Stan

May 10, 2022
by Kathy Larson

Chapter 5

“You ain’t worth the powder it’d take to blow you to hell,” his mother hollered as he angrily spun the beat up pick-up in the dry dirt, sending a cloud of ugly brown dirt into the air. Choke, you bitch, he muttered, bitter tears stinging his eyes. The truck fish-tailed and he drove down hard on the brake sending even more dirt and dust into the air. For a moment it felt like the truck was going to skid, he felt it slew beneath him, the tires grabbing for purchase in the loose, chalky dirt of the driveway. Panic hit him hard in the chest, he would not, would not, WOULD NOT, have her make fun of him for losing control. Worse, he could not let his father see what she had done to him. Again.

The second his father had left to go into town she’d been on him.

‘I’m so lonely,” she’d cooed as she slipped into his bed. She had started running her hands across his shoulders, down his back. Instantly, he had felt himself grow cold and he’d stopped breathing, hoping she’d just go away. Sometimes, when he was younger, that had worked. She’d come into his room, always when his father was sound asleep, exhausted from working in the fields for 10 – 12 hours, having had to come in and fix himself something to eat because his wife was passed out cold on the couch.

No matter how tired he was, or hungry, Stan’s father would always come in and fix something for them to eat. Sometimes it was just fried eggs, canned beans and toast, but at least it was a meal. He’d walk over to where his wife lay sprawled out and cover her with a blanket, then say in a quiet, sad voice to Stan that she was the most beautiful thing in the house. Stan would say nothing, though he wanted to tell his father everything. He loved his father. More than anything. That’s how she kept him silent.

He had turned nineteen a week ago. The truck was a gift from his father. It wasn’t new, but it was sound. His father had had his friend Mel give it a good going-over, and aside from some rust it was in good shape. Perfect for a young fella to get around in, he’d said as he handed Stan the keys. The look of love and pride in his father’s eyes was something he’d never forget. Then his mother had stepped out of the front door, a tall rye-coke in one hand, a cigarette trailing from the fingers of the other. “He’s just gonna get some slut knocked up, now he’s got wheels,” she said from behind his father. She fixed Stan with a cold stare then smiled and winked. Stan felt sick with guilt and dread. He gave his father a long hug, said thank you, then jumped in and drove into town.

He had been spending as much time away from home as he could from the time he was about fourteen. He played whatever sport was in season, slept over at his friends’ places as much as he could manage, and in the summer would spend his nights camped out by himself down in the coulees that ran behind his father’s land. When he could he’d steal some of his mother’s booze and he’d spend those nights getting drunk and trying to forget the things she made him do.

He’d been gone for most of the past week, sleeping in the truck when he had no place else to go. There were no girls, he couldn’t bring himself to even imagine being with one. What girl would ever want anything to do with him? He imagined they’d be able to see straight through him, see what he was, and it terrified him. It also made him angry. Angry at his mother, angry at himself, and, worse, angry at his father. Why didn’t his father see what she was? Why did he make excuses for her, protect her, forgive her for all her nasty, evil, lazy, disgusting ways? When he thought that way about his father it made him feel even worse; what kind of son was he?

He had thought often of telling his father about what she was doing with him, but shame, and the fear of what it might do to him stopped him. “It’d kill him, you know,” she’d whispered in his ear one time, “if he ever found out.” Then she had chuckled and said, “Maybe, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.” He knew he could never tell. So, he did his best to stay out of her reach.

He’d come in late last night, hoping that she’d be passed out and he was right. He’d slipped into his room and fell into a deep, exhausted sleep. When she slithered in behind him and he felt her dry hands upon his skin he nearly screamed. Instead, he lay there not breathing and hoped she’d get bored or mad and just go away. She got mad. She grabbed his hair and tried to pull him towards her. He wrenched his head away from her and she yelled out in pain. He was trying to get himself out of the tangle of sheets but she was trying to pin him down onto the bed and get herself on top of him. He saw red. “No!” he hollered and pushed hard backwards sending her sprawling. He was out of the bed and grabbing for his clothes and keys, intent on getting away and never coming back. His mother stared at him in surprise and then she threw herself at him trying to slap and punch him like she had when he was young and had tried to avoid her. One of her hands raked across his face and he felt her jagged nails open a gash across his cheek. He reached out and grabbed her by both wrists. He wanted to hit her so badly, wanted to hurt her and make her feel the way he did.

