The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I have written many heartfelt posts telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But the more I read those posts again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun. My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbors.  They ran naked from the neighbors’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other. My mother summed it up completely in the caption of this photo of the four of us, “Happiness is Port Carling”.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects alcohol had on their relationship I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had with each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things I should remember.

 

Soup’s on

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Summer is a crazy time for me. The lodge is busy and I have the knack of having a multitude of side projects in the works while surviving my busy summer hospitality job. Some days feel like a smooth paddle on a calm lake and others feel like a roller coaster ride through Hell. By mid-summer, I am physically and emotionally drained and I need something to make me feel centered again.

Writing is a good place to start the process of realigning myself. Writing is cathartic. Typing words onto a screen makes the rest of the world fade slowly into the background until there is nothing left but me, my laptop and my imagination. The minutes and hours I spend writing make me happy and bring me to a level of calm that is somewhat hypnotic. There is only one other thing that can take me beyond hypnotic to being completely detached from reality and that is cooking.

It is 38 degrees today with humidity and my gut told me that it was the perfect time to make a summer corn and zucchini chowder. When my parents were still alive, the times we spent in the kitchen together were some of the happiest moments of our lives. My mom was the queen of baking sweet treats for everyone and my dad loved to cook. My brother and I inherited his passion for creating tasty dishes and homemade soups. My dad was never one to use a recipe, unless he was making Martha Stewart’s Shortbread, and his food was almost always delicious…..I will save the story of his scrambled eggs made with eggnog for another day.

To me, there is no greater satisfaction than creating something from a bunch of random ingredients. Individually those ingredients can taste good, but when you combine them in a way they compliment the flavor of the others, that is sheer bliss. The bacon is fried, the onions are rendering in the bacon fat and the rest of the ingredients are ready to be thrown in. The result will be a tasty summer chowder that would make my dad proud.

At the end of the cooking process, I will sit down to a comforting bowl of soup for dinner and feel thoroughly decompressed. My mind will be back in its happy place and I will relish the memories of my mother calling us for each and every dinner, regardless of the menu, by saying, “soup’s on”.

 

 

 

 

 

It was never about the muffins

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am addicted to Pinterest.  This glorious website has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opening a few doors to my past. Yesterday was a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our old house on Foreman Road.  I was ten or eleven years old and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

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I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of their bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven and I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I can teleport myself back to that kitchen, mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries and making sure I was careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  When I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins, it was about making memories. And those moments  that are now frozen in time will help me hold my parents close forever.

Just things

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There are a million wooden spoons.  I’m sure I could go into any store, from a Walmart to a high-end Kitchen store, to replace the one I have.  But the one I have has a special function none of those other spoons would have. My spoon has the ability to transport me back in time.

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This wooden spoon is the spoon my mother used to stir her brownie batter and, when I was being good, was the spoon I was allowed to lick the leftover batter from until it was clean.  When I became old enough to take over in the kitchen, I was entrusted with the spoon and left on my own to make the brownies without my mom’s help. Even though I was far beyond those childhood years, I still licked the spoon.

This wooden spoon has had an epic journey and has lived in many kitchens but it now finds its place in my home.  It was one of the only kitchen items I chose to keep from my mom’s vast collection of kitchen gadgets after she passed away. It shares its space with the shiny stainless steel utensils, in just as shiny a container, on the counter in my kitchen.  It looks like a misfit toy lost in the pristine surroundings of Santa’s workshop but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are times when I am afraid to use the spoon for fear that it will break and I will lose the last tangible part of the life I shared with my mother.  It feels like the last piece of her I can physically hold on to, have her feel close to me and be six years old again in our kitchen.

People will tell you “things are just things”, but when those things can keep you connected to people you have lost, those things become so much more than “just things”.

 

 

 

These kids today….

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Many of the kids in today’s world scare me a little.  It’s not that I find them threatening, by any means.  I just worry for their future since so many of them just don’t seem to get it.  They have been too sheltered.  They have been too coddled.  And they have had so many things done for them that some just cannot do anything for themselves.

But there are a few who shine a small ray of hope that all is not lost for their future.  They are self-starters.  They learn by example.  And they are able, at a young age, to think outside of the box.  This blog post is about a kid who completely altered the box.

During an all-inclusive vacation with his family, “Tony” (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) took it upon himself to bend the rules of the resort.  Upon check in, adults are given orange wrist bands and children are given green wrist bands.  This is to distinguish whether or not guests of the resort are allowed to partake in the adult beverage portion of the all-inclusive vacation.  Tony was absent-mindedly playing with his band and realized that one side was green and one side was white.  A light bulb clicked on in Tony’s brain and he ran to find his golf bag.  He reached into his collection of colored Sharpies and proceeded to color the white band orange.

A few hours later, Tony’s parents got a call from the Front Desk telling them that Tony was with security and they were asked to meet them at the reception desk.  When they arrived, Tony showed the signs of having had a few cocktails before being busted.  Ironically, Tony still had a cocktail in his possession and continued to drink it while his parents talked to the security guard.  Laughter ensued and pictures were taken of Tony with the security guard.  Apparently, what happens in Mexico doesn’t necessarily stay in Mexico!

Today, “Tony” turns eighteen.  There is one full calendar year before he is of legal age to drink.  I know there will be more moments until his nineteenth birthday that he will bend a few rules when it comes to imbibing in some alcoholic beverages but, I have to say, I have no doubt that his quick, analytical brain will take him a long way in this life.   Happy birthday, buddy!!

 

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.

 

 

 

A dozen years…..

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I sat at the end of his bed in the hospital, watching him struggle for his last breath and finally giving in to what seemed to be inevitable.  It was twelve years ago….over a decade….more than one tenth of a century….and yet it feels like I was just in that hospital room yesterday.

Since I posted the poem on the anniversary of her passing, two days ago, that I wrote for my mom, I will do the same for my dad without using more words than necessary to honor his memory.   I wrote this poem and read it to a crowd after a birch tree was planted and a plaque was revealed on a rock in his memory at our local park.  I miss you dad. xx

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As Seasons Change

We give these gifts of nature in your name,

to forever keep you near.

To take root in a place you kept close to your heart,

and represent the things you hold dear.

Your rock will remind us to always be strong,

and to remain solid in the lives we love.

And follow in the examples you gave us in life,

as you look upon us from above.

Your tree will remind us to accept the changes,

of seasons that come and go.

As the tree becomes bare at times in our life,

new leaves will blossom in time to show

that nature is beautiful and life has a season,

but all things do come to an end.

And with each change and leaf that is lost,

family and friendships help to mend.

Branches sway in the winds of time,

and your whispers will be heard in the breeze.

Your memory lives on in the nature around us,

in the air, the rocks and the trees.