- Hug her
- Call her during the day to tell her why she’s special
- Say “Thank You”
- Compliment her hair, or her top, or just tell her she’s pretty
- Offer to put the kids to bed
- Take her on a walk
- Hold her hand
- Make dinner
- Tell her one of the reasons why she is special to you
- Give her a back rub without any expectations
- Say “Thank you” again
- Take her out dancing or to a movie or anywhere that is not your house
- Pack the kids in the car and give her time to herself
- Give her a foot rub without complaining about her ogre feet
- Write her a note
- Complete the small task the moment she asks you about it before you can forget
- Hug her again
- Give a compliment about one of her strengths
- Try a new activity with her
- Come home with wine
- Draw her a bath and take the kids out to play, leave the wine
- Appreciate art with her
- Go on an adventure with her
- Unexpectedly hug her from behind while she’s doing chores, and say “Thank you”
- Tell how much you love her
My sister is the inspiration for this series of posts which will be a departure from my normal humour. During the brief period that she tweeted, Diana expressed multiple times that our Granddad was her favourite person. Immediately after the first time she tweeted this, her next tweet was “How do you tell a person that?” My answer- you just do.
In these next couple of posts, I want to communicate the love and gratitude I feel towards my grandparents. I’ve chosen this particular set of people in my life because at thirty-one, I know I’m running on borrowed time. I’m one of the few people my age with no less than three living grandparents and I recognize how precious and special that is. So without further ado, let’s start with my sister’s favourite person.
Granddad, this post could have been entitled all of the words that go unheard. I love you, even though my voice falls within the exact range of hearing that you’ve lost. I love you even though since you’ve gone deaf, you can’t hear my stories any more. I love you because you are the one who molded me into a storyteller. You’re the reason this blog and all of my ridiculous anecdotes exist. I learned the craft of humour and exaggeration, of careful weaving of details while sitting at the dinner table listening to you talk about gypsy children in Europe. I learned that stories change over time and become better, hyperboles grow and become their own parts of the tale; the bear that the gypsy children led around became more ferocious. You taught me the power in confessing one’s own follies, your frantic gestures conveying your panic as you reenacted tossing coins at the begging children and their “pet”. From you, I learned that every problem is an adventure, and every adventure a story and the bumps along the way only serve to make the narrative more engaging.
Since you lost your hearing, you can’t hear my stories now, but that doesn’t matter because I’m still listening to you. Just as you taught Diana and I to do, because each time you gently beckoned “Come here, I want to show you something”, although the tone was light, it was understood that we were to come now and listen carefully while we were at it. You are teased, somewhat unmercifully for this habit, but even when those explanations meant that my math homework took 80% longer because my Granddad had to explain how nautical miles were calculated even though it was a basic subtraction question which had nothing to do with the speed of ships and had merely mentioned the terminology, I still loved every minute of it. I adored your descriptions of each ingredient’s function in a loaf of bread as you carefully added the warm water, then the salt, then the butter to your delicious dough. Try as I might, my bread is never as tasty as yours.
All of those lessons are ingrained in Diana and me. Every time I mount my bike, I relive your lectures on bike safety; “Let me show you something” pointing to the various road signs, explaining their meaning. It was you and Gran who decided that eight was too old to be riding with training wheels anymore, so the two of you spirited Diana and I away for a weekend, then spent forty-eight hours gripping the backs of our bike seats, running behind us. Not to mention the countless rides we made as a family; you, Gran, Mom, Diana and I traveling along a path towards a picnic spot. To this day, I still hear your voice shouting at me as I approach a hill “Gear down”! Gear Down!” Is it any wonder that I prefer my silver Trek bicycle that you chose for me to a car any day?
I never learned how to dance well, but that didn’t prevent me from delighting in your and Gran’s skill each time that I watched the two of you dance together in the living room, the garage, at the Coyote Cave, or on television when Mom would painstakingly set the VCR to record “Club Dance”. I felt so special and grown up, attempting the steps you would repeat as we moved across the dance floor. I sometimes joke that “Baby Likes To Rock It Like A Boogie-Woogie Choo Choo Train” is the soundtrack of my childhood because I heard it so often. That lesson of life long activity and dedication to one’s passions has stayed with me.
Granddad, I love you, and you are one of my favourite people in the world for all the reasons I mentioned and hundreds more. And even though my son bearing your name probably tipped you off to that, I still wanted to write these words, because you are important; I am so grateful and blessed that you chose to take such an active role in my life.
