I've often said my parents have given me the strength and confidence to disappoint them at every turn.
My mother and father -- by bringing me to church and being true to their home city -- gave me the stability I needed to reject God and get the hell of out of town.
That might sound inharmonious, but it actually helped me learn tolerance toward people who are different. I never had to learn to embrace people of different cultures - they were making my breakfast in the kitchen and calling me "dear."
And I loved them long before I realized I had the option not to.
My siblings took a route similar to mine. My parents used the classic template - hardworking Dad, stay-at-home Mom — and produced a writer in Toronto, a painter in Halifax, and a permanent student in Edmonton. Sometimes it seems like the only thing the two generations have in common is the debt load.
It's a diverse brood, for sure.
There's my brother, Andrew, who is possibly the most effortlessly nice person on the planet. He makes Elmo look like a big jerk.
There's my sister, Erica, the most book-smart of the four in my estimation, though she's probably the least world-smart since she's decided to live in Edmonton.
And there's me — divorcee and atheist extraordinaire.
The exception that proves the rule is my brother, Jeff — who has made up for his three childless, nomadic siblings by being an electrician who stayed in the same town and who has alone (though I understand his wife helped) given my parents five grandchildren.
Every time the other siblings see him we all breathe a big "Thank you" under our breath for taking the pressure off.
I've been thinking about family a lot lately because it's become clear to me that I might never see them again.
Before you start checking my apartment for bad poetry, what I mean is the chances of myself and my other family members seeing each other at the same time, as a unit, seems slim to nil.
The cost of a successful family in a country this large is the price of a divorce in others - you part ways and promise you'll see each other if you're ever back this way.
I have to make a reunion happen. They'll want to go to church or something, but I'm going to convince them to come to an atheist's meeting.
Mom says I can do anything I set my mind to.