How do you say goodbye to someone who is dying?

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As someone who loves words and has no trouble putting my thoughts into sentences, I am at a loss for what to say. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you will know I received the difficult news that a group of ladies who annually visited the lodge will visit no more. In three short months, one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s disease and the other was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and is being cared for in her home to make her as comfortable as possible in the last few weeks of her life.

How do I say goodbye? I know, in essence, what I want to say but the words won’t come, perhaps because saying goodbye sounds so final. She is not gone, but saying goodbye makes it feel like I have accepted her fate and I have not yet come to terms with her diagnosis and quick deterioration.

I want to tell her how unfair it is she didn’t have a chance to fight, because I know she would have fought like a warrior, but I know she already knows that. The words I send to her will be words of appreciation for the short time I was able to spend getting to know her. My words to her will be warm and heartfelt. But the time I spend writing them will be heart-wrenching and leave me feeling slightly eviscerated.

I didn’t know her for very long but her absence will be felt on May 28th when the room they shared at the lodge remains empty. I will miss you, Barb, and I hope we see each other again on the other side.

 

 

Just go where the road takes you

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Spontaneity does not run deep in my veins. I am a planner and I always have been. My brain is wired to know what to expect and is also programmed to be able to come up with a Plan B on very short notice. Up to now, it has served me well.

There are very few times in my life when I feel comfortable not having a plan in place. The days when I get into the car and just drive, with no destination in mind, are some of those times. There is freedom I feel being in a car that has no purposeful end in sight. If a dead-end sign is nowhere to be seen, any road is fair game. This blind journey is one of my greatest pleasures.

The arteries of paved streets could take me anywhere and I always take comfort in the fact that my car’s navigation system will be able to put me back on the road to home. But the most enjoyable part of this pilgrimage is seeing the sites I would never have planned to see if I let my brain plot the course. Landscapes paint themselves on a canvas as I drive and I am awed by places I never knew existed. The world becomes a vast collection of vignettes after I take the time to slow down and recognize the beauty that is in my peripheral vision.

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I need to allow the aspect of that freedom to take over more of my life. While structure is a welcome friend, improvisation could be that lonely kid on the playground who I tentatively get to know, but becomes the best friend I ever had.

The hitchhiker who didn’t ask for a ride

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If you follow my blog, you will know I have had some strange experiences with animals and reptiles at my home. Coming home to the eight-foot snake in my window after attending the funeral for my best friend was one of the craziest stories I have had the good fortune to tell, but yesterday’s tale is climbing the charts.

My co-worker came in to the office around noon to tell me there was a groundhog under my car. Four of us crowded around the vehicle and attempted to push the furry little guy out with a broom. It would be an understatement to say this creature was extremely uncooperative.

All the cajoling did not convince my new friend to extricate himself from under my car. Instead, he climbed up into my engine block and thought he could outwit us. We couldn’t reach him with the broom handle any more so I retrieved a pitcher of water from the kitchen and flushed him out. He lay on the ground under my car again and it was suggested I roll my car backwards, very slowly, so I didn’t pin him under the tire. The wily little bugger moved with the car so we were no further ahead. Just as I thought we were making some progress, he climbed up over my back wheel and somewhere into the frame of my car!

The afternoon progressed with no sign of the groundhog. We all went on the assumption he had crawled out when nobody was around and made his way back to his den. We assumed incorrectly. 

Fast forward to 7:30 pm. I had been home for a little over an hour and curled up on the couch reading a book. I got up to get something from the kitchen and looked out my living room window. There, munching away on the grass on my front lawn, was the groundhog. He saw me in the window and froze. I moved slightly to get a better look and he scurried back under my car. I put on my bug jacket and sat on my deck waiting to see if he would come back out. He gathered the courage to continue his expedition in uncharted territory and I took a few pictures to prove to myself I wasn’t losing my mind.

He made his way to the other side of the driveway and I can only hope he was looking for new real estate. The darkness eventually enveloped my car and the surrounding foliage. As I am writing this blog post, I can honestly say I have no idea if my hitchhiker has taken refuge from the rain in his new ride or if he found greener pastures to set up a new home. If you see an ad on Kijiji for a 2017 Honda Civic that is pet-friendly, the two events are unrelated.

