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Family matters...it truly does! Archives

August 11, 2004

It's all in the memories...

I've learned more from my children and my grandchildren that I've ever taught them...sometimes it is a simple thing like a few hours spent with my 8 year old grandson, playing duets on my grandmother's old upright Heintzman piano. I know what he learned... he learned to play a few pieces, and can rattle them off in jig time, when asked. The cool thing is what I learned from this experience.

I learned that I'm a good teacher! Had no idea...we sat down to play for something to do, while he and I were sharing a snack and a cup of tea... the next thing we knew, we were playing duets! Me, and this 8 year old darling red-headed little boy...him plunking away on the upper end of the keyboard, while I chorded and chorded....and chorded some more, on the lower end.

"Ok, ok, ok, I got it, now, Grandma..." ...plink, ka-plink, ka-plink-plink...and we started again, running through the sequence, over and over again, while he kept insisting he's "got" it...
"See? I told you I got it!", he chortled, when he played it through from first to last, without stopping, without mistakes, for the first time.

I learned that he thinks I'm smart...he told me so! "Boy, Grandma, you can play anything!" He's easy to impress, this wunderkind of mine...small, slight shoulders hunched intently over the keyboard, a deep frown creasing his perfect face as he bit down on his bottom lip with ferocity...as if it made his playing and his remembering better...

I learned that I'm more patient this time around....and there's a smattering of guilt that I had less patience with my children, until I see it for what it is and realize that the only reason I have more patience with grandchildren, is because I don't have anything else to do with them, except have patience! Someone else, my daughter/their mother, cooks for them, cleans up after them, nurses them through pukey nights, broken bones and homework traumas...and I have nothing to do for them but have patience...how lovely! I can spend all the time, or none of the time, with them...it's at my leisure. No wonder they think I'm a great Grandma...I'm never cranky, ill-tempered, short of patience...

I learned the beauty of a simple thing like sitting at a piano with a small child, playing an old tune that my grandmother taught me, while sitting at the very same piano that he and I were using that day. Tears stung my eyes, ran down my cheeks and I wiped them away before he could see...I remembered my grandmother, sitting patiently beside me, while I struggled to learn the same sequence of melody and the same rhythm of tune...

I learned at that moment how much my grandmother loved me...as my feelings for this lovely, slight boy rolled over me...and I knew, without question, that a grandmother's love for a grandchild is one of the purest and most holy things on earth. In feeling that for my grandson, as we sat at my grandmother's piano, I also felt my grandmother's love washing over me...

I learned that no matter how much things change, the more they remain the same...we are a different grandchild and grandmother, but somehow we are one and the same as sat at this same piano a long time ago...her and me...me and him...plink, ka-plink, ka-plink-plink....

August 12, 2004

Love...and other lovely things...

My mom is 86 years old, and a woman of great independence and strength as long as I have known her, which is pretty much all my life, if you can imagine...
She has been alone for the last 24 years...a few interesting men passing through her life, but none that she wanted to stay, except one.

It's very interesting to have the "guy" conversation with my mom...usually mothers and daughters talk about the daughter's guys. This time we were talking about her guy.

"He's coming for tea today, around 3," she confided, early one morning.

"Cool," I replied, smiling inside at the excitement in her voice..."Where did you meet him?"

"Well, don't laugh...he owns the grocery store here, so I meet him every time I buy groceries," she chuckled.

My mom, going for tea with the grocer...very nice. At least she'll eat well!

Now, I've never met the guy, but anyone who can make my mom sound as chipper as a sunny day in spring can't be all bad, right? We finished our conversation, I reminded her to truly enjoy herself...and we said our "goodbye, I love you's."

Later, in the week, she had tea again with the grocer...by this time, I knew he was Fred, no last name. And so it went, for the rest of the month, and then, silence...nothing about the grocer, Fred, pots of tea...nothing at all.

Do you ask your mom about it? What's the protocol for this 'mom's got a boyfriend' thing, anyway? I have no clue...this is new territory for me. Not a bad thing, just a new thing...

A few days later, she called, we chatted about the date squares she'd just made, my sweater that she was finishing for me...and I asked her about Fred, very carefully.

There was a small silence, then she said, softly, "He just married someone else from our church..." My heart broke for her...I could hear the tears in her heart, the hurt in her soul. I've felt it myself, but not at the age of 78, when love coming along seems a wistful fantasy, a lingering hope with no substance. I knew she had been longing for this relationship to comfort her, in the cold gray and often lonely silence since my stepfather passed away. Some inane platitude slipped past my lips, we struggled through the awkward moments...and went on with our conversation, never to speak of it again, with the delightful exception of one day a year later.

"So, how's everyone there?" my mom asked that day. Our weekly conversation had begun. "Y'know, we are all well, so that's a blessing," I told her. Then from out of nowhere, she asked me, "Do you remember Fred? The guy who owned the grocery store?"

"Yeah, I sort of do..." I replied, waiting for what was to come...

"He and his new wife were in a really bad car accident today, right up the highway from my house...he's ok, but his poor wife was killed instantly," she told me.

"Oh, my God! That's awful! That must be very upsetting for you," I replied.

"Upset? UPSET? For crikey's sake, no way! I'm relieved, that's what I am" she said, to my total surprise. "Why, just think, if I'd married him last year, I'd be dead now!"

August 18, 2004

The boy's 12....

How did he get to be 12, I want to know...the last time I checked, he was just turning 6...
My artistic, creative, hilarious grandson, the middle one, is 12...it must be true, 'cause his mom, my daughter, invited me for his birthday dinner tonight. She's a truthful kinda child, so she'd not tell me he turns 12 if he is...ummm....actually 7? Or 8?

How did that happen? He was just born a few years ago, I remember his first steps, a little while ago...his first sleepover at my house, last year, when he was...what, 5?
His first sleepover...that was an experience! He showed up, with his wee bag packed, with his favorite movie and his 'jammies and teddy...we had the best time, talking, walking, watching movies and cartoons til waaaay later than his mom would like, but she was not here to see, so it was ok...

The problem started at bedtime. Bedtime inevitably comes to all first-time sleepover grandchildren... sooner than they'd like, not a minute too soon for the grandmother. His had the nerve to show up around 9:30 that evening, and he was none too pleased, I can tell you!

"OK, my darling boy, it's bedtime...get your jammies on, I'll make you a snack and it's off to beddie-byes with you..." I sang, hopefully. After all the aforementioned arrangements were completed, he was tucked in, hugged soundly and kissed a million kisses...and promptly hopped out of bed to follow me down the stairs.

" Nope, sweetie, it's BED-time, and that means you go to bed, and I don't!" Tucking him back in one more time...firmly...with less kindness in my "Goodnight, now, it's time to sleep!", I closed the door...firmly... walked down stairs, only to hear him opening the door, and tipsy-toesing down behind me.

"OK, buckwheat, that's it! You go to bed, and you stay there, do you hear me, my boy-o?" I sounded grim, I thought...proof positive came in an instant, for he teared up, huge, round splashes of anguish dropping onto his jammies....

Y'know the Grandma guilt? It happens every time I do anything that causes pain or unhappiness to reside, no matter for how short a time, in their tiny little loving hearts...and this time I had it in spades. I know this boy, he's good at reading me and seeing where the Grandma guilt can be applied most effectively...

I turned around, scooped him up, and hugged him close....only to hear him wail words that ripped my heart out of its moorings and smashed it on the hallway floor...

