And the Thunder Rolls

We had thunder storms last night . . . Thunder, lightning, heavy rain — even seemed like hail at one point. Kind of unusual to have that sort of thing around here this time of the year. It is nearly December.

This morning it is zero degrees outside. I could see my breath and certainly rushed Nick through his morning walk-about because I was freezing to death . . . yet I sunk over the top of my boot in the mud. It’s an odd kind of season.

All along I’ve been looking forward to going to Moncton in the snow, but now I’m starting to wonder whether we will have any snow at all for Christmas, though my legs are telling me the temperature is going down and going fast. Also, flurries in the forecast for today.

I was supposed to go meet the writing girls today . . . but I’ve cancelled. My legs are just too bad this week to be out on my feet all day and night. I’ll just email my thoughts on their work. Bummer though. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Mood: puffy faced

Drinking: tea

Listening To: Supertramp on Virgin Classic Rock live from the UK

Hair: uncombed

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Went and saw the Bridget Jones sequel with the girls tonight. Funny! It’s a good movie to go see with your girlfriends. I especially enjoyed the skiing scene. Crazy things must happen to everyone the first time they go downhill skiing . . . and all this time I thought it was just me and stacy ๐Ÿ™‚ We both went downhill skiing one time (though not together at the same time and a thousand miles apart at different mountains) and share shockingly similiar (though not totally the same) stories about our experiences. I went to Blue Mountain, north of Barrie in Ontario . . . Stacy went to a mountain near Edmundston in New Brunswick. I went with my boyfriend and another couple. Stacy went with her classmates from school. Stacy has some pretty funny (and painful) stories about the t-bar . . . while I rode a chair lift. Stacy didn’t quite make it down the hill on her own speed (they had to go get her on a snowmobile) . . . while I journeyed down the slope all on my own. Both our skiing stories are rather Bridget Jones-like, which makes me think maybe that’s just what happens when you go skiing the first time.

Skiing was one of those things I did with Kevin that I can’t imagine doing with anybody else . . . I’d be too afraid and I wouldn’t even be able to imagine the fun of it. Out of all my boyfriends (there really haven’t been that many) he was the one who constantly had me out of my comfort zone and trying crazy things. Not that skiing is crazy . . . although the way I did it . . .

So, we went to Blue Mountain with Jim and Yvonne (she was a few months pregnant, which is kind of weird in retrospect), rented equipment and hit the beginner slope. The men were good skiers, neither Yvonne nor I had ever skied before. The first terrifying thing was the chair lift, of course. I don’t do heights very well. I really don’t do dangling legs very well at all, let alone with great big heavy clunky skis weighing down those legs. There wasn’t even a bar across the front to give some false sense of security. The chairs go round and round and you just stand in the right spot so it sweeps you off your feet and slide off when you reach the top.

Terrified is putting it mildly. We were pretty high up in the air and it was quite a long ride to the top. I might not have been quite so freaked out by the time I reached the top, if Kevin hadn’t remarked that he was surprised the bunny slope was so high. That was always the way, like the time on the looping rolling coaster, I was fine until I looked at him and saw the horror on his face.

Anyway, it’s safe to say by the time we reached the top I was a little rigid with fear. It didn’t help to see what was happening to the people in the chairs in front of us. They were standing up when the chair reached the ledge (maybe two feet wide with a sheer drop straight down into the valley on one side) and sliding down a little hill (maybe 10 feet) to get to the level part at the top of the mountain where you would start your descent back down the slope. This was an unexpected development and looked like it would require precise timing in order to escape injury . . . so, I froze up.

I mean when the time came, Kevin slid off and down the little hill and I stayed in the chair. It all happened very quick then. The chair made a sharp turn to head back down the slope and pick new skiers up. When it whipped around the turn I was thrown from the chair, landing on my feet, and sliding full speed into a chain link fence (perhaps put there just to catch runaway skiers like myself). This was the first cartoon moment of the day. My face and body crashed into the fence and bounced off. I flailed in the air holding my balance for what seemed like minutes where I was suspended backward defying gravity and then I fell flat on my back (more like dropped really, straight as a poker) skis sticking straight up in the air.

They stopped the lift to make sure I was okay and by the time Kevin got to me I was laughing uncontrollably at the spectacle I had made of myself.

If only it had ended there . . .

