Sunday, December 30, 2012

doing what I should

A young man told me something on Christmas Day that has stuck with me. "If you think you should do something, then do it. Don't procrastinate, or ignore it, it is your spirit telling you what to do." I take it to mean if I think, "I should go for a swim", or "I should wash the bedding", or "I should clean out the fridge", then I should go do it. At the end of the day I will have done something that will ultimately make me happier with myself, and my surroundings.

So, I have been listening to that still small voice. Worrying about doing something, or putting off doing something takes alot of mental energy. Just doing alot of these kinds of things doesn't take as much energy as putting it off does.

So since Christmas day I have done dishes, laundry, washed bedding, blocked a shawl, gone to church, made a phone call, and made a salad. I did these things as I found myself thinking "I should....". Writing this blog is an answer to an I should. So is defrosting the downstairs fridge. So was turning off the TV last night. So is asking questions. So is answering them.

I don't go in much for new year's resolutions, but I think I will work on this one for awhile.

I have been thinking that I have been stuck for the last six months. Partly because I am laid up with plantar fasciitis, but partly because of fear of the future. I think that maybe what my husband and I are suffering from is "Failure to Launch". Or maybe it is fear of failure. Whatever. I think I have to do something.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The moment of birth

At that moment of birth, in that manger stall, on that cold winter night it was just about a family. A father who didn't know if he could provide for his son, a mother who didn't know if she could keep him safe, a baby with his future ahead of him. He was born in a time of upheaval when traveling in a strange land was wrought with dangers, and even a poor family - a pregnant woman, a donkey, an ox and an old man could fall prey to dangers.

There was faith. There was prophecy. There was a shining star in the sky. Soon after there were shepherds, and wise men and gifts. But in that moment of birth there was simply a mother and a father and a baby boy. And a future that was unsure.

And so it is with every birth. In that moment when a woman becomes a mother, and a man becomes a father, and a being emerges from the womb there is that moment when a family is born.

And we are making it up all the way along. Mary and Joseph were so sure in that moment of birth that it was a miracle, as every birth before and after is a miracle.

Life is a miracle. With all of its intricacies and mess. It is a miracle. It is a miracle that even though we are gifted with language, it is a miracle to find those moments of clarity and true understanding - the meeting of soul to soul.

It is a miracle to find love in this world. Sometimes it is a dark and forbidding place, and yet in those darkest moments love can still force its way through, just like a small blade of grass pushing through a mountain of rock.

In that manger there was love. In that temple there was love. At that last supper there was love. In that garden there was love. On that cross there was love.

And so it is with us. At birth, in anger, with forgiveness, in fear, and in death there is love. And love will heal the wounds if we let it.

If we remember that Christmas isn't about the shopping and glitz, but about a simple tree, lights strung in the darkness and a meal shared with family and friends. Christmas is the time to remember that there is love, and love will conquer all if we only let it.

If we only remember that in that moment of birth there is a promise to love and to keep trying. To apologize for not always having the perfect response to each situation, but to believe that when there is love there is the possibility to get back on track, start over, and move forward.

Courtney A. Walsh says it best:

Dear Human:

You've got it all wrong.
You didn't come here to master unconditional love.
This is where you came from and where you'll return.

You came here to learn personal love.
Universal love.
Messy love.
Sweaty Love.
Crazy love.
Broken love.
Whole love.
Infused with divinity.
Lived through the grace of stumbling.
Demonstrated through the beauty of... messing up.
Often.

You didn't come here to be perfect, you already are.
You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous.
And rising again into remembering.

But unconditional love? Stop telling that story.

Love in truth doesn't need any adjectives.
It doesn't require modifiers.
It doesn't require the condition of perfection.

It only asks you to show up.
And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU.

It's enough.
It's Plenty.






Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Winter

Gray upon gray
Rain upon rooftop
Hurt upon sorrow

Pondering pain
Wondering if this is where I will find my compassion
For one who drowned her sorrows in vodka
Wondering if it was really all just about survival
and trying not to give up when despair overwhelmed

"I've got to get going" a mantra heard over the years
until finally the realization that it was no longer possible
and in that realization
the final severing of hope

The anger, the disappointment, the shame
of judging one who simply didn't have the
capacity to help herself.

For one who gave up too soon
out of pride or despair or ignorance.

I wish you had reached out to me
I wish I had tried harder to reach out to you
I wish that our love would have been enough
but now realize that your love wasn't enough

It wasn't about me. It was about you
and I didn't think past my own disappointment
to see that there was another side to it all

Finally after all these years I saw you through someone else's eyes.
Someone with more compassion who had the chance to know you
when your guard was down

And in knowing you that way
was able to forgive

Now it's my turn.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's official - he took his Christmas Stocking

I think this is it. My first born has left home for real. Oh sure, his belongings are all in the basement, and his mail still arrives to the front door, but this time he packed his Christmas Stocking. It's official. He has left home.

He has left home before - to go to university, to share apartments with friends, to travel Europe with his band, to live in a communal house. But this time, as he headed up North to live in perpetual winter (literally, not figuratively), he took his Christmas stocking.

For twenty-seven Christmases that stocking was hung on the same mantle piece. This Christmas it will hang somewhere else. And a piece of my heart with it.

This is what an empty nest feels like. Lined with memories, but as the leaves fall away, it just looks so lonely and precarious and vulnerable.

And there really isn't enough kleenex.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Mother's Story

Joan Bell Moroney, born January 11, 1922, Edmonton, Alberta. She was the eighth of nine children: the youngest girl after six sisters, her brother was the youngest of them all. Her eldest brother, had died when he was three years old. She shared a bed with her Momma, from the time she was thirteen. Her father was a drinker and a gambler. He was larger than life. He lent my mother and father the down payment for their first house.

She told a story of going to the lake to swim with a bunch of friends when she was in her early teens. She stayed behind because she had her period and overheard all the boys in the group talking about the girls and about things they had 'done' with them. She drove home to her daughters that boys were like that and it was a lesson to not be 'easy' because boys would talk.

She met my father, William Donald Burton, when he was 18 and she was 21. It was April 1942. They were both in the army stationed in Red Deer, Alberta. They got in trouble for fraternizing - she was a private, he was an officer. She had many boyfriends before him, and had become engaged to more than one as these boys headed off to war. Dad joked that when he met her she had to return more than one engagement ring.

On a first date he insulted her by saying he wanted to be the father of her children.

They married on September 3, 1942. His parents didn't approve. Did I mention he was 18?

He went overseas soon after their wedding. She didn't see him again until he returned from the war in 1945. He returned with a dishonourable discharge (which was eventually overturned). She did not meet him at the train. He lived at the Salvation Army for a time. She finally took him home. The whys of this are all a mystery. I asked my Aunt about this once and she wouldn't tell me the details, only that I should ask my mother. I never did. I wish I had.

My father needed psychological support after the war. He went to work, and told my mother she had to quit her job. "There was no point him getting out of bed if she was working". He went to UBC to work towards an engineering degree. She became a housewife. They tried and tried to conceive - even going to a fertility doctor. The doctor told her she would not ever be able to get pregnant. In 1947 she walked into his office, 5 months pregnant, refusing to pay his bill.
Her first child, Tami Jean was born June 18, 1947, followed by Wendy Ellen, February 8, 1949, followed by the first son, John James, March 25, 1951.

They moved to Hamilton - my father taking a job with Westinghouse. At some point while there my mother started to drive off a cliff with all the children in the car. She regained her sanity for a moment and drove to a doctor. She woke up three weeks later in a mental ward.

They moved back to Burnaby BC where I was born. Mary-Anne, October 17, 1955. Then they moved to Victoria. My father was working for BC Electric in sales. We lived in Oak Bay. My father's namesake was born, William Donald Burton, February 10, 1959, and 16 months later my sister, Sherry Lynn, June 1, 1960. My mother often joked that my youngest sister's birthday coincided with the invention of the Birth Control Pill.

She miscarried once, between me and my younger brother.

The family moved to Vancouver in 1963. My father worked for BC Hydro, we all attended local schools, and my mother was an exemplary housewife, mother and gardener. She sewed clothes and curtains, wall-papered and painted, baked bread, made soup, prepared meals, shopped, waxed floors, canvassed for the Salvation Army and the March of Dimes, and entertained 'the ladies' for lunches.

My father died of cancer September 1, 1973. It was a long drawn out illness and my mother kept him at home as long as she could.

After my father died, my mother, only 51 was left at home with three teenagers still to raise. I was 17.

Our relationship had been complicated through my teens. I seemed to be caught between my mother and father. I loved him fiercely, and this seemed problematic for her.

However, there was some respite. We would go clubbing together, drink together, she would let my girlfriends and their boyfriends and my boyfriend all sleep in the living room together while she 'chaperoned'. It was bizarre.

Despite my father stating that he would pay for my university, my mother told me this would not be so. She didn't like my boyfriend. She would get angry that I didn't spend enough money on presents for her, or enough time with her. We fought. Alot.

I moved out wheb I was 19. Once I moved out, our relationship improved.

I had emergency surgery when I was in 3rd year university. She was there for me.

At first she didn't like my now husband. But he grew on her. She grew to love him. He called her Joan. I think she liked that.

She refused to pay for my wedding. I wasn't a virgin and that was a problem for her. She did end up paying for the cake and the sparkling wine. I was married in her back yard.

I moved far away up north and was in a bad car accident. She came up to take care of me, and to help me pack up and move back to Vancouver. She was there for me.

She played bingo, darts at the Legion and taught Yoga to senior ladies. She dated. She swam. She ran a boarding house in the family home. She had sons and daughters-in-law. She was a grandmother. I think there were times of great happiness, and great sadness. She talked of my father often. She missed him.