 

The road less traveled

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There are two certainties in my life. One – I love driving. And two – I love road trips. Yesterday, one led to another and the afternoon was one of the most enjoyable I have had in a while.

I arrived at a friend’s house and we decided to survey the rising water from the epic floods of 2019. After we passed the gushing falls close to where he lives, we continued our journey down some unknown back roads and absorbed the beauty of the un-mapped communities that are so close to the new town he now calls home. I can say un-mapped because, as we were driving, the GPS froze as we continued along the back roads and we could only navigate by roads that did not have a “dead-end” sign as a means of direction.

The sun was shining, the countryside was stunning and the company was perfect. Thankfully, we both enjoy getting “lost” on country drives and seeing what is within a stone’s throw of what everyone refers to as civilization. Rows of wind-break trees were seen lined between farms and random goats and their kids enjoyed an afternoon snack by the side of the road. It was beautiful.

There is so much to be seen beyond the boundaries of our town limits. A life line beats outside of our main streets. The road less traveled is arguably one that is filled with interesting stories and views that cannot compare to anything else you will see.

After discussing our shared interest, our journey today solidified the desire to drive Route 66. It has been on my bucket list since 1999 and almost died with the passing of my dear friend who inspired the idea. But the dream is alive and well and taking on a new life. It is certainly not the road less traveled, but it will be the road I will eventually travel. The highlight for me will be Arizona. I have not smelled that air, nor have I seen those red rocks, but those things haunt my dreams and they are something I am destined to experience.

The planning begins, and I am excited to plot the course from the here and now to the historic journey across America. And, although several points of Route 66 really are less traveled, I am already starting the journey in my head and my heart. It may take a couple of years to see this thing through, but I am all in.  I am so ready to motor West.

 

 

The moving company that should be named Deliverance

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Being a writer allows me the freedom to embellish but, typically, my posts on this blog are steeped in truth and this post is no different.

A dear friend of mine moved on Tuesday. The process to get to the actual move itself was arduous and emotionally draining. When the day finally came to move, the moving company brigade was nothing like I expected. I arrived just as the team began to unload the first truck and everything seemed normal. But all of that quickly changed.

What seemed like a cohesive team of movers steadily morphed into what could only be described as a slapstick comedy show. What should have been a choreographed routine of piling boxes and other items to make the best use of space, became a haphazard placement of boxes in random places. Movers were entering the house and discarding their shoes as they went down the hallway, only to have the other movers trip over those same shoes with the next item to enter the house, narrowly missing the walls with the items they were carrying. To say it was unorganized would be an egregious understatement.

And then there was Peaches. She may only weigh 110 pounds soaking wet but she could lift just as much as her male coworkers. She began the process with strength and confidence but as the seconds turned into minutes, each item she lifted seemed to carry the burden of the weight of the truck itself. She became quickly dehydrated and began to spontaneously shed layers of clothing. The dramatic flair she conveyed with each piece that was discarded, and the voice that could have been created by a helium balloon, took everything from comical to moderately disturbing. It wasn’t until I looked out into the driveway and saw her leaning against my friend’s car, I knew we were in trouble. She was arched over the front bumper of his SUV in the pose of Alex from Flashdance moments before the bucket of water was dropped.

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I realized at that moment we had gone from quirky to surreal. To say she was as high as a kite is to say humans need oxygen to survive. As the move progressed, so did the stages of her buzz. When the last item was removed from the truck, the sigh of my friend’s relief could have drowned out the sound of the passing train.

With the exception of a few items that did not fare the move so well, we thought the process had ended after an equally strange conversation with the man in charge who did not want to leave the house. That was not the case. The moving truck was now stuck in the driveway spinning its wheels on the ice. Thankfully, the rest of the moving team had been waiting to exit en masse and pulled the moving truck out of the driveway. I could swear I heard the sound of duelling banjos as they drove down the road.

Adventures in Day Camp

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When my family moved out of the city, I was seven years old. We had previously spent every summer at our family cottage on Lake Rosseau and this cottage became our permanent residence until we purchased a four-season home in the same town. We still spent every summer at the cottage, a five-minute drive from our house, and life was great.

