Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Uncle's Birthday dinner

On my last post I mentioned that I was stressed.   No, I am not sick, nor depressed but I received a few emails asking if I was Okay.   For the past few years I have been feeling this way and it gets worse as I age. I thank you for your concern.  I was separated from my sister when she was around 3 years old and I never got the opportunity to see her again.  Her birthday was February 17th and every year when this date rolls around it gets me thinking about what could have been if life were kinder . . .

   My Sister Louise                 circa 1951 approx  

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from my favourite Uncle which greatly distressed me.   It was a big letter birthday and he had invited a couple of close friends and the rest of his immediate family and siblings.   Of course he expected me to attend and I hesitated for nearly a week without answering his RSVP email.  You must know that he is my favourite Uncle & Aunt.  We get along great and I wouldn’t even think about missing his birthday.   He used to live in Toronto and when he came to Vancouver he would always call and we would get together for dinner and chat the night away.

   Ural Patrol  2 WD

He retired a few years ago and decided that the cold winters of Ontario were not condusive to a good retirement atmosphere so he sold his ranch and horses and moved to sunny Campbell River.  When we were “back East” we would visit him in Barrie, ON where he had his practice.   After he settled in Campbell River we welcomed him to BC and went to visit him.  We spent the weekend getting acquainted again while sightseeing in the area.  We spent a couple of days exploring and drove to Gold River & Tahsis.  We visited him again a couple of years ago and if we are ever in his area we would certainly drop in and say hello.

My Uncle comes to Vancouver often as his Daughter (My Cousin) lives just north of Vancouver in Squamish, BC.   Whenever he comes over from Campbell River to the Mainland (Vancouver) he would always call to let us know.   Because he comes over during special times, such as Christmas we don’t feel like imposing during his family time but the point is that he always lets us know he is in town.   And we would naturally do the same thing.  I would not think of not  seeing him whenever he is close.

I mean, where is all this leading ?   He is my favourite Uncle and it’s his birthday so of course why should I be stressed about going or not going.  To tell you the truth I was not going to go.

    1969 Honda CB350

I know that life is not always a bowl of cherries.   Life isn’t perfect but it was perfect for me for my first 8 years until my parents decided to separate.  It is very unusual in Asian homes, it’s just something that does not happen.  Let me say that I am happy now with my current family but I must still have a lot of hurt inside for the past, and what happened.   Recently I scolded Sash (Tina) for always mentioning the past and to move ahead in her life.   To move forward look towards the future.   She has written about it here . . .

I don’t say much about my past but I suppose I am not over what happened to me and how cruel life can be.  It is always in the back of my mind and I am saddened when I see happy homes and families having fun together, the closeness and looking forward to getting together again for holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving.

I was reminded again of my unhappy life on February 17th.  Every year on this day I think of the life I never had.  The sister that was taken from me when I was only around 8 years old.  The sister that I never had the chance to see again.  My only memories are a couple of cherished photos and the times we used to play on the floor in our kitchen before our parents parted ways.   I remained in Vancouver with my dad, and my sister went to live with my mother.  Eventually my Mom moved back to London, ON where she was from.

Every year I would get presents from her on my Birthday or for Christmas but these were always sent back and eventually they stopped coming.   Life goes on and many years pass.   I was 8, then I was 27 years old, married with a young 3 year old daughter.  I mean, where does the time go ?    I decided that it was time for me to “find” my Mother and Sister.   This was around 1973 and there was no internet but my job at that time was “skip tracing” so off to the Library I went.  Scouring Voter’s lists, City Directories, Phone books and I narrowed it down to a few possible names.

