Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

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I am my Mother after all.

I realized this, sitting at the breakfast table on a Sunday, much like the one that just passed.  Now, you know when you know something, but you don’t really admit it, or think maybe well, I don’t know it… you can continue like that, in denial, for a long, long, time.  Then one day, it’s just absolutely apparent and you can’t deny it anymore, and you accept it, and it’s fine. Because it’s already been like that for quite some time, and the only person really who didn’t know it, or believe it, was you.  And everyone else has been fine with it, too.

I am.  There’s no use denying it.  And I’m really, really, OK with it.  I like to think that I’ve added my own flavor to the mix – upping the ante a little on it – to be me, and her. And then sometimes, when I speak, or say certain phrases, or laugh, I immediately recognize my sisters in myself.

Recognition.  More than just an outside resemblance.  Sharing the same DNA, being forever impacted by listening to how someone answers the phone.  Or belly laughs at a joke.  The color of the eyes and the hair may be different, but there is no doubt, when you strip away the things that we try to make ourselves individual with, to be our own self – that we are all related.

Not only was that Sunday a Mum moment, it was a total Bea Arthur moment.  Bea has been a favorite of mine since I was just a kid.  I envy my sisters in some way because they grew up (and by grew up, I mean the really formative teenage years) during “All In The Family” and, “Maude” and, “The Carol Burnett Show” and, to a lesser extent, “Good Times” and, “The Jeffersons.” I remember my oldest sister babysitting me on nights when my parents bowled, or had date night, and we would curl up on the couch and watch these shows.  She would laugh so hard at Archie Bunker’s exploits, tears running down her face.  I didn’t get it.  I was too young, or too naïve, or both.  All I thought is, “Why is she laughing? He is the meanest man in the world.” Not until later, during re-runs, would I see the brilliant humor and incredible writing and acting on that show.  I did get Carol Burnett, though.  I loved her Tarzan yell, and “Madame,” “Mrs.-a-Whiggins,” and the old lady with the blond hair and tights with the crotch down past her knees.  I had such a crush on Lyle Waggoner.  Those teeth!  But my favorite, my absolute favorite, was Harvey Korman.  The timing that man had.  When he passed away a few years ago, I remember reading what Mel Brooks said about him, “We would look at each other, and fall into comic ecstasy.”  When he tried so hard not to laugh, and Tim Conway would just work at Harvey, sides heaving trying not to go, and Tim would just do one little thing and Harvey would be gone.  I loved it.  Comic ecstasy – is there anything better, truly?

And then, there’s Maude.

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Let’s face it – Bea Arthur was the QUEEN of the slow burn.  Talk about impeccable timing.  I had no idea what the subject matter was, again, too young, but I knew control when I saw it.  When the camera would settle on Bea, and she would stare, then turn, infinitesimally bit by bit, toward her husband, squint, steel her eyes, and say, “God’ll get you for that, Walter.” I fell about laughing, every time.  I tried to perfect that move.  You can ask my husband, I’m pretty good at it.  He laughs, but I know every time it happens, there’s a teeny speck in the back of his mind going, “Oh shit. Is she kidding?  Is she not?” And I try to draw it out as long as I can before I break, giggling.  Sometimes I’m not kidding, but then I end up giggling anyway, as my hubby is just too sweet to be mean to, and I forget half the time why I’m annoyed, just gazing into his gorgeous, sea-green eyes… but I digress.

My Mum has always been great at this – her timing was always spot-on too.  You never knew what she was going to say, but you knew it was going to be good.  I wish I had written down so many more of them – they get me through so many incidents in my own life – but people don’t always get the humor and are offended.  Maybe it’s my timing?  Mum was always so quick on come-backs!  Me, I’m more like George Costanza three days later in the mirror going, “Jerk Store!! I’m going with Jerk Store!”

Completely innocuous questions, or statements; they get turned upside down, and leave you thinking, “Wait a minute!  What just happened here?!?!?!”

I love listening to stories of her younger self, in Scotland, making the boys work if they wanted to dance with her –

Boy:      Are you dancing?

Mum:   Are you asking?

Boy:      I’m asking.

Mum:   ……I’m dancing.