Through all these years alcohol played a large part of her life, as it had in her years with my father. He lost his license from a DUI while they lived in Victoria The first time I remember seeing her drunk was on Dad's homemade plum wine. After that it was more and more common. It was the time. Everyone's parents drank. Well not everyone's, and I started to suspect when I was in my early 20s that my family's relationship to alcohol was different.

I wanted to have some sort of intervention around her alcoholism around her sixtieth birthday. My siblings were not supportive of this idea. It was her life. It wasn't my business. Every family dinner/event was ruined (for me) by her drinking. It was my problem.

Once my son was born things got worse. There was alot of jealousy around my relationship with my dad's sister. I tried to maintain a relationship with my mother. By the time my second child was born this became more and more difficult. After a one year estrangement my mother and I reconciled. I vowed to only visit before the alcohol came out. It was an uneasy truce, but one that lasted until her death.

She moved to Vernon. Her drinking got worse. I visited her. I missed her. I loved having coffee with her in the morning. No alcohol, and she was funny and interesting and loving. She became estranged from my older sister, and then later from my younger brother and his wife.

As a family we soldiered on. I took on supporting my aunt, now suffering from Alzheimer's. My eldest sister took on supporting my mother.

My mother was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. She was on oxygen. She was drinking a bottle of vodka a day. From early afternoon on, it wasn't a pretty picture.

She died August 24, 2004. I had seen her, for the last time, earlier that summer. I cried with a primal grief when I received the call from my eldest sister that she had passed. I hadn't expected my grief to be so deep, or so profound.

It has been over eight years since she passed. I am still reconciling my relationship with her, my anger, my sadness, my loss. We had some horrible fights. She said some horrible things to me. Things I find hard to forget, or forgive.

I know she was unhappy. Unhappy probably from 1942. Alcohol was a way to self medicate that unhappiness. I know that and I am trying hard to forgive it. To have compassion as a good friend once told me. I think of myself as a compassionate person, and it saddens me that perhaps to this woman, who needed my compassion the most, well, I wasn't able, still am not fully able, to give it.

But I am working on it.

I saw the play, My Mother's Story, last Thursday night. It made me sad. It hit a little too close to the bone. It made me see that all these stories of women born in that generation are so similar. Those stories are her story.

What a life. One of seven children. Mother of six. Married to a man to whom I believe there was a passion, but not necessarily a connection. She was happy as that young married woman, her husband overseas, she working and living independently. She loved Vancouver, the beaches, the bustle of the city. I think she even had a good relationship to my father's family, my grandmother and aunt, though this was not to last.

When she was dying, although neither of us would speak of it in those terms, she told me her friend, Amy, had died. Amy was a friend from the war. She said that Amy had asked her some years back to move in with her. My mother said she wished she had. She said Amy was a true friend that she missed. I had never heard her talk of this person before.

People loved my mother. They loved her silliness, and her kindness.

I would have loved to know her in the early 40s. I think she would have been a good friend.

But, that is just my interpretation, and it could be totally wrong. This is my mother's story as I know it. And alot of pieces are missing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I dreamt I was dying

It was an awful, vivid dream. I was at emergency. They told me I was dying. They sent me home. I had so much to do. So many loose ends to tie up. It was so real. Tied to the fact the I have a cold and was having trouble breathing in my sleep, and the fact that I was sleeping and couldn't wake up, it felt, physically, like I was dying.

When I woke up it took me quite a few minutes to realize it had been a dream and that I wasn't, in fact, dying.

But I am. We all are. We are all dying. Maybe it is not today, or tomorrow, or in four months. But it is a fact.

So why do we wait for the big wake-up call? If there are things to do, or say, or plan, or organize, shouldn't we get on it? Shouldn't I get on it?

I dreamt of planning to try alternate therapies. I dreamt of steeling myself for chemo. I dreamt of what I wanted to say to my children, my husband, my sister. How would I say good-bye? How do you say good-bye?

I was afraid. I didn't want to die. I wanted someone to do something to help me.

I woke up (or maybe I was still dreaming), thinking of my dear friend who died two years ago - in her own bed, with a friend by her side. A friend,one of many, who had kept vigil over her as she lived those last few weeks of life. She had made sure everything was organized and taken care of before she died. She tied up all those loose ends. I admire her for that. That and her huge heart and big smile.

Most days I don't think about dying. I imagine I have forever. Or at least a good 50 years.

But today, I am thinking about dying. My death. The death of others close to me.

It must be Fall. It has finally come and while I am admiring its beauty I must also herald its message. Winter is coming. I should prepare for it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reluctant Fall

Fall seems reluctant to really take hold this year. The one deciduous tree outside my kitchen window is resisting the turn of colours that heralds autumn's place in the seasonal shift of time.
The days are warm, the sun bright and summer still beckons us back to days on a beach, in the water, on a back deck.

Perhaps the reluctance is because there are only so many winters in one's life, in this life. For some close to me the winter is too much with us, for others spring is perpetual.

Saint Michael has come again this fall to bring us courage. Soon Saint Martin will remind us to be generous with whatever we have - be it time, or money, or belongings. And when the November rains overwhelm us, Advent will come to shed some light into the deepening darkness.

Be brave, dear Autumn. It is your time. Bring on your cool mornings, your cooler evenings, your vibrant colours of red and gold. We are not afraid.

And you are so beautiful.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What did you do today?

What did I do today? I woke up, had coffee, did the dishes, studied my french lessons, sorted knitting patterns, went to a yoga class, read on the back porch in the late autumn sun, talked to my daughter on the phone. That is the stuff I did today.

What did I really do today? I took deep breaths. I sent prayers out to those that need them. I thought about my children, all my sisters and both my brothers, and my nephews and nieces. I thought about my Uncle who died earlier this year. I saw a picture of a dear friend when she was 16 and I thought about how much time has passed since that day in her backyard. I am glad we are still friends.

I thought about the ages of those I love and I can't imagine my life without them. And yet, I already live every day without those I love that have already passed onto the next adventure.

As I lay in meditation on my yoga mat I thought about how long I have to live. I am thinking 100 years old, aiming for 105.

That sounds about right. That gives me about 48 years to do something important.

What will I do tomorrow?
Breathe.
And go to a play of Saint Michael and the Dragon. We all have a dragon (or two) to tame, don't we? Some real, some imaginary. I am going to tackle the imaginary ones first.

Yes, that is now on my to-do list for tomorrow. I hope Saint Michael is somewhere nearby. I might be needing him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

27 years of parenting

I bet you are looking for advice. No, no advice here. Well, maybe some, but more for me than you.

I have been a mother for 27 years as of about 75 minutes ago. 27 years. I remember those hours (days) that lead up to the moment of birth and I remember the two weeks that followed (10 days of them in the hospital). It wasn't seamless.

But parenting, kind of was. Even the hard parts. The parts where I didn't (don't) know what to do, or say, or think. They are seamless. The days flow into each other and the relationship that I have had, and continue to have, with my children flows from one stage to the next.

The stage we are in now is parent to adult children. Children making their way in the world, settling into their lives, struggling with what it is to be an adult.

It isn't easy. Some days are, but many aren't. Life, even a good, blessed life, is still hard. My children, like myself, are always striving. And striving, not settling, is hard.

That baby boy, born 27 years ago, is figuring it out. He is, as I have told him, someone destined for greatness. He has so many strengths. He has many roads open to him, and he is figuring it out.

So is his mother.

Sorting through photographs I see him as a new born, bruised from his difficult birth, then a one year old lifted high in the air, held fast by his father's arms. Then pre-school with his new-born little sister, kindergarten, first day of grade one and so it goes all the way to high school graduation. I can flip through them in a minute or so. Each picture tells the story of a year, and then a blink, and they are gone.

He is now a young man, but within him are all those pictures, and more. And he is making new pictures everyday in his adventure up north. He is learning. Alot. About farming, and fishing, and relationship and self-sufficiency.

He calls at least once, sometimes twice, a week. Sometimes he chatters away about this and that. Sometimes our conversations are harder, and sadder.

I am always happy he called. I am always happy he can tell me whatever he needs to tell me. That is a gift I have been given by both my children.

Parenting. Seamless. One picture flowing into the next. One day into the next. When something is seamless it can't unravel. It is continuous. Like a moebius strip.

Yes, parenting is like a moebius strip.

Happy Birthday, dear one. Happy Birthday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Could be a metaphor for my life right now

I have dancing feet. My feet are never still. My husband often comments about this. Even when he thinks I am sleeping, my feet are in motion.

Since April 1 I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet. Both feet. So I have new orthotics, new shoes, new exercises to do, and orders to rest my feet.

Did I mention I have dancing feet?

So last week, I also bought night splints to try to speed up this healing process. Have I mentions that I am not a patient person?

So, now, here we have a person with dancing feet, and restless legs, having to wear very movement constraining splints to sleep. WTH?

Sometimes I think I will go mad. I am very sleepy, my legs are very jumpy, and I feel like I am in a coffin from the knees down.

So far I have only managed one night all through - usually I tear them off sometime around 3am. Some nights, like last night, I finally took them off because I had tried valiantly to sleep for 2 hours and it clearly wasn't going to happen. (I also took 3 Taurine tablets, but that is another story.....)

So, as the title says, a metaphor for my life. I want to be doing things as a newly retired person - things that include being on my feet - and I can't. I just can't.

It is hard to silence those dancing feet.

I did go to church yesterday - and sat when others were standing - but it helped. It helped because as usual every hymn, every reading, every word spoken was something I needed to hear.

