Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig.

Finally home from the drive back east visiting relatives in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and then my month long stay with my daughter and her new baby in Salmon Arm.

We left home July 19th and it’s good to be back to my little island rock in the Nanaimo harbour. But, in true island fashion/frustration, there was a hitch getting here.

It was 9:00 pm when Bob and I got off the B.C Ferry from Vancouver, and its monsoonal rainfall. We got  to the marina where we dock our boat and unloaded all our gear from the car down the dock ramp and into our boat, then drove the car over to our parkade a block away, walked back to the boat, jumped in and Bob turned the key to start the 50 hp outboard- and nothing happened.

Dead battery. Probably caused by the bilge pump sticking and not turning off after it had pumped all the water out that had collected in the boat during our time away.  Bob let out some pretty (in)decent expletives as I check the time and said it’s 9:55, the Dinghy Dock Ferry to the island (and home) is at 10:10.

We have to make that boat. Bob swore some more. So a mad dash back to the parkade, retrieve the car, drive back to the boat basin, reload our bags into the car, drive back to the parkade to re-park the car, and hustle down to the ferry landing.

We made it. And once on the island, and relief set in, the tranquil 20 minute walk to our house from the little ferry was a pleasant homecoming.

Yesterday Bob took the Dinghy Dock Ferry back to town, dropped our dead battery off at the battery shop to recharge. Today, both of us taking the little ferry, we picked up the now charged battery and put it in our boat, along with all our luggage from the car, and the three bags of groceries we bought. Now everything is home!

What’s missing in my feature photo is what we couldn’t carry ourselves and had left at the dock head. A bag of potatoes, two coolers, a big bag containing my coats, and another containing two pillows. Bob was off with our wheelbarrow retrieving them.

We are still thinking of getting a small truck for over here. But then where’s the strain and exercise with that?

So goes island life. It’s not without its worthy efforts!

 

Ready for Baby

While staying at Zana and Dons these past several weeks, spending time with Saylor, soon to be two, and newborn Opal, it brings up memories of having my baby at 22, and a conversation I had with a girlfriend. Her son had just had his first baby six months after Zana had her first, and as we sat talking she said in reference to her son and daughter-in-law, “I don’t know if they’re ready.”

I reminded her then that our kids are 37. If they are having babies, now’s the time. And I couldn’t help but laugh at her worry, because if anyone wasn’t ready to have babies it was us!

When I became a mother I was unprepared in every way. I knew nothing about babies. I spent one night in hospital after her delivery and then went back to my parents house where my partner, Zana’s father Dennis, and I were staying until he finished fixing up our rented home; a tiny two room miners cabin with a big oil cook stove, set in a laneway in downtown Nanaimo. And before she was one month old we moved into it. It was the winter of 1980.

I remember the health nurse coming by to check on me and my baby, but it was so minimal a visit. I had no idea if I was producing enough milk. No coaching. I knew nothing about milk “coming in” or “good latching.” The nurse said she would be back the following week, but she never came. Dennis was a musician and away on the road, so I was on my own much of the time. I had no circle of girlfriends, and I guess my family thought I was doing fine.

I kept breastfeeding, and carried her around the cabin in a “snuggly” because she would fuss a bit. Then I took her to our family doctor for a check up. He took one look at her and he said, ‘this baby is starving,’ and gave me the name of a brand of soy based formula. I obviously wasn’t producing enough milk. I went to the pharmacy straight away, bought it, and fed her as soon we got home. Within days it seemed she ballooned into a rolly polly healthy baby.

We were on welfare for short time. I had no vehicle. We carried our laundry to and from the laundry mat downtown. The majority of Zana’s clothes were from second hand or discount stores. Her stroller was salvaged from the roadside. Her toys were minimal. I went to work at an art gallery in my downtown when she was six months old, taking her with me in her stroller. Luckily she was a very content and happy baby!  When she was three her father and I separated. Zana and I moved a lot during her childhood, and being a working single mother brought its own complications and hardships.

I was ignorant and extremely naive, though I somehow held it together.

Today Zana, now 38, is strong, compassionate and caring, and fearless in the face of challenges. She has always worked. A self-taught talented pastry cook and caterer. She has travelled abroad alone. When she became pregnant she had a Dula and a Midwife, she had a nursery room ready and waiting with everything the baby would need, a closet stocked with baby clothes, a car seat, crib, stroller, all the things all in a beautiful  home. When the baby came she had consulted a nursing coach. Zana knew what to do, and if she didn’t, she knew where to find the information. Her children were brought into a loving, stable and secure home life.

