Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still Alive

Photo taken from the parking lot at Ten Thousand Villages on Avenue C in Saskatoon

The store was just about to close when I drove past it on my way back from dropping the boys off with Gord in North Battleford, our halfway meeting-point, on Saturday. The fellow behind the counter was counting up his cash and gave me a few minutes to zip through the store and see what I could see. I ended up buying some funky birdhouses. Photos to follow one of these days. I hung them out in the oak trees this afternoon before hurrying off.

So Emil and Everett are gone to Edmonton. I've run into town for the past two afternoons — on Tuesday for a hair cut and today for my palliative care volunteering — and of course no trip to town is short and simple. Hell no. You always have to do 40 other things too: get the mail, stop at the library, go to the bank, pick up groceries, drop off things at the goodwill, take recycling in, blah blah blah. There is no such thing as a quick trip. Yesterday I wanted to wash the duvets and two of the quilts Mom made, so did a stint at the laundromat too, where they were done in an hour instead of the six it would have taken to clean them at the old house. We still don't have a washer and dryer hooked up at the new place so laundry remains a pain in the keester to do.

Among my CDs of choice this week is one by Leon Redbone. If Everett were here he'd be climbing the walls, because Redbone's songs are all so singable and I never shut up. Plus, I can whistle:

On the night table is A Mother's Story: the Fight to Free My Son David, by Joyce Milgaard with Peter Edwards. That is one terrible, sad story that makes my guts churn. Talk about not getting your prayers answered ... for more than 20 years. Talk about being screwed over by the police, the courts, and even your so-called friends.

Now that my running to town is done for this week, I hope to do some baking: more jam-jams, since the first batch disappeared like magic; some raisin-rye bread, as Cathy picked up some rye flour for me and I haven't made raisin-rye bread in some years; and bagels. We need some home-made bagels. Good intentions; how much do you want to bet I don't get more than one of those things done by Sunday. The inlaw clan is descending for the Easter weekend so I may be busier than usual-- that will have to be my excuse even though only Gunnar and his girlfriend will likely be staying at our house.

* Heather, tell your dad I picked up another bagful of books for him at the library today. All giveaways.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ducky Doodle, the Dumpling Dog

The morning ritual:
Ducky comes upstairs with Everett, who opens the basement door. I hear Ducky's claws clicking toward me down the hall, as fast as he can come. He jumps onto the rocking chair next to the bed, then onto the bed beside me, and I say good morning and pet him. He presents his chest for rubbing.
I get up and make the bed, then take my coffee and go sit in my housecoast in the armchair in front of the living room window to watch the birds. I invite Ducky to join me and he hops up and makes himself comfortable. I pet; he presents his chest for scratching.
The afternoon ritual:
I take my tea to the armchair and Ducky hops up and snuggles in while I sip the hot brew and watch the birds at the feeders. There are redpolls, black-capped chickadees, and two pairs of woodpeckers -- downy, and another pair that is almost twice the size, also black and white but with some red on the male's neck, just as the male downy has. Must set the bird book beside the chair so I can figure out what they are, next time. And of course, magpies land on the ground under the oak trees once in a while to scavenge for sunflower seeds.
Today on my way back from Karen's (she'd made doughnuts; yum) I saw and heard crows. We've also seen a few Canada geese. Yep, spring she is a-springing, even though it's below freezing again.
I had to leave Ducky at Karen's for a few nights, but keep thinking I hear his nails clicking toward me in the house and then am disappointed when I remember he's not here. Everett, too, says he misses him already. We look longingly at the empty laundry basket where he sleeps during the day. Nothing in it now but a quilt, a rawhide bone, and a squirrel hand-puppet. We sigh. And he's only been gone a few hours. Pathetic.
This morning I made jam-jams. It's been years since I've had jam-jams!

*** See Scott's cousin Lasse's photo of a leaping lamb ... cute cute cute. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sitting Up Late

This isn't a good photo of Grandma but it's the best I can do since the lodge is quarantined due to the Norwalk virus. Aunt Reta, who came up from Phoenix for Uncle Bruce's funeral, won't be able to visit Grandma one more time before starting her trek home on Saturday. How much does that suck, after coming all this way and being unlikely to get back for some time?

The picture above was taken during a recent visit to Grandma. I took her a bag of Werther's toffee and she seemed to enjoy handing them out. It's just over a year since I moved her from Wadena to Kelvington. She weighed 72 pounds at that time. Since then, she's gained more than 30 pounds and twice I've had to go shopping for pants another size larger. She's gone from wearing 6Petites to 10Petites. Has her health improved that much? Well yes; she was in horrible shape the day I moved her. She had to go by wheelchair everywhere and I needed helping getting her in and out of my vehicle. She'd insist on trying to walk herself, and for the first few days the staff kept a belt around her waist so they could keep her from falling while they walked beside her.

