The holidays zip along and I thought I would take a chance to get everyone up to date on what’s happened so far. The week leading up to my vacation and the journey itself has been already been quite a story to tell. I’ll try to stay on track and keep this interesting, but it may wander a bit to fill in all the details.

If I had to say anything about the trip, it would have to be that these last few weeks have run the full gamut of emotions. At times I’ve been grinning from ear to ear, but there have been some bumps as well. Good and bad, it’s all worth talking about.

Before I came back to Ontario, I was feeling pretty drained. As I had indicated in my e-mail on December 11th, Tanya and I had talked and things seemed sort of positive. Soon after that e-mail, I found out how wrong I was. Communication stopped abruptly when she told me we would not be going any further and I was back at square one (or square zero, depending on your perception). I understand the fear and uncertainty that comes with trying to patch things up, but I thought if we were open to each other it would evolve slowly. If her decision was an impulsive action, a long thought out choice or influenced by other people… I’m not sure. There’s no point in figuring out the “whys” if the result is all the same. I tried leaving the communication channels open at my end, but I’m really not sure if anything will come of it. As you might imagine, this left me feeling pretty crappy and definitely ready for my vacation.

Cornflake and Julie were in Calgary to visit some of his family and we spent a frantic day together wandering the city and getting me ready to go to Ontario. However brief it was, it was great seeing them. Cornflake did the hard sell about moving to Halifax and having fun. At times it was quite tempting. I’m pretty sure I’m going to stay in Calgary for at least one more year however, and evaluate where I go and if I stay around this time next year. I don’t even want to think about that sort of thing for at least 6 or 7 months from now anyways.

Somehow appropriately, the plane ride home was awful. My night flight was delayed by about 45 minutes and the sound of screaming children kept me awake while I waited at the terminal. Worse still, a bad seat, annoying passengers, more crying kids and a woman barfing violently a row ahead of me gave me zero time to sleep on the plane. When my parents picked me up at 6 am Toronto time, I was pretty much exhausted. After we drove to my brother’s place to visit, I nodded off constantly.

That night, I got my second wind and phoned up some friends to hang out and get caught up. A 26er of rye over a game of Scrabble wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it proved entertaining enough. Let me tell you, you haven’t done a ‘double word score’ until you follow it up with a harsh drink 🙂

Mike Adams seems happier after moving in with Chris’ cousin, Mike Barker. It took us no time to get caught up and tell the stories that filled in 2000. He’s recently met a girl and I’m really happy for him. Whatever woman finally marries Little Mike will find an unselfish guy with a heart of gold.

Dan Chapman didn’t look like he’d changed very much. He’s got the same woman and similar priorities. Dan’s been relatively at ease with things as long as I’ve known him.

Glenn Reynolds always smiles and he always brings that out in me too. Even though I’d just seen him over the summer, it was nice having another get together and getting up to date.

Mike Barker is getting married and he’s taking it with the same attitude that’s gotten him through everything else. Relaxed, talkative and a little vulgar, he seems to have found a simple plan to take him forward. I envy that about him. I’m always searching for the next plateau and Mike has found happiness just doing what he does. He invited me to the wedding in June and I’ll do everything I can to be there.

Unbelievably, my parents didn’t seem to mind that I stumbled in at 3 in the morning and collapsed. It just goes to show you the power that retirement has had on them. Seeing them so happy and joking around is a wonderful thing. The holidays have always been a stressful time for us, and this year they’ve dealt with it better than ever.

The next day, I started my Christmas shopping. Starting to buy presents on December 21st may seem like a stupid idea, but for some reason I really enjoy it. Call it sadistic, but I love wading into the crowds and just being a part of the chaos that is Christmas shopping. If you let yourself get stressed about it, you lose a chance to watch hordes of humanity running around like madmen. I highly recommend it if you can get into the right frame of mind.

Going to Bowmanville to see Jamie and Chris’ role-playing game store was nice. The two boys are really digging in and trying to make the place work. If the initial crowd at the store is an indication, they’ve got a decent chance of pulling it off. Spending the night at Jamie’s place, we stayed up until almost dawn getting caught up and remembering odd high school days.