Could be yes, could be no… there’s always that slight hesitation before learning the answer.  That anticipation was killer.  Then there’s this one, said to an American while he was over there:

American:          Gee, I really love the way you Scottish girls roll your “r’s!”

Mum:                  Thanks… it’s my high heels.

I’ll wait.

Let you catch up.

Got it? Good.

And, the best ever, was asking for anything.  Whatever it was, you had to go through the gauntlet to get it –

Me:       Mum, can I have a bike?

Mum:   A WHAT?

Me:       A bike, Mum, can I have a bike?

Mum:   I’ll bike YOU!

Completely interchangeable, believe me, as witnessed here:

Me:       Mum, can you make meatloaf tonight?

Mum:   Make WHAT?

Me:       Meatloaf, Mum, can you make meatloaf tonight?

Mum:   I’ll meatloaf YOU!

I don’t even know what it means.  But it’s hysterical.

So, I think I had an absolute obligation to do what I did that Sunday, after breakfast, when I walked outside to the garden; with bedhead, Birkenstocks, a pink housecoat, a cup of coffee, and huge round sunglasses covering my bunny eyes – when my husband did a jig, and burst into song with, “And then there’s MAUDE!”

I took a sip of my coffee, looking over the tops of my glasses at him as I did, and threw my best Mum/Bea Arthur slow burn at him, paused, and said, “God’ll get you for that.”

That Age-Old Question of Carrying on One’s Genes

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This year has gone by like the blink of an eye for me. You have to understand, I’m a really late bloomer. I’ve always been smart, and mature, and people looked to me for advice on what to do with their own lives, while I could barely keep a hold of my own. But I hid it really well. That’s what growing up in alcoholism does to you. You become a chameleon, trying to fit in, trying to find that niche that will let you feel like you belong for the first time in your life.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s not a lot I regret about my life. I’ve definitely lived, and had a great time doing it. I always thought that I just “hadn’t found the right person/job/town/friend/career/etc., etc.” and that sooner or later it would appear.

I didn’t care about things like retirement, 401 K, savings accounts… Green Cards, little things like that. I was sure that I would become a famous singer or actress (or not even famous, but enough to live on) and that would take care of it all. That was my 20s.

I moved to L.A. when I was 30 and spent quite a few years trying to fit in – it was such a culture shock from Boston. I hooked up with one alcoholic/drug addict after the other, and kept thinking, “why won’t they marry me?” It was only after I got into 12-step recovery that I found out I was as much to blame as them. Deep down, I really didn’t want to get married because I thought I wasn’t worthy.

After several years cleaning up my past mistakes, and really learning about myself and why I do the things I do, I was told I was ready to date. I really didn’t want to, as I was in fear of a lot of things, namely rejection, especially in LA. I was terrified but I did it anyway.

I bit the bullet and went on Match.com. I had several really horrible dates; including one where I said I was going to the bathroom and actually walked out the back door and left him there he was so rude. I had some good ones too, but somewhere inside, I knew it wasn’t “right.”

Then, I got “winked” at by this guy on Match.com. I checked out his profile and almost deleted him. But something told me not to go by first impressions and to at least talk to him. We started very slowly and e-mailed back and forth. I let him send me his phone number, and we talked. Short, friendly conversations that didn’t drag on and just let each other know we were interested.

After a while of phone calls, we arranged to meet at Priscilla’s in Burbank. I got there early and waited round the side of the coffee house, until I realized he was late! I phoned my friend and she was going to come pick me up, but I wanted to give him another chance. I walked around the other side of the coffee house, and there he was, phoning his brother saying, “she stood me up.”

After laughing and getting the awkwardness out of the way, we sat down to talk. And we talked, and talked, and talked. We closed Priscilla’s down. He was much more handsome than his picture and so sweet. I felt something inside that I couldn’t nail down but it felt good… I felt happy.

I was definitely hooked. So fast forward to today, three years later… I moved in with him after two years, and the year after that he proposed two days before my 40th birthday. To top that, we got married in San Francisco two months later while we were there for a CAL football game.