She went limp in his grasp and her head rocked back on her long, thin neck. He held her that way for a endless moment, then let her fall backwards on to the bed. ‘I hate you.” he said. “I never want to fucking see you ever again.” She lay there, half naked, hair spread out like a tattered crown against the dirty sheets. Then she opened her eyes and stared at him. “No you don’t, you love your momma,” she said, and laughed.

Stan dressed as quickly as he could and ran down the stairs. He wanted badly to see his father, to say goodbye, to tell him that he was leaving and that he wasn’t coming back. His father had left for the city, early, for an appointment at the bank. Farming hadn’t been going so well these past five or six years, the drought never seemed to end, and when rain did come it came in such torrents that it washed away anything that had managed to eke into existence in the dry, barren soil.

He rushed down the stairs and out through the front door. I’ll call him later, he thought, and tell him that I’ve gone looking for a job. As he pushed through the door panic made him stop. Where was he going? What could he do? He stopped, the door open before him, and hung his head. This was all so wrong. Maybe he could tell his father. Maybe he would understand. Maybe he would forgive him. Then he remembered the adoring, love-blind way his father would look at her and he knew it was hopeless.

He heard his mother stumbling down the stairs and he knew this was his one and only chance to be free of her. She screamed his name. Swore at him, begged, pleaded with him to not leave her there alone. “He makes me sick,” she screeched, “you’re the only thing that’s kept me alive all these years.” He turned to look at her and for a second felt a shred of pity for the lost thing that she was, then he remembered all that she had put him through, remembered his father’s love for her and forced himself to let the door slam closed behind him.

He threw himself behind the wheel of the truck and turned the ignition. “I’ll tell him.” she screamed. “I’ll tell him that you tried to rape me. Your own mother!” Stan felt himself go still, felt all the air sucked out of him and as he turned to look at her he felt as though it were all happening in slow motion. His hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly he thought his fingers might break. Then he drew in a deep breath and got out of the truck. He walked towards her, stopped at the bottom step and stared up at her. “If you do,” he said in an eerily calm voice, “I’ll kill you.” He looked straight into her eyes and could see that she understood. He turned away for the last time and got back into his truck.

It was a month before he found the courage to call and speak to his father. All he heard in his father’s voice when he did was love and sorrow. Your mother is sleeping, he said, we won’t disturb her. When the call was over Stan sobbed with relief.

June

Chapter 4

Mar. 21, 2022
Kathy Larson

She got pregnant. They’d been married nearly five years when it happened, and it surprised them both.

Sadie could not understand how she had gotten pregnant. She took her birth control pills religiously — Stan watched her every morning at breakfast — but more confusing was the fact that they rarely had sex. When they did it was always when Stan was extremely drunk. It was a rough, sloppy and often painful ordeal that left her feeling bruised both physically and emotionally.

As a young girl Sadie had often imagined herself as a mother. She modeled herself after her own mother, who had been, despite the horror of being married to a brutal alcoholic, a kind and caring mother, devoted to making sure that Sadie was cared for and loved. Of course, in Sadie’s imagination, the father of her child was nothing at all like her father — he was a conglomeration of all the shining knights, brave princes and beautiful, yet smart heroes of the story books she read. When she’d first set eyes on Stan she believed that she’d found the very embodiment of all her girl-hood fantasies.

When her doctor told her she was pregnant she broke down and cried. She had fled the doctor’s office in a panic, unable to explain why she had to leave so suddenly. She had taken the bus to the clinic, but chose to walk the 45 minutes it would take her to get home. Along the way she stumbled into a park and sat crying into the bunched folds of the sweater she’d worn to her appointment. A woman who had watched Sadie crying for nearly half an hour finally approached and asked if she was okay, was there anything she could do to help. Sadie had looked at her through swollen eyes, her face blotchy and red and said no, there was nothing anyone could do. She thanked the woman and said she’d be fine, could she please just leave? The woman smiled sadly then reached into her bag and produced a travel pack of Kleenex which she placed gently on the bench beside Sadie. That simple, kind act brought about a new avalanche of tears and Sadie had felt for a moment that she might go mad.

Eventually her tears abated, but not the sense of overwhelming sadness that had permeated every fibre of her being. How was she going to tell Stan this news? How would he react? The thought of a child growing up in their home, being loved by only one parent, having to suffer through Stan’s miserableness, his drinking, his anger and his tight-fistedness nearly brought the tears on again, but she stole a look at her watch and was shocked to see that she’d been in the park the whole afternoon. It was going on 5 o’clock. Stan would be home before her and he’d be furious that she wasn’t there. She got to her feet and hurried home.

