Peering into a crystal ball trying to see what the future will bring is murky at best. After all these times visiting I really don’t know when the next time will be when we will see each other again. I made the decision to go and see family again before I head back to Canada. I will spend a week here in Poland visiting all the aunts, uncles and cousins that I can. When I will see them again I really don’t know and hence my desire to be with them again at least for a little while.
When we emigrated to Canada in the eighties I was just a little boy. It took twenty-six years before we re-established contact when I came to Europe one summer and got to know all of them again as an adult, as a stranger almost as my memories were just fleeting images of my time here. This time I came prepared with something that I’ll leave behind that won’t fade away like memories but will remind them that somewhere out there there is a relative that once came to visit. Maybe that is a bit grandiose of a statement to make but there is some element to that.
Things being the way they are it’s not like there is a huge amount of free floating cash or time for them to just go off and make their own visits. If that was the case it wouldn’t of have been so long between our visits with each other. My first visit will be to Joasia’s house where it feels like it’s my second home. I feel good coming here and I understand the circumstances in which they live that prevent them from exploring the greater world. They are dedicated to my aunt who is and has been poorly for a while. I admire how they have banded together and continue to help her for all these years. We all have different lots in life that are uniquely our own and as I visit each and every one of the members of my family these lots are quite distinct.
Getting off the plane the cold air gave a true taste of winter. Off in the distance snow clung to the ground refusing to sublimate and fade away. They made us walk to the terminal as they mostly do having done away with the busses that used to ferry passengers from the plane before. This airport has grown since my first visit here all those years ago. Passing through the exit gates I was quickly spotted and my heavy bag was removed from my shoulder. I protested mildly out of courtesy but to no avail. ‘Just don’t hurt yourself it really is quite heavy’ I said. Leszek agreed as he groaned a bit under the strain. Books tend to have a heft to them that is unlike many other things. Books are things that tend to accumulate and although they are great they are a pain to move around.
We were going to have a coffee as with some Konrad and Klaudia were unable to come back to the village for some proper time at home. December means exams and they are in the thick of them at this time. They are in Chrl’s shoes stressed but not showing it as they are used to expanding their mind and confident in their ability to solve what was asked of them. I remember my time as a student around this time trying to make up for all that wasted time doing something other than studying. We said our goodbyes at the newly opened station that goes straight downtown from here. It is much more convenient than the bus that used to take you there and much faster as well.
We found the car and went for lunch at a traditional restaurant in a building made out of logs. There is a trend or maybe it just never died down to build these traditional buildings to house restaurants in. It had a good atmosphere for us to sit and chat in, to talk about how things have changed since our last encounter. In the past when we talked there was always this unknown as I didn’t have a partner but now the unknown has to do with how things will turn out with the plan that we are laying down before us. The four of us shared a meat platter for two that we couldn’t finish. On the drive home we were drowsy and as all that food began to draw all the blood towards digestion. I didn’t really last that long after getting to the house passing out early.
It was a much needed rest overnight. I can’t remember the last time that I slept for so long. Getting up early as I always do I tried to stay quiet while I helped myself to the coffee. Mmm coffee. It was a great cup followed by another one as my mind slowly came to the realization of what has occurred over the past couple of days. Never mind that but I am now unemployed and about to begin a new phase in life!
There is much to do before that phase starts and this transition calls for me to finish some unfinished business. There is some paperwork as well as organizing the movers that will be transporting our stuff to our destination. It gives me time as well to document my thoughts. It’s like I’m on some kind of an extended vacation. It’s a truly unique time and I have to take advantage of it as much as I can. It is also time to just spend time with my cousins where I am staying. This is the whole reason why I am here after all.
There is more family here as well, other aunts who I have come to know over the past few years. At a certain time it was time to go and visit them as well. I walked the freshly slightly snow covered frozen path and as I approached the first house my cousin Grarzyna was driving down the drive. She stopped the car and gave me a hug. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Just came to say hi’ I responded.
‘You know you have a really terrible sense of timing as I have to leave. I’m driving to Pozniań to change the company car.’
‘What’s wrong with this car it looks pretty good.’
‘Well you know they want to give us a fresh one because of all the driving we have to do.’
She had a five hour drive ahead of her depending on how the weather was going to hold up. She gave me a look with a wry smile that spoke volumes. We get along great and I am sad that she isn’t going to be around.
‘I’ll come back tomorrow to visit.’ I said as she got into the car and I headed into the house. Her hubby and my aunt Marysia were inside as were her kids. I rung the doorbell and Amelia her oldest recognized me and let me in. Adam, Grarzyna’s husband greeted me and we walked into the kitchen where ciocia Marysia was busy with something on the hob. She turned around and smiled and then admonished me for showing up unannounced.
‘I could leave and call you that I’m coming if you want.’ I said to her. We hugged and sat down and started talking as if we never stopped the last time we saw each other. I was told that I came at kind of a bad time as she had to go to her weekly 50+ meeting. It is a group of people from the village that meets socially every week. She is a Sołtys of the village, something of a leader in the community so she has to attend. She also likes these weekly meetings.