We all have our constraints. All of us. Mine is far less serious than many many people in, and out, of my life.

There is a lesson here for this woman with her dancing feet. I hope she takes advantage of the time, and listens carefully for the lesson.

There is always a lesson.

And, swimming.

There is always swimming.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A letter to my students as they begin high school

And so it begins. Tomorrow. You must be excited, and nervous, and wondering how it will all unfold.

I wish I could tell you it will be easy. Sometimes it will, but often it won't. You will have new relationships to navigate, new teachers to get to know, new thoughts to ponder and new experiences to, well, experience.

I can tell you that you are all prepared for this. I can tell you that you have learned alot in your eight years of schooling and you can do this. I can tell you that I believe fiercely in the abilities of each and every one of you. I can tell you that there will be decisions to make along the way, and those decisions shouldn't be taken lightly.

So, if you will allow me, I have some advice.

1) Be kind to people, including yourself. Unkind actions hurt. Unkind words hurt. Unkind thoughts hurt. Don't exclude yourself from getting to know someone because they seem different from you and your friends. Give people a chance. You aren't going to like everybody, but it doesn't mean that you can't be kind just the same.

2) Whatever you say to someone, about someone else, make sure you would be able to hold your head up as if it was spoken directly to the person in question.

3)Don't do something you don't want to do because you are embarrassed to say no. There will be lots of situations in your life where your inner voice is trying to be heard..listen to it, follow it. It won't lead you astray.

4) You will be truly loved for who you are, not what you look like. Be gentle on yourself when you look in the mirror. You are a child of the universe. You have been given a gift, this physical body of yours, that houses your indomitable spirit. I have seen that spirit in each one of you. Each spirit is housed in a perfect vessel. It may not be the vessel that the media appreciates and respects, but I hope it will be one that you will respect. Treat it kindly.

5) Don't try to grow up too fast. There will be time. You don't have to experience life all at once. There will be time. Time for first true love, and first true heartbreak. I wish I could tell you there won't be heartbreak. But there will. And it will be ok. You will recover and it will be ok.

6) Be who you are. Speak your mind. Walk your walk. Each one of you is unique with your gifts and challenges, but each one of you is destined for something remarkable. It may not present itself for many years, but it will present itself if you show some patience.

7) Be kind to your parents. Believe it or not they were your age once, and they truly want what is best for you. They don't want you to make the same mistakes they made, and sometimes, in their parenting of you, they will make mistakes. Forgive them. And yes, be kind to them too.

8) Have fun. Enjoy life. Pay attention to this beautiful world around you. Yes, it has its flaws too, but it is still a beautiful world. Appreciate nature every single day.

9) Make a difference in someone else's life. Be charitable with your time and actions.

10)Don't settle, in your life, for mediocrity. Strive.

Ok, end of advice.

Here is a promise.

If you need me, and it is at all within my power to be there for you, I will be there.

As I said on our last day of school together - I will always have your back.

And so, tomorrow high school begins, and I will officially let you go.

But, unofficially?

Unofficially you are always in my heart, and my dreams, and I am there behind your shoulder wishing you well.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Because I Love You

My Dad
William Donald Burton
January 15, 1924 - September 1, 1973

And so it is September 1st once again. Funny how it comes around every year around this time. Usually I am busy getting ready for school. But not this year. This year I can just spend it wrapped in his memory.

Sometimes I wonder. What is the point? What was the point? Why was his destiny to only be here a short time? He left behind six children, and 10 grandchildren, and now 4 great grand children....and so it goes.

He worked hard. He had his demons. We all do.

But still, and all, I wish he had stayed longer. To share in my life, my children's lives, the lives of all his children, and grand-children, and great grand children.

He would have liked that.

I would have liked that.

He was my father for almost 18 years in this physical world. He has been my father in my heart for almost 57.

And yes, I still miss him.

Every day.

This one's for you, Dad. Because I Love You.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the conversations I don't have

The hardest thing about estrangement is the conversations I don't have. Well, to be clear, I mean the ones I don't have out loud. I have the conversations over and over again in my head. They take many forms. There are the conversations to clear up misunderstandings. There are the conversations that ask why. There are the conversations that share my side of the story. There are the conversations where I express my disappointment, or anger, or sadness. There are the conversations where I ask "Are we ok?" or "Are we going to be ok?" or "Do you talk about me and about this estrangment with others?" or "Did you get their side of the story?" or "Do you want to hear my side of the story?" or "Can you fix this?" or "Do you have an opinion?" or "Is there something you want to say to me about this?". Sometimes the noise in my head is deafening.

The silence is worse.

The most difficult thought, I suppose, is that the other person doesn't think about any of these things, doesn't care at all that I am not in their life.

This is harder than any break-up. It is harder because I imagine it is affecting my other relationships and I don't know how to reconcile myself to that. And maybe it isn't even true.

It is the unspoken silences between myself and others. The unspoken silences where I fill in the dialogue.

I think it is why I feel I have no voice these days. I do have a voice, but I am afraid to use it. I also am afraid to hear the answers to the questions I am afraid to ask. Not knowing isn't better, but it does give me a glimmer of hope. Once you know, you know.

I fret when texts aren't answered, phones don't ring, facebook replies are short, or non-existent. I just fret.

Well, that can't be good.

It is my own fault, really.

I seem to think I can pick when, or when not, to be brave. Usually when I just speak it works out. But, not always. Like now. Speaking out has cost me.

Not speaking out has cost me.

Like now.

I could be drinking coffee and watching the sunrise and planning my projects for the day.

Unfortunately, I am such a good multi-tasker that I can do all that and still fret.

I also have to learn that I don't have to make the first move. Relationships are a two way street. Silence exists on both sides.

I guess my really worry is that the silence means they aren't even considering all this stuff and I am just spinning my wheels.

"Tilting at windmills", my mother would say.

I never got that expression until lately.

I wonder if tilting at windmills is a temperment thing.

I wonder if I can stop? Tilting at windmills, I mean.

Grief is a funny thing. It takes time.

And, clearly, I am not patient.














Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This is it!

Tomorrow is really the first day of my retirement. If I hadn't retired in June then I would be returning to teaching tomorrow. That is the day all my former colleagues have to be back on campus having meetings and preparing for the new year.

But not me. Not this August.

I am sitting in my camper, about to get ready for bed and spend some time under the covers with a book, or maybe a crossword, or maybe I will just drift off listening to the radio. So many choices.

I was looking through an agenda book from August 2010 and two years ago I was camping in PEI with my husband. Now in August 2012 my daughter is in PEI attending a conference, my son is farming in the Yukon, and my husband is across from me listening to a podcast or punk music or a youtube.

It is peaceful. We puttered around today. Did laundry, a bit of shopping, made supper, tidied up the camper...things like that. It wasn't much of anything. It was everything

We are lucky. I know this. Even though my feet hurt alot (plantar fasciitis), I know that I am lucky. I have a man who is rubbing my sore feet, and telling me he loves me.

We are lucky.

So, tomorrow it begins.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No Voice

I think I have lost my voice. No, not in the physical sense. But metaphorically.
Perhaps it is the transition into retirement. I think for the past 13 years I have had a teacher voice. For the past 27 a mother's voice. For the past 35 a wife's voice. For the past 56 a sister's voice. Through it all, at times, a friend's voice.

But lately, I feel, well, silent.

It's not that I don't like to converse, or want to converse, but it is more like I have lost the desire to converse. I am quite cotent to listen, and respond, but I find myself not initiating conversation.

I realize I have been in social situations lately where this could be construed as rudeness, or indifference, or even snobbery. It isn't. I just don't want to talk. Especially not small talk.

I know, I know, small talk is kind of like dogs sniffing at each other when they meet. It is a way to sense friend or foe and to find common ground. I just find it difficult and wish we could just leap into the real stuff.

Except I don't know what the 'real' stuff is for me anymore.

And when I do start to have 'real' conversations I find myself tearing up.

Maybe that is why I don't have a voice right now. Because if I did it would be a sad one, and that isn't very social, is it?

I am not political. I am not an academic. I no longer seem to be an activist. I am a simple woman, trying to make her way and trying to do her best. But, I don't want to do it making small talk, and I don't seem to have the energy for the 'big' talks.

So until I can find my voice I think I just have to listen. Or be quiet.


Now, there's a thought.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mono no aware

Mono no aware (物の哀れ?), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing.

A gentle sadness. This is how I feel this week. A gentle sadness. For a niece, a brother, a brother-in-law, a sister, a friend.

An awareness of impermanence.

An awareness of mortality.

An awareness that life does not always unfold as we would like it to.

But it is unfolding.

As it should.

And through it all I am struck by the tenacity, the courage, the valiant will of the human heart.

The heart that can find healing in the laughter of children, in a rainbow shining through a tree, in the company of family, in the solace of a church pew.

There was a book I read a long time ago entitled: When bad things happen to good people. A few years ago another book: The Blessing of a skinned knee.

It is not about bad things, or good things, happening to bad, or good, people. It is just that things happen. They just happen. Sometimes there is a reason, sometimes there is not. Things happen.

This is what it is to be human. Things happen, and we have to deal with them, cope with them, overcome them, and carry on.

We have to carry on.

But first, perhaps, we have to cry, wail, get angry, become despondent, or succumb to that gentle sadness.

A gentle sadness.

That is how I feel today. That will have to be ok for today.

Mono no aware.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I would do it if I could

A death, an illness (or three), a family struggle and here I sit in the sun on the back porch unable to do anything.

"Can I do anything?", I ask. "You could take the treatment for me, and I would be the one to get better", he replied.

I would, if I could.

