Monday, December 29, 2014

An Aside to an Aside

For those of you concerned about Ansa's pets, allow me to reassure you.

There is a situation up the road with a subsidized independent living series of cabins for seniors and mentally challenged citizens in that they are not allowed to have animals, clotheslines, outside picnic area, planting a garden, etc., etc. I know. Cruel and unusual for people raised on the land with animals and a high level of social interactions.

So what they do is: feed any strays that come around but can't risk losing their living privileges by taking animals indoors.

Mama cat is extraordinarily well fed and sheltered (obviously) in my barn and her three kittens are thriving and safe from coyotes.

I am not interfering with this process in any way. There are many feral cats around here generated by people who can't afford to spay or neuter (most) or are careless. Cute puppies are also let loose when the cuteness morphs into a 100lb mastiff and usually they wind up as roadkill. Tragic and awful but a problem us animal lovers can't solve. I do not condone such callous treatment of animals. The nearest shelter is over 100K away and it is inundated with animals after Christmas and it doesn't pickup.

I've had many cats over the years along with dogs. And may choose to adopt one of the kittens in time. Or not.

Together with Ansa, I keep an eye on the wee creatures and I will feed them if needed but up to now the residents of the home are doing a fine job.

Too fine as you can see!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Aside

I have a factotum that I've written about before by the name of Leo. Well, Leo has fallen captive to the charms of a woman. The less said about this woman the better.

As a result of this, however, Leo has been neglecting his duties here. His firewood retrieval from the barn is sporadic at best so I've been getting my lumber myself. A challenging task with a large fish pan and a rope followed by some hefty towing down the meadow to the house. But I am grateful I have the physical energy to do it.

I had wondered for a while about the secret life of my dog, Ansa. I love when animals have secrets, a whole other life we are not privy to.

Ansa would take off up the meadow and go missing for a while and then come down to the back door grinning. She's a dog that portrays joy beautifully. See above. I wondered what was causing her such mirth and delight.

When I went into the barn today I noticed a flurry of activity around the corner where the cow was kept in the old days.

And there was Ansa playing with a momma cat and her kittens. Ansa had adopted pets behind my back.

It made me very aware of the hidden joy that can be found in what I had perceived as dismal drudgery in getting my wood from the barn to the house.

I only have to look more deeply to find a glint of gold.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaving Normal

In times of fierce and unrelenting grief, I notice this:

Reading is too intense, requiring too much concentration. Toss.

Even an intelligent TV series like The Good Wife Season 3 requires more brain cells than I can fire up. I have to replay and replay and the threads evaporate as readily as they hove into view. I miss key information, I get frustrated. Toss.

A friend, through her father's lingering death played endless games of FreeCell on her laptop. This was a good thing.

People don't share what they do on a deathwatch. There I said it. Deathwatch. Horrible word.

And why not the distractions? You can only stare and cry and moan so much, right? Then there's knitting. I tried that. I get frustrated. That concentration thing. Toss.

And there's the telephone, the chatter seems meaningless but then what can people say? The odd few I reach out to are never home. And tripling my efforts to connect is more energy than I can summon. Hell, getting dressed is climbing Everest.

I find my family is immeasurably supportive and understanding. Bricks. We don't realize this until we're going through hell. They support me through my missing daughter, through health issues and other miseries. They say the right things like "take care of you, don't forget."

So I fire up FreeCell and get intense about that. And Mah-jongg.

And yesterday I show up to this Boxing Day bash and to my surprise I stayed and had those wonderfully distracting conversations with authors and artists and doctors and others who knew nothing of my deep pain. And that was a good thing until I got home and I felt guilty for forgetting even briefly, like I was on a short vacation.

And innocuous stupid news services on line that normally insult my intelligence I now find gripping.

And I wonder where elusive and lovely Normal is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sorrows Come

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." - Hamlet.

There are so few people to run to when your heart breaks. At least for me.

My first thought, like a homing pigeon, was my sister. And she's out, wherever, whatever, 'tis the season.

Then my best friend.

