Pea Plant Rampage

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The pea plants grew tall, they intertwined amongst themselves, an orgy of greenery inseparable, and laden with plump pods. Who knew such a delicious offerings could bring tears and regret?

Dad lovingly tended the garden in our backyard before we moved to the farm. He would hoe the rows in the evening after work. He’d kneel down to examine the buds as they developed, and watch for bug infestations. The summer crawled along at a pace only children thought was slow. We would hover at the edge of the garden as he worked among the rows. The time to harvest grew near.

He calls us into the row of plants, and reaches down like a magician into a hat pulling up a couple of carrots. One for Cheryl and one for me. He rubs off the excess dirt and passes them over.

I look at the remnants of soil embedded in the tiny grooves of the orange stick, I give him a questioning glance, “Shouldn’t we wash it?”

He pats me on the head, “A little bit of dirt is good for you.”

Cheryl and I shrug our shoulders, and chomp on our garden treat.

I’m not sure where two year-old Shannon, is at this point. She is probably getting a massage from Mom, or maybe a pedicure. You know how the youngest always gets spoiled.

So, there we were, I was five and Cheryl was seven, Dad introduced us to the garden, but never really taught us how to pick peas. The pea pods are tightly attached to the plant, ideally, you use one hand to hold the plant, and pull on the pod with the other. This way you avoid ripping the plant apart, or tearing it up from the roots.

On the pea-picking incident day, Dad was away at work, slaving at a government job, like a peasant working for the kingdom.

Mom was busy in the house with Shan, probably giving her a foot rub. She may, or may not have told us to go pick peas. Maybe she just told us to go play outside so Shan could hear the spa music. At any rate, we ended up in the pea patch picking peas. They were sugary, fat, pea pods begging to be eaten. We ripped them off the plants like starving little savages. We popped the pods open, and devoured the little green seeds. Perhaps if Mom had looked out the window, she would have seen a couple Tasmanian devils ripping through the plants shouting, “Me wants more!”

When Dad came home, I was lounging in my room letting the peas digest. It was hard not to hear, the sound of him arriving home. The slamming of the door was like a gunshot, ricocheting throughout the house.

“Where are they?” He shouts.

“What?” I could hear Mom reply.

“The girls! Did you see what they did to the garden?”

I hear Mom walk to the window, and pull the curtains back. “Oh no.” she says.

“Yeah. Oh no is right. Look at that mess. All those hour of work, and just look. Most of the plants are pulled up.” The anger in Dad’s voice is clear.

I feel the vibration of his stomping feet, and his belt jingling as it comes free from his belt loops.

I scramble under my bed. Up until that point, I had never had a spanking.

Dad grabs Cheryl, and then heads to my room.

I cringe. I’m about to get my first pants downer. Being brave was the farthest thing from my mind.

I cry as he pulls us by the hands to the bedroom.

His face is flushed and his hands tremble, “You girls wrecked the pea plants.” He stares at us with ferocious  eyes, “ You made a huge mess of them. You can clean it up after this.”

I stare at him with wide eyes. I feel hot salty tears and snot roll down my face. “I don’t want to get the belt.”

He puts Cheryl over his knee first, because she’s the oldest. The smacks of the belt against her skin ring out sharp and clear. She was a rock. Man, she could have been a spy. No one could ever break her. When Dad is finished, she flicks me a look that says, “See that’s how it’s done.” I covet her stoic nature. She leaves the room with her dignity intact.

I had no concern for dignity— mine was all over the floor. “No Dad please don’t.” I’m trying to pull away. “I’ll never do it again. I promise.” I’m sobbing uncontrollably.

Dad really had no option, Cheryl got the belt, Debby needs the belt too.

I remember laying across my Dads lap. I recall the sharp sting of the leather. I think back on my wails of protest. It was the first, and last time I ever got the belt. After that day, I tried to be Miss. Perfect, failing miserably at being perfect, but succeeding at avoiding the belt— and Moms wooden spoon.

The pea-picking incident was a defining moment in my life for sure. It was the first time I really understood, my Dad was living his life according to the rules passed down from the previous generations.

My house had no belts, or wooden spoons for butt walloping purposes. I used wooden spoons for making cakes and cookies for my kids. I used a belt for hanging in the closet until I accomplished my thin weight. I gave each of my kid’s one quick swat on the butt in their lifetime. Although after questioning them, none of us remember what it was for— so it wasn’t life altering. What they do remember, is my deep demonic voice. The one that Satan envied, the one I saved for the occasions when I really needed them to pay attention.

Maybe one day my daughter will write a story about how she hid under the bed while Satan possessed her Moms body. And Dillon? Well, he was in the midst of receiving a massage from his Dad. He was the youngest after all.

 

Genie In A Bottle

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Poof— Open a bottle and release a magic spirit to do your bidding. What seems like a good idea at the time— can soon bring regret. News flash, there is no genie at the bottom of a gin bottle, this— I know for sure. If you happen to be an occasional regretful drinker like myself, I can save you a great deal of nausea, and bed spins, by reminding you to pour your own drinks, be involved in keeping track of your alcohol consumption. If you let others do it for you, it can cause unwelcome side effects. This is the best advice I can give you this week, probably even all summer. Especially considering, I’ve just killed off more brain cells, than I grew all of last week.