This afternoon I had a real treat. I glanced out the office window and saw, on the other side of the frozen slough behind the garden, a coyote hunting mice by the fence. It was a beautiful young animal with thick luscious fur, rust-hued on the backs of its ears and legs, and a playful attitude. It pounced at a spot on the snow and then dug frantically, and the next thing I knew a small dark rodent stood out against the white snow, on its hind legs as if it was calling the coyote out for a duel. The coyote danced with the mouse for quite a while, almost coyly and with what appeared to be a slight, sweet smile, before the mouse disappeared into the coyote’s narrow, sharp snout. It pounced and dug, sticking its nose into the snow several more times, while a hopeful magpie watched from a fencepost just feet away.

Finally I heard growling from next to the house; our beast Chloe had noticed the wild dog. In a few moments she started barking and the coyote threw its head up in surprise and looked toward the house before bolting reluctantly toward the line of trees to the south. It went barely through an opening and then stopped and turned to look back at the dogs, both of which were now barking. The coyote took a few more steps onto higher ground (or higher snowbank) behind a few trees and laid down to watch the dogs. It wasn’t until they lit out toward it that it leapt up, yipped as if to complain about the inhospitability of these damn domestic servants, and ran out the other side of the trees and along the edge of the field, out of reach of my binoculars.

Naturally my camera wouldn’t turn on because the batteries were dead. Can they not invent a camera that will notify you when your batteries are getting weak before they're actually dead, so that one doesn’t miss such opportunities? You'd think so.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Knucklin'

Everett's 17 years old and seems to be in no rush whatsoever to get his driver's licence. Unlike me and any other kid I've ever known, who could hardly wait till the day they turned 16. Anyway, he's finally got his learner's so I made him get into the driver's seat the other day to go a mile down the road to the old house for something. It's his knuckles that are white, not mine. I thought it was supposed to be the parent who was nervous when their kid drives, and not the other way around. Not in this case; he's so cautious, I'm tempted to tell him to stomp on the gas pedal.

After two weeks with this weird cold, and one night this weekend when my migraine meds didn't work so I spent half the night on the floor with a puke pail, I am finally feeling normal again. I don't know how people with chronic illness or pain do it; I really don't. Hats off to them.

We're getting a dose of winter again today. Cool wind, snow. I wore my ski pants this afternoon. Laugh all you want; I didn't have to hurry into any buildings.


Lately Emil’s been showing off his knowledge of homonyms.
“Mom. Sometimes two words sound the same but they’re spelled different and they have different meanings.” He says this so earnestly. “I’ll tell you some. Their and there. T-h-e-i-r, and t-h-e-r-e.”
I listen and say “MmHM. That’s right.”
“Or close and clothes. C-l-o-t-h-e-s is like clothes you wear, and c-l-o-s-e is like close the door or the drawer.”
“Or shoe and shoo. One is s-h-o-e, like the shoe that you wear on your foot, and the other one is s-h-o-o, like when you shoo a fly away.”
He goes on to explain the difference between son and sun, then adds “I’m pretty smart you know.”
That’s true, I say. He goes on:
“K-n-o-w, like what do you know today or what song do you know, or no like no you can’t.”
“W-o-u-l-d, like would you like to do something with me or would someone make fun of you, or w-o-o-d, like wood you use to make a fire.”
There is a quite a long list, and as long I will sit beside him on the couch he will continue edumacating me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love Me Like a River Does

Some people don't like a lot of vibrato in a voice, and I often fall into that camp. But not in this case. It really works for Melody Gardot in this song, which has some of the sexiest lyrics I've heard in a long time. Not too much, not too little ... just right.

Does it make you wish your honey was home, and your kids were not?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

eBay Infant

Princess Ann dishes

Resting on my butt for a few minutes while onions sauté for the cheese soup I'm making. A good time to make a short entry.

When Dad came out from Kelowna for Bruce's memorial, he brought me the above set of dishes, which belonged first to his mother and then to Dad and Mom. Out of curiosity she had asked me five years ago to poke around on the internet to find out what they're worth. I had no luck then, but this afternoon I went to eBay to try again. Not that I'd part with them, you understand. I've even managed to make room to display them on the shelves of our little kitchen.

Again I was unable to find these particular dishes online, but I did end up with lists of Princess House crystal for sale and when I saw a couple good deals, figured I'd try to pick up a couple things I've wanted for a long time but are no longer available as new items.

Learned a good lesson when, as highest bidder for a tabletop knife-holder (I won the auction for tabletop spoon- and fork-holders several minutes earlier), the countdown to the end of the auction was down to five minutes and as I watched the seconds tick away I thought I should be prepared to raise my bid at the last moment. I put my cursor in the bid box, ready. With 10 seconds left to go, the other bidder topped my bid by 50 cents and I missed beating the new bid by one second! Next time I'll have that bid box filled out and my finger hovering over the "Enter" key. Hmph.

***Aunt Reta just told me these dishes were on the head table at Mom and Dad's wedding supper. Nice to know. How lucky am I to have an aunt who knows all these interesting tidbits and thinks of telling me?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yesterday we loaded up the back of the half-ton for a trip to the dump, so I put on my "work" jacket—not because I did any hefting but because it's spring weather and my winter coat is too warm. After a leisurely drive through the countryside we nipped into town for mail, a few groceries and some gas.

