Tag Archives: siblings

What Makes Things Go

imageMy big brother was always interested in things that ran, things with wheels, mechanical and motorized and intricately put together devices and how they functioned.  He loved mechanical sets and model airplanes and taking things apart to discover how they were assembled in the first place.  My dad often said if anybody could figure out how something worked it was him.

He wasn’t always a hundred percent successful.  I had an alarm clock with a face painted in a woodsy scene with two little elves moving up and down on a teeter- totter with each tick-tock.  I begged him to leave it alone.  And then one day, there it was, in a million pieces with my brother poring over the parts, happily working away on something that wasn’t broken until he decided to fix it.  The little elves never played on that see-saw again.

Not surprisingly, with all that practice, he became an amazing mechanic.  We learned to never ask him anything about our vehicles unless we wanted to listen to an hours worth of baffling diagnostic mechanical information.  Once he warmed to his subject there was no shutting him down.  Might as well grab a coffee and try to keep up with your eyes open.

There are a few of photos of me as a child with a cat draped over my shoulder.  It’s a mystery to me why a kid thinks a cat needs to be picked up and carted about, or why a cat allows it.  We always had outside barn cats, never house cats until we were adults.  I was afraid of dogs for a long time with a recurring nightmare of a big black dog chasing me.  No idea where that came from.  Anyway, there I am, confused by how happy my brother is to be making a little wooden tricycle go when there are cats to be lugged around.

Often we had cats of unknown origin on the farm.  They may have migrated from other farms close by or been dropped off in the country as discarded city pets.  They kept the rodent population in check and more or less looked after themselves.  Once we had a litter of all white kittens which we happily named Snow, Snowflake, Snowball, Sugar, Winter…every white thing we could think of.  They all ended up being called “one of those white cats” because we couldn’t tell them apart.  Later we progressed to more sophisticated cat names such as Spooky, Pooky, Donovan and Trigere.

In his last years on the farm dad had two almost identically marked cats he called Daryl and Other Brother Daryl.  He claimed to know one from the other, but I’m skeptical about that.

Despite all the cats, or maybe because of them, I never became a cat lady.  Although I suppose there’s still time for that to happen, if I ever get to missing a big furry body purring in my face.  My brother had dogs as pets his whole life.  Could be, compared to cats, it’s just much more interesting to figure out what makes a dog tick.

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Sharing My World 54

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Weekend Artwork by Littlest Granddaughter

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 11

How many siblings do you have? What’s your birth order?

My brother was born first, followed by me three years later, followed by my sister another three years later, and six years after that, baby sister, spoiled by her siblings.  So I am a middle child, one of three girls, nobody special.  Or incredibly special, I can’t decide.

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?

I don’t mind being a passenger, feeling free to let my mind wander or to fall asleep or to give directions or to wonder out loud why we are taking this particularly stupid route.  Well, that’s only when W is behind the wheel.  I don’t mind driving by myself, but I do not like having passengers when I’m driving.  Probably because I’m such a bad passenger/back seat driver myself and also because I like to talk to other drivers on the road without anyone hearing the dumb things I say.  Plus I take wrong turns all the time and nobody needs to know that.

When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles or turn on the flashlight? How many of each do you own?

All W’s flashlights are downstairs in the dark, but I have candles and matches everywhere.  Some family member asked me once why W has so many flashlights and I didn’t know the answer to that one because, like I said, they’re all downstairs somewhere in the dark and I wouldn’t know where to look for them.  I have a little pen sized flashlight in my makeup bag for some obscure reason, and I used to have a light thing dangling from my keys but I don’t know what happened to it.  I never used it because there’s an interior light in the car and the porch light is always on at our back door and I can’t think of a single time I needed to use my keys in the dark.

I’m not sure why I have this uncanny ability to turn the answer to a simple question into a rambling essay.  I light candles.  We own many.

List at least five of your favorite types of animal (any animal to domestic to wild to marine life)

Lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras.  In a previous life I lived in Africa.  Or a zoo.  Or the circus.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

This weekend our eldest grandson attended a special wrestling development clinic at the U of A for wrestlers who got medals at the Alberta Winter Games.  We are incredibly proud of him for doing so well in a sport he’s only just started.

