Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Burying Dad and Mom

John and Jean Hay died in years past.  I was there for their deaths, each time arriving shortly after their passing, viewing their bodies, acknowledging their individual spirits had gone.  St. Francis, later in life, when asked if he would be somewhere, answered “Brother Ass willing".
I believe in evidence of life beyond death.  Indeed given linearity is a construct, I believe the soul transcends this life and the mind is much more than the brain.  Reductionists like child size bites on reality and call the godly wanting.  I don’t even know if there’s a clear demarcation of life and death but feel often this life as death. I’ve been dying since I was born and gain greater awareness with aging.  There’s a lost of externality for sure. My senses are less robust, my hearing decreasing with my sense of smell and my eyes long ago required glasses.  Then there’s that sex drive thing and other drives that have me recalling my life more ‘driven’ than today when I wouldn’t say I’m coasting but I’m certainly not as much consumed by the rush.  As time runs out I’m more appreciative of time.
Dad and I talked in his latter years as did Mom and I.  Mom was firm in her Christian faith and Dad was glad to be with ministers and priests.  In the end both were attending services and ministers and priests served them well.
The church wasn’t as interesting to me in my middle years. It had been a very important community growing up.  I followed the Beatles to drugs and eastern religion only to return to Dr. Carl Ridd’s Christian existentialism, the study of Kierkegaard and later the spiritual Christianity taught so well by Dr. James Houston in person and in his books at Regent Collge. C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy captured me heart and soul as later did St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.  The Dark Night of the Soul best explained a particular life passage as I found myself understanding as never before Jesus of the cross, the Servant King.  East met west in meditation and prayers.
My brother and I drove from Napanee to Toronto today.  My parents wanted an urn where their ashes lay side by side.  They wanted to be buried with my mother’s father and mother and her sisters in the Prospect Cemetery, Toronto.  Dad and mom met there during World War II.  He was with the RCAF and she was volunteering to help the soldiers.  My Aunt Sally would be in Washington DC as the executive assistant to Canada’s Ambassador.  Her other sister Hannah married a dentist.
For a Baptist, ironically, Mom loved to dance with Dad.  Dad loved to dance with her.  They married. There’s a picture of Dad looking most handsome in his RCAF uniform while mother was always an outstanding beauty with her mass of red hair and wholesome smile.  They lived with my mother’s mother and father when Ron came along and a few years later there was me.
Mary from Prospect Cemetery placed our parent’s urn in the deep hole beneath the big tree.   Ron and I stood watching. Then Mary left. A slight rain fell beneath the grey skies. I read Psalm 23 faltering.  Both my parents liked Psalm 23.  I liked it as well.
Then two brothers stood silently side by side.  I silently prayed. I asked forgiveness. I thanked them.  I prayed for them.  I prayed for family and friends.  My mind was still. There was stillness there.  Peace descended. I cried.  I opened my eyes.  Ron was holding the shovel.  He scooped some dirt into the hole. I followed.  Shovelling a scoop of dirt into the hole.  Ritual.  I passed the shovel back to Ron. He folded the cloth over the remaining dirt laying the shovel on top of the grey fabric. An excavator waited on the street to finish.  I hugged my big brother.  We returned to the car where Gilbert waited.  We drove away.
Ron asked if there was anything I wanted to do before he took me to the plane. I said I could see Aunt Sally’s old place if it was near.  We’d come off St. Clair.
“Our childhood homes are closer, “ he said. There's a deepness in Ron.
“I’ve not been to them since I was here a decade or two ago. “ Indeed I couldn’t remember which wife I’d been with when I decided one day to make the pilgrimage to the old houses.  Ron drove us there.  I got out and took pictures with my iPhone.  We went to the churches we attended too.  He remembered more than me.  I was only 5 when I left Toronto.  He was in Gr. 3. We drove by the school he attended.
 I remembered grandma’s home and our house on the street with the cul de sac at the end where the forest began.  Playing marbles came to mind. Ron remembered the wasps. I remembered the shivering maybe rabid dog, the hospital and needles.
We drove around the Toronto of our early years.  Nothing much had changed in buildings. Red Brick structure.   Different signs.  New languages. Half a century ago.  We stopped at a Wendy’s for burgers. Gilbert enjoyed his burger paddy and walk after that.
Toronto Pearson Airport.  I said good bye to my brother, thanks and god bless.  Now Gilbert and I are waiting for a plane.  I miss Mom and Dad.  The Road Less Travelled.  Ron said it right when he said how right he felt in Toronto.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Hay Bay Home

My brother, Ron and Sister in Law, Adell have bought a second home near Nappanee on Hay Bay. I confess, I love that family are living on a place called Hay Bay.  Driving through the Ontario country side with fall colours of red and orange and yellow we see a sign Hay Bay Women’s Society.  I don’t think it’s narcissism to appreciate the location by name but a sense of deep belonging. Next year I’m hoping to get back to Scotland to the Aberdeen area from whence grandad came, where a Hay is apparently a dime a dozen.  One of my brother’s realtors was a Hay too.  Makes it feel all sort of right in an odd way.