I found them and over the weeks we did phone a few times back and forth and I decided I would fly to Toronto, where they were living and spend our vacation with them.  Actually Weston & Sheppard area just north/west of the City.    I also had a chance to meet many Uncles, Aunts & cousins who lived in London, ON

It felt strange to be under the same roof as my Mother whom I had not seen for so many years.  She had a new family now with two daughters but I never saw my sister as she drove across the country but I talked to her on the phone when she phoned me from Vancouver.    I thought I would be able to meet her another time but as fate would have it, she passed away a few months later from an infection.  I would never get to meet my younger sister.  I am saddened every time I think of it.  I have guilt feelings of not attending her funeral but funds were tight back then.  I am getting teary-eyed again just thinking about it, and every February 17th I am reminded again as this was her birthday

   Louise          (2nd of only 2 photos I have)  

I thought that I had a family in Toronto where I could visit and perhaps stay for a time.   It was arranged the following year that I would come to Toronto and stay for the summer. 
It was something that I just had to do.  I was trying to fill a void in my life, enjoy a family life I never had.  Just to feel wanted . . .

Since I needed a car while I was there I decided to drive across Canada by myself.   It took me 3 nights and four days and I arrived in Weston, on Thursday afternoon.  You guessed it.  My Uncle, yes the one who lives in Campbell River and whom invited me to his birthday dinner was temporarily living there too.  We shared the basement and spent a lot of time together that summer.   I don’t think I am closer to any other Uncle . . .  He was like the brother that I never had.  We even look alike

   Scooterchick/Pat & Scootard/Chris                    Squamish, BC    June 2012

Adjusting to being part of a Family and having a couple of sisters took a while.  Being alone for so long I was just not used to all the rules, but I did settle in and I thought I had discovered the Family that I never had, if only for a few months.   Soon it was time to think about heading home back to Vancouver.   Mrs Skoot flew out to Toronto with our daughter for a week and we hopped in the car for our long drive across the Country back to our West End apartment in Vancouver.

I thought that I had accomplished my goal of reuniting with my Mother, my new family and two sisters whom I had never met nor knew existed.  I was contented to know that I was now finally part of a family.  To feel wanted, to belong . . .   This was back around 1974ish.   I also went back to Weston (Toronto) during 1988 for a short visit and it felt nice to have a welcoming family.  That’s what I thought at the time

It turns out that my Mom’s new husband was an old friend of the family whom I used to call “Uncle”.  That’s the way it was back then when you met older people.  You always gave them respect so Uncle it was.   When my parents were together he used to visit when we had gatherings.  He is from Vancouver so his family is here, brothers & sisters.
I found out several times when he came to Vancouver to visit his family but he only gave us a quick phone call from the Airport as he was waiting for his flight home.  There was never enough time for us to drive to the Airport to physically see him.  I suppose that’s the way he planned it.   He didn’t really want to see us at all.  That’s the way I feel.

  Bobskoot ,   Scooterchick  &  Scootard                     Howe Sound Brewery, Squamish BC   June 2012

Another time he came to visit his brother who was ill in the hospital.  He did phone from Coquitlam but he said he did not have time to see us, even though he had been in town for 2 weeks.  It’s not like I couldn’t drive to Coquitlam and we could talk in the cafeteria for a few minutes.   If there’s a will then there will be a way, this I know.  But he had no will . . .

Now remember that my Mom was still living in Toronto during the time I bumped into a  “cousin” at the Night Market.   He mentioned that my Mom was going on an Alaskan Cruise and would be here in September (a few years ago), and this was around July.   Imagine how bad I felt that he knew this and my Mom never told or phoned me.  I waited for months to hear from her, but she never called.  So this was when I decided that I wasn’t part of this family anymore.   I mean how can you come all this way across the Country and not let me know you are going to be here ?   I had to pretend that I knew but I had a big hurt inside that upsets me when I think of it.  

  Mile Zero, Trans Canada Highway    Victoria, BC                              May 2011

Hang on a bit longer, I know it’s about my Uncle’s Birthday dinner but I’m trying to give you a bit of background without going into too much detail.  Believe me, I’m leaving lots out.