Jim and Kevin gave me and Yvonne some instruction on how to ski — bend your knees, turn side to side, move this way to turn that way, that way to turn this way, do this to stop, and so on. Off went Yvonne down the hill . . . at a snails pace . . . while I gathered my wits and courage after the fence thing. I could hear the strain in Jim’s voice as he tried to coach Yvonne, she was bending her knees all right, and turning her skis from side to side . . . so much so, that she was practically standing still. After five minutes they were still right there, a snowball’s throw away from the top of the hill.

So, I decided to take the plunge and started down the slope . . . not bending my knees . . . keeping my skis perfectly straight. I shot down the hill picking up speed so fast that Kevin couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know how to stop, was figuring out how to turn as I just barely missed groups of kids and skiing instructors. The more speed I gained, the more terrified I grew, and the stiffer and straighter I held myself, which only made me go faster. I thought for sure I would break bones if I made myself fall in order to stop . . . yet I was almost to the bottom and I didn’t know how to stop.

I zoomed past all the people waiting at the bottom of the slope and didn’t slow down until I hit a snowbank at the edge of the parking lot. It was a pretty big bank and I expected it to be soft, that I would stick into it and maybe even be thrown over it and onto the hood of a parked car. I braced myself for impact . . . but the bank was frozen solid and slippery. My skis went right up the side . . . if the bank had been shorter I would have skied right over the top and onto the cars in the parking lot. But instead gravity took over and I fell backward onto the ground with my skis elevated up the snowbank. This was the second cartoon moment of the day.

Kevin was relieved I think when I told him to go ski the moguls and enjoy his day without me because I was going into the lodge for drinks and I didn’t intend to return.

About 45 minutes later, Yvonne joined me in the lodge, having just completed her only run down the slope as well.

So, that’s my skiing story and I’m sticking to it. God, I love going out with the girls!

Mood: Bleary-eyed

Drinking: Tea

Listening To: I’m a Dog, Kid Rock

Hair: Seen Nick Nolte’s mugshot recently?

Back on the Chain Gang

I’m in the midst of another insane week! Lot’s going on. Today I have to finish the WFNB newsletter and get it in the mail for overnight delivery so Mary has it tomorrow. I’ve got to get up to speed with Bread ‘n Molasses and other things related to that work. Tonight I’m going out with a bunch of the girls to see the Bridget Jones sequel. Looking forward to that and can really use a little girl energy. On Friday, I think I’m getting together with my writer girls to workshop. That means I have to have something written and I also have to find time to read their writings and comment on them. Yesterday, I made Hotel reservations for Moncton, that I’m excited about! Going to see Magie Dominic again in December. Just one night, but I think I’ll finish my Christmas shopping and I’ll get to see a bunch of people like Ed and Elaine from the Attic Owl who I absolutely adore! Anyway, lot’s on tap, so I better get to it.

Mood: Chipper

Drinking: Coffee (brewed, not instant, with real cream) Damn! I make a good cuppa!

Listening To: Ewww! Was that the toilet?

Hair: It’s going to be so shocking when I get a pixie cut!

Time Passages

It feels like years have passed since my grandfather went into the hospital. And I’m not kidding, literally years. Grandad passed away last Sunday after six days in palliative care . . . six days of pure Hell in the stress department. This death has been harder on me than I thought it would be, harder than my other grandfather’s, more difficult even than my uncle’s, which I took quite hard. And it has nothing to do with missing my grandfather or anything like that . . . I’m so happy he’s no longer suffering and I know he’s okay. It’s my mother’s pain I can’t bear. She misses him. But that’s not all, of course. With a family as large as hers, with so many inlaws and outlaws, with the stress of losing a loved one, tension is something to be expected in the closest of families, under the best of circumstances. Of course, it’s much worse because we’ve got at least one genuine dark spirit in our family who thrives on causing chaos. I worry about my mother holding anger and hatred close to her heart for a long period of time. Anger is something I know about and it will take a toll on her. It will consume her, exhaust her, change her. I’m trying to talk her through it, past it. It’s extremely important that she feels it, works through it, and then releases it. And I know this because there were a couple of years, not so long ago, that I traveled around in a constant simmer of rage . . . it took nothing to set me off and I saw the world through a grey filter of hate. It was a tremendous relief to let it go. I don’t want my mom to go through that. It’s better to feel it all at once — scream, cry, keen — do whatever she needs to do to get it out and away from her heart.