A few years ago my younger brother put together a dvd of family photographs - a slide show - with the soundtrack of ColdPlay's 'Fix You' playing in the background.

I sobbed uncontrollably the first time I watched it. Pictures of my mother and father and siblings from a time long ago. A time when, in my mind, we were the quintessential happy family.

I still weep when I see it - I weep out of poignancy, out of regret, out of feelings of missing my father so profoundly, out of realizing that in those photos there was still possibility.

The possibility that cancer wouldn't strike, a virus wouldn't strike, estrangement wouldn't strike.

I think, as the proverbial middle child, I have just wanted to fix everything for everyone. I think in the process I broke things, especially myself.

Lately the phrase "Depression is anger turned inward" has been rattling around inside my brain. I don't like this phrase; I never had. The first time I heard it a fourteen year old boy I know was struggling with anxiety and sadness. I blamed myself for not being able to fix it. I blamed myself for perhaps being the cause.

Recently I remarked to my husband that I was trying to protect him from something that brings him frustration. The content doesn't matter. What he told me does. "You are not responsible for my issues around this. You don't have to fix it for me."

I don't have to fix it. Now, there's a thought.

Last night I remember feeling 'Why won't anyone let me help them?" Because, dear one, it is not your job to fix everything. Sometimes in the midst of family struggles and health issues, and angst it is your job to be there, to listen, to help if asked, to not burden them with your anxiety, to let go and let god.

And sometimes, as a stanger told be yesterday, you have to give it time. Time for wounds to heal, and memories to fade.

And, dear one, that time is not a day, or a week, but perhaps months or years.

So listen up - you don't have to fix everything. You have to remember "It will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end".

I have to trust that if someone needs my help they will ask. If someone wants to see me they will call. If someone has something to say they will say it.

Meanwhile I have prayer, compassion, and a shoulder to cry on. I thank god for that shoulder, that companionship, that often silent support.

So I am praying the chemo will work, the move will unfold smoothly, and that time will, in fact, heal all wounds. I am not sure about the last one - for some wounds to heal there has to be forgiveness, and I know I am not there yet.

I don't know if I believe there can be forgiveness without an apology, or explanation having been given. I am told there can be, but I don't know if that is true for me.

As I said at the beginning: I would if I could.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birth and Death

Today I received an email informing me that a student of mine from 8 years ago had died. In a crosswalk. He was 22.

Within 30 minutes I received a phone call from a midwife inviting me to a blessing ceremony for a friend who is due to deliver her first child in August.

30 minutes. Death and Birth.

And so it goes this circle of life. Illness, healing, sadness, comfort, tears, laughter, silence, reconciliation, rain, sun, good news and then not so much. And so it goes.

I have been ok through it all. Just ok. Kind of flat, actually, but that could be protection because, well, it has been that kind of month.

I am glad I have my faith through it all. I am glad that I can light a candle while someone is in surgery, or listen to that voice that tells me to make a phone call. I am glad that I believe there are angels everywhere and they are helping us through it all one step at a time. One breath at a time. One death at a time.

We reach out. We cry. We don't know what to say, but we try to speak anyways.

This is what it is to be human.

This has been a very human day.

I am glad that I am here - for them, for myself, for it all.

There is a design more perfect than human mind.

I have to believe that. If I didn't it just wouldn't make any sense.



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maybe it doesn't matter

Funny title for a blog, no? I am not even sure what it means, but I think it has to do with my future. I want to do something important with the next fifty years of my life - and what does that look like?

So, yes, I am retired, and no, I don't know what I am doing. I do know that I want to contribute to this world of ours. Is that writing? Is that being a mentor?

Or is it just being there for others: husband, son, daughter, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends....well, you get the idea. Sometimes a cup of tea, chili around a campfire, wine at the bar, or lunch in the village is not just something frivolous, or entertaining. Sometimes, often, it is a connection of one soul to another. Sometimes it is being there for someone, sometimes it is being brave enough to allow another to be there for me.

And sometimes, it is ok to just have that glass of wine, or ice-cream, or lunch and laugh and feel companionship.

I don't ever want to live alone. If that should ever be in my future I hope I have the courage to form a community of others to live together, companionably, sometimes in silence, sometimes in noisy enthusiasm.

I have so many friends - maybe that is what matters. Maybe that is what it is all about. Because I believe it does matter. We all matter. All the lives we touch in those fleeting moments, days, or years matter.

A friend recently posted the question "What is Faith?" For me, today, faith is that things matter. People matter. My existence matters. Faith is that even though I don't know why it matters, I just know it does.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Knitting and Reading, Reading and Knitting

This is how I spend my days, with the occasional crossword puzzle thrown in. If I was just on 'summer holidays', this would be perfect. I would be content. The weird thing is that since I am technically not on 'summer holidays', but in fact 'retired', I feel like I should be 'doing' something more meaningful.

I remember when my husband retired over two years ago a retired friend of his told me that he would spend much of the next six months sleeping. He also told me not to worry it would sort itself out. I didn't, and it did.

For me, I am not sleeping that much. Maybe seven hours a night, with the odd nap thrown in for good measure.

I think much of the 'problem' is that the plantar fasciitis I suffered from ten years ago is back. With a vengence. It is in both feet, and so things like walking are out of the question. Even walking from the back deck to the kitchen is very, very painful.

Interesting that I am forced to slow down, get off my feet and relax against my will. I even tried gardening yesterday using a stool, but within 20 minutes I was in tears and back on the porch reading. Frustrating.

Even so, I don't know if I would feel any different if my feet were good to go. I have been investigating the Camino, checking out new patterns on Ravelry, running short errands using my husband as the delivery person, and playing on facebook.

My new orthotics will be ready next Wednesday, so I am hoping that will give me some relief. I really want to get walking again. Of course, I realized that I could be swimming......hmmmmm, I have to get on that.

Maybe really this is all a way to avoid the looming questions: to stay in this house, or to sell, to stay in this area, or move to the island, where to go on holidays? Most days when my husband asks me what I want for dinner I panic, which for me looks like an ostrich putting her head in the sand, or under the covers. I don't care. Don't ask me. Don't make me make a decision. Just feed me!

Perhaps this is a result of making decisions and being in charge as a teacher, as a mother for so many years. One of the things I hate the most about this foot thing is having to ask my husband to do things for me. I am not used to asking for help, and I hate it. He is more than willing to help, but I am less than willing to ask.

I guess I am in transition. So, don't talk about me. I am figuring it out.

Knitting and Reading. Reading and Knitting.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mergansers and tanagers

Ok, clearly this is one of the things I will be spending time doing in retirement. Bird Watching. Well with my dear husband and I it looks more like this.

Himself: Look, look, on the stump. There.

Me: Where, where, what stump?

Himself: There, right in front of us.

Once sighted there is much ooing and ahing. Then the bird book (actually books) come out.

Himself: I think it's a finch.

Me: No, I think in the sparrow family......

Much time passes as I look through 700 plus pages trying to find a matching picture.

Me: Well, it could be a (insert something from New Mexico here), oh, but they never get up this far.

Himself: Maybe it's lost.

Me: Maybe it is an escaped budgie from the next campsite.

Second book comes out - also over 700 pages.

Me: What does the pink colour mean on the map?

Himself: (well actually by this time my dear husband has headed in for a nap)

Me-muttering to myself: How do I know what kind of beak it had? Yellow spots on tail feathers, how would I see spots on tail feathers?

Hours later.....

Himself: Figured it out yet?

Me: Yup, western tanager!

Himself: I don't remember the wings being black.....

Me, wistfully: Maybe it'll come back tomorrow.

And it did! TADA!

And yes, we also saw a merganser, but don't ask me what kind.....I need to get better binoculars.

And then there was that unfortunate incident in Yellowstone last year where I was convinced we had found the only two nesting whooping cranes in the United States. (They turned out to be sandhill cranes, but they did look like something that should be instinct.)

It took me a year to figure out those big, brown speckled birds are Flickers (thanks to my dear sister). AND, the bird song I love most of all since I was 14 I just found out is a chick-a-dee. People say that the hummingbirds that come to our feeder are Anna hummingbirds, but they don't look like the picture in my books.......it is so complicated.

Oh my god, this is exciting.......

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I miss you

I haven't written for a month. It has been a busy month, and I have lots to share, but that is not what this post is about.

I miss you. We have known each other for 52 years. Your 52nd birthday was 23 days ago. I didn't wish you a happy birthday. If I had, I don't know how it would have been received.

I miss you. We shared our lives intimately for a few short years when we were both young and newly married. We would shop together on saturdays. We would swim, and run, and ride bikes together. We would spend New Year Eves together. You were there for me. And I was there for you.

Our relationship, from the time we were teenagers, was not an easy one. At times we were confidants, at other times rivals, although I was never sure why. I think we competed for our mother's love. I think, but I am not sure.

We spent our pregnancies in silence after the first trimester. I was never sure why it happened the first time. I know why it happened with the second babies. It made me sad both times.

But, we moved passed that and kept each other company as new mothers. Both trying our best. We supported each other.

We became entangled in our mother's competition for our love with our aunt. I didn't want to choose, but I was forced to. Sides were taken, history has unfolded.

I called you a few years later, after my mother-in-law's sudden death. I made a gesture and you graciously accepted. We took our children to the ranch and had a lovely weekend together. Fences were mended.

It has been tenuous since then. We spent time by our mother's hospital bed. We picked out a gravestone together. I remember that day well. It was raining, and I had a terrible headache, but together we laid our mother and father to rest.

I miss your laugh, and your quirky sense of humour. I love your capacity for compassion when others are suffering.

