Day 3 — the purge continues

20180103_204556Every time I write the word purge I laugh a little. It reminds me of the terrible The Purge movie we watched a few years ago. It was worse than dreadful — it was violent and boring. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Now, of course, there are sequels. Go figure.

The word purge is an ugly word. It sounds ugly when you say it; it’s ugly when written. Even the meaning is ugly.

Purge (noun)

:an act of removing by cleansing; ridding of sediment or other undesired elements
:the act of clearing yourself (or another) from some stigma or charge
:rinse, clean, or empty with a liquid – purge the old gas tank
:eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth – He purged continuously
:make pure or free from sin or guilt
:an abrupt or sudden removal of a person or group from an organisation or place – he died in a purge by Stalin
:clear of a charge
:excrete or evacuate (someone’s bowels or body) – The doctor decided that the patient must be purged
:oust politically – Deng Xiao Ping was purged several times throughout his lifetime
:rid of impurities – purge the water – purge your mind
But my intent to purge my life of unnecessary things is not ugly. It is liberating. Like some forms of purging listed above, it is actually a good thing.
Today I rid myself of magazines. I have hung on to these magazines for ages. Some of them were from the early 1990s. I kept some of them in the bathroom in case someone needed reading material. I, personally, wouldn’t touch them. And as far as I know neither did anyone else. They were dusty, wrinkled from constantly being steamed from the shower, and out of date.
Dr. Oz’s advice on how to stock your refrigerator so you’ll lose weight is only good for one reading as far as I’m concerned. When I picked up the women-only fitness magazine and leafed through it I thought for one brief moment that I should try some of the workouts, but then I remembered that I went for a walk this morning. That’s good enough at my age.
It’s not like I ever want to wear a bikini again — no, a nice high-waisted tankini with tummy control, waist minimizer and boob support is my style these days. Something I can walk around the resort, beach, deck in with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other. My pretty-young-thing days are all behind me and I’m happy.
I also got rid of Christmas and holiday magazines. I had been clinging to these as though they were precious artefacts. These magazines represented the romanticized versions of the holidays that I always tried to create. I made a few of the crafts, tried out recipes, and read inspirational stories of stranger’s special holiday memories. So many times I felt dissatisfied after the holidays were over because they had not lived up to the expectations I’d borrowed from the glitzy pages of those magazines.
This year I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving; I spent it with my parents and some of my siblings. I didn’t have to do a thing. It was my dad’s last turkey dinner and I felt blessed just to be able to be there and share that moment.
Christmastime, I was home, but because I spend half my time living in Fort McMurray where my husband works I didn’t decorate or put up a tree this year. I said I didn’t have time. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like decorating.
I didn’t go through my usual routine of replacing my dishes with Christmas ones, putting out Christmas linens or stringing garlands all over the place. The Dickens’ village didn’t get set up and didn’t have Christmas blankets and teddies strewn all over.
We spent Christmas morning at my son’s house and enjoyed all the festive decorating my daughter in law does. Their tree was lovely. We opened presents, we had our traditional eggs-benny breakfast and then my husband and I went home. None of it was inspired by a picture or article from a magazine. It was genuine, it was memorable and it made me happy.
When I saw all those magazines today it occurred to me that they are meaningless. Holidays are not about how your house looks, or how your table is dressed. It’s not about decorating advice from the pros or how to host the best Thanksgiving dinner – EVER! It’s about family, creating memories and sharing love and laughter, tears and joy.
I didn’t even break a sweat as I carried all those magazines down to the recycle bin.
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Untitled — something I’m working on

© KLarson 2019

Maybe that’s what happens, she thought. As we get older, the longer we’re together, the more we find to dislike about one another.

She was busy, or rather, she was trying to be. There really wasn’t that much to do. Now that they’d down-sized. She snorted inwardly at that — “down-sizing” — the new in thing to do when you retired. All of their friends had done it — some all the way to Mexico, Belize or the Caymans. Those were the truly successful down-sizers. Everyone else, she and Dan included, had simply traded down and stayed local.

