My granddaughter and daughter are leaving today and flying back to New Brunswick. We’ve had a wonderful time going to the CNE, buying new clothes for school and Gaelan and I went to the theatre to see the show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. All of these things were fun to do but when I asked Winnie what her favourite activity was, she said she loved swimming in the city pool and my neighbour’s pool. She also enjoyed our picnic lunch in High Park, walking through the High Park Zoo and climbing on the huge tree stump in the park. Twice she was treated to ice-cream from the ice-cream truck, once from me and then again from her aunt Andrea. You can see from the look on her face how special that was.
Hallowe’en, pumpkins or costumes were not past themes for Becky’s Square Challenges but Circles, Perspective, and Words with Light were. Here are some of my favourite Jack O’Lanterns and costumes from the past.
My daughter posted this photo of her and her brother and sister from 38 years ago on our Family Page yesterday. It’s one of my favourite photos. Recently I put together a photo tribute for my Dad’s memorial and I came across this trio of my Dad, Mom and her sister, taken about 30 years ago.
….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.
On Thursday the family who reside in Ontario all travelled to a Spruce Meadows Christmas Trees near Hamilton. It was very mild, sunny and there was little snow left on the ground. When Kevin and I arrived in our car we were the first of the family there and in fact we were the only people there for a short while. Apparently the weekend before the place was so busy that the entire field was filled with cars.
It didn’t take long before the rest of the family arrived, all wearing masks and ready to trek to the tree field. My daughter, Gaelan and her husband, Brendan were looking for a tall tree to fit into their Victorian style dining room while the rest of us were more content with much smaller trees.
After Brendan cut down the tree for their home Winnie was content to find any small patch of snow to play and chase after Olive.
Once we all cut down our chosen trees we headed back to the bundling area, had the trees netted and then loaded onto and into the cars. Normally we would have all gone back to Gaelan’s house for refreshments but this time we all went our separate ways.
Later that evening Winnie put the finishing touch on their tree. I hate to admit it but our tree is still in the back of the car.
Dad always said that November was the hardest month of the year for him. It always made him feel sad, especially in the last few years of his life. He was a very young man, only 17, when he joined the army and he saw many of his friends die before his eyes. He often wondered why he was spared.
The other thing that I think he found difficult was the fact that he fought for the ‘other side’ and he knew that no one, here, would be thanking him for his service. He never talked about it but I know that it weighed heavily on him. I do know that he was always very grateful for the friendships he forged after the war, first with the Americans who helped him after he escaped the Russian prison camp and then with the English who gave him his first job.
Years later he emigrated from Germany to Canada with his new and growing family. He quickly got a good job at the Royal York Hotel in his chosen line of work. He was able to buy a car almost right away and four years after arriving in Toronto he bought his first home in Oakville. Dad always made friends easily with other German immigrants and Canadians alike. No one seemed to look down on him because he fought in the German army.
Over the years Dad pursued a variety of jobs but his happiest days were as an entrepreneur. When I was 16, Mom and Dad started their own fabric and sewing machine business and never looked back. Again Dad was at the top of his game when he was surrounded by people and both he and Mom had close ties with the business and local community.
As the years passed, Dad lost my mother while vacationing in Mexico in 1993 and then his second wife in 2017. When he turned 90 in 2016 we had a big party for him. Despite having lost numerous friends already he always made new friends where ever he went and yet come November he would always reflect on those who had died before him and he would fall into a deep depression.
Dad passed away almost four weeks ago. This Remembrance Day I will reflect on all the good times I had with him in my lifetime. It will be bittersweet. This painting is dedicated to you Dad.
On this day the theme is ‘not forgotten’. The past 9 days have been very difficult for all Canadians and for me personally. On April 18th and 19th a madman went on a rampage and gunned downed 22 innocent people in Nova Scotia. Dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a car made to look like an official police car this monster went on a killing spree that lasted 13 hours. One of the ways he got people out of their homes was by setting houses on fire and naturally in this small rural community this prompted people to go outside to see if they could help their neighbours. Instead they walked straight into the path of this killer.
One of my friends and colleagues was one of the victims. Lisa McCully safely put her children in the basement of her house and walked outside to see what was going on. As she rounded the corner of her house she was shot. I waited over a week to find out when and how she was killed. I feared for her children.
I knew Lisa over 14 years ago when she was a teacher at our school. She was only with us for a year but in that time we got to know each other well and we frequently went out together. I was with her when she met her husband and Kevin and I had them to our home for dinner. Unfortunately Lisa was declared surplus at our school and moved to another school closer to my home. My neighbour’s daughter had her as her grade three teacher that year.
