…last week my daughter, daughter-in-law and I drove up to Christian Island to open up our cottage for the season
We lucked out with the weather. It only rained at night and the hot blistering temperatures from the west haven’t yet arrived this far east. After spending the evening cleaning the inside of the cottage (sweeping out the mouse poop, airing out the cushions, setting up the fridge, making up the beds, and putting away the food) we decided to explore the beach the next morning.
Luckily we have a beach again. The water levels have receded and the numerous trees that had started to grow on the beach have disappeared.
….Father’s Day was wonderful but there was an empty chair this year
My Dad lived a good long life. We always said he was like a cat and had nine lives. Last October, unfortunately his ninth life gave out and shortly after celebrating his 94th birthday he passed away quickly and to the surprise of many.
As a young boy my Dad grew up on a farm in North East Germany, an area that is now part of Poland. He raised rabbits but when it came time to slaughter them for dinner he didn’t have the heart or the stomach to do it. The story goes that his uncle took over the job and he gave my Dad Angora rabbits instead. He thought Dad could comb out the luxurious hair and have it made into yarn. That too, was a disaster because Dad couldn’t handle the squirmy rabbits when he tried to comb or shear them.
Dad also loved to tinker with machinery and he hoped to be a pilot during the war. When Dad did join the Air Force at 17 it was near the end of the war and the Germans had run out of planes. He became part of the infantry and was sent to the enemy lines. This is where Dad’s first life was saved when he was hit by shrapnel. He was seriously injured and transported to a hospital where he recovered. He could have sat out the rest of the war but he re-enlisted out of a sense of duty.
We figure his second life was spared during this time when he sat around a campfire with some of his friends and he got up to retrieve something from his tent. When he returned all his friends had been killed by sniper fire.
Towards the end of the war Dad was captured by the Russians. For many Germans this was the worst possible scenario. One of his biggest fears was losing his boots. Dad became a labourer and was placed on trains with other prisoners to travel to work camps. One day he was at a distance from the rest of the group and he noticed that the prisoners were being loaded back onto the trains to return to the prison. He hid in a box and no one missed him. He escaped and joined up with a few other prisoners who had escaped. This was life three.
Walking through the country and sleeping in farmers’ barns kept him safe for awhile but in the end they were all caught and sent back to prison. I figure he was lucky that they weren’t all shot. Life four.
In the meantime the war had ended, and once again Dad was a prisoner of war with the Russians. Dad managed to escape again but he soon realized that the citizens of Poland and the Czech Republic had no use for German soldiers and that they would return him to the Russians in a heartbeat. Again he travelled with another prisoner and they were advised to surrender to the Americans or the English but that meant they had to cross back into Germany. The only way they could do that was to swim across the Danube River.
Dad was a fairly good swimmer but he was weak and underweight. His friend crossed first and then waited for Dad. The current was very strong and Dad started to drown. Fortunately his companion was able to swim back out and save him. Life five.
Over the next few decades my Dad lived to get married, father three daughters, emigrated to Canada in the 50s with his young family and he worked at numerous jobs. In his 40s, he and my Mom opened their own successful fabric and sewing machine business and did that until they retired. They loved travelling and did that until my mother tragically died during one of their vacations. Life six.
Dad could never live alone and he soon found love again. For the next 22 years, he and Gudrun lived together. When they moved to Oshawa they introduced a third member to the family, a miniature Schnauzer that they name Toby. Dad often referred to him as his best friend. I’m not sure how Gudrun felt about that.
One day while walking Toby, without thinking Dad tried to follow the dog down a ravine. It was very steep and Dad fell 20 to 30 feet. Luckily for him he didn’t break anything but his doctor told him he was very lucky that he didn’t have a heart attack. Most people his age wouldn’t have survived the fall. Dad would have been in his mid 80s when he had the accident. He was badly bruised and it took him months to heal. This is life seven.
A few years later Dad had another fall. He stepped off a riser at choir practice and there was only air below his feet. Again, no broken bones but a lot of bruising and a defeated ego. Soon after this we noticed that the house wasn’t as clean as it normally was and it became clear that the house was becoming too much to handle. Dad and Gudrun moved to a beautiful spacious apartment and they hired a cleaning lady. Things seemed fine until Dad confided in us that Gudrun was suffering from Alzheimers and they both felt it would be better if they moved into Extended Care. Six weeks after moving Gudrun passed away from complications due to her mental disability. Life eight.