"B-b-b-but, Grandma....I was only coming down because I forgot to tell you I love you!"

~~~~~~~~~~~

Wasn't it only a few weeks ago when he was 8 that he showed up at my door, tormented by some evil thing done to him on the playground...I wrapped him up in my arms, sat on the stairway with him, rocked him while he cried, then listened to his sorrowful story, full of the injustice of the principal and the meanness of the 'other kids.'

There is no way on this planet to take the hurt away from a small boy's heart and soul, when he's wounded to the quick like this. All the cookies and chocolate milk, all the promises of sleepovers with me and all the hugs in the world do not mend the heart of one small, sensitive little man who I love more than I have words to tell.

I called the principal, I talked with him and sorted it out...but in the end, my wee boy's heart was bleeding and I could not fix that for him. Wish I had a magic wand...I'd wave it and "Bippety boppety boo!"..it would take the hurt away, and make it like this had never happened.

I know, I know, I know, dammit.....all these things happen to make one stronger, to teach one lessons, to develop one's character. But, truly, in the overarching scheme of things, what does a little 8 year old guy need with things like character and strength earned at such a cost? He doesn't even know what those things are or what those words mean.

So...he's 12 today...he won't remember these traumas, when we sing "Happy Birthday", gift him with his favorite things and share an A & W dinner with him. Good thing too, that he won't...I'll remember it for him and that way, maybe God willing, keep him from some small amount of pain. How else do you love the boy, except by protecting him when you can?

September 4, 2004

Turn the page...turn the page...

Funny thing about books...I can remember the first book anyone ever read to me..."The Three Little Kittens". It was a huge...and I mean huge...and very thin book...with 3 little kittens in cute clothes, scampering throughout the pages. Now, in the real world, you'd never get a kitten to hold still long enough to put clothing on the little thing, but I was 5 and my aunt was going to read me a story, so I'd believe anything if someone was going to sit down, hug me to their side, and read to me. The day was not going well, and I was alone a lot that summer, while the grown-ups were busy with the farm work. My aunt sat down, invited me to sit beside her, wrapped an arm around my shoulder, hugged me tight to her side, and began to read..."Three little kittens, they've lost their mittens..."...and bit by bit, the tears subsided, the loneliness subsided and I was enveloped in the story and her love.

Always, as long as I can remember, books and reading have been as essential to me as breathing. First, "The Three Little Kittens", then "Anne of Green Gables" and also "Peyton Place", smuggled into my bedroom wrapped in a sweater, so no one saw me bringing "that trash" into the house. The library at school was my second home, and the books I took home with me at the end of the day were as vital to my well-being as the meals I ate while I read the books.

My grandmother would call me for dinner, then call me again, and finally come into my room and call my name once more, to break the reverie of my escape into my book. "Cherry Ames, Student Nurse", "The Secret of Red Gate Farm" with Nancy Drew...and not to be outdone, "The Secret of Wildcat Swamp" with Frank and Joe, those hunky, handsome Hardy Boys. My favorite teacher in the world read to us for 30 minutes...exactly...after lunch, and before class started. She was a first year teacher, and became our heroine, when she read the Hardy Boys, despite the dire predictions of our parents who feared we'd end up brain-dead from reading "that trash."

I spent my hard-earned babysitting money on "True Romance", "True Story" and "Tiger Beat" from the cafe downtown, and shared them with my girlfriends, whose mothers wouldn't allow "that trash" into their homes. My grandparents didn't know that I was bootlegging magazines for my friends....never mind reading them during slow times when I worked at that cafe after school. I worked my way up to a magazine a night, and by the end of that summer, I could read the month's stock before they were sold out.

"Maggie Now" and "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" saw me through my first few months as a mom, when my daughter was sleeping and before a meal had to be made. "Timothy Todd Slept On" and "Winnie the Pooh" replaced any form of adult books that I may have wanted to read, as my daughter and son grew from babies to school age...and a teacher of theirs commented to me on their love of books and their innate ability to read far beyond their years. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too...complete with distinct voices for each of the characters in the books. I always maintained that Pooh was written on 2 levels...one for kids and another level for the adults reading the books!

Taking my children to the big downtown library was always a treat for all three of us...and stopping at the bakery on the way home for a vanilla-custard cream-filled Long John or raspberry jam-stuffed Bismark put the proverbial icing on the cake! The weight of our bookbags, filled to the brim, never seemed a problem, when we had one hand carrying our bookbags and the other cradling a sweet-filled Dutch Mill Bakery confection. Earle Stanley Gardner wrote a ka-zillion Perry Mason books and I read them all that year!

A few years later, after finding myself a single mom, with two almost-adolescent people in the house, I discovered the soothing words of Merle Shain and Hugh Prather, telling me that all would be well, at some point in my life...Merle's slim volumes were read to tatters by the time my children left home, and I replaced them at a book sale, after learning of her death, which came much too early, stilling a voice of rare wisdom and compassion, after only 4 books. Today, her words have as much punch and poignancy for me as they did when the pain of divorce was still raw and rasping on my soul.

Having kissed goodbye to my 40's, I'm finding my choice in books has changed. From Merle Shain, John Bradshaw and all of the other teachers and counsellors who made my life infinitely better with their words, to my current passion for "Fionavar Tapestry", "Sevenwaters Trilogy","Mists of Avalon" and anything by Robert Ludlum and Dan Brown, I'm finding I read for pure pleasure today. The days of reading for solace and knowledge have passed, for I am my own solace now, and I have my own particular knowledge that has graced my life, having made it through to the other side of my pain.

The other day, I was at a garage sale, and happened to stop at a tattered cardboard box full of books. "How much will you take?" I asked the woman who was selling the items. "Two bucks," she said, and swiped the coins from my hand. Unpacking the box later that day, I was stopped in my tracks, for there in the very bottom of the box was a clean, crisp copy of "The Three Little Kittens", identical to the one I'd had as a child. Picking it up, I sat back on the floor, and smiled through my tears as I remembered my aunt's kindness to a lonely and often frightened little girl..."Three little kittens, they've lost their mittens..."

October 29, 2004

Pumpkin Daze...

This week I sponsored one of my office's annual fundraisers for our Food Bank...Pumpkin Daze. Yeah, I know the spelling's kinda cutesy, but it sticks. The manager of a local grocery store orders huge whacks of pumpkins for the weekend before Hallowe'en...big garantuan cardboard crates, almost as tall as me! I spend from noon til 4:00 P.M. taking donations for the Food Bank in exchange for a free pumpkin.

Usually, I have to fill the child seat area of a grocery cart with food, as seed, to make people remember what I'm doing there...this year was different, somehow. After setting up the RE/MAX banner, wheeling over a couple of grocery carts and stashing my lunch and a thermal mug of tea in a small crevice between the fruit stands, I went to the condiments section to fill a couple of grocery bags with food...and before I could do that, there were people at the display, wanting to make donations!

This year was different...a single mom and her 2 little girls came with bags of groceries, telling me that they had made special effort to bring their donation in...the mom was using this as a teaching tool for her children. She told me they have been waiting for my Pumpkin Daze, and looking forward to it...counting sleeps til today!

This year was different...a little 8 year old boy came over to me. Fishing some crumpled bills out of his pocket, he shyly handed me $5, and went to choose his pumpkin. I know that the little guy made this money shovelling sidewalks with his older brother...I know,'cause they are my grandsons.

This year was different...a kind-hearted senior on very limited income, donated very generously...maybe more than she could afford. She wouldn't take a pumpkin, asking me instead to give it to the next family who came through.

This year was different...there was a lot more spontaneous giving, more people talking with me about the value of food banks, and more people coming in with their donations all ready, without me having to ask them if they'd like to give.

Maybe it's the realization that this world is not as safe a place as we thought, I'm not sure. Whatever it was, I'm grateful...and the volunteers at the food bank were ecstatic.

November 2, 2004

The little guy won!

Hey! Guess what? Remember when I did the Pumpkin Daze pumpkin giveaway for our Food Bank fundraiser? If you don't remember it, that's because you didn't read my previous post, maybe...

So,anyway, the manager at our favorite grocery store brought in a huge, honkin' pumpkin, then set it down right in the middle of the pumpkin display, so all the kids could take their turn guessing how much it weighed.

Guess who won? No, really....guess? My youngest grandson! He's all of 8 years old, and he wins this killer pumpkin...absolutely awesome! He gets his picture on the front page of the paper, then makes the entertainment section as well 'cause he enters his much smaller and much easier-to-carry pumpkin in our local Fire Department Annual Pumpkin Carving Competition...and wins first prize in his category...his 15 minutes of fame and he's only 8? That kid is really going places, let me tell you!

Oh, yeah...you probably want to know what his prize was.
The 152 pound killer pumpkin!

November 26, 2004

Happy Birthday, Dear Brenda....

My mom has always remembered my birthday...for as long as I can remember, she's been right on the money when it comes to celebrating the day I was born. For sure, sometimes it must have been a bittersweet remembering, because she was a single mom long before it became acceptable and popular, as it is today. In those years, having a baby with no dad in the picture was an extremely painful thing for her to live with, and she did it with grace and courage.

So, remembering my birthday every year was her way of letting me know that she loved me more than she knew how to say. I know that now, although there were times that I wasn't so cognisant of her love. For my 13th birthday, she laboured long into the night to make me a black taffeta jumper with a huge circular skirt and a pink silk blouse to wear under it. In my hormonally challenged state, I refused to try it on, and she was hurt deeply by my behaviour. That's a do-over for me...one of those days when I wish I could wave a magic wand, and have that day to do over again, hopefully with a lot more kindness and love, the second time around.

Over the years, my mom never forgot to send a beautiful card, a gift or 3 and when she was flush, a cheque from her limited resources, to help me with mine. Sometimes there were surprise visits, especially after I moved 3000 miles away. She'd drive for 2 days to get here, stay for a few days and then drive home again.

This past winter, my mom fell at home. Later, she would try to remember what had happened, and all she could remember was sitting on the edge of the bed, at her bedtime, and slipping off the bed, landing hard on the floor. She spent the night there, covered only with a thin quilt...and at noon the next day, called 911. After she was rushed to hospital, settled in a bed with sides and checked over thoroughly by her doctor, she tried to remember what had happened to her and couldn't. Her brother carefully asked her why she didn't call 911 when it happened. She was quiet for a long while and then said softly, "I didn't want to be a bother to anyone."

I noticed when her sentences started with "When I get better..." and "When I finally can go home...", and little by little changed to "When they find me a room here at the lodge..." It was as if her spirit finally accepted the inevitable.

One cold, snowy day a month after she was admitted, her brother and his wife and son were returning to their home, next door to the hospital where my mom was staying. As they pulled up to the driveway, they noticed a lone figure walking away from them, far down the side road out of town. My aunt said, "Oh, my goodness, we'd better go and see who that is! They might need help." The joys of small town living...always someone around to help when needed.

As they approached the person, hunched over against the wind and cold, they could see it was my mom. Dressed in her thin housecoat and a pair of worn hand-knitted slippers, she was walking doggedly into the wind and blowing snow. Refusing to get in the car with them, my mom waited with my nephew in the cold, while my aunt and uncle went to the hospital to get help. The nurses were shocked to learn that she was out in the cold...the monitoring device that she wore constantly had been checked that morning and all was well. Later they'd find it, lying on her bed, still pinned to her nightgown that she had removed and hidden under her pillow...

After coaxing her into the car and back to the hospital, she was wrapped in warm blankets and tucked in with some hot water bottles. My uncle sat with her for a long time, holding her hand, silent and watchful of his big sister. Finally, he leaned over and asked her where she was going, in that awful weather. She lay, with her eyes closed for a very long time, then finally looked at him and whispered, "Home. I was just going home."