Then there’s my girlfriend’s son, also 38. She was 17 when she gave birth to him. She separated from his father when her son was four, leaving him in the fathers custody, and embarked on a long arduous path of waitressing, and education, and long periods of absence. The dad and her son lived in a small, cedar shingled A-Frame cabin in a rural, rustic area. The house was under heavy renovation construction, with a makeshift ladder to get upstairs to the bedroom, a make shift toilet and a two by four construct that served as the kitchen.

Her son today, lives in Vancouver, works for Apple overseeing several outlets, owns a condo. He’s a talented musician, he and three of his band members have been playing musically since the age of thirteen. They’ve cut three albums. He has been with his current partner since the age of 19, they married 6 years ago. His wife works at a daycare. They had their first baby 15 months ago and he is an amazing, fully engaged father and loving, attentive husband.

The contrast of parenting experience is stark between myself and my daughter and my friend and her son. We were not ready. And still our kids came out winning, in spite of all our unpreparedness, hardships and chaos.

Yes, girlfriend, they are so ready. With soul, heart and mind. And I’ll add one quote, in light of their upbringing, from a Chuck Berry song:

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.”

 

Salmon Arm Snail Shells

Last week Zana and I went into town for groceries, parked the truck and went in to shop. When we came back there was a little pile of snail shells on the concrete in front of the truck.

 

Random act, magic spells, or a child unloading her pocket ? Doesn’t matter. But I tell you, the snails in Salmon Arm are spectacular!

Welcome Opal

Opal comes home, and the midwife Ariel coming by to check on things.

I want to quickly share the news that my daughter Zana just brought her new baby girl home yesterday! She and hubby Don already have 22 month old Saylor who has become a big sister overnight!  I intended on staying with them a short time at their home in Salmon Arm to help out  just until things got settled in, then head home, but Zana wound up needing a C-Section five hours into her heavy contractions! No one saw that one coming. All went well thankfully, but it was an excruciating labour for her.

She stayed only one night in hospital too because the bed was sooo uncomfortably hard and the room dreary (which it was). Now she’s faced with 6 weeks convalescence with absolutely no lifting, like 30lb toddlers!  And as we all know, toddlers are spastic balls of energy, and Saylor is no exception.

So, it looks like I may be staying on with them a little longer unless plans change, we’ll see. So far I’ve been taking care of the cooking (which I enjoy!) and keeping things tidy while helping out with Saylor during Zana’s final pregnancy stages, so i’ll just carry on. Typical Mother/Mother-in-law/ Grandmother protocol.

I’m happy to be in a position to help out. Fortunately I retired early so have no pressing time line I have to adhere to. There’s Bob of course, back on the island, but he understands fully. And he is only 5 hours away.

We’ll see how things pan out~

 

 

#How I spent my summer vacation

It’s been a busy time for me! But it isn’t over, even being well into August with summer winding down and Autumn fast approaching, still I’m not even home yet. And the best is soon to come, which will be evident at the end of this post.

The road trip began July 20th when Bob and I went to Vancouver to spend a weekend with our son, his wife and our fourteen month old granddaughter that included a day and evening at the Vancouver Folk Fest. Then, leaving Vancouver, we stopped in for an over night at our daughter, her husband and our 22 month old granddaughter’s house in Salmon Arm BC. before heading off to cross four provinces, part of Ontario, over the Superior Lake Head and down to Parry Sound where we had a rented cottage on Georgian Bay waiting for us. Ok, not so much a cottage, more an 1890’s farm house that may have some skeletons in all the closets. But I believe they were friendly.

We did the drive in four days, taking shifts, 10 to 12 hours a day and had no problems finding hotel or motel accommodations along the way, nothing fancy, just a clean place to sleep. Once in Parry Sound family and friends showed up and we spent a week swimming, reconnecting, kayaking, fishing, lots of eating, and playing a lot of scrabble. I won one game. I have sworn myself to hone up to dethrone Crystal and Mel the next time I see them. In about three years. I should be ready by then.