This lapse of judgement occurred visiting our step-mom in Castlegar, B.C. Fortunately, I’m too old for the corner, but I would have enjoyed a time out. The eleven-hour truck ride home after trying to free the Genie proved challenging. In the first hours I kept my teeth and fists clenched, determined to be stoic. I would not succumb to the feelings of illness through the curvy, windy, ever-changing elevation of mountain passes. The sun shone down on me in the passengers seat, as though lighting up an overexposed turd in the backyard. I curse my god given fortitude to drink, and eat whatever people put in front of me.

Five hours into the trip— more like four hours, fifty-three minutes, and six seconds— but who’s counting? We roll through the picturesque little town of Fernie. A green light on a traffic standard flickers orange, and then blazes into red. Rick jams on the brakes. We fly forward. Our seatbelts grab us tightly around the midsection. My queasy tummy flip-flops initiating fountain protocol. I frantically search the truck for a bag, an old boot, or anything to keep from redecorating the new company truck with pavement pizza. I find a gift bag containing a present for our granddaughter; it has been lovingly packed by our step-mom. I rip out the contents, and hover over the bag. I huff and puff, and blow away the idea of being sick.

Rick gives me a concerned look, “Are you going to be okay?“

Green is not a color, it’s a feeling, “Pull over when you can, “ I groan.

I watch the road ahead, focused, “I am not getting sick, I am not getting sick.” It’s a mantra in my mind. I hold the colourful birthday bag wide open between my hands, in case the bile geyser erupts.

Rick pulls over just outside of the quaint little town— probably full of very wise non-drinkers, and wise moderate drinkers.

I fling my door open, and tumble out of the truck. I bobble over to the edge of a gravel bank overlooking a rolling river. It’s swollen with spring runoff from the majestic mountain ranges. I am whiter than the peaks of snow. I lean forward, my hands on my knees. My body refuses to give anything up, except a few masculine belches— the ghosts of drinks gone past.

If only we had gone dancing last night. A bit of busting a move could have exorcized the demons of gin.

I crawl back into the seat of punishment for the rest of the trip home— The long, long, trip home.

This is your friendly reminder for sweet summer outings, there is no genie at the bottom of a bottle, and pour your own drinks my friends.

Blessed

September 2009 to March 2010-6-2

The truck veers out of control in the black night. I see Crystal’s hands on the steering wheel searching to regain control. The headlights shine into the dark, illuminating the falling snow. Our bodies bounce off each other, as we careen across the meridian heading into oncoming traffic. We are at the mercy of physics. It’s like trying to control your bowel in the grips of Montezuma’s revenge. I lean back in my seat blinded by oncoming lights. I brace for the hit. Seatbelts? Seatbelts are for strapping in the cases of beer. There is no seatbelt law.

Twelve hours ago Crystal gave me strict orders, “Be packed and ready to go at four. It’s a three and a half hour drive to Golden, and we need to pick up Laurie at the University of Calgary.” Crystal shakes her head, “We gotta motor. Maybe we can hit up Gunther’s party tonight. It should be deadly.”

“Cool, I’m all packed up.” I say with a smile. It’s exciting to leave the College campus for the weekend. I rarely went home. I didn’t own a vehicle. A Greyhound bus was my ticket home. Tonight I was riding in style— a glossy black Chevy, short-box, step-side, truck, Crystals most prized possession.

I left my most prized possession in my dorm room—a glossy, silver, quadruple speaker, double cassette, gazillion buttoned, ghetto blaster— with a sticker of Van Halen on the side.

We left Olds College on time, I kissed my ghetto blaster goodbye.

The clouds roll in towards us as we leave, like thick black smoke from a burning tire. The fading evening light is soon snuffed out by the oncoming storm. The Chinook that had swept through earlier that day had dissipated, taking its warming winds away. The winter weather was back.

Crystal cranks the Alabama tunes, and we sing along, wailing like coyotes at a full moon, “Roll on Mama like I asked you to do. And roll on eighteen-wheeler roll on…”

The snow begins to fall as we enter the city Streets of Calgary.

We pick up Laurie from her plush living quarters at the University of Calgary.

I sit between the long time friends listening to stories of strangers to me, and old friends to them. It tells me people are the same everywhere. They could have been talking about my hometown.

We are on the Trans-Canada highway, driving west, still in the foothills. The weather dude on the radio is recommending driving with caution, due to black ice and poor visibility. I wonder what he recommends for passengers? Tighten your sphincter muscle?

“Dammit. There would have to be fricken, black ice tonight.” Curses Crystal.

“What’s black ice?” I ask, thinking there are no dumb questions.

Laurie snorts, “Like, come on? Get real?” She studies me with a sideways stare, as though I’m the primordial ooze that just climbed out of the water of life, “Seriously? You don’t know what black ice is?”

