Growing up is always interesting. I love it when people tell me they have, cos it’s clear I’ve yet to do so myself.
NOW…that’s been said. I’d like to take this opportunity to touch on what “childhood” meant in our household.
You see, my Father and Mother both were going to school, working jobs, and trying to feed four (soon to be five) of us. My Dad’s kids, Valerie and Eddy, “us” meaning Petra and myself. Shannon came along a short time later.
We had a clean, well-tended home. In fact, we had the cleanest home. While I wore Eddy’s hand me downs (We were six months apart in age, but he towered over me, even back then), Ma made a point of ensuring that every single thing we wore was spotless and in great repair.
I remember, even now, almost a half-century later, my parents going without, well, a lot. There were times we kids whined about not liking our dinner, while they had no dinner, period. Yes, at times, it was that bad.
We had electricity. We had heat. We had running water. And, we had parents that loved us enough to take an inch off our hides if we stepped out of line. Nowadays, some call that child abuse. I didn’t, and I won’t. I call it keeping a good kid, well, good. I can’t say I miss the feel of Hot Wheels tracks connecting with my then skinny arse, but I’m forever thankful that I learned right from wrong, even if it meant a few tears.
We had cars. Paid for cars. While upholstery and interior fittings were often optional on these vehicles, they hauled us to wherever it was we needed to be. One of them once hauled my poor Dad to the hospital to treat a broken femur he blessed himself with on his birthday (that was one very tough time, one of the few times I watched Ma break down crying from the stress of it all).
We also had breakfast, lunch and dinner, on a regular basis.
Now…I was a rail-thin kid. And I mean thin. If you could pinch a millimeter on my hide, you’d have caught me during a “fat” phase.
One of the reasons is that I didn’t love some of the selections offered.
You see, Ma, well, for a while, she had to feed five kids on very little money. Every dime was counted, every ounce of meat was portioned.
Once in a while we got lucky, and it was hamburger casserole, or our “blue plate special” which I loved. Chicken on bread with white gravy, shoe string fries and peas. Still love this as a comfort food to this day.
Most of the time, though, it was fast fry meat, potatoes, and veggies. Turnip night used to make me want to drop my plate. Gawd, I hated them. Funny thing is, now I absolutely love them.
Petra…she was smart. She just wouldn’t eat. No amount of strong arming or cajoling would budge her, either. All three of us, Petra, Shannon and myself had Ma’s stubborn streak. It was clearly evident with Shannon and Petra when they didn’t want to eat or drink something. I just ate it, no matter how much I didn’t want to.
None of us realized at the time just how dire our situation was on occasion. My parents made damned sure they protected us from the uglier parts of life. That’s something that as an adult I deeply admire in the two of them. They knew just how bad bad could get, and did their level best to ensure we grew up sheltered from as much of this as they could.
Well, I digressed.
Lunch, at school consisted of peanut butter and jam, an apple and sometimes a jar with powdered skim milk in it.
I said I was skinny, here’s why.
I could never stand peanut butter “sitting” on bread. Still can’t. And powdered skim milk, well, unless it was perfectly mixed and REAL cold, same deal. As for apples. Well, it’s Canada, and with the exception of a few weeks in September, most of the year, they’re mushy or soft. I, Mr. Picky, still do not eat mushy apples. They have to pop in my mouth when I bite into them, or they end up as so much recycled mulch.
So…as Mama packed us off to school, bread bags on our feet to keep the leaky boots from making us wet (EVERYONE wore them back then), snowsuits which would never die, one for each of us; mitts that had no thumbs in them (drove Mama crazy, I’d rip the thumbs off every last pair I owned), I trudged through the snow. I actually walked miles (we weren’t metric until 1973) to school.
No matter how hard blustery or wet that weather was outside. I’d find a lovely trash can to share my lunch with while dreaming wide awake along my chosen path.
As I reminisce out of sequence; I come to the most important meal of the day. Breakfast.
I’m not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. I will die not being a morning person.
The last thing I want is any sort of food in my face. Coffee, that’s the only thing that matters. Until I’ve had at least one travel mug full, no matter if it’s instant or perked, I don’t want conversation, food, or even a hint either.
Growing up, Ma took on the role as a food Nazi, always making sure we would eat it all up. Eventually she realized that her efforts were in vain.
Petra wouldn’t drink the milk on a dare.
Shannon wouldn’t touch the fluffs or puffed rice.
I would choke down both, but wished I’d have had my sisters stubborn streak when it came to eating things I couldn’t stand.
So, essentially, I ate breakfast lunch and dinner, except on weekends and holidays. Then, lunch was mandatory. Fortunately for me, the bread had fresh peanut butter on it, so I didn’t hate it. And on our off days, we had something called “Freshie”, which was essentially Kool Aid without the sugar added to it. Ma made a POINT of never adding too much sugar, so we never got high off it.
So, did any of us eat willingly you might be asking?
Well, yes, we did. We’d get special meals once in a blue, when Ma found a few extra dollars. Roast was something we all looked forward to, once in a while, baked chicken, and if Dad got an inkling, he’d get himself a big, juicy steak to BBQ for himself. Lord knows, he earned it.