Below follows more of a photo narration because I don’t have a lot of free time at the moment to weave wondrous tales to describe each photo. Why? Well, like I mentioned earlier there is still stuff going on here. So with that said, here is what I have so far ~

Vancouver Music Fest 2019 

 

The Three Sisters, Canora, Alberta. Winding through the rockies, heading east. 2019

 

Then it gets really horizontal from here on out. Boring to most but a joy to me. #prairielove

 

Gassing up in Saskatchewan. Remember when someone used to come out to fill your tank? I barely can.  Not one but two guys cleaning the windshield while a third pumped the gas. I nearly squealed for joy. Because I dislike pumping my own gas, especially in winter, with freezing wind whipping at me. Or any other time.

 

My attempt at upholding a particular Canadian tradition while in transit. Meh.

 

The Assiniboine River runs through Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

 

A Superior dip. Lake Superior, Ontario. The lake head part of the drive is a long bit, but a beauty. Water was perfect for swimming.

 

Lake Superior, Ontario. Old Woman Bay.

 

We have a stupid, no, totally perverted memory of Wawa, Ontario. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. But this place has great fudge 🙂

 

We stopped in Webbwood, Ontario for snacks at ‘ol Tom Stewart’s- and Wife. Must be a marriage made in heaven.

 

Our destination. The big old house in Parry Sound Ontario has 5 bedrooms, creaky floors, tons of homey funkiness, a secret stairway off of the kitchen to one of the upstairs bedrooms, an interior that’s a tad spooky and looks as though the family just left the key and took off. It had plenty of room for everyone. Right on Georgian Bay, minutes from downtown. Perfect.

 

Ideal. Our own dock and swim platform along with a canoe and aluminium skiff to use too.

 

We were treated to a harbour cruise too! The black triangle in the centre of the map shows where our boat is on GPS

 

Bob and his daughter crystal.

 

Bob’s family roots go way back in Parry Sound. Parents born and raised there. Grandparents raised their children there, and this is his grandfathers bakery. Even Bobby Ore’s dad was Bob’s Pee Wee hockey coach.

 

Georgian Bay, Muskoka, known for the iconic wind bent pine trees, Tom Thompson, and the Adirondack chair at the lake cottage.

Tom Thompson painted from this exact spot, and you can too. There is even a little easle-table handily installed if you’re suddenly struck with inspiration.

 

The main motivating factor behind the road trip- to see the newest member. Great granddaughter Arabella cuddling here with her momma Shannon and grandmother Crystal relaxing in cottage’s enclosed porch.

 

Bob’s Aunt Lillian’s Flea Market. A cornucopia of cottagey things. She’s closing down in September for good. 90 years old, she could use a rest. She also was born and raised in Parry Sound, and is the last of the elders in Bob’s family.

 

We attended the Wasauksing First Nations Pow Wow. I was really moved by the ceremony and traditional dancing. Goosebumps happened.

 

Bands from far as Oklahoma and Kansas gathered.

 

 

Bob revisited the swimming spot of his youth at Depot Harbour on Parry Island.

 

Yep- won ONE game. “RUBE” that was my word. Pretty fitting considering I was learning the game.

 

What it took to feed the masses. I know, it looks a mess, and as a chef, for me- nearly cringe worthy, but it was daily managed because we ate and ate, and ate.

 

Sunset on the Bay.

 

Heading home west. The Saskatchewan Prairie really speaks to me. I find this land an inspiration on a profound level.

 

Val Marie, Saskatchewan. Main street. Val Marie is situated right up next to the Grasslands National Park Preserve. Stunning area, in my eyes.

 

Val Marie Saskatchewan. The distant glowing bluff in the horizon is part of the Grasslands Preserve.

 

Old Wheat Pool at evening time, Val Marie Sask.

 

Morning rise. Val Marie Sask.

 

Where we stayed the night in Val Marie, Sask. The Convent Inn. A great story lies within these walls of what was a catholic school for the resident youth of Val Marie. I will likely write a post just on this place in the next months.  A great place to spend a night or three, and explore the grasslands.

 

The school chalkboard at The Convent Inn , guests leave words of wisdom and inspiration.

 

Val Marie, Sask.

 

Val Marie, Sask. I found beauty everywhere my eyes fell.

Arriving at Salmon Arm B.C. once again Bob, after a few days visit, leaves me at our daughter’s and heads back to Vancouver Island. I’m staying here to help out while she gets ready to have their second baby- any day now, and help look after their toddler. I’ll stay on after the birth for a short while before finally getting back to my island home on the West coast!