Crazy that last thought. For my heart breaks for her. I can't run to her anymore. Or she to me.

I haven't written about her in a while. I wanted to live in my fantasy world where all would be well and she would be miraculously cured and we'd be back to the world of our daily emails with our lives laid bare to each other.

I had a long conversation with her husband today.

And it's dreadful news indeed.

The waiting game has started.

A tiny part of me knew this but I'd look at her picture on my wall and say: "Not you. Never you."

"Her life was writ so large!" said her husband a few hours ago.

Yes, it was. Like yesterday, I can still recall her running beside me as I biked home from school. In our over 65 years of friendship I don't recall us once having a fight or disagreement. We traded clothes and boyfriends and would comfort each other in the early losses of our mothers. We acted on stage together. We sang together. And on. Far, far too much.

So here I am blogging.

I don't feel there is anywhere else to turn to at the moment.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Solitary Moments

The beach. Yesterday.

Sometimes I am all alone and the pain and joy of living in this world overwhelms me.

Odd that.

I mean: I would never share, in anyone's presence, these tears. They are private.

Right now is one of those times.

When I've been over-peopled and have finally found myself alone by choice.

I mourn the death today of a dear long term blog friend no longer with us who shared every step of the dying process with her friends. Her bravery, love and courage in the face of a far too early death and a very tragic life inspires me and continues to do so.

And still.....there's always more to it.

It's that time of the year, isn't it?

Where so much hurts.

And so much inspires.

And there are memories.

And losses.

And yes, tears flow.

Friday, December 19, 2014

In Sync

Where I live

There's an enormous comfort to being in sync with others, isn't there?

To throw out thoughts and ideas, maybe argue a few points or laugh, or stick in an old jibe (ball-hopping we would call it in my family back in the day)or hang out a favourite old petard to test the temperature.

I looked around the fire last night and there the three of us were, curled up around our individual books, sharing the odd thought or passage with each other, the only sound that of the dog dreaming in little yips at our feet and the crackle of the logs in the fire, sated with a full candlelit meal in our bellies.

I loved cooking breakfast for the three of us this morning. Times are more precious when one realizes they are rare now, with Grandgirl in the middle of 3rd year university, heading off for India in May, still on the Dean's Honours List (her term results came in yesterday, yay!) and Living the Life.

I love how she debates economics and has such a good grasp of the volatile oil prices and their economic effects on all.

Life is good.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I get more charge out of spring, more bang out of the changing amber colours of autumn.

No, I'm not a Christmas fan. And truth to tell, never have been. In that way of things I made up for my lack of enthusiasm when my children were small. I'd have loads of people in, gallons of drink and food, hundreds of gifts stacked up against the blinking lights of the tree. And I'd still feel empty and try and fill the emptiness with alcohol, feeling defective and wondering what the eff was wrong with me anyway. As if all could be resolved and I'd be happy and jolly if only I could find the right button to push within myself.

Years later now and I do have the answer. I don't join in the merrymaking hysteria around me, the carts pouring out of Walmart and Costco loaded down with Chinese tat, grumpy, cranky faces at the helm, glaring at the world. Yeah, that was me. I can relate.

Now it's all very simple. Grandgirl has flown out here to the edge for 8 days and we (Daughter, Grandgirl, me, Ansa the dog and Sam the cat) will just spend it quietly, mainly in front of the fires in each others' places. Exchanging meaningful small gifts on Solstice and just hanging.


Together is such a powerful word.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Imagine No Possessions

I think the most beautiful version of this song is by Eva Cassidy, who died far, far too young. Much like John Lennon himself. I've always found it somewhat ironic that John Lennon would write about no possessions, etc. when he was so incredibly wealthy. But there you go. We aspire. We all aspire.

Which is all in the way of saying that I am simplifying even more. I'm looking at the artifacts, the sentimental artifacts like china tea services (2 full sets) Waterford crystal tchotchkes - far too much, glasses, bowls, jugs. Platters, casseroles. You know. Glassware for vast parties of cocktailites with pinky fingers lifted. I've no idea why all this stuff surrounds me, still holding the spirits of long-dead aunts and grandparents and parents (the gifters). It seems like there was a world where all this was important but no more.