But my favourite things were, and will always be, hot cocoa after playing outside in the cold. To this day, I love a frothy hot mug of it when I come home from being out in -30 temperatures.
I also loved that slice of toast before bed. This one Ma shared with us growing up, because it gave her such deep comfort when she was our age. Sometimes it was just a little margarine. Other times, it was a bit of brown sugar sprinkled on that margarine, with a touch of cinnamon. As we got older, there was some product called “Pizza Spread”. We had that too. I preferred the cinnamon myself.
But the BEST was when Ma made us hot, creamy porridge before going outside to school on the nasty wintry days. It was a rare treat, and I can still smell her slow cooking the oats in the kitchen.
As I grew up, I resented some of the things we didn’t have, as I think a lot of kids do. When I grew all the way up, I started to see just how great things really were.
So, on this rainy Sunday, I’d like to take a moment to thank you both, Ma and Dad, for what you gave up to ensure we had the best you could give us. I know now just how little you had, while making sure we had all we needed.
I’d like to also thank you for the powdered skim milk, fluffs and puffed rice.
Fluffs came in a giant-assed bag, as did that puffed rice. Both went soggy the second you introduced any form of liquid to them. Powdered skim milk was forever lumpy (no amount of stirring ever changed that). and usually warm as it was mixed just before breakfast.
But, as yuck as all of them were, and they were, indeed, yuck, we had food. It was the best you could do, considering the circumstances you both were facing to improve all of our lives, and it was a great gift, as it turns out.
Out of our hated during those lean years, it taught each of us to appreciate when we did get something out of the ordinary. A bowl of Sugar Crisp (fluffs with sugar-coating on them), or for Shannon, her own box of Shreddies (we were read the riot act if we even tried touching that box), and for Petra, on some occasions, actual real milk.
Being this old, I now know how much you gave up to ensure we all had that “something extra”.
At 50, with all those years behind us now, I appreciate the greatest gift of all, to make due, and make wonderful.
From Dad, I learned how to be resourceful, and to face my fears instead of running from them (I can still see that baseball heading towards me, and you sternly trying to get me to actually catch it).
You also taught me the gift of patience. I have none, that’s not exactly a secret, but when it’s down to the wire, it appears I do. That wasn’t something that Ma instilled in me, that I learned from you.
Lastly, the best gift I received is the gift of temperance.
There are times I want to verbally rip the head off people. And I do on occasion, no matter where I am. But, as I grow older, I’ve learned to just bite into my tongue unless it’s something that needs saying. I definitely didn’t inherit that, I learned it, and it’s you that set the example. God, did I have one hell of a father!
I’m still working on that whole social skills thing. Petra and Shannon both possess it. They learned it from the two of you.
I never did master it. In fact, it’s baffling to me, to be completely honest. Still, I must admit, its improved somewhat.
From Ma, I learned the proverbial lesson about “lemons into lemon aid”, “man with no shoes vs man with no feet” (woman was a walking bumper sticker), and an appreciation of the smallest things.
We lost Hydro for a bit a couple of weeks back. At first I got testy (Hydro in this area goes off a lot in the summer), and then, as I sat outside, realized that without the lights, I could see so many stars that I hadn’t been able to see. I was able to actually capture one on my built-in phone camera. With the power on, I’d not have found an appreciation for that discovery.
I also learned how to dig my heels in. Now, this isn’t always a good thing (as Shannon would attest), but it’s served me very well.
Losing Ma has given me a greater appreciation for those I love and call friend.
I guess what I’m trying to say to the both of you is “thank you” for the effort you put forth into making our lives as comfortable as possible. I know we had it MUCH better than either of you did, and I ( I KNOW I speak for Shannon here) appreciate the fact that our comfort came at the expense of yours.
Who we are today is a testament to who you were back all those years ago.
It wasn’t easy for you to see us all looking down our noses at your best effort (kids do, it’s part of being a kid I think). Now that I’ve been through this many years, I not only understand, but have great respect for every last sacrifice you’ve ever made. It was hell on earth for you growing up, and you did everything you both could to make it a better world for us.
I’m sorry I didn’t like the breakfasts. I’m sorry I still don’t like them. But I appreciate the fact that I had a breakfast to hate on, period.
I may not have ever had to chip my socks out of the ice in New Brunswick, or run outside in the dead of winter in PEI when the damper on Ma’s wood stove slammed shut, filling the house with soot and coal.
But I CAN ABSOLUTELY say I walked to school in the worst possible weather, and loved every single second of it.
I also can say with conviction that I truly loved the personal attention you gave me, both of you, when I needed it most. Going to work with you and failing to learn how to drive a standard, the Scholastic book club membership I was allowed to join at school, the little special “extras” Ma would sometimes give me, trying to brighten my day, and she did, more than she ever knew.
For as many pratfalls as I took, for all the dumb lies I told, and the ingrate I became at times, you always loved us unconditionally.
Not living in the past, but learning to appreciate the great things that happened growing up.
I couldn’t have had two better parents.