Dad tried to live out his ninth life at the Retirement home but despite being 90 he wasn’t ready to live there on his own. He had too much life to live and felt that being surrounded by sick people would shorten his life. His solution was to move in with us. So after a very quick renovation and converting our basement into an apartment he moved in. He went out west for three weeks to visit my youngest sister and we put the finishing touches on his new home.
For the next two and a half years Dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and congestive heart failure but always the optimist, until he wasn’t, he thought he could live to be 100. As the disease progressed he had days when he didn’t want to live to be that old and then the next day when he felt better he thought that maybe he could live that long. Right to the end he went out daily for walks or for a ride on his mobility scooter. He always cooked his own meals because he didn’t always like our cooking. Ironic because Kevin is an amazing cook.
I’ve wanted to tell Dad’s story for many years. Every time he talked about his past we learned something new. We encouraged you to write down your memories but I think some of them were too painful to put into words. I know that there are numerous other incidents where Dad was ill and needed surgery or when he had accidents with axes and power tools. Maybe he had more than nine lives but he lived each to the fullest and with no regrets.
So yesterday Dad I missed you. Your apartment sits empty with no plans to get new tenants. Eventually we’ll turn it into a guest room. Love you to the moon and back.
….this word can be either an adjective, a verbor a noun
Definition of lean
intransitive verb 1a: to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical positionHe leaned back in his chair.b: to cast one’s weight to one side for support lean on me as we walk. 2: to rely for support or inspiration preferred not to lean on his father in building a career— Current Biography 3: to incline in opinion, taste, or desire leaning toward a career in chemistry
transitive verb: to cause to lean : INCLINE The boy leaned his head on his mother’s shoulder. lean on: to apply pressure to They were leaning on the governor to pass the law.
Definition of lean1a: lacking or deficient in flesh b: containing little or no fat lean meat 2: lacking richness, sufficiency, or productiveness lean profits the lean years 3: deficient in an essential or important quality or ingredient: such as a of ore : containing little valuable mineral b: low in combustible component —used especially of fuel mixtures 4: characterized by economy (as of style, expression, or operation)
Looking back on Mother’s Day I’m saddened by the fact that I lost my mother at a young age. She was only 61 and I was 40, a mother myself with young children at the time of her passing. The following Mother’s Days in years to come were strange to me because I had no mother to buy presents for or send cards to.
My mother never considered herself beautiful. I think that comes from having a glamorous older sister. In our eyes, however, we saw her as beautiful and looking back at her early photographs she had a grace and inner beauty that shone through. Her friends always told her she looked like the Canadian gold medalist Elizabeth Manley.
Outer beauty is a gift. Inner beauty is an accomplishment. Randi G. Fine
This is my Mom on her wedding day with her sister on the left.
One of my favourite photos of my Mom is this one, probably one year after we arrived in Canada. I’m 3 and my sister is 1 and our youngest sister won’t arrive for another three years. Mom would have been 24 in this photo. The next photo was taken in 1962.
Twenty five years later the last of the three daughters is married and later that year Mom and Dad take a cruise through the Caribbean with a group of friends…..one of many holidays that they took every year and continued to take until her sudden death in 1993.
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”
After doing a little research I did discover that today, April 26th is recognized as National Pets and Kids Day in the U.S. It is intended to raise awareness of the importance of picking the right pet for children at the right time. It’s an important decision that can lead to a lifetime of bonding between pet and child.
We have been pet owners for over 30 years. Our first pet, other than gold fish, was a golden retriever followed by a second golden. They were great dogs to have around children. When the kids grew up we adopted a mutt who instantly became my husband’s dog. Our daughters both became dog owners when they set up their own homes and our son who has moved about Europe for the last 15 years is sans a pet.
….Andrea and Josie have invited us to walk the Bruce Trail from end to end
A week ago last Monday, the four of us drove down to Queenston Heights in Niagara Falls to start our trek on the Bruce Trail. After doing our hikes for the last 8 weeks I thought I was in good enough shape to tackle the first part of the Bruce Trail. All was well until we hit the ridge. I’m actually fine walking uphill but going downhill is scary for me because of my vertigo.
