Life is about a lot of things

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Today began as nothing special.  But  my nothing special day changed drastically when my car made the familiar turn onto my road after doing some shopping on my day off and I casually glanced along the macadam leading to my house.  What I saw on the road made me do a double-take and tears instantly appeared in the corners of my eyes.

A random woman, a stranger, was walking her two small dogs, one black and one white, down my road and for a split second I could have sworn it was my mother.  When she was still alive, my mother chose to park her car in my driveway and walk her two small dogs, one black and one white, on my road because it was a manageable, quiet street.  When I came home from work, I would see the silhouette of my mother and her two sidekicks as they simultaneously pulled her in a myriad number of directions.  It was a struggle for her but she walked those little dogs until she could walk them no more.

Before I realized it, I had come to a complete stop and simply watched this woman walk away from me.  I don’t know how many minutes passed before the fading contour of her shadow turned onto the side road and disappeared.  The clock of my nothing special day stopped and I couldn’t move.  I could barely breathe.

The hopeful part of me anticipated that the woman would turn around and come back.  The stubborn part of me was willing to sit in the middle of the road until she did because the child in me thought for a split second that my mother would be the one to round that corner on her way back.

Eventually I collected myself and pulled my car into my driveway.  I was already on the verge of an ugly cry so I stood in front of the Birch sapling I planted three years ago in her memory and nothing could stop that surge of emotion from escaping.  But the cry was much shorter than I anticipated.  As I looked at that Birch tree, now almost double the size it once was, I realized that life does go on.  We endure many hardships, we suffer through tough times, but beauty always has a way of sneaking back into our lives, even when we think the best things in our lives have been taken.

mom's tree

(this photo was taken in 2014, shortly after it was planted)

Life evolves.  Life is about birth, growth, love and death.  But life is also about remembering, cherishing, holding on to memories and carrying on.  Life is about chance encounters, reconnecting with friends, deja vu and finding new things to love.  And life is about knowing that you were once able love something so much that it physically hurts when you keep remembering that it is gone forever.

Life is about a lot of things but, good or bad, life still happens every day.  I am just thankful that I am able to wake up each morning, engage with the people I still have in my life and spend time remembering those who have been able to emerge from their eternal cocoon and spread their wings in a new reality.

Life is about a lot of things.  But most of all, life is about finding some happiness in the saddest part of your day.

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

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My aunt recently had a milestone birthday and  last night we had dinner at our family cottage to celebrate.  As much as I admit to having some absurd personality traits and a slightly off-center sense of humor, I realized my apple does not fall far from my family tree.

The conversation flowed freely as we all caught up on the relevant stories in each other’s lives.  Lots of laughter was shared and the dialogue eventually focused on funny stories from the past, as it always does.  Though the tales have been told many times and in many ways, they never get old.  These stories are the thread that binds us, the string that weaves through the fabric of our relationships.   Spending time with these people is home to me.   I am never more myself than I am with this crazy circus I call my family and I am happy to be one of its monkeys.

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After spending a couple of hours around the dining room table, the summer solstice sun began to make its descent into the horizon.  The waning orange glow reflected on the water and we made our way out onto the screened porch to watch the evening sky struggle to hold onto the remains of the day.  For a moment, no words were spoken.  We were enveloped in a comfortable silence as we watched the sun disappear.  A single voice broke the silence, more stories bubbled to the surface and the darkness of the evening was welcomed by our laughter.

As the saying goes, you don’t choose your family.  But if I were given a choice to go back and make that decision, I can’t imagine choosing any other people to go on this journey with me.  Thank you monkeys, you fill my life with love and laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

A Heavenly wish on Mother’s Day

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She birthed me and swaddled me,

she showered me with love.

Her arms always embraced me,

they fit me like a glove.

Her words were the only ones,

that could help to heal my scars.

Hers was the only light,

that would comfort me in the dark.

She woke me up to play with me,

she laughed at all my jokes.

She sang with me to old musicals,

although she couldn’t hold the notes.

Her faith in my abilities,

has stood the test of time.

She’s the portrait of what a mother should be,

and I’m glad that she is mine.

So, here’s to you, mom, on this special day,

my love for you has no end.

You’re my giver of life, my confidant,

and will always be my best friend.

And though my wishes are sent further today,

into a world I am unable to touch.

I know you hear my words of love

and they will forever mean just as much.

Some trips down Memory Lane

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I don’t profess to know much about history.  I spent more time trying to avert my eyes from my high school History teacher’s unpleasant gestures and I unfortunately did not absorb any of the assumed knowledge he had bestowed upon us.  Instead, I doodled, wrote poems and passed notes to my friends.  I narrowly escaped with a passing percentage from my tenth grade scholastic year because of the embarrassing grade I received from that History class but my outlook on the past has recently changed.

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I have been asked to help with a project for our local library.  They would like to create a book that details the photos and the memories of our senior residents, learn what brought them to Muskoka and what the area was like when they first arrived.  I knew I would enjoy the journey but I didn’t know how much I would love it until I did my first interview on Wednesday.

This area has been home to my family for many generations.  I have been fortunate to live here for most of my life and have many photos and stories of family members who walked these paths long before my grandparents were born.  It has been a part of  my soul for longer than I have been on this Earth and I now get to hear stories of how Muskoka has been the love of many other people’s lives.