Last time I was here I was attending my nephew Andrew and his bride Tanya’s wedding at the Canada Club wearing the blue Hay Hunting kilt.
When I flew into Ottawa to attend the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine Conference my brother met me and Gilbert my cockapoo at the Ottawa Airport.  Great to be with family. Nephew Allan , just completed undergrad psychology waiting to begin masters program.  Over delicious Italian at Poccopazzo family owned restaurant I got to catch up on the latest doings of chemical engineer movie making nephew Graeme and geologist nephew Andrew and his beautiful  publisher wife Tanya.  Graeme’s horror movie Ragnarock Cabin has opening to coincide with Halloween this year.  Tanya and Andrew were on a pumpkin hunt in preparation for a Halloween party. It all seems so civilized.  I feel like I’ve descended from alien planet out in the wild west when I come home to this happy normalcy.  My brother and sister in law are both retired so we no longer commiserate over the challenges of work with all it’s attendant frustrations.  My stories only serve to remind them of their past.  Ron continues his investing from home while I’ve never seen my high school principal Adell not bustling about with home making.  Her primary student this visit is Eva, Allan’s little brown Chewy the wooky  looking cockapoo.
Having just bought another house, all the talk is about landscaping and decorating. They’d just moved the weekend before.  When my conference finished Adell and Allan picked me up with Gilbert already on board and we drove the two hours from the city to their new rural retreat.  I loved seeing the quaint hobby farms along the river. The red barns of Ontario are so picturesque with the red leaves of autumn sumac. Cattle and horses were interspersed with hay fields and corn. Graeme and Andrew have seen deer in the forest on the way here.  Adell pointed to the white swans in the marsh nearby.
The house isn’t visible from the road.  Nearly 5 acres of waterfront.  Down a short road between spruce and pine is the garage  at the first level. The roof of the large two level home sits next to the parking at the lower level.  We entered through the great veranda on the second floor. “I hope to screen this all in next year, “ Adell said as she showed me the upper rooms, a regular Marriott guest suite where I’d be staying.  Bamboo hardwood floors throughout the upper guest area.  Down the bamboo stairs is the music room. Adell sings soprano with several choirs still.  When I told her about attending Carmen recently she said, “I love singing opera but don’t much like attending it anymore.”  I’ll always remember her as the beautiful young girl solo in the church whose voice touched the heavens.  Ron’s veritable collection of guitars was in the music room.  The great living room had a heated cement floor and large fireplace. Dining room and kitchen were part of the pattern with the glass panel doorway looking out on the huge expanse of front yard opening onto the lake. From there I saw Gilbert and Eva running wide circles about the property at breakneck cockapoo speed.  Everything is large, large walk in pantry, large cupboards.  “There’s no basement ,” said Adell .  Of course that explains the need for the storage spaces.  Ron has a couple of sheds in addition to his garage.  The master suite is beyond the large two person whirlpool tub. It has lots of walk in cupboards and another elegant bathroom. It opens onto a a patio where no doubt the Lord and Lady of the house can take afternoon tea and contemplate their apple tree orchard.
Allan and I bought day fishing licenses at the Napanee Canadian Tire.  With Ron’s kevlar canoe and fishing gear, fishing rods, an Adell packed picnic and Gilbert in a life jacket in the middle of the boat, Allan and I, like countless coer de bois before us, set out on the great fishing adventure.  Ron had taken a break from driving his tractor pulling his rotor tiller through his planned potato garden to push out his wheeled aluminum Fendock.  We pushed off from shore before he figured how to lay down the wood flooring.
Allan paddled in the bow while I j stroked in the stern.  For a guy who at his age was white water canoeing the Winnipeg River, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d paddled.  The technique is never lost but the muscles sure weren’t happy.  Neighbours further along the shore waved and spoke to us as we passed.  They were all out doing yard work, burning leaves in fires,  chatting on lakeside decks.
“How far are we going, Allen?"
“Getting tired already, Uncle,”
“No just wondering,” I lied.
“There’s a marsh a long the shore up ahead, where mom sees the swans,"
At last we stopped paddling and Allan put a Canadian Wiggler on my line.  I began casting. “This was dad’s favourite lure, “ I told him and then went on to tell about Dad taking Ron and  I fishing in Northern Saskatchewan, catching pickerel and cooking the fillets over a driftwood fire on the shore.  We casted either side only once tangling lines and the wind pushed us along the outside of marsh.  Allan told me about his research interests in early child education.  He’d applied for research grants and was waiting to hear.
When the wind picked up and it looked like we’d be blown too far away we paddled back into the lee of the point coming aground in the weeds.
 “My hands are freezing from the water, “ said Allen.