September came and went with no sign or phone calls from my Mom.  I am of the belief that they don’t want me in their life so I can only do what I can and I try to remove my Mom from my life too.  I pretend that she doesn’t exist.   During this time she also moved (from Toronto) and now lives in Burnaby and I pass within a block from where she lives during my commute home from work but I feel no attachment and have no desire to see her.  Actually the last time I saw her was April, 2000, nearly 13 years ago

There’s my dilemma.  My Mom is my Uncle’s Sister.  It’s my Uncle’s Birthday and she will be there too.   I told myself years ago that I never wanted to see her again but my love for my Uncle is giving me mixed emotions.   I have butterflies just thinking how this is all going to turn out as our dinner is this coming Saturday.  Since I never replied to my Uncle’s RSVP email, he phoned me the other day and I said that “I would be there (gulp) . . . “

  My BMW R1200R         Steveston, BC                       September 2012

I have been holding in a lot of hurt and perhaps it’s therapeutic, maybe I am looking at things the wrong way .   I may seem jovial but I get hurt easily.   I am fast to interpret and judge people and form opinions from what I observe.  I was recently reminded of this from two close friends recently on my trip last month.    I hope I haven’t destroyed any friendships along the way.  I think you know who you are.   Perhaps now you will understand why I have a need to feel belonged and the reason that I like to meet people, be social and empathize with you if things are not working out.

I understand how it feels to be alone.  No, I’m not talking about my present family.  I am talking about the parents I never had,  my sister whom I never saw again, the fact that I always had to work to earn my own money, buy my own clothes.  I never had much support during my growing years.   I ran away from home when I thought I wasn’t being fairly treated by my step-mom and no one cared enough about me to call me at work to see what happened.   I have suffered with rejection all my life and being rejected by your own family hurts the most.

My thoughts are bubbling over but I may have said too much already.  I’m not sure I should have even gone this far.   I feel a special bond with many of you, perhaps I am searching for the family that I never had.


  1. Suspect your story will strike a number of chords in a large number of writers. Families
    broken when yours did many years ago were
    destroyed in those days; there was no reconciliation. Your writing reflects this and your situation, today. In my own world after my mother's passing locally in June 2011 my younger brother who has lived in Texas since 1982 and his family now refuse to acknowledge my existence. Seems (according to him) my single gay existence dwelling in a 3rd world socialist country is not to his liking. Christmas and birthday cards are now returned marked refused;
    January 2013 a legal letter was received from his attorney in Texas advising me that I was to no longer contact him, his wife, and his daughter and her husband and their children. Similar to your situation I suspect. What was done to us in the past
    now hurts even more as we age, knowing family for us shall no longer be connected by blood. It doesn't help that my own feelings towards the United States and their foreign policies are very negative.

    1. Bryce:

      I have been following your comments for years down on Irondad's blog. I know you had health issues and many of us have "family" issues which fester inside and we hurt inside but try to mask it with smiles to everyone on the outside. I don't show much emotion but sometimes innocent words spoken by others create a hurt within us. I am hurt more often than what you would think and I get emotional. My defense mechanism is to just walk away. I don't want anymore hurt in my life and look forward to happier times with new friends.

      If I am not mistaken, I think you are in the TO area. I should be close to you this summer. I am thinking I may visit my Sister who is resting at that Cemetery somewhere on Steels near Finch. I have been there once before many years ago. Perhaps I just need to sit there for a while

  2. I'm glad you wrote this Bob, if you are anything like me it will have helped you to put your thoughts into order and maybe you can now make a decision based on your own emotions and needs.

    It has also shown me a side of you that I would never have seen otherwise .. I have already worked out that you are a kind and generous person who has deep emotions but now I think I have an inkling as to why you are the way you are and I appreciate that in you.

    Be happy in everything you do, your friends and family are precious and I'm sure they love you as much as you love them :)

    I love the photos of your sister .. she looks like such a lovely, happy little girl. Treasure your memories they are often all we are left with.

    1. Brenda:

      I do get emotional and I can empathize easily with others and I try to help them when I am able. I understand the feeling(s) of being alone and without family support. Those with warm, loving families don't always appreciate what they have. I didn't have that. You don't realize when I notice these things it make me sad to realize what I never had

      I gathered my thoughts for this post and I kept deleting, adding, rearranging and all the time I was thinking maybe I shouldn't be posting this but then again I have done nothing wrong, and I didn't create my circumstance. It's life and I was unlucky.

