Quite a few years ago, I was told really cute story.
My youngest brother (on my birth Dad’s side of the family — #itscomplicated) was photographed by the local Penticton newspaper while out in the community.
He and my late Dad Howie were outside doing whatever they were doing that day when a lifestyle reporter asked to take their picture as he was showcasing local people out and about enjoying the town.
“What’s your name?” the man from the news asked my little bro.
“Mister!” he replied.
“Yes, I know you are a Mr. but what is your name?” the man said again.
“Mister!” he answered…again.
Though I can’t recall the exact words of what my Dad Howie told me about that next bit of conversation but, after a bit more back and forth, my little brother finally said, “My name IS Mister! Mr.!”
Yes, Mister Gabriel- that was his name.
Mister was my youngest brother and yesterday afternoon I received a phone call that he had passed away earlier in the day. He was 24.
Meeting my birth family for the first time when I was 20 was interesting.
There were many thoughts, many questions, many emotions and (if you know anything about Indigenous families) there were MANY people to meet. Even though I was unsure if the initial family encounter was going to be an Oprah/Springer style event or super anticlimactic, I knew that meeting that side of the family for the first time was something I hadn’t done before and there were many unknowns. I was excited and nervous.
Catching the Greyhound from Whistler (where I lived at the time), I rolled into the city of Penticton. Penticton Indian Band is my home reserve and that’s where much of my family lives.
I had blindly agreed to stay at my Dad Howie’s place with my two younger brothers who resided there with him at the time. I had no idea what kind of situation I was getting myself into. It very well could have gone terribly or side-ways but something inside me sensed that wouldn’t happen. I just went for it.
Howie picked me up from the bus depot in his silvery blue older Corolla and we headed back to the rez to his house. When we drove up the driveway, I don’t think I saw less than about 60 aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers and community members waiting for me to arrive to join my celebration ‘home-coming’ dinner they had planned.
They greeted me with open arms, a cold Budweiser, tables full of food, freshly smoked deer meat and many, many hugs.
“Sister Becky!”, Mister said as he wrapped his arms around me- pretty much a stranger- without reservation.
That little boy, so full of energy, curiosity and adventure, loved everyone openly.
I remember him as someone who valued relationship and connection. He was loyal and had a big heart.
Though there were many hardships and adversities in his life and I didn’t connect with him in-person often in recent years, Mister always held a special place in my heart. It’s hard wanting to help someone or to connect with them more when life doesn’t always allow it.
You will be dearly missed little brother.
Rest well up there with Dad and Grandma…who both loved you so, so much.
With unconditional love and until we see each other again,
-“Sister” Becky, Jeff, and your nephews Braden and Luke.