Her mental brilliance and her physical well-being deteriorated slowly over the next few months. From an extremely intelligent quick-witted woman, with the stamina and strength of a dozen people, she gradually became a tired, frail, often teary lady who was unable to stand alone. She depended more and more on the nurses to lift her from her bed, to her chair, to her walker and back to bed.

I called her a few days before her 86th birthday, and in our conversation I asked her what she most wanted for her special day. She was quiet on the phone for a long while, and then hesitatingly said, "Long life...good health." My heart broke then, for I could give her neither. "Flowers, you always send me flowers...that would be nice," she said, taking us out of the silence. I placed a standing order for fresh flowers to be delivered to her room on her birthday and every Tuesday after that. The florist in my home town asked me how long I thought that might be...I couldn't answer, for the lump in my throat choking back the words, “I don't know."

This past month was my birthday again...my son sent me an absolutely smashing bouquet of fresh flowers...my daughter invited me to dinner, made me a gluten-free white cake (with jam in the middle, my favourite)...my friends called, sent cards, bought me presents and cooked me dinner. In the middle of this heap of loving gifts was a small silent space, where my mom's card and gift had always been...this year, she would not remember my birthday, she would not be able to choose a nice, mushy card, she had forgotten to write me a letter and wasn't able to call me on the phone. She just wasn't able...and the silence was wrenching...

A couple of weeks after my birthday, an envelope came in my mail addressed to me, in my sister's handwriting. Opening it I pulled out a nice, mushy birthday card wishing me the best birthday ever. I opened it slowly, and inside read lines of shakily traced letters where my mom had tried to write "Happy Birthday, Brenda" several times, never fully finishing the greeting. At the bottom of the verse were two words written carefully and with obvious effort...her full name...as if by writing it she was reminding herself, and us, of who she was…that she was still here.

The card sits on my grandmother's piano in my dining room, a reminder of the love this amazing woman has for me, a reminder of all that she means to me...and maybe, just maybe, a glimmer of her remembering me...

December 27, 2004

Christmas in Ontario...

This Christmas has been different that all the others...I'm in Guelph, Ontario, spending time with my son, in his new home! This is the guy who was free-floating, moving around the country wherever his career took him...and here he is, a happy homeowner! It's rather nice to see...

It's a very old 2 storey house, with an attached sunroom and a solarium kitchen. This house has "wow" written all over it! The gentleman who built it was a coal merchant, and this was the home he built for his mother...he called it a "stone cottage." Cottage it's not, but maybe back then, it was small by the standards of the day. Exquisite gingerbread trim on the front of the home, great stone walls holding up the gabled roof...and inside, original oak hardwood floors, 14 foot ceilings and acres of potential. I'd love to have $500,000 to spend and a few days with the Designer Guys!

I've been given the sun-room at the front of the home for my bedroom...wall-to-wall windows and a tiny closet with a hasp to hold the closet door shut. I sleep like a baby here...funny, because it is on a busy street, but there isn't a sound inside my room. There is an oleander blooming on one side of the room, and hot-water-heated radiators on 2 walls to keep me toasty warm.

Just outside of my bedroom door is a wonderful bathroom...high ceilings, an original claw-foot tub, and an exquisite emerald green globed wall light from some other time. The toilet takes forever to flush, and it was 4 days before I figured out the peculiarities of this piece of plumbing! First, press the square chrome knob on the side of the tank in firmly...firmly, I said! No wimpy little pushes here...lean all your weight on the little sucker and PRESS! Then, hold it until you hear the sucking sound from the bottom of the tank... only then can you take the pressure off the chrome knob, knowing that all will be well.

The dining room has bookshelves right to the ceiling...that's a book lover's delight! Bookcases 14 feet high...wall-to-wall no less, and they are full of every conceivable genre. I could be locked inside this room for days and not mind at all!

There is a gorgeous bay window in the living room...not your ordinary small bay window, but one 6 feet deep, with 5 angles to the glass, not the ordinary 3 panes that usually make up a bay window. This has been the perfect place for the Christmas tree this year.

What can I say...I love this house. There are more nooks and crannies than I've seen in a long time...hidey-holes for lots of treasures. And, let it be said here, there are lots of treasures in these little hidey-holes. Seems like he's collected a lifetime of treasures and now there's finally room to showcase them.

Two of the most interesting cats I've ever known share this home with him. Phoenix, a great orange male, is ever-so-slightly mad, or else he's hung over from all the catnip in his new Christmas toys. He spends the day sleeping, then after dinner, when the lights are on throughout the house, he runs frantically, chasing the shadows of his ears on the hardwood floor ahead of him as he races. He hasn't yet figured out that as fast as he can run, his ear-shadows are always just a short step ahead of him...

Then there's the delectable Rosebud...a small, delicate little lady...she's a year old, and still has the undeniable urges to sproing tippy-toed through the house...lurching slightly sideways when we rattle a spoon against a tea cup. She mews so quietly that it's almost non-existant. Working at the computer is a challenge with Rosie present, 'cause she needs...no, is compelled... to creep onto my lap, and then ever so carefully raise one dainty paw and press whatever key is available. This makes for some interesting typos!

So, the house is home to my son, now...he loves it and it fits him. I'm delighted to see him at home in his own place, after his years of wandering from apartment to apartment. He's worried about the leaking boiler that provides the hot water heat for the house, he takes care to recycle his fruit and veggie leftovers, as well as the paper and cardboard that is present after grocery shopping...it suits him somehow, and that warms my heart. In all ways, he's more peaceful and settled within than I've ever seen him. It's funny, I no longer worry about him and his happiness...this home is filled with good people, good energy...and a couple of good cats for an extra measure of comfort!

January 13, 2005

Rock on!

My 17 year old grandson has invited me to his band's first public concert! Holy cats! Am I ever amazed...

See, the thing is, he's really into cool...no, I mean it...REALLY into cool, way cool...and having a grandmother around may not be the coolest thing that this guy does. Still, he invited me a couple of weeks ago. I stopped in at Radio Shack to check on an order, and he works at the video rental place next door. He happened to see me and walked over, really cool-like and said, "Hey...Gram...whatcha doin' on the 15th?" I have no idea what I'm doin' tomorrow, never mind the 15th, so I asked him why.
"'Cause me and my band? Havin a concert? In the gym? Wanna come?"
No, really, that's how he talks...in short, monotone questions...too funny! Too cool...

So, am I goin' to his concert? You damn betcha I am! I wouldn't miss this for the world...this is my first grandson, my best little boy in the whole wide world grandson...

Best little boy in the whole wide world...that started a lot of years ago when he was really little, maybe 3 or 4. One Christmas, he was deathly sick to his stomach, in bed and sadder than you can imagine, because he was sooooo sick and sooooo throwing up...I slipped quietly into his bedroom during the evening, to check on him and to comfort him if he needed comforting.

He was huddled under his quilt, the one with the big fat teddy bear on it that I had made for him. I bent down, very softly brushed his sweat-wet hair from his forehead and he opened his eyes, as they filled with tears that ran down his perfect cheeks and into his ears. "I'm s-s-s-sorry, Mugga...I-I-I didn't mean to s-s-s-spoil your Christmas by being sick..." he stammered, between sobs.

"You didn't spoil anything, dear child, " I reassured him.

"Yes, I d-d-did, I s-s-s-spoiled everything for everybody", he insisted, wiping the flood of fresh tears from his face. "I got sick and that spoiled everything..."

I sat on the edge of his bed, placed my hand along the curve of his cheek and looked into his eyes, reassuring him that nothing was spoiled at all, that we were all very worried about him and only wanted him to be feeling better.

"B-b-b-ut, I'm the worst little boy in the whole wide world for being sick all over everything," he insisted, his fresh tears and fresh sobs playing havoc with my heart.

"Now, you must listen to your Mugga, I have something important to tell you and you need to listen really carefully, so you don't miss it," I said. "Here's the thing ~ for me, you are the best little boy in the whole wide world. For me, there are no other little boys as good as you, do you know that?"

He stopped, lay quietly for awhile and then opened his eyes, looked straight into my heart and asked, "Really? You mean that for sure, Mugga?"

"For sure, Tris, for absolutely sure," I replied.

He lay very still for a few minutes, absorbing this new idea I'd given him, and then he smiled a little tiny smile and said, "Yeah, I'm YOUR best little boy in the whole wide world, aren't I?"

"You bet you are, and there aren't any others better than you, so don't you ever forget that, ok?" I said, looking at him and smiling...

A large sigh escaped his lips, he gave me another smile, turned over onto his side, closed his eyes, and hugging my hand, he rested. It wasn't a minute later that he was breathing the deep, slow even breaths of exhaustion. My little boy, my very best little boy in the whole wide world was sound asleep.

He didn't wake til morning...did that have anything to do with my telling him that he was my best little boy? Maybe, or maybe he was simply so tired from being sick that he fell asleep at that moment. I don't really know, but I choose to believe that my comforting him and reassuring him may have had a tiny little bit to do with it.

So, will I go to his rock concert on Saturday evening? You damn betcha I'm goin'...it's not every grandmother that gets invited to a rock concert by her best little boy in the whole wide world!

Rock on, Tris, rock on...

January 15, 2005

A Star is Born...no, really....it's true!

My rock star grandson! This was an amazing evening! The concert was awesome...we were in the school gym with the guys on stage, all their equipment being set up by their roadies and each band member tuning, tightening, re-tuning, pacing and generally trying to shake off their pre-concert jitters.

They'd set up a few bleacher seats, and a couple of wooden benches that normally support the backsides of the various volleyball and basketball teams that play here.
Tonight, those benches were supporting very different backsides...namely family members ranging from a grandmother...me!...to a very proud stepfather and an uber-proud mother, four siblings ranging from 8 t0 20, another grandmother, and a very proud father and step-mother, a step-sister and a favorite uncle, and also a cross-section of high school classmates.

Aside from the usual glitches with the sound system, this concert was a hit, at least it was for me. My grandson was a little concerned before the concert that this might not be my kind of music. He was right, it wasn't, but you know what? I simply stuffed my ears with some kleenex, wrapped my grandson's girlfriend's sweatjacket around my legs to keep warm and totally enjoyed watching Tris pick a mean bass guitar. With his lemon yellow cap, West Coast Choppers sweatshirt, black leather studded wristbands and silver bling-bling hanging from a mega-chain around his neck, he was every inch a ssssssssuperstar!

They played for the better part of an hour, everything from heavy metal to love songs...then instrumental pieces that showcased the lead guitarist's hot licks, the rhythm player's heavy hands, the lead singer/drummer's raw rasp of a voice and the bass player's perfect thud-thud that drove the rhythm of each song. I'd guess that around 60 people showed up, mostly classmates and friends, but there were about 15 adults as well. Not a bad turnout for a debut concert!

A brave group of guests made their way to the dance floor, clicked on their lighters and waved the flames to the music, just like a real concert. There were several students on the floor just gettin' down, big time! Applause after every song, bolstered by ear-splitting whistles and heartfelt cheering told me that these four young men had the audience right there with them.

After the last song, the drummer tossed autographed drumsticks to the crowd and then the band posed for photos...mugging for the cameras, striking very cool poses and looking a little embarrassed with the attention that was flowing their way. I had a moment with Tris to let him know that I am so incredibly proud of him and it was an honour for me to be personally invited to his first concert. Of course, because he's the king of cool, there were no Grandma-hugs, no Grandma kisses all over his head and face like when he was four and five...just a quiet moment to let him know that I think he is, and always has been, simply the best. My best little boy in the whole wide world has grown up into the best rock star in the whole wide world...

As usual, I forgot my camera, but his mom, my daughter, will email me some and I promise you that they will appear at the bottom of this as soon as I can post them...watch for them coming soon to a blog site near you!

January 25, 2005

Concerto pianissimo...with heart.

Last week, I was invited to my oldest grandson's band's first rock concert ever! Live at the school gym...totally blew me away.

A couple of days ago, my youngest grandson called to invite me to his mid-term piano recital...and of course, I was delighted to say yes. Now, remember, this is the little guy who gave so generously from his own pocket money at my Pumpkin Daze fundraiser for our local Food Bank... I'd jump thru' hoops for him, and for the rest of these babies of mine, anytime they want.

