Being the memory keeper…

My parents and I went to visit Colin today. We met in Elgin Park and ate A&W burgers at a picnic table under one of the shelters. While we were eating my Mom looked around and commented on how different it looked with everything tucked away. No food stands, no animals, no rides, no crowds.

Colin looked at her blankly and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Don’t you remember?” my Mom replied. “We used to come here to the fall festival with Daddy Harold.”

But Colin couldn’t remember, not even with me bringing up specific events. And that’s when it dawned on me. I thought I was making memories for them when they were growing up but instead I was making memories for me. They enjoyed the experiences but I’m the only one who remembers. They don’t remember being preschool aged and playing The Grand Old Duke of York in the backyard. They don’t remember putting the slide in the living room. I do.

In some ways I find it sad. I’d love for them to remember all the little things they’ve now forgotten but now they’re adults and will make memories of their own. And maybe someday they’ll want to go through the family albums and revisit the memories they once knew.

20200725_181142-01

The kids are in the green one

Bon Echo…

We camped the whole time I was growing up and much of those summers were spent at Bon Echo. My parents had a tent trailer, which fit us three girls just fine, and we brought along our friends’ three children (which warranted a tent). Plus our neighbour across the street camped at the same time with their three kids and often brought another neighbours’ two girls. It was a lot of kids and we had a tonne of fun. Swimming, biking, exploring, roasting marshmallows, singing campfire songs, getting lost and finding our way again… all of it was an adventure.

I took my own kids camping. We went to campgrounds closer to home and I loved them, especially Sibbald Point, we had so many great trips there. But Bon Echo was special.

My sister Jen takes her boys to Bon Echo at least once a year and often goes with our cousin Greg, his husband, and a whole bunch of friends.  They’re there right now and, on July second, my parents and I went up to join them. It’s not a short trip, it takes three hours each way, but it’s well worth the drive.

We crunched down the familiar road past two cabins then the scent of pine and camp smoke brought me right back to thirty-five years ago, jumping down the benches of the amphitheatre, positive I was going to fall any second yet somehow managing to stay upright. Walking along a rock strewn path to the point while the waves lapping the ground beside us. Hiding in an old, spider filled change room during a freak thunderstorm.

And then we were at the site, meeting everyone as they got back from a long hike. It was time for a swim on the beach where we always swam at while growing up, the beach that wasn’t the day beach. I like it better because it’s far more scenic with its backdrop of a stories high cliff. This beach is less popular because of the nearness of the underwater drop off. No one wants little Junior to go from chest height to 40ft deep in one step. This year it was more popular than usual due to social distancing. We spread ourselves out as far away as possible from the crowds.

Sometimes time creeps up on you, other times it smacks you in the face. My kids are no longer cuddle bugs snuggling up for bedtime stories, my Dad is no longer young and strong, and we will no longer run through the woods of Bon Echo seeking adventure. That mantle has passed to other children.

We left at dinnertime, saying our long winded goodbyes, and I was grateful to leave. I don’t think I could camp for even one night. I’m not sure I’ll ever camp again. But I’m so glad I went up for the day with my parents. I’m so glad I got to experience that sliver of Bon Echo.

cliff1

Eight years later…

Colin posing

Colin posing on one of our walks after the move

It will be eight years in May that Colin and I moved to Oshawa to live in my dream apartment. Two bedrooms, two balconies, and a tonne of storage space… including our own walk in pantry and a storage locker downstairs.

The library and community centre were just a short distance away plus we were surrounded by shopping. Three grocery stores, several drug stores, and enough fast food restaurants to make our livers cry. And then there was the gym and pool downstairs. Talk about bliss to be able to just head downstairs and swim.

I’d picked the apartment for one important reason, there was enough room for both Colin and I. I honestly didn’t think Colin would be able to live on his own. I made sure he was learning life skills like grocery shopping and, later on, paying bills and rent, but I figured this was it. Our final stop. Colin would remain safe with me.

