Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Day I Left My First Life

I was 15.

I couldn't take it anymore.

I'd planned my departure over a couple of weeks. I'd met this guy through friends who was, basically, our drug dealer. He sold acid. It was 1973.

When I told him of my home life, he threw me a life-line. He said, come stay with me.

So I did.

I stashed stuff in the laundry room of our townhouse complex in the Ottawa suburb of Bell's Corners, over the course of a couple of days. I took funny things. The iron. My stuffed lion, that I'd had since I was 5. My jeans that were banned from the house. Money from my mom's wallet.

The last I ever saw of my mother, she was passed out in her chair in the living room. It was 11 pm. I was sneaking my suitcase out to the laundry room. She woke up as I opened the front door, and said, "Tesa?" I said, hiding the suitcase behind me, "It's ok, mom. Go back to sleep." And she did.

I left and I never went back. I didn't even know she had finally succeeded in committing suicide in 1975 until a year later. I finally wrote home, and said, oh look! You have a two-yr old granddaughter! My dad wrote back, saying, your mother is dead. When I got the news, I was numb. Who wouldn't be. I was 17, I had a two-yr old daughter, I was in a horrible, loveless relationship with a self-absorbed drug addict whom I allowed to make me feel so small, that I was barely breathing.

Dark years followed. I left him, and the drugs. I went back to school, got my diploma, tried as best I could to raise my daughter, tried to stay away from drugs, and mostly succeeded, found a career in music I loved, and made tons of mistakes and bad judgment calls.

How I wish I could go back and be a better mom. I wish I had said goodbye to my mom.

Now I am a grandmother. I still work in music, sort of. But things have gone bad here, and I find myself in the same emotional space as I was 38 years ago.

This scares the hell out of me, because it means I'm about to do something radical to change my life. I used to like the life I had here.

But I don't anymore.

I love my daughter, but we don't get along. I adore my grandchildren, but of course they have their own lives.

So I think they'll be fine without me living in the same city as them.

I thought my three good friends.... would have understood better. But all three also have their own lives and loves and problems, and all three have said, I'm sorry, I can't help you with that, when I reached out.

That hurt.

Time to downsize. Time to minimize.

Time to begin again somewhere else. Time to try to not make the same mistakes.

Mind you, I'm getting kind of old for that.

Damn.

Still, Hawaii sounds really nice, doesn't it?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Am The Duck Wheesperer

Yes, it's true.

A few weeks ago, I was on my way home from work. Long, hard day on a construction site.
Bleh. Sore feet. Crowded train ride home. Torrential downpour as soon as I left the train.

Outside the station, a confused mother duck and her eight baby ducklings crowded the bottom of the escalator. People stepped over them and pointed, amused. I stopped and looked at her. She looked at me, I swear, with a pure expression of panic.... and headed straight into the roadway, across a major intersection, with the ducklings in tow.

Well.

Can't let certain death happen.

I followed, unfurling my umbrella, and waved the traffic to a complete stop during rush hour, herding a panicked duck and her ducklings across four lanes of traffic, windmilling and waving about my arms, into the parking lot of the mall across the street.

I had to stop several times and scoop the ducklings into the umbrella to get them over the curbs.

All the drivers stopped, pointed, and clapped, as I got them across the street.

Good thing I was wearing my bright cycling rain jacket.

Once into the parking lot, some fascinated teenagers took over and continued herding them into a safe corner of the parking lot while I called the local animal control, who promptly came and returned them to the nearby wildlife park.

Whoo.

I felt kind of good about that.

Yes. I am the Duck Wheesperer.
Today, while at work on a huge construction site, at the end of the day,

we found a pigeon near our workbox as we finished our long, tiring workday.

I need to point out that I am one of only 5 women on this job site of over two hundred men.

We were near an open door to outside. Obviously this poor bird had become confused, and was flapping along near the windows, trying to get back outside.

It didn't seem entirely well as it never took flight.

As my 3 male coworkers looked on, I had them bring me a sheet of newspaper, so I could scoop up the confused pigeon and return it outside.

This took some doing, but I remembered my Duck Wheesperer saga, and spoke to the ill bird, saying, "Come on, girlie, let's go".

I gathered it up in the newspaper.