The recital was at a church by the hospital and when I arrived, the pews were almost full. My family had saved a seat for me, their Mugga, so I slid in beside the pianist of the family. I hugged him close, telling him I was very very proud of him and that I thought him extremely brave to perform for us. He kinda shrugged it off, smiled a little corner-of-the-mouth smile and looked me straight in the eye...and said nothing!

Nothing? This young man with nothing to say? Must be really nervous if he's that quiet...I noticed he'd gelled his hair, mussed it into the latest "I just rolled out of bed" fashion, was dressed in a brand-new freshly pressed blue dress shirt and a brand new pair of neatly pressed dress pants...looked like he'd just stepped out of a pint-size version of GQ. He proudly pointed to his name in the program I held, and told me just as proudly what pieces he was playing.

"By heart, Grandma," he said, "I can play them by heart."

" Now, that's something, then...good for you!" I said.

The recital began...the students, their family and friends were hushed as the first performer came to the stage. With her posture perfect, arms aligned and fingers arched properly, the little one played a short sweet little piece and then another... the audience clapped loudly, and the tiny pianist looked startled! She stood up, faced us and bowed quite regally, before racing off the stage and into her family's arms!

Three more students graced the stage and then it was my grandson's turn. He straightened his shirt, gave us a look and then strode toward the piano on the stage. His songs rolled from the keys, they were recognizable and more than that, they were played extremely well! All this and
8 years old, to boot! How cool is THAT?

Finishing his second piece, he stood up from the piano bench, turned to face the audience and then bowed from the waist. When he sat down beside me and had received all of our praise and congratulations, I gave him another hug...his little heart was beating furiously and he was tense as a violin string.

"I'm so very proud of you!" I whispered to him. Another tiny smile tickled the corner of his mouth, and he looked me straight in the eye again and whispered, "Thanks, Grandma."

Thanks, Grandma...2 tiny words...with such heart behind them. He's a brave lad, 'cause I've played at my share of piano recitals, even sang at a few and it is totally and completely terrifying.

The rest of the concert was lovely...very small children, 3 and 4 years old, older students from the upper grades and an adult student playing at her very first recital, all with something to contribute. Even the smallest child played a simple melody, no more than a few bars, but a recognizable melody, none-the-less. My grandson gave me a running commentary of each student and what they were playing, which ones were playing their music by heart...he knew everything there was to know about the recital! His comments were extremely kind and generous towards the other students. This kid is only 8 years old...what heart he has at this tender age...it is amazing to me, simply amazing.

After the last student had finished her two pieces, the teacher thanked us all for coming and invited us downstairs for refreshments. I followed the crowd downstairs to the church basement, and saw all of the students, from 3 years old and up, in line at the food table, choosing their veggies and dip, chips, a sweet or two and a drink, ever so carefully and respectfully. It amazed me to watch this sometimes rowdy crew of kids, dressed in good clothing and hair brushed just so, conducting themselves with such decorum.

Had it something to do with the pieces of classical music that had just been played? Perhaps, something to do with the influence of their teacher? Or, maybe, it is simply that they are in a different place in their heads and hearts when they're in music class...a place where good manners and good humor are ever-present, good-will and good hearts are more evident. No matter, they evening was a pleasure to be a part of, one I'd not miss for the world.

The concert was perfect for me, the food and visiting afterwards was, as always, most enjoyable. But, the thing that stays with me still is my grandson's kind heart. From sharing his lawn-mowing earnings at Thanksgiving to sharing the spotlight with his fellow students tonight, he showed a lovely tenderness and kindness that is beautiful to see. He's only 8, yet he's wiser by far than a lot of 45 year olds I know. I can still hear his soft little whisper when he very proudly informed me..."By heart, Grandma...I can play them by heart!"

Yes, you can, my darling child...oh, yes, you most certainly can...

February 24, 2005

Most, best, forever, more...

This grandchild of mine, my first-born grandchild, is quite a little lady...the first time I saw her, she was only hours old, lying in a hospital cradle. Tiny, perfectly formed, with no hint of anything but a peaceful countenance. She slept, with her hands folded up in a cluster of tiny fingers, and tucked tightly underneath her chin. Looking at her thus, there was no way in this Universe any of us could have predicted the strength and fury that was to develop inside that miniature human being...

My first recollection of the strength of her personality comes from a weekend when she was in my care, while her parents took a much-needed break away. The hours were passing peacefully enough, we spent the time with her sleeping, eating and listening while I read stories to her, one after the other, as she curled up on my lap. Then, about half-way through the last day that she was to be with me, slowly but surely, she began to test me. This almost-year-old darling little girl walked over to my stereo, pushed her tiny hands on the front of the glass doors on the stand, rocking the whole darn thing....and looking over her shoulder to see if I was watching.
"No, darling," I cautioned, quietly and softly..."Musn't touch, Sweetie..."
She rocked it again.
" No, no...you cannot do that, my child..."
She rocked it harder, smiling at me over her shoulder.
" NO, I said NO!"
She stopped, thought a minute and then rocked it really hard....rattling the bevelled glass doors alarmingly.
I stood up, slapped my hands together and said, " Now I mean it, you must STOP!" ...and took a few steps toward her...
She ran as fast as her 1 year old legs could manage, and promptly tripped over the edge of the carpet, falling face-first into the corner of my coffee table.

Shrieking, she lay on the floor, her face turning first scarlet, then white and then blue...

I ran to her, scooped her up in my arms, sickened when I saw her little lip cut, bleeding and swollen...we cuddled on the sofa for what seemed like an eternity, and then as her sobs subsided, she pushed herself upright on my lap, turned her tear-streaked face towards me, looked me straight in the eye....and smiled widely through her tears! Hiccupping her way through to the other side of her sobs, she slid off my lap, onto the floor and toddled toward the cupboard, where her afternoon bottle of milk waited. Looking over her shoulder at me, and smiling again, she reached up for the bottle.

We sat a long time after that, with her in my arms, a blanket wrapped around both of us, her bottle firmly planted in her wee mouth, and we looked each other in the eye for a very long time as she drank her milk, her eyes never leaving mine...at that moment we established a bond that has only grown stronger over the last 20 years. It was the one and only time that she tested me, seeing where the boundaries lay...pushing me and pushing me, until my line in the sand was drawn, and she was content.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We laugh today about the old, green Chrysler that I drove for several years..a huge, wallowing "4 door sedan" that the Chrysler company would advertise as a "family car." Before the Kyoto accord became a household word, cars like this were gas-guzzling monsters that were as safe as safe could be...far too big to ever allow the occupants to be hurt in an accident!
She was 4 or 5, the summer she learned about the dangers of the faux-leather seats in this car. I picked her up for a sleep-over one hot, hot summer day, and as she slid her tiny frame into the huge front seat, her shorts hiked up, and the cracks in the vinyl upholstery on the seat snared a bit of her skin and closed around it.

"OW!" she yelled, glaring at me from under beetled brows, her cobalt-blue eyes blazing at me.

"What happened, Nellie?" I asked, puzzled by her cry of pain.

"Grandma...you need to get a new car!"

"Why do you say that?" I asked...

"BECAUSE," she stated loudly and insistently, "This car has pinchy seats !"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The strength of her personality...one of the things I love best about this granddaughter of mine...she has the courage of 10 people, the stamina of 20 and the resilience of 100. This past few years, she was one of the high-flying stylists at a very toney salon in a luscious resort in the mountains, a few hours from home. Everything about the place, from the stunning mountain grandeur that spread before her as she looked out of her living room window to the lush, posh atmosphere of the lodge's main lobby and shopping area was a treasure in her eyes. When you're 18 and holding the world as you know it in your hands, it's pretty heady stuff. From an evening sharing a drink with some of the stars of the Edmonton Oilers NHL team to working her fingers to the bone organizing and helping to host an AIDS benefit in a local lounge, living and working in this mountain retreat was so seductive for her, that it took a few years for her to realize that it was not all glitz and glamour.

The edge began to wear off when her sensitive soul was bruised by the treatment she received on a regular basis from some of the guests at the lodge. Bored, waiting for their spouses to get out of the long boring business meetings that went on in the dark wood-panelled boardrooms on the lower level of the lodge, some of these people were unflinching in their treatment and criticism of the stylists at the salon. This child of mine waded through the worst of it, smilingly and calmly treating the rude and sometimes cruel clients with the "experience of the lodge" philosophy that she had been taught from the first day she began working there.

Gradually, after repeatedly being smacked with this rude and unfamiliar treatment, cracks appeared in the total delight that she took being in this place, doing this job. Then finally, after a "straw that broke the camel's back" day at the salon, she handed in her resignation, packed her bags and moved herself, her furniture and her beloved pet rabbit back home.

Today, she is working at an oil service company in town, making double the money she was making in the mountains. She's going back to school this fall, to university to study wildlife conservation, and her bank account has started to swell, finally. It's not a toney job in a swell resort facility, but it's good honest work that she gets paid good, honest dollars for, and the people she sees every day at work treat her with respect and kindness. Her strength and grit gets her through this stuff...it gives her the incentive to do something better for herself. It is this that I admire and love most of all about her...a sturdy, strong soul coupled with a determined, courageous spirit.

She'll go far, this child...not easily and not without pain. The beauty of it is that she still remains the epitome of generosity and thoughtfulness, in spite of the last few rough years.

When she was very little, we had a ritual that developed over a few months of sleep-overs at my home. I'd tuck her into her bed at night, hug her tight and say,
"Goodnight my darling child...I love you..."
"I love you more..." she'd reply, looking deep into my soul, with those cobalt eyes.
"No, I love you most," I'd tell her, smiling...
"I love you best, then, Grandma."
"Well, then I'll love you forever, Nellie," I'd say back to her, doing my best to keep from laughing at her stick-to-itiveness.
" Fine then, I'll love you forever more, Grandma!"

Most, best, forever, more...
Most, best, forever, more...
That's become our way of saying I love you to each other...she writes it on her cards and gifts to me, I 've had it engraved inside a ring that I had made for her graduation, it is on a set of ceramic tile magnets that I found for her locker door and we say it to each other at the end of nearly every phone conversation.
There's nothing better for me...most, best, forever, more....from this tiny, delicate, resilient young woman, my firstborn grandchild.

July 20, 2005

Today Is My Mother's Birthday...

Today is my mother’s 87th birthday.
She is living in the seniors’ lodge back home.

Last year, on her 86th birthday, her doctor sent her to the big city hospital for a colonoscopy.
Sweet.
Happy Birthday.

This year, I am determined to make it a better day for her…special-like. The kind of day, that, once it is over, she will look back and say to herself, “Well, do I feel loved, or what!”

I order a lemon cake for her…that’s her favourite cake in the world. Audrey at the bakery back home makes them and they are dynamite! She makes a scratch angel food cake, cuts it in half, spreads her home-made lemon curd between the layers and then ices it with whipped cream and a dollop of lemon curd folded in, for flavour. Audrey is delighted to make this for me, and she’ll have it ready for pick-up around 3:00 P.M. today.

I call the florist’s shop back home and ask the woman who owns it to please make and deliver a huge bouquet of long-lasting flowers…mini-sunflowers, snapdragons, asters and carnations to start with…and then next week, deliver a bouquet of roses, just to keep the feeling going for her. The woman at the florist’s shop is so accommodating…she delivers a bouquet to my mother every week for me, and my mother loves the attention that it gets her from the staff and residents at the lodge. They call her a spoiled baby, and she loves it, she tells me!

