As if no time has passed

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We met in college. When you register for a program specifically geared towards hospitality, you are bound to meet friends who are outgoing and love people and that is exactly what happened. And, although twenty-nine years have gone by since we shared those hallowed hallways and classrooms, their voices still make me feel like it was only a few years ago.

We connected immediately and, for the two years we spent together within those walls, we shared innumerable laughs, a few tears and a great many games of Euchre. If I were hooked up to a polygraph machine, I would have to admit we spent more time playing cards in the cafeteria than we spent in several of our classes and, yet, we somehow managed to graduate with top marks.

As fate would have it, reality began to seep into the happy bubble we had created in college. Marriages, careers and families pulled us in many different directions but we managed to get together on a few rare occasions to catch up and talk about all the wonderful memories we could recall from our college years. These friends became a part of my family and, after almost three decades, I can still pick up the phone and talk to them like I just saw them last week. That is true friendship.

Very rarely do I miss a birthday and, though now it may only be a message through social media, their faces pop into my head when I realize what day it is. I have never forgotten April thirteenth, June third, October twenty-sixth and November seventeenth. Those dates and those people will always have a special place in my heart.

A twenty-minute phone call today reminded me of how much of an impact these people had on my life, and how much they still do. I may not know their children or how they spend their days, but I do know they were and always will be a big part of my life.

Jeff, Tara, Rob, Marc….2020 may be the perfect time for a long-overdue reunion!

 

 

 

Crash test dummies

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Time has a wonderful way of changing our perception of certain points in our lives.  I ran into a person yesterday and just the slight glimpse of that person reminded me of a decision that was basically made for me many years ago, but it was a decision I should have been wise enough to make myself.

I was a participant in a friendship I knew was toxic.  So many of the things this friend did should have been glaring beacons that the road we were headed down was hazardous.  We had navigated the small bumps along the way but, when the test car picked up speed towards the wall, I should have hit the brakes.  Instead, the car ricocheted along the track towards its inevitable end.  Thankfully, this third-party I saw yesterday unknowingly shoved me out of the car just before it hit the wall.  Although this gesture was not made with any concern for me, it nonetheless saved me from years of invisible pain.

Somewhere during our friendship, I had taken a back seat.  I had ignored my inner voices and let the reckless driving continue while I did nothing to stop it.  When I did finally speak up, the third-party had accused me of being unfair and told me my actions were very disappointing.  The only thing that was disappointing was the fact that I had not spoken up sooner. Narcissism aside, some of the things I bore witness to could be a plot in a soap opera.  The lies were just the beginning.  There were threats, blackmail, an exchange of money and flagrant manipulation.  It was incomprehensible.

The fact that my friend seemed unconcerned about the atrocious behavior and the third-party seemed to condone it through their ignorance and unwillingness to hear the truth was enough to make me appreciate the fact that they pushed me out of that relationship.  The betrayal had caused enough of a divide in our friendship that I was able to stand on one side of the chasm that divided our relationship and truly see what was on the other side.

Every so often, circumstances make me look backwards into that void.  Life has marched on for the three of us, some lives have been looked upon more favorably than others, but we all still bear our own scars of that crash test car.

 

 

 

Reducing stress = elevator music

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The term elevator music doesn’t get used much anymore which makes me think that I am older than I care to admit.  Too many people these days are plugged into too many devices, so the dulcet background tones in those confined spaces never have the chance to fall on ears that are close enough to hear them.

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For the last two days, I have been purposely subjecting myself to the calming sounds of that very music.  Stress is a very cunning adversary and I am using every trick in my arsenal to keep my worthy opponent at bay.  Between calming essential oils and the lulling sounds of piano and crashing ocean waves, I have been successfully keeping my blood pressure down while struggling to keep my eyelids up.

I am not a fan of taking medication, even if those tiny pills are relatively successful at keeping my numbers as healthy as they can be.  I have been following the DASH diet to ensure that my body has all of the proper nutrition to combat the high blood pressure and I have doubled the length of my daily walks, so my dog is absolutely thrilled.  Those things combined with my new home BP monitor seem to be giving me more encouraging numbers while giving me a much-needed sense of relief.

After learning all of the little tricks you are supposed to do before taking your reading, I am happy that my numbers are averaging in the comfortable to normal range, but tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I’m sure all of my “happy” numbers will be cast aside and the “white coat” numbers will re-emerge.  Perhaps I should take some ear-buds with me tomorrow, plug them into my phone and let the smooth elevator music soothe my senses before the cuff tightens on my arm!

A little glimpse into the past

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I think about my parents a lot.  I think of the life I had when I was lucky enough to have them in my life, but rarely do I think much about the lives they led before they were married and had children.

Lately, I have been helping our local library with a very interesting project that they are creating to help commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.  They are putting together a book with photographs and personal stories of how our senior residents came to live in our little town.  I have had the good fortune of interviewing a great number of these residents so I can write their stories.  Some of the people I have interviewed have spent their whole lives here and, as I have come to know, several of them remember my mother in her much younger days.

My mom’s side of the family have cottaged in our little village for generations.  She spent the best days of her childhood on the same shores of Lake Rosseau that I had the good fortune of growing up on at our family cottage.  During several of my interviews, I have been overjoyed with the words, “I remember your mom……” and the stories go on from there.

