RIP Mr. Prine

Apri; 8, 2020

by Kathy Larson

Sad news today. John Prine, one of America’s best songwriters died from complications related to coronavirus.

I was introduced to the music of John Prine many moons ago when I was just a young girl. My Uncle Paul, one of my father’s younger brothers had come for a visit. He and my father would get out their guitars and sit around playing while us gaggle of kids watched and listened in awe. It was at one of these musical interludes that Uncle Paul played a song called “Dear Abby”. The song was funny, and that’s what caught my attention, but it was more than that. It was smart and it was making a social comment, something that at that early stage in my development I was just learning to tune in to. I’m not sure who asked who the artist was, but I’ve never forgotten the name: John Prine.

Over the passing of years I’ve listened sporadically to Mr. Prine’s music. I think that somewhere, hidden away with all my other albums is a copy of Souvenirs, an amazing little album of stories and songs. One of my favourites is “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”. It’s just the perfect example of his amazing ability to put life into words, to translate the emotions and feelings of everyday, ordinary existence into something we can all relate to and understand.

You’ll be sadly missed, Mr. Prine. Rest easy.

For a sample of his gentle genius check out this link: https://youtu.be/2xhmPectY9U

Home-bound

by Kathy Larson

March 19, 2020

So, we’ve been social-distancing and semi-self-isolating for four days now. Honestly, it hasn’t been that much of a change in normal for me. I stay in most days, happy to read or crochet or dabble at writing. I get the housework and laundry done, listen to music, do a crossword puzzle, maybe go for a walk if it’s not too cold. The aquafit classes I attended were my biggest social outings, but that was only two or three times a week. Walking/jogging on the indoor track at Mac Island, though done in the company of others, was also, mostly solitary. With my headphones on I cruised around the oval for 45 minutes then took myself down to Second Cup for a honey tea latte, half-sweet. Please and thank you.

I don’t care to shop — never have. Going to movies is fun, but costly, so we don’t do a lot of that. Eating in restaurants tends to be disappointing, so don’t miss that, and we’re past the age where going out to the bar or a nightclub is even a consideration. Once in a blue moon we’d go to the casino and lose a hundred dollars, but, again, not something we do on a regular basis.

Sadly, neither of us volunteers anymore, so we have nothing to miss on that score. I keep saying I’m going to find something to volunteer for, but haven’t yet, and now, with COVID-19 in our lives most opportunities have disappeared.

It’s funny, when our son was young and I worked full-time and had a busier social life I volunteered a lot. Both my husband and I did. We were always engaged in some community group or other and it never seemed like we were overwhelmed. Now when I think of the time I’d have to commit to something I find all kinds of excuses and reasons why I’d rather not. Maybe that’s just age. I don’t know. I do know when this is over that I’m going to have to change my thinking.

I tried the online grocery order thing. From Superstore. Because of the current state of things I got less than half of what I had ordered. No toilet paper, no chicken, and most shocking — no chocolate bar! Oh, and the bag of avocados was rotten. The process was pretty easy, actually, and I’d definitely try it again. Say, perhaps, when we’re getting back from a holiday. Some day. In the future. When the coronavirus is no more.

After picking up my half-order of groceries from SS I drove over to Save-On to see if they had what I wanted. They did, though it was considerably more costly than SS. We are now well stocked with toilet paper, chicken and giant bottles for water — just in case.

Save-On had some lovely ahi tuna steaks in their meat section so that’s what we had for supper last night. Maple-mustard glazed tuna steaks (get the recipe here: https://cooktoria.com/ahi-tuna-steak/) with sweet potato oven fries and a fresh salad. Yum.

Being sequestered at home at first seemed like A BIG DEAL. For us, really, it’s not. We watch a couple of shows in the evening, play a couple of card games, then head upstairs to bed around 10:30. Nothing different from our normal routine. Other than the ever-present reality that we can’t go anywhere simply because we want to.

I can see isolation being tougher on families with small children, those with medical problems, those with addiction problems, those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. My heart goes out to them, but that is all. This virus makes it virtually impossible to do anything other than sympathize.

It’s hard to think of anything positive during this global crisis, but if there is anything good at all to be gleaned from it, it is this: Maybe, with all this time for reflection and self-reflection, there will be a returning to the meaning and importance of family and community. By being forced together maybe people will discover, or, re-discover, the simple joy of time well spent in one another’s company. That’s not going to happen for everyone — that would be fantasy — but if it happens at all it is something definitely worth celebrating.

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.

Is that a cow or a deer in the road?

Getting older is a funny thing. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. When I thought about it in my 20s and 30s.

Way back then, when I thought about getting older, it was something far, far off in the distance — like that wavery, shimmery image you sometimes see when you’re driving down a summer road and there are no other cars in sight. It’s there, but it’s not quite real.

Then, suddenly, it is there, right in front of you. The line on the horizon is clear and sharp and you see, plain as day, that there is a deer, or maybe a stray cow, standing in the middle of the road. You hammer on the brakes, your heart leaps into your throat, you nearly pee your pants, but, miraculously, you avoid a collision. The cow stares back, unperturbed; the deer flicks its white tail saucily and bounds daintily on its way.

You’re left shaking, maybe crying a little, glad that you’re alive, that the cow or the deer is alive and you restart the car and carry on your way. A lot more cautiously. And it occurs to you that life is unpredictable, and oh, so tenuous. You vow to be more careful, to pay better attention, to enjoy every moment given to you from that moment on.

But, as time passes the memory of that moment fades and you start wondering if it really happened the way you think it did. Was the cow or the deer really just standing there, or was it meandering across the road? Did you really screech to a halt in a panic, or did you simply tap the brakes as you swerved to miss the animal? Were you imagining the fear and the emotion of the moment, or did saying so just make for a better story?

Getting older, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as scary as I once imagined it would be. I mostly travel at a safe speed, pay better attention in my travels and tend to see things as they are, when they are.

Instead of not expecting the unexpected, or being unprepared to expect the unexpected, I’ve learned that just over the next rise, or just past that next shiny spot in the road is something that’s going to challenge me and that I can pretty much handle whatever it is in my path.

Sometimes I miss that feeling of invincibility I had when I was younger, that romantic notion that age could never catch up with me, the feeling that the road in front of me was going to stretch on into forever. Then I look behind me and see the road full of the obstacles, the yield and stop signs, the people and places I’ve passed by and through on my way to making it to where I am now, and I’m glad and I’m grateful.

 

 

Feeling like a poem on a Sunday morning

 

 

20180915_132835Nothing Lasts

by

Kathy Larson

Nothing lasts.
Not
That feeling.
The one that made you feel invincible,
incredible,
indomitable.
Not
That moment.
The one where love made all things possible,
all things exquisite,
and so
beautifully, terrifyingly painful.
Not
That breath.
The gasp that filled your lungs
with hope,
with longing,
with fear they’d burst you were so happy.
Not
That laugh.
The one you felt would always mean
joy,
acceptance,
a feeling of forever.

Nothing lasts.
Not
That despair.
The darkness that stole everything worth having:
the joy,
the light,
the love.
Not
That sadness.
The one that drained your life of
colour,
of music,
and of magic.
Not
That emptiness.
The void that made you hate your self:
your skin,
your every breath,
your right to be.
Not
That failure.
The one that was
infinitesimal,
not ruinous,
and judged so solely by you.

Nothing lasts.
Unless
You
Choose
To
Make
It
© 2018