I was on Skype with Geneviève the evening she heard of the accident. We had been together for about two months at that point, and I don’t think either of us expected this kind of gut check so early into the relationship.
A week or two later, Geneviève made arrangements to fly to Vancouver and visit everyone. I offered to go along, which was apparently a surprising thing to do. No one said I couldn’t, though, so along I went.
It wasn’t your usual ‘meet the parents’ trip. Jim and Isabelle both greeted me with variations on “Hi, good to meet you. This, uh. This is weird.”
But what I found weird was how weird things weren’t. (Stay with me on this.) For a family in crisis, the dynamics seemed fairly normal. Everyone was banding together, keeping busy, and somehow finding the time and energy to welcome me to the group.
Which isn’t to say I was special. Jim held court in the spine ward the whole time I was there. We had to set up a Google Calendar just to keep the receiving line organized; everyone wanted their turn, and Jim was determined to make that happen. Even from a hospital bed, he was the best host I’ve ever seen.
Between that, the cavalcade of friends from as far away as Dubai, Australia, and Hong Kong, and the evening set aside for sending out thank-you notes en masse, it felt more like I had flown in for a wedding. More than that – it felt like an internet-age You-snap-stagram wedding. One of the running projects was getting Jim’s Facebook page up to a thousand Likes, and I spent a lot of time hoping it would cross the line before I had to leave again.
(By the way, if any of you got a thank-you email from Geneviève, odds are good that was me. We both logged into her Gmail account, and I had a much faster send rate than she did. Advantages of a clerical job…)
So, yes. It was weird. But it was weird because I had braced myself for a grim, desolate week of feeling like an outsider as the world ended. Instead, I spent most of the week marveling at the family’s straightforward determination to keep moving forward.
The thousandth Like came in as I was boarding my plane home.