That’s where we are now. We’ve been married for three months, and I can’t believe that happiness like this exists. It’s borne out of hard work, respect, and the willingness to work whatever may come up, out. A good friend of mine told me – it’s all about choice. It’s a choice to be married – and if you want to be married, then be married. If you want to be divorced, be divorced. It sounds simple, but it really is a choice to be happy and to want to work at it.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what this year has plopped in my lap after all of this. I went in for my yearly exam five weeks ago and was told I have ovarian cysts. Kinda funny since I’ve been on the Pill on and off since I was 16 to deal with this issue. So, in between my amazement that this was actually happening, and wanting to be healthy, I decided to have them removed. This is where it gets good.

It’s not bad enough that my whole life people have been asking, “so when are you going to get married?” but now that I am, it’s become perfectly acceptable and appropriate for strangers, and close friends, and parents, to ask the extremely personal question, “so when are you going to get pregnant?”

I think that this is just the rudest question there is.

How can people be so flip, so carefree, in asking something that should be no one else’s business but your doctor’s and you and your spouse’s? And then add to that insult, injury – “Well, you are 40 you know and you better get moving.” Holy shit! I’m 40? When did that happen? Oh yeah! Right after getting engaged and before getting married.

Listen… I know how old I am. I look in the mirror every day, and trust me, I’m not in denial. Every time you ask me when I’m going to have a baby, you probably push it back for me a few months. It’s none of your business, as well-meaning as you are.

When I had the ovarian cysts removed, they also found out I had endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. I was in a lot of pain, and just thought it was normal. That’s how messed up I am. I don’t know what “normal” is. I’ve got enough going on in my head with learning how to be a wife, dealing with the fact I am losing my job on March 29, and getting up to deal with my cretin of a boss every day without wanting to slit my wrists. I don’t want to even THINK about bringing another life into the world without getting my own together first.

And who knows what kind of mother I’d be? Everyone says I’d be an awesome mother, but I am not so sure. I have NEVER (let me repeat that) NEVER had “ooh” and “ahh” feelings when I see babies. I think that children are adorable (especially when they’re brought up properly with like, manners and stuff 🙂 ) and I like being around them, but I don’t feel that pull, that squinchiness in my belly, to actually have my own.

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I just want to enjoy being a newlywed for a while, is that so wrong? We’re still getting to know one another, learning about each other and how to communicate. I think it would be a great disservice to both of us, since we are ambiguous about the whole thing right now, to bring a child into that.

I love my husband very much. I know in my heart that we will be guided to do what is right for us, and no one else, if we keep growing and learning about one another and ourselves. If that means having a child, then it will happen, or it won’t. It is not the be-all and end-all for me, or him. I’m thankful that we’re in the exact same place about this and have the chance to grow together and decide together without one of us feeling like we aren’t getting what we want.

Photographs are not Memories, as such

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Photographs and memories are deceiving. They can cause a lot of emotional distress for perfectly innocent reasons. I’ve been sorting through old photographs of mine, and also of my husband’s, for a project I am putting together for our “wedding.” (We were already married in August of 2007, but we are doing a little celebration for family and close friends in May). There’s a book for me, a book for him, and one of us.

I turned 40 last year, and to help take the sting out of that, someone suggested crafting a book of photos that chronicled my life so far (a “Maeve” retrospective, if you will 🙂 ) It really did help put things in perspective – that high school and college were a fun time (sometimes) but so small in the grand scheme of things. I saw myself younger and full of potential and passion, and it was interesting to see how life and time change your face. It has been said that at 50 you get the face you deserve. I honestly can’t wait to see mine. I’ve worked hard at becoming a better person and to mend fences as best I can so that it doesn’t “wear” on me as I get older. In a lot of ways I feel younger and more focused than I’ve ever been.