“No,” I frown, “I only drove gravel roads in the winter.” I nudge Laurie with my shoulder. “Forgive me I lived in the boonies.”

Crystal grins, but her hands tighten on the steering wheel, “Black ice is hard to see on the highway, and if you drive on it a certain way, you can lose control of your vehicle.”

“That’s fugly!” I confess as I study the pavement ahead. It’s partially snow covered. All I see are tire tracks where the traffic has been. My muscles tense in my body. We catch up quickly to the car in front of us. His taillights are two red eyes peering out in the darkness.

Crystal signals to pass, “I’m not following this Hoser, all the way home.”  She steps on the gas. It indicates the beginning of the end of our trip in Crystals most prized possession.

Spinning out of linear travel, the lights from the oncoming traffic flash through the cab of our truck. The erratic forces of chaos, throw us into each other. I stick my knees against the dash to brace myself. My heart thuds. I squeeze my eyes shut, I struggle for air, and then— a sudden calm fills the cab. There is no time, and no space, and my fear is gone. I can breathe. I am surrounded by peace and I suddenly know, it’s going to be okay.

In this strange sense of calm I feel myself being pitched against Crystal and then back into Laurie. I have no idea where we are in relation to where we began. On the road? In the ditch?

We come to a jolting halt, the stillness is overwhelming. Snow streaks diagonally across the headlights.

We stagger out of the truck. The icy breeze pelts us with flakes of snow.

My knees are weak.

Laurie is shivering and sobbing.

Crystal’s hands are on her head, “Frick around, my truck! My Dad is going to kill me!” She is pacing, staring at her truck with wide eyes.

I look at the truck. The tires are off the rims. It could be worse.

A vehicle drives towards us from the highway. It stops. A man rushes out. “Oh my God! Are you okay?” His eyes are huge. “Shit, I thought you were going to flip for sure.”

We huddle together, three girls facing the stranger, facing the unknown.

“There’s a service station up ahead.” He says, “I can give you a lift— Maybe you can call someone?”

I look at Crystal, her face is bloodless, “Yes—good.” She nods. And then shakes her head, her bottom lip trembles, “It happened so fast.”

We squeeze into the Good Samaritan’s truck. He takes us to warmth, to a phone. Crystal calls her parents for guidance.

We ride back to the Chevy with the tow truck driver to get our stuff. We clearly see our serpentine tracks coming into the steep ditch after crossing the oncoming traffic lane. The driver pulls ahead of Crystals truck, and parks.

We jump out.

The gnarled tow truck operator steps out, he moseys all the way around the Short-box truck. He stops. He kicks a back tire, which is clearly off it’s rim, he scratches his chin, and slowly shakes his head, “ I ain’t never seen the likes of this—“ He gestures towards our trail into the ditch. “From the looks of those tracks, and the flattening of the tires—“ He takes in a deep breath, “Shit—Never mind flattening the tires. You took two tires clear off the rims. It’s a Goddamn miracle you didn’t roll.”

When the truck went into the shop, the mechanic found it also had a twisted frame and three bent rims.

Indeed we were blessed. You just never know what each day brings. That day we were granted a miracle.

Wake Up

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This is what I wish, for all of our planet, to be clean and pristine.

I try to be positive about life, I normally look at a pile of poop, and think, “Oh look fertilizer.” However, this poop pile is from a dog, and it’s sticky, and it’s stuck to my shoe, and I’m scrubbing my damn shoe on the grass. But the brown stuff is ground into my sneaker tread. Now I stink. My blog today, isn’t about dog poop. It’s about poop that won’t turn into fertilizer.

Why are we are walking around like mindless stinkers? We have amazing brains. The planet needs us to get our crap together. Stop buying junk! Did you see the article this morning? Scientists find 38 million pieces of trash on pacific Island. We are all contributing to plastic pollution with our brainless buying. The corporations have the people of North America right where they want them— working hard to buy the next piece of junk that won’t make them happy anyway. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, spoiler alert— Happiness is an inside job. There is nothing you can buy, that will bring you happiness, or satisfaction, for more than a day or two. Joy comes from connections with other living things, from appreciation, from music, from creating, from doing things with love and not obligation. It doesn’t come from stuff.

The cities are the corporations biggest crop. They have a captive audience to plant their seeds of need. It’s fertile ground. One person buys the latest and greatest product, and then envy takes root, and the other person must have something bigger and better. Pretty soon, you have the whole collection of happy meal toys, which eventually work their way into the dump. There they sit, doing nothing for several hundred lifetimes before they crumble away.

I realize people don’t respond to being pushed. I don’t respond to being pushed. But man o man, wake the frick up. Start supporting small companies with an ecofriendly policy, start supporting the growers with a minimized chemical program, buy local, use your beautiful minds to consider what you are actually buying before you purchase it. Consider where it ends up, when it gets broken and used up. Who are you supporting? What are you supporting?

We are the target market for big companies. We support the Billionaires whose bottle of wine cost more than our monthly mortgage payment. We have the strength to create change when we unite as numbers, because corporations look at numbers. The government will not save us. We have to save ourselves. You are responsible. I am responsible.

