4 Years

Facebook reminded me that it’s four years tomorrow since my father died.

Amongst the memories of sunsets, flowers, dog and kid pictures is a photo of my Dad. The one we used in his obituary. I catch my breath every time I see it. I remember taking the picture. I remember it was Father’s Day. I remember we knew he was sick and that we needed to squeeze every last memory we could out of the days we had with him. I remember telling him that this was his Father’s Day gift, photos of him with all his grandkids. I remember knowing I was lying to him because the photos were for us. Cancer has a way of destroying the memory of how your loved one looks. It lays waste to the body and forever imprints in your mind how hard they are trying to fight, and yet, losing.

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He didn’t look like that yet. It was coming. But on this day, he still looked like Dad.

So as the fourth year rolls around, part of me feels guilty because I haven’t been feeling as heavy as I have other years. From the beginning of June I start to dread the 6th. It’s the first of a two-part whammy because his birthday is on the 9th. I’m more emotional and sentimental. Not this June. Life has been stupid, crazy, busy and I find myself facing the eve of this anniversary and it starts to sink in…I’m not heavy. I’m used to this pain at this time of year.

I feel guilty that I don’t feel that way. I wonder what it means.

Second Born Son got his full licence on Monday. As I think about it, I’m struck by the thought that the world I’m living in now is moving so much farther away from the one my father lived in. He kicked me out of his hospital room to apply for the job I now have. The one I’ve excelled in and worked so hard at. I was told I had the job two days after his funeral. So many times I’ve thought, “He’d love to hear this story” regarding something that happened at work. First Born Son is in the working world. He was in high school when Dad died. He didn’t even know if he wanted to go to college. FBS now has his dream truck, his life planned out and graduated college. SBS has one year left of high school and will be going to college. He’s as tall as his 6’4 brother and is going to be a heartbreaker. He was in Grade 8 when my father died. He didn’t get to see FBS or SBS graduate into high school because of his illness. We are making changes in our life that we never thought of when he was here. In some ways I think he’d be lost if he came back and saw where all of us were today.

We moved on. Without him. It feels wrong.

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I still cry. Usually it’s a song or a photo. Something that hits an emotion. Music and memories get me. I spent his last night on earth bunking with him in his hospital room. Neither of us slept much.

I still dream about him. One just a few weeks ago that was so real I didn’t even take much notice that he was in the dream. It was so natural to be talking about the dogs with him in this dream, just watching them bounce around. He was there, petting them, commenting on how big Cane was, how sucky Roman was. Dad never met Cane since he wasn’t born until a couple years later. Dad loved dogs. I woke up from that dream and was absolutely convinced the conversation had taken place. He was THERE.

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Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to look at theses years moving away from my father’s life. He’s not HERE but he’s here. He knows what’s going on. He would love the Jeep. He would be absolutely stoked about the renovation. He would be singing the praises of FBS working toward his dreams and would be congratulating SBS on his licence and upcoming prom. He would be thrilled to see what I do for work.

It doesn’t make June 6 any easier. It just means the wound isn’t throbbing any more. It’s a scar.

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3 Years

Hard to believe it’s been three years.

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In some ways, we talk about you enough that it seems like you are still here. In others, it’s downright painful to see how much you’ve missed. Like yesterday. I know how proud you would have been about First Born Son’s graduation. You would have loved how he dominated his course. How he landed a job months before he graduated. How he bought a truck that you would have fallen in love with.

You would be delighted to see the growth in Second Born Son; literally and figuratively. He’s taller than his father and will soon look down on his brother. He is making decisions about his life that would astound you, as it does us. He reminds us of you.

In some ways, year three has been a bit easier. We don’t look at holidays like the top of the big hill on a roller coaster; unavoidable and rather unsettling. We’ve got some new ways of doing things. Little Sister is living at your home with her family. They are doing amazing things with the property, including looking at organic farming down the road. I can hear you saying they are crazy and then in the same breath, saying that’s what you would have liked to have done. Mom is settled in a new home. It’s perfect for her. She’s walking, close to the library and doesn’t have to weed gardens, so she’s got it made.