I know that you have one perspective. I have another. Each of our siblings has a perspective and they are all true. Every one of them.

Our last exchange was angry and hurtful. I was protecting the heart of one while neglecting the heart of another. I was protecting my heart.

I believe that we have made agreements with everyone in our lives prior to incarnating here, at this time, in this place. I believe you and I made an agreement to be what we are to each other. We have forgotten those agreements. We will meet again after this life and realize that we kept those promises and learned from them when we needed to.

But I have not forgotten you. I miss you, and I hope that one day we will find our way back to each other. I hope it will be a true meeting, not just polite, and we can be sisters once more.

Our mother, our aunt, our father are all gone. We don't have to compete anymore.

Standing on the shore

When my daughter graduated from high school I gave her this poem by TS Eliot.

At Graduation (1905)

Standing upon the shore
of all we know
We linger for a moment
Doubtfully.

Then with a song upon our lips,
Sail we across the harbour-bar.
No chart to show.
No light to warn of rocks
Which lie below.
But let us yet
Set forth courageously.

I think this is how I feel today. The reports are done. The good-byes are said. The promises are made that we will stay in touch. I am not so naive to believe that to be true.

And now?

And now.

There are campfires ahead. And knitting. Some poetry to publish. Perhaps a book to write. There are languages to learn. There are promises to keep. There is company to enjoy.

There is an endless ocean of time filled with joys and sorrows, births and deaths, friends and family, fights, and hopefully, reconciliations.

I used to say that I wanted to live to be ninety-five, and I wanted to die in my sleep, in my own bed. I am going to change that. I want to live until a hundred and five, and I want to die doing something brave.

So, perhaps this blog will take on a new tone as I begin the life of a retired person. There won't be much money, but there will be love. There will always be love.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

MissRepresentation

I viewed the film MissRepresentation with my class a couple of weeks ago. I have seen it twice now, and as a woman in this society I was impressed, shocked, and saddened by the statistics around body image, cutting, eating disorders and depression among my sisters, sisters in the global sense, on this planet.

There are too many points made in the film to remember and recount them all in one, or two sittings. This is clearly a movie I want to see many more times.

However, there was one statement made by Gloria Steinham (my hero), about body image. She said "You know, every time any of us walks past a mirror and denigrates our own appearance, a girl is watching and getting her self-estimate from that."

Yesterday I went clothes shopping with my fashion consultant (thanks dear sister), and found myself having to disrobe many times to try on a variety of outfits: skirts, pants, tops, dresses, and a bathing suit.

Gloria's words kept ringing in my ears. So I was kinder to myself I think than I normally would have been. It was interesting over-hearing women in the other change rooms talking about wanting to hide their tummies, or their back fat, or their arms, or their necks.

My sister and I talked about colours, and how to dress things up, or down. Mostly we talked about the good prices - we both love to buy on sale and get good deals! And, by the way, we did.

The interesting part of the day is that I came home with a pair of jeans, a pair of khakis, a new bathing suit, a long dress, a skirt, a new shrug, a beautiful scarf (that was my impulse buy of the day), a camisole, a pink sweater, and two tee-shirts. Only once in the day did I look at my 56 year old, scarred tummy, and think that I need to lose weight.

None of my new clothes make me look 120 pounds. All of my new clothes look good on me. Me, a 56 year old woman who carries weight. To many I carry too much weight. But, truly, for the last four years I have been more at home in my body. More comfortable in my own skin.

This is what I, at 56 look like. It is ok. It is better than ok. I am loved. I have friends. I want my class to remember a woman who was comfortable in her own skin. Who wasn't afraid to wear a bathing suit, who when she looks in a mirror smiles her beautiful smile, sees a twinkle in her blue eyes, tossles her gray hair, and gets on with the day.

Thanks, GLoria!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is this what retirement looks like?

It is funny how on a long weekend that gives me an extra day I often choose to do housework on my extra day. So today I cleaned out the kitchen garbage can, sorted through all my teaching files, did the laundry, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, dusted, did dishes, made my bed, sorted books on my book shelf, and put my jade plants outside on the back porch for the summer.

My husband worked on cleaning the bar b que, and later went out to get a few groceries. I spent some time reading on the porch, doing my saturday crossword, and put on some potatoes for home made potato salad.

We had a lovely dinner of steak and prawns, greek salad and potato salad with my granny's mayonaise. We had wine, and even a candle on the table.

Then a long luxurious bath, and now I am settled on the couch (a little sun-kissed) to watch a movie and work on a lace scarf I am knitting and would like to finish in time for my class's graduation in a few weeks.

Just a lovely, busy, lazy day. I realize, yet again, that when I am not overwhelmed with prep and school issues, I like a tidy house, with flowers on the balcony, and a made bed.

A peek into my future.

Not so shabby.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

sometimes I don't answer the phone....

There are many times when the phone rings, and I see the caller id and I don't answer the phone. I don't know why I even check the caller id because when I find myself doing this, I know that I won't answer it no matter who is calling. I know that when I am in one of those 'moods' that I haven't the energy to converse.

It is usually when something is weighing on me, something that I am not ready to talk about, maybe will never be able to talk about. I can't talk about it because it is nameless, and formless, and illusive.

I feel guilt for not answering the phone. Sometimes I don't call back for days, taking that time to muster my strength to engage in relationship.

I have an intuitive sister, and an intuitive friend, and an intuitive daughter. They don't let me not answer the phone. They force their way in and force me to be in relationship. I am so honoured that they love me enough to push their way in when I am busy bolting doors. So grateful for their support in this lifetime.

Reaching out to another is very difficult for me, and I am not sure why. My husband stalwartly perseveres when I am like this. He is patient. He is kind. He doesn't let me wallow, but he gives me space. I am not so patient, or understanding to him, but he loves me despite that. I love him because of it.

My friend will phone suggesting coffee. My sister will phone just to chatter away and then to ask the question, and pause, and wait, and listen for the answer. It is usually long, and complicated, not well told, and spoken through tears - the gasping sob of tears. But she listens, and always at the end tells me she loves me, and makes me promise not to keep things from her. She loves me like a mother should love a child. And I, a motherless child, am grateful for it.

I have not been posting to this blog so much lately. I am not sure why. Partly because things are going so well in my classroom and often my blogs are triggered by classroom events. Partly because I share personal feelings in this blog and that has been used against me. Perhaps that is why I don't reach out when I am sad and lonely. Perhaps it is because I believe it will be used against me. My mother always told me not to air dirty laundry. Perhaps I should have listened to her advice in that area.

I have only a few friends that I share this blog with. Mostly family. Family I consider friends. But it is not such an easy distinction. I have family members that know who I truly am, and I have family where we are 'polite' and 'politic'. I have family I wish I saw more, and family I wish sought to understand me better. I have family I wish I could talk to. I have family that I miss.

I could write all of those sentences about friends as well. So, that in itself is interesting.

And my children? My children, I think, I know alot about, and they know alot about me. I think we share our highs and lows, and we all feel better talking truly one to the other.

Is it ever really enough? I have the respect and love of many, and the dis-respect and mis-understanding from a few. And those few stay in my conciousess and sub-conciousness continually. Someone told me recently it is because I love them. And I do. I love them. And I know that sometimes loving someone is not enough. I know that sometimes loving someone leaves you open and vulnerable. I know that sometimes loving someone is not enough.

And for my part in that I am truly sorry and would like to ask forgiveness. Although it seems that relationship is not possible, I will move forward with no ill will or anger.

It is not useful. It is not healthy. It is not who I choose to be.

So if the phone rings I will have the courage and selflessness to answer it. For, in the end, I always feel better being in, rather than out of, relationship with others.

And rather than relying on the intuition of others, I can rely on my own initiative.

So, if you are reading this expect a call. I hope you answer.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Five Year Diary

I received a five year diary for my birthday last October. I had seen my sister's and thought it was a cool idea. She surprised me with the gift. She is thoughtful that way.

It allows only a few lines per day, so at the end of five years you have all five entries for a date - say October 17 - on one page.

I have been using it to cram in events of the day, and as a record of my migraines, but I decided last night that I need to use it more productively. Partly because my handwriting is so poor that I barely can read the entries, so for the family historians who may read this in 50 years it will be a frustrating experience.

I think instead I am going to do what my niece suggested to do at the year end. Think of a word, or short phrase, to sum up the year, and another word, or short phrase to look forward to the next year. But, I will do it daily, rather than yearly.

So for today the words I will write to end the day are Contentment and Calm. The phrase for tomorrow: Courage and Letting Go.

I have to learn to let go of my class of students. The end is coming fast - four more weeks of teaching, one week of camping, and three days to round it all off.

I have to learn to let go of my identity as 'a teacher', although my mother once said that I am a born teacher, and whatever I find myself doing, teaching will likely be a part of it.

I have to learn to let go of my children as they find their way in the world. Not letting go in the heart sense, but letting go in the way that parents must let go of their children. It is a way I am still trying to find the words for this journey. To still care, and yes, worry, and support, and love and listen, but not to burden them with obligation or baggage.

I have to learn to let go of trying to ease another's pain, by making it my own. That kind of enmeshment or enabling behaviour is not good for me, or them.

I have to learn to let go of what was, what could have been, and learn to live with what is and what will be.

I have to learn to let go of the life I have been living, and imagine a different one.

I have to let go of my fear, and learn to embrace the feeling of free fall.

I have to learn to "Not look back, because I am not going that way".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A week in a life

Alot has happened. Some of it tangible, like a finished play. Some intangible, like a shift in the cosmos. A week ago I was sad, alone, lonely and wondering how to get through the next few hours, let alone a whole week, and today, although I am very tired, I am more centered, more at peace. That peace comes from grace and faith, friendship, family and prayer.