I have been struggling over what I can do, as an individual, to help change the world. It’s simple, and it’s hard. Stop buying junk. I was in Walmart the other day. I bought some groceries, and I bought one light summer dress. I don’t think I am ever going back. I feel guilty about the dress. I bet it will only wash ten times before it looks like I washed it one hundred. I saw a bubble making plastic lawnmower for kids. Not just one, probably a stack of fifty. I thought about my granddaughters, and how much fun they would have with that toy. I envisioned our athletic girl prancing around the lawn, making a bubble storm for her little sister to chase. I saw the cloud of rainbow bubbles glistening in the sun. Then I looked into the future, I saw the broken lump of plastic sitting in the landfill, along with hundreds of other broken plastic bubble blowers. I can make a bubble blower. I can make bubble juice.

Yes, plastic can be recycled, but not everyone does recycle.

I met a man a while back, we were discussing recycling, “Yeah,” He said with a wave of his hand, “I used to recycle everything. Then I watched a documentary on garbage and pollution.” He pauses, and tightens his face, “We are so screwed, it doesn’t matter what I do. I’m not wasting my time recycling.”

Wow! My jaw dropped, It looked like I took two too many benzos. I’ll admit, it’s not going to be easy. But let’s work at it. Don’t wave the big white I surrender flag. Change what you can— You have dominion over how you spend your hard earned money. You matter, your kids matter. What we do now is for our kids— and their kids. You can make a difference. Go team human beings! Whoot!

The dog crap smell is gone now.

Don’t Sing For Your Supper

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“Oh my God you’re killing me.” Shouts Cheryl putting her hands over her ears.

Mom ignores her young children. Her fingers dance across the piano keys continuing to play a favourite song, Puff the Magic Dragon.

I carry on, fiercely belting out the lyrics, “Lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist, in a land called Honnah Lee.” I wanted to go to Honnah Lee so badly. Apparently, it’s a magical land, abundant with weeds, and smoke, and no siblings.

Cheryl jabs me in the ribs, “Stop singing so loud.”

Shan has her hands over her ears.

The music stops. Mom whips her head around— the exorcist,  “Okay, you two— that’s enough.” Her eyes narrow in on me, “Debby, please sing softer. Everyone would like to hear the music.”

Fine. I think to myself, folding my arms across my chest, I can’t believe this bunch of amateurs. It’s quite obvious I’m a singing protégé. Don’t they realize how the music moves me? It’s like Beethoven said, ‘ To play a wrong note is insignificant— to play without passion is inexcusable. ‘ Audibly, I have a great deal of passion.

In our family, we listened to every type of music, Rock n Roll, Classical, Folk, Jazz, Country and Ancient. Mom could play the piano to dazzle the pants off a Navy man. She sang okay too. Dad sang better— it was probably a requirement for a Navy man.

Mom felt exposure to music was essential to the growing mind. Cheryl, my older sister excelled at the piano. She went on to complete higher levels, with the Conservatory of Music courses. I was a reluctant piano student at the age of six. My training didn’t last long. Maybe, Mom saw my amazing singing potential, and decided I was wasting my time stumbling over piano keys. I’m not sure if our younger sister, Shannon, received lessons or not. She might have, because she did dazzle the pants off an Army man.

Music had a large presence in our home. The piano took up one side of the living room, and a magnificent wooden cabinet containing a record player, with two built in speakers, sat along the adjacent wall. It was a massive wooden box. It could have been a two in one combo-unit— it plays music until you croak, and then it’s your casket. If you kept a dremel handy, all your friends, and family could inscribe a special message. Kinda like a yearbook, except it’s a life-book. Anyway, the combo-unit had excellent sound. At least until later in life, when teenage girls blew out the speakers. Then it was just a sarcophagus , but then no one died for a long time, so I think it went to the dump.

On the farm in the winter when the daylight waned, Dad would head to the Combo-unit, “Hey girls, do you want to hear some Rock n Roll?” asks Dad, as he lifts the lid on the elegant record player.

Our eyes glow in anticipation, “Are you going to play Elvis, Dad?”

“Elvis? He questions, putting his hands on his hips, “What about Louis Armstrong?”

“No.” We protest. “We can’t Rock n Roll to him!”

“Ok, Elvis it is.” Agrees Dad, placing the needle on the spinning vinyl.

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog!” Wails Elvis.

Dad shoves the coffee table to the side, making more dancing room. The music rolls through our bodies. Our parents join hands twirling past us, and then pull apart, hips shaking to the music. We prance all over twisting, and waving our hands in the air. Dad holds Moms hand, spins her around, and then dips her to the ground. We giggle, and stare at them with starry eyes. Dad takes each of us for a turn, throwing us into the basics of the jive.

I remember the joy distinctly— the flushed cheeks, the happy feet, and the laughing until you’re dizzy. The music created the atmosphere, but it was being together, which made it magic. The best memories are always made with someone else.

FYI, my singing career never did get off the piano bench.