God, I love my husband. How did I get so lucky? What cosmic pixie dust blew my way that night I returned his “wink” on match.com? We talked about this yesterday, how much choices influence us, and sometimes, even the wrong choices can put you on the right path. The documentary “Prince of Paisley Park” was on, and I was fascinated by the fact that Prince’s father moved to Minneapolis, MN as a Jazz musician. Now, forgive my ignorance, but Minneapolis MN in the 50’s doesn’t seem to me like it would be the Hub of musicians and a mecca for playing (I’m probably wrong, but just go with me). The circumstances that led to Prince becoming Prince were woven into that choice. A neighborhood that was almost completely white. Clubs and bars that were places to shine, but not really on a country-wide scale. Frustration on his father’s part – maybe enough to set the wheels in motion regarding alcoholism and abusiveness. For better or worse, Prince was forged in this fire and came out the other side, to become one of the most formidable talents and performers of his generation. Who’s to say that if his father had moved to Chicago or New Orleans or some other area more recognizable for Jazz, that his life would have turned out that way? Sometimes the crucible has to be really hot to burn away the impurities and filter the precious metal to the top.

This is how I have to take my husband’s youth. We went through a whole box full of memories and photos, and proms, and dances, together yesterday. I was actually glad he was there to tell me the context, rather than me making up my own stories.

He had a relationship with someone from the end of high school through his mid-20s. There were an awful lot of photos chronicling this era. While I was looking for pictures of him when he was younger, I got to know him a whole lot better. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry when I saw him with this woman and looking so happy and in love, and most of all, young. Proms, dances, sorority functions, they were all there, smiling up at me from their youth. A youth filled with love, excitement, and probably, lots of sex!

I think more than anything I wished I had had a youth like that. I was a late bloomer, and coupled with the alcoholism in my family, I barely remember my teenage years and early 20s very well. I was desperately trying to find out who I was. I never really had a high school sweetheart or a boyfriend till I was well into my 20s.

I am envious of this American phenomenon called “prom.” In Canada, at least where I grew up, we didn’t have proms. We had dances throughout the year, but no “spring formal” or anything like that – certainly nothing that would warrant having a formal picture taken with one’s date, and a different dress and tux rental for each! Date? We all sort of showed up and hoped nobody had puked in the corner of the gymnasium when we snuck over to neck with the cute jock from freshman year. There were only 400 of us in the whole school, grades 9-12. I graduated with about 30 other people that I had gone to kindergarten with, out of a hundred or so total. So high school was more about seeing everyone grow up with you, and having the same friends since grammar school. There wasn’t that anonymity that larger high schools have. In looking at Sean’s yearbook, he didn’t know a lot of the people he graduated with.

So, you see, when I see Sean in his tux, with the matching cummerbund to his date’s dress, I think I’ve missed out somehow.

It helped to hear that his relationship with her through all those years was not the best. Yes, he was smiling, but it was rocky – separations – physical and emotional, studded it through the years. Normal teenage and young adult emotions played a part in all of it.

I can’t be jealous of the woman who got so many of his years through his youth. We met at exactly the time we were supposed to, for exactly the right reasons. She may have photographs, but I’ve got him. I’d like to say I can rise above it and see it through my adult eyes. But somewhere, the teenage me is still feeing rejected, and like I wasted the best years of my life NOT having sex. Cripes – if I had that body now that I did then… OY!!

So, like Prince, our life together was forged by some bad choices, or choices we thought were bad at the time, but turned out pretty well. If he HADN’T had the relationship with her, he might not have ever gone to Berkeley, and then come back to Burbank. If I HADN’T had the brief affair with a friend’s friend when I came out here on vacation, I might have moved to New York instead of Burbank. And I know, deep down, so far, further than I’ve known anything ever before, that we are meant to be together. I know it like I know how to breathe.

Anyway, I did the only thing I could at the time while looking at the photos – wiped away my tears, and instead of focusing on “them” together in the pictures, I tried to look at my husband as a young man, full of promise, and love, and passion – those blue-green eyes so open and honest, those long legs like a young colt – and I fell in love with him all over again. How lucky am I that I got him and that he HAD this fabulous past that he can remember and share with me as we grow older together and get closer. I’d rather have him now, with that past AS the past, than to have loved him when we were younger and lost him, to have a lifetime of “what if,” and “if only.”

And, after looking at all of those pictures with his dark hair and buff body, the sea-green eyes and crooked smile, I did the other only thing any normal woman in love would do – I took him to bed and chased away our ghosts, exorcised them to the past, where they will firmly stay.

