…and, Back

Greetings, intrepid readers. I’m back in Toronto after a weekend in Thunder Bay which turned, somewhat expectedly, into a week in Thunder Bay. It began as a trip to attend a wedding; then, in an ironic twist, it came to include a funeral as well. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in almost a week-and-a-half, I’ve been awake since 5:30am this morning, there isn’t any food in the house, my parents are gone till Saturday…I’ve seriously regressed in the past few hours. But at least the heatwave is gone–or at least in hiding. I can live with that.

The funeral–again, it wasn’t completely unexpected–was for my grandfather, Stuart Hans Olsen, who died last Friday after a lengthly illness. We’d been waiting for it to happen since last Sunday (hence the cryptic Pearl Jam lyric I posted); the old man fought valliantly (earning even more respect than he already had in my estimation) and made it through til Friday morning, when he quietly passed away. This lead to the first full-scale Olsen family reunion in six-and-a-half years; I wish it could have happened under happier circumstances, but it was nonetheless a galvanizing experience. And the funeral itself was nice. The night before, my cousin Cameron and I–who together represent the eldest of our grandfather’s ten grandchildren–went to the hotel lounge with a laptop and our parents’ tabs; we spent two hours drinking domestic beer and telling stories about the old man, laughed our asses off in the process, and eventually hashed out a speech that we gave the next day. After the funeral we headed straight to the Fort William Country Club, the golf course where the two of us and our grandfather spent the better part of seven summers, and played an impromptu “Olsen Memorial” golf tournament. God blessed us with twenty-four degree weather and a cloudless sky; unfortunately, he still hasn’t blessed me with any skill.

But the rest of the weekend was much happier. Firstly, Bri made her Thunder Bay debut, which meant, among other things, an extensive, guided tour (which included a visit to my old house on Confederation Drive–I hadn’t been back since I moved in 2001), a dip in the cascades at Centennial Park, a peek inside the Fort William Gardens and two meals at the legendary Hoito. Secondly, it was a major bonding experience between the two of us and our friends Jon and Lindsay. Thirdly, and most importantly, it was Christie’s wedding on Saturday! I seems like only yesterday that she started telling me all about Mike (who looks exactly like Steven Page from the Barenaked Ladies, by the way); now she’s officially Mrs. Nerino. The Childs family has essentially adopted me as a long-lost son, and so the wedding was also a wonderful opportunity to get reaquianted with some of Christie’s crazy relatives. Good times. At one point her dad and I did something we haven’t done in about eight years of knowning one another: shared a genuine moment (him: “Thanks so much for coming”; me: “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”). I think the both of us realized what was going on, so we quickly backpeddalled–he told me to fuck off and I told him to fuck himself. It felt a lot better that way. (The first words he ever spoke to me were, “Who the hell are you?” That set the bar pretty high, in my mind.)

And now I’m back! I’ve written off a week of paper-writing–unavoidable, to be sure–and have a brutal make-up schedule ahead of me. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way: for good and for bad, this was one of the most memorable weekends of my life.


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