Mood: Surreal

Drinking: Coke

Listening To: Gavin DeGraw, Get Lost

Hair: Recently dyed, medium brown, kinda flat coat of colour

The Best Medicine

My grandfather’s condition worsens. My mother and all her siblings were at the hospital all evening again today. Granddad is kind of in and out of it. Mom says he has that look in his eyes and she thinks he can see the light. If you lean right down close to his face and talk to him he still comes around a little, enough to say yes or no. More fluid on his lungs now and his breath rattles in his chest. My mother doesn’t think he’ll survive the night. My aunt thinks he’s still got a day or two. They’re telling him to rest, telling him not to worry about them, hoping his passing will be soon and peaceful. Mom called earlier in the evening from the hospital and we thought she was going to stay until it was over, but then she came home. Almost everyone came home. Two of my aunts are spending the night with him. If he’s still here tomorrow night my mom and another aunt will sit with him all night.

There is something to be said for a quick death, an accident, or a malfunction with the body that instantly whisks your spirit away. Sickness is hard. Looking after your dying parents is beyond hard. It has taken a toll. Last night when my mother and aunt were leaving the hospital they couldn’t get the car door unlocked. They tried and looked for other sets of keys and didn’t know what was going on . . . until they noticed they were trying to get in the wrong car. Apparently, there were two identical cars parked side by side in the hospital parking lot. They had a good laugh about that. Tonight at the hospital my mother and the same aunt decided they would go to the second floor chapel and call home. Palliative care is on the fourth floor. They went down the hallway to the elevators, pressed the button, and waited watching the numbers light up above the elevator doors. The first floor number one lit up solid. My aunt panicked, “Oh no, we don’t want the first floor! It’s on the second!” Meanwhile, they hadn’t even got on the elevator yet, they were still in the hallway on the fourth floor. They laughed so hard all the way down to the second floor, they nearly peed their pants.

Outside tonight there is the most amazing light show taking place in the sky. The Northern Lights have been streaking across the sky for hours. They’re so bright the yard is lit up as if by moonlight. This is the strongest I’ve seen the lights in a long time, maybe forever. I like to think it’s because we need their beauty now more than ever. I like to think they’re stronger to help us be stronger. I like to think they’ve come to take Granddad home.

Better Days

It’s been a hellish day. Too much work to do, no sleep, and I’ve done nothing but talk on the phone all day. With such a large family it’s hard to keep the flow of information going, to keep everyone in the loop . . . and today was a day when people need to be in the loop.

I’m not going to visit my grandfather in the hospital. I’m not going to say goodbye. I have this image of him in my head, this overwhelming memory — I’m 12, maybe 13, and all the grown-ups are going on a canoe run. I’m supposed to spend the weekend at Grammie and Granddad Coughlan’s, but I don’t want to. I want to go canoeing too. Some of the older kids are going, the teenagers, nevermind that they are quite a few years older than me, I think I should be allowed to go too.

I beg. I plead. I cry. I toss a fit. But my parents are having none of it . . . the answer is NO!! End of discussion! Don’t say another word about it. And I don’t. I sulk all the way to my grandparents house. I sigh. I roll my eyes. But I don’t say anything . . . until I see Granddad.

He can tell there’s something wrong with me, I look so sad. I flop down on the cot in the verandah, hugging myself tightly and staring at the floor. What’s wrong? Normally, I wouldn’t respond. Usually, I’d be a little shy and much too afraid of my father to answer. My dad will skin me alive if I ask Granddad if I can go too. My mom shoots me the warning eyebrows and tight lips from across the room.

But I weigh the options . . . it’s a weekend thing, surely by Monday my dad won’t be mad at me anymore . . . what’s the worse thing that could happen . . . then it’s out of me, “I want to go on the canoe trip.” And before anyone can blink it’s settled and I’m going. I’m going with my parents in their boat or Granddad will take me himself, he says.

My parents throw out a few weak remarks to resist . . . but they are no match for my grandfather, he has decided I should go, he has spoken and that’s final. I’m all smiles as we go out to Granddad’s truck to drive to the launch point.

I’ve never forgotten that weekend of my first canoe trip. I had a great time, and I don’t think I ruined it for anybody. Nobody skinned me alive after all.

I’ve seen my grandfather since then obviously . . . but really not so much. I haven’t seen him since he’s been sick. I haven’t seen him grow old and frail. The man I remember is tall and broad shouldered. He tells me stories and shows me his tattoo. He smells like horses and leather and soap. He gives me hugs when he sees me and sits with me on the cot. He expects a lot of me, he wants me to be strong. He demands good behaviour and he will punish me if I step out of line.

