When the past slaps you in the face

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It is a very rare occurrence when my emotions take me by surprise.  I am usually fairly in tune with them and I can feel them bubbling gently below the surface.  But last night on my way home from work while driving past my mother’s old house, the same house I drive by every day on my way to work and again on my way home, the emotion stored within my walls hit me like a ton of bricks.   Last night I glanced at the house, as I do every time I follow that familiar road, and I burst into tears.

I don’t know where the tidal pool of emotion came from but suddenly I was flooded with images of moments that had become important memories in my life.  Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings and quiet nights spent as a family were at the forefront of my brain.  Lingering snapshots of magical kisses witnessed by only the walls upstairs slowly transformed themselves into moving pictures to replay those scenes.  That house, the building others would only see as walls and a roof, was my home.  It was the vessel that helped create and store some of the most precious moments of my life.

And I do the same with my childhood home.  Every so often I feel the pull to drive by and just look at the house that began our journey to becoming locals in this town.  It was home to my family and a welcoming second home to many of our friends.  It witnessed great happiness and great sorrow, but it was always filled with love.

house

(image credit)

Although there were many happy times in our second home, there were also moments of great sorrow.  Those walls echoed my overwhelming grief in May of 2003 as I told my parents through hysterical sobs that my best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  That roof sheltered both my parents as they battled their illness and those walls protected them for as long as they could.  That structure, that old building that is seemingly unnoticeable to passers-by, will forever have a large part of my history carved into its frame.

That architecture will always be a part of me.   And each time I drive by and take the time to trace the outlines of those walls I will always have an affinity to its design and purpose.  It is said that we need to let things go to be happier but I feel the need to embrace those things to stay connected.

 

When you just have to listen to show tunes…..

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“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life, to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”     George Elliott

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Some moments sneak up on us, catching us completely off-guard while other moments just slap us in the face.  The hand print is still on my cheek from my experience this afternoon.

We were being bombarded by the first snowfall of the season.  It was in our forecast so it was no surprise.  What was a shock was my immediate thought to call my mother and tell her to stay indoors today.  I was driving home from work and, without hesitation, was reaching for my speed dial to call her number when I realized what I was doing…..and then the tears came.  My mother passed away in March of 2014.   Even though I was a mere 1/2 kilometre from my house, I had to pull over at the end of my road to collect myself.

I have felt my mom’s presence quite a bit lately, and so has my brother.  He actually admitted to me that he was listening to the Cabaret soundtrack at work (sorry, Jamie) and I know that was my mother’s doing.  Cabaret was one of her favorites, and although my brother didn’t spend the countless hours my mom and I did watching old musicals, the nostalgia of the music was not lost on him.

cabaret

(image credit)

I never doubt that my mother will always be here when we need her.  As I took a break from writing this post, she prodded me once again in her subtle way.  A duet with Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb magically appeared on my news feed on Facebook and it was one of my mom’s favorite Barbra songs.  “What Kind of Fool” doesn’t believe that messages can be sent from those who have passed?

She is here….inserting herself into the moments that she feels she is needed.  Her mother-instinct is still alive and well and she knows, perhaps better than we do, that she can still help guide us through those moments when only a mom can say or do the right thing.  And, once again, she is correct.  I do need her now…..and maybe my brother does as well.  And even if my worries are not about me, her presence and her calming influence are making me feel like everything is going to be ‘real fine’.

 

 

 

 

Like sands through the hourglass…..

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Yesterday was a very important calendar date.  It had been looming and, as each day brought me closer to it, the dread I felt increased exponentially.

sands-through-hourglass

Last year, on that precise calendar day of October 18th, my dog had her first Petit Mal seizure.  I was a mess and I called my friend in a complete panic.  He calmed me down and made me realize that I must control my hysteria.   I needed put on a brave face so my dog knew that I had my shit together.  It was tough, but I did it.

Poor Callaway lost a great deal of her freedom after that, only because I was too afraid to let her out of my sight.  What if it happened again?  And if it did happen again, what if she was somewhere on the property I couldn’t see her and didn’t know what was happening?  We bonded a great deal more over the weeks that followed her seizure because I was afraid to leave her alone.

As the days turned into months, I became less of a “helicopter parent” and eased the reigns a bit on her leash.  And then April 18th came – six months to the day after her first one –  and she had another seizure.  Like the first, it was a Petit Mal seizure.  But unlike the first, I kept my composure and soothed her through the episode.

Yesterday was October 18th.   Callaway has not shown any signs over the last six months of having had any incidents while I have been at work (or at home) but that date glowed in neon on every calendar in my peripheral vision.  It was my waking thought yesterday.  The number 18 hovered above my head like a cartoon balloon and spent the entire day threatening, like that too-close pair of glowing eyes in the dark.

But thankfully the day ended with as little commotion as it began.  And as she sits chewing on her rawhide sticks, I am thankful – thankful because I am now able to focus on all of the days she hasn’t had a seizure and not just the two that she did.