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Grief’s Tentacles

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No matter how prepared you are for it, Grief hits you like the blast of a furnace door opened in the middle of a snowstorm.  That difference in temperature is a shock, an uncomfortableness that prickles your skin and nauseates.  You’re constantly trying to catch up, get on an even keel, regain your footing.  And it doesn’t come.  Even someone who has been languishing between worlds for months, years, who abused you or beat you, or conversely, who adored you and thought you walked on water – when they go, when it happens, you’re different.  Immediately.  Nothing is ever the same again.  It becomes a watershed moment where everything is then measured against it – post-Loved-One.  It leaves these waves, tsunamis, actually,  that come at the most unlikely and unwelcome times.  Sometimes it’s a vise grip on your heart that wrenches brutal wracking sobs that have no sound, they just make your body heave, that awkward keening, and the tears pop out of your eyes so hard they splash feet ahead of you; sometimes it’s a feather, tickling the bottom of your heart with poignancy and softness, causing whimpers and mews, and sometimes, most of the time, it’s a stone, heavy with loss and darkness, sitting on your chest, weighing you down like a millstone on your soul, threatening to hurtle you into the chasm; that abyss of nothing – no light, no feeling, no sound.

It is useless saying to siblings or other family members that you know what they’re feeling.  They don’t know what you’re feeling either.  Empathy is just a word we use to keep connected to one another.  We may have experience with the circumstance, but it is completely different to each who goes through it.  We each meant something different to the person that was lost, we each had a different relationship to them.  That’s the curse (and sometimes the blessing) of being human – we never ever truly know exactly what another human being is thinking.  We just can’t.  We can’t crawl up into that consciousness and think their thoughts.  Even people who say they are telepathic – reading another person’s mind doesn’t give you any more insight to who they are – it’s just the words they haven’t spoken.  Their soul, their spirit, is as private as the darkness.  So when that soul, that spirit, exits this plane, it’s that light, that anima, if you will, that we miss.  This is one of the reasons I wasn’t afraid to see my father after he was gone.  I knew that it wasn’t him anymore.  I knew the thing that made him, him, was gone. What was left was just his shell, his husk, his house where he lived for 75 years, 5 months and 24 days.  I would have been more disturbed had he actually looked like I remembered – then I would have known it was a mistake.  As I touched him, his hands were cold, they didn’t reach for mine, his skin didn’t react when I touched it.  He was gone.

The friends that I have through my program have taught me so much.  One of them lost her mother and her brother within a year of each other.  The first was expected, the other, tragically.  She spoke of the privilege of being in the room with her mom when she passed.  To see the whole family gathered beside her, sending her love, knowing that her journey elsewhere was about to begin, and not be sad about it.  To witness the human being who had given birth to them, take her last breath, and to be grateful for that awesome gift.

Stupidly, I was hoping for something like that when Dad passed.  I wanted to be there, but I know now that it was OK that I wasn’t.  My niece whispered a message to him that I was on my way, and to please wait, but he couldn’t.  He was tired, and I knew that.  My mom and my sister were there when he went.  I am grateful they were there, so that he wasn’t alone, and that it was peaceful.

I used to be so afraid of death – like it was some sneaky bastard watching me and counting the minutes till I was his.  (There’s a Mr. Death at the door – oh, it was the Salmon Mousse? I’m FRIGHTFULLY embarrassed!) I used to be afraid of succeeding, or being too happy, or loving too much – because I was sure that Death was waiting to spring like a cat and devour me.  So I stay just in the middle – not too happy, not too successful, not loving too much – just enough.  Enough to be alive but not really to live, not to suck the marrow out of life and feel accomplishment and satisfaction that the day ended well.  There’s always something I could have done better, someone I could have loved more, some task I could have tried harder at.  I foolishly thought that Death would come later for those who don’t expect too much out of life, don’t live, don’t take risks, just survive.  The people who enjoy their lives always get cut short, in my world.