He takes me haying. He lets me walk with him to the milk box at the bottom of the hill to collect the milk bottles. He lets me follow him all over the place, into the garden, back to the woods, out to the barn. He has the most patience . . . and the shortest fuse. I can see his face whenever I think of him. He’s always smiling, teasing me, maybe poking me in the ribs or tickling my feet. This is my Granddad. He’s strong and strict and human . . . and I know he loves me.

I don’t know this dying man in the hospital bed . . . and I’m afraid if I see him I will see a trace of the man I remember in this stranger’s eyes. I don’t want my Granddad to be that man. My Granddad is the one who lives in my mind, where he’s still got most of his hair and only some of it is grey, where I’m still 12 years old and he’s my hero who always takes my side.

Lawnmower Man

I slept about 2 hours. I laid down at 6 am to try and sleep a few hours until 9 . . . but I couldn’t sleep. I was too tired to continue working, my brain had gone to mush, but too wound up to sleep — I hate when that happens! So, I told myself that even being peaceful and just lying there would help rest my mind a little. I laid there until 8’ish when Sherry came for her morning walk on the treadmill and then I got up to see Anna. She’s at that perfect age, she’ll never be cuter or more adorable than she is right now (at least I hope not, because I couldn’t stand it!) Soon enough she’ll have a full vocabularly and be big enough to run around and scream with the other kids and I’ll miss the way she is right now. That’s what has happened with all the kids — they’re so much fun at this age, everything is so simple . . . I think it changes when they start expressing their own opinions ๐Ÿ˜‰ That takes some of the fun out it. The older kids are perfect little people now, with opinions and ideas and thoughts and questions and demands and stories and favourite things and things they don’t like and . . . well, they’re just more complicated, more adult, and adult just isn’t as fun as toddler. Not that I don’t have fun with the bigger kids, I do. It’s just different now, more questions and explanations and concepts. I’m very lucky, being the aunt I get to only have the fun without any of the discipline.

Anyway, I got up to play with Anna and then went back to bed shortly before 9, slept until around 11 and dreamed a thousand dreams in between. I swear I did get more rest just lying quietly but awake for a couple of hours versus sleeping and dreaming. One dream was a recurring one I have where I’m a character in a book I’ve written that I’m reading aloud to a group . . . except I don’t realise immediately that I’m the character until all the things I’m reading from the book start to happen in the room and likewise anything I say that isn’t in the book, the text changes and it’s added to the book. It’s all very comical and the me who is off to the side watching the dream unfold, knowing I’ve dreamt it before, knowing full well that it is a dream, likes to put words just for fun into the mouth of the character from the book in the dream (who is also me. The me off to the side had a good time changing the number of the people in the audience at the reading from 10 to 9 to 8 to 7 to 6 to 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 and then none. Yeah, these are the crazy types of things I dream.

The dream I was caught up in just before I woke was slightly more sinister. I dreamed that I was in the kitchen with Mom and Dad. My aunt Julia kept calling on the phone. She had gossip about a murderer on the loose, driving a red three-wheeler, dressed like a mechanic in blue coveralls. She insisted there was a write-up in a flyer that had come in the sales package . . . on a pink sheet of paper . . . and that we needed to find this and read it. She called about this over and over about five times. Everytime she’d call we’d look around a little for this pink sheet of paper but we couldn’t find it and really we didn’t seem that concerned. It was a beautiful summer morning and we were eating toast with peanut butter and drinking tea. Then I heard someone pull up to the front of the house. I looked out the picture window but it was like looking out the window of a basement apartment. I could see a pair of legs wearing blue work pants feet tucked into beige brown workboots that looked brand new. The legs were standing next to what looked like a red ride-on lawnmower. I grabbed the phone and called Julia to tell her I thought I saw the killer, that he was here, but she didn’t seem interested, said the details weren’t the same and that I needed to find the pink paper. I hung up and called 911, but the line was busy. The legs were walking around the window, it seemed like the guy was sizing things up. Then all of a sudden he drove a round-point shovel into the ground in front of the window and I woke up gasping thinking, “Someone has died.” I laid there for about five minutes pondering this when the phone rang. It was Sherry calling to tell me they’ve taken Granddad to the hospital to put him in palliative care. He doesn’t have long left now.

Mood: Dazed

Drinking: Coffee

Listening To: the clock tick

Hair: tousled