My family are putting together a little family party for her today. My mother will be wheeled across the lawn, from the seniors' lodge in the hospital to the assisted living lodge where her brother and his wife live. They are hosting this party. Potato salad, cabbage coleslaw, cold cuts, homemade pickles, loads of homemade buns and fresh farm butter…and devilled eggs, for sure. All the family living close-by will come and help celebrate this birthday. She is special to them because she is the oldest of her siblings and the matriarch of the family, since my grandmother passed.

After they eat the potato salad, the cold cuts and the cake, they’ll talk for awhile, then everyone will start yawning, yawning, yawning… and it will be time for my mother to be wheeled back across the lawn to the hospital and the attached lodge where she lives now.

I call her this morning to wish her a happy birthday. The nurse takes the phone to her room, where she is being washed and dressed to get ready for her special day. After the nurse and the care worker leave the room, she says to me over the phone, “This is really hard for me…”

“What is?” I ask.

“Having people do everything for me, from washing my face to taking me to the toilet…” she says quietly.

I am silent, I have no answer, I do not understand, it is not happening to me. I think for a moment, for the best and kindest answer, and then I say simply, ”I bet it is…and no one else understands that, do they?”

“Nope,” she says. “They sure don’t”

She is quiet for a long moment and then changes the subject and away we go…for over half an hour, I have my mother back with me, like always. Today is a clear and lucid day for her, and she knows who I am, where I live, what I am doing with my life and that we love each other very much. That hasn’t happened for a long time, and it is a golden gift from Heaven for me. Unlike today, most days she tells me incredible stories about her last trip to Japan and the new car she has just bought for herself and the guy in the meat market who flirts with her….and his jealous mother who is 93 and won’t let him out of her sight!

This last part is true, but the guy is not in the meat market any more, he is a family friend who comes to visit her every so often, and he really is followed everywhere by his ever-watchful 93 year old mother! The story goes that when he and his mother first moved to the little town where my mother lived, all the single women in town teased him mercilessly. They said that seeing’s he was single and all, they’d have to find him a wife. He replied, “Well, you better get rid of the one I have at home first!”

Today is a miracle of a day…we have the same kind of fast-flowing conversation we used to have every Sunday afternoon, when she was living in her own home. We talk about my children, my grandchildren, her children, and our extended family and she never once gets anyone’s name wrong!

She forgets for a moment what she wants to tell me and I say, “Hey, that’s ok, I do that, too! …and, so does my daughter…and so does my granddaughter!"

She pauses, then says more to herself than to me, “Is that so? Well, then, I don’t need to feel badly about it, do I?”

I ask her if Susan, her hairdresser, is doing a good job of fixing her hair these days. She laughs, then shares with me what Susan does for her. “She comes and gets me and takes me to her salon. Then, we talk up a storm! She always gives me a hug and a kiss before she takes me back. Yes, she’s really a doll, that Susan!” I have made arrangements with Susan to do my mother’s hair every week and also to cut and perm it, whenever she thinks it necessary. Her appearance has always been very important to my mother and I suspect that has not changed at all.

“By the way, thank you for all the clothes and flowers that you have sent to me,” she says, out of the blue...surprising me totally. I did not know that she was aware that it was me who sends these things. “The others in here think I’m pretty spoiled,” she tells me.

“Well, it’s just because I love you, you know,” I tell her.
She laughs softly and says, “Well, I love you too, you know!”

Then, as abruptly as it began, she stops talking, speaks to someone in the background and tells me that she has to go. The nurse wants the phone back.

I want to scream, “NO! Let me talk to her all day today and all day tomorrow, as well! I haven’t talked with her like this for over a year…don’t stop us now, please? Please?”

But they do.

We say our goodbyes and our I love you’s and she is gone…..I am holding an empty line...I set the phone down softly, and start singing...

"Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, I love you,
Happy birthday to you."

I want my mother back…just for a day.
No, that's not true.
I want her back for the rest of my life.

April 18, 2006

Another day, another dollar...another day with my daughter!

Holy ka-moley!
It was such a busy day at my office today!
From the first second through the door to the last minute before I locked up and left, I was running full tilt to keep ahead of the pack. I'm definitely not complaining here, because being busy in my office is a great thing. Still, it felt like there was no way in God's green earth I could keep my head above water today.

Thank goodness for the presence of my amazing daughter! She is a very integral part of my life and of my business as well, and without her, there'd be no organization, no order and certainly no way I'd know where everything is. From the day she was born, my child has been an organizer, a liner-upper, an orderly-loving soul who truly turns everything she touches into something infinitely better.

As a small baby, my daughter organized her feeding schedule immediately after coming home from the hospital. When most babies were being nudged awake every 4 hours to be fed, whether they were hungry or not, my precious child was making her own hours and we were the richer for it! Once she taught me to recognize the fact that she was starving from the lack of mother's milk while breastfeeding, I went straight out and bought a box of Gerber's Rice Pablum and 2 quarts of homogenized whole milk from the grocery store, then made a thin gruel with the pablum and a little milk. I fed her only a small amount, for fear that I was doing something terribly wrong to this small, delicate bundle of wisdom. All I knew for certain was that she was h-u-n-g-r-y...waking every 1 - 2 hours, and nearly swallowing her little pink fist in an attempt to stave off her hunger pangs.

After the first feeding of rice pablum and store-bought milk, followed up with a very meagre breast-feeding, I watched her fall asleep while I barely breathed, for fear that the strange food would upset her little tummy. Thirty minutes went by, then an hour, and she slept peacefully, deeply.
I was amazed!
Something as simple as this could calm her and settle her down so quickly?
If she hadn't made such a fuss, I'd not have known. She very surely organized her feeding schedule, and once we understood that key point and acted upon it, we had a much quieter and happier home!

A toddler of 4, with a baby brother 1 year old, my daughter would announce to me that it was "our story time, Mummy!" Without being asked, she'd carry downstairs a stack of story books almost as tall as her...she'd place them carefully on the coffee table in the front room, tidy the stack of books, organize the reading participants..."Mummy, you sit THERE! Mikey, you sit over THERE!"

Her little brother and I would busy ourselves getting settled comfortably on the blue brocade sectional sofa, and only when we were still would she then sidle up to the sofa, scooch herself in beside me, and hand me the first book to be read. NOT the first book that I chose or that her brother chose...no, she always determined the reading order, "Read THIS one first, please!"

Pages must be turned in a certain order and a certain way, words must not be skipped over. Voices were mandatory for each character and every single picture was to be absorbed, time after time. Her love of detail and her ability to organize her Universe was a wonderful thing to watch...on occasion, when I was feeling very brave indeed, I'd turn TWO pages at once, only to have her screech the story to a halt, turn her deep baby blues towards me with a scalding and scathing look, as she reminded me, "MUMMY! NO skipping pages, remember? That's the rule!"
"Right, right...I DO remember now. I'm sorry, I forgot!"

She sat beside me near the edge of the sofa seat, hands folded primly in her lap, sitting straight upright, watching each and every page, soaking up every single syllable of each and every story. Her brother, on the other hand, would snug in underneath my left arm, stick his dependable comfort-thumb in his little mouth and promptly fall sound asleep. Once in a while she'd cast a disparaging look at him, as if to say, "WHAT are you DOING? SLEEPING? While Mummy's READING? How CAN you?"

When birthday parties came around, my beautiful little girl would organize everything from the guest list to the kind of cake and how it was decorated. One year, I stopped at the Dutch Mill Bakery on Rosser Avenue in Brandon, Manitoba, where we lived, and I told her that she could choose which colour of the icing roses in the showcase she'd like on her birthday cake. It was like throwing her mind into a mixmaster and turning the machine on high...there were several colours of icing roses, in several neatly kept rows on the display tray...which to choose? Which to choose?

Back and forth she paced, her tiny fingers clasped in front of her, wringing each other as she pondered her decision. I could almost hear the gears turning in her mind..."If I choose the pink roses, then that means I can't have the blue or purple ones, and it also means I will not get the green roses, or the yellow ones or..."

Solving the dilemma for her, the owner of the bakery asked her if she would like some roses in each colour. Her face brightened like sunshine coming through clouds after a prairie thunderstorm! "Some of each? Some of EACH?" she exclaimed, her face lighting up with her characteristic wide smile. The owner carefully tonged 2 rows of roses in every colour into a white wax paper lined bakery box, tied it up with royal blue ribbon and handed it to my child. She walked towards the door, with a huge smile on her precious face and said, as we walked out into the street, "She gave me all of the colours, Mummy! ALL of the colours!" The owner of the bakery became a hero for my daughter that day. (We used the pink roses to decorate her birthday cake, while she and her brother ate the green, yellow, blue and purple roses, as I iced the cake!)

Scenes like these repeat themselves over and over throughout the pages of my mind's memory book as she grew up...orderliness, tidyness, everything in its proper place. These were, and are, the magical passwords to my child's lifestyle. Her love of the printed word and the stories that could be spun with those same words like Rumplestiltskin's gold are the love of her life. Well, maybe a wee bit more after her husband and her children. Also, maybe a little bit after her baby brother. As well, and hopefully, a little tiny bit MORE after her father and her mother...me. From the way her pencils are kept in her desk drawer to the enormous stash of scrapbooking supplies organized in her work area, my child makes it her life's work to create order out of chaos, neatness out of messiness and best of all, she love-infuses everything she touches.

As the queen of our office, my child makes life so much simpler for me and for everyone who comes through our front door. A simple thing like a rental list, showing all of the accommodations in town, has become a much-sought-after tool for new employees looking for an apartment or 4-plex to call home. With a deft spin at the computer, she superimposed a map of the town on the reverse side of the rental list. She then added in the names of each rental and a very nicely-designed arrow pointing to the exact spot where the rental sits.

On her days off, I fill in for her, albeit somewhat poorly. Sitting at her desk while using her computer, there are signs everywhere of her penchant for order and tidiness. The roll of masking tape doesn't have a crookedly-ripped edge where the last piece of tape was torn from...rather it has a very neatly-cut edge that is folded over upon itself, making a perfectly doubled-over lip to make it easier to find the beginning of the tape.

A sharply-cut and uniformly-sized stack of scratch paper sits inside of her cubby, waiting for the incessant stream of phone calls to be recorded and handed to me as I arrive each morning. There is also a stack of that paper sitting on my desk for my use, as well. Just to put a finer point on this story, she recycles all of the scratch paper from the odds and sods of leftover feature sheets, fax cover sheets and other throwaways that accumulate daily in the recycle bin.

She is a multitude of complexities, this daughter of mine...nothing is poorly or carelessly done in her world. Each thing she puts her hand to is done with a great deal of love, a large helping of generosity and held together with a good lashing of thoughtfulness.

Attention to detail should be her middle name. Rather, it is simply what comes naturally to her and it makes her world a grandly-designed place for those of us blessed enough to be welcomed inside.

May 7, 2006

For Laura

A weekend all to myself...just sitting here looking at the calendar and I see that next Sunday will be Mother's Day. Funny thing, Mother's Day...for some of us it is a really cool day with cards, flowers, handmade macaroni necklaces, made by our kindergarten-aged grandchildren, that we wear with pride!

For others, it is a bittersweet time, remembering that our own mothers are estranged from us, or passed over to the other side, or just plain absent from our lives...yet the presence of our own children somehow soothes that ragged pain that hides in our hearts, reminding us that Mother's Day is not always the light and fluffy time it was inspired to be.

My grandmother was my mother for all of my life. She raised me, along with her husband, my grandfather...salt of the earth farm folk, kind, generous and just a little overwhelmed with my presence when I showed up, smack in the middle of their orderly, middle-aged lives.

About the time they thought themselves done with the agony and the ecstasty of parenting, they found they were back at the beginning again, with diapers and bottles and colic and earaches...and a small child who could be violently carsick on any trip over 5 miles. I must have been a rude awakening for them!

They persevered, doing for me what they had just finished doing for their 3 adult children...and doing it remarkably well, all things considered.