I missed Heather’s residence reunion party when I got latched to family commitments at the last minute. I’ve got to get out to Oakville at some point during my holidays and see the Sheridan kids as well as the school itself. Now that I don’t have a car, I realize how much more difficult it is to be mobile in a wide expanse like Toronto. It makes me wonder who owns my good old Zubmobile 2 now?

Seeing Chris Spatola worked out well. We hadn’t talked for years until just recently. The bizarre falling out we had over rivalry, role-playing and growing up just seemed silly now and I’m glad we could bridge the gap. It makes me wish I could contact other people and cut through the bullshit just as easily. I know I can’t be friends with everyone, but good memories always make me long for communication with all the people who’ve seen me grow this far.

Soon after, my parents and I headed into Richmond Hill to stay at my Grandmother’s. Unfortunately, this year would be a bit different. My brother Joe and his wife have had trouble coping since the baby died in April and decided they wouldn’t be spending Christmas Eve or Day with us. I guess it was a good idea if they anticipated bringing everyone else’s spirits down. Being at my Grandparent’s place with my brother on Christmas morning was a staple of the holidays and it felt weird knowing he wouldn’t be there.

Christmas Eve was good, but also strange. The family is changing and there wasn’t much time to take it all in before the evening flew by. My cousin Tammy is pregnant and seeing her preparing for a family of her own made me feel a heck of a lot younger even though I’m actually not. My other cousin Lisa is a full blown teenager, with all the social implications that apply to that stage of life.

Several people asked me about Tanya and I honestly didn’t know what to tell them. My parents had said so many wonderful things about her after their visit during the summer and everyone assumed she’d be in Toronto visiting and spending Christmas with me. I stopped quite a few times and thought about if she had been with me in Toronto for the holidays. When my imagination starts cooking, I can play out whole conversations with people and imagine what paths they would go down. I used to do that a lot when I was reminiscing or just writing dialogue for stories.

Christmas morning itself went better than I expected. I went all out for my parents this year as sort of a “thank you” for helping me through rougher times. Seeing them happy made it all worthwhile. Then, just as we were packing up the trash from opening gifts, my brother and his wife made a surprise visit. Joe changed his mind after feeling the tug of tradition, and it was nice to see them follow the impulse to stop by. Even under these circumstances, it felt good to have the family together and opening Christmas “loot”.

On our way to my Aunt Ann’s, we stopped by the graveyard to see the baby’s site. I hadn’t been around for any of the drama in April, so I wasn’t sure how I would react. Joe had asked me to design the headstone for the grave and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seeing the design there in front of me carved in stone felt very surreal. I didn’t cry, I just stood there feeling heavy and wondered what could have been.

Christmas dinner in my family is a massive affair with more food than anyone could ever eat in one sitting. Celebrating and eating snapped me out of my funk for a while and my wit seemed to warm up well as I quipped with my uncles. When I’m on a roll, it’s hard to stop me from zinging anyone in my path. My billiards skill however, still leaves a lot to be desired 🙂

Heading downtown the next day, I hung out with friends I’d met years ago at LARP. Getting caught up on 2 years worth of gossip is tough and it was a head spinning concept trying to keep track of who hated who this time. Jenn, Josh, Stu and Chris were happy to see me (I still can’t believe both Stu and Chris got married to two lovely women while I was gone) and the Strongbow flowed freely from the taps at the Bishop and Belcher on Queen Street that night. Weirdly enough, it was Chris’ last night working at the Silver Snail, where I had met him about 7 years previous. Even if the downtown group becomes more and more distant to each other, I try to stay in touch.

Seeing friends after years apart is such a strange experience. You share so many memories and old stories, but everything current feels so out of place. Some of them grow and become almost unrecognizable, while others seem like they’ve been frozen waiting for your return.

Which brings me to now. A little tired and needing a breather, I’m taking a day out to rest at my Aunt’s place and power up for round two and New Years Eve. Ups, downs, highs and lows… I’ll be trying to make the most of it before I head back out west.

If you’ve read all the way to the end in one sitting, I’m impressed. I didn’t realize how long this installment would be but so much is going on and I figured I should get it down before I forget anything. As it is, I’ve probably glossed over too much.

Later,

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