 

Canadian Moose

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Happy Birthday Dad,

As I’m sure you know, the Oilers had a great run in the playoffs. I can hear your encouraging voice saying, “They’re a young team. Next year the cup will come home.”

The big C claimed our stubborn old coot of a Dad, at the age of 76, on August 2, 2016. He had great stories. This one is written from a voice recording done with his sister, and himself on July 1, 2016.

The accounting happened in the 1940’s, shortly after Dad ‘s family moved onto the family homestead, located in the Northern wilds of Alberta.

Aunty Shirley began with the telling of their mile and a half trek along a trail, through the forest to school. “It was a long ways in the spring. When you had to walk through all the mud puddles, especially through the sticky, clay mud of Wandering River.” moans Aunt Shirley, as she wrinkles up her nose.

“Yeah, mud.”  Comments Dad, his face holds a small grin, and a faraway look. “One nice fall morning, we were going to school.” He begins.

Aunt Shirley inhales a quick breath, a sparkle shines from her eyes, “You’re going to tell the moose story.”

“Yeah, I’m going to tell the moose story.” Drawls Dad, his words slightly slurred by the pain medication. He taps his leg. He is tilted in his recliner, a gentle smile upon his lips, “At the end of our quarter section, kitty corner from our farm, there was an old trail we followed to school. That morning, we heard this crashing through the bush, and what have you.” His smile widens, “The old moose comes out right in front of us.” Dad’s hands are gesturing in front of his chest, and his eyes are wide with excitement. “You could see the nostrils. Flaring.”

Aunty Shirley chuckles too. “Oh. And it was fall.” she exclaims, “And the moose was steaming! And he was gonna get us!” she announces with excitement of a child.

We all laugh, deep chuckles. Dad is still smiling, ear to ear, memories shining from his face.

“The moose had gotten so sweated up, “ explains Dad, “because it came from Rencavich’s.

“Somebody had seen it.” Added Aunty.

“Everybody at school knew about it.” Said Dad

“Yeah,”agrees his sister.

“It ran around the country—“ started Dad.

“Scaring all the kids.” finished Aunty.

Laughter and giggles fill the room.

Aunty begins again, “ Instead of running back to the farmhouse, which was at least a quarter of a mile, we ran to the school.”

“I still remember,” Aunty sucks in an excited breath, “I had started to eat a chocolate bar out of my lunch can.” she pauses, “I hardly ever—“

She looks at Dad questioningly, “ Well, how often did we have a chocolate bar?”

“Hardly ever.” affirms Dad.

“It was a real treat.” She leans forward, hands on her knees, “After that, for a long time, I couldn’t stand to eat chocolate. It made me sick.”

Laughter floods the living room.

Aunt Shirley goes on, “When we came home that night from school, and told uncle Bill, he said, well how come you didn’t come back? They had gone out hunting that morning, and he missed the moose.” She says laughing, “In the meantime we were dying, because this moose was attacking us.”

“Yeah,” says Dad with a puff, but in a tone, which says, ‘Oh Shirley, you sure know how to exaggerate.’

Then Dad bobs his head, continuing on loudly “Yes, Uncle Bill was a little upset that we didn’t go back.” He throws his hands up, “Of course,” he pauses letting his arms relax into his sides, “But we were young kids. What do you do? We didn’t know about all these big mammals yet.”

Aunt Shirley is still in the memory, “I was running behind.”

Dad chimes in, “Every once in a while I’d stop, and wave an arm,” Dad demonstrates. His housecoat sleeve falls open to reveal a skeletal arm. “Come on, come on. I’d shout.”

Aunty Shirley and Dad’s eyes meet, both glowing with life, with the sibling tales of the past.

Dad’s sister smiles, “Yeah, I thought for sure we’d get eaten by the moose.”

Oops, I Did it Again

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Swaying with the winds of life.

“And this is Debby, our accident prone child.” In my younger years that was my standard introduction. I was the walking disaster in our family. I donated so much blood to cement— forensics could still retrieve my DNA. Personally, I didn’t like being labelled the klutz in our family. What I truly wanted, was to be labeled a dancer, for all the gracefulness that lurked under my skin. I wanted to impress, with my phenomenal dancing ability. Instead, all I ever did was bleed.

As a six-year old, I walk across the street on my way home from school. My head is filled with clouds of fairy dust and unicorns. Thwack! I am smacked with a mini-missile right between the eyes. Was it a bolt of lightening? No. I glance around in a state of confusion. I wonder where my magical world had gone. I see two groups of older kids throwing rocks at each other. Apparently, I had levitated into a rock fight. A sharp pain radiates across my head, blood gushes down my face. I run home leaving a path of bright red drops behind me.

I burst into my house and yell, “Mom, Mom I think I’m dying!”

She comes running, fluttering all over me, “What happened?”

“I walked into a rock fight.” I sniffle, holding back the tears.

She pulls her face into a frown, “What were you thinking walking into a rock fight,”

Mom wouldn’t want to hear the answer. It was the clouds of fairies, I thought.

Mom drove us to the hospital, “You’re probably going to need stitches.” She grumped.