Youngest grandson got to go to an Oilers hockey game, and even though his team “got destroyed” as he explained it, he had a great time.

The girls and I went to see the Zootopia movie in 3D.  Because those special glasses are to die for.  You can pop out the lenses and wear them home.  And the movie was great fun!  They were especially giggly about the sloths.

I put a border on the above artwork by Madison and I’m going to put it up somewhere more important than the fridge.  I love that she made it so colourful and happy.

Not sure what I’m looking forward to in particular this week, but in general, spring.  And summer.  And all the snow disappearing.  Just normal every day stuff.  No crazy wishes or expectations.  I’m happy to keep waking up in the morning.

share-your-world2

Grandmas Were Not Always Grandmas

imageThis is my maternal grandmother, born in 1887.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  I’m guessing this picture was taken in her late teens or early twenties before she was married.  In the right lower corner there is a ghost hand about which she doesn’t appear to be overly concerned.  We believe the original photo was cut in half , so whoever was sitting opposite her remains a mystery.

I love her tidy dark hair, the high collared blouse and her high-waisted skirt.  That pensive gaze rivals the Mona Lisa.

And here she is, some seventy years later.

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Still gorgeous, still smiling, but with a little less hair to pull back with pins.  She is posing with my brother, my sisters and me (on the right), four of her twelve grandchildren.  After this fleeting moment in time she had a lot more years of her life left to live.  An unforgettable lady.

“The more we love the more we lose. The more we lose the more we learn. The more we learn the more we love. It comes full circle. Life is the school, love is the lesson. We cannot lose.”
― Kate McGahan

Bedtime Cookbook

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How far shall we flash back this fine Friday?  More than a lifetime for some of you, and just a drop in the time bucket for the rest of us.

What is more delightful than two recently bathed children with shiny clean hair all ready for bed?  Sitting together, sharing, being super good so bedtime will be delayed.

This was not a rare moment.  My mom often remarked on how well my kids got along with each other.  That changed for a while in their teens, but really, underneath the growing pains, they have always remained good friends.

I know it looks like the reflection of a halo on my daughters head, but don’t let it fool you.  She had her un-angelic moments.  And I never realized my son had such expressive toes.  I think that might be our polar bear hide on the wall in the background.  Hard to believe now we ever had such a thing.  But this is the NWT in the late 1970’s.  We didn’t know any better.  And that awful brown colonial furniture was in every government house.

One other thing I noticed in this faded photo is that the book they’re reading is not a kids book (although they had lots of those I swear). It appears to be a cookbook.  My poor children.  Is this what I gave them instead of reading them a bedtime story?  I can imagine the two of them pointing at the pictures saying – what is this yummy dish called?Mom has never made anything this awesome for us!  Maybe she doesn’t know how!  Maybe she doesn’t really love us!

Hey, they’re alive and clean.  Looks like it was a good parenting day to me.

April Post For Peace

English: Children dancing, International Peace...
English: Children dancing, International Peace Day 2009, Geneva. Français : Enfants dansant, Journée internationale de la Paix 2009, Genève. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we teach children what peace means, and how do we raise our children to be peaceful?

The answer is amazingly simple.  We teach by example.  Simple answers don’t make the actual process easy of course.  We have all seen or been the parent who yells and rants, flips out and stomps off, slams a door, gets mad, gets even.  Kids mimic what they see, they repeat what they hear, and they either learn from our mistakes or they repeat them.  The best and maybe the only way we can teach our children what peace means is by living it.

My parents were both peaceful and peace-loving.  Mom always saw the best in every person she met and every situation she faced – she could put a positive spin on even the worst disaster, and point out some redeeming quality in a complete ass.  Dad forever saw the funny side of life.  It’s like I spent my childhood with a Mark Twain clone – he would tell us a funny story or make a witty remark or a silly comment that didn’t just make us laugh, it made us think.  My parents never had raging battles, and rarely even argued for long before coming to a mutually acceptable decision, even if the decision was simply to agree to disagree.