What I didn’t count on is Colin. We just aren’t compatible for living together. I like quiet and order. I find and display a wide assortment of pretty things that I like. My cutlery is from Pier One and is made to look like bronze branches. None of my dishes match, I simply pick out my favourites. Colin, on the other hand, finds my style boring. He loves clutter and computer parts everywhere. He decorates with the computers he’s repaired. They all work and he uses them for various tasks. Clutter makes me uncomfortable and anxious. Plus Colin’s pretty thoughtless. He’ll wake me up at 1am (like last night) to tell me about something, usually men’s rights, and keep waking me each time I fall asleep. After 10 or more minutes I’m awake and he’s done talking. No apology, just an “oh well” before he goes back to his computer game.

I just can’t do it. I love him dearly but I can’t live with him. I’m hoping the move will do him some good, that he’ll find a place and respect it. Meanwhile I’ve got a place of my very own… for the first time. Which is exciting, terrifying, and nerve wracking all rolled into one. I’ve never lived on my own before. I’ve always had parents, a spouse, or kids.

Just one more week and my move should nearly be over. It’s twelve thirty now and I’ve got the 20200129_105252_hdr-01moving elevators booked at 9am in our current place and 11am in my new place.

One thing I’m panicking about is packing. I keep thinking I’m doing well but my eyes skip over stuff because that’s where they go. Except they can’t stay there… and there are so many little things to sort. It’s only a week but will we need medical supplies before then. Is it safe to pack the bandaids? I don’t want to pack too quickly but I also don’t want to be frantically packing at 7am next week.

My new apartment (and building) look good. They aren’t what I planned but they’re still nice. It will be wonderful to have a place of my own that’s clean and safe.

But as I watch Colin’s belongings either get packed or turfed, the bare bones of our apartment show themselves again and I remember my blind optimism that this was going to be my very last home. And then I get back to packing again.

The Ten Year Challenge…

Lately my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with photos of my friends from 2009 to today, leaving people to see the differences. I added mine but felt so much was missing, namely the history going along with the first picture and the growth leading to the last one. They say that a picture’s worth a thousand words but I think some words can really round out the story.

10 year challenge

In 2009 I’d just finished a job working at a call centre representing Sympatico, a Canadian internet company. I started off in the tech support department and moved to billing after half a year. The job paid good money (compared to minimum wage) and came with benefits. The downsides were leaving a 12 and 14 year old home alone until dinnertime. I couldn’t even call them until 5pm. And the extreme pressure. One pressure was time. Three minute bathroom breaks (even if you were on the far side of the building from the washrooms) and getting written up if you were 30 seconds late from any break. The second was also time but phone time. You had to clear security, fix the problem, and make a sale in 15 minutes for tech and ten for business. That had to include any phone calls to other departments, bill adjustments and, for tech support, getting people to unplug every phone jack, except for the one they were calling from *click*. Yeah, quite a few people disconnected the phone.

That summer I got a job at Tim Hortons, a Canadian doughnut store chain, it was still fast paced but not nearly as fast as the call centre. I quickly made friends and got to know the regulars, some of whom came in two and three times a day, every day. The constant movement helped me drop a lot of the weight I’d put on at the call centre (the weight loss was after this photo). I was extremely lucky that my managers were willing to work around my quirks (later diagnosed as autism).

We also lived several blocks away from my parents and sister in a three bedroom apartment in an apartment complex. It wasn’t the best place to live but it was convenient for transit and shopping.

Fast forward to today. I’m about 40 days away from moving into my tiny home and I got to see pictures of one of the units. It looked gorgeous. A spacious kitchen and laminate flooring. I’d hoped to see more of the living room but the two pictures were backlit by the patio doors so all I could see was a wall and the flooring. I won’t see my own place until I move so it was great to get a view of what it will look like.

I haven’t worked since 2016, the year I became suicidal, and am now on disability. It’s hard in some ways. The friends I made through work have faded away but I’ve made new friends in my groups. I’m lucky enough to live in a community with lots of supports and, even though I’m leaving some of my supports behind, I’ll have new supports where I move to.

