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.

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… and, it’s almost Hallowe’en

 

Wow. October 29th. Two more nights until the ghosts and goblins are out and about.

Oh, wait. I think they’re generally about all the time, these days.

Everywhere you look people have decorated their front entrances, lawns and porches with pumpkins, skeletons, witches and all manner of ghoulish creatures. Not me.

Call me the Scrooge of Hallowe’en. I just don’t see the need for all the fuss it gets. Once upon a time I didn’t mind it, but as the years have progressed I’ve actually come to hate it.

Like all occasions — I can’t call it a holiday, because it’s just not — it’s been over-commercialized to the point of ridiculousness.

We can send Happy Hallowe’en cards to loved ones, for Pete’s sake. Honestly! Why?

The proliferation of pop-up retailers in the two months before Hallowe’en is testament to the fact that there is big money to be made for this one night of fright. I absolutely refuse to give them one red cent of my hard-earned money.

When I was a kid we looked forward to Hallowe’en for about a week — not months. Costumes were cobbled together from our parent’s old clothes, worn out bed sheets and pillow cases, and our makeup was shoe polish, some of Mom’s lipstick and flour dusted in our hair. And it was all we needed. We used the same stuff from year to year and it got passed down from brother to sister with no problems.

Now? You’re looking at about 50 bucks for a store-bought costume that will see one year’s wear, and, because they’re so cheaply and shoddily made they’ll be garbage by the end of the night. And why? To go out and collect candy that kids don’t even really care about anymore.

Candy was a big deal for my brothers and sisters and I when we were little. There wasn’t a lot of extra money in our household and it sure wasn’t spent on buying us treats. It was that way for most families. A treat was exactly that — an occasional chocolate bar, bottle of pop or bag of penny candy. We treasured it, we fantasized about our favourites, we suffered agonizing anticipation on those occasions that we knew would bring us our hearts’ desires.

Today kids get ‘treats’ on an almost daily basis. I honestly don’t think they give a hoot about the goodies they get trick or treating.

Meanwhile, retailers are laughing all the way to the bank.

And, sadly, our poor environment pays the price. Candy wrappers, chip bags and juice boxes are littered up and down streets, in school yards and at bus stops for weeks afterwards.

Discarded costumes and all that plastic that makes up the bulk of Hallowe’en decorations gets dumped in the garbage where it will languish in a landfill for eternity — if it isn’t just allowed to blow away on the next big wind.

I know that this kind of waste isn’t specific to Hallowe’en — it’s the same for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc., etc. For some reason it just bugs me more.

I think it’s time we really examined how and why we celebrate things like Hallowe’en. Is it because it really has meaning for us, or is it simply because the retail industry has done such a great job on selling it to us, and convincing us that we’re cheap and ‘no fun’ if we don’t buy in?

You know what I did like about Hallowe’en? Watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with my family. It was sweet and simple — and we loved it.

Zero to sixty — the finish line is in sight!

As with everything I do, procrastination plays a HUGE part. I’ve been thinking about finishing this list off and on over the last couple of weeks. Today just might be the day I do it.

51.  Seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert — twice! The first time was a birthday present from Tim. (He always gives the best presents!) I was so excited and didn’t even care that our seats were in the nosebleeds at Coliseum Stadium in Edmonton. When we got there though, we were redirected to the box office where our nose-bleed seats were exchanged for second row seats on the sidelines right next to the stage. I nearly died. Being that close to the Boss and his E Street band was amazing. The second time was a trip to Toronto for his Wrecking Ball tour. 63,000 people in Rogers Stadium, and Tim, me, my sister Lori, her husband Ted and my sister Tracy were part of the magic. I didn’t sit throughout that marathon of a concert and I belted out every song. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Bruce Springsteen?

52.  Teaching myself to crochet. I love handmade things. Anything that someone puts themselves into to create is wonderful in my books. I’m drawn to things like needlepoint, knitting, crochet, sewing — anything tactile. So, years ago I tried knitting and it didn’t go well. I can do a lovely stocking stitch, but that’s about it. When I got pregnant all those years ago I wanted to make a blanket that I could bring our baby home from the hospital in. I turned to crochet. It took me nearly the entire nine months to make it and it was a little lopsided, but I did wrap our son in it for his trip home. That blanket is stored away in a box along with other treasures from Landon’s childhood. Where it, and they will wind up is a mystery. I just like taking them out from time to time and holding them. I unfold that blanket and smile.

53.  Bungee jumping. Another birthday present from Tim. This one was for my 40th birthday. I was petrified when I was standing up there on that tiny platform, but then I told myself “if you can jump out of a plane, you can jump off this” and I did. It was incredible. I highly recommend it.

54.  Learning the hard way that pyramid schemes are nothing but a scam. A friend and I, back in the days when money was a bigger issue than it is now, decided to risk investing in what was a ‘sure thing’. The only thing ‘sure’ about it was that we were going to lose the money we invested. Some things you’ve just got to learn firsthand.

55.  Losing friends and learning that sometimes it just happens. Then realizing that friendships give you so much to be grateful and thankful for, that, even when they are over, they’re still part of who you are.