The reasons were numerous and all legitimate. Lower living expenses, no stairs (so much easier on the joints), less cleaning, minimal yard work, no snow shoveling, zero maintenance and close proximity to shopping, transit and hospitals.  It all sounded so reasonable and smart, so mature and well-considered.

The truth was that it was boring. Dull and boring. Of course, it hadn’t been, not at first. When they had first started considering the idea of selling the house it had been exciting. A new start. Purging 40 plus years of accumulated stuff to make way for new stuff.

It was only when she got to the boxes of old school reports, handmade cards and favourite books and items of clothes she’d saved for each of the kids that it hit her. They were ridding themselves of their life. The one they’d worked at building for over 40 years together.

But she couldn’t say anything.

Because down-sizing had been her idea. Dan had resisted from the beginning, and he’d had plenty of good arguments for staying in their house — their home — not least among them the history that their place embodied.

It had taken a lot of persuasion, arguments, enlisting the help of friends and family, even the kids, to get him on board. When he finally agreed that it made sense to move into something smaller, something they could just lock the door on and walk away from when they wanted to travel for more than 2 weeks at a time, something situated right next door to a golf course, well, there was no turning back then.

Be careful what you wish for, her mother had always said.

.   .   .

Dan came through the door on cue at 5:30. She forced herself to smile.

“Supper in five,” she said, as she reached to take their plates out of the cupboard.

” ‘kay. I’m just going to jump in the shower,” He hung his keys on the hook by the door, dropped the day’s mail on the hall table and headed to their room with barely a glance in her direction.

When he came down nearly 20 minutes later she was finishing the last few bites on her plate.

“You didn’t wait?” Dan looked at her coldly.

“I told you in five,” she said, picking up her wine glass.

“Yeah, I guess you did.” He lifted the cover off the plate she’d made up for him. “What is this?” He sounded slightly disgusted at the sight of the food on his plate.

“It’s spaghetti squash with vegan chili. And gluten-free corn bread.” She took a sip of wine to hide the smirk forming on her lips. Dan scowled, grunted and continued to stare disdainfully at his plate.

Inwardly, Leslie was daring him to make a remark. The whole time she’d been preparing the meal she’d been anticipating his reaction. She knew he’d hate it. Dan was a meat and potatoes man. Had been his whole life. Once upon a time he’d been open to trying something new or different, but since turning 60 he’d made it clear that his days of adventurous eating were over.

So, every so often she treated him to something special. Like tonight.

“Can you get me a beer?” he said looking at her with thinly disguised anger.

“Excuse me?” she said with raise brows.

“Please. For Christ’s sake. Get me a beer.”

“Love to,” she answered cheerily.

Leslie stayed at the table, nursing her wine the whole while he ate. When he was done, he looked up at her and with a smile, said, “That wasn’t half bad. Tasty.”

Leslie tipped her wine glass at him. “Thanks.”

They’d cleaned up the dinner dishes and tidied the kitchen. Aside from a few questions and answers about each others day they barely spoke. She was heading into the bedroom to brush her teeth when when saw him pick up his phone. Tight-lipped she listened as she heard him order two pounds of wings from Jerry’s around the corner.

“Yeah, buffalo and some honey garlic. Twenty minutes? No problem.” As he hung up he looked at her and smiled.

.   .   .

 

For Dad

I wrote this for my brothers and sisters last July when we gathered at my sister’s cottage in Ontario to spread our father’s ashes. He had died the previous October and this was to be our final, group farewell to the man we called Dad. Like him, it isn’t perfect, but I think it captured who he was pretty well.