In 2009 I was positive I was straight; any thoughts to the contrary were quashed immediately. I’ve spent the last five years learning and understanding my sexual orientation. 2009 me would have been both shocked and scared to find out I’m a panromantic asexual and, for a short time, had a girlfriend (who I’m still friends with).

I now have a 22 year old, a 24 year old, and a one year old grandchild, none of which are moving with me. I’m facing my first move alone (well alone with five cats). Colin was supposed to have a meeting for moving options on Monday but it got cancelled at the last minute. He has another meeting tomorrow. And Kait has her own tiny home and family now. It’s her turn to experience childhood second hand.

I’ve been exploring my new community along with my Mom. I’ve done a shop at the local grocery store to see if they have everything I need (they do). I’ve registered the cats at the local vet and myself at the local dentist, both right across the street from my new place. There’s also a pizzeria and a pub which has karaoke. It looks like a good place to settle down.

So much has changed these past 10 years, more than I could ever have anticipated. I can’t help but wonder what my life will be like in 2029!

20191103_134355-01-01

A filtered phone taken from one of the trails where I’m moving

Throwback Thursday…

I just found an old photograph of the kids and it’s so sweet I had to share. The kids are eating homemade creamsicles made with juice and yogourt and the cat in the back is our old cat Pumpkin (he’s on a leash).

I know I’ve shared several childhood photos recently but I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic this past week and, well, the kids were adorable.

20190321_165731

There are places I remember…

I stood in the middle of the kitchen and finally had to admit that apartment just wouldn’t work for us. The landlord billed it as a three bedroom and it was ostensibly. Two of the three bedrooms would barely support a crib let alone a bed and every room we saw came with a list of furniture we simply couldn’t fit into the apartment. I was in the kitchen, wondering who could store our solid maple hutch, when I realized we’d have to give up half of our furniture to move in. It just wasn’t feasible. We turned the apartment down.

We were at my parents’ house a few days later and walked in as my sister was describing the apartment she’d just turned down. The whole place needed repainting from top to bottom and the front door was, oddly enough, on the landing at the middle of the stairs. It was a two bedroom (I was pregnant with Colin at the time) and there was a shared backyard. She was dismissive. I was intrigued.

Monday found me at the building trying to find any contact information. There was no apartment for rent sign and no one answered the superintendent’s buzzer. My ex arrived with Kait and a short while later the super arrived. We signed the rental agreement 15 minutes later. The paint was fine and we’d have our own patio and a share of the backyard.

Jeremy in 1998I have so many happy memories from this apartment. We did some big things but it’s the little ones I remember. Sitting reading poetry and bedtime stories at night then singing lullabies to help them sleep. The time they both were sick so I let them blow bubbles in the living room… those hard to pop bubbles that were so popular those days. Playing in the backyard… doing the actions to the Grand Old Duke of York and the Bear went over the Mountain while I sang. We got one of those big wading pools with the rigid sides and I’d stick the foot of their slide into the pool so they could have a water slide. And every warm night the kids took their baby dolls out for a walk around the block in their strollers.

As they grew older, our excursions widened. We went to all the local parks (not all at theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA same time). One of their favourite past times was building a “sand bloom”. This involved dumping a huge pile of sand at the bottom of the slide then sliding through only to build it again. The washer was sometimes gritty but it was worth it for their laughter.

We lucked out and got new neighbours with kids the same age as mine. We did so many activities with them as well as simply playing at home together.

Colin and Kait at McRae PointEvery single summer my parents drove us to a local campground for a week of camping fun. We started out at a small campground then moved to a bigger one that was a bit closer. Both kids were fishes and loved being in the water. We caught (and released) frogs, roasted marshmallows, sang campfire songs, and read before bed. They were magical times I still look back on and enjoy.

Life wasn’t perfect. I was perpetually broke and had to plan the kids’ birthdays half afirst profile picture year in advance so I could afford the basics for a party. Presents were often bought at Dollarama and riding the bus was a luxury we could rarely afford. But we still had fun and I always had food in the kitchen and snacks available.

I went to the dentist today and walked along Green Street to stand diagonally across the street from our old building. It’s been sold a couple of times since we lived there and half the hedge is dead from vines, something our superintendent warned would happen. It looked a lot smaller than I remembered. Maybe it was all the memories stuffed in it that made it seem bigger to me than in reality. There’s a Dollarama where our old grocery store used to be and I picked up a couple of items before heading for home.

At the time it seemed like they’d be young forever. The days were so long and filled with a myriad of little activities. But of course they grew up. The days go by so much more quickly now. Now Kait’s in my former position of Mommy, raising her baby and keeping him entertained. I hope she ends up with as many happy memories as I have or even more.

Goodbye Green Street. You were a wonderful place to raise a family!

Back to school - Kait grade 1 2001b

Looking forward…

Today feels like it should be covered in glitter and wrapped in ribbon… like there should be a hint of magic along with the optimism a new year brings. Instead we’ve got rain and chilly winds. Not that it matters because I’m cozy in my home, wearing sequined slippers and taking breaks to cuddle with the cats.

This is a day of reflection about 2018 while planning for next year and thankfully my reflections are happy ones. Kait’s pregnancy and subsequent birth have brought the two of us closer together. It’s not uncommon for us to have three hour long phone calls now. And I have the most adorable grandson too. I love watching his eyes light up with happiness when he sees me. Colin’s slowly maturing and has expressed an interest in being more organized. He also wants to go out more and join some groups. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time with family and friends. Woo hoo… karaoke! I can’t forget L either. I’ve only seen her once but I’m seeing her again soon and really looking forward to our second date… considering our first one was great!

One thing I have to work on in January and February is my weight. I’d lost 10 pounds by the beginning of December then regained six. Christmas Crack is so yummy but it’s also really high in calories. And there were other snacks and treats as well. January is a fresh start. I’m going to make sure I exercise every day. There’s no real excuse not to. I have a membership to the city’s walking track, I can go downstairs for a swim or some time on the treadmill, or I can use the mini trampoline I have under my bed. Plus on good days I can go outside for a walk on one of four trails. I am sure that I can get into the 180’s before our Dominican Republic vacation in March.

I’d also like to work on my writing. I haven’t written so much as a page in my current novel over the last year whereas pre-depression I lived for writing and would write a chapter at a time. I read an article, via Facebook, that said writing in Comic Sans helps boost creativity and I’m willing to give it a try. It can’t hurt and it’s not hard to change the novel back to Garamond.

I’ve been enjoying hanging out with friends but I’ve got local friends who I only ever see on Facebook and we need to get together too. That’s something for me to try harder to arrange this year.

2016 was one of the worst years of my life, 2017 was an improvement, 2018 was great, and I’m hoping that 2019 will be amazing! Happy New Year!!!

Start your year off right

 

Whispers of the past…

I was sitting in the van with Colin and my parents on the way to Bon Echo Provincial Park. It’s a place we’ve gone camping for decades now, a popular campground in Ontario. I was looking out the window, not really thinking of much, just noticing all the sights of nature as we whizzed past. Then I looked over and, for half a second, I expected to see heads with brown and black hair in the seats in front of me, instead of the grey I saw.

My parents’ camping days are numbered and their numbers are less than the fingers on my hand. I commented to my Mom about when we go camping next year but what I really meant was if.

It was really noticeable with my Dad this year. Would he be able to walk down to the deep beach this year? Should we take a van to the day beach? This is a man who was scouted for the Montreal Canadiens farm team, an opportunity he missed because he was out fighting forest fires in BC and no one knew where he was. A miss I’m grateful for because otherwise he wouldn’t have met my Mom and my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. A man who played “oldtimers hockey” and walked the track for exercise. A man who enjoyed getting into nature for a good walk. Now we’re worried if he can walk a few blocks.

My Mom commented sadly a few months ago that things just weren’t the same. When she was little (and when I was little for that matter) the dishes were ignored for a while and everyone sat and chatted. Now everyone finished, cleared their plates, got right into washing, and then went to do their own things, while my Mom and Dad sat at an empty table, a table that should have been filled with chatter. That one was easy at least. I messaged everyone and asked them to hold off on clearing the table to chat and, thankfully, it’s taken off and become something everyone enjoys. But there’s nothing I can do about age.

It’s seven and a half weeks until Kait has her baby, bumping me into the grandmother position and my parents into great grandparents. I wish my Nana could see this baby, when she was still strong and cheerful. She would have loved him so much (and equally loved knitting him little outfits). My Nanaimo Nana (great grandmother) would have loved him too. But I can’t dip into the past and bring them forth, they only exist in memories. There’s a chain of family connections and my parents are next on the list to get bumped off, then, eventually, it will be my turn.

I’m reasonably sure my grandfather had similar thoughts because he set out to write down the more memorable family stories that he remembered. I don’t think he got all of them because there’s been a few times I’ve mentioned a story he’d told me and got blank looks. Sometimes I think maybe I should write some family stories down too but I don’t know if anyone would be interested in the coming years.

But the past is the past. We honour them by remembering them and remembering their advice. Well except for my Nana’s advice to have me leave Kait in her carriage outside for a nap while I cleaned inside. That’s terrible advice when you’re in a third floor walkup in a not so good neighbourhood. But the good advice.

The future is coming, like it always does. Soon there’ll be a new grandchild and the beginning of a new generation. Soon there’ll be new ideas, dreams, and goals. And I hope my parents are there to see it unravel and to watch the little wee one grow big and strong.

Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary

Mom and Dad on their 50th wedding anniversary

When the past hits your heart…

Colin saw the Chiquita banana sticker on my bananas this morning and gave me a lecture on the evils of banana corporations and how they destroyed Guatemala with the help of the US government back in the 1950’s. It wasn’t exactly the conversation I’d expected but he has eclectic tastes and a love of politics so I wasn’t too surprised. That being said, all I’d really planned on doing was making banana bread.

I got the banana bread in the oven, chatted with my sister for a bit, then got ready to wait for Kait to come over for a visit. The wait segued into a browse on Facebook and a trip through memory lane via the “On This Day” feature. One of the first things that popped up was this…

Lenny

It was a few years old (obviously) which means I made friends with him seven years ago today. I don’t know what I expected to feel when this surprise post popped up. Grief? Anger? Disappointment? What I didn’t expect to feel was nothing more than a vague sense of sadness.

It’s been just under two years since he blocked me. At the time I was devastated. We talked all the time, stopping only for sleep and work. I’d message him on my way to work, during both my breaks, then on my way home again… only to start up again after dinner and right through to bedtime. He was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last at night. He was my love and I was ready to pack up my whole life, leave my family and friends, and move halfway across the world to be with him.

I was actively suicidal when he blocked me and I couldn’t grasp the thought that the block might be forever. I hadn’t done anything to him, surely he’d calm down in a few weeks… maybe a month or two. But the days continued, each one without him. It almost physically hurt at first because I was coping with losing him on top of gaining a couple of serious mental illnesses. My entire life had flipped over and the person I talked to the most was gone.

I slowly started rebuilding myself, piece by piece. I began spending more time with family, made amends with my daughter, and coaxed Colin to try new things. I reached out for help and gained three groups to attend each week and a care team that checks in on me every two weeks. I have a friend in the building next to me and go to karaoke with her and her husband about once a month, among other visits. My life has almost completely changed from what it was before.

I don’t know what I’d do if Lenny unblocked me at this point. I wouldn’t be mean or rude by any means. Goodness knows he has his own issues to work through. But it certainly wouldn’t be the same. I can’t imagine devoting almost my whole life and all my attention to one person anymore. It’s a moot point since I can’t imagine Lenny unblocking me now. And, for the first time in several years, I’m okay with that.