How incredibly lucky we were to be their children, sheltered from the violence and cruelty of the world for so long.  Of course the down side to that is not knowing how to react to, and cope with, furious anger and deliberate malice when confronted with it head on.  We were taught not to fight back and that peaceful resolutions were always to be sought, and almost always possible to reach.  We were shown that siblings can be our very best friends, that mistakes can be forgiven, that happiness is something you have to find within yourself because no one is going to present it to you on a golden platter.  I grew up knowing that anger you can’t let go of will just make everyone miserable.  No matter how uneasy the peace, it is always better to seek it than to let a conflict fester and grow.

So how have I done as a mother myself, after having been blessed with such shining examples to follow?  I wish I could tell you I’ve been the perfect wise and peaceful parent, but if you’re a parent yourself you know first hand there’s really no such thing.  Parenthood is something we muddle through hoping to keep the damage to a minimum.  We want peace and happiness and joy for our children and we will wish hard for it for the rest of our lives.

Before I became the incredibly smart old person that I am now, a newborn baby always looked to me like some blank little human that could be shaped and molded into whatever sort of person its family was capable of creating.  Not so great parents ended up with little brats.  How completely deluded that notion turned out to be.

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...
Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because a child is born with personality plus.  All we can hope to accomplish as his parent and guardian is to get to know him, keep him safe and watch him grow.  We can guide and console and love him but we can’t make him turn himself into something he is not, and perhaps was never meant to be.

The very hardest part about being a parent is knowing how much growing up we have left to do ourselves.  I sometimes think our children teach us just as much about life as we are trying to teach them.  Maybe more.  We give our children rules to live by, examples to follow, consequences for their actions.  It’s only fair that there should be some parenting rules, and for whatever they’re worth, here are mine.

1.  Keep talking to your child. Tell him what you think, what you believe, what you want, how you feel.  Some of it is bound to sink in eventually.

2.  Shut up and listen.  Let him freely express what he thinks, what he believes, what he wants, how he feels.  You will learn more things from listening to your child than you ever believed possible.  Have some serious discussions.  Share some laughs. Keep an open mind.

3.  Be loving and kind and compassionate.  Growing up is not easy.  You haven’t finished the process either, so be patient with your child, and be patient with yourself.

4.  Be grateful for what you have and less concerned with what you lack.  Know that ‘things’ themselves are not what make us happy.  Be generous whenever you can. It really is true that the more you give the more you receive, no matter what the ‘gift’.

5.  Support your childs creative nature and expanding spirit.  Share his happiness, share his joy.  Teach him that sharing the joy of others brings joy right back to him.  Be constantly delighted and astounded by the incredible person he is turning out to be.  His dreams are different from yours and his path is not the same as the one you are on.  How boring and disappointing it would be if we all raised little mini-me’s.

6.  Be okay with life.  Work with change, rather than against it.  Accept what is, let go, and let be.

When we are okay with life, there is no reason to fight.  When we are calm and confident and have a sort of mental equilibrium somewhere between what is ‘wrong’ and what is ‘right’, the tension and the struggle to go one way or the other disappears. I think that is called peace.  I think that is the only way we can teach it to our children, by showing them that we get it, that we want it, and that we live it ourselves the best way we know how.

Although you see the world different from me
Sometimes I can touch upon the wonders that you see
And all the new colors and pictures you’ve designed
Oh yes sweet darling so glad you are a child of mine

Child of mine, child of mine
Oh yes sweet darling so glad you are a child of mine

You don’t need directions, you know which way to go
And I don’t want to hold you back I just want to watch you grow
You’re the one who taught me, you don’t have to look behind
Oh yes sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine

Nobody’s gonna kill your dreams or tell you how to live your life
There’ll always be people who make it hard for a while
But you’ll change their heads when they see you smile

The times you were born in may not have been the best
But you can make the times to come better than the rest
I know you will be honest if you can’t always be kind
Oh yes sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine

Child of mine, child of mine
Oh yes sweet darling so glad you are a child of mine