My class performed last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each performance was two hours. They were stellar. They were brave. They were humourous, dedicated and musical. As they often do, they stole my heart away. Each one of them so shining in their individual moments, but even more so at the last scene when they were all on stage. All 13 of them. So beautiful, so proud, so accomplished.

But, this was also a week of great pain and reflection. Past hurts, long past, once again surfaced and the scab pulled off to reveal the abcess of a wound unhealed and the realization that it will never be healed. It is like living with a chronic illness. But harder. A chronic illness I do live with, every day, although it is less in my mind as it seems I am in some kind of remission. This situation is not like that. It is not a diagnosis you can look up on the internet, or discuss with others who have experienced a similar medical situation. This feels, as Jaques says in As You Like It, "like a melancholy of mine own." Tolstoy said "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way".

A friend of mine said to me last Monday - "Our families bring us the greatest joy and the deepest pain". Last Monday I was in deep pain. The kind where you can't eat, can't swallow, can't sleep, can't imagine when the pain in your stomach will stop."

As I have written before, my relationship with my mother is complicated. That complication makes other family relationships complicated. Even when you are one of six siblings, even though you think that each of you are being raised by the same parents, you really aren't. Every parent/child relationship is unique. And some are easier than others. I have written in the past that I, at times, didn't like my mother very much, and even came to the place where I realized I didn't love her. Saying those words does not mean that I don't have familial love for the woman that raised me, that there weren't loving moments in our relationship. There are fond memories of her within the painful ones. Especially summer memories, talking in the garden, drinking coffee before anyone else was awake.

But this is not where the pain lies today. The pain is for the impossibility of unity, of reconciliation. The pain is for the realization that the stories are too far apart. A teacher friend of mine said recently that in any disagreement there are three truths. Their truth, your truth, and God's truth.

Perhaps, for this lifetime, I have to let the truth lie with God. There is nothing to gain in trying to give my side of the story, because the other can refute it, deny it, not recognize it, argue it.

It is not enough that there is pain in different perceptions. That, perhaps, I could live with. I could have learned to live with my mother's anger. I have been angry. We have all been angry. It is the meanness that lay behind, or sometimes in front of, the anger that I find hard to accept.

It is an anger I again recognize in another. That is where the pain lies. In the realization that it exists for another generation. And perhaps another after that.

Generational anger and hurt. That is where the true pain lies.

I used to believe that I could bring reason and rationality to the situation. I couldn't then. I can't now. I think at 56 it is time I accept that. It is over. My part in it is over. There is no percentage in hanging on to false hope.

So I will focus on the love and respect I have for those close to me. Some are family that I would choose to be friends. Some are friends that I consider family. I am loved by many, and I in turn love many. That is what took my pain away one week ago, and that is what will heal this wound once and for all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Confirmation

I attended a confirmation service at Christ Church Cathedral officiated by Bishop Ingram this afternoon. I think it is my first confirmation service since my own in May 1970.

It is a beautiful service. The hymns were wonderful, the choir stellar, and afterwards my student (the confirmation candidate) and her mother invited me out for dinner.

It was hectic to get there on time. I had been away in Victoria at a memorial and spent much of the weekend in tears, especially today as I had to say goodbye to my aunt and cousins, sister, husband and son. They were all staying on the island for another day or so, while I came home to attend the service.

Noon ferry, at my car by 2pm, home by 3pm, change and off to downtown at 3:15. Then finding parking downtown - always a trial - but none-the-less I was sitting in my seat by 3:45. Whew. Sometimes I know that God helps me get where I am going. Today was no exception.

Taking Communion at an Anglican service seemed a fitting end for today. My uncle was an Anglican. I wore the earrings he gave me. Even though they were blue, and I was wearing red. He would understand. I am not one for colour co-ordinating my outfits, but I am good at meaningful accessorizing!

My Uncle, I think, seemed to always speak his mind. The motto attached to the bouquet of red carnations from his regiment, Lord Strathcona's Horse, said PERSEVERANCE.

I think that will be my word for the next few weeks. I think, too, I will speak my mind more - there is no reason to keep quiet while others around me voice their opinions - I need to trust in the validity of my opinion. I need to re-confirm. To myself, to God, to my life.

Bishop Ingram said today "faith is a verb, not a noun". So I am going to move forward, persevering with that thought. If I continue to live with integrity, moving forward faithfully, with perseverance - how can it not help?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

As You Like It - As I see it...

I don't think it is a figment of my imagination. I think I can safely say that this past year of teaching has been amazing - and no more so than the last week. We have returned from our Easter break and thrown ourselves into rehearsals to perform As You Like It at the end of April.

I have permission to use some original music, two of my students choreographed the wedding dance at the end, I have had support from a wonderful actor/director from Bard on the Beach, and the students, for the most part, are working hard and putting up with my demands for 'quiet back stage!'.

Still, and all, I am cranky today. Tired I think. It has been a busy nine days.

It is my Uncle's memorial this weekend. As they often are, this one is called a 'Celebration of Life'. Yes, his was a life to be celebrated. His relationships with friends, nieces, nephews, daughters, sisters, brother, wife are all to be celebrated. Celebrated in those private memories that some of us will try to give voice to on Saturday.

Relationships are so personal. The spark, the life that exists between two people is unique. No one else has quite the relationship you do to another. That thought can be comforting. It is also a lonely thought. For when that person is gone, there is no-one to truly understand it, no-one to replace it. No-one should replace it.

So aging is, in part, a series of losses. Voices you will never hear again. Laughter you will never hear again. Comfort you will never feel again. Dances you will never dance again.

My uncle and I danced once, in Sicily, eight years ago. Cheek to cheek, slow dancing. I never had that dance with my father. In that moment I felt he was the closest thing I would ever have to a father as an adult. It was wonderful, and it was poignant.

This weekend, amidst the stories, the laughter, the tears, the hustle and bustle, the re-unions, this weekend I will be remembering Italy. A 48 year old woman and her 84 year old uncle. They had the trip of a lifetime, and now, one holder of those memories is gone, and one is left behind.

Sometimes being the one left behind can be so hard.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crashing waves

Home from ten days away. Away to the wild, wet, pacific west coast. Sleeping in till 10 every day. Walks on the beach. A few campfires. Listening to the radio Eating good food. Cozy in our camper.

This is, perhaps, my last spring break for some time. Retirement is only 2 months away. Wow. I think I will start calling it a sabbatical. Retirement, at my age, doesn't sound right. It doesn't ring 'true', as my mother would say.

It was peaceful. The weather report was for rain, rain, and more rain. We had one day of pouring rain, but it was good because I did all my marking. Silver lining and all that stuff.

Mostly the days were a mix of cloud and sun, and the last two days full on sun.

And every day was accompanied by the sound of the Pacific Ocean. Not so peaceful, the name that is. The sound, to me, is very soothing.

Perhaps it is the repetition. Repeating, but not the same. Surging, receding, ebbing, flowing. Each wave different from the last, each one bringing a promise, perhaps a surprise.

We saw a murder of crows digging in the sand. Each one of them digging in the sand. A mystery. An intelligence. A reminder that I don't know about alot of things. I only know that those waves, those beaches, that sand brings me peace.

I was occasionally struck by melancholy on this trip. Suddenly, like a rogue wave, it would wash over me. I would turn to my husband in despair. The tears would flow. It is a simple answer to say it was low blood sugar - although eating would help. I think it is more omnipresent than that

On that wild Pacific coast I feel small and insignificant. I feel far away from family and friends. I feel - well - lost. And yet in the losing of myself I find something infinitely greater.

My faith is always with me these days. As I pray for the health of my loved ones, for the safety of my loved ones, for the peace of the world.

I can't keep them all safe under my wings, but I can keep them safe in my heart.

My husband asked if the pounding waves would become persistent, annoying, day in and day out if we chose to live by such an ocean.

I don't think so. The sound reminds me minute by minute, tide by tide, of God. God is in the details.

I heard a question asked of a rabbi, the father of nine children, when he was left paralysed after a car accident.

"I don't ask why did God let this happen to me. I ask what does he want me to do now?"

So, I think, for me, those waves were asking: What do you want to do now? The melancholy is simply an opening to the infinite possibilities - as large as the ocean, as perfect as each wave, as cleansing as my baptism.

It is no coincidence that this is Easter Sunday. The Resurrection and the Life. Looking forward to Pentecost.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

spring break

Well the sheets are washed, the bottles returned, the taxes entered (just waiting on some numbers from my dear girl), the back porch swept, and the medical receipts submitted. Whew! Spring Breaks are exhausting.

I also have been knitting (and frogging - I can't seem to find the pattern I like for the bamboo wool I have), visiting friends, and napping.

This will be my last Spring Break for, well perhaps, ever. It is odd to think about being retired. Odd, but good. Very good.

I imagine we will head for the West (wet) coast soon in our camper. The forecast is for rain, rain, and then, wait for it, more rain. Thank God we have a furnace, and a hot water shower inside our little abode.

We are looking forward to wave, wind, whales, and hot springs.

Of course, I will also take along some marking, and we do have to begin to plan a budget for our drop in income come August. I don't have a pension, so we will be living on my husband's pension. I am a bit of an ostrich about these things, but I will have to get my head out of the sand and take a realistic look at our expenses. Maybe, next week.

But for now I have mending to do, and blocking to do (a lace scarf that needs to be blocked on wires - something I have never done). I also have socks to darn and a baby sweater to finish. My colleagues all seem to be having babies (well, not all, but three of the female variety).