Thank you both.
The promise of spring follows the gentle breeze cascading through my open window. One cannot ignore all the renewal brimming with fresh life slowly emerging from the frozen landscape after months of being hidden from the sun. It’s a gentle reminder of endings and beginnings.
I find myself unmoved for the first time in 50 years.
While the echoes of children’s laughter find their way towards me upon the warming rays reflecting off the glass, all I feel inside, deeply, is the fact that I’d give anything to be able to just disappear.
As I write this, there’s a warm dog snoozing upon my left foot. As gentle a creature as God ever created, and all I can think is how deeply I long for that comfort to evaporate with the Winter’s melting ice.
I’ve been peering inwards, and trying to re-discover a sense of purpose. It’s been so long since I’ve truly felt any connection to the goodness in the world. All I see and feel are dark clouds that ebb towards me, macerating what little joy I once had as I find myself slowly being enveloped.
In my search for truth, I’m noting that I’m utterly paralyzed with fear. At this late stage of the game, what is left for me. All I see is my fading into nothingness.
“I’ll go back to black”. I so completely understand this lyric now.
Amy Winehouse has been a companion these last few days. In taking stock of my own angst, I decided to let her in. She is as tragic a figure as I’ve ever known of. So, in exploring her lyrics, I also decided to explore who she was.
Sometimes Netflix gets it right.
Her documentary really lit a corridor into who she was, and what she became. But more importantly, it told the viewer “WHY”, pulling no punches while it let the audience really witness the slow suffocation of one of the greatest musical flames in recorded history.
This girl was no Judy Garland, despite the drugs.
There, at the beginning, was this deeply talented yet tortured spirit; one that could have used a bit of direction from two very incapable parents. During her journey, their lack of discipline started this fragile spirit down a path she was doomed to walk. No one, not her record company, her managers, agents, parents or friends, had ever kicked her in the ass. And believe me, she sorely needed it.
Amy was raw talent and emotion. She was also an artist, with an artist’s soul. Now, I might be flattering myself with my own lack of reality, but I’d like to think that I also possess an artist’s soul. In admitting to that, I completely understood her slide into oblivion. She needed the one thing no one could give to her, strength.
Her own parents failed her. Her husband and lovers failed her. Her friends tried, but also failed her. Ultimately, she failed herself as a result.
Her gift became her curse.
It broke my heart watching this highly sensitive thoroughbred being torn to pieces by the press, the paparazzi, eventually by her promoters; lastly by her own father. She, quite literally, could trust no one, especially herself.
I saw so many parallels between Amy and myself. Now, while I have a much better support system in place, I literally felt the pain she was in watching this. I completely understood her need to escape, that urge to disappear. Most deer in the headlights don’t see the gun pointed at them. She wasn’t that lucky.
I’m lucky. I have people who have the backbone to tell me I get it wrong.
It’s sad, however, that at this point in my life, I’ve been so beaten down by grief and failure that I simply can’t figure out how to pull my own self out of this destructive vortex I’ve allowed myself to be sucked into.
I wish I could give Amy a huge bear hug and let her know she wasn’t alone, even though that’s the one thing she craved above all else.
Amy left this world a broken girl. But she also left her legacy. Out of that tiny body of work, “Back to Black” will forever be heralded as her masterpiece. It’s right up there with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” or Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”.
So…the question is: how will I leave this earth.
Well, if I was to take my last breath tomorrow, would I have left any sort of legacy to my family and friends, outside of being a cautionary tale on how not to live?
Writing…it’s my voice, my emotion, imagination, perceptions and sometimes my truths. At times, it’s also my myth.
I was raised to be honest. I don’t always get that right. But, as a person with a modicum of skill with a keyboard, I am extraordinarily truthful, sometimes to the point of mauling the spirits of other people.
I don’t want to be that person. I truly don’t.
So, while I reflect during my self-imposed online exile, I’m going to try to learn from Amy’s mistakes. What I’ve witnessed through her ugly road to oblivion can be used as a tool; one that can hopefully help me recover from my own murky darkness.
I want to feel the Spring. I want to appreciate a furry heartbeat snoring on my foot. I want to find my inner child again; and let him know it’s all good. I want to tell him he can come out to play once again.
It’s fix it or just finish it time. Here’s to hoping I soon figure this all out.
It’s been many months, and I’ve written nothing.
When my mother lost her sister to cancer, she lost her singing voice, literally.
When I lost my mother to cancer, it appears I lost my written voice, save for a lot of ugly dark passages.
I’m going to figure my mess out so I can rejoin the human race. I’ll write, but unless it’s worthwhile, I won’t publish.
Thank you all for reading. I’ll be back. That’s a promise.
I took myself out for a leisurely limp yesterday evening. It was cool and damp, and the smell of the earth was sweetly enticing as I meandered through the thick night air.
At one point, I decided it was a good idea to set a spell and rest. I mean, it takes a lot of effort to mosey on down the street in a brace in hopes of getting some much-needed exercise.
You see, I’m what’s known as the mosquito’s version of Ben and Gerry’s. Everything from Rocky Road to Praline, I’m apparently this tiny vampire’s favourite flavours.