I stayed and talked with Adam for a long while. We drank a few beers and chatted about their recent renovations and some of the plans that they have for the house in the future. They are planning on putting in a couple of bedrooms for the girls upstairs. Now that they have a new roof over their heads this next phase can finally begin. It’s been tough for them lately with all the things that have happened over the past few years. They are making a go of it though and there is brightness ahead of them… It was getting late and soon we parted ways and I walked back to Joasia’s down the cold frozen slippery road in the cold and dark.
I can get used to this waking up whenever I want and then being greeted by people happy to see me. Joasia doesn’t have to be at work early so we have time to sit and chat. She had some questions about some of the things that found inside the present that I gave them. I know that she would be asking me these things and was ready to answer some of them. There is so much there to see. What I have come to realize is that I included some things that could have been avoided while I also could have added other things that were omitted. Still the whole project came from the heart and it is a momento that will remain long after I am back in Canada. Ciocia Irena is always happy to see me too. We sat around her keeping her company as we chatted. Our conversations always have a bit of a comedic tone so that we are always laughing at our witty retorts to each other.
I had time to finish up some things that have been outstanding and that I also wanted to continue. It feels like I finally have time to do that. There will be more visits later on today and it would be wise to get all of these little things done. Things being as they are time quickly passed and after getting ready the short winter day gave to winter twilight. I stepped out into the village and walked to ciocia Mila’s house for a visit. They kind of had an idea that I would be coming around at some point during my time here. When I showed up she greeted me with a big hug and welcomed me inside. Her little pooch was barking ferociously as little dogs do with their loud high pitched bark. We quickly moved into the sitting room and proceeded to catch up.
They were curious about my future plans and how my experiences of the UK have been. Just today they had their old boiler fixed and this kept being a distraction as heat wasn’t being distributed through the radiators evenly. There was some kind of an air bubble somewhere that prevented the heat from getting everywhere. Some guy they knew came in and installed it for them but he had to go to another job and someone else came in to fix some electrical connections between the boiler and heater. It is some kind of a different set up from the one that I am used to in North America. Here there is still a lot of coal being burned for heat. Not only coal but also a lot of other things by those who have a hard time financially.
Their son my cousin Andrzej was there and as he dealt with the boiler darting in and out of the room we had a chance to bond over a few shots of vodka. It is the traditional drink in Poland. We toasted to good health and a prosperous, happy future for all of us. We discussed the passing of an uncle that I hardly knew due to his health and distance. He lived far away and no one really saw him that often as he kind of isolated himself from the rest of the family. My visit wasnt long as I still had to revisit the other aunt that lives close by. We said our goodbyes not knowing when we will see each other again.
I walked the short distance to Marysia’s noting that it wasn’t as cold as it was the night before. At the door this time I was once again greeted by my young little second cousins. They run back and forth a bit shy of my presence. They have grown big not just in size but also in personality. Each distinct from the other. Nina the younger one is maybe six or seven but she speaks very eloquently and is very stubborn. She is able to dictate a bit as she becomes more sure of herself. Anelka is older and is becoming aware of becoming an adult. She is a bit more measured and mature in her responses. They come and go as they please as Marysia and I talk. Grarzyna was still en route from her car exchange. She finally showed up around eight-thirty tired from the drive. She said that the dark and stress of focusing on the road made her tired. She spent a total of twelve hours on the road since yesterday. There were accidents yesterday and treacherous conditions today as it was a bit icy once the night set in. The three of us had a good long chat about life. I reiterated my future plans and as both of them have met Chrl they blessed our future together. As I left they told me to come and visit them next year.
The plan on this day was to pack and spend time with Ewa and Józef. They were going to drop by Joasia’s after work to pick me up for tea at their house. Later on after that I was being handed over to ciocia Bronia to continue my family visit with the other side of the family. In the morning I once again hung out with Joasia and Irena. Here and there I darted up and down the stairs to finish up packing. I even got a surprise call from my little nephew Tanek who wanted to say “Hi” This gave me a chance to figure out a portion of my Christmas itinerary.
Józef came a bit later than expected but that didn’t really matter. They live not too far away in a neighbouring village. They were paving the roads around his house and that caused a bit of a delay in his arrival home. Their children have grown and are now away at school and also starting their own lives. I said that it must get lonely for them but they are alright they said. They are such a fun couple to be around. We talked and talked knowing that we didn’t really have much time as I was getting picked up from Joasia’s. Still we made the most of it. I’m happy to be able to spend this time with them. I told them that it’s their turn to visit me but Ewa having never flown on a plane is a bit nervous about that.
The call came that Bronia was at Joasia’s house so we quickly packed into the car and drove back. Once there I brought down my bag and after some conversation we left for Bronia’s house. It is a half hour drive that we drove slowly due to the darkness and difficulty in finding the right streets to turn down at this late hour. Bronia told me that I am the glue that keeps the connections between all the various members of the family going. I am part of a large extended family and I guess that as time moves forward these connections are slowly thinning out as lives evolve and move further and further away. As we get older and focus on our own families we see these changes happening. We talked late into the night about these and other topics once we got to the house. We will surely talk more as time allows.