When Lisa moved back to Nova Scotia we kept in touch through Facebook. She got married there and had her two children there. At some point her marriage broke up and she discontinued her Facebook page. I thought of her often and in fact she came to mind just a couple of days before this tragedy hit.
My heart is broken. I feel for her family and for all the families of the other victims. It’s been difficult to grieve in the normal way because of COVID-19 but Nova Scotians and Canadians have been sending videos, text messages, making music and laying flowers and making tributes on makeshift memorials.
Lisa was a mom, a teacher, a sister, a friend and a beloved member of her community. We will all miss her. Difficult times are ahead for her students and her family.
….reminds me of the story my mother used to tell of how she remembers snow on her birthday
I have a memory, as a little girl, of huge snowfalls in early April and when I was at university we experienced some serious ice storms in April. My sister who lives in Calgary, Alberta experienced some major snowfalls over Easter and I’ve seen photos of friends from the west coast and the mid-west who are covered with the white stuff. The only good thing about snow in April is that it doesn’t tend to stay around long. My mother’s birthday by the way was on April 18th.
The white stuff that is blowing around right now but probably won’t even stay on the ground but it does come as a bit of a shock when you’ve had a relatively snow free winter.
I didn’t get the camera in time to catch the mini blizzard we had and it really didn’t amount to very much. Today it is sunny and not a speck of snow anywhere.
….celebrating a day early makes for a nice restful Easter Sunday
On Saturday I got up early to put the turkey in the oven. I made the stuffing the night before so that saved me some time and I hid a few eggs before I retired for the evening. Despite all the advanced prep work I still found myself working right up till the moment the first of my kids arrived but I must admit that it was considerably less stressful than other years. I did manage to get the table set and hide all the Easter eggs.
My daughter and daughter-in-law took over the egg decorating job and my husband started up the BBQ where he cooked all the vegetables.
Our granddaughter and her parents and other grandmother were the last to arrive and little Winnie didn’t waste any time looking for the treats that the Easter Bunny hid around the house.
After dinner most of us decided we needed to get some fresh air and walk off some of the calories that we had consumed. Our son-in-law made us some wonderful cocktails to start the meal, Gaelan prepared a delicious cheesy cauliflower bake and Andrea and Josie made a decadent chocolate panna cotta for dessert. On top of the turkey and the rice stuffing I also made gluten free spring pasta salad. Luckily the rain had stopped so we headed to the park and continued to the playground a few blocks over.
I hope all of you had as wonderful day as I did. Happy Easter everyone!
…..on Boxing Day the sewer started backing up into the basement
Soon after doing the laundry we noticed that water was coming up through the sewer drain in the basement. Luckily it was only a large puddle around the drain and it was easily soaked up with rags but soon after when someone showered it happened again. We decided to carefully ration the water until we could get a plumber to the house. We called the next morning but because it wasn’t an immediate emergency we had to wait one more day before the plumber could get to our house.
On the 28th a camera and a plumbing snake were lowered into the drain. At 41 feet the camera came across the problem. The clay pipe at the Y junction had collapsed and only a small area was letting water get through. That meant that paper and some ‘matter’ was building up at the break and water was having a hard time passing through. Plumber Joe was able to clear the blockage but it was only a temporary fix. The pipe had to be removed and replaced. There was only one problem; the broken pipe was in the middle of my neighbour’s driveway and her car was sitting on top of it.
Now that might not seem like a huge problem but the car hadn’t been moved in almost two years and no amount of pushing would move it back the three feet we needed to get to the problem. We tried calling CAA but they didn’t show up and when I called they said that our coverage didn’t cover moving the neighbour’s car. Now what?
The next morning we figured out why we couldn’t put the car into neutral. Newer cars are all controlled by the electrical system and since the battery was completely dead we needed to give the car a boost. Eureka! We got the car started and backed it up the three feet that we needed. Unfortunately by the time we called our plumber back he was already on another job and couldn’t come till Monday, Dec. 31.
Our third day of Christmas was suppose to happen on the 28th but due to a miscommunication my sister’s family was planning on arriving on the 29th. At the time I thought the plumbing was going to be fixed on that day so I wasn’t too anxious about having eight adults and a baby in the house. When they arrived I explained the situation and asked them to use the bathroom sparingly. In the end we decided to go out for dinner instead of eating at home. Before we left we opened more gifts and phoned the restaurant to make sure that they could accommodate our large group.
In the end it turned out that the restaurant was a good option all around. There were no dishes for me to wash (couldn’t run the dishwasher), everyone was able to order according to their dietary needs and likes, we arrived after the rush, the service was great and we were able to spend time talking to one another without worrying about our plumbing problem. My sister and her family all live out of town and my nephew had flown in from California. If we hadn’t gotten together that day it probably wouldn’t have happened. Thanks for small blessings.