So, as I sat quietly, the moon peeking through the clouds, alighting my place in the cool, green grass; I apparently had my shingle hung out, lit in neon, inviting these tiny Messerschmitt’s in for a little Type “O” refreshment.
And a slappin’ I did go.
No matter how many of them I sent to glory, no never mind how I managed to make once pulsing bodies resemble pore pudding, the relentless blood junkies just kept on coming. It was literally my own private episode of “The Walking Dead”, starring yours truly as that episode’s meal of choice.
If only mosquito mashing was a profitable enterprise. I’d have cleaned up nicely.
Now, while I sit here, covered in calamine, trying my damnedest not to raise the welts higher than they need be, I am wondering why I keep claiming that spring is one of my two favourite seasons. I mean, this feeding frenzy is nothing more than a prelude to July and its joyful noises as bug after bloody bug find their way into your ears, nose, mouth, skin, shoes, bedroom, car, what have you.
Pass the Raid. Hell, pass me a flamethrower, hold the citronella.
So, as I gear up to take another drag down the street today, I’m going out armed and bloody dangerous.
I’m wearing my suit of armour, in the guise of a liberal slathering of Skin So Soft (thank you Avon for helping keep these nippers at bay, while giving me that oh so wonderful feeling of geriatric old lady freshness). I guarantee you that under the balmy springtime sun, I’ll permeate the layer of ozone I’m occupying a couple of miles below in the 49th parallel.
En Garde bloodsuckers! Take that black fly!.
Unfortunately, this wonderful elixir of calm isn’t going to help me much when the June bugs awaken.
Now, for the life of me, I have no earthly idea what the hell the purpose of a June bug is. Honestly, I don’t. I do know that one of their missions during their brief time airborne is to dive bomb my head as often as possible, being absolutely certain to hit me as many times, and in as many tender places as they are capable of during their brief but horrid lives.
Well, metinx God above has a sense of humour, and is looking down at his little big bear and laughing hysterically. He does this as one of his creatures, small yet great, bitch slaps some humility into my furry assed self.
Outside of giving The Almighty a front row seat to the Tazzybehr Olympics, I honestly cannot see any usefulness, let alone functional purpose for these stinky, oily brown beetles. None. NADA!
So, I think I’ll reconsider Spring as I scratch myself bloody. Hell, I’ll dream of sealing myself up inside a Ziploc bag as I sneeze my ten thousand sneezes; the ones that come from the maple tree right outside my bedroom window.
A Canuck allergic to a maple tree. How’s that for irony.
In the grand scheme of things, however, I do insist upon keeping my positive thoughts about Springtime intact. I mean, all the suffering is worthwhile once I see that special shade of Kelly green. It’s here for far too short a time, then it’s soon a fading memory; as the forested shades of Summer streaks across the horizon. It’s magical, and totally worth the discomfort, the temporarily itchy and disfiguring welts upon my legs and arms (and back, and chest, and face, and…well, you get the idea).
In my estimation, it’s our reward for enduring the long, harsh winter, well worth the price; even though I can forget breathing clearly for the next six months.
Nature’s eye candy will always trump the welts and sniffles. I’ll take two tulips with a Claritin chaser, thank you very much!
God might have decided long ago that I’d be his never-ending punchline, but he also paints an awesome landscape for his Little Tazzy; one that truly makes all the scratching, wheezing and dodging worthwhile.
Seize the day folks, walk softly, carrying a large bottle of Deet.
I’ve had it. Fully, completely, utterly and totally have had it up to here!
Had it? “Had it with what?” you might ask yourself.
To those that might need to run for a dictionary, in its simplest terms, it means treating another person as a thing or object. Add to this the word “sexual” and it takes on an even darker tone:
“Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an object of sexual pleasure without regard to their personality or dignity”. (source: Wikipedia)
Now, for those that aren’t aware, I’m a dyed in the wool Canuck. I pride myself that here in Canada, by law, all persons are equal under our charter of rights and freedoms. Yet, with all this red and white patriotism, we still aren’t living up to those ideals in 2015.
Case in point: this last Sunday, Shauna Hunt, a City TV reporter covering a soccer game endured something that’s become quite popular over the last little while. It’s the “game” of shouting “FHRITP” at female reporters covering sports events. For the uninitiated, “FHRITP” translates to F… her right in the P….
True North strong and free? Hello?
To her credit, she shamed the male hecklers on Twitter. When she asked these pigs what their mothers would think about them talking like this, one responded his mother would think it’s funny.
Well, apparently I’m not the only one that didn’t think it was funny. One of these brain trusts found himself dismissed from Hydro One, and the four offenders are being permanently banned from attending any other sporting events at the facility where these clowns are now immortalized on video for all of Canada to see.
This, sadly, is not an isolated event. Just the other day a young woman was given detention and suspended for one day for wearing a “provocative” dress to school, thus violating the schools dress code. This didn’t happen in Afghanistan or Pakistan. This happened in Moncton, New Brunswick at Harrison Trimble high school. They told her that her dress was “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” to the male students.
She did not take this lying down. Lauren Wiggins, on the cusp of her 18th birthday wrote the powers that be and stated: “If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders, then he needs to be sent home and practice self-control” She also posted her opinions to her Facebook page.
I guess my question to the rest of Canada is why any female in this day and age should still be battling this level of chauvinistic sexism. I was under the impression that all those Playtex-fuelled bonfires in the seventies paved the way for women to be regarded as human beings instead of objects of derision in our society.
Do I blame women for this? Well, yes and no.
I cannot, nor would I ever entertain the thought of blaming women for this form of discrimination. They’ve been the victims, and we need to be helping to make sure no one is ever treated this way. In saying this, though, women are also somewhat to blame for this misogynistic behavior.
Well, it’s simple. Some women tolerate it. And that’s as bad as turning a blind eye to it.
In the household I grew up in, if I had ever mistreated ANY female, you can bet I’d find my head shoved so far up my ass I’d never have witnessed another sunrise. It just wasn’t something anyone put up with, period. Yet, how many mothers that I’ve met in my time have sort of “dismissed” their son’s sexist notions as “boys will be boys”.
My response to this is “HELL NO”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is right up there with bullying and homophobia.
Generation after bloody generation of Y chromosome carrying male have created a subculture where rape is not only allowed, but often times celebrated. So much so that teenage girls are often driven to suicide to escape their male tormentors.
Mother’s aren’t the only one’s with some responsibility here. Fathers, when it’s a two parent opposite sex household, set the tone and the example for their sons and daughters.
In short; parents are both responsible to their charges, to teach them right from wrong. Yet so many think it’s perfectly OK for their boys to seek sexist or pornographic materials, and/or to allow their daughters to think they need “protecting” by/or from men. While I’m no parent, and I’m likely overreaching my boundaries here; in my estimation, it’s setting a dangerous precedent in the minds of their children/young adults, one that invariably comes with consequences.
Sometimes those consequences often are life altering, if not worse.
I could write for the next thirty pages on this, probably create a dissertation worthy of some very heated debates. The point I’m trying to make, simply, is that we need to start setting equal standards for both sexes, from the time their toddlers right on up until they leave the nest, so that when they become independent young adults, they treat their fellow persons with the respect and equality they are legally entitled to in this country.
It’s time for the “Old Boys Club” to stop with the “slut shaming”, and start being ashamed of themselves for even entertaining the thoughts and attitudes that are all too often associated with any member of the opposite sex. I mean, how many males have to walk around with that label, when a great deal of them are deserving, considering they’re the one’s doing the sleeping around, eh?
Women are the givers of life. Women can take pain no man could even conceive. Want proof? Let a man go into labour.
Women work harder and longer than most men, and almost always for lesser pay, and yet when they do achieve that so-called “equality”, more often than not, they’re considered “bitches”, even by their own female subordinates.
Well, to sum all this up, its HIGH TIME this great country of ours started taking real, tangible steps to permanently eradicating all levels of sexism and objectification at home, in the workplace, and in society, period.
It needs to start in that proverbial sandbox, and work its way up into the lives of all Canadians, both male and female.
Only then can you truly call yourself a Canadian.
Time is short.
I’ve spent the last few years watching cancer pick apart one of the most important people in my world, and found myself amazed, again and again, at her willpower. That being said, it’s a battle she’s, unfortunately, losing.
My mother, the woman who gave me life, nurtured my talents and kicked me in the ass so hard I wondered where her foot disappeared to, the woman who challenged me and my assumptions; yet in later years, became my champion, my confident, today, I learned is finally succumbing to her illness.
Time is the enemy.
How do I say goodbye to a woman whom I’ve loved (and at times hated). How do I show her, during this last gasp of her battle, just how much she means to me. How do I take 49 years, and compress them into an instant; one that she can take with her the day she leaves this earth?
I convinced myself some time back that nothing was left unspoken, and that she’d leave this life without regrets. Yet, upon hearing her doctor tell her this morning that she’s about to succumb to this illness that she’s waged war on for so long, I find myself wanting to hold her in my arms, comfort her, let her know she’s far more important to me than I’d ever let on.
I know I’ve had that conversation. I know as well that I’ve shown her how deeply I love her. She has known for a long while now just how blessed I’ve felt about God allowing me to be her first-born.
She’s never pandered to my weaknesses; she’s only shown me a better way, in her own odd fashion. I see her in my sister, Shannon. I feel her within my own sentimental spirit. I’m forever thankful I inherited more of her goodness than my biological father’s ugliness.
Time waits for no one.
I’ve seen this woman at her best, and her worst. I’ve known her struggles, and felt her pain. I’ve also borne witness to her greatest joys.
I’ve always been proud of her instrument; that deep, smokey voice, one that rang out so loudly, she never found herself needing a microphone. It’s a voice I’ll never have, but can hear in my mind during those quieter moments.
As a child, she was a giant. Today, she became the child. Yet inside her, despite her resignation, I still see the woman I’ve come to not only admire, but to set before myself as a ruler to measure myself against.