Now the pain dwindled, all I felt was worry wiggling in my stomach. Gross— sewing my skin together? That’ll hurt more than the rock bullet.

Mom looks over and pats my arm, “It’s okay. They’ll give you freezing. You won’t feel a thing.”

I sigh with relief.

However, no one warns me the injection of freezing will hurt. It creates a piercing burning sensation, far worse than my injury. I fight. I try to box the doctor in the nose. I  squirm to escape his grasp.

“Hildegard!” hollers the doctor, “I need help in here.”

The nurse arrives to pin me down. I can’t breath. Dr. Frankinstein stitches me together.

When we get home, Mom stalks into the kitchen. Dad is sitting at the table.

Mom throws her purse on an empty chair and glares at Dad, “The next time, you can take her to the hospital.” snaps Mom.

I sigh, I guess there has to be a next time.

The next time was a few months later. We were playing train robbers on the neighbour’s outside stairs. A black iron railing lined the steps. A shining silver garbage can sat at the bottom of the railing. I rush down the steps to escape the sheriff. My heart pounds with joy. I giggle uncontrollably. I elude my pursuers. I hang off the railing, swinging around the bottom, light footed and free. My feet slip out from under me. I lose my smile, as I fall with increasing speed towards the garbage can. Wham! I slam my face on the edge of the metal. It splits the skin and tissue open between my nose and lips. I sit on the ground stunned. I press my hand firmly against my cut, blood leaks through my fingers soaking the sidewalk, turning it crimson.

My sister runs to the house, “Mom! Mom! Debby is bleeding again.”

I shrink inside, visualizing Moms angry eyes, and tight lips.

At the hospital, the doctor treats me like I had inconvenienced him, like it wasn’t his job to fix up an accident-prone kids. I decide to be brave for Mom. But then the doctor covers my eyes, and I can’t see what he’s doing. I forgot how much freezing hurt. I forgot to be brave. But I remembered Hildegard. She hadn’t lost any weight.

Mom was angry with me again. I felt like the slug mom salted in the garden, all shrivelled and small. This time no one said anything about a next time. Actually no one said anything. The silent treatment was in full effect.

A month later, (It was a busy time for me— campaigning for accident-prone kid of the year.) I’m skipping in our basement. I’m working on picking up my dancing feet. I trip and fall face first. There was blood. Oh no, not again?

I sneak upstairs to the bathroom, and lock myself inside. I lean forward peering into the mirror. A bit of blood drips down my chin. I pull down my bottom lip, to see a small gash where my tooth cut in. Not too bad, the bleeding had almost stopped.

I close my lips together. There is no evidence that I almost had to go for stitches. No next time for Mom. Phew, I smile at myself in the mirror.

My smile disappears immediately. What the hell happened to my tooth? I lean in to get a better look. One third of my tooth is diagonally chipped off. My guts churn. Mom and Dad are going to be so mad. I sneak downstairs, and search for my tooth chip using a grid pattern. Success! Now I could fix it.

After trying for hours to attach my tooth, with white glue, I accept defeat. I don’t tell my parents though. I stop smiling. I look down to eat, or cover my mouth when I talk.

A week later Mom asks, “Debby, let me look in your mouth.”

I take my hand off my mouth, and press my lips tightly together.

“Let’s see inside your mouth.” Orders Dad in his no nonsense tone.

I shake my head.

They activate the angry faces. I give in. I show them my pointy tooth. They aren’t happy, I knew they wouldn’t be. I don’t know why they made me show them. I wasn’t complaining.

There were more incidents later in life, a few more stitches, concussions, sprains, pulled ligaments, and a broken thumb. My parents slapped the label accident-prone across my forehead at a young age, without intending harm. I carried the label for a long time, until one day, I realized it wasn’t true.

No one has labels. Not unless we choose to believe them. We are all just swaying to the winds of life, sometimes we rise, and sometimes we fall.

Moondance

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When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore. Thanks for that obscure song in my head Dean Martin. So at 4:30 am, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a synchronized dance of the moonlight glare. I raise my head up, and struggle to lift my eyelids off my bleary eyeballs. How beautiful, I think as I take it all in for a moment. Sleep forces me back down, and I sink into my pillow. The warm comfort cocoons me. An inner light bulb clicks on inside my mind, ” You know?” suggests my inner voice, ” You should get up. Go take a picture of that magnificent representation of nature. You always wanted a moonlight photo. ”

I pull the covers up over my head ignoring the idea. The voice becomes whiney and nasal, ” What’s wrong with you? Get up! Your camera is in the cupboard, the tripod is in the closet, and the manual is in your nightstand. ” The voice is babbling now, annoyingly excited, “ If you hop on Pinterest, you can get the settings to take the picture. It could be done in an instant. Faster than it takes for your body cells to divide. ”

” I don’t know how long it takes for my body cells to divide. I don’t want to get up. It’s too early. ”  I protest. I inhale a deep breath and sigh. My body relaxes.

The voice says, “ You could google how long it takes for a body cell to divide. ”

I don’t move hoping my mind quietens.