Here goes:

Dad
he loved licorice all-sorts
and off-coloured jokes.
he loved a girl named Sheila.
and his eight brothers and sisters,
though he did once tie them to chairs.
he liked crossword puzzles, Tim Hortons coffee and McDonalds.
he said things
like “pass the salt and pecker” at the dinner table and
we’d snicker and giggle
while mom gave him ‘the look’.
he loved walking and riding his bike.
he was an explorer.
he took us through abandoned farm houses when we were kids;
loved getting us all in the car just to go for a ride.
to this day I love doing that, too — going
for a ride with no real destination in mind.
it’s the journey and the togetherness that matters;
that was his lesson.
oh, and it’s okay to share a bag of chips and a pop
with your brother or sister.
he told stories — some true, some half-true and
some just plain fantasy — but they were all enthralling.
he loved people, and though he pretended to hate
some of them some of the times,
his big heart always betrayed him.
he could be infuriating, embarrassing,
and exasperating.
he never apologized
for who he was,
and that is a rare and noble thing.
not many in this world are strong enough
to be who they are.
he loved the eight of us — Kathy, Tracy,
Duane, Scott,
Shawn, Lori,
Carey and Jennifer.
and though he could, at times,
be tough on us, he could also
be incredibly soft.
he never had much
in the way of material things,
I remember a pair of alligator skin cowboy boots,
and he loved the 12 string guitar his brother Stewart
made for him,
but, really, that was about it.
in the end, and yes, this is a cliche,
it’s not about how much stuff you have,
it’s about how much love you have
and how much love you’ve given.
Dad,
we miss you.
I wish I had told you that more when you were with us,
but, there’s no sense in having regret,
something else you taught us.
I only hope you know how much you are loved
and that to us
you are everything.

Ginger Shampoo

woman taking a shower
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

by Kathy Larson
© 2019

 

I am in the shower, at my parents’ place. I left in such a hurry to get here that I forgot all the essential stuff — shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant — all of it. There hasn’t been time yet to get out and buy replacements, so I’m going to have to use theirs. Through the water running over my face and in my eyes I scan the shower caddy in the corner of the tub looking for shampoo.

Mom’s got some Vo5 that’s supposed to smell like green apples. Pass. There’s another bottle, nearly empty, of some dollar store brand I’ve never heard of, and then, I see it. Body Shop Ginger shampoo. Ah, that’s what I want.

It’s dad’s shampoo. He uses it because of his psoriasis. I remember telling him about it years ago.

I’ve got sensitive skin and an especially sensitive scalp, so I’m kind of picky about the products I use. When I told him about it, I remember, he was dismissive like I was trying to lay some kind of quackery on him. He was like that. You’d tell him about something you liked, or something you’d heard about that was a bit different and he’d say something like: “There’s probably no damn ginger in there. Just a load of bs. I like my _________, thank you.” And then, like with the ginger shampoo, you’d find that he tried it. And liked it. That was dad.

It makes me remember Neil Diamond and his album Hot August Night. I was fifteen or sixteen and was upstairs in my room listening to said album for about the zillionth time. Like most moody teenagers I spent as much time as I could shut up in my room whenever I could get it to myself. With seven brothers and sisters we all had to share a room with a sibling. I shared with my sister who was a year younger than me.

Dad usually gave me grief about whatever I happened to be listening to. He particularly hated Queen, couldn’t stand Joni Mitchell and just generally despised anything that wasn’t country music. And I mean country like Charlie Pride and George Jones. To this day I can’t stand either of them. When The Snakes Crawl at Night. Please!

So, when Dad came pounding on my bedroom door I readied myself for another fight about my music. When I opened the door he surprised me by asking what it was I was listening to. Being all prepared for an argument I didn’t know what to say right away. I guess I just gave him a blank look. This was confusing — he never showed any interest in anything that I liked; I just didn’t know how to react. Then I managed to collect myself and told him who it was and showed him the album. He stood there looking at the pictures of a wild-looking Neil Diamond and reading the liner notes for quite a while. We listened to that amazing record together and I played him a couple of my favourite songs. I really like this, he said. And I felt ridiculously, incredibly happy and proud.

Why am I remembering this now? While I dance around in a shower that refuses to stay one temperature — it either blasts me with cold water or scalds my boobs with hot. I want to scream. My heart hurts. It’s been an exhausting three days since we found out my mother fractured her leg. And that both she and my father are in the hospital.

I’ve come home because he is dying. He has end-stage kidney cancer. The man who was once larger than life, who in turns terrified me, frustrated me and, who, more than anything, I wanted to make proud is small and frail and frightened. He needs me and I’ll be here until he no longer does.