As I wipe the tears from my keyboard, I also feel a great sense of relief. I am glad the end is coming, before she loses anything more.
“If God leads you to it, he’ll see you through it”. Truer words were never written.
Time heals all wounds.
In this life, I’ve had some hellish moments; however, I always got through them knowing just how arduous her own life was during her youth. She never had anything handed to her. Everything she achieved, she did so the hard way. Like mother, like son.
I can only feel her goodness within me today, and perhaps that’s the reason I’m feeling so deeply emotional about the end; for I don’t feel ready to let go of the best parts of her.
I look at my two nephews, Edan and Benjamin, and see a lot of my mother’s spirit within the two of them. They’re both giving and very loving. I hear her laughter in my sister’s voice. I see her royal blue eyes every time I look into Ben’s own intelligent pair of orbs.
She is soon to bid adieu, but she’s also left a legacy, one I think I’m beginning to understand, and more importantly; appreciate.
I don’t know how much longer she has, but it’s not long. she’s become a prisoner of her failing body, and that, more than anything, is the most painful part of watching her fade. In saying this, I know death will be a welcome relief.
Alice Jeanette Silliker, you will leave this earth richer for having being a part of it. Your weakened body will no longer steal your memories, or your light. You’ll be with your siblings, parents, and will once again be that voice so many have loved to hear.
The best of you is in your children, and your grandchildren. Your lessons were not in vain.
God will be with you, and with us, during this final phase of your illness. Let his hand carry you this through one last trial. Your reward awaits you on the other side.
I love you.
Cancer. It’s a six letter word that denotes a constellation filled with bright, blazing stars in astronomy, a birth month in astrology, both good and useful things.
It also is one of the most prolific killers on earth. I should know, I’ve seen it’s handiwork front and center as it scythed a wide swath through the most important people in my world.
You see, I’ve borne witness to its desecration of the human body, but have as well been amazed at the strength of will inhabiting those same human forms. From aunts and uncles, to my sibling, parents and best friend, I’ve learned just how weak we humans can become physically; yet at the same time, just how powerful the will to survive and thrive is when the chips are down.
I first learned about what blood runs through our family’s veins when my Aunt Virginia found herself diagnosed with the big C. Right about that same time, my Aunt Shirley was also diagnosed. While I was mostly removed from the situation, living in another city, I knew from the haunted look in my mother’s eyes that their struggle was deeply affecting our family’s normally jovial way of being.
My Aunt Shirley was fortunate, and kicked cancer in the arse. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my Aunt Virginia.
A beautiful, full-figured woman with an operatic voice, and my mother’s best friend. She as well was Ma’s harmony partner (these two voices blended gorgeously in my personal estimation). When she left this earth, her sister felt her loss more deeply than any of us knew.
While Ma continued to live and grow as a strong, self-sufficient woman, she was forever changed. Her fun-loving spirit took a hit, and took some time to return. As well, it was painful to listen to her try to sing when the trauma of my aunt’s passing completely obliterated her deep, smokey tenor instrument. It took her years to rebuild it, and even then, it lost some of its rich, textured sound that had been her pride and joy. I have recordings she made for us kids from that period, and I find them painful to listen to.
Through the years, I have known death. Death from AIDS. Death from heart trouble. Death from life’s misfortunes, and death through one final act of sadness during times of despair. I’ve known far too much death for a man of 49. But, surviving my own challenges both physical and mental, I’ve come to realize just how tough I am, even when I’m at my weakest.
At times I’ve grown complacent, comforted in the fact that I’m the proverbial cat, and thinking I’ll always land on my feet, no matter how far I fall.
I couldn’t have known in my misspent youth that I’d be watching events unfold as they have in recent years.
Cancer lied in wait…knowing it would rear its ugly self, sooner or later.
My friend Brenda.
Brenda was the one someone on this earth that truly understood my darkness, and yet helped me to revel in the light that good friendship can bring. In short, she was a gift from God.
One day a few years ago, she called me and asked me to give her away at her wedding. I was deeply moved. When later meeting with her to discuss her upcoming nuptials, she then asked me to sing at her funeral. I laughed hysterically. How could I have known the woman was being self-prophetic.
The big day arrived, and I proudly walked her down the aisle, and beamed as I gave her away. Later that evening, I sang an old Bobby Darin tune at her wedding reception.
Six months later, we met to have lunch. She told me she was waiting for her test results, as she had felt weak recently. Lunch was short and very alarming as she became violently ill just with a few spoonfuls of broth. We said our goodbye’s, both of us knowing something horrible was coming.
I never saw her alive again.
How could I have known I’d be singing “The Rose” at her funeral, A Capella, fighting back the urge to bawl instead of singing her off to glory, a mere six months after taking her towards her betrothed.
I will be forever moved that she wanted me to take part in her life. I’m touched that she felt deeply enough for me to give me a role in both her happiest and saddest moments. I’ll never forget her laughter, her love of life, and the faith she had in our friendship.
My father witnessed the loss of most of his siblings to cancer, and other maladies (only one remains). Battling cancer himself, it could not have been easy to say goodbye so many times in such a short period. Yet he kept smiling, kept fighting, and not a one of us ever heard so much as a whimper during his darkest hours.
