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.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

When did that happen?

My personal email address used to contain, well, personal emails. To me, and sometimes to my husband. Yes, we share an email address. It doesn't work for everyone, but it works for us. So it would contain emails from our children, my sister, my cousins, friends - you get the drift.

However, lately I notice that most of my emails are advertisements. How did this happen? An airline, a yoga studio, my hair studio, my electronic book sponsor, shops where I buy clothes occasionally - well you get the drift.

And I always feel - when I want to fly somewhere, get my hair cut, come to a class, buy a book, or purchase some new pants I'll let you know. Really, I know where you all are and I will let you know. I don't need you to tell me about the sale, or the book you think I should read. I never shop because there is a sale, and I never buy the book you think I want. Ok? Ok, so after I finish this blog I am going to reply to all these emails and have them take me off their lists. I throw away all 'junk' mail that comes through my snail mail slot, and I delete all 'junk' that comes into my inbox. I vow to stop giving stores, businesses my email address. If I want you I'll call you. Promise.

It is all part of the 'noise' of today's world. Maybe it is this 'noise' that is causing my migraines. I have found a television stations that shows movies commercial free. Ahhh. The relief is staggering.

I am cancelling the newspaper. It is full of advertisements, articles that are really advertisements and alot of bad/scary/disturbing news. I am sure if something profound is going on in the world someone will let me know.

I already only listen to commercial free radio (thanks to CBC), and the radio show I love on another commercial station I just download the podcast - commercial free.

I avoid big stores because of the 'noise' of their sale signs. Really, just because something is 50% off doesn't mean that I save money when I buy it. I save money when I don't buy it. Pretty simple math.

Ok, so now I am ranting. When really I just want the noise to stop. The noise inside my head, the 'noise' that comes into my eyes.

And, while I am on the subject (what subject?) I want people to be nicer to each other. I want people to cut each other some slack. I want people to stop criticizing every little thing. Maybe if we start there. Maybe if I start there, then my sister's wish for world 'peas' will be just that one step closer.

As Gandhi said "An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind".