Thursday, 29 June 2017

Slow Down

Saturday morning strawberry picking.  A gorgeous sunny morning with a good breeze to keep the bugs away and keep the berry pickers cool.  I was loving the sun and the smell of the berries, and trying not to worry how I’d stand up from my berry-picking crouch, when I heard a family of four in the neighbouring row.  Young parents, little boy maybe three years old, little girl no older than five.   A sweet sight, you’d think.  Until the Dad huffs and puffs about picking ONLY berries that are ALL red, and getting them in the basket.  Until the Mom frets that they’re not concentrating, and keeps demanding that they stand still for cell phone pictures, barking “stop touching your clothes after you’ve touched the berries!”  (for the record, I'd wiped my fingers on my pants a few times by then, and had cow manure on my crocs).  Made me think they were more interested in the Facebook photo-op:  "Look at our perfect family outing this morning!" 
The little girl skipped up the row a few times, finding berries she thought were amazing, and would come back:  “Look at THIS one!  Lookit, Daddy!”  No response from the dad, who was too busy to exclaim over her find.  Finally he looked up and said sharply to his little daughter, “YOU’RE the one who was so excited to come here.  So get busy filling the basket.”  This wasn’t  after an eternity of corralling misbehaving youngsters.  They had only been there maybe two minutes.  Broke my heart a little.  
And made my heart so freaking glad to have been raised with adults who loved to dawdle, who lived in berry-stained, dog hair-covered clothes, who loved to sing and laugh while they worked.  If my five-year-old self had skipped up to Uncle Mike and shoved a fat berry under his nose, he would have said “That is the most fan-fucking-tastic strawberry I have EVER seen, IN MY LIFE!”  and then he would have talked about berry farmers, and fertilizer, and the best way to protect the crops, and wouldn’t have cared if the basket ever got filled. 
My family has always been hard-working.  They’ve also been workers who laugh, and talk, and sing while they’re working.  We all have demands, obligations and responsibilities – not enough time, and too much to do.  But my grandmother raised nine kids and still made life fun:  once, my five-year-old cousin was ‘helping’ gather eggs in a pail, and because she was so little, the pail banged against her legs as she walked.  “Careful!” her mother scolded, “you’re cracking all those eggs!”  She just smiled up at her with a sunny grin and said, “Grammy doesn’t mind.”  Talk about a Lifetime Achievement Award in one little sentence:  Grammy doesn’t mind.  Because Grammy knows what’s important is not hurting a little kid’s feelings, or making her think a handful of eggs is more important than her grand-daughter having a good time helping out.

I did have to keep my head tucked down to hide my grin as I left with my full basket, when I heard the mom exclaim to the toddler, “Wait – are you EATING every berry I give you to put in the basket?  WAIT.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Are you smooshing every single berry I give you instead of putting them in the basket??  That’s it.  You don’t get to help anymore.”  His nonplussed chuckle made my day.

Let 'em help.  Let 'em get dirty.  Life is short, and childhood?  A blink of an eye.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Boy, You're Gonna Carry That Weight A Long Time...

Sitting in the driveway at the Island.  It's not until you actually step out of the car, that you really understand that it's gone.  Even driving down the lane way, you expect to hear the dogs barking and smell the wood stove, you start the conversations in your head that you know will begin when you step out of the car and open the heavy wooden door.  "Hey, ya Billy bastard!  Where've you been?  Listen to what this guy thinks.  What do you know about alien abduction?  D'ya bring me a bottle?" 

But there's nothing here.  No cabins, just piles of burnt out rubble.  Dad's shop is still standing, but barely - leaning heavily, like a popsicle stick house built by a kid.  Doors blown wide open, some windows broken out.


It still feels like home, even on this grey, wet miserable April evening.  This place sinks its teeth into you, and it doesn't let you go.  Maybe it's the cedars, lining up the driveway in single file, that must be hundreds of years old.  Trunks as big as maples.  Maybe it's the stone shaped like the number six leaning against the first tree, in the same place it was on my sixth birthday.  Maybe it's the memories of Mystery Theatre on the radio after the news at midnight, of comic books read by oil lanterns, the treats brought in by all kinds of hippies who stopped at Bennett's store, the livestock wandering through the house.

Just one more day - a warm woodstove, a whiskey poured from the bottle hidden in a Cornflakes box, clothes covered in dog hair, seedlings in saucers on window sills, discussions jumping from politics to books to music to transmissions, clutches, fences, back to politics, all in furious voices and raucous laughter.  Can I ever go home?  Maybe someday.  

Someday, when all the menace has crept away or died, raged or rotted away from the ones who haunt this place, who linger, who threaten.  Maybe someday, dogs will run around me, as I hobble along with a homemade walking stick, waving at kids that come to visit:  

"D'ya bring me a bottle?"   

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Tangled Up In Blue

The Ghomeshi verdict has everybody talking.  They say that's good - but what I fear is what it's got everybody thinking.  Specifically, any victim of abuse who's ever considered working up the courage and self-esteem to stand up for themselves against the very person who has stolen both their courage and belief in themselves.

It also has many on the outside looking in - questioning the victims' motives.  Hopefully, it will raise the topic of WHY victims don't speak out, can't speak out.  Which is a hard thing to answer, when most victims can't even tell you why.