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But there are STILL days when a certain song comes on, and you never know which song that will be, that you find you stop singing along because you can’t breathe. Tears and a tight throat prevent you from enjoying it. Instantly transported to a time when you were dancing it it in the family room.

The hard days are farther apart. But they’re not gone. In a way, we don’t want them to be, because they remind us of you. I’ve heard that there is a need to grieve. “You need to grieve.” “You still haven’t grieved.” I don’t know what that means. I do know that being at your grave isn’t where I feel closest to you.

Know that we are missing you, remembering you, and hoping you are having fun with all the dogs in heaven.

 

1st Anniversary – Dad

DAD 2015

People say the first year is the hardest.

They say that you missed Father’s Day, our birthdays,

Your wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving.

People may feel badly that you weren’t in your chair at Christmas,

Missed out on New Year’s celebrations.

That you were absent for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

What they don’t realize is, that you are the reason we celebrate Father’s Day,

You are with us when we sing Happy Birthday,

Your anniversary is marked regardless, and we are Thankful in October.

That you are as much a part of Christmas as you ever were,

And New Year’s marks another year of loving you.

We see you in Valentine’s and Easter’s flowers.

What people don’t understand is that you are with us –

When we hear your favorite songs,

When we see you in photos,

When we snuggle in your old sweaters.

They couldn’t possibly know that you are all around us when we are in the bush,

Sitting around a fire pit,

Swimming.

You are with each one of us; alive in our hearts, present when we are together,

And Loved as much as ever.

~ From All of Us

LETTERS THAT NEED TO BE WRITTEN – PART VI

Dear Supreme Court of Canada,

Today marks the start of the hearings regarding assisted suicide in Canada. First of all, I thank you for FINALLY addressing this matter. It’s only been 21 years since the last time it came up. In that time, millions of Canadians have died, and many of them could have benefitted from an assisted suicide option.

I have watched both my grandmothers, my grandmother-in-law, an uncle, mother-in-law, and my father die. It is easy to decide that assisted suicide is a distasteful thing to discuss while in the prime of your life, while you are healthy and when you feel death is years if not decades away.

However, when you are sitting at the bedside of a loved one; when you have a desperate feeling of helpless when they ask for assistance; when you become so low that you actually pray for them to die – THAT is the moment when you realize how truly necessary this conversation, even this legislation, is.

The Baby Boomers are getting older and it’s a decision that we need to commit to, or be prepared for a further increase in suicide rates. Frankly, I don’t want to have another person I love have to struggle with pain, disease and fear. I wouldn’t want them to feel that was the only option for them.

There are those who fear this intervention being introduced to Canada, however, several other countries have had it in place without serious repercussions. (I’m looking at you Switzerland, Belgium and Netherlands!) If we can address Mental Health concerns, specifically through a screening process, and the patient can be cleared by more than one physician, then why would the government, indeed society, try to dictate how a person leaves this world?

It’s certainly something I have a difficult time with.

Sarah

Roundup Reading

There has been far too much going on to focus on any one topic, so here goes nuthin’!

1. Graduation

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It was a pretty big day. Second Born Son wore my Dad’s going away suit from his wedding to my mother 46 years ago. Some minor alterations and a trip to the dry cleaner, and he was the snappiest grad in the room. Dad gave him the suit two months ago and seeing the outfit that night was a very emotional part of the event.

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If you think he was excited about the Graduation certificate….

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…and the Athletic certificate (with a broken arm for half the year, no less)…

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…imagine our surprise when he received the Principal’s Leadership Award.

My mother and I were too busy commenting on the various other awards being handed out, to listen to what the principal was saying about our Grad!

“Each year, the Ontario Principal’s Council donates a leadership award to go to a deserving grade 8 graduate. This student demonstrates many great qualities such as leadership, and citizenship, and kindness, and humour, and respect. He’s helpful, well-liked. He’s willing to go that extra mile for peers and for adults. He’s supportive of on-going social causes and has been active with the Me to We group. He approaches life with a great positive energy and unbridled enthusiasm. I am pleased to give the OPC Leadership Award to SECOND BORN SON!”

