By Karen Secord

So much has happened.

I am wearing size 10 jeans today. It’s about me and not about me. Alone and not alone. Self indulgent and selfless. In turmoil and in peace. Anxious and happy. How is it possible to be all these things–to have all these feelings and thoughts–all at the same time.

The thing I swore would never happen has creeped up on me: I am re-built and the same.

The pilgrimage I took with my family, after my father’s death, has added intense meaning to my journey. It focused me on not me. Meditating is beginning to provide balance, even if I only “practice” once a week; sitting in the semi-dark, huddled around a candle in an Anglican church, smack dab in the centre of the bustling city, flocked by baby boomer women wearing MEC outerwear.

I wasn’t standing alone on the edge of the Ristigouche River in New Brunswick. My two brothers and two sisters were there with me. . . plus a nephew and two spouses. We came together from apart, for the first time in memory. Five orphans now. Our mother died in 1982, after bantering about a particulary fiesty cancer for five years. Living and then dying and living and dying through most of our teen years, she said “enough is enough” when we were 17, 20, 21, 22 and 23 years old.

I was the oldest. A recluse of sorts. Shy. (If you know me, don’t roll your eyes and dismiss this as a pile of rubbish. Sadly, it is true!) Painfully self conscious in an I-can-barely function-can’t-wait-to-get-home-never-spoke-to-anyone kind of way.

My father was the rock; an eccentric oddball who fancied taking his family on long road trips and moving us from city to city, as much to add spice to his/our lives as for career advancement.

The place we choose to disperse my father made me smile with my heart. On Boomer Lane. Across from the Boudreau/Henessy home in Atholville, a fledgling pulp and paper mill town in northern New Brunswick, where my mother grew up and my grandparents lived until they didn’t. My uncle, an orphan like my mother, still lives there. I’m sure I saw tears in his eyes when we arrived. When we left a few days later he shed them silently.

My uncle  told us that Boomer Lane is where my parents made out. Maybe it is where I was built, I hypothisize.

My brother held the container. We assembled on the waters edge and the tide began to come in. A cool rain made me shiver as Kevin took the plastic bag from the cardboard carrier. Bones and flesh and hair and eyeballs reduced to ashes. I brushed the remnants off his coat. We stood in a circle and began telling father-tales. The sun came out. My sister — the organized one among us — brought the bottle of wine she stole from my father’s wine cellar and glasses. We toasted him with his wine.

And then we skipped stones across the water’s surface. He was a sailor so I know he loved this.

New Brunswick was a turning point for me.

I danced. In the strangest of places. At a singles dance, where middle-aged men line a wall like nervous school boys at their first boy-girl outing. Gulping liquor. Recalling their courage from years gone by; before love and marriage and children and family ate them up, depositing them. . . here.

Lee “The Dancer” got me to this place. I’d like to say that she pleaded with me to go, forcing me to side-step my place of comfort. But I would be lying.  She only asked.

My inner demon keeps trying to push me off the edge of complacency. “Take yourself further,” she preaches. So I put on my burnt orange Banana Republic dress, brown tights and boots, paid my $10 and met her there.

Did you know that singles dances are about dancing? I hadn’t really thought about it.

Men asked me to dance. They tried to twirl me.  I felt contorted.  But I didn’t step on a single toe.  Or, they contained their yelping so I couldn’t tell (Likely that is it.)

It’s a time of growth.

I am growing.

While I shrink.

(Editor’s note: you can read all of Karen’s previous ‘Food Fights’ posts by clicking on our Archive tab, top of page)