I pour his ginger shampoo into the palm of my hand and as I rub it into my hair begin to cry.

A new year, same as the old year

20181224_200906

I was going to write “Wow, 2019 – a new year” and then I stopped because, really, it happens every year. No surprise there. 2019 came in for us without pomp or ceremony. A quiet evening at home with my Mom and my husband. We played cards, had a couple of drinks, watched It’s a Wonderful Life and then counted down the last hour of 2018 by watching Canada Celebrates, or something titled along those lines.

Tim put out his ‘fireworks’ — a patch of sparklers lit up on the front step and we giggled, sipped our Prosecco, gave each other a hug and then went to bed. Whoot! Whoot!

Once upon a time having New Year’s plans was a big deal. If you didn’t have tickets for a party or a show, or weren’t invited to someone’s house for a big bash then you were essentially a social misfit. Going out for New Year meant buying an expensive outfit, having dinner reservations, maybe even booking an over-priced hotel room. Partying until the wee hours of the New Year meant something.

What, exactly, I don’t know.

Years ago, twenty-nine of them to be exact, we moved out to a small rural community about thirty minutes drive from the city. Suddenly, going out for New Year became a bit more inconvenient. Also, as we had a young son, partying until the wee hours was no longer very attractive — to me, at least. Nothing could stop my husband from that particular enjoyment.

Our New Year’s celebrations changed to having a few friends and/or family in, or going to their place for the night. We would drink, eat, ring in the New Year and play endless games of Risk, Poker or Stock Ticker. And I found that I rather preferred this low-key way of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.

Everyone was in a safe place, there were no huge costs involved, the food and entertainment was enjoyable and our children were close at hand to share in the fun. I found I did not miss, not one tiny little iota, the pomp and ceremony of those fussy New Year’s Eves of my younger days.

Having lunch with a friend today, we talked about many, many things, one of them being how time changes how we perceive things and how accepting that things change is, generally, not simply okay, but also necessary.

There is value in everything we do, and joy in the remembrance of those things.

Maybe the heralding of a New Year each and every year does become routine, but without that opportunity for annual introspection how could we look back on our lives and appreciate all that we’ve done and all the distance we’ve covered?

Happy New Year.

Getting ready for Christmas

I am sitting with my grand kids tonight while their parents are out shopping. I just spent an hour watching the youngest play Fortnite. Now I know what I’m not missing.

I finally made an ultimatum – no more games, let’s watch a Christmas movie instead. That suggestion was not met with enthusiasm. We are watching Gnome Alone, instead. So far it’s cute.

Back to getting ready for Christmas. This year I’m by myself while my husband stays working up in Fort Mac.

Yeah, that Fort Mac. Oil sands, big fire, protests, ridiculous house prices.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I actually am enjoying getting ready for the holidays. My tree has been up since the beginning of December, the decorations were up shortly after, and I’ve done most of my baking and treat prep.

My mother is coming and I’ve been cleaning and getting the house in ship-shape.

Today, I went and watched my middle grandson play trumpet in his school Christmas concert. The song they played was unrecognisable, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Next week I’ll take in the youngest in his Grade 4 concert. It won’t be too many more years when these concerts will be a thing of the past. I’ll take advantage of these moments for as long as I can.

I’ve been doing the best I can to catch up with friends in between cooking, cleaning and spending time with my grand kids. I’m trying not to feel pressured, but it can get overwhelming.

All in all, though, I’ve been enjoying this time of preparation and readiness for Christmas. At 60 years of age I am all to aware that time goes by far more quickly than it once did.

Christmas is going to evolve and change til one day it’s just going to be my husband and me. Up til now I’ve been extremely fortunate to always have my son and his family to share our Christmas with.

I look back now that my father is no longer with us and I recall that there weren’t many family Christmases spent with him and Mom after I left home and especially after I had a family of my own.

That makes me sad.

You can’t make up for lost time, but you can make the most of what time you do have. I’m doing the best I can this year to do just that.

Happy holidays!