One Year Ago

Yesterday was the first anniversary of our father's death. I called my mother in the morning and she was surprisingly calm. Perhaps the rest of the day was different; I don't know. The call was uneventful, though, so I'm thankful.
Our father's dying was also uneventful, and, for the most part, calm. There had been one evening of confusion, of disorientation and extreme restlessness. That was the night he was hospitalized.
There was no lingering for days and weeks, no frail mother trekking to the hospital day after day. There was no agonising pain, no bedsores, no wailing in fear. Just tiredness and fading. Some response went to no response. In five days he was dead.
The manner of his death was a gift. There were no soul searching decisions to be made as there were no life support systems involved. No switches to be turned off, no plugs to be pulled. There was just him in the bed, just a person, no equipment, with his family. There was breath and then there was none. There was life and then... gone.
Actually, we were all a bit surprised. It was almost anticlimactic. When you've braced yourself for drama and it does not come to pass, well!
So, we stayed for a while and marvelled that the shell which had served him for 91 years now no longer contained him.
Last year, we welcomed a new baby into the family. Now there are 5 great grandchildren; they all have little bits of him in them. I think it's marvelous.


Junk vs Stuff

When does 'stuff' morph into 'junk'? When, indeed, do 'things' devolve into 'stuff'? Let's see.
We buy things which we either
1) need
2) think we need.
Then we either
1)use them
Using them means we either
1)break the things
If we break the things we either
1)throw them away
2)put them in the closet or basement and plan on fixing them.
This becomes 'junk'.
Not using the things means we either
1)put them in a closet
2)put them in the basement.
This is 'stuff'.
If we do not break the things and keep on using them we either
1)get sick and tired of looking at them
If we are sick and tired of looking at them we either
1)put them in the closet
2)put them in the basement.
I believe this is also 'stuff'.
If we are still using original things then either
1)it's really good quality and we're really careful and we're cheap, cheap, cheap
2)it's really good quality and we're really careful and we love, love, love ....our  dishes, for example.

If all this 'stuff' has been in a closet or the basement for 2? 3? years it, too, becomes 'junk'. If, however, it stays in the closet or basement for 20? 30? years it becomes 'vintage' and if your family can stand it and has space AND can hang onto all this old....old  ???? for 100? 200?years  it all becomes PRICELESS ANTIQUES. Unless the rats have got at it, and then it's just 'junk'.   


The Gift of Food

There must be a gazillion words already written about the gift of food but I would like to add my few.
On so many levels, the gift of food satisfies like no other. I think the original reason, in most cultures, was the sharing of a very precious commodity. The production of food, in many places, is a risky business, no guarantees. For a few years, I attempted to grow my own vegetables. Ha! Growing edible things is not quite as easy as the seed companies would have us believe. Thank goodness for grocery stores.
There was a time, however, when grocery stores didn't exist. There was a time, in England, of ONE HUNDRED YEARS of bad weather. Lots of disease, not a lot of food.  Famine makes food the greatest gift of all. So, even here and now, no famine, we have this ancient memory and so preserve an ancient appreciation of gifts of food.
Giving a meal is so cool; the host or hostess has a chance to show off his or her skills without verbally bragging. What feeling can compare to that of presenting a platter full of deliciousness? If I had a million dollars and employed an army of caterers would I get the same thrill? I think not. The thrill would be of a different nature, pride of organization, pride of being able to afford professionals, but not the same thrill of hands-on creativity and, when you think about it, the sacrifice of time.
The giving of time is a big part of the gift of food; the shopping as well as the doing and the cleaning up after the doing. All this is a part of the gift and if the recipient of the gift does this as well, the more the gift will be appreciated.
I love the whole thing, including the hot, sweaty, panic-stricken moment when, for a wee bit of time, I think it will be a disaster. I have done this long enough that I can recognize the signs, and even warn my true-love that "I need to boss you around for 15 minutes!!!" It's all good. All part of the gift. All part of saying, "Hey, I like you. Let me give you food to prove it."