So now we are all on stand by for the reveal. In the meantime, how could I have forgotten how much energy it takes to live with a toddler!  Sparky little dynamos-  I’m pooped out by night fall. But I think I’m catching my second wind after two weeks here, should be toned up and primed by the time this second one arrives. I hope. For now, I’m in bed at 8:30.

 

 

 

Coffee Snob

Hi. That would be me. And I remember the bean that made me thus. It was the Kicking Horse Coffee “Kick Ass” and “Grizzly Claw” dark roast, spoiling me to never let another dusty dry, pale bean pass my lips aaaaagain.

It cost’s more, yes, but it was manageable, and it’s organic and Fair Trade!  It’s also a company that started and has stayed in Invermere, British Columbia ,so, you know, buy local!  I’d buckle down and fork out the extra Loonies (Dollars), and when it goes on sale I buy a few. As time passed the cost eventually crept up to $16.99 a pound. There are limits. I have some self control. Now I only buy it when it’s on sale. But luckily I have a back up brew, Tribal Java’s Ancient Ritual, also organic and fair trade, also out of Invermere and almost on par with Kicking Horse in flavour, and body – almost- and a few Loonies less.

I was at Costco and had a look at their big bags of coffee, thinking maybe, maybe one of these brands would be as good as Kicking Horse and for a lot less money. I picked up a 2 pound Italian bag of beans. Italians know their coffee right? Next morning I pour my Italian morning cup, take a sip…. ok. it’s uh… yeah, it’s all right. I guess. My husband sips his. Hmm, he says, only he’s wincing while doing it. Another few sips and we shake off the charade. This is the worst coffee we have EVER had. Instant coffee would have been better!

But we endured through a half a pound. Because you know, bought it, must finish it.

But we couldn’t finish it. Instead we cut our loses and relegated the rest of the bag to the freezer as Desperation Coffee. For emergencies, when out of coffee and unable to get to town for days due to hurricane, gale, or twenty foot seas. (see my About page) I picked up my Tribal back-up brand, and the next morning there was bliss back in my cup.

Life is waaaay too short for horrid coffee. I learned my lesson.

Then just the other day when grocery shopping I turned down the coffee isle and walked right into a small crowd. As I waded into the fray I saw that Kicking Horse was on for $9.99 ! So, seems I am not alone in my brand obsession. A man who looked like a runner; slight build, spandex, you know the look, was literally embracing -as in using both arms- bags of coffee and scooping ALL remaining eight pounds of Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw off the shelf and into his shopping cart. The other folks had theirs in cart and were dispersing. One pound of Kick Ass left, the rest was light roast. Which won’t do.

When he realized I was wanting some too he offered to give me a couple of his. “No,” I said, “that’s fine. I’ll take the Kick Ass.” This guy was evidently excited about his bounty, and on some sub level I could kind of understand his glee; like a mother watching her child pick out a puppy from the litter to take home, like a kid given 20 dollars to spend on road trip snacks. And he got there before me.

I was happy enough to have even one at that price. I put it in my cart and made my way to get in line at the check out. A moment later the runner-coffee-hoarder guy whizzed over to me, his face all lit up with  joy mixed with relief, to say there was another Kicking Horse display over by the entrance with lots of Grizzly Claw!

Yeah, I left the check out line and grabbed three pounds.

 

#Island Life

So it seems I was attempting to fix the handle of my oven door which involved taking out a couple of screws on the  inside of the door and getting behind the glass front- and I was doing great, keeping it all still attached at the bottom as I tilted the top half out to reach the interior screw, then kablooey, it all unhinged in my hands.

The whole glass front dropped off, the little plastic edging pieces sprung out and fell to the floor, and I was now left with mere components of an oven door. I could NOT, even with the help of husband, get that dern thing together again. Call the repair man.

This would be a call to ask if I can bring the door in- because I already knew the appliance repair guys don’t come to my island. (see my “about” page) So, that arranged I packed up the bits and pieces of my oven door for delivery.

The trusty wheelbarrow. Seen better days, but it it does the job. So off to the boat, then across the bay, then carry it up the dock and ramp, then bring down the car from the parkade across the street then load it into the back and drive to the repair shop.

Complicated not complicated.

Does Cleaning Kill Creativity?

