autism,  family,  travel

Family is family no matter where you are



For my entire life, I’ve had to travel long distances to see my extended family.

At one point, my closest cousins lived in Calgary, Alberta, a three hour drive from my family’s house in Edmonton. In the early 1990s, however, they moved to Lethbridge, a six hour drive from Edmonton–but still much closer than the two day’s drive across Canada to see the rest of my cousins and grandparents. Then, in the mid 1990s, my parents, sister, and I moved to the States. Now we’re all grown up we’re even more scattered. I have cousins in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and England. My parents live in Colorado, my sister in Saudi Arabia. I live in North Dakota.

As you can see it takes a lot of effort for us to get together. There’s some age gaps and geographical gaps, but anytime I get together with my extended family, all of those gaps disappear. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. No matter where we are, what we’ve done, we just click when we see each other again.

This weekend we met up with my cousin Rebecca, her husband Marcus, and their daughter A in Winnipeg for the Canada Day long weekend. Rebecca and Marcus live in Dryden, we live in Fargo, and Winnipeg happens to be the exact middle meeting spot for both of us. It’s been years, YEARS, since Rebecca and I have hung out. In fact, this trip was the first time we got to meet her husband, Marcus. And here’s the extra bonus: my dad was visiting us in Fargo while my mom is in Saudi Arabia with my sister and her newborn baby, so he got to come up with us too!

J and W have grown up taking occasional trips to Ontario to visit Rebecca and her brothers and sisters, but it’s been so long since they last made the trip to Ontario that they really didn’t remember Rebecca really well. I’m so glad we got to re-connect over the weekend. Hanging out with my cousins reminded me how important family is, not just for me, but for my kids.

J and Alberta cousins circa 2006
Ontario cousins (Rebecca’s family) circa 2006
My Ontario cousins playing with J and W on Lake Superior
There’s such a large age gap between my mom and her brother, that my youngest cousins and J and W aren’t that far apart in age.

I think my absolute favourite moment of the whole trip this weekend was Marcus and J’s bonding over ice cream the first night we were together in Winnipeg. J was a little agitated after dinner (it was late, and we were really tired from spending the afternoon at Lake Winnipeg) and kept insisting that he needed ice cream after dinner. Marcus, who had never met J before, said, “I think I need ice cream too,” and took J out for ice cream while the rest of us finished dinner. I love it when family understands autism. I get even more emotional when new family understands autism.

Ice Cream Bros 🙂
Rebecca and my dad.
Me and my dad.
Cousins, reunited!
Waiting for our boat tour of the Red and Assiniboine River at the Forks.
Rebecca and Marcus brought their dog, Honey, and W got her dog time in 🙂

The whole crew
Cousins in braids.
A little Canada swag thanks to Rebecca!

With Canada and the United States sharing birthdays this week and our little trip to Winnipeg visiting family, I’ve been thinking a lot about families and countries. I’ve thought about the fact that Steve was born in the United States, I was born in Canada, and that we both have been born into really great families. I guess when it comes down to it, you really have no choice in what family or country you’re born into, and I’m so grateful to be born into both a great family and great country that allowed me to grow and develop and give me the most important opportunities I could have. I really didn’t get those things through merit. I was just pretty darn lucky.

I’m really grateful too that my kids have been able to see and experience both countries that are so important to me and Steve. I’m grateful that it’s easy to cross the border to see my family. I’m grateful that, despite the distances between my cousins, parents, and sister, we still are able to see each other a few times a year.

I hope that J and W feel the same way about their lives–they’ve had no choice in what family they were born into, what country they were born into either. They’ve had no choice about the autism variable. Despite the hard things our family goes through, I hope they feel like they lucked out on the family/country lottery too.




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