my mother’s side of the family. I had thought my grandfather’s name was Andrew. It wasn’t. It was Andres Carl Erikson.
My mother, Sylvia Pilling (Erikson)
Born in Iceland in 1888, he also was in World War l as was my Grandpa Pilling. On his paper work for entry into the War, they asked what his trade was. He wrote that he was musician.
My mother spoke fondly of how well he played the violin. There was a twenty plus age gap between my Grandma and Grandpa Erikson. He died just before my birth.
There was something very poignant about listing his ‘trade or calling’ as a musician.
I took this in when I was in NY in 2011
There is not much information on this side of the family. My grandmother was Gudrun Jonasson. This was shortened to Runa. To her grandchildren she bore the Icelandic title of Uma (grandma).
She was a sweet and good woman.
The memories that I do have of my grandparents is often in shadow. Fleeting glimpses of our time together peek out at me.
I can recall making cinnamon rolls with my Grandma Pilling. She told me I would be a great cook because I didn’t rush.
I remember going to the horse races with my Grandma Erikson. She bet $2 on every horse and was so excited when she won. She was also a huge fan of $1.49 on Tuesday at Woodward’s Department store which no longer exists.
It is these little pockets of endearment that I hold so jealously close to my heart as there is a little bit of me in them.
My Grandfather Pilling took us out fishing on his boat from time to time. Once a squall was coming and he sent us below decks. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick. The roiling waves turned my stomach into mush
At times he seems so strict, then he’d give you wink.
There were at times so many underlying messages filtering through. They were shaping me, directing who I would become. Yet, sadly, I didn’t really know these people. Not really.
My time with them was surface time. Not a lot of depth. This was also true of the relationship I had with my parents.
When mom passed I sat with the reverend who would be officiating at her memorial. He asked me several simple questions about her. Things that I should have known. Her favorite song, favorite colour, how my parent’s met, what her career desires were, etc., etc., etc. In truth I didn’t know.
This woman who had birthed me was in many ways a stranger as was the man responsible for the other half of my DNA.
And with this awareness and admission came a very deep sadness.
I took this just a few months back in August down at English Bay in Vancouver
Today as I stared at the people in the photographs it occurred that I should have known the connection. Were family stories told and embellished over the course of time?
The young boy whose arms are crossed defiantly across his chest was my grandfather…should I not have seen a bit of myself in his persona?
And I think that had I been told about them, had their stories passed along, had I felt that bond to these people a little more intimately that maybe, just maybe the search for self would have been a little easier.
Then again, that’s an awfully bold statement to put on those who’ve come before. Perhaps the honesty in this life is to really just appreciate who you are at any given time in your life and to accept and challenge to yourself to be the best person possible.
I know who I am now and I thank those who came before me.
In the human condition we can only offer our own experiences, yet what of the hopes and dreams transferred to me through the code of genetics and DNA and memory.
You are living your life influenced by those you’ve never known to satisfy what was unattainable to them.
And on that note I’ll say good-night.