Cleaning is a distraction. It is a necessary duty, true, but to clean house is a big time suck. And it is a repeated action that does not cumulate in an end product. As if painting a wall or putting up a gate, well that’s done once and for all- moving on. You are never done with house work, oh no, that activity will be revisited time after time- no, moment after moment. Okay, for a short –short- time perhaps the act of cleaning can have a reward of everything polished and tidy, even smelling good. Hands can be wiped and all in the domain once again resembles an ordered universe. As long as no one moves. As soon as a chair is pulled out, a drawer opened, a glass of milk filled, a meal made, the build up begins all over again.

And it’s only the two of us in the house.

I have this thing where I can’t begin a creative project unless my surroundings are tidy. Even if my creative project will take place in another area – down in my studio for instance, which can be in some comfortable level of disorder. My home on the other hand; the kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc must be in good shape. My bed is made before I leave the room. Before coffee for Petes sake.

If I am going to work outside in the garden in the morning, before I do, first my house has to be in order- I move from inside to outside. So that when I’m done outside I come inside into a tidy home. I am relaxed. Not confronted with a house to now clean. I exhaust myself.

No leaving dirty dishes. Anywhere. No leaving dinner dishes till the morning. Sacrilege. Such a heart sinking way to begin your day welcomed by a pile of last nights dishes! The kitchen must be clean at all times. I think this might be that when entering my home you come directly through the middle of my kitchen. I mean through, as in walking between the stove on one side, sink on the other side. Yeah, I can’t sequester a messy kitchen out of site of anyone. So I’ve become a little OCD about it.

So anyway, it’s annoying. Not sure if this is more prevalent in women than men- but I’d wager it probably is. And sometimes by the time I’m done cleaning, the creative juice is drained. I know, I know, I have to turn it around. Turn a blind eye to the dust on the glass coffee table, the floor my feet are sticking to, the faint ring around the toilet bowl and make creative work the priority. Do that work first, then tackle the mundane.

I remain ever diligent on the road to recovery ~Although this morning  before finishing this post I had to vacuum. And clean my kitchen. I’ll get there.

 

 

 

Yogi Berra

I suppose it is inevitable. Reflecting on the ‘where I’m at’ in my life, assessing. Is it a late mid life crisis? Could be. But it could also be having gone through the loss of my second brother two years ago and the recent loss of my mom four months ago. Causes one to pause. Maybe take stock of the length of runway that’s left me before hitting the gate. I’m coming to terms with a few things. Adjust the reading glasses, pencil poised, hovering over a yellow(ed) scribbler. Tick, tick, and…tick, no erase that.

Speed of life races by at the rate of ones age, the saying goes. Is my life going at 61 miles per hour, or 61 kilometres an hour? I live in Canada where metric is standard, so, lucky me. 61 kilometres per hour is  37.9 mph. Which is better than 61 mph which would convert to 98 km.

ok, nice try.

I think about my fast expiring aspirations and diminishing dreams, and, like shaking off a stupor, make a mad grab at them before they vaporize into the ether. I think about all those rosy, soft edged hours that basked in the languid stretch of my youth, time enough for becoming or accomplishing, for figuring out who I am and what I wanted to do with my life.

Glaring back at me, the not a few great opportunities I let pass by over these sixty years. That I have made some face-palming-stupid decisions or wrong turns is a mad under statement.

And why is it the regretted ones that slipped the net then come back at you, get all in your face like a bully, block out the good stuff?  Anyway I did some good stuff. But damn it’s true – it’s always the one (s) that got away that gets the sighing “if only.”

On the upside, I’ve come to terms with my limits. So that’s a time saver. I know I won’t run off on some tangent of an idea, like ‘I’m gonna open a bakery- slash-cookbook store-slash art gallery in Todos Santos!”  I can rein that in.

I’ve also attained some insight into how I’ve limited myself over the years. That one stings a bit. A lot.

I’ve come to terms that I don’t like vigorous exercise. Like running.

Age has never been an issue for me, and it isn’t now- necessarily. In fact today I am the youngest I will ever be! But it doesn’t sooth the fact that those dreams and aspirations of mine now have a shorter runway for getting airborne. They have a greater risk of calcifying right where they lay. Some would staunchly defend the case that after 60 (50,40) ones “bloom” has quite long ago balled up into a dust bunny now sequestered under the couch.

I beg to differ. Can’t I? I think I’m in fair company, taking as my mentors women who are striding forward, eyes forward, enthusiastic, engaged, age defying in the purest sense; their soul youthful. There are a lot more of these women to hook my wagon to than in my moms generation.