I’ve never been more proud to be his son.
This last year has been particularly hard on us all. Five members of my family in all battled this damned disease. While I’m thrilled to report that both my sister and father showed cancer the door, with middle digit extended in a baleful salute to its attempts to steal their wellness; others were less fortunate.
There is nothing more powerful than seeing the underdog duke it out with an opponent five times his size. It’s even more inspiring when that big bully is laid out on the mat while the dark horse gallops around the ring, triumphant.
That’s my Pa!
While he struggled and triumphed, battle after battle, Mama was facing a much tougher fight.
She developed the worst possible cancer there is, and fought like a badger, never once giving up, or complaining about treatments that literally cooked her from the inside out.
Her procedures took her body and mind, and literally destroyed both, one piece at a time. The fact that she’s still swinging, even with so little of her left, as cancer once again preys upon her cells and flesh, has me utterly amazed. But then, she’s always had her fists up when confronted. None of this is a great surprise to any of us.
I take a great deal of comfort in knowing I’m made of that same stern stuff.
During her battle, her older brother, my Uncle Hazen, also developed that same aggressive cancer. He fought the good fight, never even contemplating surrender until the bitter end. While his loss was deeply felt throughout my family, the one person that felt his absence more than anyone was my dear Aunt Mona, his wife.
I was wholly fortunate in finding the friendship that developed between my Aunt Mona as well as myself. She became my confident, my champion, as well as my biggest cheerleader when my health took a turn for the worse.
I will always remember the scrawled handwritten note she mailed to me. It was in as bad a penned state visually as anything I had ever written (I’m convinced illegible handwriting is a Libra thing), yet it’s words had this old bear bawling his eyes out. I sent a photo of it to Ma, and she followed suit.
She truly was a remarkable soul, one I’m blessed to have been able to call not just my aunt, but friend.
I just hope that I live a life worthy of the vision she saw for me in her words. I am forever changed by them.
Sadly, she was not with us long enough for me to give her that one final hug. During her husband’s and her sister in law’s battle, she also developed cancer, and while she fought it off for a while, she eventually succumbed to it, as once her sister Margie had, a little over a month or so after my Uncle Hazen had left this plane of existence.
I miss her every day. I however, received a wonderful consolation prize. Her daughter, my cousin, Jeanette…after being so far out of touch for so many years, we reclaimed that common ground we had long-lost track of, and are, quite frankly, as thick as thieves now.
Her wisdom, courage, no-nonsense attitude, and frank nature have truly kept me buoyant throughout this tempest, and I pray I’ve been as solid a life-preserver for her during some of her most painful moments.
Lastly, there’s my younger (sometimes older) sister Shannon.
Some months back, she let me know she found lumps on her breast. I told her not to worry, lumpy breasts were something Ma complained about.
We waited for the results.
Unfortunately, she had cancer as well.
Fortunately, she caught it early.
With that same indomitable spirit all her elders had demonstrated, she fought the good fight. Today was her last volley with the radiation treatments. I’m relatively certain she’s kicked cancer to the curb. I honestly am most grateful her sons and husband still have their mother to drive half-crazy. Lord knows this could have ended very differently.
I’ve lived a blessed life, despite some of the setbacks; things everyone on this earth must deal with at one point or another. In saying that, I must add that I’ve been surrounded by angels, both spiritual as well as physical.
I’ve been both moved as well as knocked down, proving I’m all too human. But I also get up, time and time again, and stand tall on that same patch of ground, defying anyone or anything that attempts to plant me on my considerable asses. Yet, in saying that, I have also been inspired by the sheer will of those that have faced deeper adversity than my life experience has allowed; shedding grateful tears at their triumphs. Those same tears fall in remembrance for those that fought the good fight, right up until the end.
I’m made of tough stock, despite my sentimental heart. I’m deeply proud that in among my family, I’ve yet to see the fall of any toy soldiers in my midst when called to battle.
I wish you, the reader, a blessed New Year, and close with this thought:
Love someone when it’s easier to hate, forgive someone when it’s the hardest thing to do; and above all, say something kind to that person in your mirror each and every morning. You may not always be rewarded, but it will build strength of character from within.
As time goes on, sequence of events can sometimes be lost in the milieu of one’s life. This is from my father…and I apologize for not remembering this.
“Your Uncle bill (my brother) died a week before your Aunt Virginia. I remember being in Saint John looking after Billy until he passed and then going to Toronto to be with your Mom and Aunt until she passed.”
This is a first hand testament to the strength of character and spirit that exists within my family.
Today, a fellow writer commented on a post I threw up (vomited would be more apt) onto Facebook about, well, a face, ironically.
You see, Renee Zellweger, our own Brigit Jones has, well…she’s morphed.
Morphed? How so, you, dear reader, may ask. To be blunt, she’s literally bought herself a new face. No, it’s not so much a bad facelift as it’s almost a face transplant. To be even more blunt, she looks like a different human being entirely. And my comments on this brought out a debate that got me thinking whilst I lathered, rinsed, repeated.