My first interview was with a delightful 82-year-old woman who was born in Cork, Ireland.  She moved to England with her family after the war and bravely left the safety of her home to move to Canada with a friend when she was 23 years old.  As I listened to her detail the moments of her life, I became absorbed in her words as she described her passion for her early days as a cottager and subsequently as a summer resident.  Her words moved me.  I felt the same strong emotion she did as she described how she felt more than fifty years ago when she first came to the area.

Perhaps history is subjective.   The stories of our past may be told in different ways but they will always hold a special place in our heart.  I am looking forward to joining a few more of our long-time residents on their journey down memory lane.

The thing about friends

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There is an infinite number of moments that friends can share.   Some of those memories may be remembered differently, based on individual perspectives, but most times the memories can transport people back through time to partake in a journey of laughter and recollection.

Yesterday I got to spend a few hours with an old friend who I have had the good fortune of reconnecting with and we have become great friends over the last two years.  We may not see each other often but, when we do, we have no trouble picking up the conversation where it left off the last time we talked.

I have several very close friends with whom I share the same special relationship.  Time and distance may separate us but the closeness we share is evident when we finally occupy the same physical space or talk on the phone.  Conversation flows like no time has passed and the laughter shared is just as genuine every time.

Friends like that don’t come along often.  To be able to be apart for long periods of time and just pick up where you left off is a gift.  Some of these friends are in different provinces and various time zones but we don’t let that distance or time negate the closeness of our relationship.

I have lost several people in my life who were a big part of my heart and when you suffer that kind of loss you learn to truly value everyone who can help to fill that space.  You learn to be grateful for every single moment you have with the people you call friends.  And you learn that being apart only makes you appreciate those friends that much more when you are together.

Adults say the darndest things

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I had it made as a kid.  My parents were co-owners of a coin laundry, a bakery and then a Sub shop that also served ice cream.  There were a few arcade games in the sub shop and Defender and Asteroids ate many of the quarters that were once my allowance.  I was the living version of a kid in a candy store.

My dad also sold real estate during the same time period, so to say he had many irons in the fire is a gross understatement.  His office was located conveniently up the street from the sub shop so I would bounce back and forth from each business and soon became a runner for the agent’s ice cream requests.  I will never forget Ken Robinson.  He was in his seventies, had white hair like Santa Claus and a severe penchant for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  He and I became quick friends once I learned that he shared the same love for that minty, chocolate deliciousness as I did.

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Every day, Ken would hand me his money and I would gladly run down the street to retrieve his afternoon treat.  I ran in to the office one hot summer day to find Ken’s desk unattended.  I asked the secretary where he was and she could not look me in the eye.  Instead, I was told to talk to my father.  Ken had died of a heart attack the night before.  I was devastated.  Ken had been the first person I had known who had died.  After many days of tears and avoiding the office, I finally gathered the courage to go back.  Carl was there with his ill-fitting sport coat and bad seventies mustache.  I will never forget how nonchalant he was when he spoke to the 11-year old me and said, “You musta killed him with all that mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

I carried that burden with me to Ken’s funeral and for many years after.   We went to the service as a family and I can still remember the dress I wore.  We paid our respects to his family and approached his open casket.  I was terrified that Ken’s wax-like body was going to sit upright, point at me at scream, “you did this to me”.   I could barely breathe.

Now, as an adult, I still have difficulties at open-casket funerals.  The logical side of my brain assures me that a deceased body cannot move, but the young girl and the writer in me still have that nagging doubt.

I can only hope that Carl eventually outgrew his horrendous mustache (and Herb Tarlek wardrobe) and learned to think before he spewed any further erroneous judgement on young, impressionable minds.  Either that or he has had ten children and countless grandchildren of his own and Karma has finally paid him a visit!

A decade plus a year

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My mom and I sat at the end of his hospital bed.  My brother had just left to take care of his young family and my mom and I remained.  There was one dim light in the corner that cast shadows on his bed and our two chairs.  The rest of the room was bathed in darkness.  We sat for several hours as my dad continued to have small seizures.  When we couldn’t bear to watch his suffering anymore, I had the night nurse call our doctor at home shortly after midnight to increase his morphine.  The seizures stopped and both my mom and I silently counted the seconds between his breaths.  The last time was 14 seconds and then he just stopped breathing.  It was 2:00 am on March 9th, 2006.

It is a strange experience watching the life slip out of a body that once cradled you as a child and was always there with open arms.  We said our goodbyes and I drove my mom home, neither of us crying because we wanted to be strong for the other.

It took a few months for me to be able to picture my dad as he was in life and not how he was in death.  The body that we said goodbye to in the hospital was not my dad.  My dad was the life of the party.  He was charming and funny.  The men loved to hang out with him and the women loved to dance with him.

Now when I think of my dad, the picture I have in my head is of his infectious smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. I think of him tanning in the nude at the end of our dock and using folding chairs for privacy as the boats went by our cottage.  I think of our family spending time tanning on the ice in February when the sun’s warmth grew stronger.   And I think of all the time my dad spent to try to make our lives happy.   I miss you, dad.