Daydream Believer

Daydream Believer

[September 17, 2017]

When I was 12, my mother decided that she was going to have my cousin Haley come and stay with us for a week during the end of the summer holidays. It was during this time that I was having some trouble making friends at school but had become inseparable with my younger cousin, Scott. Seeing how well I got along with Scott, my mother, for some reason, thought that I would enjoy the company of my even younger cousin, Haley. I was reluctant.

Haley, however, was all in. She was excited to be spending the week with my family, and seemed overjoyed with the prospect of spending time with me. On my best behaviour, I made myself available to my cousin. At first, like any “tween”, I just tolerated her existence, unimpressed with her unwavering optimism. But as the week went on, her unrelenting kindness began to wear me down and I found myself enjoying having her around.

As it turns out, Haley thought that I was funny. She laughed at all my jokes and — having found a willing audience for the first time — I took pride in the sounds of her laughter. I spent hours sitting on the floor in my living room, her with my sister’s Barbies and me with my G.I. Joes, striving to come up with the right material in order to make her laugh. It didn’t take me long to discover that Haley’s favourite type of humour was slapstick because she would erupt with laughter every time I made the Barbie car run over Barbie’s little sister. In the hands of our parents, my skit would have been a cautionary tale about looking both ways before crossing the street but in my capable hands it became a hilarious dark joke that never failed to incite glorious gales of laughter. We laughed a lot that week, taking the first steps on the road to becoming good friends and not just merely cousins.

At the end of the week, my parents made arrangement to meet up with my aunt and uncle at my grandmother’s place in order to return Haley to her family and bring our visit to an end. When we got to my grandmother’s place I was delighted to find that my cousin Scott and his family were also visiting. With very little sensitivity on my part, I abandoned my new friendship with Haley to run off and play with my cousin Scott.

When Scott discovered that I had been playing Barbies with Haley for the entire week he decided that it would be funny to make fun of me. Not wanting to be thought of as a "sissy", a label that I was struggling to shed at school, I told Scott that I was only playing with Haley because I had to. Overhearing my insensitive comment, and already hurt that I had been ignoring her since we arrived at my grandmother’s place, Haley confronted me. With tears in her eyes, in front of the entire family, my cousin Haley told me at the top of her lungs hat she hated me. Not wanting to be outdone, and concerned with saving face in front of my cousin Scott, I told her that I hated her as well. We left that Sunday afternoon without reconciling and that moment has remained etched in my brain ever since.

We have never talked about that day, both of us trying our best to just ignore that it happened. I have never apologized to Haley for what I said. Never told her that I truly loved my time with her that week; that I hadn’t just spent time with her because I had to, but because I had truly grown to care about her. I like to think that she erased that horrible moment and chose just to remember the fun we had that week. But I know in my heart my behaviour really hurt her – I saw it in her face - and I will be forever sorry and ashamed for causing her that pain. We are both very sensitive souls and though I can’t erase the pain I caused I hope she will take comfort in the fact that I wish our week together had ended very differently.

Ultimately, Haley forgave me for my behaviour that day. I know because she treats me with warmth and kindness every time she sees me. I still revel in my ability to make her laugh, still see the child in both of us, but at the same time am amazed at the incredible woman that she has become.

She is still the caring and compassionate girl I remember from our childhood. The girl who once wrote new lyrics for Anne Murray’s, “Day Dream Believer” to reflect the plight of the homeless. The girl who not only sang those lyrics but took them to heart and grew into a woman who has made a career out of helping people. A woman I am not only proud to be related to but also both inspired and humbled by.

It will probably come as no surprise that Haley was one of the first people in my family, along with her wonderful husband Brad, to be openly supportive of me when I came out of the closet. She welcomed Stacy to the family with open arms and has always went out of her way to make us feel welcome and safe at extended family gatherings.

When I announced that Stacy and I were engaged, and were worried of how the extended family would react and whether they would be willing to attend our wedding, Haley phoned my mother and flat-out inquired if she knew whether or not her and Brad were going to be invited. No one else in my family did that. I don’t know if Haley will ever understand what an incredible gift her phone call to my mother was to us. Not only were her and Brad not freaked out that we wanted to get married they were actively seeking out an invitation.

Haley and Brad’s eagerness to be included in our celebration validated our decision to have a wedding and helped bolster our confidence about going forward with our plans to invite other members of my extended family. Haley and Brad didn’t question why we wanted to get married, or whether we had a right to: they just wanted to make sure that they were included. That gesture went a long way in making the awkward feelings imposed on us –by some of my extended family- seem misdirected.

Haley and Brad - just like our dear friends - thought it was normal for us to want to get married. And though we knew that in our hearts, it was invaluable to have it reflected back to us from such an admired couple within the family. Who knows? Maybe their eagerness to be part of our celebration helped other members of the extended family feel more comfortable being on the guest list. In the end, some of my invited relatives decided not to come and, though we were hurt by their decision, we decided to concentrate on the people who wanted to be there.

Our wedding was a joyous day. Stacy and I were surrounded by friends and family and we both spoke openly in our speeches about the struggles we both had to overcome in order to have the courage to join with each other that day. We changed a lot of hearts and minds with those speeches and helped my extended family see that our love wasn’t so different from theirs. As I spoke, I couldn’t help but see my cousin Haley’s head nod up and down. She was clearly empathizing with what I was saying, laughing at my jokes, crying during the heartfelt moments and beaming as proudly as any sun-kissed rainbow ever could.

Thank you for your support that day dear Haley. I hope that you finally know that I have never considered you my annoying little cousin and though it is true that we can not choose our family, if we could, I would choose you every time.
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