The Funeral was Lovely

When I was a young mother I disagreed with my neighbour's practice of taking her children to funerals. I have since changed my mind.
The funeral we attended on the weekend was lovely. The guest of honor was beautiful. She had chosen her own going away outfit, her daughters had arranged her hair, and her face bore no marks of pain. There was nothing to be repelled by, or frightened of. Au contraire, she looked better than she had in years.
The priest said traditional, comforting things. There were tears and laughter and much saying of nice things. There was a terrific turnout:  youngish, middle aged, old, oxygen-toting nursing home residents, family et al. There was lunch.
There were children at the funeral; I applaud their parents' decision to bring them along. After all, the deceased had had a special relationship to the family and it was time to say goodbye.
If a kid is old enough to watch murder and mayhem on TV and play shoot 'em up video games then that same kid is old enough to learn to say 'farewell' properly. The deceased is not going to arise to do it all over again for "Take two!" This is death for real. Children need to learn that 'The Circle of Life' isn't just a song by Elton John.
The rest of us, too, need to be reminded that there is nothing grotesque or macabre about dying. The actual death, itself, may not always be kind and gentle, but the last act of our being with our loved ones is suitable for younger audiences, despite what some people may think.


We Move Along

'Finally, there is nothing between you and God.' This is not original; I read it somewhere, sometime and it has never gone away. Always lurking. Moving closer. Not just an intellectual exercise any more.
In life, my mother-in-law had a close and true friend. My mother-in-law is already long gone; her friend is recently so. As well as sympathizing with the family's loss, this person's death bothers me more than I care to admit.
We are moving up; we are moving along. Remember 'needle day'? Every one lined up for the health nurse and we moved along. In my experience, there was no way of getting out of that line; even the fainters got their shots. So, we moved along, then it was my turn and sometimes it wasn't so bad, after all. Move along, move along.
In a properly ordered world, the young, the middle-aged live. The old who live provide us with a measure of youth. Finally, reluctantly they die.
The entire preceding generation has provided, for my generation, a bulwark against The End, as we do for the following generation. For our children, there is a pretty solid wall between them and it. For me, every death of someone I've known is a small dismantling of the wall; every death of someone close to my family makes that dismantling just a little bit quicker.
For those of us who have lost a parent, a whole section of wall has come down. For those of us who have lost both, there is now no longer anything between us and old age. The illusion of youth has been totally stripped away. There is nothing between us and the void? the abyss? the rapture? 
It is not as easy as I thought it would be: this getting comfortable with my aging. Actually, I have seen an abyss, and there is a river running through it. Rivers go somewhere. This will be my wishful End.


Spring is Springing! (at last)

There's a fair bit of action in my back yard, but of course I should say 'our' back yard because that's only fair and right. I say 'my' because I do most of the work, excluding mowing. I have not mowed since 1988 and I see no reason to start now.
Getting back to the yard and the action thereof. The squirrels have been chasing each other around quite madly, providing huge excitement for the dogs on both sides of the fence. They, the dogs, have been sunning themselves on the deck or the last patches of snow depending on their levels of previous exertion.
The first grackles are back; the males are strutting around, puffing out their chests, "Look at me; I am so cool." while the ladies titter behind their fans.
The mourning doves have paid a visit to the decorator fence, just checking. Soon there will be a row of them sitting there, pretending to be minding their own business and when next I look up there will be a ball of feathers, as in a ball of feathers. This ball will disengage and separate into 3 birds. The one in the middle always gives herself a shake and says, "Well, that was exciting!"
A pair of robins are twittering at each other, one fly-dashing at the other, then he interrupts the courtship to chase away the competition. They resume their springtime dance. "Baby, baby, I love you." ♫ ♫
Astonishingly, the crocuses are peeking their brave little heads out. I want to shout, "Hurray, hurray!!!" but it wouldn't do for the neighbour children to hear a middle-aged lady lose her marbles (they think). So, I whisper, "Hurray, hurray!!!" and it's almost as good.
A few other green leafy things are poking their heads out, too. Being just a 'pretend' gardener, I haven't got a clue what they are but at this time of year 'Green is Good'. When the dandelions are threatening to take over, I will try to forget I said that!
The snow is disappearing rapidly; soon I will find out if the rhubarb survived. If it did, I'm changing my designation and dropping 'pretend'. I will henceforth call myself a Gardener. It will be the same as old actors finally getting the Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Well, almost the same. I'm much younger than Peter O'Toole.