I am aging (stupid statement- me and every living thing on the planet), but we all know its better than the alternative. And I swear I still feel like 40. Ok 45. (refer to above re:  age/kilometre, see? It’s accurate.) But, I must come to terms with the fact that really, if I’m lucky, I may have 15-25 GOOD years left IF my health holds up.

I think I’m pretty healthy.

It’s sobering. I’ve come to terms that this, right now, may be as good as it gets, which is pretty damn good, and to keep embracing with full gratitude what I have in my life and who I’m spending that life with. I know now too that everything comes down to choices. Having had so much experience in making some clunkers has honed my skills. I know better. (Jeez, finally.)

My choice is to continue to get on with those dreams and aspirations no matter how long or short the runway, water my flowers and nurture the blooms, all the while shouting out the incidental wise words of Yogi Berra : “It ain’t over till it’s over!”

Poppy

 

I was overwhelmed with a plethora of wild poppies in my front garden this spring, and lucky me. They proved a fascinating photo study. Capturing the clear slant of the morning sun as it rose over my cedar hedge gave me gorgeous opportunities to explore the poppies crepe like translucence.

I have a large portfolio of these beauties that I will share over the next few weeks~

I use only my iPhone 8. No filters.

Mother/Daughter

My girls, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria B.C.

I call Victoria B.C my soul city even though I had only lived there a mere five years, during my mid twenties; a struggling single parent with a four year old daughter. Even though it was during the more difficult time in my life, young, directionless, and floundering in a relationship with a rock guitarist.

Yet still. I think it is where I grew. And though the growth had its hardships, and in truth don’t the two go hand in hand, these times and places where growth happens always leave an indelible mark. For better or worse.

I was in fact quite happy in those five Victoria years despite the obvious chaos and confusion I had going on then. Ok – my entire 20’s decade was chaos and confusion- but, I grew up. A bit.

Within that five year period while there I worked at a five star Bed and Breakfast as the breakfast chef, which I absolutely loved, then later left the B&B to train and work as a Care Aid. The money was union money and benefits, so it was a strategic employment choice.

Even so, it was when my daughter and I were evicted from our James Bay apartment that eventually determined our move back up island to affordable Nanaimo.

Reason for eviction being the building we were living in was unfortunately slated for demolition. Being built in its place a luxury adult oriented condo high rise. Thus all of us were given notice. And leaving Victoria, reason being that I couldn’t afford to rent a house, and to find an apartment that allowed children was nearly impossible to come by at the time. I looked hard, searching through the listings in the Times-Colonist in every effort to remain in Victoria. The thought of leaving was, I didn’t want to think about leaving. But, time was running out and nothing was coming up.

Except for a two bedroom house my sister-in-law’s parents had coming available in Nanaimo just as my daughter and I would be exiting the Victoria apartment.

But that last Victoria residence, our apartment, was where our fondest memories are kept. It was full of single parents and low income families. We were happy there, neighbours helping each other with child care, and bonding together as a tight community. It was across the street from Beacon Hill Park. My daughter and I could walk out our door, cross the street, and have all of Beacon Hill Park and that great stretch of waterfront at our fingertips. Or we could take a walk down streets lined with great old trees and character homes and be downtown in the heart of the harbour in ten minutes. My daughter’s school was a three minute walk away.

And although I have lived in Nanaimo for most of my adult life, from the age of eighteen, whenever I go to Victoria  – it’s only a one and half hour drive away- I feel as if I’m being embraced by the dearest of an old favourite aunt. It feels like I’m coming home.

This feeling is the same for my daughter.

Recently she visited from her home in Kimberley, located in the Rockies of B.C., with her one and half year old daughter, my first grand baby. A visit to Victoria is on the list of things she wants to do.

Spending the day walking through the park, my baby with her baby, seeing these two together, I could see my daughter once again as the little girl she was with me, remembering our life here, my own youth, my young daughter at my side where together we once had spent so much time, climbing the rocky shoreline over looking the ocean and out towards Port Angeles in the United States.

A little melancholic, our past Victoria life flickered briefly before me as I watched my daughter with her daughter, for those few years when it was just she and I.

 

Small Graces

Taking in the smallest of pleasantries of each day; the one note call of a nearby bird, the monarch that circles the oak tree overhead, my husband contentedly napping in the afternoon sun.