“I put my gloves on an hour ago,” I said.
Gilbert was sleeping in the middle of the boat. I was enjoying the cup of thermos coffee and sandwich Adell had packed.  A flock of Canada Geese rose up from the marsh and flew back to Vancouver British Columbia.  That’s where all the Canada Geese from all over the world congregate for seminars on how to avoid being shot by hunters in the rest of Canada.
We talked some more. Allan changed my lure from the Canadian wiggler to the Red Devil. "I always catch a jack whenever I fish with a red devil,” i told him then cast.  Immediately a large fish caught the hook and tugged. I watched the disturbance on the surface. “I’ve caught one, “ i shouted.  “It’s just a rock,” Allan said.  Gilbert rose to the excitement.
Sure enough I pulled in a large northern pike alongside the canoe shouting at Allan to get the net.  Untangling the net from Gilbert’s feet doing twisting pretzel contortions behind him Allan had the net and put it under the fish. “It’s too big for the net,” he said.  He couldn’t get it under the body but the head and hook got caught in the top of the net.  Gilbert was looking the fish right in it’s glassy eyes threatening to jump overboard then suddenly the hook was free in the net and the fish was lying across the opening.. “Quck grab the gils, “ I said.
“I’m not putting my fingers near those teeth, “ said Allen as Gilbert whined and the fished impatient took a massive flick of it’s whale sized tail to Jonah into the reaches of Hay Bay.
“I wanted to eat that fish. “ I said to Allen, “I never knew you were a catch and release sort of Eastern guy.”
“You didn’t pull it up beside me where I could get the net under it. I should have just used the camera to show it wasn’t all that big.”
“Admit it, you’re too weak to lift such a mighty fish."
With all that excitement and all following casts catching weeds we paddled back to the dock.  Ron had again left his tractor and rotor tilling to stand on his now decked dock with Eva waiting for the return of the Canadian couer de bois.  Eva and Gilbert were ecstatic with the reunion and yet another excuse to run wild circles all over the property.  Exhausted I collapsed in Ron’s great leather chair and watched pink finch and blue jays avail themselves of the feeder outside the main window.  I love looking out on the lake between the wedge of forest.  Every once in a while Ron came by on his mini  orange Scots by John Deere tractor to deposit wood by the door.  Allan collected it and stacked it by the fireplace. I enjoyed the warmth while Adell made a roast beef dinner which we all enjoyed later at the dining table.
That night we drove to Kingston a half hour or so away to watch Judge the movie my friend Dr. George Chalmers emailed a recommendations for.  We both love Robert Downey Jr and Duvall. Their performances in this incredible drama of family and small town America should get Downey at least an Oscar.  It was incredible acting that had me in tears at one point. My brother took care of my elderly father at times and the compassion the movie showed of son caring for dying father was very much like the sensitivity that had been shown in On Golden Pond.
Back home Adell handed me pumpkin pie for a snack,.  After that I collapsed in bed with Gilbert the cockapoo climbing up to lie on a pillow beside my head.  This morning it’s raining.  Adell made us all bacon and eggs.
Next Ron called out that we’re all going for a drive in the country side. Adell and he were discussing earlier that they’d not explored their neighbour hood and wanted to see what’s on the other side of the lake.  By the time I caught up with the plans Ron was in the Suburu with Allan, Gilbert and Eva.  Adell was waiting to lock the door behind me as I slipped on my shoes.  There was a drizzling Vancouver rain till we got to a ferry which took us across to higher land.  There we drove up to Lake on a Mountain where the dogs had a jolly time on leash exploring this ancient mysterious lake.  What they call here a mountain though wouldn’t cut muster in BC.  There was a great view of the waterways and I saw where Lake Ontario became the Reach.
Picton was the town and harbour we landed in.  A quaint little place with old stone houses here and there with the red brick two stories. Pretty little tourist site. We drove on from there to Desronto in the Mohawk territory then on to Napanee, the little town I really liked. It’s 20 minutes from their home but we’d gone all around the backside of Hay Bay to get there from the other side.  We stopped for burgers and fries at Shoeless Joe’s Napanee.  Great food and great service.  Ron and Allan were happy with the sports scores on the telly at each booth.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such a fine cheese burger with mushrooms remembering times I’d taken Dad for burgers, something he really enjoyed in his last years.  Of course, Cheeseburger in Paradise by Jimmy Buffet will always be a favourite sailor song of mine. Gilbert and Eva shared a charbroil barbecued burger paddy between them and just wanted more.
After a couple of shopping stops, Cartronicpowersports for Honda 3000eu generator and Marks for socks,  we got back home where the dogs ran the length of the yard and back, glad to be free.  Ron’s been playing Four Strong Winds on the guitar with Adell singing.  I’ve just finished an after burger nap in the guest room.  It’s so relaxing in the country.  I love this house and  family. The dogs are simply the best little characters happy as can be with each other and their surroundings.
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