I take the bling out for an airing at my annual Nollaig Na mBan and then back it goes again into sundry cupboards to entertain the spiders for another year. It has to go. I'm a bit too distracted to start ebaying or kiijiiing, the bubble-wrapping and running to the post office would drive me mad.

So I wrap and box and wonder why the hell this stuff has trailed me around to so many houses over the years. Became this unwanted liability, this deadweight of possessions choking me.

I saw a post from a friend about lightening herself of possessions. 10 a day for 100 days. Just 10. And the thought appealed. And I've started to evaluate everything in my life.

And I know exactly where all the books are going.

Now the movies are nudder story.....but I may have the solution for that too.....

Any hints or thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Joys of the Simple Life

Daughter gave me a bread maker. I'd always wanted one but couldn't justify the cost. My wrists are the weakest part of me and kneading dough was always a challenge, so I'd make my Irish soda bread and leave yeasty concoctions to professional bakers.

See, she had this rather nice one she'd used before she became gluten-free for health reasons. It's hard to believe these kind of machines exist. They do ALL the work. You just measure out all the ingredients and put them into the unit in order. And push a button.

I can't tell you what this means to me. The scent of baking bread filling up the house fills up my soul.

I'm a pioneer woman, making her own yogurt and jams and breads.

There's no stopping me now.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bravery, thy name is Ansa

My dog is getting very old.

Oh lawd.

According to the people she was taken from, she will be 16 in January. Extreme old age for a mainly border collie mixed with a vast unknown canine gene pool.

Arthritis, cataracts, poor old dear. Every morning, I give her a low-dosage aspirin for the arthritis. The stairs are becoming a huge challenge for her. It breaks my heart.

I've trained her to never go in front of me and to wait for commands when it comes to the stairs.

But these commands fail us badly when it comes to those stairs. Today, she fell down them again as she tried to go up and landed safely in the lower hall. She will not go ahead of me up the stairs even when I raise my voice.

I've got mats everywhere so she staggered up from her fall and went off to her downstairs bed and I went about my business upstairs only to find her curled up in her bed in my bedroom when I came out of the utility room. She had silently followed me up, in spite of the fall. Her love/protection of me outweighs her fears every single time.

It terrifies me that she will do serious harm to herself one of these days. She is smart enough for a "slow" command as she would always race down the stairs. Now she comes down slowly as she's also tripped coming down. I wait for her at the bottom, my heart pounding.

She still greets every day with joy, eats well and is continent even though she's drinking more water than usual.

In the moment: that's my girl.

As we all need to be.
In spite of.
Because of.

She has taught me so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Outport Stories

There's this couple. Nobody likes to visit them as he is an angry old bastard, pushing 90 and his emotional baggage could knock you sideways.

I'm a CFA* so I don't have any kind of history with them but his niece, who avoids him, filled me in. He calls me now and again and if I can spare the hour, I visit Denis.

Twenty years ago, he built this house, a truly lovely spot overlooking the bay, a long, long ranch of a log house, finished in polished wood inside, a house built for great parties with white leather sofas and a big roary fire and a dining room full of hand carved pieces. Except no one would ever come to those parties.

He's tried to sell the place for 4 years but he was so nasty to deal with purchasers ran.

He and his American wife retired here, his place of birth, from Boston where he had a successful construction business but, according to him, he was run out of Boston by the mafia, he had inadvertently married into a Mafioso family. According to him, as I said. And he was unwilling to pay them "commission" on his sales.

Within three months of coming home to live, he banished the wife and took up with his girlfriend of forty years before who moved into his house when the bed was still warm from the wife. He tells me that the wife (the mother of his children) was a b****.

In that way of karma, the new partner, Ellen, has been most unhappy for about 19-1/2 of those years but had sold up her own place in anticipation of the Great Romance and had nowhere to return to.

