I’m feeling a little sad. Not down-in-the-dumps depression, but just a little bit lonely. Can you be a little bit lonely? Aren’t you either lonely or not lonely? I mean, I’m alone a lot but not lonely. I live by myself and have for most of the last 40 years or so. Whoa, that seems like a shockingly large number of years to me when I write it down. Is it an indication of my anti-social tendencies or my lack of appeal to partner up with a man who had better qualities and staying power than the two I did? (I was a lousy chooser of men — may still be for all I know.) I don’t mind living by myself most of the time. I have good friends and get out and about with them and when I’ve had enough socializing I go home and hang out with the cat. Oh-Oh, there’s another stereotype — old lady with cats. But ce’st la vie, eh?
No, I’m a little bit lonely today because my “little” brother, Tom, came up for a visit. His first to Oh Canada or, more correctly, Oh Toronto. He had honeymooned in Niagara Falls — the American side, of course — but ventured bravely across the bridge to touch a foot in Canada. But that was years ago. He used to visit me in Washington when I lived there in
the late 1960s. He was an army private stationed in New Jersey so a trip down to DC was doable on a weekend. My roommates loved him. They thought he was just the best in brothers. Maybe it was because he partied hard but stayed the nice guy he is regardless of the number of beers. It could also be because he always made us laugh. He had then, and still has, a wicked sense of humour. It’s so quick-fire it takes you sometimes a second or two to catch it and realize just how funny it was.
I called him up a couple of months ago. I was just sitting at home and picked up the phone. I don’t why I did it that particular day or time but it felt right. I hadn’t called him in years. It’s not that we’re estranged or hate one another like I’ve heard other people talk about their siblings. We just don’t call. I remember one year I decided I was going to call each of my siblings for their birthdays. By the time I got to the December one, he had already been told it was going to happen by his older brother. It did take some of the surprise out of the birthday greetings but not the genuine happiness that I heard in my brother’s voice. Tom and I had a nice chat — not too long, not too personal but just friendly. I felt so happy that I had done it and wondered why I hadn’t done it before. Families are interesting institutions, for sure.
Then, about three weeks ago, I called him and said, “Tom, I want to invite you to Canadian Thanksgiving.” He said, “I’m doing the laundry,” in that dead pan funny way of his. I told
him it wasn’t immediately but the 14th of October. Then he said, “Sounds good.” Just like that. I was so surprised that he didn’t reply with an “I’ll see.” If someone says “I’ll see” you know they’re not coming. Then I told the cat company was coming. She wasn’t pleased and immediately turned around and went back to sleep. A couple of days later Tom called to say he had his reservation and he was staying for four days. I said it didn’t seem like a lot of time, he answered, “Ann, we might not be able to stand one another.” Good point. I remember my father saying you should never stay with someone longer than three days because, like fish, guests stink after that long.
So, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, my little friend Naoki and I took the train out to the airport at a very early hour. We waited and waited and waited. I couldn’t imagine him being grilled by Canadian custom agents. So I texted, “Are you here?” He wrote back, “I’m not coming until next Sunday, right? Naoki and I thought it was a joke and expected him to bounce out of the doors. It wasn’t. We just had to laugh and go have brunch.
But the next week he showed up. It was like a gift for me to have him here staying in my little apartment and having breakfast together in the morning. We walked too much for our old feet and I probably confused him with stories and neighbourhoods and the various members of my Family of Friends I introduced him to. And I know he got tired of riding all of those subways and streetcars and buses. But he hung in there. I was so thankful so have him here to get to know who I am and this place I now call home. It was lovely. But after three days it was time for him to go home and that was fine. Rose never left the security of the Summer Palace until the last night when she came out and shamelessly rubbed his legs and meowed sweetly. I think it was because he gave her bits of chicken.