40 years

‪Some anniversaries we don’t need to remember. ‬

‪My father just called to remind me that it was 40 years ago today that his father, my Gramps, was killed in a farm accident. ‬

‪Do you have a singular day that changed the trajectory of your life?‬

‪I remember that day with crystal clarity. It was a Wednesday. I was going to the sitter’s for lunch because I wasn’t old enough to be a latch-key kid. ‬

‪I saw my dad’s truck in the driveway. A silver GMC. That was weird; he and mum were both teachers. Didn’t come home at noon. ‬

‪I was excited to see Dad at lunch; started running to the door. ‬

‪Mum came out onto the front step. ‬

‪The energy was wrong. All wrong. I asked, “can I eat at home today?”‬

‪She reached out for me, put her hands on my shoulders, and said “there’s something we have to tell you”‬.

‪My Gramps, man. ‬

He was full of joy, all the time. I still remember his laugh, which he had trouble controlling. He spoiled me. I used to read to him (he’d left school in the fifth grade to go to work, and reading wasn’t his strong suit). He was my hero, in a way my Da couldn’t be, because Gramps never had to say no to me.

‪He taught me to drive. To pound nails. ‬To dance. To wash dishes. To sew.

‪He taught me to set gopher traps and how to let rabbits out of them. He took me for ice cream every night and always had time for me, even at harvest. We’d take meals to the field and he would eat, then take me on the tractor or the combine. ‬

Just the previous Sunday, he’d helped Dad load up the piano that had been a wedding gift to my grandmother’s parents into the back of the truck (my grandmother never forgave him giving me the piano).

‪ He gave me music. ‬

‪I’d spied his work boots at the back door and said “Gramps, I don’t like your boots” (they were dirty and beaten up and hard; everything he wasn’t). ‬

‪He laughed (he was always laughing) and said “I’m going to die with my boots on”.‬

‪Three days later, he did. ‬

‪Mum took me into the living room where Da was sitting in the rocking chair in the middle of the room. ‬

‪I remember my heart pounding. Blood thumping in my ears.

‪He said, “there’s been an accident,” and then he started to sob. I’d never known fear until then.‬

‪Mum took me out of the room, led me to my bedroom. ‬

‪I could still hear my father sobbing. ‬

Years later, Mum told me she watched me shut down. Said it was the scariest thing she’d ever seen. She said it was like watching storm clouds blocking out the sun.

She got down on her knees and told me “your Gramps is dead”.‬

The next few minutes stretched out for eternity, and still do, in my recollection. ‬her words swam around in the air between us for a minute. I began to put it together : the truck in the driveway, Mum on the step, Dad in the rocking chair, still sobbing. Alone.

I remember her pulling me close to her, trying to hug me, to hold me, but I couldn’t move. I was stuck in that moment. Maybe a part of me always has been.

She asked “do you know what that means?”

I was insulted. “Of course I know what it means,” I said. After all, we’d all been there when Mr. Hooper died. But more than that, death isn’t a foreign concept to kids who grow up on a farm. “Why couldn’t it be J’s grandpa who died?” I asked.

“Don’t say that,” my mum chastised me. “We should never wish for someone’s death.”

But the growing hole inside me was getting too big. It was swallowing up everything around it. Everything I knew. If it could come for me why shouldn’t it come for my best friend? Maybe we could understand the excruciating ache together.

Mum told me I looked at her at that point and said “I’d like to be alone now,” stepped away from her, and closed my bedroom door.

I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, hearing my father crying…my father, who was stronger than anything, invincible, really, was crying. He needed me to be strong. I didn’t know then that tears are a sign of strength, and he had tears enough for the both of us.

For years, people thought I didn’t understand death, that I didn’t really get it. Because I never cried. I didn’t shed a tear that day, and I didn’t cry at his funeral. Not even when my grandmother told me the sheaves of wheat draped over the coffin were from the road allowance. Every year, Gramps let me sit on his lap when we harvested the road allowance wheat, and the money he got from selling it went into a saving account in my name.

“That’s your wheat there,” she said. She made me sit beside her. I didn’t want to. I didn’t even want to be there but figured Dad needed me to be there. I wanted to sit with him, but Grandmother wouldn’t let me.

I didn’t want the wheat. I didn’t want the money. I didn’t want my grandmother. I wanted my Gramps.

This day, 40 years ago, changed the trajectory of my life. Every time I felt like quitting piano or band, I’d think about my Gramps and my Dad carrying the steel-backed upright grand piano up the steep basement steps and into the bed of the silver truck. I’d think about my Gramps listening to me plonk away on those keys, not knowing what I was doing. I’d think about what he might say if he could hear me play now.