The bills are paid, the dishes done, and I may even sweep the floor. I actually like a tidy house when I am not overwhelmed with school work.

The question keeps coming up - what next? Where do we want to live? I have to say, today, with the fresh wet cedars all around me, and the birds singing, I could just stay here.... The cedars have pretty much taken over both the front and back yards - it is like living in a little cabin here on the hill overlooking the city - and yet, it isn't because the neighbours will soon be intimating our trees are too big, and they (gasp) drop leaves on their properties. Sigh. Why did they move to this area if they don't like trees? They could go live in Richmond. Just sayin'.

Anyways, last night I felt kinda blue (but I think I was tired), today I am calmly happy and optimistic.

For me, this is always a good thing.

And, the daffodils are everywhere.

And, the cherry blossoms have arrived.

I can't wish for anything else.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

It is what it is

And I am what I am. No, this is not a cutesy quote from Popeye.

Ironically enough I think of myself as a healthy person. The irony in this is that if you were to look at my medical history - clearly I am not. Ill health kind of sneaks up on you. Or, at least, it did to me.

I recently went to an acupuncturist and had to give them my medical history. It was shocking to see it in black and white, and I didn't even include everything - only those things that I felt were relevant to my migraines.

However, last week I had to see a specialist about a nagging bladder problem (I know, I know, too much information), and they wanted a total history of surgeries, and medications, and the whole she-bang.

Wow. It was weird to see it all listed out there like that. I don't think there is any point listing it here - but it was daunting to see it all in black and white.

I have tried to live a healthy life. Over the past 30 some years I have been a runner, a vegetarian, a yoga practitioner, a swimmer, a walker.....well, again I don't have to list it all.

I do have chronic depression and a chronic blood disease. I guess I don't count chronic illness, cause I just have to live with that, day in and day out. I guess I always think of ill health as those more acute things - like colds, flu, pneumonia, appendicitis, etc. I don't suffer those things much at all. So, I think of myself as healthy.

I have had chronic back problems since breaking my back in the late 70s, but oddly enought that has been quite stable in the last year or so.

Hey, I did The Chief last year at the age of 55! And until recently, although I have been a migraine sufferer, it was only a few times a year. I could deal with that.

But now it seems to be snow balling down on me. Two to three migraines a week. I have been waiting to see a neurologist for six months - that appointment is coming towards the end of April.

I don't want to go to these specialists and be put on more medications or sent for more tests. It seems hopeless. I have been to three doctor appointments in the last few months and noticed something very odd.

No one ever touches me. They don't look in my eyes, or ears, or listen to my heart or take my blood pressure. They stare at a computer screen and ask me questions, and while I answer they type into their computer. It is odd. Then they send me to a specialist (6-12 months later), and they ask me questions and send me for tests and don't touch me. Or look at me. It is weird. Is it because I am 'old' and becoming invisible? Is ill health a way to get someone to notice me?

I feel 'old' and I hate it. My elbow hurts, my upper arm is stiff, I don't sleep well. Blah. blah. blah.

I have taken health for granted. Not been as diligent as I should be about my physical and mental health.

I have to stop whining. It pisses me off - both my whining and my lack of wellness.

I am going out into the sun.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Writer's block

I cancelled two acupuncture appointments this week. I felt like I was rushing and stressing about trying to get to appointments, and that didn't make sense to me. I got a migraine on Monday. It seems like they are coming about 2 weeks apart. This is better than 2-3 per week. I had a bad headache yesterday, but no visual migraine, so I don't know if it was a migraine, or just a headache. Anyways, enough about that.

I had a busy, yet relaxing weekend. I went to see the University of the Fraser Valley's version of As You Like It on Friday night and it was wonderful! My class and I are performing this same play at the end of April, so I was mentally taking notes as I watched.

On Saturday I went to a Fibers trade show, and bought a book on knitting knee high fairisle socks. Something else for my list of things to do when I retire. I have lots of knitting to do these days as I have 3 colleagues expecting babies. Knit. Knit. Knit.

On Saturday my man and I went to see our son perform with his band. It was a great two hour show. I sang along with all the songs, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Today was a lazy day which included two, count em, two naps. I drew a cloud chart on the board for school tomorrow, and had tea with my son. So, I can knit all evening, guilt free, because my prep is all done for the week. And then on Friday at noon my spring break starts.
Whew! Can't wait for two weeks of r e l a x i n g! Of course before the break my grade 4/5 choir, and my grade 8s are performing at Centennial Theatre - so there is a small amount of stress still left to go.

By the way, I don't really have writer's block. What I really want to write about is too hard right now. So this blog should really be called writer's procrastination.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

oops

Ok, so I think I am a great teacher. No, really, I do. However, I had a rather, shall we say, humbling experience this week.

In my defense I have been teaching a one month block on 19th and 20th century revolutions and wars. I started with the War of 1812 and ended with the Women's movement of the 1960s. This involved ALOT of research, much of done, clearly, too late in the evening.

Anyways, I was telling the story of Gandhi and India's revolution for independence. I always try to teach history as much as possible through biography. Well, Gandhi's biography is huge, and I presented this to the class over two days. Suffice to say I had a lot of prep to do.

Here is where it gets embarrassing. Gandhi spent 22 years in South Africa where he experienced the segregation of the coloured people from the whites, and some of the degrading things blacks were subjected to in South Africa. I was reading several web pages about this and came across the story where he discovered the blacks were not allowed to walk on the same sidewalks as the whites unless they bought - wait for it - a sheet. A sheet. Now, in my sleep deprived brain I thought they were referring to bed sheets, aka linens. Well, that kinda made sense - you want to walk on my sidewalk you have to purchase something from my store.

The students went along with this idea - until I came to the part of the story where Gandhi encouraged all the coloured people to burn the 'sheets' in protest. Ok, I can go with the burning of bed sheets - kind of like the 'burning of the vanities'. Anyways my one student, who always keeps me honest, thought this didn't make any sense. Why would they burn something they had spent money on and probably needed anyways? Aha! Ever the teacher that can think quick on her feet I went on about Gandhi's vision of non-violent resistance (which he got from Leo Tolstoy, btw). Anyways, I stuck to my guns...and the next day we were talking about Hitler and World War II.

Ahem. I imagine now that anyone reading this is wanting my teaching credentials revoked. I started to think about this last week, and it suddenly dawned on me. Sheets. As in sheets of paper. Like a pass! OHHHHHHHHHH! I get it. Oh my God, now I have to face my class and (ahem) point out the folly of my logic.

I went back and read their essays on Gandhi, and so far I have not found any that mention bed sheets. Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one.

So, I am sure on Monday we will all have a good laugh. I think they have enough esteem for me that I will be forgiven (although they are 14 year olds so it may take a bribe in the form of swedish fish - their favourite candy).

Sheets. Who knew that word would be my humbling moment.

Ok, now I am going to bed to pull the sheet over my head.

I am not coming out until the sun does! (Which is kind of ironic since I am teaching Meteorology for the next two weeks - Coriolis effect anyone?)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bulbs

They are harbingers of spring. They are hope during January's cold, and February's rain. First the snow drops, then the crocuses. And then the daffodils, trumpeting the coming of light and warmth. Followed by hyacinth, and tulips. Aw, yes, the tulips.

I don't really understand how bulbs survive the winter. Only a few inches down in the cold, dark, often frozen earth. What is it in them that can withstand the dreariness? What spirit infuses them to awake once more, and raise their heads, and push up and out, and grow once more toward the light? Why don't they give up?

Sometimes I think giving up would be the easier thing to do. Sometimes, I imagine, those hardy little bulbs emerge in January, in a corner of a lot, and no-one even notices. When I notice them it is like a little, unexpected gift. One I often am not able to share with anyone. Just me, and the snowdrops. Just me, taking heart from their presence. Their presents.

I am not a gardener, but I have planted bulbs. I am not one for buying myself flowers, but I do buy daffodils, and irises, and tulips. Bulbs remind me that there is something inside of everything that we can't see and don't understand. Bulbs remind me that with the tiniest bit of warmth, life will strive to overcome desolation.

Even though winter isn't over, they promise of spring.

I could use spring right now. It has been that kind of winter.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Obituary

Obituaries are odd things. They give dates and times and places. They tell us of careers, marriages, family. Sometimes they inform you of the cause of death. Sometimes we hear how they died: gallantly fighting cancer, or surrounded by loved ones, peacefully in bed, tragically in an accident.

They may tell us about a life lived, but they don't tell us who the person truly was. That would take too long. That would be a different story for every writer.

My Uncle John and I were essentially strangers until I was 48. He visited occasionally when I was young. He was my father's older brother. I heard stories of how even though his name was John, the family called him Ed. He came to my father's funeral when I was 17. He came to my house to see my new-born son when I was 28. It was awkward. I didn't know him.

When my Aunt began to develop dementia I reached out to him, or he to me, I don't remember, and it doesn't matter. He was losing a sister. I was losing an aunt that had been there for me all my life. He knew I had been tasked to make hard decisions about her care and he supported me 100%. 150%. And through it we became less strangers, more uncle and niece.

Eight years ago he called me to invite me to travel to Italy with him. He was going as a guest of the Canadian Government to honour the soldiers who had liberated Italy. His daughters couldn't go. His wife couldn't go. He was allowed to bring along a support person. I thought he was kidding. How could I go? I had just started my Grade One class, and it was to be the two weeks leading up to Armistice Day.

My sister phoned and told me he wasn't kidding. How could I not go? I made arrangements. I went.