“ Listen. ” orders the voice, ” Time for a reality check, if you live as long as your Mom, you have eight years left. Only eight years before you turn into a spook, and learn how move stuff without a body, to scare the crap out of your kids. ”

I smile, that’ll be fun.

“ Not a lot of time. ” Says the irritating voice. I can hear imaginary fingernails tap on a counter inside my head, like the ticking of a clock.

” Fine. ” I groan, ” I’ll get up. ” I slide down the side of our tall bed. I think my husband bought our giant bed on purpose. Just so he could watch me struggle to get in. I’m stubborn, no stool for me. I’ll attach a rope ladder first. In eight years he’ll inscribe a logo on my gravestone, depicting a stool with an x through it. Well, at least she achieved her no-stool badge. I digress.

I fumble with attaching the camera to the tripod. My arms are still sleeping. I blink like a butterfly flapping its wings, trying to clear the sleep from my eyes. I squint to read the manual, and Pinterest directions to set up the shot. I tighten the last knob on the tripod. A cloud swoops in and covers the moon.

I laugh, “ Oh Murphy, you kill me. You and your law, always sticking it to the hopeful. ” I shrug my shoulders. ” Oh well, at least I’m set up for tomorrow night. ” FYI, body cells divide in approximately 24 hours.

Hey, that’s life, give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work out, give it another go. There is always a second chance, never forget, there wouldn’t be any rainbows without any clouds. Look at it this way— lets say you plan a trip, and the end goal is to be home on a certain date. If you only focus on the end goal, why should you leave at all? The fun is in the journey. I’m not sure what that means for a prostate exams. But be adventurous. You know what they say. Don’t sweat the small stuff, which is a great saying, unless you’re a little man with a big loud truck.

So, let’s go people! Have fun, play safe, and never give up.

Go Oilers. Go!

Unexpected Memories

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I know, it looks like he’s smoking a doobie. It’s only a ciggy.

My Great Uncle Robert, an odd duck. A generous soul who left his life savings to Amnesty International, a charitable organization focused on human rights. He was a giver with a hidden heart and a quick block.

I could see the life ebbing out of all the people lining the walls in wheel chairs, even the ones shuffling down the hall. The light barely shone from their eyes. So sad. It’s tough to breath when you can hear death ticking through the rooms, selecting different people each month. I was scared to hear a timer ring. Cancer ate away at Uncle now, and I felt I barely knew him.

Back at home, Dad and I are having a coffee at the kitchen table, my mind trickles over my knowledge of Uncles life,

“ Did Uncle Robert ever have a girlfriend? ” I suddenly want to know.

Dad takes a long drag off his cigarette, and then taps the ashes into the ashtray, they fall away spent, “ Yeah, he did in his early twenties, but she left him. He never had another girlfriend after that. ” Dad leans back in his chair puffing out smoke,” He didn’t even try.” The smoke dissipates like it was never really there.

Uncle Robert was my Gramps brother, I don’t remember them getting along well. It seemed to me, my Uncle enjoyed my Dad’s company more. They both liked to drink.

A confirmed bachelor, Uncle Robert comes out to the farm often. He arrives in our driveway, his car sagging from the weight of his gifts. There are bags, and bags of groceries from the co-op. Plus boxes of alcohol containing, a couple jugs of horrendous red wine, apricot brandy, scotch for Dad, and various other tipsy treats for the grownups. He brings us girls cases of Happy Pop in glass bottles. There was one called Giggle pop— our favourite. Lastly came the boxes of second-hand books, comics and stacks of Fate magazines. The Fate magazines touted stories of ghosts, UFO’s, and conspiracy theories. Mom called it crap. I called it fascinating literature, to be read in bed, under the covers by the glow of a flashlight.

Uncle Robert was old school, he didn’t cuss, when he felt the heat of anger in his face, he would exclaim, “ Good grief! ” And a heavy frown would climb onto his face and hang off his lips. He had a magnificent frown. I never asked him what Good Grief meant. What an odd phrase? What’s could be so good about grief? All I know for sure is that, I could safely repeat it, without my mouth getting washed out with soap.

Uncle used to amble around the yard for no particular reason. It seemed strange in my mind. Weren’t grownups supposed to know where they were going? My sisters and I would trail along behind him and finally holler out, “ Where are you going? ”

He’d look at us with raised eyebrows, and reply with a hint of a smile, “ I’m going crazy. Wanna come? ”

We would giggle, and run off. Or continue to tail him, until he became too boring to follow anymore.

There are some people who don’t like to be touched, they like wide personal space. He was one of them. In our house it was customary to say good night to the adults. We gave quick hugs, and a peck on the cheek. Poor Uncle Robert, in a house of three girls it became a game to see who could ambush him with a hug or kiss first. He would shake us off faster than a spruce beetle sticking to his arm. He’d retaliate the next day by running his thumb down our spine when we had our back turned.

In all my youthful years he never actually had a conversation with me. I used to think it was because I was a step below mushrooms on his life importance scale. At least you could eat mushrooms. As I got older, I realized, he just didn’t know what to talk about with little girls.