It would take years…decades really, before I felt anything again. It wouldn’t be until the death of my grandmother in 2012 that I truly grieved Gramps’ death. When we put his ashes to rest beside hers (she’d kept his ashes at the bottom of her closet the whole time), when I stood at the gravesite and looked out across the cold river hills at the farm that had taken him…

..when I found his well-worn wallet, shoved into the back of a drawer, still with everything in it that had been there the day he died: his driver’s license, his Co-op card, seventeen dollars, and photos of me. My heart broke again.

I wish I were joking

But I’m not. If I wrote this as fiction my editors would cross it out as too far fetched.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/comedy-holiday-horrors-jillian-bell-1.4960005

Please no

They let me write another thing: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/worst-christmas-gifts-1.4917150

Standing – NaBloPoMo Day 16

It’s Giftmas Sales Season (GSS) and I get to person the booth at the first big giftmas market of the year. You may think this is the Worst Thing Evar, but it’s not. Everyone is happy. Excited. Fulla beans.

There’s enough time for Humbuggery; today though I’m looking forward to hearing about grandkids, vacation plans, and planned gifts.

I do, however, want the people running this show to turn down the effing speakers. Not everywhere needs or benefits from piped-in music. Just let the din of people be the background noise.

Music Fatigue – NaBloPoMo Day 14

There’s an interesting conundrum in the fall, that gets people arguing every year. More than just Daylight Saving Time (which is silly and all this malarky with changing clocks makes no sense). More than just who’s going to sit where at Thanksgiving. More than the gamble of when you’re to change over from summer to winter tyres. The conundrum is this: when is it okay to start playing holiday music?

Morally, ethically, you should never stop playing the music you love. If “Little Drummer Boy” gets your libido up, then blast those rum pum pum pums to your heart’s content. The thing is, early seasonal music has been scientifically proven* to cause what’s called “music fatigue”, and has been linked to mild to moderate cases of eye-rolling, heavy sighs, and general grinchitude. If it’s the first time you’ve heard all the ohs in the “Angels We Have Heard on High”, you get that warm feeling in the pit of your belly. But by the tenth time, you just want to gouge out your eardrums with a set of car keys.

If we have to enter a commercial retail outlet between October and January, we run the risk of hearing “Good King Wassisname” thirty times before we escape. I play in a concert band. We start rehearsing our holiday music in September. I’m done with the ‘ohs’ sometime in November.

More concerning to me is the monoculture we’re all too comfortable with spending outrageous gobs of money on. I think that’s for another post, but surely to #Glob there are more than a dozen holiday carols/songs to choose from. Up with Boney M! Down with rum pum pum pums! Up with Danny Elfman holiday themes!

*If you define “scientific” as “I totally made this up”

Cat videos – NaBloPoMo Day 13

Let’s take a moment to remember the origins of something that’s changed the way we do business, the way we consume arts and culture, and ultimately, the way we communicate.

In the 1960s, the US government (particularly the department of defence) was working to develop a communications network that could reliably be deployed across great distances and that would survive nuclear war. They were working on using telephone lines, partly because telephone lines were hard-wired and didn’t just rely on electromagnetic waves, which are prone to radioactive interference. They actually moved a crapload of funding from ballistic missile research to this packet switching idea that had been developed out of mathematical studies of queueing theory.

Cue the 1980s and there was a network being used by defence and by academics. But this is also the time personal computers began entering the market, and the people who used those computers were starting to get excited about this big, huge, super fast communications network. Having the ability for your personal computer to link up, over your phone line, to someone across the world, instantaneously, to transfer files and work collaboratively had huge implications for research, business, finance, and communications.

But there was a darker side to all of this. Something that nobody could see coming. Something that would someday undo, or attempt to undo, all that those pioneers had wrought.

Cat videos.

I’m 99% positive that if the people who developed ARPANET back in the 60s knew just what all us weirdos were going to use their technology for, they’ve have thrown their hands up in the air and said “screw it”.

So that was a thing – NaBloPoMo Day 12

*warning: you may wish to pre-clutch your pearls because this is a seriously hardcore post*

we went to the new Costco today. I was supposed to get a hot dog but I didn’t. #HisNibs made a hot dog for supper at home instead. The new Costco is exactly like the old Costco, except bigger, filled with more people, much more annoying to get to, and with less room in the aisles.

I don’t know why Costco is such a big deal. It kind of makes me feel dead inside.

Could Have Been – NaBloPoMo Day 11

Whoops.

So here’s the thing.