I cannot begin to write about my experiences with him during those two weeks. It was comfortable. It was easy. He was a wonderful travelling companion. We supported each other. The travelling wasn't always easy, the days were very long. We talked alot about the war. We talked alot about my father and his family. We talked alot.

So many memories: espresso in Rimini one morning, pizza later that night, standing in front of so many grave markers, in many canadian war cemetaries in front of men he had known and fought with. So many funny stories. So many sad ones.

And then one night, we were all having a drink in a little bar in Sicily near the end of the trip. He turned to me and said that he had wanted to ask me during a luncheon earlier that day, but he had lost his nerve. So he was asking now. Would I do him the honour of a dance? So we danced. He was so gallant. He was so grateful. It was such a perfect moment in time.

When we returned our friendship continued. He loved my kids. He would come over to visit his sister in the care home she was now living in. The last time he came over was for her funeral. That was almost four years ago.

I attended his 90th birthday almost two years ago. I tried to phone and email over the past two years but he was having trouble remembering who everyone was. I couldn't bear to have someone else I love forget who I was.

And now he is gone from this mortal earth. But not from my heart. Never from my heart.

He once called me and said that whatever part was his in the estrangment he had with my mother and my family he was sorry. He was truly sorry.

So this is a piece of his life: family, regret, love, laughter, war, and peace.

John Frances Burton - April 24, 1920 - February 27, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

snow

Snow. It is just so peaceful. It is clean. It makes the world quiet. It makes the world more beautiful. It is magical, this frozen water falling from the sky.

We went camping last week. Usually we head to the ocean. On Thursday we headed for the mountains. It is always so amazing to me that you can drive up the 99 and there is little, or no, snow on the road, and then you turn off the highway, and drive a few kilometers, and you are in a fairy land. Snow on the trees, snow on the ground, snow on the mountains all around.

The fire was going, the chili was bubbling on the coleman stove, the stars were overhead. It was pure, and perfect.

Then waking up in the morning to 20 cm of snow on the ground, on our camper steps, and still falling from the sky. Big, fat, fluffy flakes. Two hours later another 20 cm, and by the time we left the snow was up to my knees.

We could have stayed all day, but the owners of the campground were nervous. The snow was predicted to go on all day. So reluctantly, and with some trepidation we headed down the barely plowed road that twisted and turned towards the highway.

We were home by 7pm. We had been gone little more that 24 hours, but it felt like three days. I was happy. I felt rested. I felt brave and accomplished. Just because of the snow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

pins and needles

I have been going for acupuncture. It has been suggested to me for a couple of years by a good friend, but I was too chicken. I mean, really? Won't that hurt?

But, having 2 migraines a week will make one take desperate measures. So, off I went.

I have had four treatments so far. It is actually quite relaxing. Sometimes, certain needles cause me to twitch when they first go in, or are adjusted, but then I lie in a quiet room, listening to soft music, and just, well, relax. It is funny to say the word 'relax' because the practitioner keeps telling me to relax, and I know I am holding lots of tension in my body as I lie there, but still and all I do feel relaxed.

I always have the greatest naps after my sessions. Deep sleeps. And the night immediately after a treatment I sleep right through. No waking up for anything. That is an odd occurence for me.

They have also given me these awful, awful tasting herbs to take twice a day. I mean, these are disgusting. I have to hold my nose to drink them, and will them to stay down. They tell me many of their clients can't actually take them. But, I do. I am stubborn that way.

So, four acupunture sessions, five days of awful tasting chinese herbs, and......I haven't had a migraine in 9 days. 9 Days! That is something.

I also feel like I have more energy, my mood is lighter, the restless legs not as bad.

So, progress, no? I think so.

As I have said before I am not a 'watch and wait' kind of girl. My naturapath is out of town until the middle of March, and my appointments with two specialists are also March and April. That doesn't seem so far away now, but last December it felt like eons.

So, matters into my own hands - acupuncture.

And knitting. I have organized all my needles and patterns and wool, and I have lots of ideas for projects. There are two babies coming into my life - so projects need to be started, and I made a new year's resolution to make everyone's Christmas gifts for next December. So far I have made a birthday present for someone, and a pair of socks for me out of wool my son gave me for Christmas. I have started the next present - and I have lots of ideas. Lots.

Good thing too, because retirement is just a few months away.

So you see, that is where I am right now. On needles and pins. Or, more accurately the needles and pins are on me.

Nine days. It is a miracle.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Superstitions

I am afraid to make plans. I have had to cancel many over the last months due to migraines. I am afraid to leave my jewelery on my dresser; I wear it all, all the time. I have been robbed twice and lost precious, irreplaceable things. I am afraid to not park my little car in the drive way behind my truck and camper. I need to keep it safe. My truck and camper were stolen outside the front of my house a few years back. The experience with ICBC was horrible to say the least. I am afraid to leave the front door unlocked when I go to bed, and the smoke detector unplugged. People break into homes, and fires destroy lives and property.

This is how I live my life. Afraid. Waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. I have developed habits out of fear, and experience. Habits that are hard to break.

This is not to say I am a pessimist, or a doom-sayer. Anyone who knows me, knows me to be hopeful and generally happy. I have had some very bad things happen to me, and to people I love. I don't anticipate them. They happen. Bad things happen to good people all the time. I know that. I know that. Then we work it through, deal with it, move on. This is what we do. This is what I do. And still, each incidence lives me a little more fragile, with another habit, another ritual to ward off evil.

Sometimes I just imagine something bad happening to my husband, or children. I immediately send them white light, surround them in postive energy. If I don't, I believe the bad thing will happen. I am superstitious that way.

You have your whole life ahead of you. We tell that to our children when they are struggling. But it is true for all of us. We all have our whole life ahead of us. Whether for a moment or for decades. We all have our whole life ahead of us. I am tired of living mine in fear.

So, today I am not wearing all my jewelery. What's the worse that can happen? This is a private joke with a dear friend. She and I know the worst that can happen. It has happened. And still we move on. With laughter and tears we move on. Because if we just succumb to the fear we will be paralysed.

I am afraid of being paralysed. It is a recurring dream I have that I am trying to talk, and can't. I am trying to be understood and can't. I imagine that it is a dream of having a stroke. It is very real. It is yet another thing I am afraid of.

But, for now, for today, I will head out into the world. I have my Venus de Willendorf around my neck, and my wolf ring on. I believe they will protect me. I am superstitious that way.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A life too short

On Sunday I will be attending a benefit concert in memory of Wallace Leung. He was my son's violin teacher for 7 years. 7 years.

Wallace was cool. He was a gifted conductor and teacher. He loved soccer. He loved AD/DC. He didn't fit the picture one usually has of a 'classical' musician. My son and he had an incredible bond that went beyond teacher-student. I think if Wallace was still alive he and my son would have been good friends as adults.

Wallace taught at the school I now teach at, and the school my son attended from pre-school until Grade 11. I still remember the day I was walking down the hall, and Wallace was walking towards me. He was a handsome man. A sharp dresser. I was about to speak to him about my son's dedication to his violin and his practising. Something I felt was unusual for a 10 year old boy. Before I had the chance Wallace asked if he could take my son on as a private student. And so it began.

We would drive over to Kitsalano weekly to Wallace's apartment. I would sit and mark papers, or read, or just listen to their lesson. It was so lovely. So poignant in hindsight. Their relationship was so true.

Then Wallace moved to a very funky apartment in the old part of the West-end. Sometimes I would drop my son off and go walk on the beach, but mostly I sat in the dining room and listened. Wallace would often tease my son that he needing to stop tapping his toe while he played. Wallace would comment that perhaps my son should be a fiddler. Little did he know. Little did he know.

My son entered a few concerto competitions under Wallace's tutelage. My son played in the youth orchestra where Wallace was the Musical Director. The violin and classical music were a huge part of my son's life. Wallace got him a partial scholarship to attend a classical music camp. That was the beginning of the end.

Something profound happened to my son at that camp that August. He wouldn't talk about it. His drive for the violin had shifted. As a mother I knew something was wrong. So, I phoned Wallace.

Wallace was getting busier and busier. His conducting career was taking off. He was becoming well known in Europe. Kyle was meeting with him once a month, or so, for lessons.

After our phone conversation Wallace asked me to bring Kyle over to his apartment so they could talk.
And they did. A young 16 year old man, and his mentor, a young 33 year old man. And they made plans. Plans for Wallace to stick by him, and support him, in whatever musical direction my son chose. "You can do anything" Wallace told him. "You can go anywhere in the music world, and I will help you get there." My son had been wounded at that music camp, but with Wallace could have started to heal.

After their talk, Wallace asked if we could drive him somewhere - he had an appointment. We did. I let him off at a corner, at a red-light. He was heading to New York to spend Christmas with his fiance's family.

It was the last time either of us saw him.

On the plane to New York he became ill. He thought it was a bad cold. He ended up in a New York hospital. He went into a coma. He died a month later of viral meningitis. It was over.

My son and I attended his funeral, and the reception afterwards. We had never met the young woman that Wallace was engaged to. She was an opera singer.

At the reception, my son, my 16 year old son, went up to her, to share his grief, to acknowledge hers. He said "This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He and I had plans". She said, "I know, he and I had plans, too." And they both wept. And I wept, as I am weeping now. A life too short.

My son has remained in contact with her over the past 10 years. There is a benefit concert on Sunday. My son had composed a piece of music for Wallace that was released on my son's last album. He had sent it to her. She asked that it be played at the benefit concert. My son would not do that for just anyone, but he will do it for her, and for Wallace.

And I will be there. I will bring kleenex. Even after 10 years the tears still flow for all the things that died, all the plans that stopped, all the possibilites that ended that fateful day in January 2002.