Last night the belt in my washer abruptly died in a haze of smelly smoke. This morning I called Sears to ask whether they could come fix it and maintain the dryer (which also smelled like smoke awhile ago, perhaps my appliances are in cahoots). Sears told me they’d be happy to service my dryer but in no uncertain terms to take my washer out back and shoot it. Lacking both a gun and the desire to sound the death knell for my washer, I sought a second opinion.
I found it in the form of a local company which has many positive reviews online. I called them and explained my washing difficulties. The man on the phone said that he’d like to help but he was unable to service both my appliances because my dryer uses gas and could he give me the number of a company that would fix both machines, thus saving me the cost of an extra service call?
I hadn’t realized what the phrase “salt of the earth” meant until this man patiently explained what the problems were with my individual appliances, while expecting nothing from me in return. So today my Valentine is to him. (I also bought a reconditioned washer from his company too.)
You sir, are an awesome specimen of humanity; honest, caring and good. You totally made my day. And not just because you only charge thirty dollars for delivery and pick up for the old machines. Believe it or not, I understand that that price would be an amazing deal even if washers weren’t extraordinarily heavy. For the record, I’m 5’2 on a good day- everything is heavy to me.
Your commitment to your customers is something the big companies should take note of, I so appreciated that you accommodated for a twelve o’clock hair appointment when you set the delivery time. Not between nine and four o’clock, oh no; at nine o’clock, done before ten. If that isn’t love for mankind, I don’t know what is.
Keep up the fabulous work Chuck, and Happy Valentine’s Day, hopefully you have someone who cares for you, the way you care for your customers. Also thanks for not openly asking to speak to my parents or my landlord. I know I sound like I’m twelve on the phone.
Much, ironically now washed, love,
The Great Unwashed
*Names have not been changed because I’m fairly certain this is a nickname, although most of the time it’s a short form for Charlie, however along with fixing washers it’s possible that this gentleman excels at throwing things, so Chuck may not actually be his name. Also everyone should be on the lookout for this man, if you run into a Chuck the next time your oven breaks, you’ll know you’ve found a stand up character.
I found my funny again. I had lost it for a while. That’s a lie; it was longer than a while, for over six months, I stumbled through life not feeling funny at all. Extracting words from my psyche was painful, even more so because the resulting text was mediocre. Of course I still did absurd things like creating garbage tidal waves next to my house and calling complete strangers to say that I was debating the merits of raising amphibians in my basement, which are in essence amusing at their core. However while writing about those types of events, I didn’t feel funny.
It’s ironic because this particular change of season, from summer to fall usually brings about a kind of slow melancholy in me. By contrast, this year I find myself energized, no longer held down by all of the terrible events and circumstances which bound me for so long. Instead I sit by my kitchen window, smiling at the dying fall light, feeling thankful for all that I have, and finding life endlessly amusing. It’s taken a long time, but I have returned to myself.
It’s funny, in order to come back to myself, I had to let go of who I had hoped I’d be, and my deep sense of loss over who I was instead. In that slow forgiveness and acceptance of my new situation, my mental load lightened and I felt that sense of quirky mischief and joy of being in the world returning. At my core, these are the two qualities that define both my writing and my experience of life.
This wasn’t a path I walked alone; each person to whom I painfully revealed my difficulties helped me. This afternoon, when I bow my head and reflect on all that I’m thankful for it’s these people, who stood alongside me, who cared in their way, that I will remember in my thoughts of silent gratitude.
This post is dedicated to all those who find themselves alone and wandering along a dark and jagged patch of life without shoes. Keep going, there is light and a warm meal waiting for you.
I slept outside last night. Shortly after nine, I walked up a grassy path to a tent that had been set up earlier in the day. The thistles and overgrown grass were soft and bent under the weight of my steps. Illuminated by the spotlight that was the moon, the tent waited patiently on a soft spot of dirt.
The air had just enough of a chill to remind me that I was alive. The wind, which would pick up to a strong breeze later on, caressed my bare face and hands, “be happy you’re here” the gusts said softly as they passed over my ears. Above me, the sky seemed to grow, declaring its dominion over the slumbering world. “You are here, you are mine”, the blackness spoke benevolently to my eyes as I tried in vain to take it all in.
Tromping into the brush to relieve myself before retiring to bed, the trees chided my wobbling form as I struggled to find a good position. “Try not to pee on your shoes” they reminded, the branches chortling their amusement.
As I zipped up my sleeping bag, the coyotes sang me a feral lullaby. In the middle of their song, the wind joined in to create a harmony, swishing the through a nearby field of wheat. Through the nylon fabric of the tent, the moon became a nightlight. “Goodnight world, thank you” I whispered, settling down onto my pillow and pulling the warm covers closer to me. The cold kissed my cheeks gently and pressed itself against my nose. “You’re welcome” it replied.