  3. I don't know you Bob; I only met you briefly the once, but here goes anyway. If you are going to your Uncles party, give your Mom a hug. Even if things can't work out and it doesn't go any further than that, she will know for the rest of her life that you care.

    Once she is gone you won't be able to change your mind.

    1. David:

      I often wondered what would happen when the time came . . . whether I would go to see her again. I'm not sure. I owe it to my Uncle to be there for him. I have a greater love for my Uncle which is overriding my desire to not see my Mother

      There are other factors which I did not reveal which has compounded this situation. Notice that I did not mention what happened to my Two step sisters from my Mom's new family, nor did I mention my 1 step brother, nor 2 half brothers from my Dad's new family. All of whom I have also excommunicated. I don't need more sadness in my life. Better to be out of my mind and out of my life. I am striving for happiness, not sadness.

  4. I remember you hinting at dark times in your early life on occasion, and how it affected you. This is however just one more piece to complete the puzzle of who you are, Bob.

    But look where it got you in the end. You are a kind hearted person and have a lovely wife, a great family and a home, despite all what had or had not been done to you.

    I feel sad about the fact that you never got to see your sister again but obviously she is still with you, and touched your life forever.

    1. Sonja:

      Sad thoughts come easily to me. I think about a lot of things. My life is not that interesting but this was what I was dealt. I look at happy people and sometimes it makes me sad for what I didn't have. In person I can tell you things I notice or have experienced which makes me shy away from people. When I get a sense of not belonging, then I pull away. I know when I am not wanted.

      It's a two way street, even with friends there is give and take. I give more than I take. If I don't feel appreciated than I am gone . . .

  5. Powerful story Bob. Go to the dinner for your Uncle and yourself. Go be the bigger man, I agree about giving your mother a hug, and let her know you care. My mother has been gone for 14 years and I continue to wish I said or done things differently when I had the opportunity. Please, don't compound the misery you already feel over something you had no control over. You don't need any guilt about something you could have done, or wished you had done.

    Good luck my friend.

    1. Paul:

      I think it's too late for that. I am the most stubborn person you may ever meet. I seldom back down from a decision, but I am enduring for my Uncle, to be there for him because he wants me there.

      As for Hugging my Mother and telling her I care, I am not sure. She didn't care about me to even tell me she was in town. I feel abandoned, and from the moment I found out that she didn't care about me anymore, I wrote her out of my life. I have been happier since.

      Let me tell you a short story:

      Many years ago I had a riding buddy. This was back around 1980. We both bought brand new motorcycles. We both bought matching Suzuki GS1000's. Anyway he had employment problems a few years later and found himself without a job so he parked his. I continued to ride a bit on the weekends, and commuted to work but didn't really use it much as I had no one to share my rides so eventually I sold it a few years later, perhaps around 1984/85. I didn't ride for many years and I used to see my friend occasionally and I would always ask him about his bike and he said that he would never sell it. Then sometime around the late 1990's I asked him if he would sell it to me. He kept telling me NO but it needed a new ignition system as the stator or something wasn't working. Every year I would ask him to sell it to me and he said NO. Then around 2001/02 I asked him if I could "borrow it" He said okay as long as I fixed it and did all the maintenance. I just never got around to borrowing it.

      Then around 2003 I asked again if I could buy it, and he told me it was SOLD. I said "what the . . . !@@#@!" He said he needed the money. I said what do you mean SOLD ? I have been asking you to sell it for me for nearly 10 years and now you don't even call when you are going to sell it ? He said he needed the funds right away.

      I told him I could drive down here in 40 minutes. Is that fast enough for you !

      anyway this stressed my relationship with him. Ever since that day I didn't really consider him a friend anymore . I have waited years for him to call me as I am not lifting a finger to dial his number.

      Now this was a friend whom I used to see daily for Lunch and we used to go out for dinner together all the time. I have not physically seen him since before 2003 and I am not going out of my way for him either

    2. Bob,

      I suggest the hug to let her know you care, not to tell her you care. Sometimes the unspoken words are more effective than shouting to the masses.

      Your new story shows how stubborn you are, but with good reason. I look forward to the day our paths cross because I feel you will become a friend for life.

      That seems who you truly are.