She walked fast, but it still took her nearly half an hour to get there, and in that time she felt a seed of hope begin to grow inside. Maybe, confronted with the reality of a child, Stan would change. Maybe he would actually be happy, would be thrilled to know that he had fathered an heir. What if it was a boy? The thought made Sadie suddenly smile. A boy! Isn’t that what all men wanted? A boy child, someone to carry on their legacy, someone to share their skills and knowledge with? By the time she stepped into their driveway she was convinced that Stan would be as happy about the child as she was beginning to feel.

That fantasy lasted as long as it took her to get the words out.

He had been sitting in the faded recliner he’d picked up one day on his way home from work drinking a beer and scowling at the blank screen of the television. When she came into the room he turned and fixed her with a cold, empty look. Where the fuck you been? he said quietly. Sadie tried to erase the look of fear that must have been on her face, tried to smile, but the blackness she saw in his eyes was killing any sense of happiness she’d begun to feel. I was at the doctor’s, she said. That was this morning, he growled, and stood up out of the chair. It’s five-fucking-o’clock. Who you been seeing behind my back, while I’m killing myself at that fucking job that I fucking hate just so’s I can keep you in this fucking house? His voice had grown steadily louder and as he spoke he had walked across to her until he was towering over her, his hot breath, smelling of the corned beef sandwich he’d had for lunch and the beer he’d been drinking, blasting into her face, making her feel sick. Sadie stood her ground. Turned her head slightly to draw in a fresh breath of air, then turned to look at him with as much calmness as she could muster and told him they were going to have a child.

At first he was silent. He stared at her like he didn’t know who she was. The colour had drained from his face and he seemed to lose his balance, she thought for a moment he might actually faint. Then he had gone into the kitchen, grabbed his keys from the hook by the door and walked out without a word. He did not come back until the next night.

All through the night that he was gone Sadie sat at the kitchen table, starting each time she heard the loud engine of a half-ton cruise by out on the street. When he hadn’t returned by morning she went and lay down on the bed, not bothering to undress. Any feelings of hope or joy or happiness she’d had on her short walk home from the park were gone. In her heart she knew that Stan would never accept a child. When she thought of the unbearable unhappiness and loneliness her child would have to live with it broke her heart. She wept softly and silently until she finally fell asleep.

When he came through the door the next night he walked past her without a word. She set the table and laid out their supper. It was while he was stuffing a forkful of the shepherd’s pie she’d made into his mouth that he said, I told you I didn’t want no kids. He didn’t look at her, only reached for the beer that sat beside his plate. I know, she said quietly, it just happened. They sat in silence then, the only sound their chewing and the occasional clearing of their throats. When he was done, he looked at her and the last thing he said before pushing himself away from the table was, It probably ain’t even mine, anyway.

She cried the whole time doing the dishes, her tears splashing silently into the soapy water, and by the time she was finished she knew what she had to do.

They told her that it was a girl. Sadie named her June. Stan never knew that she carried the tiny body home or that she had buried their daughter beneath the protective, sheltering branches of the elm tree in the back corner of the yard. She placed a chair next to the spot where she buried June, and every day when Stan was at work she would sit and read aloud to her, her voice, filled with longing, filled with regret, but mostly filled with love floating softly up through the branches into the free and open sky.

The Farm

Chapter 3

by Kathy Larson
March 4, 2022

The first time, and there was only one other time, that Stan took Sadie to the farm, was for his father’s funeral.

She had asked him a few times before they were married when she would meet his parents, but he had said each time that they were so busy working that there just wasn’t a good time to make the trip. They’d have to stay overnight, because it was a five-hour drive and he wasn’t about to do ten hours of driving for barely a day of visiting. They’d go when he had holidays and they’d stay at least a week; give his folks a chance to really get to know her. It sounded good to her — she’d never been far out of the city, had never been on a farm — the prospect of spending time in the country excited her. In her mind she pictured green fields, lush gardens, and animals, lots of animals.

When Stan got the call that his father had died they had been married nearly 18 months. By that time she was sure he never meant to take her to meet his parents, and he wouldn’t listen to any talk of having them come to stay. Also, by that time, she knew not to push him when he’d said how things were going to be. Not that he ever laid a hand on her, God no, that was something Stan said he would never do and he was very proud of himself for that. It would be her own damned fault if he ever did, though — there was only so much a man could be expected to take, after all. If he had only known just what a useless, lazy, stupid waste of breath she’d become after she got that ring on her finger. . .