 

Stuffing all you can into the holidays

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There’s a lot to be said for the joy the holidays bring – or any celebration, for that matter.  Whether it be a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a reunion, the ease of the conversation, the steady flow of wine, the melodic sound of laughter and the joy of being with a close-knit group of people is unequalled.  There is an undefined comfort level that allows us to become absorbed in the festivities that surround us. The fact that we can gorge ourselves and have an excuse to eat everything in sight with only a few fleeting moments of guilt is sublime.

turkey

The molecules change in the room when family and friends get together for a holiday celebration.  There is something intrinsically sacred about holidays and the memories that are created within those moments. Time has a way of strategically obliterating those precious seconds as it marches on at a frantic pace, but our shared memories have a way of stopping that clock, if only for a few moments.

Holidays are a portal.  They can freeze time and create a vortex that allows us to travel back and relive certain periods in our lives.  The memories wrap themselves around us like a blanket and soothe us with the warmth of the times that have engaged us and truly breathe a bit of life back into our frenzied lives.

Although many holidays have passed and are collecting dust in the books of my hallowed history, watching my brother “float” his dinner in gravy brings back a rush of nostalgia, and that, to me, is what the holidays are truly about….personal moments that any other person would find arbitrary but, to me, define my holiday experience.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving has come and almost gone and the only glaring items that were missing, as always, were my mom and dad.   I know they were with us in spirit, especially during the making of my brother’s always-spectacular turkey dinner.  And I know my mom was smiling down on our dinner knowing that my brother nailed her stuffing recipe this year!

Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with the memories your family helps to create.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

What is THIS lovely fragrance?

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There was no sweetness.  There were no flowers.  And the only thing that was stolen was my breath.   What began as a restful few hours between a long day and an abbreviated sleep turned into a rolling profusion of expletives followed by a few moments to regain my sense of composure.

On any other occasion, these moments could have been used to describe a much more pleasurable evening.  What really happened will live in my mind, and my nasal cavity, for years to come.

It was a routine outing.   Callaway never strays far from the house for her late night relief before bedtime so I didn’t think twice about opening the door to let her out.   But I certainly thought twice about opening the door to let her in when the pungent stench of skunk met the sensory cells of my nose.  She looked extremely pleased with herself and I’m certain she sensed that I was not so pleased.

I scoured the cupboards for the age-old remedy of tomato juice but came up empty-handed.  I glanced at the clock and it read 10:30 pm, so a trip to the local, small town grocery store was out of the question.  I then relied on the only endless source of information I had readily available – Facebook.

As much as I have expounded in great detail about this social media icon being a complete mind sucking website – it became my lifeline and my hero.   After a bath of Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda and dish soap, the putrid odor dissipated to the point that I could tolerate her and allow my dog to come inside.   Since I would never leave her out at night, I wrapped her in blankets to help her dry off and put her to bed.

callaway

The “lovely fragrance” still lingers on my dog and in my house.  And I’m sure it will be a phantom smell that follows me for months.  But I have since forgiven her for the reminder that she is more canine than human, and she has forgiven me for forgetting that she is a dog and that she will continue to behave as a dog.   Lessons learned…..and from now on, we walk together….Callaway on a leash, and me with a flashlight looking for any eyes in my peripheral that may pose an olfactory threat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a few grey hairs between friends?

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The grey whiskers appeared almost overnight.   In the blink of an eye, my dog had matured beyond the youthful puppy I have known for 9 years.  Sure she still has the spunk of a young pup on occasion but I can slowly see time creeping up on her faster than I would like it to.

My solace lies in the fact that our affection for each other is timeless.   Her devotion to me, whether her joints are currently aching and she has no desire to jump on my bed, is endless.  She is, and will continue for years to be, my true companion.   She is happy to see me when I have returned home after four hours or four minutes.  She never judges my idiosyncrasies and she still manages to hear my soft sobs when I am trying to quietly cry and she comes to clean away the salty tears.

callaway

I thought my life was full before she came along.   I was dead wrong.  We have always had dogs.  Growing up, my life was filled with hairballs and doggy kisses.   But Callaway is a unique soul.   There is not a doubt in my mind that she was meant to be my dog.   The picture we fell in love with on the adoption website (the one above) was a picture of her brother but it was Callaway who came into my life and into my heart.  I fought for her during my divorce because I couldn’t imagine my house without her in it.

I know I must face the inevitable – time will not go backwards and those grey hairs on her muzzle will slowly multiply, but so will the grey hairs on my head.  We will face this truth together knowing that however long we were destined to be in each other’s lives, we will make the most of each moment.

 

Sometimes you can go back

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rearview-mirror

(image credit)

Some would say to leave the past in the past.  Over the course of this previous weekend, parts of my past engaged with my present and it was a wonderful blend of remembering old and making new memories.

I’ve never been one to shy away from the things in my past.  All of those moments, good or bad, made me who I am today.  And although things may not have worked out the way I may have wanted, I always like to think I learned a lesson from each one of those experiences.

I learned to be strong when I needed to be and to allow myself to feel vulnerable when I needed support.  I have learned that each one of the people in my past still holds a piece of my heart even though they may not be an everyday character in this act of my present.

But the final chapters of my story have not been written.  There may be a rough outline but the story has not been sent to print and there is always room for a few backspaces and some new paragraphs to be written.  Sometimes you can go back, not to the past you had but you can go back to reread the story line and see if any of those characters can be written into a few paragraphs of your future.

I am not going to live in the past, but I will always allow my past to live within me.