Child of mine, child of mine
Oh yes sweet darling so glad you are a child of mine

bloggers for peace

Brother of Mine

It snowed last year too:  I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I
knocked my brother down and then we had tea.  ~Dylan Thomas

To the outside world we all grow old.  But not to brothers and sisters.  We know
each other as we always were.  We know each other’s hearts.  We share private
family jokes.  We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  We
live outside the touch of time.  ~Clara Ortega

The day my brother died (really, was it only yesterday?) the phone call woke me up.  I had been expecting it for days and days but still it felt like the extension of some strange unhappy dream.  Those are the saddest words you’ll ever hear, but if you mix them up with a blessing and a relief they lose some of their edge. He was nothing if not strong, and he fought the good fight.  I went to the living room where W was reading the paper and told him.  My brother passed away this morning.  I’m going to cook some bacon.

Of course those two things don’t have anything at all to do with each other.  And even to myself as I said them they sounded like words stating random facts,  coming from a person who didn’t care.  But there were five kids in my house for the Thanksgiving weekend, and I’d promised them the night before that I’d make them bacon and eggs for breakfast.   After all, life does go on.  If you don’t think too hard about it, you can get yourself through just about anything.

I talked to my son, and I talked to my daughter.  Are you okay? they wanted to know.  Of course, don’t worry, I’m fine, I told them.  Don’t worry about me, I’m sad but I’ll be fine.

So no crying through breakfast, or the dishes, or the packing up, or the three cups of coffee, the last-minute hair cuts (I also promised Omayja bangs) and not even any tears when they all trooped out of the house and drove away.  Then there was just one granddaughter left for a couple more hours, not in any hurry to go home.  We did a few things, looked at some old photographs, ate some lunch.  I made travel plans, called work, got mad at W for saying something stupid, although now I don’t remember what it was except for my words being the result of all those pushed down feelings bouncing to the surface.

I kept it together until he left to drive Kenzie home, and then the dam burst.  This is the totally useless thing I do.  It all comes out when I’m alone because I don’t want anybody else to feel bad or feel sorry for me, or for all I know, even suspect that I have any feelings at all.

Finally, finally – when it matters the least,  the guilt and the remorse hit hard.  I wasn’t there for my brother or his wife and family or my siblings when they could have used my support, and without a tremendous amount of prodding I might not even have sent that last e-mail or made that final phone call before it was too late, because this is also what I do.  I go out of my way to avoid the unpleasant things in life.  Stuff it all away somewhere, let other people deal with it, turn my back, write a bunch of meaningless shit about it later.

My brother and I weren’t as close as we might have been all these years. We lived far away, we grew apart, there’s a million things we didn’t know about each other.  But we still share a long history and a lot of family, and there always was an unconditional sibling love. That never stopped, and it won’t stop now.

He was my brother. I did love him, and I will miss him. I should have told him both those things a lot more times.  Maybe he was smart enough to get it after hearing it from me only once or twice.  And I somehow think my stupid bacon comment might have given him a laugh.

We’ll be with the family for the next five days to celebrate my brother’s life.  Somehow I would like to find the strength to give back to them as much comfort as I know they’ll give to me.

How Far We’ve Traveled

Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of
long ago – the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider…. It doesn’t
seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we’ve traveled.

(~Jane Mersky Leder)

Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories
to the inevitable dusk.

( ~Susan Scarf Merrell)

Letter to Newton

Between my dad and his older brother Newton there was a gap of six years.  Dad wrote this letter in 1937 when he was twenty-three and needed some advice from someone older and wiser, with more life experience.


Port Elgin Ont

Dec. 5, 1937

Dear Newton –

I was informed that you wished I’d write once in a while.  I know for myself that I should but as usual am not prompt at anything.

I was informed also some time ago that Carl Gingrich is figuring on buying lot 8 and I’m keeping clear of it.

While cutting wood we came upon a nice little patch of birch.  What would you charge a cord for it.  It isn’t a very big strip, maybe twenty cords.  There has been several asking me if you would sell poplar by the acre and of course I didn’t know. 

I suppose you heard my old flame Alaine got the knot tied.  It makes me feel old all these kids getting married.