Needless to say, we are very proud!

2. The Kindness of Others
It has been truly heartwarming to experience the outpouring of support and kindness in the weeks (a month already!) following my father’s passing. You find out who the people are that you can count on; those who truly care.

It is a unique situation; losing a parent. Those of you who have not yet experienced this, there are no words to prepare you. People can tell you their stories, but your experience will be as unique as your relationship. To those of you who have lost one or both of your parents; wow – I cannot believe how much this situation sucks. It’s like the world is spinning on a different axis. The sun now rises in the North. You almost lose trust in yourself. You don’t even realize you go days without crying and then a single phrase can knock the wind out of you.
I want to feel better and forget about this. I never want to feel better and I will never forget this.

3. Hail Mary – Good News!
Anyone who has followed The Bowery Girl knows that employment has been a delicate top. Need a refresher? Try here.

In the past three years, there has been a lot of frustration, some revelations and a great deal of change. The job I’m going to at the end of the month is a compilation of every job I’ve ever had, including my most recent. It’s interesting how the universe will make you think you are heading out into the wilderness, only to find your Utopia!

I’m very happy to be back to work full time, even if The Big Guy and the boys will have to make do with a little less homemade baking!

Father’s Day

While I do try to keep my instalments somewhat regular, life has intervened, and taken precedence. My Father recently died and my priority has been to be with him as long as I could. Today was a difficult day and I feel that the best way to honour my Father is share the Eulogy I read at his funeral. We will resume with regular opinionated, funny and irreverent Bowery Girls in the future.

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Once upon a time, I had a part time job, and my employer was giving me a hard time about requesting more hours, although some of the other student waitresses were getting additional hours. She came back with a rather unusual statement: “Do you think you’re special because you’re D.B.’s(insert my father’s name here) daughter??”

I shared this question with my parents when I returned home, and we all laughed about it, because of the grandiose nature of the statement. “D.B.’s daughter!”

Obviously this person had an image of our father that wasn’t necessarily accurate. He certainly wasn’t egotistical or haughty. If anything our father was down to earth and unassuming.

As I reflected on this anecdote recently, I couldn’t help but think, what kind of man did this employer think he was?

What kind of man did I think he was? And then it came to me. Admittedly our father was not like other fathers. He wasn’t the kind of macho, tough guy that would show you how to throw a ball or change the oil in your car. He wasn’t into sports, unless you count car racing, and you would rarely see Dad tinkering away and fix something. He just didn’t have the patience.

But there were many things about my Duddy that made him unique.

My father was the kind of boy who developed a work ethic at a very young age, and took over his brother’s paper routes, when he lost interest, to supplement the routes he already had.

My father was the kind of boy who charmed the little girls in his class, and wound up moving next door to the girl who ended up charming him.

My father was the kind of young man who understood his role in his family and never shied away from responsibility and duty.

My father was the kind of young man who impressed employers. Beyond agreeable and hardworking, he had a sincerity that shone out from him, which is why customers and co-workers enjoyed him so much. He enjoyed people and they felt valued because of it.

My father was the kind of young man who didn’t play games when it came to courting. He was respectful, kind and the kind of boy any mother would want their daughter to bring home.

My father was the kind of man, who on the day of the birth of his first child, had to leave his young wife and newborn daughter at the hospital, and then do what we are faced with doing today, say goodbye to his own father.

My father was the kind man who decided at 32 years of age to walk away from a promising career he had worked more than 15 years to build. He did this because he didn’t want to be a weekend father; the kind of man who valued his job so highly that he never saw his family. His family meant everything to him.

My father was the kind of man who jumped into a career and lifestyle he knew very little about, but loved and grew to understand, even if he couldn’t control the weather, or pigs, or farm machinery.

My father was the kind of man who would sit on a tractor and tell me when a butterfly landed on his arm, that he thought it was my grandfather, his father-in-law, and how proud Grandpa George would be of us all living, and loving the farm life.

