Thursday, September 30, 2004

Time Travel

One of the facts of my life is that a little over four years ago I lost one of the most important people in it, my husband. We met as graduate students at the University of Waterloo in the 70's, and from the moment that we decided to be together even for an afternoon we were together, even when we weren't in the same place. The work that he chose meant that he traveled a lot, and our agreement regarding how we wanted our children raised meant that I was a full-time mother and often on my own in the early years. In fact, this problem was what lead to our moving to Egypt in the first place. When someone asked our three year old daughter where she lived and she answered "I live in Canada and my daddy lives in Egypt", I knew it was time to move.

When he died, the job of settling the affairs of his rather extensive business network fell to my by default. I realised that none of his brothers really understood what he had done, and he had no partners other than me. For a mother/journalist, it was a pretty horrific experience. I'd been there as he built his companies but I'd never worked with any of them, and I didn't particularly like many of the people who were working for him. Just learning who to trust and who not to trust (which turned out to be almost everyone) took me months at a time when what I should have been doing was just sorting out my grief and my children's needs. But it had to be done and I did it.

Remember swimming classes when you were little? At some point the instructor would tell the students to swim to the other side of the pool underwater and you would hyperventilate a bit, take a deep breath and take off unsure whether you would reach the wall before your breath ran out. Just before touching the tiles your lungs would ache, your eyes would see the sunlight above the water, and you would want more than anything in the universe just to be up there breathing. That's been my life for the past four years. But it's over now. The settlements are done, the companies are on their respective paths, and I can see to my life again.

During this time, my son and then my daughter were students at Columbia University in New York, and I tried to make it there for a visit each year. We traveled to California to touch base with my family who had produced the first of the new generation in the person of my neice Naya. But I didn't go to Toronto, which was where our family home was rented out to a succession of tenants and where some of my dearest friends lived. My children each made the pilgrimage alone from New York to stay with Neil and Elaine and heal a bit so that Toronto could again be part of their lives, but I didn't until last night.

I flew in late last night, marveling at the changes in the pattern of lights that was Toronto from the air. It's a lot bigger now and I didn't feel that I was coming home in any way. I made my way to The Annex where Neil and Elaine live, arriving just after Neil had arrived from his hockey practice. Funny thing about Canadians.... they like hockey so much that they will go play at the oddest hours of the night if they can get the ice time. It was heavenly to be wrapped once more in the warmth, comfort and love of my friends' home. We sat on the front porch in the chill night sipping whiskey, watching marauding racoons (They are so much bolder and complacent than they were when we lived here!) and catching up on the past four years, albeit rather gingerly. Then I was tucked under a down comforter to drift off to the quiet neighbourhood noises of Toronto.

No matter what I do, tears are so close to the surface here. Our children were born here. This is where they went to nursery school, where they learned to swim, where they played in the leaves that I would rake in huge piles from our yard. I remember so many happy times. Working three teaching jobs to make ends meet while I was pregnant with our son and meeting friends in the evenings at a favourite restaurant for dinner. Walks in the lovely parks of the city before the children were born and after they changed our lives. Going out for Chinese food on Spadina with infants and later toddlers who learned to love dumplings in the cradle. The city has grown and changed and so have we. I sold our home here. It was old and needing renovations that would have been hell to do at a distance. The children agreed because they didn't feel that it was home anymore. I still have my haven here in The Annex where I can sit on Elaine's deck to drink my tea and watch squirrels as we did so many mornings when our children were young. One of her daughters is still, like mine, in university, while the elder has finished, like my son. I'm going to try to persuade her to come visit me in Egypt this fall since she was studying in Europe and might as well make the trip while it's shorter.

Tomorrow I have to go to a storage room to go through things that we left behind when we first moved to Egypt. I can't imagine how I'm going to handle that. But it's time to move on to the sunlight.


Clara said...


kpowerinfinity said...

A very touching post. Good luck for tommorow. May god give you the strength.

Virginia said...

We're all wishing you peace and strength as you take care of your possessions. I'm sure it will be very therapeutic, as you take some time for memories. Enjoy!

Terri said...

I'm not too sure how I found my way here but glad I did. I can't imagine facing "the closet" but I guess there is a time for everything. I hope you have some sunglasses and more importantly a friend to hold an umbrella. The sun is great. Necessary for life and all that. But, does great damage to look directly into it and burns when you get too much of it. Here's hoping you go gently into that sunlite storage room.

Sukanya M said...

Hello there,

I was just surfing by...your post touched me so much. We say 'bhalo theko' in bengali which literally means stay well...but really it means much more. I wish you bhalo theko, then.

Sukanya M

Joan said...

I haven't seen an update for so long, I am starting to get worried about you. I feel that I practically know you after reading your blog for so long. I hope you are well. I very much enjoy reading your blog and anticipate reading it every day.


SueB said...

Ah, Maryanne. That is life. Unfortunately, change is a constant. We must keep forever re-inventing ourselves. Those ghosts you are confronting are quite difficult, and we all see them from time to time as we grow older. However, there is a bittersweet aspect also.