So there they are, the house was sold ("it was an insult, that price," he says to me) and he was selling all the contents and moving down to Boston to an apartment because "the b**** had poisoned all their children against him." And he needed to fix it. "Good luck with that, pal," I thought.

Ellen told me when he went off to the bathroom that in spite of the fact he thinks she's going to move to Boston with him, she's not. Her daughter is picking her up on the closing date of the house - a week from now - and she's riding off in the sunset with her. "This separation was a long time coming," she says.

Then apropos of nothing really, she fetches a box and out pours all these documents.

"21 birth certificates," she says to me, "Me and my sisters and brothers."

My only reaction to this kind of history, and I've seen so much of it here and in Ireland is: "Oh my gawd, your poor mother!"

She started to cry.

"21 children in 22 years," she said, tears pouring down her cheeks, "And dead from kidney failure after she delivered her last at the age of 46."

"What happened to you all?" and I'm crying too.

"Farmed out everywhere, the eldest was a new bride herself and raised 4 of us including me but our father took off for the Boston States and we never saw him again."

Women are and were such disposable grow-bags for the patriarchal RC church starting with the ban on contraception and proscribing alternative forms of sexual expression.

Around the many fires of my childhood I'd be unobtrusively tucked in a corner, and would overhear the women chat about sex and how awful it was (we'd call it rape today) but that "it was his right and the priest wouldn't like it if I refused."

What a truly grim business it was then. Not to mention the fear of another pregnancy.

Our foremothers were the unsung real heroes.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hold Still. Do Nothing.

One of those things that's hard to believe. I've always had dead straight hair. I envied my little sister's curls, the most curly hair you could possibly imagine. One of my daughters inherited it. Neither of Sister's daughters did. They got mine, straight and true. And then, yesterday morning, I wake up with curly hair. So many curls that at our annual card party last night everyone remarked on my "gorgeous perm". I didn't explain it wasn't a perm, as I knew it would sound like a lie but magic. It's still curly today. Me like. Lots.

My mind wanders down weird alleyways. I was wondering what would be the last smell of someone's life? It must be awful if you're in hospital and inhaling cabbage/antiseptic/urine/faeces/floor polish/bleach as your very last breath. Something so sad about that. When it should be lavender. The ocean spray. A good curry. Wild roses. A baby. I warned you I was weird.

I was out and about in a cardigan today so it looks like the freakish winter of last year is giving us a pass. Very mild, a few cold nights but on the whole back to our normally mild early winter. We usually don't get snow until February. Fingers crossed for a green December.

I was practising going around without any money on me. I know. Weird again. An experiment. And people, seriously, kept giving me money. I was asked over to a house as Commissioner of Oaths (I know, me, hysterical, right?) and the couple stuck $20 in my pocket for witnessing some papers. And then last night at the party, as everyone "knows I don't drink otherwise it would have been a bottle" I was given $50 as part of the card playing "profit-sharing" plan. The organizers have now converted the normal annual donation to the church as an annual benefit split amongst the card players. The RC church threw the seniors out on the street over a year ago when they closed the parish hall (land donated and built free by residents) and put it up for sale. We now have a new town hall, town owned and operated, a truly lovely space, and everyone is delighted. And next, this morning, the post mistress comes over from across the bay and buys 6 of my cards for $20. So within a day or two I have $90 without lifting a finger.

This could have something to do with my brand new curly head, you think? Magic.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Birthday Blues

Building to a crescendo in December
Each morning pierces a remember
The golden child, the laughing face
The quick wit, the stunning grace.

Happy birthday darling girl, wherever you are, whatever you are, whoever you are.

You are cherished and loved and missed so much.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tribe

Sunset at Holyrood Pond - Newfoundland.

Once upon a time I decided to do something about my drinking, known as "The Failing" where I come from. The Failing was an exclusive classification given to drunken old priests in large stone mansions with a doddery old housekeeper cleaning up after them. Or a gawd-luv-'im bank manager soaking his braincells to mush every night in the pub while his wife and childer hid behind the curtains, starving and waiting for another smashup of the remaining sticks of furniture. Status was everything when it came to categorizing these swanky alcoholics.