I took it to the outside door. I set it down. "Fly, birdie, fly!" I said, or something along those lines. She staggered away, and turned and looked at the open doorway. I stomped my foot, trying to shoo her into flight. Nope. She just looked at me. Oh well, I had gotten her outside, away from heavy machinery, no water, no food, and certain death.

I returned inside, shutting the door firmly behind me, my coworkers watching.

I turned to look at the bird...

Just as a huge, mature seagull landed,

and went straight for the pigeon, murder clearly written on it's face

and it stabbed its beak directly at the pigeon's neck
and
grabbed hold.

Oh dear.

Feathers flew. The pigeon squawked, then hung limply as the seagull shook it about, dropped it, and then stabbed at it again.

My coworkers, horrified, screamed, "You! You killed that bird! Good lord! You are a pigeon killer! Bird murderer!" They pointed their fingers at me and continued to loudly bemoan that poor bird's fate.

I turned back, mute, and watched as that seagull savaged the pigeon. A crow alighted to watch, and patiently wait for its turn.

"Oh my god," I said, "I am a bird murderer."

There were feathers flying everywhere.

She flapped her wings, that pigeon, weakly.

Ack.

Maybe that's why it had come inside, to escape the killer seagull.

The guys continued their hearty derision, obviously thoroughly enjoying themselves, and I tried to stand up for myself,
until I had enough and hung my head, which quietened them...
and we all watched for a while, as the seagull shook that bird,
feathers flying, and, well,

I felt awful. I had to turn away.

I walked towards the elevator leading out of the building, completely demoralized....

listening to my coworkers continue to tease me.... I walked faster, ahead of them.

I got in the elevator to get down to the main floor. Some iron-workers were already standing in the elevator. I hung my head.

"What's wrong with you?" they asked.

"I killed a pigeon!" I said, my face still red,
and told them the story.

Honestly, some times I am SUCH an IDJIOT.

As I left the elevator, they said,

"Cooo! Cooo!"

Bastards.

And then they laughed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Travels with My Aunts: Part Two, Or, The Bus Ride, An Introduction.


I had no idea people took the bus to be social.

The trip started out promising, the bus half-empty, the sun was just setting, and I had a window seat. It looked like I would not have to share.

Little did I know.

Two hours later, still in the outskirts of Vancouver, we pulled in to the last stop before finally hitting the highway.

I was already wishing I had maxed out my credit card on plane tickets. My legs were cramping, and my sore shoulder was starting to ache. But I had my T3's and my music. I had hope. The bus was filling up fast, but so far I had lucked out.

A very tall man, about 60, with a cane, lurched down the aisle, looked at me, and fell into the seats, sprawling across both, crushing me against the window, making me wince in pain. "Well," he said, turning to peer at me, "looks like you're stuck with me now."

"Get off me," I said, pushing him back into his seat, "you're crushing me!"

"Oh, sorry," he said, "I'm kind of disabled here," lifting his cane and gesturing at his leg.

"I don't care, man," I said, "you're hurting me, move over," and pushed him over, albeit a bit more gently, firmly pulling the armrest between us down.

"Sorry," he said, "is that better?" Well no not really, I thought, but it's not his fault the seats are so damned small, and perhaps a bit of grace is required here.

"Just don't crush me," I said, "I have a bad shoulder." Can we discuss how to define and obtain personal space in our modern society? Oh my gods. Somebody help me.

"Ok," he said, moving over half an inch, "so, how far are you going?"

Oh great. He wants to talk and all I want to do is sleep and forget I am on this bloody bus. "Calgary," I said. Dreading the answer, I asked, "and you?"

"Golden," he said.

"Wonderful," I muttered. That's halfway. I pulled my headphones on and took another T3, turning away. Looking out the window, I was regretting ever thinking this was in any way a good idea. I was fearing I had turned into a snob - I hate snobs -, and deciding that the only way to now survive was to break this down into one-hour increments. I dialed up some Radiohead as I looked around me. The bus was almost full, maybe one or two aisle seats left. People were settling in, wearing headphones, reading books. No one looked violently insane. This is good. Well, maybe me.... Buddy beside me still wanted to talk.

"You're not really listening to that, are you?" he said.

