start/finish

start/finish

Life is a cycle, right? Sometimes it’s like laundry – you find you are doing the same thing again and again.

There are also life events that start and finish over and over, yet the in between is different.

Take school. Over the past 17 years, I’ve had many beginnings and endings regarding schooling and educational settings.

In 2002, I went to college and took a one year intensive course to become an Educational Assistant/Teaching Assistant.

Start. Finish.

I started and finished working at two different schools for my practicums.

I began working in the school system and started and finished eleven school years. In that time, I started and finished at seven different schools (one school – my favourite – two different times, and one school for only a month).

That’s a lot of working relationships to start and finish. And, harder yet, bonds with students that start and finish, often abruptly due to higher needs trumping that relationship.

In 2014, I started to finish (?) my undergrad degree. I had started it 34 years prior, and thought it was time to wrap it all up. I started and finished three years of courses.

And I thought I was done with McMaster, but then I started and finished working on an archeology project. And somehow, I’ve started on it again.

Last January, I started something else. I started taking creative writing courses. I don’t know when I started writing, but I have never been consistent about it. Until now – and every day, I write.

I was pondering the reasons why I didn’t do this before, or do writing as my degree. I always said I wanted to finish my degree and I always said I wanted to write.

Why didn’t I do them in tandem?

The answer came to me and I felt it deep in my bones. Until I told ‘my story’, I wasn’t going to be able to write anything else. The #metoo movement gave me the impetus to write it down and I can now recognize that once that boulder (mountain?) was moved aside, the ability to write other things has been allowed to flow.

So, I am not sure that I am finished with that particular story – I did submit it to a non-fiction contest last winter and I also submitted it for an assignment. But it is no longer the thing that stands between me and other ideas.

My courses for the spring session are done and summer is here. I am perusing the fall calendar and writing down all the ideas that pour out of my head – bits and pieces of paper with points of view, characters, settings.

And I’m writing. Every chance I get.

the cottage

the cottage

the squishy moss on the rock

God’s carpet he asked

a sweet memory made

the sound of the rain

tapping its messages

on the steel roof

the fog rolling, cotton

over the still water

enveloping my board

the loon calls out

I am nearby

this is home

the lily pads return

blanketing the bay

white dots on green

family gathers again

long sticks, white sugar

orange fire flickers

dad

dad

I have a complicated set of emotions around the word ‘dad’.

I did not grow up with my own father in my life and when I did get to know him, the mysteries of who he was, the fantasy of who I thought he was – nothing got resolved in the few years we had together before he died in 2004.

I often said my dad was an uncomplicated man, that he had simple tastes and a simple life. I knew when I said those things that was untrue but it helped me to be okay with the fact that he never revealed much of himself to me.

After he tried to take his life, there was no denying that he was not only complicated but haunted. Depressed. A man without hope. He had lost his eyesight, his livelihood and his business.

It was not the first time he had lost his way. I hoped he could find a new purpose for living.

Cancer found him instead.

One of the last conversations I had with my dad was when he was heavily sedated, due to the cancer ravaging his body. He yelled at me to go to my room and do my homework.

This was a hallucination, not a memory. Later that day, one of my cousins came by and dad said “find me a goddamn scotch”. I had a glimpse of the angry, bitter man my mother left back in the 1960s.

Dad stopped drinking in his 30s, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, but the man he was then was resurfacing in his final days, under the wrong conditions.

A day or so later, dad had them dial back the sedation. We took him out of palliative care to sit in his chair at home, watching sports on his big screen tv, with family surrounding him as we ate Thanksgiving dinner.

We had to carry him out of the house to the car.

After we took him back to care, we said goodbye. Not so long. But goodbye.

He again went under heavy medication and he never came back.

My chance to know him is gone; what I hold on to is the fleeting feeling I had that we mattered to each other.

The best of the best

The best of the best

My hubby is a kid at heart. It’s not that he’s never grown up – he takes responsibility seriously.

But, he also takes his fun pretty seriously. Like cycling up mountains in Taiwan. Like he thinks it’s fun to get up at the crack of ridiculous and go out on his bike before work.

He loves to be on the water, in a kayak, a sailboat – jumping off the Tarzan swing at the cottage.

He likes to hike and sit in a park.

He likes to see the world from a hundred different angles.

And his greatest enjoyment comes from sharing it and passing on that love to his kids.

From day one, the question he asked, when he got home from work, was what did the kids get up to today? He wanted to be part of their adventures, he wanted to encourage them to love the outdoors, he wanted them to know that everything they did and everything they are mattered to him.

We grew adventurous children – and that is all him.

You are the best of the best, my love – and you learned so much of that from your own dad.

Love you to forever – thanks for being you.

aging – not for the faint of heart

aging – not for the faint of heart

In December, 1982, I met an inspiring lady for the first time. Tim’s aunt Evelyn, born in 1923, has travelled the world solo including Bermuda (21 times!), Europe, Scandanavia, Hawaii, and the Yukon; moved across the country to work in rural British Columbia in 1960, and worked at the United Church for 32 years. In all of those adventures and beyond, she took care of herself and others.

This week, she took a fall that has stalled her independent march and she now has to rely on others for things she has always done for herself. It’s a tough adjustment. She has faced it as she faces everything – with determination.

Everywhere I have been in her nursing home this week, people ask after her and they tell me stories of her many kindnesses and quirks. It’s been nice to get to know her from the perspective of those she lives with everyday.

When I saw the poem below, I thought of Evelyn, not only because it’s titled ‘Prayer’ and Evelyn is a very religious person, but because although overall her demeanor is quiet, she must have been considered ‘frisky’ and ‘risque’ at those times that she defied what women ‘were supposed to do’. I’ve never seen her dance, but I’m sure she’s cut a rug or two in her day.

Prayer, by Mary Oliver

May I never not be frisky,

May I never not be risqué.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,

and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,

still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,

to dance for the world.

Ghosts or ancestors

Ghosts or ancestors

This term, I am taking a course called Creative Writing through Reading and it has made me pay even closer attention to words. Yesterday, driving on my own for a few hours, I caught these words on the Broadway album for Bruce Springsteen.

We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our children’s lives. We either lay our mistakes, our burdens upon them, and we haunt them, or we assist them in laying those old burdens down, and we free them from the chain of our own flawed behavior. And as ancestors, we walk alongside of them, and we assist them in finding their own way, and some transcendence.

I am not going to pretend that, as much as I love his music, that Bruce is a profound philosopher. He is, though, able to articulate things for some people, give hope to others, and entertain millions.

The words quoted above make sense to me.

I believe that if we are self-aware, we can be better. We can be better parents, better citizens, better partners – simply better.

Not that I’ve been asked, but if I were to give advice to another parent, here it is: deal with your crap, whatever it is, deal with it.

Whatever you need to do to put down your burden, do it, so that you can walk alongside your children, and not be the barrier between them and the life they deserve.