My father was the kind of Dad who told everyone how proud he was that he had not one, but TWO daughters, and made his daughters feel that they were every bit as good as a boy, in a time and place where sons were more prized than daughters. This set those daughters up for a lifetime of believing there wasn’t any reason why they couldn’t hold their own against any male.

My father was the kind of man who loved people and thrived being with them, whether it was volunteering with the Kinsmen Club, the K40, the Co-op, the hospital board, his work in retail, or simply hosting a family reunion with my mother at their home.

My father was the kind of man who barged into an operating room where my fractured arm was being cast, because I had broken through the anesthetic and he heard me crying out from his post in the waiting room.

My father was also the kind of man that threatened to shoot the horse I was riding when I broke said arm, but in the end left her fully tacked in her pen.

My father was the kind of man who loved to dance in the family room with me, my sister and my mother, and, eventually, my husband-to-be so that he could keep up with the Dancing Bowers. He was the first one to ask someone to dance, especially if they didn’t have a partner at the time, but he never danced like he did when he danced with my Mother.

My father was the kind of man who should never have been given a chain saw and let loose near trees he felt needed “pruning.”

My father was the kind of man who would say things like, “attaboy girl!”, “when I was a little girl” and referred to loved ones as “ my little Kumquat.”

My father was the kind of man you wanted to emcee your wedding – something he did many times, because he could speak to anyone, anywhere at anytime.

My father couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a .22, but he insisted he was deadly to groundhogs.

My father was the kind of man who was devastated when I was injured, usually on his watch, and liked to call me Stitch because of my various trips to the emergency room.

My father was the kind of man who would rush to defend his daughter, or confront anyone who slighted her, say, by failing to invite her to a birthday party?

My father was the kind of man who could make twigs grow into beautiful flowering plants.

My father was the kind of man who was pooped on not once, but twice, on the Chi Chi Maun, eventually forcing my sister to abandon him for fear she too would enjoy his special brand of “luck”.

My father was the kind of man who taught his daughters how to swim, and to appreciate the fine art of the cannonball. There was a beauty in how he enjoyed being in or near the water, whether it was our pool in the backyard, at the beach in Goderich, or in a more exotic location like Barbadoes, Florida, or Hawaii.

My father was also the kind of man who liked to have his kids with him when he worked, even if it meant scooping one of them out the pool every spring because she kept falling in…with her snowsuit on.

My father was the kind of man who took the job in the haymow, the worst of the crop jobs, because he didn’t want anyone else to suffer in the heat, in spite of the fact that he himself had terrible hay fever.

My father was the kind of man who felt no shame in cramming an overflowing forkful of cake into his mouth.

My father was the kind of man who didn’t care that his neighbors didn’t understand his choice of attire, whether it was a bathing suit and bib overalls, or the stylish leisure suit.

My father was the kind of man who almost always carried his wallet, but was a modern kind of guy, who liked when the lady paid!

My father wore pink before it was cool.

My father was the kind of man who liked to sit in the back of the mini van, and critique your driving; would only stop for a bathroom break if he had to go; and would jump in a co-worker’s car on its way by, when the two of you went in the ditch in your car, but because you were fine, he couldn’t see any point of him being late for work!

My father was the kind of man who was a terrific son and cared for his mother long after dementia robbed her of who he was.

My father was the kind of man his daughters wanted to marry. A man who loved children, was young at heart, and was a father to his children.

My father was the kind of man who was so good at his job, that if his customers came to the store and he wasn’t working, they were known to leave because no one else could put together a suit as well as my Dad could.

My father was the kind of man who was open and welcoming when a boy came along to date one of his daughters, unless that boy proved to be less than deserving. He never interfered, but said how he felt and walked away.

My father was the kind of man who came to my college graduation even after he and I had an argument, and I told him not to come. Although I credit Mom with the save on that one.

My father was the kind of man who kissed me on my cheek, shook my fiancee’s hand and took a walk outside to compose himself after I showed him my engagement ring.

My father was the kind of man who became physically ill the day before my wedding, because he was so used to it being just the four of us, and the idea of our family changing was almost too much for him. Until he realized, it meant he got a son. Then he was happy as a clam.