"Uh," I mean really, how do you answer that? Should I be polite? It's going to be a long night, after all. Didn't I tell myself before I left that I would pretend I was on a third-world trip? Shouldn't I talk to the locals? Ok, fine, I'll be polite, maybe he'll have an interesting story to tell me. Maybe it will help make time pass.

Well. It turns out he had been in a car accident with his wife, suffered a serious head and knee injury, so he couldn't drive, and was off to see his grandchildren, and had worked in the same job all his life, and hated being retired, and -

Oh, dear. "Um," I said, "I have to go to sleep now, if you don't mind. Why don't you try to rest, too?"

"Say, that's a good idea," he said.

Gonna be a long night...


Travels with My Aunts: Part One: Imminent Departure


I didn't want to take the bus from Vancouver to Calgary. I wanted to fly. But with only two weeks notice, it was too expensive. $400 vs $100 return. So I took the bus, figuring that if I booked it on a night departure, I could (hopefully) sleep through most of the 15 hour trip.

I had to go see my Aunt Mickie up in Cold Lake, Alberta. She was turning 70, and has been in poor health. My Aunt Virginia told me it might be my last chance to see Mickie. She suffers from congestive heart failure and diabetes. Mickie is the family matriarch. She is the keeper of the fount of knowledge - i.e., all the photo albums, and countless stories. The clan was having a birthday party for her, and she wanted me to be there. I wanted to be there.

My mother had 12 brothers and sisters, 8 still living: Mickie, Virginia, Flo, Ruthie, Toots, Gerald, and another two uncles whom I don't know well, Sonny and Michael. My mom Irene, Herman, Adrian, and Doris have all died.

So it was important I go.

My immediate family was estranged from my mother's family for years. There was a deep, mutual hatred between my father and my mother's family. When my mother died, I had already left home at the age of 15, and didn't find out she had died for two years. I had not seen any of her family since I was 11. I remained unaware for years that Mickie had been searching for my brother and myself. The first reunion I attended in Cold Lake was 8 years ago, shortly after my brother opened Pandora's Box on teh interwebz and found a cousin in Edmonton. Once he got a response, he promptly dropped off the radar, but I decided it was time to go home. It was overwhelming to see all these people whom I barely remembered. We all look the same - we all wave our arms around when we talk - we all have the same sense of humor. Strange thing, genetics.

Now, I haven't seen my brother in over 30 years, although we maintain sporadic contact via email, and none of my mom's relatives have seen him since my mom died (in tragic circumstances), sometime in the 70's. I can never remember the exact date, it slips through my mind somehow. Denial is a powerful thing. Anyway, my brother did not attend the inital reunion, nor has he stayed in touch with anyone. Nonetheless, I still emailed him to let him know about Mickie's health and upcoming birthday. He responded with what seemed to be a heartfelt apology, saying he wished he could come and that he would call that weekend.

Meanwhile, back at the bus station:

I have Bad Travel Karma. I don't know why. I've tried positive thinking, I've tried juju even, and still the fact remains that I experience Bad Travel Karma on a regular basis. I had no idea what to expect on this trip, I only knew something would happen, and well, I would just have to roll with it. I made sure I had one credit card with enough credit left on it to get home fast if I needed to. I had to go see her.

It's important to know I do not drive. I experienced a trauma when I was a teen, and since then have been unable to drive. I know how to drive mechanically. I know the rules of the road. But I am deeply blocked about driving at highway speeds, especially with oncoming traffic. The last time I tried it, I was fine until a car approached, then I threw my hands up in the air and said, "I quit!" Scared the crap out of the guy who was trying to teach me.

So I do not drive (golf carts don't count). I figure that's a good thing.

However, it also puts me at the mercy of friends and family who do drive. I haven't found out yet how to get past this conundrum..... Anyway. My Aunt Virginia was to pick me up in Calgary, we would spend the night at her place, drive to Edmonton the next day, pick up my Aunt Toots, then finish the drive to Cold Lake - about 7 hrs of driving total from Calgary.

Sounded like a good plan to me. I'd have a night off from the bloody bus, and be all fresh in the morning. I had packed well for my trip - I had my travel pillow, my fleecy throw, my music, my DS, Tylenol, and a thermos of strong coffee as carry-on. I could handle 15 hours. I'd be fine.

Cue ominous music.