I remember this so vividly, like it was yesterday – in Grade 8 religion class, being with these kids I’d been with since kindergarten, who already thought I was weird, a freak – our teacher asked us, “when would you like to die? When you’re young, after your prime, or old age?” Every single person in that room, save myself, answered, “Old age.” When the teacher asked me what I said, and I replied, “after my prime” the room erupted in derisive laughter.  After he quieted the class, he asked me why, and I said, “I would rather die after my prime than sit thinking about yesterday as an old woman.  And besides, I could not hit my prime till I’m 80!”  Yup.  Definite weirdo.

Program has helped me become OK with Death.  Sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes it’s wistful, but always, always – it’s inevitable.  It’s what you do with the days in between birth and stepping off the curb in front of that bus that are important.  Cleaning up the wreckage of my past and continuing to try to keep my side of the street clean helps not have that fear.  I didn’t feel any remorse or pain that I didn’t get to say what I needed to say to my dad before he went.  I had already said it.  He knew me, warts and all.  He fathered me.  He gave me my love of traveling, of meeting people and conversing with strangers (in other words, friends I hadn’t met yet). There were probably many more things we could have talked about, and I wish that there had been that time.  There wasn’t.  That’s the thing I most regret.  I wish for more time.

Bon Mots & Assets

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I love pointed bon mots such as that one above. It puts it all in perspective when I am struggling to be on whatever side I am hoping to be on. Do I go with my family, who raised me and who love me (in their sick, twisted alcoholic way), or do I find my own voice and just tell the truth as I know it? I’m going with – b. Let me tell you why.

I got married almost 6 years ago. 5 years ago we had a wedding. The two events were about 9 months apart. The first we did for ourselves, and to get me legal (that’s another story). The second we did for God, our friends, and family (in that order). We wanted to share our joy. That’s the only reason. To let the people who had got us to that place, be thanked and celebrate with us. When someone really close to you does the whole “your wedding” thing with you, and says it, with the quotes, in a sarcastic voice, it kinda pisses me off. Because I’m a newbie at this standing up for myself thing. I still have a tendency to get caught up in everyone else’s shit and take what they say as gospel. Particularly if they are related to me. But I think God blessed me with a photographic (and audiographic) memory for such a reason: to write this shit down. Bon mots or not, if there is 7 billion other people in the world than me, and alcohol is still being consumed in some of these families, someone else is going through this shit. So, if I can put aside my own fear and rejection, and fear of rejection, and simply tell what happened, maybe, just maybe, someone else will feel strength and relate in some way. And not feel so utterly alone, like I did, for a long time.

While I never expected it to be easy, and I never expected it to go well, I certainly didn’t think that in talking to my Dad before I left (with him being so sick) would elicit someone absolutely losing their shit on me, tearing strips off of me, and ending with being called “a fucking cunt” in front of both my parents. Kudos to my program though. It allowed me to stand there in that horribleness, to listen to what the person was saying, wade through the bullshit, identify the parts that were true, take responsibility for those, and then say, “I came here to talk to my Dad, not you, so if you are finished…”

My program is also what enables me to look past my own grief, and fear, and anger, at my Dad’s illness, and look with compassion and empathy for the rest of the family, who don’t have recovery or tools to fall back on. To see them lash out at each other over the smallest things, which is really not what they’re pissed off at, but they can’t say the truth. To see the pain on my sibling’s faces as we watch my Dad shrink into COPD and liver failure (or maybe whatever other illness is going on that he won’t confide in us about); going from a hale and hearty steel worker that smoked two packs of Sweet Caps a day and drank beer like a champ, tempered with good scotch shots, who had a halo of white hair by the time he was 35, coupled with sea-blue eyes that went right through you. He played soccer, walked everywhere, and like Michelangelo with marble, he could see what was in wood while others just saw fuel for the fire.