WHY THE HELL DO I CARE WHO’S FACE SHE’S WEARING! Seriously.
Kerry Hyatt is a gifted writer. She’s also one of the most intelligent women I know. She’s also beautifully intelligent. Listening to this woman (or reading) what she has to say always raises my I.Q a few points, and that’s not easily done, trust me.
She made a very sage observation that everyone made a huge fuss over Renee’s new look, and not a syllable found itself printed about her aging companion in the photo. Why? Well, first, it’s very possible it’s because he’s not as famous (if he’s famous at all). And most importantly, it’s also case in point here; he’s male.
With few exceptions, most people seem to focus on a woman’s fading beauty, and her need to desperately hold onto her youth, while a man can wither and decay, and no one bothers to pay any heed.
Is it the fault of the actress/singer/dancer etc?
Is it the fault of the media?
Is it the fault of the public?
Who’s business is it anyways?
The operative here is “business”. If an actress in Hollywood wishes to continue being considered for lucrative roles in film, she’s pressured to remain in a time capsule. On the flip side, if a man wishes to remain relevant, all he needs to do is let it all hang out.
How many James Bond movies have you watched with a twenty year old actor at the helm?
As Tracey Ullman once uttered “Unless you’re an Oscar winner in Hollywood past the age of 40, its slim pickings for an actress”.
Gena Rowlands once said to Teri Garr when she was white-hot back during her “Tootsie” period; “Wait until they write that your face has been ravaged by time”.
I’m betting Sean Connery or Harrison Ford never read such shit written in their reviews.
So, I guess what I’m writing here is less of a rebuttal to Kerry’s lament, and more of an apology for feeding into the ageist convention women continually suffer from, here, there, hell, everywhere, in one form or another.
For what it’s worth, even though I don’t agree with Renee’s decision to alter her appearance, ultimately, I’m not the one that has to look at it each morning. It’s her show, and if it’s made her feel better about herself, then you go girl!
What I would LIKE to point out here though is that I am as fed up as hell at women constantly feeling the need to rip apart their bodies to validate themselves to others as they get older. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I have no problem with a woman who gets “freshened up” because she genuinely feels better after it’s all said and done. For that matter, same for goes for any man. What I don’t cotton to is the ideology that a woman feels pressured to alter her appearance to remain viable in Hollywood. That is just as sad and as wrong as it gets, period.
So where does this end? Why do we place so much importance on youth?
I’m a 49-year-old man, struggling with his weight, and trying to appear relevant to people who could potentially be signing my paychecks. I truly do understand what the Renee’s of the world are going through. I do. Where I part company with her, and those like her is my decision to not alter my appearance.
It doesn’t make me better, it simply is my spin on aging, the end.
When I was approaching my 40’s, there was a man on TV hawking miracle cleaning supplies named Willy Mays. He was an attractive enough man, but I had noticed that over the years his hair (he sported a full beard and head of hair) became blacker and black until it seemed you could no longer see his face on the commercials. His beard and hair took on a “black hole” appearance, clearly the results of Grecian Formula 16.
I vowed I’d never look that foolish.
Well, I’m now pushing fifty, and as my hair turns kinky and silver, I can kind of understand why some men will put up with shoe polish coloured dyes. If you keep it younger, you keep yourself looking like you can still compete.
Are we in danger of going the way of Joan Rivers? Well, not really, because a woman is almost always subjected to a lot more discrimination and pressure than her male counterparts. I dunno, it’s almost as though her value is seemingly attached to her ovaries. That, and the lithe nature of her curves.
Anything less than Cosmo-perfecto = damaged beauty, and more often than not finds itself discarded.
In writing all of this, there is a movement in progress, one that gives me great hope for the future. It started with Kathy Bates years ago. You see, Kathy was a woman of size. And she never felt the need to apologize for it, either. Kathy let herself age, droop and jiggle. And Kathy continues to work, rather successfully I might add, in Hollywood.
Melissa McCarthy is another role model. She’s big, bold and beautiful, and comes as well without a single apology for who she is. And she’s box office. Where the Jennifer Anistons and Meryl Streeps of the world are raking in the bucks, Melissa is also cleaning up with most of her films, and is proving that looks ain’t everything.
Personally, I think Melissa is pretty as she is. And I hope she stays true to who she is today. But if she doesn’t, again, whose business is it anyway.
In closing, I’d like to leave you, dear reader, with a thought. It’s something you may or may not care to toss around in one of your quieter moments:
When you wake up and see yourself all baggy eyed in the mirror and think to yourself “self, maybe it’s time I had a little Botox party”; remember that you’re best foot forward is all that truly matters in this life. If it takes a fresher looking you to get there, then bring on the botulism.
Don’t ever let anyone bring you down for your decision. It’s your life.
To quote one more famous person here, and she sums it up beautifully; “If I want to wear my tits on my back, it’s no one’s business but my own”
She may never be able to turn back time, but Cher’s probably the one laughing the loudest at those that care more about her nips and tucks than her body of work.
I’ve been absent far too long….time that changed.