I’ve never missed my grandma more than I do right now. I have so many questions for her. I realized the other day that she was quite possibly my last living link to finding out about my heritage, as she was the last one I had a relationship with who grew up in Willow Bunch and spoke a different language as her mother tongue. But, as with so many things, that realization didn’t dawn on me until it was too late.
If I could sit down with her right now and have a chat with her, most likely over a cup of tea and under several soft blankets, I can imagine the things I would ask her.
How did you grow up? What were great grandma and great grandpa like?
Why did you stop speaking French (or was it even purely French at all)?
What was your childhood like? What was your school like?
Did you ever get made fun of or treated poorly because people knew you were brown?
How did you learn to make bangs? Bullet soup? What other things did you learn to make when you were young?
Why does grandpa still call me poochinn? I grew up thinking this was a German word, but I found out last year that it is a Michif word for pudding, and a pet name. He must have learned it from you or someone in your family, because it definitely isn’t a German word.
Did your mother ever tell you stories about her mother? Or her grandmother? Tell me everything you know!
What was your favourite childhood memory?
Did your parents ever talk about being Metis? Did you ever wonder about it? How did it make you feel?
Did you ever feel like you had to deny yourself your heritage and your past in order to survive?
Did you ever feel angry that there was a part of our family that was hidden away in shame? Were there parts of yourself that you hated?
Did you ever wonder if any of the pain and dysfunction in your family was related to the pain and suffering of our ancestors?
Did you ever feel the urge to trace our ancestral steps back to where we came from? To visit the Red River Settlement, to stand on the original land of our people and feel the vibrations of the earth telling you it’s stories?
Do you have regrets? Choices you wish you could have remade?
Are you proud of me? Are you proud of my efforts to reconnect the dots of our family and to reclaim our heritage and to help heal generations of abandonment, displacement, and fear?
I wish I could sit on my couch with my grandma and talk to her. I wish she was here so that we could talk about the ever-increasing number of children’s graves being unearthed around the residential schools in Canada right now. We would grieve together, for our brown kin who sadly had it far worse than us, for all the lost babies. We would talk about the church, and faith, and I would explain how my relationship with Creator is very different now than it used to be.
I miss her laugh, and the way she used to tell long, winding stories that sometimes didn’t end up back where they started. I miss the way I used to wake up in the mornings when I stayed at her house to the smell of coffee and the sound of her talking animatedly on the phone to her sister, a long conversation that had started long before I even opened my eyes. I miss the flannel shirts and the devotional books and the decades of the rosary that inevitably took place at the beginning of every road trip. I miss our annual pilgrimages to Our Lady of Lourdes where I was overtaken with Spirit and filled with awe of the beauty of the prairie landscape. I miss her absolute, borderline stubborn faith, even in the face of terrible storms that struck fear into my heart. I miss camping in the big brown van, and being made to use the honey pot in the middle of the night. I miss playing with her button jar on the living room floor. I miss her pies and her cinnamon buns (even once she gave up white flour and started making everything with whole wheat flour and a fraction of the sugar in an attempt to make it healthier). I miss standing in her kitchen and helping her make bangs, even though she never used a recipe and I will never be able to replicate it. I miss the smell of her lotion and her elegant, well manicured hands. I miss her singing; she could pick out any harmony and would sing in her strong alto voice. I miss a lot about my grandma.
But there was so much more I wanted to talk to her about.
What I miss the most is everything I missed.