I had a chance to sit down with my Dad and ask him how he got interested in woodworking. I firmly believe that all types of creativity, whether they be musical, written, with your hands or your mind, are passed down. This man could put together a gourmet meal out of apples, peanut butter, cheese, and celery. Arrange it on a plate so that you thought you were eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant instead of the kitchen table. My Dad emigrated from Scotland before he turned 25. I find it hard to believe that at that age, he had been married for 5 years, and had two daughters – when I was 25, I had graduated college, and was trying to find my way in my adopted city of Boston. He started working at Stelco, the Steel Company of Canada, as a millwright, which he had gotten his trade in. At age 31 or 32, he fell from a platform at work, and broke his ankle. No, wait, not broke. I don’t even think shattered is the right word. They stopped counting at 19 different breaks. It required him to be in a toe-to-hip cast and put an end to soccer. It also put him in the Worker’s Compensation Board rehabilitation clinic for 6 months. That blew my mind. I was very young, probably a year to 18 months old, and I obviously don’t remember him being out of the house for that long or what the rest of the family did while he was there. But it was there that he was encouraged to make use of his time by finding woodwork. Much like patients in other facilities learned leather work or ceramics or something, my dad learned pretty much by himself how to measure, cut and finish projects with wood. We had a kitchen dining set that he made by himself. It was a corner storage unit, two benches for each wall, and a table with two straight edges forming a right angle bordered with a curved third edge.

My Dad was pretty handy with anything he touched. I think he had so much going on in his mind that he got overwhelmed, like the best of us. Often projects would sit unfinished or take a long time to finish. We put a fireplace in our living room and didn’t have the mortar and stone up on it one Christmas, so my Dad stapled the Christmas cards we received to it. The whole face was covered. When it came time to re-do my room, after both my siblings moved out, I got to pick the paint and the carpet. I helped to peel wallpaper (the baby-shit brown and yellow plaid-flowered one), spackle the numerable holes from my posters, and sand it and prep for the paint. I picked a pastel shade of mint green, with matching comforter and curtains. The carpet was beige with a few hints of tan through it. I got a new mate’s bed (with the set of drawers below it) and loved it, even though it was too short for me and my feet hung over the end. It was white with gold metal pull handles and a decoupaged flower posy by each handle. My dad then painted my dresser a bright white glossy enamel to match. And when the top didn’t turn out how he wanted, he cut a piece of smoked glass and put it on the top to fit perfectly. My Grama’s vintage mirror hung above the dresser, an ornate antiqued gold-framed one with heavy, true mirror glass that I loved. It was my skinny mirror. It broke about three months ago; the heavy string finally gave out. I chastise myself for not replacing that with heavy-gauge wire. I kept all the broken glass so that I can make some kind of montage mosaic out of it. Good luck finding someone who can replace that glass. I think it was from the 20s or 30s.

Anyway, that room was my growing up room, with my calm green walls and my stereo holder made from wood planks and bricks. I would turn on my Styx albums, or Chilliwack or Burton Cummings, and serenade myself in the mirror, trying out funky makeup or clothes. It was magic. The windows and that mirror would rattle every Sunday when I got older, and chose to spend an extra hour in bed rather than go to Church with my parents. “Heathen!” my Mum would loudly shout as she slammed the door in disapproval. I would have one hour to myself. To daydream, sleep, fantasize about my grown-up life. I stopped dancing in the front room when my own room was finished. You see, we had one of those all-in-one stereos with a lid that lifted up and you could listen to records, the radio, or an 8-track. I would put my records on and sing and dance in front of the mirror tiles my dad put up in an arch on one of the walls, with the wood-paneling accent. Several of my parents’ friends would remark to them they saw me dancing and acting out through the front window, so I chose to take it behind closed doors.

If I could go back to the kid I was at 11, 12, 13 and beyond, I would let her know that it is all happening for a reason. All the shit that brews and gets thrown your way prepares you somehow for adulthood. What you think is a defect ends up being an asset. I was cooking very early in my teen years, and although that seemed like I wasn’t being taken care of to me, I am now an amazing cook and it has served me well. When my mum was going through a breakdown, she had me read to her. I was terrified, and didn’t know what was going on in the house or with my family, and really, what I wanted was my mum to read to me, or even better, to sing to me. But she would curl up on my bed, cover herself with a blanket, take her thick glasses off, and listen to me read to her. It soothed her, calmed her, and you know what? It made me a fantastic reader. I devoured books. I remember once in grade school, I read an entire paperback in a day. Took it out from the library in the morning and brought it back in the afternoon to get a new one. The librarian didn’t believe I had read it and quizzed me on what had gone on in it. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I answered every single one of her questions, and she waved her hand in a gesture to open the library to me again, and said, “Very good.”