I am sort of contemplating the subject but it sort of frightens me.  What if I get the wrong woman or something?  Of course there have been several applicants but the job has not yet been let.  I’d like to get the advice of someone who has tried it.  There has been a lot of people heard I was getting married.  In fact one man wanted to make a deal with me to take over his farm in the spring.

It’s great weather for cutting wood now if it only lasts another couple of weeks we will have a nice little pile put up.

I suppose you have lots of snow up there.  Do you ever go over to visit Santa Claus?  I’ll bet he’s busy right now.  How’s Marie?  or I mean Mrs. McArthur because I shouldn’t get so familiar with one I haven’t even met.  Anyway, give her a kiss for me, unless it keeps you busy doing yourself justice.

Well I don’t know what else to say so I guess I’d better get ready and go to McConkey’s.  Write soon with information.

Hank

The letter was sent to Northern Ontario where Newton was newly married and teaching school.  McConkey’s refers to his oldest sister May and her husband for whom my dad was working at the time.

Perhaps on one of their family visits during the summer to our farm Aunt Marie or Uncle Newton brought this letter back to my dad.  It was mom who kept it in amongst her precious papers all those years.  I wonder what advice Newton gave my dad so long ago?  It was five years after writing it that he finally decided he was making the right choice and married my mother.

All his life my dad respected and admired and loved his siblings.  They were spread out all over the province, but it never stopped them from being close.

These little snippets of history, showing us who they were, help to keep the memories alive.

A Case of Anamnesis

Have I ever mentioned how crazy this place is for sirens, night and day?  Ambulances, firetrucks, emergency vehicles, police cars, and sea nymphs for all I know.  There was even a siren in the middle of the fireworks last night, but if something blew up or burned down I slept through the aftermath.  I imagine some siren-happy crew took care of it.  There’s also helicopters flying around now and again but they don’t have alarm bells and whistles.  Not yet, anyway.

Today Siren City is relatively quiet for a change (except for the mad magpies who can never be mute – they would explode).  And the buzz of a lawnmower.  The sun is shining, there is a warm breeze, the coffee is hot and sweet.  Normally I don’t like it so sugary, but I poured in some vanilla/toffee/caramel cream before I was completely awake, from what was supposed to be a small container of French Vanilla for a change from Hazelnut.  But wasn’t.  This is what happens when I think I’m too smart to bother reading labels.  Something weird ends up in my fridge and there’s no one around but me to blame for it.

I should go back to drinking my coffee black.  Life would be so much simpler.  And maybe I’d have a simpler time keeping focused on one topic at a time.  That was a big huge gigantic maybe.

The Wordnik word of the day is anamnestic.

  • n. (noun) The art of recollection or reminiscence.
  • (adj) Aiding the memory.

‘Anamnestic’ comes from the Greek ‘anamnesis,’ a calling to mind, remembrance.

an·am·ne·sis

1.  the recollection or remembrance of the past; reminiscence.
2.  Platonism . recollection of the Ideas, which the soul had known in a previous existence, especially by means of reasoning.
3.  the medical history of a patient.

4.  Immunology . a prompt immune response to a previously encountered antigen, characterized by more rapid onset and greater effectiveness of antibody and T cell reaction than during the first encounter, as after a booster shot in a previously immunized person.

Anamnesis is a condition, then, and it follows that there must be degrees of it.  The art of recollection is not a clear-cut science or a faultless method.  Memories are often less than exact.
We all suffer from anamnesis, or delight in it, putting our own spin on the past.
Sometimes something is remembered so differently by someone else that we don’t recognize it as being the same moment in time.
I remember posing for this picture after church, holding my baby sister gently by the shoulders so she wouldn’t run away, smiling for our mom, ready to take off running as soon as she said okay because my brother was holding a long thin stick in his hand and I didn’t want to feel it on the backs of my bare legs.
Maybe he would only flick it around in the air and threaten and tease, but why take chances.
What do they remember about that day?
My life had no sirens in it then, when we lived there.  I wore my hair in a pony tail.  My sweater was brilliant red.
I loved my siblings.  (Some things don’t change.)