My grandmother made certain I had my "needles" on time at the clinic, and my huge bowlful of baps...warm cream and milk poured over a bowlful of cut-up home-made bread and topped with brown sugar...every night before bedtime. She read my stories to me faithfully, bathed me in the big round tin tub on the floor of the kitchen, right in front of the wood burning stove...pyjama'd me and bundled me into the bed, right on the stroke of 8 o'clock and not a minute later..."Mind, child, it's bedtime. Not now, but right now!"

She tolerated my noise for a while each day, before shooing me outside to "run and play, child", more often than not to spend time with my grandfather and my uncle in the farm fields.

Her chocolate cake, warm from the oven with brown sugar icing laid on and melted creamy-smooth into the cracks on the cake's top would stop my tears in a heartbeat. Always, a corner piece, because the icing pooled there in the corners of the pan, just a little thicker than anywhere else on the cake...

My grandmother, delicate and small, kind and patient beyond measure and the greatest tea-leaf reader in our area was my shelter from the taunts of the other kids..."Where is your REAL mother?" or "Huh! You don't even have a mom! OR even a dad..." It was from her calmness that I learned to wait it out, to go beyond...from her strength that I learned to stretch myself more than I thought possible and try harder than I ever knew I could. She taught me, by example, to go beyond the heartbreak and pain of the kids' teasing and bullying...to stand up and take them on, instead of crawling away, crying.

It was from her that I learned about putting a small smile on my face and going right out again into the world, to try something just one more time, one more time, til I got it right. She showed me how to hold my head up, how to stand tall and straight and to not be afraid...of anything. It wasn't what she said, because she said precious little. It was all in what she did and how she lived her life...calmly and with purpose.

So many little, seemingly insignificant things that I see in myself today all came from her example. I had no clue back then that I was absorbing her lessons by osmosis. today, I see clearly that I was.

Happy Mother's Day, Grandmother...my mom and my teacher.
Just one question...can you read this over there, on the other side?
Do you know that I know now, what I didn't know when you were still here with me? That you were then, and always will be, forever, my really truly mom...truly...
Love and hugs, forever your little child,
From Brenda

"My grandparents worked hard to give us everything that money could not buy."

June 22, 2006

Missy Pants

The call came about 5:30 A.M.
My son-in-law sounded rather frantic as he croaked, "You have to come right now. RIGHT NOW! The baby's coming and I don't think we can make it to the hospital!"
I'm nothing if not cool under pressure...I pulled on some clothing, grabbed my car keys and turned off the bedroom light, ran into the bathroom...and then began to pack a make-up bag! What the...????
My daughter's having a baby any minute and I'm packing my make-up?

Throwing the makeup and bag aside, I raced outside to my car, drove as fast as was safe to do in the early morning mist and ran up the steps to my daughter's front door. My two little grandchildren were standing in the doorway of the kitchen, looking completely puzzled and still a little sleepy. The rest of the time is a blur...the son-in-law running back to the bedroom...the ambulance screeching to a halt in front of the house...2 EMT's and our wonderful doctor tumbling out and hustling in through the front door and down the hallway, towing the stretcher.

Within a few seconds, my second granddaughter slid into the world, without any fanfare.
She just appeared.
Quietly.
No fuss, no muss.

The next thing I remember is the stretcher coming down the hallway towards me with my daughter on it, wrapped in blankets. My new granddaughter followed, in the arms of one of the EMT's. The darling baby was wrapped in a shiny silver heat-saver blanket...looking for all the world like a baked potato! I smothered a giggle at the thought...but my 2 grandchildren standing with me looked at me and giggled back!

After everyone left for the hospital, I wrapped my granddaughter and my grandson in a huge quilt and sat with them in the living room on the sofa, talking about babies and new sisters and what it was like to be awake so early. Within minutes, their eyes were closing, and soon after tucking them into their beds, they were sound asleep again, like nothing had happened!

Nothing much, with the slender exception of the birth of their baby sister. I sat in the living room on the sofa, thinking about how short a time ago it seemed that their mother, my daughter, was born on a night like this while it was still dark outside. I was scared beyond belief, my husband was stunned silent by the imminent arrival of our first-born, and sufficed to say we were both overwhelmed with what was happening to us that night. After what seemed like a hundred hours of labour, our daughter was born.

I remember that we looked at each other for a moment and both of us were crying...me from exhaustion and pain, him from exhaustion and relief. How much simpler this little girl's entry into this world was! Very little pain, for her mother to speak of, no muss, no fuss...she simply appeared! From the very beginning of her life, I thought of her as a silent, shy soul who had slipped into this world without any fanfare at all.

She was a tiny doll of a child, from the first moment I saw her...delicate, exquisitely beautiful, shy and quiet. From an infant to a toddler, nothing changed. Her quiet and simple ways were like soothing salve to my heart. This little one could turn me around totally...changing my day from a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad one to a lovely little evening, sharing dinner with her and her family.

Somewhere along the way, I began calling her 'Missy Pants'...I've no idea why, it just happened. I cannot remember whether I heard her mother calling her that name or if it began with me. It wasn't a name that made any sense, but it seemed to fit her, nonetheless. 'Missy Pants' it was and 'Missy Pants' it stayed. I'm not sure if I've ever called her that to her face, but that is how I referred to her, when I was grandmother-bragging about her to my friends and family!

This luscious little girl could grow hair like no one I've ever known...when she was only a few years old, her hair was a shimmering, thick and golden-flecked cascade that rolled down her back and long past her waist. Never one to walk with the crowd, 'Missy Pants' came to my salon one afternoon, for a haircut. Thinking it was going to be a routine trim and braids, I had spoken with her mother earlier to ensure that we were in agreement as to what we were going to do to her hair that day. To my surprise, her mother told me that 'Miss Missy Pants' wanted her long and glorious hair cut short! SHORT! I was in shock...

So, as she settled in the chair to have her hair shampooed, I casually asked her how she wanted her hair cut that day.
"Short," she stated emphatically.
"Are you sure?" I asked, hesitatingly.
"Of course," she said without hesitation. "I can't brush it myself now, and I WANT to," she asserted.
"What will it be like for you when you go back to school with short hair tomorrow ? Do you think your teacher will mind that you've cut it? Or, do you think you will miss having it long, after we cut it?" I asked, carefully.
"Grandma, it's just HAIR!" she said, looking me straight in the eye, in the wall mirror above the chair.

Right.
Right, then.
And, we got on with the job at hand!

I shampooed her hair, rinsing it well, flushing a good detangler and conditioner through her heavy, thick below-the-waist hair, for the last time in who knows how long. After combing it out, drying up the puddles of water that had dripped from the hair onto the floor around the cutting chair, I began to section it off, clipping it up, and started cutting...

She said nothing, simply sat still, looking at her hands under the cutting cape that I'd draped over her clothes and clipped at the nape of her neck. Neither watching the more-than-foot-long slices of her hair slipping to the floor or looking at herself in the mirror, this little tiny mite of a girl sat silently, while I cut away the longest head of hair I'd ever cut, in over 25 years as a stylist. I've seen grown women cry, sob, wail and throw a perfect hissy-fit when getting their hair cut from long to shorter. Not this little miss...she sat and took it all in, not making a sound. No fuss, no muss.

After I was finished cutting and drying her new style, and began taking the cape from around her neck, she heaved a huge sigh, lifted her head, looked at her reflection in the wall mirror, smiled at me and said," That's MUCH better! I feel so much lighter now...thank you, Grandma! I'll be able to brush it myself from now on!"

It was the independence that she liked! Being able to do it for herself...that was what seemed to matter the most. She wanted to begin being a grown-up and this was one of her first steps along the path!

As 'Missy Pants' grew up, there were many occasions when I saw this independence flash again and again, and it always made me smile a little, because it was so much like her mother's nature. My husband's mother sat on out front lawn one sunny afternoon a small lifetime ago, holding my baby daughter on her lap, and she made this loving pronouncement about that tiny darling chaid, "You are such an independent little stick, aren't you?"

It isn't that long ago that I took 'Missy Pants' and her older sister clothes shopping. We spent the day in and out of glorious shops...Le Chateau, Blue Winds, Max Shoes...and when we were almost shopped out, we stopped in a shoe store and there, on a shelf about eye level, were a stunning pair of white trackers with lime green laces. I could tell that she was in love with these shoes, as she held one in her small hand, turning it this way and that. After a few moments she set the shoe back on the shelf, walked over to her sister and me and we left the store.

While we were browsing in Le Chateau later on, I noticed that 'Missy Pants' had disappeared. A little worried, I headed to the front of the store, only to meet her as she was coming back in the front doorway...carrying a shoe bag from the store next door!

"What have you treated yourself to?" I asked
She smiled her shy little half smile and opened the bag, showing me those luscious white trackers with the lime green laces!

"They were really expensive, Grandma!" she said, looking up at me from under her lowered lashes.

"Do you love them, though?" I asked.

"Yes, of course I do! That's why I bought them!" she told me, somewhat surprised that I'd asked a question with such an obvious answer.

"Good for you! Congratulations! That's what you must do...if you love it and you have the money...buy it!" I replied, smiling broadly at this lovely child.

She wanted them.
She had the money from a long-saved paycheque.
End of story.
No fuss, no muss.

Just a few months ago, we made a weekend trip into the city, stayed at a gorgeous B. & B. and went shopping together. For Christmas, I'd given her a shopping trip with me, along with a handsome sum of the green stuff to spend in her favorite music store, HMV. We had the best time...completely wrapped up in a huge golden ribbon and tied together with fun! She found the CD's that she'd been dreaming of, she bought them and a few other luxurious treats for herself, and we simply enjoyed the weekend.
No fuss.
No muss.

Somewhere along the way, we began a ritual almost as old as 'Missy Pants' herself. She will look at me, smile that little shy smile of hers and tell me, " I loved you first."
My response is, ""No, I loved YOU first!"
"I saw you first, then..." She tosses back at me.
"Nope, not true! I saw YOU first!" I tell her.

This lovely little relationship we have is a wonderful treasure to me...easy as pie, simple as can be...
No fuss...
No muss...
It just is.

May 11, 2007

Mother's Day again...

Sunday is Mother's Day again.
This will be the first Mother's Day since my mom passed, last November.
One thing I have to do is avoid the card section in the store.

Mother's Day cards.
Elegant cards covered with flowers, scrolling fonts, iridescent sparkley things over top of the flowers...my mom loved them all.
The glitzier, the better!

She would read the outside, open the card and then read the verse and whatever I'd written on the inside.
Then, she'd read it again, running her hands over the place where I'd written my "I love you's"...
Then, when she thought I wasn't looking, she'd surreptitiously turn the card over and quickly scan the back of the card to see how much it cost!

We always joked about how much I loved her each year.
She'd read the back of the card and then look at me over the top of her glasses and smile, telling me, "You love me $5.50 worth this year!"

I miss her so much.
I still have the Christmas gift that I bought for her, sitting in my office at work, waiting to be mailed.
I don't have the heart to give it away, recycle it or donate it.
I'm not sure why I'm keeping it, but I think I'll know when to give it away...
when I won't want to look at it sitting there, anymore.

I wish there was a way to go to the store and buy a beautiful Mother's Day card and write in it, "I love you so much and I'm so happy that you are my mom," and then give it to someone else.
Someone who doesn't get Mother's Day cards and is saddened every single year, because there's no one to send her luscious, sparkley floral cards with love written inside.
I don't know who that would be and how I would do that, so I've tucked the idea back in my mind.

Mother's Day.
It's the strangest thing...some women I know whose mothers are still alive have such issues with their moms, such fights and arguments. Those of us who have lost our moms would give anything to trade places with these women, to be able to have our own moms back again, for a few days, a few weeks...

Mother's Day.
The same day my son was born.
He was my Mother's Day gift.
My daughter was my Valentine's Day gift.
Such gifts!

Mother's Day.
May 13th, this year...
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
Happy Mother's Day.
I love you.
Lots.

December 14, 2007

Ho, ho, ho...