A few years after we had moved, leaving many of our family members behind, my parents thought it would be nice if I spent some of my summer holiday with my grandparents…..in the city! We lived in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Canada and they wanted me to spend part of the best time of the year in Muskoka in the concrete jungle! I was too young at the time to question the reason behind their decision and, with packed suitcase in hand, I climbed into the back seat of the station wagon to head back to my hometown.

The small silver lining of me spending some of my summer holiday in the city was the fact that I had been signed up to go to a day camp. When I was given the run-down of all the awesome activities I would be doing, I had pushed aside the memories of spending most of my summer days in the lake and was actually excited to go to camp.

On the first day of camp, my Nana made sure I had a good breakfast, helped me to organize my backpack and walked me to the bus stop for 8:00 am. Together we stood and waited and, as the bus came around the corner, I could feel my excitement building. We said goodbye and, from the bus, I waved to her as excitedly as Forrest Gump waved hello to Lieutenant Dan from his shrimp boat.

The day camp was a fifteen-minute drive from my grandparent’s apartment. Even at my young age and not wearing a watch, I knew the bus ride had exceeded fifteen minutes. The outlines of the city buildings had faded into the background and the landscape outside my bus window began to look much more like my scenic cottage-country home. When the bus finally arrived at its final destination about an hour later, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Unsure of what was happening, I was the last kid to exit the bus. The Camp Director was standing at the bottom of the steps with her clipboard in hand and when I gave her my name, she looked at the sheet in front of her and looked back at me. She lifted the page, looked at another sheet and looked back at me. My name was nowhere to be found in the list of children expected to be at this day camp. Unlike all the other kids who seemed enthusiastic about their surroundings, inwardly, I was starting to panic.

I was taken to the Camp Office and I fidgeted in my seat while the staff tried to find my grandparents contact information. Had the internet been invented in the 1970’s, this process would have been far more expedited than it was. I don’t recall all the details of the investigation, but I do know they eventually found my camp information in my backpack and discovered I had boarded the 8:00 am bus when I should have actually boarded the 9:00 am bus in the same location. I spent the day with a group of kids I would never see again and was actually thrilled to get back to the city.

The next day, I boarded the 9:00 am bus for my day camp and loved every minute of it. The added bonus at the camp I was meant to attend in the first place was the fact that we learned to sing all the songs from the musical Annie. Looking back at it now, I think the payback for my Nana putting me on the wrong bus was the fact that I sang Annie songs at the top of my lungs for the two-and-a-half hour drive from Oakville to Muskoka to return me to my parents. I’m sure there were many moments when my Grampa thought of throwing himself out of the moving vehicle onto the highway just for a moment of peace.

To this day, I can’t hear those songs without picturing myself with my arm hanging over the front seat and singing like I was Little Orphan Annie on Broadway.

 

Walking in a winter WTF?

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Dear Mother Nature and Old Man Winter,

While I can appreciate your exuberant spirit this time of year, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my lack of sharing your enthusiasm to the extent at which you seem so willing to share with the rest of us.

Although I too enjoy a white Christmas, your overwhelming desire to coat the world in an abundant layer of winter frosting has become exaggerated to the point of becoming meddlesome.  The charming Northern snow globe in which we reside has been clamped into a paint shaker and set to convulse at an alarming rate, leaving us armed with nothing but shovels and good intentions.

Similar to Anthony Michael Hall’s geeky character in The Breakfast Club, I have been assigned the task of writing a letter on behalf of the disgruntled local residents who share my sentiments.

I could write an essay telling you how much this ridiculous amount of snow is defining our lives, but it wouldn’t matter.  You would still see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Through this barrage of lake effect snow and churning vortexes of flakes, you found out that each one of us is a brain for surviving the storm, a princess for not wanting to drive in it, a criminal for stealing a few extra minutes hiding under the covers, an athlete for shoveling for three days straight and a basket case for forgetting all those other things and thinking it is still beautiful outside.

morning

Does this answer my question?  No.  But I certainly feel a little better having rested between the previous and the next battle with the effing shovel.

Sincerely yours,

The Winter Club

PS: I had to cancel my appointment to get my snow tires on because of you two!