For the first few months after they were married she tried everything she could to restore things to how they’d been before. She ignored his moods, took on fixing up the house on her own when he protested that he was too worn out from slaving for her every day, put on a dress and fixed her makeup and hair for when he got home because he’d gone from telling her how sweet and pretty she was to how plain and disgusting she’d become. Nothing worked. Did she think he wanted people to think he’d married a whore? he’d spit at her. Is that what she did all day while he busted his ass to put this roof over her head and the food on her table — sat around playing dress-up and painting her face so that he’d forget what she really was? His mother had tried to warn him, he told her, but he hadn’t listened, and now look what it had got him.

Sadie never thought to fight back — she’d seen what had happened to her mother. She knew that Stan’s anger wasn’t really with her, just as her father’s hadn’t been with her or her mother. Sometimes, she wished Stan would hit her, then she’d have an actual reason to leave him, but to leave because he called her names, or thought she had tricked him into marrying her? That was insane. Who would believe that? Besides, where could she go if she did leave? She had nothing of her own anymore. He’d made her quit the waitressing job — only sluts worked as waitresses, he’d said, and seeing as how she’d got what she wanted with him, he wouldn’t have her embarrass him by throwing herself at other men. She reminded him of how she’d been when they met. That was all an act, he said, she’d played the poor little victim and he’d fallen for it.

He’d even stopped her from refinishing and fixing up furniture. One day he went out to the garage where her supplies were and started throwing them all in the back of his pick-up. What are you doing? she cried, why are you doing this? Because, he’d answered, you have a house to take care of now, you don’t have time for this two-bit hobby anymore. She’d tried to stop him, saying that she could make money doing the furniture, help them save more for fixing up the house and for the acreage they planned to buy, but he had shoved her roughly aside and said he wouldn’t have her wasting her time and his money on such crap. Then he had looked at her with a cold smile and said, there ain’t going to be no acreage. You think I’m stupid enough to let you tie me down with a mortgage I’d never get out from under just so you can play the grand lady? Not gonna happen. After that she simply gave in. The man she had fallen in love with didn’t exist — he had been the one that had fooled her, and sadly she was the only one who knew it.

The days slid by, unremarked, and she busied herself with keeping the house the way he wanted it. She did the best she could to fix it up though he would give her no money for anything he considered frivolous. If she needed anything — there was no such thing as ‘wanting’ anything — he would take her to the local thrift store. In all the years he’d been alive she had never once bought a brand new pair of shoes or piece of clothing. Their dishes, pots and pans, all their linens, and most of their furniture had all come from second-hand stores. He gave her an allowance for groceries and she had to hand him receipts for every penny she spent. Over time she accepted that this was her life, and if it was not the life she had imagined it would be, well, that was, after all, just life.

When they arrived at his parent’s farm for the funeral Sadie was in shock. It was nothing like she had imagined; it did not match the descriptions Stan had detailed for her. The house was small and weather-beaten and badly in need of repairs and paint. Old vehicles and broken-down farm machinery littered the surrounding yard. Though summer was over, it was only the second week of October, and though nothing would be lush and green, everything that should still be living, wasn’t. The garden was an overgrown mass of dying weeds, the trees were nothing more than skeletal outlines against the lead-grey sky, and looking over a barely standing fence was a dusty brown cow that looked to Sadie to be starving. She looked over at Stan and saw that he was not phased at all by anything they were seeing. So, this had been another lie. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands tightly together.

Nothing could have prepared her for Stan’s mother. She had entered the house expecting to find an elderly woman bereft over the loss of her husband. Gloria was not bereft. Sadie knew that Stan’s parents were in their 70s, but Gloria could have been in her 50s. She was in the kitchen when they entered the house talking loudly on the phone. She had a cigarette in one hand and was absentmindedly tapping ashes into a juice glass sitting on the edge of the counter as she talked. She looked up and registered surprise at seeing Stan, looked over at Sadie and gave her a sour frown. Gotta go, she said, the prodigal just came in with his new wife.

Gloria was wearing a dark, bordering-on-the-colour-of-blood, red dress and black, patent leather high heels. Her poorly dyed blonde hair, done up in a loose knot, straggled down around her shoulders. She was heavily made up and the bright red lipstick she wore had bled into the lines around her mouth, making her look haggard and worn. Well, she said, if it isn’t Stanny-boy and the little lady. Sadie understood everything then, and in that moment of understanding felt such an overwhelming sense of pity for Stan that she reached out and took his hand. He startled at her touch, but did not pull away.