  6. It takes a lot of courage to not only say what you have said, but to share what you have shared. I've been trying to figure you out for a while and you just sort of wrapped yourself up with a bow now. I understand. And I can certainly relate.

    At some point I realized that the things I do not have that others have (not talking material things)and that I will never have is similar to missing a limb. You watch a race from the sidelines and admire the runners and wish you could run too, but you know that all the wishing in the world won't change the fact that you are missing a limb. You can't grow it back and it was never there. And you find peace in accepting that.

    The lack of that metaphorical limb does not mean you are any less than anyone else and it can mean you have more love to share, more ways to empathize and help others. It can often mean you "have" more because of your loss.

    What you are missing can make you a better person, a deeper person, more compassionate. We know you are there for us. And you don't need to try too hard.

    Remember the wise words of the Good Mr. Rogers: "We like you just the way you are".

    1. Martha:

      I am most delighted to call you my friend. I never thought about it that way. Perhaps I am psychologically handicapped. Don't worry about racing and running, I can't run either and I'm not missing anything. That's why we have scooters and bikes. A quick twist of the throttle takes care of any lack of physical deficiencies.

      thank you for your wisdom. I am learning to be humble

  7. You had mentioned some of this in an earlier blog post which hinted at some of issues but not to the depth that you went into here. My only advice, as if you were actually soliciting any to begin with, is not to stoop to the same level as other family members and enjoy your uncle's celebration. Forgiveness is not the same thing as letting someone hurt you again....

    1. Richard:

      thank you for your interpretation. My brain would never have deciphered the true meaning of forgiveness. But I'm struggling with forgiving someone who doesn't really care for me, it's obvious from previous non-actions. I have never received an apology, or a thank you note from either of them.

      Then there's the matter of my two step sisters whom turned against me and advised my Mother to stay away which I don't understand as I have always been caring towards them and I even gave my sister a home when she moved to Vancouver 30 years ago. I even offered to support her while she went to school on the condition that she rid herself of her boyfriend as I wasn't going to support him too. I was in Calgary on the day my other sister got married (she lives in Calgary), but I wasn't invited. As far as I am concerned I have no brothers and sisters either.

      I just don't know. Are others not so caring towards me or am I the only one with empathy & compassion

    2. I believe that you may be giving them too much control over you by holding onto all the resentment and ill will. Do you think any of them are loosing any sleep over worrying about running into you? Probably not.

      There are a lot of advice that many could give but the best advice that I ever received during a very stressful time in my own life (one of those divorce events that never happen in Asian families) was "to take the high road" and don't let yourself be dragged down by the poor behavior of others. Especially appropriate since it is family.

    3. Richard:

      I appreciate your advice and support. I guess I have let this bother me for too long. I thought I could ignore them and pretend they don't exist but then, this happened

  8. The best revenge is living well. Bollocks to your mother. Go see your uncle early and often when she's not there. No time? Make it. No money? Sell one of your surplus anchors, all that stuff you keep buying could buy time with your uncle. I emigrated 6000 miles to escape the shits I grew up with and have never regretted it. Get therapy. The weird part about being human is we are not nearly as unique as we think we are and the shrinks have seen it all. Therapy works.

    1. Mr Conchscooter:

      I see my Uncle as much as time & resources allow and he always contacts us when he is coming to town.

      I don't have as many anchors as you and certainly none of them are considered "surplus". I don't understand where the Therapy comes in. If I don't like someone then I avoid seeing them, and if I do see them I just exchange formalities and walk away. If they don't wish to enrich their lives with my presence, then that's their loss

  9. Bob,

    Bedrock and Cheese

    When I was young, my understanding of our family was American Cheese. I got older and it was sometimes gut-wrenching to discover that the family was actually closer to Sharp Cheddar. Now that I'm older, more things have been discovered, more truths have risen to the surface and understanding has deepened but so has tolerance. Our family is Swiss Cheese, always has been and I'll wager that everyone else's is much the same.