Rebalancing, recalibrating, reigniting.

Parting

Two and half months have passed since I was at my moms bedside, along with my sister and our husbands, as she took her final breath. I daily relive that moment and all the moments I had in her company. My routine of spending several days a week with her over the years leaves a vacuum. My siblings and I were prepared; we had many occasions over the last several years to think her passing could happen at any time as she steadily approached her nineties. But she always rallied. And we sighed and smiled and carried on.

On her 93rd birthday in December mom was spunky, chatty; she ate pizza, and cake. She joked and laughed. She was more herself then, and over the month that followed, than she had been in a while.

Then, in February she wasn’t. Dementia quickly tightened its clutch. We did what we could to console, comfort and calm her, never leaving her side during that last fretful week. It was the hardest thing to do. Prepared but not prepared. Yet thankful to have been there with her.

I gave her eulogy at her service and managed to get through without breaking down. As long as I kept my eyes on my page, as long as I didn’t look into the eyes of the family and friends that were there listening. Strange how grief can become cloaked in the diversions and mechanical elements of taking care of the responsibilities of seeing to the details of funeral arrangements. There is business to take care of, facilitated by having a focused, clear head.

But also I tempered my grief with an understanding that she had been graced with a long and good life and that I made lots of time for her, especially the last thirteen years; that we had a lot of fun together. But grief is a wily thing. Some take solace in a religion, believing they will see their loved ones again in the after life just as they were in this life. I won’t argue on something no one can attest as fact. And I’m not here to question. Whatever gives us peace.

But I have heard the “after life” caveat used as a rational for them not being there with a sick, and also an aging relative. That it’s ok, they will see them on the other side. They say it’s easier to confront death when one “believes.” Maybe.  But it’s certainly convenient.

My personal belief has always been that all living things are eternal energy that never expires. We change, we disperse out of our human form, but always exist. We are a body of elements eternally in flux. I can look to nature, the universe, and know I and all are intrinsically woven, and for me that is my comfort. So, I believe to be with someone while we are here in our physical body only happens here, during this time. It matters more to be with them, right here right now, in this life rather than believing you will be with them in an after life.

Over the years I’ve lost my dad and two of my brothers; had been at their side as they passed. I’ve lost two girlfriends and, regrettably, wasn’t there enough. And with each of these passings my convictions have only strengthened. Be here now with the ones you hold dear. And whatever religious belief one follows or doesn’t follow grief will find some way for release. Realization settles down in us that we will never see that person again.

The other day a girlfriend posted that her younger brother suddenly passed away.  Words under the photo of her brother that commented on ‘the happier times we all once spent together, and now, today, all we talk about is how much we loved him’, undid me. Triggered my grief, and I gave way.

I miss my dad and my brothers deeply. I can’t call on them anymore – and I carry a regret for not valuing  the time with them more fully while they were here.

I miss my mom deeply, and I continue to see her face and hear her voice, her laugh. And, like a phantom limb I reach to touch, I feel I should right now be at the senior village visiting her, after all weeks have gone by, I’ve been away too long – but it has slowly, solidly sunk in that that isn’t my life anymore, because she is no longer physically in my life anymore. But she was, and I claimed as much of it as I could while she was here.

 

 

Mothering Mother

I have an elderly mother who I am very close to. She has outlived her first husband my father, of 58 married years, and also outlived her second husband of four years; he was eighty when they married. She has outlived two sons and a daughter-in-law. My mom is ninety-three, she suffers from dementia and lives in a full care facility not far from me.

I spend many days a week with her, helping her to eat her lunch because she can no longer manage cutlery on her own, and stroll her in her wheelchair around the hallways because she can no longer work her chair on her own. I listen and nod as she talks, although the words and sentences no longer make sense. But she is looking at me and smiling while she talks, seeming to understand what she is wanting to share. That’s enough.

Care facilities are, by another name, a place of endings. A constant reminder that nothing is going to get better. Any changes my mom experiences are going to be for the worse. Her new milestones are reached but not celebrated, only solemnly acknowledged because they aren’t the milestones of progress as when we would watch, for example, our children reach theirs; first tooth, crawl, steps, school.