  1. NEW PHONE WHO DIS – yeah, I got a new phone. I thought everything was working but I was, as our friend Big T would say, “I was mistooken”.
  2. Days go by SUPER fast now. I swear to Glob I thought last week was next week and I thought Friday was Saturday. WTF.
  3. So that’s the thing.

 

Wrong Universe – NaBloPoMo Day 8

My mum was a brilliant woman. So was my grandmother. So is my aunt. So is my other aunt. It’s pretty cool the amount of brain power all the wymmyns be bringin’ all up in this family. I used to sit on the corner of mum’s bed and watch her put on “her face” in the morning, and I never really understood what all of that was about. Sure, wearing makeup is a rite of passage in western culture, but it was always a nonsensical one to me.

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to feel like they look their best. I do, however, begrudge the entire society that tells people they don’t look their best without all that shit on their faces. That imperfections aren’t part of the beauty. That youth and smooth skin are the acme of attractiveness. I tried wearing makeup. I really did. I had the foundation (mousse, because the other stuff just made me feel like I was wearing grease paint from drama productions), the eyeshadow (greens and browns), the mascara, the lip gloss. I tried curling my eyelashes (nearly put out my own eyes multiple times. Note: eyelash curlers are basically the exact shape and size as an eyeball scooper-outer).

It was different when I wore theatrical makeup or when I hid behind the white foundation and the black eyeliner. Or I guess I didn’t hide behind it so much as I just really liked the aesthetic. That was conceptually different for me because although it still hurt (putting anything on my face, even most moisturisers, hurts. It burns like burning things), it wasn’t about trying to be someone else’s ideal of what was attractive. It was about what I liked to look at in the mirror.

Anyway. Point here is that I never quite grokked makeup. Fast forward a few years, and an aesthetician I was in a play with told me I probably have rosacea. That certainly made sense, as my cheeks have always been apple-red, and the skin on my face is prone to burning. Not from the sun, but from sunblock, lotion, moisturiser, cosmetics, and pointed stares. I don’t really care most of the time. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and I deal with it as best I can. Some day if it gets Really Bad, I’ll go see a dermatologist. For now, it’s just one of those annoying things, like those wee little ants at your picnic.

Today I went to a cosmetics shop, because I’m tired of the burst blood vessels in my cheeks making me look like a drunk. I walked in and I said, “hello, cosmetics consultants. I do not wear cosmetics. I do not wish to start wearing cosmetics. I do, however, wish to stop looking like a drunk because of my rosacea. Please help.”

It only took a little bit of me saying “no, that is foundation. I do not want foundation. I do not want to even out my skin tone. I want to make the burst blood vessels in my cheeks look less red, without having to put crap on my whole face” and “sister, the only blending I do is with ice, tequila, and margarita mix” before the consultant showed me a moisturiser (which I may or may not be able to use; we’re testing it today) and a colour-correcting cream that is not a tinted moisturiser or a foundation or anything I have to match to anything else. I said, “it takes me less than two minutes to get ready in the morning. I don’t want to add to that.”

She said, “what the hell are you talking about? It takes me two hours!”

I did the math.

That’s like a month a year she spends getting ready to leave her house. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what she wants to do, more power to her. But I’m sure as shit not giving up a whole month a year just to gouge out my own eyes and paint minerals on my skin.

She asked me about my “beauty routine”. I said it was reading.

What’s yours?

Empty – NaBloPoMo Day 7

I worked pretty hard this past weekend. I was at a retreat. Had some rewriting to do on a manuscript. Thought it’d be easy. Boy, was I wrong. I mean. I knew I had a lot to rework. I just had no idea that I could actually focus like that. Focusing isn’t really one of my strong suits.

I’m a lateral thinker. I get thoughts in literal bubbles, and they often float away or just out of reach. They’re usually all interconnected, but it’s like the time I looked at my friend and said, excitedly, “hey, you know what’s a great movie?!” and he said “what?!” just as excitedly, and then I said, also with the same level of excitement, “SHIT! I FORGET!” I did eventually remember what the movie was (Leatherheads), but it was during a different conversation quite some time later, and in the middle of a sentence about, I dunno, homemade bread, I said “oh yeah, that movie was Leatherheads, and anyway you have to proof the yeast first”. So being focused for an entire weekend on just one thing was incredible.

Except now I feel empty. It’s like when you’re pregnant for ten months and then all of a sudden you’re not. I don’t know if everyone feels like this when they’re kinda done a project, but I’m not sure it’s pleasant. I’m not sure it’s exactly unpleasant either. But it is different.

Are you more excited at the beginning of a project, in the middle of it, or at the end of it? Are you the sort of person who thinks in straight lines, or do you think-fart? Enquiring minds want to know.

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