56.  Sharing my love of theatre with my granddaughter and my love of gardening and cooking with all my grandchildren. The opportunities get fewer each year they grow older, but for the times that I have been able to share with them I hope it’s made an impression.

57.  Being able to go to the last Black Family Reunion in  2017 and having my grandchildren meet all my crazy-wonderful family. We had realized by this time that my dad was terminal and that it would be his last reunion, also it was just after his 80th birthday and a few months before his and mom’s 60th anniversary. There were other milestones celebrated at that reunion as well, and I’m so glad we were there to share in them all.

58.  Eating New York style pizza for the first time at Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. That experience explained to me why I had always loved and revered Gondola pizza from Manitoba! And it has inspired me to try making my own Neapolitan style pizza. It’s a work in progress.

59.  Learning to like myself — it’s been a long, hard road, and there are times when I still don’t like myself that much, but mostly, I think I’m okay. If I could undo all the wrong I’ve done, I would, but then, who would I be?

60.  Embarking on a new life story at the age of 60. And the journey begins. . .

Raven Speak — a poem

bird birds usa raven
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I heard some peculiar sounds outside near my balcony yesterday and went to investigate. It was a family of ravens on the neighbouring balcony. Mom and Dad were out with their teenagers — and the young ones, especially one of them was really unsure of him/herself. It was wobbling back and forth on the banister and making the most worried sounds. I stood and watched them for awhile. The young one would sidle up to one of its parents and seem to demand something from them — most likely food, but I thought it was maybe seeking reassurance. Mom and Dad stuck close, but ignored all the whining. Eventually, they coaxed their baby into flying off, but not before there was a lot more complaining and nuzzling and attention seeking.

Ravens, I think they’re fascinating creatures.

I wrote the following poem earlier this year and submitted it to a local magazine. It wasn’t selected for publication, and I’ve tweeked it a bit, but seeing that family yesterday prompted me to share it.

I hope you like it.

 

 

Kathy Larson                                                                                                      ©2018

 

 

 

Raven Speak

 

Clork? Clork?

They chitter and chatter

Amongst themselves,

Quorkel. Quorkel.

At times,

Voices

Soft and gentle.

Quirrel? Quirrel?

Where were you?

Let me see.

Are you all right?

Grak! Grak!

Leave me alone!

Stay away!

I hate you!

Crah! Crah! Crah!

Death-black wings unfold.

Beaks like scythes slash.

Don’t come back!

So ungrateful!

Kraw! Kraw!

Oh, who cares?

I was going anyway.

There are better places

Than this.

Than here.

Chirrip. Chirrip.

Please, oh, please.

I’m sorry.

I want to stay.

Please? May I?

Gleergle? Gleergle?

We love you.

We’re sorry.

Come.

Sit.

Feel the sun?

Warm on your back?

Chrrgle. Chrrgle.

There now.

We’re okay.

 

My Zero to Sixty is a little slow

slow slug snail shell
Photo by Chris Peeters on Pexels.com

 

41.  Dealing BlackJack at Klondike Days. I had to attend dealer’s school for two weeks prior to KDays. It was fun, nerve-wracking and a little scary. During one of my shifts some guy got mad because he didn’t like the way the cards were coming — yelled at me, swore at me, threatened me — coolest thing ever happened — the Pit Boss jumped in right away (like they said they would) temporarily closed my table, removed me and had the guy thrown out. I decided dealing cards was not a career I would pursue.

42.  Living in a tiny pre-war house with Tim before and after we got married. This house was seriously small! It had a dirt basement and an oil furnace/heater thing in the basement that was supposed to keep us warm in the winter. It didn’t do a very good job. Because we were young, we spent a lot of time in bed, keeping ourselves warm. We shared this house with two cats and a dog. They entertained themselves while we were at work by knocking things off shelves, and Brandy, the dog, would get the belt to my house coat and pull the cats around the house with it. Even better was its location — right next to the train tracks, Edmonton municipal airport, 118th avenue and Kingsway Mall. But, boy, was it cheap!

43.  Being there for my parents when they needed help. My dad was diagnosed with cancer; my mom fractured her leg. They needed someone to stay with them for a while to help out. I am so glad I was able to do that for them. It gave us a chance to get to know one another again, and I was able to spend precious time with my father before he passed away.

44.  Singing with my sisters. We haven’t done it in a long time, but when my sisters and I were younger we loved to get together and serenade whoever happened to be around. We did this at our parents’ anniversary parties, in restaurants, at weddings, even in my living room. None of us are very good on our own, but can we harmonize!

45.  Hiking the Sulphur Skyline trail in Jasper — twice. The views are spectacular.

46.  Learning calligraphy. I love the ornate, yet simple beauty of calligraphy. It is something I mean to take up again.

47.  Writing poetry. I never thought I could, or that I could write good poems. Then I took part in a month-long poem a day challenge and discovered that I could. Do both. Now I write poetry when the moment seizes me. I’ve never had any published, but there’s still time.