I’m still feeling lost. Although that’s not unexpected when you lose a part of yourself. My netbook held my work but it was also my connection to the world. The place where I could show my reality to everyone else, explain my point of view and talk about my thoughts.
Rarely in my life do I feel that I am being perceived for who I am, but through my writing, I could be myself. Like most writers, I live in my head, the same rules and laws do not apply in my mind and the expectations are different. Through blogging and typing on my little writing machine, I could build bridges between the two places; the world and my head. Even if I didn’t publish a piece, often I would share it with family members or friends, reading my work aloud when we were together.
In that quick moment, when a stranger sped away from my car with my computer in his hands, the link between myself and the world was severed. Effectively a flamethrower had been taken to the bridges I had carefully built. All of those thoughts that were so jumbled in my head but clear on the page were gone. I’m still trying to make sense of it.
*I wrote this a couple of days ago. After publishing my last post I was so touched by the outpouring of support from friends, family and readers. Between the many kind words and the passage of time, I am feeling a little better than when I penned the above words. Thank you so much to everyone who “Liked” my last post, left a comment, called or emailed to offer comfort. It was sincerely appreciated.
So I spent all of last Saturday night washing my childhood pet. This doesn’t sound like a lot of work but the pet in question was a cat who never really caught onto the whole “I am a cat and therefore have amazing balance skills and clean myself regularly” concept. In fact this cat was known for the number of things it could fall off of. Its lack of hygiene was never really a problem until my parent’s elderly cat died and Splat was left to fend for and clean himself.
On top of having a fairly significant problem with dandruff Splat* also had a habit of finding giant dirt piles and rolling in them. He would then rub himself against the person nearest to him, effectively creating a cat-dirt version of a brass rubbing. You know where you lay paper against something really old and then take a metallic crayon to it? The result was like that only with more feline dander and small beetles. It was quite possibly the grossest thing next to discovering cat barf in your shoes after you’ve put them on. Eventually my parents were so disgusted with the state of Splat’s fur that they shipped him off to the groomers. To my knowledge Splat is the only cat to have ever endured a professional cleaning.
Anyway so last Saturday night I shampooed, then rinsed Splat’s coat, then shampooed again because of all the dander and grease. It took a while; Splat was quite resistant to both the water and the soap. Of course he was also rather dirty.
The sense of exhaustion when I opened my eyes on Sunday morning was overwhelming but my first thought was “Well at least the cat is clean.” But that’s when I realized that the cat I had spent all night lathering, rinsing and repeating had been dead for a year. And I was annoyed. Not only because I was so tired from washing a dead cat all night but I didn’t even get to enjoy the fruits of my labour. Cursing both my poor sleep and my subconscious, who was responsible for the weird dream, I got up.
Fast forward a couple of hours, I’ve completed an exhausting ten km race in fifty minutes and am now sitting in my aunt’s kitchen at a family get together. If pressed I would say that hands down bathing the dead cat was more tiring than the race.
My Dad is standing at the counter loading up on potato salad. From across the room I loudly say “Dad, you didn’t notice all the work I did last night.”
My Dad stops mid scoop, having lived in a house full of three women for twenty some odd years he knows that forgetting to notice and thank someone for housework is right up there with high treason. Very slowly he turns to face me, fully expecting to be chastised for not appreciating the clean kitchen/ laundry/ basement, in front of our whole family to boot.
“I was up all night cleaning our dead cat. I shampooed his coat.”
My Dad started to laugh and went back to scooping salad onto his plate. I know one thing’s for sure, that is the last time I stay up all night shampooing beloved, deceased pets. Neither of my parents bothered to thank me for my efforts.
*Names have not been changed because the late cat in question always liked my mother better than me to begin with.
** Special thanks to my Dad who looked through all our family photos to find one of Splat and then sent it to me, on very short notice, because that’s who I am.
I’m not shaped like anyone else in my family. My Gran who frequently made me dresses when I was younger often lamented this while trying to dart a dress for the fourth time. Yanking the material this way and that she would snap “Why can’t you be a cylinder like your mother?”
Please note my mother is a shapely cylinder. You’re welcome Mom.
Anyway so when I turned sixteen and started filling up bra cups, my mother was at a loss for where I got this figure from. Finally we found the culprit- Great Grandma Kay.
Now being a respectful and polite sixteen year old, I decided I needed to thank her for her generous gift of hourglass shape genes so I penned the following card.
Dear Grandma Kay,
Thank you very much for the breasts. I really like them. They look very nice in my sweaters.
For some reason my mother deemed this card wildly inappropriate and I wasn’t allowed to send it to my 84 year old Great Grandmother. I don’t know why, I always thought it was important to thank people for everything.