I married my abuser.  And I was a strong person, with solid self-esteem, an incredible support system, family and friends.  I was well educated and outspoken.  And still, abuse erodes away everything good that everyone else tells you about yourself, until all you can believe is that you aren't worthy, and that you deserve the cruelty you live with.  And you try HARDER.  Until you're ashamed and embarrassed to leave, and everyone looking in still thinks he's a wonderful guy.  There was only one incidence of physical violence - which was never repeated, probably thanks to my brothers' presence in my life and the arrival of my Great Dane - who made my house feel safe for nine years.  The mental abuse was pretty much continuous, and exhausting enough to keep me emotionally off balance for years.

I was lucky.  My friends and family never once turned away from me.   They never once gave up on me.  They gave me back the strength I gave away.  How many victims don't have that kind of support? Even with that kind of support, I couldn't muster up the courage to make him accountable.  Losing more than a decade of my life is the price I paid for my silence.  Until the courts and the general public understand victim behaviour, we cannot hope for different verdicts in these cases, and I am very afraid that these results will keep future victims silent.  If you haven't ever been in their shoes:  listen, and don't judge.

And never, ever give up on them.

Monday, 20 July 2015

...Battery Charging...

Not fit for human consumption.  That's my mood today.  I like people, I really do.  I like to hear their stories and make them laugh; I like to tousle their hair and rub their backs and do nice things for them. I like people.  But maybe that's the very reason I sometimes find them difficult to be around. 

Because when you really, genuinely like people, they can disappoint you. They can hurt you, they can break your heart.  I refuse to become cynical to protect myself against those possibilities, but continuing to trust in the basic goodness of people does involve risk - a leap of faith.  I am grateful and lucky to have enough living proof surrounding me to know my faith is well-placed; I am grateful and lucky to have held two babies this weekend; I am grateful and lucky to share a home with young boys who make me laugh out loud, and to count my guy and my Grammy and my brother as my best friends.  I know I am luckier than most - and it makes me hold my breath sometimes.

And so, today I want to lay in a dark room with my dogs and 16 hours of Will & Grace on DVD.  Or a stack of books.  I don't want to cash in my faith-in-the-human-race chips, I just want to recharge my battery. 

Friday, 24 April 2015


There are moments when I am NOT over it.  When I want to tell him how much I hate him, how much I fucking hate him, and everything he did to me over the years.  I want to list, again, all the things he stole from me, all the things he put me through, all the pain he caused me:  deliberate, conscious, manipulative cruelty.  The things he stole with a monetary value - the tens of thousands of dollars he coerced out of me.  The things even more valuable with no cash value:
my chance to have children, my self-esteem, my belief and trust in the basic goodness of other people.

They say to live a good life is the ultimate revenge.  They say that one day, if you're truly happy, you can let all past hurts and injustices go.  I can't say I believe it.  But I'll keep trying.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Home Again...

If you wondered how you'd live without my deep, insightful musings on the meaning of Life, worry no more.  After a random person became a little too chummy on my blog, I pulled the STOP lever.  Well, that and about a hundred drastic life changes that required my attention.  Let's not dwell on all of them, but choose one, shall we?  A change in relationships.  My marriage ended, and something else began.

From a distance for the last 10 years, I've always thought he was a wonderful human being.  Up close and personal, when first impressions can fall under the weight of reality, he proved to be exactly that, and more.

When you spend average days with someone, and things happen to test a person's mettle, you really see the kind of person they are.  For example:  my two Dane puppies - yes, I now have two, and dear Frank has shuffled off this mortal coil.  But save that sad story for another day, and focus on the puppies, both well over 100 pounds and wrestling on the lawn.  They somehow managed to entangle themselves in the blink of eye, twisting Bernadette's leather collar so tightly around Sullivan's lower jaw that he was in a frenzy of panic, choking off all of Bernie's air supply (and not the Lost In Love pop band kind, either. The essential, Breath of Life kind).  She's literally being choked to death in front of me, he's screaming in agony and trying to drag her across the lawn, I'm terrified and no matter how hard I pull, cannot get the collar unfastened because it is so tight.  I shout for help, and my guy arrives, and tries to free them, to no avail.  Bernie is making a deep guttural noise in the back of her throat, and losing consciousness.  Sully's lips are going white from the pressure on his jaw and he's crying, an inch away from bolting in pain and fear.

He quickly runs to get something to cut the collar, and as he starts to cut, plunging in between two heaving, heavy, terrified animals, with no room to squeeze the sharp knife between her throat, his fingers and the leather, I call out in a tearful demanding voice, "HURRY!!!!"

This is where anyone would be totally justified in snapping at me:  "I AM hurrying!"  Stress, pressure, fear are all acceptable reasons for snapping at someone you're actually fond of.  He just tries harder.  He bears down, focuses, and gets the collar cut - and only the collar, freeing them both.  And even then, when the crisis is over and both dogs are panting, heads down, momentarily subdued, he doesn't take the opportunity to say, "Jeez, that wasn't very helpful."  This is the kindest, sweetest person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Who is also great in bed.  Won the lottery?  I think so.

I'd like to add, in full disclosure, I did not fare nearly as well in the stress test.  Besides barking out "HURRY!!!!", I cried a bit (something I usually save for later, when I'm alone and the crisis is over), and while straining to hold the two beasts together to prevent a broken jaw or a choking death, I farted.  Out loud.  The illusion is over, people.  And he still loves me.  Life is GOOD.