48.  Taking English riding lessons. They were a birthday gift from a friend. I learned everything from the ground up — saddling, caring for the horse, horse etiquette and the basics of movement. It was a fun 8 weeks.

49.  Teaching myself how to bake bread. Who doesn’t love fresh, homemade bread? I remember our mom making it and coming home to the smell of fresh bread, it being still warm from the oven and biting into a fresh, warm bun slathered in peanut butter and honey. I had to learn how to do that.

50.  Starting a home-based writing business. I mainly did resumes, but also letters and other forms of correspondence. I helped a lot of people get jobs and that felt really good.

Zero to Sixty – the next installment

asphalt dark dawn endless
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

It’s been a busy month. I’m finally getting around to the next few achievements in my life thus far. It’s tough thinking about your life — what you have and have not done with it. I re-read my previous posts to get an idea of what I’d already written about and I was pleasantly surprised. My life has been a good one.

Here goes with some more of what sticks out for me:

36.  Taking a road trip to Arizona with Tim, and my brother and sister-in-law Rick and Connie. We drove to Vegas, then to Sedona. The scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at the Grand Canyon — truly as beautiful as the postcards make it. I can see why Canadians flock there in the winter.

37.  Going by motorcycle from our home in Bon Accord, AB to Dartmouth, NS. We were gone for three absolutely incredible weeks. We drove through every major city along the way, followed the Loyalist route and King’s Highway through Ontario and Quebec, had a lobster roll in Shediac, NB, walked the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, saw Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine, ate deep dish pizza in Chicago, drove by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, slept like the dead in Toledo, and along the way we met some of the nicest and best people – on both sides of the border.

38.  Taking our son to Disney World for his 10th birthday. This was the only flying holiday we ever had as a family. We had so much fun on that trip — we also took in Universal Studios — Ghostbusters, The Jetsons, Indiana Jones; went to Sea World — hand fed sting rays, pet sea urchins, got splashed by Namu; and went to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Science center – Tim and Landon were completely in awe of all the space craft and the simulation command center.

39.  Being elected President of our Local Union — SSD#24 Local 4625. I held this position for 7 years and it was one of the most rewarding and personal growth opportunities I’ve ever had. I learned so much about people during that time — and how important it is to be involved and knowledgeable about how work works.

40.  Summer holidays spent in the back of a station wagon when mom and dad would take us home to Ontario. No air conditioning, eight kids — one in front with mom and dad, two in the back and five in the middle. My sister and I would be on the floor with pillows behind the front seat and the other three would share the seat. Dad telling stories about the Indian braves Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders. Black flies, no-seeums and mosquitoes. Dad teaching us to skip rocks. The sound of loons in Northern Ontario when we were camped for the night. Mom making baloney sandwiches while dad drove — soft white bread, a slice of baloney and mustard — the best sandwiches ever.

Zero to Sixty, continued

architecture buildings business city
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

23.  Getting married. My husband, Tim, entered my life like a tornado. He was, and always has been, a force to be reckoned with. Funny, full of life, big-hearted, loyal, opinionated, joyful, energetic, frenetic, and in general a lover of life. I credit him with so much of the good in my life — loving him has taught me how to love myself.

24.  Being there for the birth of my grandchildren. Not in the delivery room! But there afterwards to hold each of those tiny, precious babies as they entered into the world and our family.

25.  Being a mom. I’ve said it hundreds of times — being a mother is the most important job I’ve ever had. And our son, Landon, has made that job such a wonder and a joy. Was I a perfect mom? No. But I gave 100% of myself to the task. It’s easy to look back now and say I should have done this differently, or, I could have handled that better, but, in the moments that were, I believe I was doing my best.

26.  White water rafting. This was something I’d always wanted to do. So, a few years ago, myself and two friends embarked on a trip down the Kicking Horse River. It was the year before the huge floods in southern Alberta and run-off had been extremely heavy with water levels much greater than normal. Our trip was supposed to be category 3 rapids — they turned out to be mostly category 5. It was terrifying! But exhilarating and incredible. We saw some beautiful scenery — unfortunately we weren’t able to take any pictures. Hard to do when you’re clinging for life to the side of the raft!

27.  My first trip to New York. Tim surprised me for Christmas in 2004. We had taken a trip to Ontario to spend Christmas with my parents, which I hadn’t done for many, many years. New York was a fabled place to me at that time. Some magical city that I didn’t actually believe I’d ever get the chance to see. Well, Tim made it happen. We traveled by train from Niagara Falls, New York to Manhattan. We were in Times Square for the 100th anniversary of the dropping of the ball on New Year’s eve. I will never forget the magic of that trip.

28.  My mom teaching me to play cribbage. I was never much good at math — I struggled so much with it in school I felt like an idiot. My mother loves to play cards and whenever she had a few extra minutes you could find her playing solitaire or, if there was a friend visiting, cribbage or rummy. Crib intrigued me. What were these fifteen-twos and threes they were always counting? So, she sat me down one afternoon and taught me how to play. I have loved the game ever since. Really, I love playing any game (except Monopoly and Risk) and I attribute that love to my mother.

29.  Writing my first-ever short story in high school and having my English teacher tell me I had talent.