The milestones of my mom are milestones of Lasts. I was trying to remember the last time my mom was able to get into my car and go out for a drive to the beach she loved, where we used to go frequently; sometimes picking up some burgers and park the car facing out to the water, eating and talking, watching people walk their dogs. Then, when was the last time she walked, the last time she fed herself, the last time she knew my name.

In the past six months her Last’s have increased exponentially, and each last brings her closer. And I know it’s coming, the day, and it will break my heart in a million pieces when it does. But I know that my heart can remain full in knowing I gave her as much as I could, did what I could. I was there, as I am now, to comfort her from the fear and confusion that stole her peace of mind; like a parent reassuring a small child that all is well there is no monster under the bed, I am here.

I take comfort in that she had a long life. Has. And I do focus on the positives she can experience in her days; when she does engage in conversation, when her never failing humour will slip in when least expected and we can laugh together, and her never ending gratitude extended to everyone with ‘Bless your heart’.

I also ask myself how could I come to mourn someone gifted with living well into their nineties when my two nieces lost a father, and another two nieces and a nephew lost both parents when they all were young? I can’t. But I will. Regardless how long or short a time we have them with us.

Yet living to such an advanced age is what we all desire- we couldn’t do more, and if you have your adult children around to look after your care and quality of life, that is the best of what we could hope for in life. How can we be sad when they pass? Of course we are still sad. Losing a parent at any age will carry its weight of grief.

It is all still hard, because- she’s my mom, and I’m bracing for The Day, as I braced for the day when my father, and then my brothers each passed from cancer. With my mother’s dementia it is a long and lingering goodby as, piece by piece, parts of who she is take leave, what remains is a shadow of who she was.

My part is to be her touchstone, that maybe deep within her memory she knows she’s not alone, that she knows she has her family near to keep the night-light on in her dark room.

 

 

 

 

Why Would You Leave When It Was So Good?

Just over broke, entrenched for long hours with foul mouthed, sweat soaked bodies slamming sauté pans onto every open fire late into the night you bang out Steak Frites, Confit de Canard, and Gratine des Halles. Chits strung like white prayer flags, or flags of surrender, and carry the threat of pulling the entire line down in a death spiral into the weeds. Plates crowd the pass, you lean into the ear of whoever is expediting tonight but who is so fucking mired and shout out an impatient Pick Up  as you lock incriminating eyes on the new server darting through the mayhem of a Saturday night rush. 

You in the after hours with your comrades join other back of house brigades from surrounding culinary dens and seep out into the late hours, released from your lines, seeking out the cool down places and a cold one gripped in a calloused hand impervious to heat and lean on the sticky bar with tattooed arms filmed over with grease. Your wife already accustomed to not waiting up. 

That life, like a proving ground for showing your grit, prowess and speed, your staunch regard for the industry’s swagger. An outlaw with a ten inch french knife and a microplane, part of a brotherhood in aprons, worn like armour; scars and burns like medals of honour.

 Yet at mid-life you owned no home, put aside no savings, and could barely make rent. Barely enough for drugs, but your long arms had that life in a full body embrace. And when you casually penned that exposé to the New Yorker that pulled the stained sheet off the nation’s restaurant kitchens you once served time in you didn’t expect to shoot like a cork into another dimension. A trajectory that spun you around the world a hundred times over, that windfall that erased all your past hardships and filled your coffers; the prize that took you off the line for good.

And you found true love, and had a baby girl. For her you got clean.

And then us, your prime time entourage, took hold and followed you into those far reaching lands, becoming students of the curriculum you dished out on food that defines these places. 

And because we knew the hardships you overcame we celebrated your good fortune, because you were the real deal. No pretence shadowed your motives. Obvious to everyone that you held the world by the tail. You had once said of your new life, that you felt like you had stolen an expensive car and kept looking in the rear view mirror for the flashing lights. We understood you came through the mire, and you made something real and soulful and honest. So maybe we could do that too. 

And when you have the network finally heeled to your creative vision, you love what life unfolded for you. You said so. You look so happy.  Steadfast to your own terms, never succumbing to the lurid lure of a sell out. Embraced and folded into a hundred million hearts as kin, you are one of us. We never faltered or showed concern you would one day not come. You are riding that wave, shoreline still far off in the distance. Instead you decide to shed your body on a summer day in a lovely room at the Hotel Chambard.  Abrupt as suicides are, that decision reached in a quiet moment, liquified the ground beneath the feet of the ones who took you in, leaving all behind to question, leaving your young daughter to question the unanswerable.