My father was the kind of man who would help you move, and move, and move, and each time, he’d make sure you had the best flowerbeds in the neighbourhood.

My father was the kind of man who came by himself to the hospital to see his grandson in the days following his birth, because he was at work and it was closer, and he couldn’t wait any longer. And he brought Weurthers because he liked the commercial, and that’s what grandfathers and grandsons were supposed to give each other.

My father was the kind of man who wiped noses, dried tears and changed diapers, once he learned not to pin them to the baby. He loved nibbling toes or chomping a chubby foot – and if you were looking for your kid, just look for Dad and you’d find them.

My father was the kind of man who would come to watch hockey games, even though he could care less about hockey. He would also stay up well past his bedtime to watch ball games featuring players he was related to. He would wear ill-fitting team jackets because he was a proud Poppa.

My father was the kind of man who loved the ties his grandchildren gave him and wore them with pride. Especially the musical ones.

My father was the kind of man who would wake up ahead of everyone else so he could make egg McMuffins for all his kids and grandkids when they slept over.

My father was the kind of man who would never do something that people expected him to do, but would surprise you with an Easter Lily, or like he did on Valentine’s Day this year, show up with a dozen roses – then tell you they were on sale.

My father was the kind of man who worked hard, liked having his hands in the soil and enjoyed sharing the spoils of his labor; whether it was a bundle of asparagus or a handful of Glads.

My father was the kind of man who wasn’t perfect, and battled against his lack of perfection in varying forms, throughout his life. But he was perfect to us.

My father was the kind of man who could face Cancer, and still maintain a sense of humor about things that most people would refuse to discuss, never mind joke about.

My father was the kind of man who would rather joke and be sarcastic before a major surgery, because it was easier to laugh than cry.

You know, it would be easy to be angry and bitter about the past three years, but I am grateful for the time we had. I feel we all made our visits more meaningful, our hugs that much tighter, our I Love Yous that much sweeter. He loved our mother, and all that she has done for him, especially her support over the past three years, loved his daughters as he always has, and adored his grandchildren.

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M&M: You were the first grandchild and we all know how thrilled he was to have a little person in his life again. Poppa always loved kids, and having a grandchild, especially one that loved being his shadow, was all he could ask for. When your parents were married, he said it was doubly difficult, because he felt he was giving two of his girls away. Fortunately, his girls would always come back to him.

First Born Son: Your grandfather would never have asked anyone to name a child in his honor, but no one was prouder than he, when he learned we named you after him. He loved that you were a natural farmer and enjoyed sharing farm and truck magazines with you. Poppa loved your work ethic, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. He was as proud of your accomplishments in sports as in the vegetable garden.

Second Born Son: You are blessed or, perhaps cursed, with resembling your grandfather. You are living reminder to me of my father every time you eat a mouthful of cake, and even more so when you swim. Your love of the beach, your sense of humor and the twinkle in your eye are all things that Poppa loved about you, and will keep his spirit with us.

O: Poppa started keeping track of all the grandkids sayings around the time that you came into the family. You are an old soul and your wit and observations were often reiterated by Poppa, when he shared stories of O. Another one of his water babies, he loved how you could spend all afternoon in the pond and be ready for more the next day.

E: As you now understand, Poppa has a history with spunky little girls, so he was more than ready for another spunky girl when you came to our family. He was pleased to see how you joined in with the other grandkids when it came to chasing frogs at the pond or getting lost on a walking trail.

G: Only one person can name more cars than Poppa, and that’s G. He got a kick out of how much you enjoyed your cars, and how you could remember details about the models and years. You are a boy after his own heart!

Big Guy: You were the son Dad never had. He always took your side against me, and was so very proud of you, as a man, as a husband and especially as a father. I’m not sure what he liked most about you, the fact that you are such a hard worker, or that he could dress you up as your personal stylist.

CK: Dad was pleased that Little Sister found such a wonderful match in you. He loved your sense of humor and hated your ability to fix just about anything, because let’s face it, Dad was no handyman. I think he could see in you the kind of father he was, and he admired you for it.