It's funny how a few days off can do a 1-80 and send you in the opposite direction from where you were heading...
This year, I decided to close my office over Christmas and New Year's, and then sit at home, read a few books, watch a few movies, sleep in, stay up late.
Then, a phone call to my granddaughter and another with my son turned my plans upside down.

When someone in my family is struggling with spending a Christmas alone at the other end of the country, what else can a grandmother do? I called my favorite airline, scoured the flight schedules from now until Christmas and found, at an excruciating cost, the very last seat on any flight to Toronto before Christmas.

What to do?
What to do?
What does a good grandmother do?
Why, she runs her VISA to the nuts and books that flight, of course.

The luggage is open, half-filled with gifts, clothing, a few books to read, a few movies to watch...not much has changed, except the location. I think this will be a fantastic Christmas for all of us.

"Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money." ~ Author Unknown

March 12, 2008

Three things... from my grandfather, my grandmother and my brother...

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Three Things I Learned From My Grandfather...

*The benefit of buying the best I can afford.
His favorite quote..."The cheapest is the most expensive in the long run."

*The best way to grow the most fantastic garden in town.
His favorite trick for tomatoes...dig down 18" for the new baby tomato plants.
Fill the bottom 6" of the hole with wet newspaper and then backfill.
Plant the new plants right up to their leaf lines, so they grow roots right the way down.
Oh, the newspaper?
It acts like a blotter or giant sponge to provide lots of moisture for the 'matoes.

*The value of a quiet voice and a strong spine.
12 year old me: " I wish I'd never been BORN into this family!" Stomp, stomp, SLAM!
Grandfather, quietly: "If I'd known then what I know now, you wouldn't have been."

Three Things I Learned From My Grandmother...

*The value of a quiet, peaceful soul.
My grandmother could be calm through the greatest storm in the family, making tea, putting out the baking and the cream and sugar, pouring the tea and calming everyone down, without saying a word. With her innate quietness and her incredibly calm soul, she could change the tenor of the room in a few minutes...with only cookies and tea.

*How to make the best homemade bread in the world.
I have nothing to add...she simply made the best ever. Mine will never measure up!

*The value of an afternoon nap.
My grandmother would lie down right after lunch, with her bedroom door closed and the window blinds down.
She'd nap from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. every single afternoon.
She lived to be 87 years old, and in excellent health. Can't hurt, might help!

Three Things I Learned From My Brother...

*How to laugh at my own mistakes.
Standing in the barn when I was 5 and he was 19, I was watching him cleaning the barn and shoveling the straw and manure out over the box stall wall and onto the stoneboat.
Wearing my brand new red felt tam and feeling like I owned the world, I walked just a little too close to the stoneboat, and the next forkful of straw and manure landed right on top of my brand new red felt tam, and me...juicily running down my face and over my entire body, covering me and soaking my brand new clothes and...my brand new red felt tam!

* How to have courage in the face of the most frightening circumstance.
At 4, climbing to the tippy-top of the huge windmill in the front yard by the barn, I froze, afraid to look down from that awful height.
My big brother climbed up the side ladder of the windmill, uncurled my tiny frozen fingers from the railing.
Then, he climbed down, backwards...with me squalling and shrieking in his arms.

* The value of looking on the sunny side, no matter how black the day.
Having been terminally ill for the last several years and with rapidly deteriorating health and quality of life, he still answers the phone with a cheery, "Hi, Brenda! How are you doing today?"
When asked how he's feeling, he most always says, "Oh, not too bad. Could be worse."
Amazing.

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
George Bernard Shaw

Photo credit ~ Nancy Carter

March 14, 2008

Three More Things...

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Three Things I Learned From My Mother...

*How to be strong in character and determined in soul.
My mother was a successful single career woman, long before it was acceptable.
She worked for the Department of National Defense in Ottawa in the early 1940's, moving over a thousand miles away from her little farm home on the Manitoba prairies.
From the time I was born until the day she passed, my mother taught me how to stand up straight, stick my jaw out...just a little...walk tall and take no sass from nobody.

*How to love.
Really, how to love...
My mother was a single mother, long before it was acceptable.
She gave birth to me, all alone in a sterile hospital delivery room in St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, with no one in her corner to rub her back in the worst of the labour pain and no one to hold her hand and tell her she was beautiful.

My mother loved me so much that she brought me back to that little farm home and gave me to her parents, my grandparents, to raise. That's how much she loved me...enough to give me up, to hand me over to the very people who loved her so much and taught her so well. That's how much she loved me.

My mother loved me so much that she stayed in my life, living only 10 miles away with her new family, sewing new dresses for me and spending whatever time she could, teaching me to be strong and teaching me to know what it felt like to be loved more than anything else in the whole wide world.

* How to look the world in the eye and never let it get me down
My mother had a lot of pain and hardship, broken dreams and a broken heart, yet she always remembered to send me a beautiful birthday card and a gift made with love for my birthday. She never forgot, never missed and never was late...ever once in my life.

My mother lived a very difficult life with very little money and more than her share of hard knocks...yet she walked straight as an arrow, looked life in the eye and showed me what it meant to keep on keeping on. She talked the talk and walked the walk, better than anyone I've ever known.

"It's not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it."
~ From the television show The Golden Girls

March 15, 2008

Three More Things, Again...

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Three things I wish everyone would learn from me...

* How to be on time, for God's sake!
What's so hard about being on time?
I really find chronic lateness intolerable.
I had no idea why, until one day I read a comment from a therapist..."When someone is late, they are telling you that they value themselves more than you."
That explains it! I'm not talking about occasional lateness...everyone has crap happen.
I'm talking about 'every single time' lateness.
Get a watch.
Learn how to tell time.
Then, do it!

*How to tell the truth...
No beating around the bush, just tell me the truth.
You think it will hurt my feelings?
What hurts my feelings is when you don't think I can handle the truth, when you think that I won't understand.
That's insulting.
You are deciding for me what I am capable of handling and you have no idea what I am capable of!
If you really knew me, you'd know that I'm a strong and very capable person, who can handle just about anything.
So, tell the truth. No small sidesteps, please!

*How to go to the wall for your friends...
There are some people who beg off early, others who walk along with you for awhile.
There are a special few who will go all the way to the wall with you, standing by your side and holding your hand until you are able to stand on your own.
It's not so hard...you just do it.

“Friends are the pillars on your porch that you see life through. Sometimes they hold you up, sometimes they lean on you, and sometimes it's just enough to know that they are standing by.”
~ Merle Shain, my mentor

The Last Three Things...

Three Things I Learned From My Baby Brother...
Bearing in mind he's only known I am his big sister for a little over a year, his generosity and his welcoming me into his family has been stunning.

* How much books mean to him
I gave him an omnibus of W. P. Kinsella's best stories for Christmas.
He told me he read the whole thing in a day and a half! It's close to 600 pages!
He's an amazing person. He's one of the slivers of sunshine in my life. Our phone conversations are full of talk about Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe, the books he has read and the books he's reading currently. He thinks I'm amazing and I think he's brilliant. A good combination, don't you agree?

*The depth of his thoughtfulness
For Christmas this year, he had a gold heart custom-made, with 4 birthstones laced carefully around the edge...he instructed the jeweler to set the stones in a very particular order...
a ruby first, then a pink topaz, followed by another ruby and bracketed on the other end by a diamond. These represent our mother, me, him and our baby sister. He's only known me as his big sister since our mother passed a year ago November, and yet he's adjusted to my presence in his life with grace and kindness, with joy and excitement. From the moment he was told that I am his big sister, he's been nothing but happy. It could have gone in many other directions, but for his huge heart and his total delight at having me in his life.

*What a wonderful mind he has
That mind of his holds every conceivable kind of information and detail about every possible thing.
There's nothing that doesn't fascinate him, nothing that doesn't catch his interest and cause him to think about it and turn it over in his mind like a sparkly stone from the river. He absorbs knowledge like a sponge soaking up rainwater. I run as fast as I can and he leaves me in his dust!

"It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." ~ Dylan Thomas


March 17, 2008

The Other Half of the Last Three Things...

Three Things I Learned From My Baby Sister...
Bearing in mind she's only been aware of our sister relationship for a little over a year, her gentle nature and openhearted sharing with me is amazing.

*Always remember to write thank you notes for gifts received
My baby sister never fails to send me a beautiful note card with a thank you hand-written inside, every time I send her a gift. People may send an e-mail or nothing at all, so her consistent, well-written gratitude is a breath of fresh air. It also points out my own lack of effort, because I call or send an email, but I'm out of the habit of writing thank you notes. I must begin, again...

*Share what you have with those that you love
After our mother passed, my newly-found sister asked me if there was anything I'd like from our mother's house. I mentioned several family heirlooms of sentimental value, not necessarily monetary in value. For Christmas this year, I received a huge box from her, full of treasures...
my grandmother's fur muff and hat, my great-grandparents' green wool plaid lap robe that they always wrapped around their legs in the horse-drawn cutter in cool weather, a tattered book of Bible stories with an inscription in the front from my mother to me...something I didn't even know existed. She also packed a lovely linen luncheon table cloth with matching napkins...a shower gift for my mother when she married my sister's father. As if that wasn't enough, I now have my christening gown and slip. I am overwhelmed. She has given me so much more than I even knew existed.

"How to appreciate the small things in life
My baby sister has a cat in residence with her, now!
The neighbours' cat has been a constant visitor to her home for a few years. When our mother was still living there, there was no possibility of the beautiful little cat coming in on a permanent basis.
"I don't want a cat in the house!" was our mother's firmly-spoken comment.
Now, the darling little thing lives with my sister full-time! Racing around the house and tearing across the living room furniture, it provides endless opportunities for my sister to laugh her brains out at the antics in the evenings. She loves the little one and it brings her such pleasure and joy...what a miracle that a little fur-ball can make a human being so content.

"If sisters were free to express how they really feel, parents would hear this:
'Give me all the attention and all the toys and send Rebecca to live with Grandma.'"
~Linda Sunshine

March 22, 2008

The Big Peach

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Photo credit: Agricultural Research Center

My son-in-law is one of the funniest guys I know.
He's British, so that might explain it.
You know the Brits. They have the most wicked sense of humour in this Universe.

Tonight I mentioned to him that I will be going to Savannah next week.

" Oh," he said, "You're going to the Big Peach!"

My son-in-law is one of the most caring men I know.
He takes such gentle care of my daughter.
I never worry about her when she's ill with a 'flu or cold, because he does the best job in the world of looking after his beautiful wife.

My son-in-law is one of the most generous men I know.
Every spring, my daughter hosts a scrapbooking weekend in their home. Women from all over come and stay for the weekend, scrapbooking their heavenly little hearts out.
Guess who takes care of the kids, prepares meals, snacks and beverages for this houseful of scrapbookers?
Guess who wipes noses, mops up juice spills and runs the whole enchilada like a well-oiled machine?
My son-in-law.

He is one of the most meticulous men I know and a whiz at woodworking. He lovingly crafts gorgeous Hope Chests for each of my grandchildren as they are preparing to leave home. He invited me into the living room tonight to show me his latest project...a custom-designed-by-him shelving unit that will be simply stunning when it is finished. Glass doors on a solid, beautiful wall unit, structured around the hearth of their pellet stove. The glassed-in area is for his wife's delicate collection of Belleek porcelain and her Winnie the Pooh collectibles.

That's my son-in-law for you...hilariously funny, caring, generous and meticulous.
My daughter is blessed.
So am I.

I don't worry a bit about my child.
I know she's in such good hands.