We started at the Cairn for stage one at Queenston Heights.
The first part of the trail was pretty easy. The trails were relatively wide and well marked.
At about the 3 kilometre marks things started to get a bit tricky. I didn’t mind the uphill climbs and at one point at the top of the ridge we came across a series of abandoned limestone kilns that were behind a chainlink fence and nestled into the side of the ridge. We carefully went around the fence to have a closer look at the old brickwork.
It was soon after this that I became seriously doubtful that I could finish the hike. It was time to descend from the ridge and the path was rocky, twisty and very steep. Luckily my daughter was very supportive and was there with a helping hand and encouraging words. When we got to a lower section the path evened out and the rest of the hike was relatively uneventful. We came across a wooden box where we could record our names, date and our intentions for the rest of the Bruce Trail.
The end of the trail brought us back out to a road by a railroad crossing and close to where we had parked one of the cars. We managed to hike 7.4 kilometres but it seemed like a lot more. We drove back to Queenston Heights to pick up the other car and then we headed back home.
That night and the next day both Kevin and I were feeling a little stiff and sore but it hasn’t deterred us from doing the next section of the Bruce Trail.
The temperatures are finally beginning to fall and with that comes abandoned outdoor seating. Over in London, where my family has to work from home, even a spot at the end of the bed becomes a seat to work from and in the case of our granddaughter the floor under a desk is good spot to sit so that she can be close to her Papa.
….Christmas was certainly different this year for most people who chose to stay safe
Some things didn’t change. We cut down a tree with the family, albeit socially distant and masked, and I decorated it. The difference this year is that I totally decorated it on my own and it was up a full two weeks before Christmas. Normally I wait until my daughter can come over and help me and it often doesn’t get done until a few days before Christmas.
As much as we love being with family on Christmas we found new ways to celebrate the holiday. We exchanged gifts but this year the gifts were exchanged in front of the house. I still filled everyone’s stockings but this year everyone took them home. Gaelan brought special donuts from Hamilton and we exercised the dogs for a few minutes in the park down the street.
Our son and his family live in London, England so this year we opened our gifts early. We always open presents on Christmas Eve but 3:00 in the afternoon was early even for us. When everyone got back home we had a Zoom Christmas so that everyone could watch their gifts being opened. It was a bit hectic but in the end watching Sevin celebrate her first Christmas was very special. Technology this year has kept us in touch and brought us closer to all our family members.
My husband and I decided to still make a special Christmas dinner for just the two of us. The only thing that was different is that we didn’t cook a turkey. Instead, we bought a nice big capon to roast and at the last minute I decide to make cranberry sauce. My husband is an amazing cook and I’m no novice when it comes to cooking but even after all these years of experience we can still mess up. The difference this year is that we could laugh about it. There were no guests to worry about or timelines that needed to be met. So when the capon was undercooked and we had to put it back in the oven, after slicing off the cooked parts, we just relaxed with more wine and started off with the wonderful salad that Kevin made.
My cranberry sauce…..well lets just say that you should never walk away from a pot of boiling cranberry sauce. In the end I was able to salvage it with a little more sweetener. Kevin likes to tell people that we had twice baked capon and smoked cranberry relish.
We’ve learned that it’s the little things that bring us joy. Even though we knew we wouldn’t be together as a family for Christmas I still decorated the house. I pared back on the decorations but I’ve learned that you don’t need to put everything out. Simple things like lighting candles and playing Christmas music brought us joy and peace. In a way this Christmas prepared us for the day when we might have to spend more Christmases alone. There will come a day, perhaps, as the grandchildren get older they won’t want to come to Oma and Papa’s house on Christmas Eve or maybe some of our children will move further away. As for now, though, we hope we can have a few more Christmas Eve celebrations together as a family.
It was certainly a less stressful Christmas this year. Hopefully 2021 will bring back some normality. We will probably all have to adjust to a new normal and hopefully 2020 taught us some valuable lessons about life and what is important. My husband and I learned that even though we love each other, more importantly, we actually like each and enjoyed our self imposed isolation in 2020.