Poor Uncle put up with plenty from pesky girls. As a dedicated loner Uncle despised his picture being taken. So naturally, when I received my first Kodak camera it became my mission in life to get a face shot of Uncle Robert. I ended up with plenty of failed, blurry, and obstructed pictures. I decided he would have excelled in martial arts. He had an amazing block.

All those years he attempted to be low key, and unseen— he was making memories with us. I didn’t even realize it, and I’d be willing to bet, neither did he.

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Cheers Uncle, Thanks for all the memories.

A Hug

September 2009 to March 2010-9

Early summers touch places lively fingerprints on the whole countryside. The nearing sun warms the crisp morning air, and bright green creeps into every crevice of nature. I race the heavy footed drivers, as we rip down the streets feeling the glorious grip of dry pavement. The energy of a new season threads its way into my body. Who knows what the day will bring?

I zip into the Starbucks parking lot. I’m on a rare coffee run for the boss. I feel a momentary prickle of sadness, as I see my friends drab brown grandma-mobile, sitting in the employees parking area. I look to the empty spot beside her where I used to park.

I jam on my brakes taking my parking space, and looking up to notice an older fellow getting out of his car. He moves slowly, stretching as he exits his vehicle, and then rubs one knee. He must taking a break from a long drive.

I eagerly jump out of my seat, and stride across the asphalt. I’m wearing my heavy scuffed up work boots, faded jeans and a cotton Henley shirt, nothing fancy when you work in the shipping and receiving department at an oilfield supplier. I feel like a teenager, a far cry from my real age. Energy bounces in every step I take. My eagerness to see my former co-worker sets a firm smile on my face.

I enter the building grinning. I nod at a couple of the regulars, a twinge ripples through my chest. I miss my people, the ones I served for two years—the Starbuck junkies. I wait off to the side of the pastry case. There are only a few customers, and my friend Kim works the till, she hasn’t noticed me yet.

The older man from the parking lot enters the store and takes his place in line.

I watch Kim work. Her familiar focused look upon her duties, her brows drawn tightly together.

The last person walks away from the till.

“Hey Kim, you slacker!” I call out.

She lifts her head, bangs half covering one eye. She inhales a deep breath, “Debber!” A wide smile engulfs her face. She rushes me like a rugby player tackling the ball carrier.

An enthusiastic hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a while, is one of the best gifts in life.

We briefly catch up, and then a crowd walks in, our reunion is over.

I track towards the counter to get in line. The old fellow from the parking lot has his drink in hand, and he is wandering towards me. He makes eye contact.

I give him a reserved smile.

He stops, and leans in towards me, “Excuse me. I hope you don’t mind,  I just have to tell you this—“ he trails off awaiting my permission.

I tilt my head to analyze him. I use my life time of intuition, and people reading. I could see the good will in his demeanour. He is in his late fifties, maybe early sixties, with dark hair cropped close, greying at the temple. His face is lined by time but his sparkling brown eyes are ignited with life.

I nod, “Okay?” I agree, wondering what is coming next.

“I noticed you in the parking lot.” he says, “I watched you spring across the pavement to the door. I thought to myself, oh to be young again, and move with such ease.” He accented his words with hand motions. “I was thinking how nice it would be— to have a hug from someone with such youthful energy.”

Now I promise you, it wasn’t as creepy sounds. I’m certain it was far from perverse. He really was a gentle old man, far from home, looking for a hug from some young thing. Which wasn’t me. Not at forty-six anyway. Okay— Maybe a little creepy.

He continues on, “And then I see you hug the girl from behind the counter. I thought, wow! There it is. Some one got a hug from that young girl. I was just thinking, wouldn’t that be nice?”

I admit, as I’m writing this, I am considering this from a different perspective. Really? Are you sure old fella, you were standing there fantasizing about hugging someone. From everything I know, and read, fantasies usually aren’t so PG rated.

Then he comes to the point of why he stopped me, “What I really want to say, is now that I see you closer—” he gestures to my face, “I can see you’re not a young girl.”

True. He’s right, I am beginning to show the wear and tear of the years, like an apple left on the counter too long. My ego takes a hit. Okay, Mr. Senior Citizen, you started off strong, but your losing points.

“No offence he says gently, touching my shoulder.

I bob my head in agreement, “I know, I see the lines on my face too.”

“But.” He says with emphasis, “I’m shocked. You move like a young person— you should be on Oprah, you had me fooled.” He cackles, “I would have never guessed your age.”

“Thanks, but there’s no real magic, I just look after myself. You know, exercise and vitamins. I have a positive attitude, if you think you’re old, you’ll be old.”

We chatted a while longer. He was a journalist from Eastern Canada heading back home. Interesting man. I was far from a story.

Who knew? Meeting a stranger in Starbucks could stay with a person for so long. I don’t even remember his name. We were two people from two different sides of the country. We had no pretence, no expectation, just open dialogue, and an honest exchange. Ten minutes. It was a short, unexpected conversation, but it’s oddly in my memory forever.

Connecting with people, maybe that’s the only reason we are here. In the end he got his hug and I got mine. After all, we’re in this life together.