He's such a peach.

"If two stand shoulder to shoulder against the gods,
Happy together, the gods themselves are helpless
Against them while they stand so."
~ Maxwell Anderson

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day...

I have the best kids in the Universe...

Yesterday, I planned a little trip to Whitecourt, a small town about 45 minutes away. There's a great store there called Theodore's Den...full to the brim with gorgeous treasures for home decor.

I called my daughter, who lives 4 blocks away from me, to see if she needed me to pick up anything for her while I was there. I told her my plans for the day, let her know that she could call me on my cell if there was anything she wanted me to get for her while I was there.

When I arrived at the store, I walked inside and was greeted by the owner, Jean Guy. He walked over to me and said, "You have a $150 shopping spree here today!"

"What are you talking about?" I asked him.

"Seriously, you really have a shopping spree here today...$150!" he replied. "Happy Mother's Day from your son and your daughter!"

I was so surprised...what a lovely treat for me! Theodore's Den is the kind of place where I will shop for a gift for a friend often, but I'll rarely look for luscious things for myself. This was the perfect present for me!

My daughter and my son are 2 of the most loving people I know. It's a true pleasure to have them as my children...I love them so much and they are amazing human beings. This has been a fantastic Mother's Day for me, and it's not about the gift my kids gave me, it's about the message and the thoughts behind the gift. They cared enough to spend some time figuring out the best way to wish me a Happy Mother's Day.
They succeeded 100%!

"Grown don't mean nothing to a mother.
A child is a child.
They get bigger, older, but grown.
In my heart it don't mean a thing."
~ Toni Morrison

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June 4, 2008

Getting Together With the Granddarling...

Ready to go to Paris...
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23 days until we leave!
London and Paris...in 23 days.
Thank goodness I've been doing lots of pre-planning! This trip is coming up so fast...I didn't realize it until tonight when I looked at the calendar and actually counted the days.

The granddarling came here tonight to chat about this trip and to pick up the duotang of information that I've created for her, as well as her plane and train tickets.
She is so excited about this trip!
That's a treat for me, because it makes it ever so much more special to travel with someone who is coming apart at the seams in anticipation of the trip.

We are making absolutely no definite plans to do anything while we are traveling...just letting it shake out any old way at all. We talked tonight about the importance of waking up when we wake up and going to bed when we are sleepy, eating when we are hungry and sitting down for a rest when we are tired of walking. Sounds like a perfect trip to me!

She told me something tonight that I didn't know...she's looking forward to this trip so much because we are going to London and Paris...and because she will get to spend a lot of time with me. That is such a blessing, such an honour...to have a granddaughter who wants to hang out with her grandma.
Amazing, simply amazing!
Any wonder I love her so much?

"Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you're just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric." ~ Pam Brown

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A cafe across from our apartment...

November 10, 2008

A Pittance of Time...November 11, Remembrance Day

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Remembrance Day.
November 11th, every single year.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The first Remembrance Day was observed in 1919 throughout the countries of the British Commonwealth. Originally called Armistice Day, this day commemorated the end of the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. ~ the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
That is what it is.

Here's why it is...
Historically speaking, Remembrance Day is a day that "Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.
We honour those who fought for Canada in
~ the First World War (1914-1918)
~ the Second World War (1939-1945)
~ the Korean War (1950-1953)
Also, we remember those who have served since then.
More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace."


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Remembrance Day in Afghanistan, CanWest News Service


I've lost family members in war.
Family members I've never met, I will never have the privilege of meeting now, because of a war that took them so tragically out of our family.
I know many people who have lost someone they love because of a war.

Tomorrow, at 11:00 A.M. our country will observe two minutes of silence in the midst of our Remembrance Day services, to honour those family members who are gone from our homes.
Here's a tribute to those people who are gone from our lives...please watch and listen to this amazing video with Terry Kelly's poignant tribute to our veterans...A Pittance of Time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYlrrAWCTRg

Here's my wonderful son-in-law and my grandson helping with the Remembrance Day Service last year. This year, my beautiful daughter is the Service chairperson, organizing tomorrow's service at the community hall and the Royal Canadian Legion center. I am so proud of them!
They might not have lived when the old wars raged, but they do know about the current toll that the war in Afghanistan is taking on our young men and women in the country on a peacekeeping mission. So, they do what feels right to them.

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And, here is my son-in-law with the Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party at the Cenotaph, completing the Laying of Wreaths at the Legion monument. A cold, bitter November morning, but not as cold as the days in the trenches in wars past.

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"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields."
- John McCrae

December 22, 2008

She's Here! She's Here!

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My granddaughter taking a photo of me while I'm taking a photo of her!
Jasper National Park


My oldest granddaughter just arrived home for Christmas!
This darling girl has just graduated from the Forestry Tech program at college.
She took the accelerated 2 year program in just under 14 months, worked a part-time job to pay her own way, all the while dealing with a relationship that was ending and STILL maintained a 3.7 GPA.
She's an amazing child, simply amazing.

Last Christmas, I took a last-minute flight to the other side of the country to help her move to her own apartment. I also wanted to be there to make sure she had someone who loves her there for Christmas, and most of all, to give her tons of hugs and support. We spent the week together...packing, moving, crying, hugging...and eating scrambled eggs and toast for Christmas dinner.

I think it helped her to maintain some semblance of calmness and sanity in a very stressful situation. I know that I felt enormously better about that Christmas, while eating our scrambled eggs Christmas dinner in her apartment than I would have if I'd been sitting in my own home with a full-blown traditional turkey dinner and the rest of my family around the table. A simple thing...she needed me.

After spending a few days with my son in another city, I flew to Ottawa and my granddarling met me at the airport. I had called her earlier and asked her to pack her fancy-dancy clothes and her warm, snuggy outdoor clothes, because we were going to do something magical.

As we left the airport, I played navigator while she drove into downtown Ottawa.
"I think I'm lost, darling," I sighed. "Where are we?"
"Well, that is the Parliament Building over there, Grandma. Does that help?" she replied.
"And...what is this huge place beside us?"
"Ohhhh, Grandma, that's the Chateau Laurier! It's a beautiful old hotel...," she said, wistfully.
"The Chateau Laurier? Really? THAT'S where we are going! Pull up to the front lobby entrance, darling!"

I will always remember her face when she realized that I was serious. She actually lit up! Smiling from ear to ear, she exclaimed, "HERE?" We're staying here?"
I felt like Santa and the tooth fairy, rolled into one.

We checked in, unpacked and then took a long leisurely tour of this gorgeous old hotel. Because it was Christmastime, there was a Festival of Trees in the foyers and lobby of the Chateau Laurier...beautifully-decorated and lighted Christmas trees everywhere we went.


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Chateau Laurier Festival of Trees...

That night, we went to the lounge, ordered martinis and just hung out together, me listening and her talking. Before we knew it, we'd closed the place down! Yikes, a grandmother taking her granddarling to the lounge and staying there until they asked us to leave! What kind of grandmother am I? A pretty good one, according to her!

Over the next few days, we spent hours doing whatever we liked. We spent nearly a full day in the National Gallery, soaking up all of the incredibly beautiful displays in the various halls and rooms. Shopping took up another afternoon and finding great places to have lunch and dinner ate up the rest of our time.

I think this beautiful Ottawa escape was just the medicine she needed to feel like herself for a few moments. After it was over, we carried on with the nitty-gritty of packing and moving her belongings to a friend's home, looking for an apartment for her that was affordable, talking into the night about the whys and hows of this process of ending a relationship.

So, this Christmas is a 180 degree difference from last Christmas...she's home, surrounded by her family and friends who adore her and she has a wonderful guy with her, who also adores her. Nothing better than that.

We've already had a good long heart-to-heart on Friday and there is the promise of a movie-and-popcorn night before she goes back to her new home and her new life. I'm looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to hearing about their new home together and about the apartment's location overlooking the river...they can see across the river and into Quebec from their second floor apartment! That's pretty cool to this little girl from a small town in northern Alberta.

So, she's home, and we're all overjoyed to see her. It doesn't matter how old these grandchildren are, I still feel totally protective of them and I worry about them when life throws them a curveball. Some things never change...I still feel that way about my children, also!

"The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby's grandparents. You feel completely comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida."
~ Dave Barry


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The day we arrived...in the foyer of the Chateau Laurier

February 13, 2009

My Darling Daughter's Birthday...

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Lemon Curd Cake..gluten-free, of course...right after the candles have been blown out!


Today is my daughter's birthday!
Again.
Another one.
Astonished, I ask myself, "Where did the time go?"
She was born only a few years ago, wasn't she?
I cannot believe that she is a grown woman with grown-up children.

I know in my head that she's an extremely accomplished woman, a woman who is also a published writer, a mother of five glorious children, a delicious human being who makes the world brighter and better just by her presence.

The problem is that in my heart, I still see her as a newborn with her perfect rosebud mouth, her peaches and cream complexion. Right around the corner, I can see the 2 year old with the strong streak of independence running through her little heart and soul..."...an independent little stick," as her Grandma English commented, on more than one occasion.

Then, there's the awesome pre-adolescent that she grew into, with her deep, abiding love of animals...her cat Simon, her horse Pebbles, her brother's cocker spaniel, Lady. This young about-to-be-teenager wore her Brownie uniform with pride, built a tree house with her father and her brother, stood up to her mother with dignity and hung out with her baby brother, her best friend.

Speeding towards the angst of the teen years, this lovely soul developed her strong and independent character even more. It was nothing for us to have a piss-whistler of a mother-daughter blow-up on a weekly basis. Even so, I adored her and I was infinitely proud of her, every single second.

She took great care to wear her blonde hair in a long layered Farrah Fawcett look-alike cut. She also took pains to dress in the latest fashions of the '80's even though we lived on this single mom's tiny paycheque and her steady babysitting jobs. Her wardrobe was highlighted with a startlingly beautiful silver bomber jacket, a figure-hugging denim pit-suit and innumerable message T-shirts...most of those messages inappropriate, in my opinion, of course! That may be why she chose them, do you think?

Tonight, I sat across the dining room table from her, while both of us talked, laughed and cried. Occasionally, we looked at each other and pointed to our forearms when we both felt the hair stand up. While we talked in unison about some deep and thoughtful family matters, we were in sync to the point that it became eerie, in a good way.

Tonight, I spent some very lovely hours with this warm and tender-hearted woman who, astonishingly, is my daughter, so very beautifully grown up.
Tonight was a blessing for me.
I hope, in my heart, it was also for her.

Happy birthday, my precious child, happy birthday.

"There's something like a line of gold thread running through a woman's words when she talks to her daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself." ~ John Gregory Brown


After the party's over...my granddarling blows into their ginger cat Oscar's face, while my daughter shows me his ear tattoo...
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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to That's my story...and I'm stickin' to it! in the Family matters...it truly does! category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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