A drunken woman wouldn't be spoken about in the same breath. She'd deserve a fresh gulp of air and a brand new paragraph full of words like "a drunken slut", or "she should cop herself on" or "her poor suffering husband should leave that terrible wan, the church would give him an annulment for sure, they'd understand."

The old double standard, still rampant to this day I'm sorry to say, especially out on this Rock where women die in droves from untreated alcoholism, too ashamed to make themselves visible in recovery houses or detox centres. Small island, endless gossip syndrome.

I hang around recovered alcoholics. They're my tribe since June 1986.

I've learned a lot about the disease. Yes, much of it is hereditary, some of it can be environmental. You get the old nature vs nurture argument. But the debating society can continue without me. I yam who(m)I yam. Whether it was because of grandparents or aunties having it, I really can't be arsed. I did once. But it's just a distraction from the recovery. The drinking is merely a symptom for all the emotional shyte underneath, festering, needing a regular airing. With those who understand completely.

All I know is if I walk into a function/party/wedding/funeral and one or two or three of my tribe are there we will seek each other out with an ESP that would astonish you and immediately zero in for an often silent hug before we move on.

Why? You might ask.

Because we live in spite of.

When so very many died because of.

My tribe.

My life.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

True Story.

So I was a wee bit sad, a lovely old lady died a week after celebrating her 90th birthday. A blast of a party in the local golf club was that event, band, food, hundreds of guests, full page announcement in the newspaper.

Dying at 90 has an air of jollity about it. Imagine living that long, dying in your own home, a widow for yonks, raising 4 boys just about alone (often slaving over long steel tables gutting fish in a fishplant, feet sloshing around salt water floors) and they're all lawyers and judges. Important fellahs. Job well done, missus.

So I write up my card and fire off my donation to my favourite local charity. I don't believe in BigCorpoCharity. Not one bit. Even if you tell me on the obit to donate to Cancer/Kidney Foundation/MS/Diabetes. I disobey. I will not line the pockets of those CEOs and those marketing fool-tools.

But I digress, for this is a story about how I adjust reality to suit me. Fatal flaw or comic genius? You tell me after you read onwards.

I get to the wake. We have a grandish wake room as an offshoot to the church. It would pass the litmus test of non-sectarian space if it weren't for the Holy Marys crowding the walls and the statue of Saint Joseph doing a bit of carpentry.

So I drop off the card in the little carousel set on a table for this purpsoe and face the corpse. And I think, Mein Gott, she has changed substantially in the week I last saw her. Shrunken, cheeks fallen in, a tinge of yellow on her. Death can wring your neck.

And I sit down next to some friends. And share this. And they tell me she's now 68 lbs, an awful change. And my brain fires off and I think, she must have lost 40lbs in a week, they must have syphoned it out of her and why for gawd's sake?

Marguerite was my next door neighbour for about 10 years until she moved, offers Thomas.

I shake my head and say: I never knew she had another name, I always called her Anne.

Oh, really? says Ruth, baffled, maybe when she moved to your outport she went to her middle name?

Duh, obviously, I think.

Have you met all the family? says Don.

Yeah, I know all four boys, I say, preening slightly. Anne/Marguerite had made a point of introducing me to her 4 sons when they were in town, they are scattered across the country in the judicial systems of various provinces. All good-looking runners too.

That's odd, says Thomas, she has 3 girls and 2 boys.

I can be slow but when I can shove my own reality out of the way in exchange for someone else's I show surprising quick-wittedness.

That is Anne Bishop in the casket? I say, very softly in case anyone's eavesdropping.

Ah no, no. That's Marguerite Ryan, says Thomas, looking at me funny, Anne Bishop's in the church next door.

I reflect: Life was more understandable when I was drinking. Now I have to get up, fish the card off the carousel if I can find it amongst the 100 already there and then, red-faced, walk down this aisle and into the church.

And these poor innocent people, gawd help them, voted me into public office.