The funeral was a small, sad affair. The men in attendance came up to Stan, his mother and Sadie, and offered muted words of condolence. Most of the men avoided touching Gloria by keeping their hats in their hands, but when they got to Stan, they would loose one to shake his. He was a good man, they said. Hard worker. Really tried. Gave it his best. They looked at Sadie with curious expressions and congratulated her on marrying Stan. None of their wives came with them. When it was over Stan drove them back to the farmhouse, but not before stopping at the small hotel on the main street of town to pick up a case of beer and bottle of whiskey.

That night, after he and his mother had gotten into a loud, drunken screaming match he had clawed his way into bed where he forced himself roughly on her. Sadie cried silently throughout the ordeal and when he had finally finished and rolled off her and passed out, she got up and spent the rest of the night sleeping in a lumpy, overstuffed and dusty-smelling chair in one corner of the room. He seemed not to recall anything the next morning, and when he asked why she had slept in the chair she told him it was because she couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to wake him, knowing he had to drive them back to the city. A look of relief, or was it shame, she asked herself, passed over his face; he accepted her lie and within an hour they were on the road. Gloria did not get up to see them off.

They barely spoke on the trip home, Stan was lost in concentration and Sadie spent the time processing all she’d seen and overheard. Armed with the knowledge that everthing Stan had told her about life on the ‘farm’ was all lies, and that he had very good reasons for those lies, Sadie resolved to do the best she could to prove to him that she was not like Gloria. She could win him back, she could help him become that happy, life-loving guy she’d met once again. Without looking at him, she said softly into the space between them, I love you.

He kept his eyes on the road, but she heard him sigh.

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.

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. . .

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.

and. . . I’m 60

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpeg

Life has a way of showing you just what you need to see exactly when you need to see it.

I celebrated my 60th birthday yesterday. The day started out like any other — we woke up, we said good morning to one another, and we talked about what we were going to do. With the understanding, of course, that somewhere in those plans was a birthday dinner with family and friends.

My assumption was that it would be our son and his family, maybe my brother and his wife, perhaps one of my other brothers who live a few hours away and a few friends.

When we set out for town in the morning, to get breakfast and run errands, I was feeling emotional — I wanted more than anything not to be having this birthday. What was the big deal, anyway? Sixty, it’s just a number, and I’ve never liked having a big fuss made over me. Why couldn’t we just have a bbq on the deck, open some beer and wine and call it done?

All I can say is thank God I didn’t get my way.

Tim took me to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The one in downtown Edmonton. We’ve been going there once or twice a year for over 40 years. Crazy. I had expected to see the group I mentioned earlier and I wasn’t surprised when I saw them sitting there. And suddenly, I was happy. Because, this, I realized, was something they were happy to be doing for me.

Then, they surprised me after all. As I was turning around to grab Tim my mother walked up to me and gave me a big hug. Beside her were two of my sisters. I couldn’t believe it. They flew in to help me celebrate this milestone that I’d been treating like a millstone. A little later, after having been fooled into thinking no one else was coming, my youngest sister and my niece from Lloydminster arrived. More tears of joy and gratitude.

It was a wonderful celebration and I can’t explain how absolutely wonderful and special it made me feel. In the big course of things, a birthday really is just another day. It will pass, and then there will be another day. BUT, what yesterday showed me about birthdays is this: it’s not just about you and how you feel about it, it’s about all the people who make you who you are and how they feel about you. It’s about letting them show you their love and being able to show them in return, just how grateful and blessed you are that they are in your life.

And Dad, I know you were there, too. I had a dream last night that I was lost and in trouble. You helped me out, helped me find my way to safety. Everywhere I looked were dimes, bright, shiny and new dimes. They were pouring down from the sky and as I gathered them up I felt you smiling down on me. I love you. I miss you. Thank you for our family.

A poem for today

I’m supposed to be working on a short story submission, but I got looking through my old poetry. I really like this one. Blackie was such a good dog. And I still miss her.

 

Blackie

©Kathy Larson

 

She was our first, and only, family dog.

We got her from the SPCA,

A little ball of black and tan fur.

Our son, for whom the puppy

Would be a companion and also

‘life lessons,’ named her:

Blackie Bear Rosa, a mouthful, for sure,

But he couldn’t settle on just one,

So we laughed and said why not?

Within days she became just ‘Blackie’;

It was the name her ears perked up to.