    The Bedrock? I was fortunate, more fortunate than many, that with our evolving foibles, there was a solid enough foundation of family. Not everyone has been as lucky and I witness examples day to day. I didn't always appreciate that bedrock, but I understood it well enough to continue building on it, doing what I could to extend and keep building, not always with and sometimes in spite of family. Everyone comes and goes, easing in as well as away, just the nature of our world. People along the way, friends, both come and gone, just keep adding to my foundation. The bigger it is, the more joy I get from adding to it, effort put in gets multiplied many more times than not.

    There's a lot of family you haven't had; I just think that measuring it by number sells it short. Mine was huge, yet so many other, 'outsiders' have brought me so much more. I'll readily admit that I'm far from qualified to understand the hole that others feel from missing what escaped them.

    I DO see and feel in your writings that your bedrock is solid and much more extensive than you might know. I don't think you should miss the party or time with your uncle; he sounds far too precious to avoid.

    1. Coop:

      you are wise beyond your years. thank you for your kind words. Hope to bump into you this year

  10. Bob,

    I tried to reply to your blog post, but Blogger hates my iPhone and destroyed my words without posting them.

    E-mail is more reliable. I think others who posted have pain in their lives too, we all do, but yours is special. I'll post his reply on your blog when I get to my computer.

    Our relationship with our mother is the closest and most intimate bond we have. Yours was torn when you were most vulnerable and least able to understand and cope with the loss. Physical trauma heals, but emotional trauma often does not. You have done more than most to heal your wounds.

    Events are putting you in a position with terrible choices. There will be pain for you no matter what path you take.

    My advice is to go, seek out your uncle, give him your birthday wishes, tell him how much you love him, then leave. Facing this will ultimately be the less painful path, and cause less long term damage. Don't go alone, have someone with you to lend support.

    You are a very good person, you have suffered greatly, and kept a good and warm heart in spite of all that you suffered. You are doing much, much better than you think.

    The French have a wish for others in situations like this. "Bon courage". It means literally to wish someone "good courage". That's what I wish you.

    If you tell me your sister's name I will visit her grave for you.

    Be blessed Bob. Know that you have earned many friends, you have touched many lives, and that you are well loved.

    1. David:

      thank you for being a friend. I would never abandon my Uncle. He invited me so I will be there.

      It won't be the first time I force a smile and chat small talk. I am not sure I want to travel to TO, even though I used to ride in the rush hour daily both to and from work from Weston & Sheppard to the TD Tower on King Street.

      I wouldn't ask you too visit, but I remember it was around Steeles near Jane in North York. I visited when I was there back in 1988

      Just think, dinner in less than 2 weeks . . .

  11. bobskoot, I know exactly what you are feeling, families can be very complicated. Stuff happened before I was even born that I'm still feeling the repercussions of with relationships with them. I have a much smaller family that I interact with because of it, and wonder why it had to be this way too...

    It is their loss in not wanting to get to know you, but I know it still hurts...the pictures of your sister are precious...

    I hope that you can find some solace in the family you do keep in touch with, and I know you have a ton of friends to share your life at peace and visit your uncle as much as you can...Suzu

    1. Suzu:

      so sorry about your family too. I think many families have problems but no one talks about it. I think you feel better to blurb it out. If you hold something inside for too long it keeps eating away . . .

      It makes me sad when I see close knit families enjoying their time together, as it makes me think about the life I never had. It's the same with siblings. I didn't have anyone except myself. I have always had to be self sufficient as there was no other choice

  12. Wow, Bob. I don't really have any advice for you, but I felt compelled to comment. If for no other reason than to let you know that I cared enough to read your post. So much sadness. That people could be so cold-hearted is beyond comprehension. I'm so sorry you never got to reunite with your sister. One of your other readers is right, though, you will always carry a piece of her in your heart. Hugs to you.

    1. Kathy:

      Now you know why I can't forgive my Mom. The last time we saw her, and my step dad, was back in April, 2000 because that was our daughter's wedding and she wanted to invite them. I told myself that I never wanted to see them again, but then my Uncle invited me to his birthday dinner.

      I never grew up with any siblings and it used to hurt inside to see so many other "complete" families when I had none. I guess it still bothers me but I can't help how I feel

      thanks for caring