we had a big day today.

this afternoon was the 2006 Run for the Cure, the breast cancer fundraiser. i bundled up O in too many clothes – i have this nervous horror of him being underdressed – and we walked the route…along with my mom, her friend/longtime companion Henry, and my sister Erin.

we raised just about five hundred dollars for the event, which i thought was rather amazing. i haven’t fundraised since those nasty magazine subcription drives we were conscripted into in high school, when i couldn’t find a donor to save myself and ended up having to buy a year’s worth of Women’s World Weekly or some such schlock just to stay on the student council. but this was pleasantly different. when i registered for the run, i set my fundraising goal at $150, which i thought was modest but reasonable. after all, when one only gets organized enough to register five days before the run, one must not be too grandiose. but the generosity of family and friends blew me away.

Erin and my mom and i walked in memory of my grandmother Hilda, my father’s mother. Hilda died in 1988. i was sixteen then. Erin – who is my half-sister, the youngest of my father’s children – was three. my parents had been divorced fifteen years. but there was a bond stronger than mere marriage between my mother and her ex-mother-in-law…a shared staunchness, a respect and odd likeness. Hilda’s funeral was the first time i remember seeing my mother cry. so, we three walked today for Hilda.

Henry walked for his wife Laurene, who died almost exactly seventeen years ago, in early October of 1989. Laurene and Hilda would have known each other in the 60s, when Henry was minister at a then-growing suburban United Church where Hilda was a Sunday school teacher for thirty years. they would have known each other fairly well, i imagine…wives in their thirties and forties, raising children in the same small community, organizing lobster suppers together, dishing out potatoes in the big kitchen at the back of the church hall, holding fundraisers of a different sort from the run today.

i don’t think they could have imagined us…the very model of the modern muddled family, walking today in their memory. nobody aspires to be a statistic, however inspiring. Laurene would be in her seventies now, had she survived breast cancer. my grandmother would be in her early eighties. they brought us together this afternoon, our strange little group…just as the memory of thousands of other family members or friends or coworkers brought together the other runners and walkers and strollers and riders in the throng of white and pink shirts.

cancer scares the shit out of me. three of my four grandparents have died of it, two before i was born…it skulks in the gene pool, waiting. my mother celebrates her fifty-eighth birthday on Tuesday: she is just about the age Hilda was when she found the first lump in her breast. both of my mother’s own parents were dead by fifty-eight. and i looked at her today and realized how much i don’t want Oscar participating in the Run for the Cure in her memory. i don’t want him, like Erin, to have only faint memories of his grandmother. i don’t want him, like Henry and Laurene’s grandchildren, to grow up never knowing her at all.

and i really don’t want him and Dave left alone, to run in my memory. not anytime soon. not ever.

the pinny on my back this afternoon said “i am running for Hilda.”

but it wasn’t entirely true…and not just the part about the “running”. i walked to honour Hilda’s memory, and it made me proud to do so. but i walked for Oscar…Oscar whom i’ve nursed with these breasts, who i want to watch grow in the long term. so i think we’ll do this again next year. i’d like O to grow up thinking of the run as an annual event we do around Nannie’s birthday, with other families, for a great cause. and maybe if we can raise enough money to beat cancer, he’ll never have to walk or run in anyone’s memory…because we’ll be there with him.