Despite my best attempts at making it otherwise, my front entry is usually messy.
There are several pairs of shoes laying around, a couple of baseball caps hung haphazardly on the hooks of an old-fashioned mirror and jackets dropped unceremoniously on the stairwell.
The only thing that remains neat, orderly and hanging almost, but not quite straight on the wall of my front entry is a rather large family picture, our faces, with our camera-ready smiles, frozen in time.
The picture is of all of us right down to baby Jacob, who sits solemnly on his grandpa’s knee staring solemnly into the camera’s lens, blatantly refusing the photographer’s cheerful request to ‘smile please.’
In the event that a visitor who has stopped by may glance up at that family picture and be curious, I have also hung up a picture of a tree with a little quote under it.
The quote says “Family, like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
I believe that saying explains how it is with families. We all keep doing different things and go our separate ways, but we are all somehow connected with the same roots.
This saying totally came home to me the other day.
It was a day just like any other day. A crisp, bright day in fall when life vibrated all around us in rich, golden fields and busy combines. I had just re-read the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Following James Clear advice to ‘stack your habits,’ made perfect sense to me.
I pictured my days moving along like well-oiled machines while I perfected the art of stacking my habits. This, of course, meant stacking my ‘good habits’ not my ‘bad ones’ which are plentiful enough. I don’t need to be stacking them.
I was quite caught up in my own little world of self-improvement when I got the phone call.
My nephew. Serious. Heart attack. He is not good.
As John Lennon said, ‘life is what happens when you make other plans.’
I’m not sure how John knew that fact to be true, but it is, isn’t it?
In one moment in time, my biggest priority was to clean out a shelf in my fridge after I finished the breakfast dishes and then practice my piano for at least half an hour and then, in less than a nanosecond, I was on my way to Red Deer for no other reason than to ‘just be there.’
Just be there for my sister and her husband as they worried and hung around the phone. Just be there when they cried. Just be there when they talked about their first-born son and how he was in those growing-up years, the laughter, the tears, the struggles.
When I drove home that night, facing the darkness which is not my friend when I am behind the wheel, I thought about that saying in my front entry and how our roots bind us all together, no matter where the branches of our family tree take us.
I was nine years old when my nephew was born, kind of like an older sister.
Over the years we kept in touch, but not a lot, although it was not uncommon for him to bring me a huge bouquet of pussywillows every spring. Anonymously, of course. One year he brought me, along with his mom, to a number of greenhouses.
“I just want to buy you some flowers, Treen,” he said.
He once told me I was his favorite aunt and I laughed and told him he probably said that to all his aunts.
I pull into my driveway and think about family and roots and one dear nephew who brings me pussywillows in the spring.
And suddenly it’s not just the darkness that’s making my vision a little blurry.
It’s those roots. They get you every time.
Treena Mielke is a Central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.