This puppy, who would eat with her

Back legs waving in the air made us laugh,

Made us glad to buy chew toys and treats

And special dog blankets and an old fashioned

Wind-up clock that we wrapped inside a baby

Blanket to keep her quiet and comforted at night.

While she was little she held our son’s attention,

But as with most ‘family’ pets, she soon became

Mine.

And I loved her, utterly and completely.

She was my companion on the days waiting

For the school bus to bring our boy back,

She took me on long, soul-searching walks,

Walked me out of depression, walked me out of

Walking out.

For fifteen years she was part of us and when

We had to take her in and put her to sleep

Part of me went with her.  I cried for weeks after.

Walking in the door expecting the pit-pat, pit pat

Of her coming to greet me, or waking in the night,

Sensing her still there, at the side of my bed,

Dropping my hand down to touch emptiness.

All that remained was a lighter spot on the carpet

Where her rug had lain for all those years.

In time, the pain lessened, but not the loss.

Now, I remember her as a dear friend,

Visit her in photo albums, and, on occasion,

When we’re all together, say, “Do you remember when. . .?”

 

Day 76 — It seems I’m falling behind

It seems I’m falling behind in my goals. But perception isn’t always accurate.

Despite the longer gaps in my blog posts I have been quite busy working on my goals. Purging is continuing in all its forms and I am feeling lighter, clearer and more in control every day. My daily walks continue and my body and mind are definitely the better for that.

I spent the first two weeks of March back in my home near Edmonton. The first week, I watched my grandchildren while their parents went on a holiday. I had a great time and it was the perfect way to start off a new month. I love great beginnings!

The second week involved taking care of business at home. Vehicle check-up, personal check-up — the joy of having to find a new doctor — sigh. Then there was chores at home — the house needed a good cleaning prior to company arriving. Window frames needed painting, a shower head needed fixing, and electrical switches needed replacing — thank you Landon!

During that second week I was struggling. Struggling with the enormity of repairs and maintenance our house needs, struggling with feelings of self-doubt, struggling with anxiety over all the things I cannot control. When I get like that it can be very difficult to remain positive and to see that there is a way out from all the dark thoughts, the overwhelming need to BE IN CONTROL. Lucky for me I had my grandpuppy Hades to walk every day and, later in the week, we were expecting company.

Walking Hades got me out into the fresh air and allowed me to escape my internal drama for an hour or so. And because I could turn it off for that little while it made returning to it easier to cope with. Slowly, I was able to tell myself that I was doing fine, that everything would be fine, that my house was fine — you get the idea.

By the time our company arrived — Tim’s brother and his wife — relatives we consider good friends, I was, not to be facetious, in control. My house was spotless. The dangerous electrical switches had been replaced, my vehicle was given the thumbs-up, the shower worked properly and my window frames were painted. I could relax. Kind of.

Because, of course, you want everything to be perfect when you have guests. Not that I needed to worry — our guests are incredibly easy to get along with and so much fun to be around that we always have a great time. Spending a few days with them got me to let go and just enjoy our time together.

Something that was said to me a long time ago when I was a girl of about 13 or 14 by a friend of my mother’s came back to me during that second week. I had been complaining  to her about how messy our house was and about how I hated always having to be cleaning up. Why, I remember asking this person, couldn’t my mother keep a clean house (sorry Mom) and how embarrassing it was to me when people came to visit. My Mom’s friend, whom I had been babysitting for, said: Kathy, people don’t come to visit your mother’s house; they come to visit your mother.

Since then, I have, of course, heard that same adage repeated in many different ways and forms. And I’ve always thought how true it was, while in the back of my mind a little voice whispered: yes, but not your house. Your house will be neat and tidy and people will come and visit and be SO IMPRESSED. 

Well, guess what. I finally realized the actual truth of those words. No one cared that I had spent two days dusting, washing and scrubbing — they cared that they were there. With us. Laughing, visiting and living.

When I think back to those days when I was that snotty, opinionated girl I see that our house was not dirty — it was messy — how could it not be with ten people, a dog and two cats living in it? But it was always (almost) filled with laughter and fun. Just about any day after school we could come home and find my Mom sitting at the kitchen table having coffee or, occasionally, a golden Cadillac or a grasshopper with one of her friends while they played crib or double solitaire. My brother’s and sister’s friends came and went like our house was their own. My parents made them all feel welcome and comfortable.

We didn’t have a lot, but what we had they weren’t ashamed of.

Why, oh, why does it take so long to learn these simple lessons?