So for all these things, and for so many more, to answer that person who asked that ridiculous and I suppose, rhetorical question so many years ago, Yes, I do think I’m something special, because I am one of DB’s daughters.
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Why You Won’t See My Naked Face on Facebook

I enjoy facebook.

I enjoy catching up with people whom I would have liked to have stayed in contact with, but before facebook, didn’t have the means to do so.

I like being able to see and share photos, learn what’s going with my social and familial circle and keep abreast of news, sometimes faster than traditional media outlets.

I don’t enjoy the games on facebook.

I’m not talking about Farmville,  Candy Crush and those time wasters (actually not a fan of them either), I’m talking about a friend posting a total random status “Used by boobs to get out of a speeding ticket!” “I’m pregnant!” and when you Like or comment on this outrageous status, you get a message from the “friend” advising that because you placed your trust in them, and the authenticity of their information, YOU now HAVE to post a similarly outrageous comment and get YOUR friends to fall for it.

<PAUSE> Word up homey. I don’t tend to do well with the whole “YOU HAVE TO” type of motivation. In fact, it tends to evolk a “HELL NO” type of response. Anyone who knows me, who wants something out of me, has realized this. <PLAY>

But what has really annoyed me to no end is the plethora of “naked” face photos that flooding my newsfeed. Every day for the past three weeks, at least one of my friends has posted a “naked” face photo.

The point is this: you are supposed to take a photo of your face without any makeup in order to share your “natural” beauty and be proud of the “real you”. Next, you add the prerequesite motivational status text where you “nominate” other female friends, family etc. GO GIRL POWER!!! Orignally, the idea was that if you were doing this, you were also making a donation to the Cancer society (how that links together, I’m not entirely sure, unless you want to start the wildfire debate of comestics and potential links to Cancer?).

By now you must be saying, “Hey Sarah, what’s with all the “quotation marks”?

And I would be saying because in many many of these cases, there isn’t anything “natural” about these pix. I would also suggest that not only has this exercise not met its objective, it has actually recessed it. That’s because one of two things is happening:

1. Many women are NOT naked in that they are using subtle amounts of make up and/or filters. How do I know? Because I’ve seen a number of them in the flesh to know the photo on my computer screen is not legit. Why are they doing this? Because they don’t really feel comfortable showing their raw, war-paint free faces. So we really aren’t feeling that empowered here, are we?

2. People are being met with a landslide of effusive comments, usually from other nominees, who will expect, nay, demand that you also fluff their pillow with complimentary commentary. So, we need other people’s opinions to make us feel good about ourselves? Huh?

I for one, don’t go out without at least tinted moisturizer, mascara eyeliner, some concealer and lipstick. Why? Because my face is no different than any other part of my appearance; I wouldn’t go downtown with ratty track pants on either. If I’m at home, I will usually go “fresh faced” (those damn quotation marks again!) to give my face a rest. Wearing makeup, to me, isn’t about “hiding who I am”. This is because I feel GOOD about myself when I feel I look good. When I’ve taken the time to take care of my skin. When I put my best foot/face forward. Because I don’t tend to wear a lot of makeup, it’s not a huge difference when I don’t have any on.

 

I remember a friend of my mother’s who wore so much make up that the one rare day that we saw her without her face on, we stared, slack jawed, at the difference.

Let’s get back to our worthy cause; fighting Cancer. You cannot find a movement closer to my heart. However, I don’t for one minute believe my dozens of friends have made contributions to fight Cancer in order to post their “fresh face fotos”. I don’t believe that part of the meme has made it through the social media chain.

If there are actual donations, (I’m calling Urban Myth on this one) I’d LOVE to know how much has been raised. Because if my little circle of friends/acquantainces is any indication, the cure for Cancer should be ready by Friday of next week.

Now, before people give me grief that they have done this excercise in good faith, please know I’m not here to judge. You can continue to post these photos and comment to your heart’s content.

Just don’t expect my face in your newsfeed.