A project that began as a chance to tell the stories of our local residents has turned into a project that has allowed me to look into the life of my mother when she was a young girl and a teenager.  I was even told a story of my mother knitting one of our local residents a pair of blue socks with a yellow diamond and she even took the time to stitch an “M” in the diamond.  That story really hit home for me.  My mom was still knitting socks until she died.

What started as just a writing project has turned into a wonderful glimpse into my mother’s past and I am thankful, especially during the holidays, to know that little pieces of her live on in the memories of those around me.

 

 

History really is about his story

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Remembrance Day has always been a day when I truly do honor the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for our freedom.  Every year, I watch the ceremony in Ottawa and, every year, I am moved to tears watching the emotion on the faces of the people in the crowd.

My latest interview for the library project I am helping with was nothing short of eye-opening and made the emotions I feel on Remembrance Day seem insignificant.  Charlie was born in 1925.   After graduating high school, his career focus was on the Navy.  It wasn’t until he talked with his teacher that he decided to become a soldier in the army.  After going through basic training, being sent for further training in Nova Scotia and finally turning 19, Charlie found himself being sent to Europe in November of 1944.

Now, at the age of 92, he skillfully walked me through his journey from Canada to England and then to Italy.  He joined the 48th Highlanders and they moved on to Pisa, where he remembered the leaning tower.  From there they were transferred to Marseilles and then took a truck to Belgium.  They crossed the Rhine into Germany into an area that had already been cleared and his troop eventually ended up in Apeldoorn, Holland.

By mid-morning on April 17th, 1945, the Highlanders had secured the north-western section, the Hastings were on the grounds of Het Loo Palace and the Royal Canadian Regiment was in the town square. The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade took over the south-western perimeter of the town before noon.  Charlie was on the front lines when Holland was liberated.

It was remarkable watching him become so emotional when he told me how his unit was given the news on September 2nd, 1945 that the war was finally over.   It was 72 years later and, if I could describe the look in his eye, he was right back on that street when he first heard the news, standing in his uniform pants and a t-shirt.

History really is about his story and so many other stories.  And next year on Remembrance Day, I will remember Charlie and the countless others who sacrificed their freedom to defend others.

 

May I please go to the bathroom?

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When I was a child, doing dishes was the worst form of torture I could ever imagine.  We didn’t have a dishwasher so dishes were all done by hand and we all took turns washing and drying to make the arduous chore seem more fair.  But it was my least favorite thing to do.  I would have much preferred vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, dry-walling, rotating and balancing tires or removing my own spleen….anything but washing those bloody dishes.

I don’t recall if the genius idea came to me in a dream or if I had a sudden flash of brilliance after one particular dinner but, once the meal had been consumed, I asked if I could go to go to the bathroom.  No parent can effectually deny a child the right to heed the call of nature, so off I went.

Once that bathroom door had closed and I had engaged the lock, I became a teenage version of a forensic pathologist.  I carefully opened each cupboard and slowly examined and took stock of its contents.   In essence, I took so much time doing absolutely nothing that by the time I unlocked the door and went back to the kitchen, the dishes were done and nobody had seemed to notice the length of my absence.  The plan was brilliant….until eventually my brother caught on to my shrewd strategy.

After his realization of my great scheme, my trips to the bathroom after dinner were much less regular (pun intended).  The guy that I looked up to, that I thought would battle to the death for me, had thrown me under the bus.  I could only try to tune out the sound of his laughter as he closed the bathroom door before I even got close to that portal of escape that would separate me from the dishes.  Perhaps I should have changed my strategy and just gone to the bathroom right in my chair.  That surely would have resulted in a swift and heady dismissal from the dinner table and a one-way ticket straight to my room!

As fate would have it, I don’t hate doing the dishes anymore.  I learned a very valuable lesson about cleaning as I cook so the pile of dishes at the end of the process is not larger than the house itself.  It is a rare day you will find dirty dishes in a pile in or near my sink but rest assured, they don’t stay there for long.

I hope I’m that witty in my 80th year

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I have been volunteering my time to help our local library with a project they created.  In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, the library is creating a book dedicated to telling the stories of our senior residents and I have the good fortune of interviewing some of the seniors to help tell their stories.  A few of the seniors on the list have chosen to write their Muskoka memories with their own flair and one of our local professional photographers is also volunteering his time to take pictures to capture the faces of our history.

The age of my interviewees ranges from early 70’s to a remarkable 94 years old.  Each interview is notably different.  Some people don’t let me get a word in edgewise and others have to be coaxed along with many questions to tell the story of their journey.  But each one of these interviews is compelling.  I knew the project would be interesting but I never realized how much I would really enjoy hearing each Muskoka tale from beginning to end.

I have never been a history buff but hearing the tales of how our fellow residents came to spend their lives in Muskoka is fascinating and my interview last night was nothing short of amusing.  Our banter was infused, not only with historic bits of his past but, with moments of his life that were told from a whimsical perspective.

I have at least two dozen more interviews to go and I am looking forward to each and every one of them.  I can only hope that, if I am able to participate in something like this in my later years, I can bring as much fun to my life story as I have heard from the people I have had the pleasure of getting to know through this project.