I noticed a tiny puppy in the vehicle next to ours and her owner gladly stepped over to show her off. In no time at all she drew other admirers, wondering whether ... well let me put it this way: Note to Sheila B~ to find homes for puppies, take one with you when you go to public places!

This is Peanut and her girl:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good Time for a Snuggle

Buck Duckster III, also known as Little Lord Fauntleroy, at tea time.

I've had a cold since Monday and have been staying close to home. Not suffering; just resting. Strange mild cold, and two others in the household have a variation of it.

The snow is melting.

Buck Duckster's cushion:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Redpoll Rescue

Birds hit our living room window almost every day; sometimes more than once a day. Most of them "stumble" midair and fly off to get their bearings in a nearby tree. This little redpoll had struck the glass hard, his fallen body embedded deep into soft snow below the window. Everett scurried out to scoop the tiny creature gently into his hand. Was it alive? Its eyes were closed, its head drooped, but wait! One eye opened, just slightly, to peek at us. After several minutes the bird was alert but still unmoving in the palm of Everett's hand, but when I spoke to it in soothing tones and tenderly caressed its feathered breast, it flew a few inches and clung to his bunnyhug. Twenty minutes later it attempted to escape to the sky, but crash landed at Everett's feet instead. He quickly grabbed it before Chloe Doodle the Dumpling Dog could check it out too closely. When the redpoll finally made a successful flight into the trees, Everett had been standing patiently in the yard for 40 minutes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Uncle Bruce

Bruce's obituary was to be brief; there would be no rhapsodizing about his heroic qualities either in the obit or at his memorial; he wanted everything to be down to earth and factual — no weighting of his earthly existence on the side of saintliness. "He wasn't perfect," my aunt Shirley said, as we sat down to put the obit together. My reply: "He almost was!" He could sound gruff, but he was a gentle man; he never hurt anyone, to my knowledge; he took care of his family and I am pretty sure that anyone who ever needed his help got it.
He was 15 years old when I was born and although I was likely teased and playfully roughed up as a little girl, my Uncle Bruce always treated me right as I grew up. When he started bringing his girlfriend Shirley out to Margo on weekends, they never came without chocolate bars for me and my younger siblings, which of course made their arrival much anticipated. It was Uncle Bruce who started my Christmas gift-buying habit. When I was in Grade 3 and sister Karen was in Grade 1, he gave us his year's collection of pocket change, which filled a tobacco tin or two. We'd work and save to add to it so we could afford presents for all the family, and we had a lot of fun finding the perfect gift for everyone. When we were a little older and Bruce and Shirley were married (we sang Whither Thou Goest at their wedding, wearing short matching blue fortrel dresses that Mom sewed for us, with ruffly white blouses), Karen and I were invited to stay with them in the city during summer holidays. They'd be at work and we'd play their Hey Jude Beatles LP and walk to the neighbourhood pool on hot afternoons and I'd terrorize my poor little sister if she didn't do just as she was told; she probably still has nightmares. Years later, after I'd left home, weekend visits weren't complete until I'd driven out to Bruce and Shirley's farm for a cup of coffee with them. I don't think either of them has ever said an unkind word to me and after 51 years, that's a pretty decent record.

Anyway, after that little ramble, here's Uncle Bruce's obituary:

Archie Bruce Benson was born in Wadena on June 27, 1943, and passed away at the age of 66 on Feb 27, 2010, in the Wadena Hospital.
Bruce was the eldest son of Doris (Bartley) and Emil Benson and was raised along with Grace, Reta and Neil on the family farm eight miles north and two miles east of Margo. During some winters the family lived in town and the hotel patrons got a kick out of little Bruce, who, sent by his dad to encourage a certain gentleman to come back to work after dinner, would use some colourful language.
After graduating from Margo School, Bruce studied drafting at the Saskatchewan Technical Institute in Moose Jaw and then worked for the City of Regina. While living in the city he met Shirley Scott, a Foam Lake girl transplanted to Regina, and they married in 1969. After several more years in the city they purchased the farm next to Bruce’s childhood home and made it their residence for the next 35 years. There they raised their two children, Karla and Gerald, and farmed until moving into Margo in 2008. Over the years Bruce also worked for Doug Domeij and for Wheatbelt in Wadena.
Bruce volunteered with the Emergency Medical Service in the City of Regina and after moving home, sat on the boards of the Sask Wheat Pool, the Margo Community Club and the Margo Co-op. Some of his favourite pastimes were hockey, fishing, camping and hunting, and he loved old cars.
He was very good to his kids, and when they had children of their own, Bruce was a delighted grandpa. His smile showed off the Bartley gap between his two front teeth — a trait shared by many of his close relatives, including his granddaughter Gracie.
Bruce was predeceased by his sisters Naomi (who died in infancy) and Grace, and by his father, Emil. He is survived by his mother, Doris; brother Neil (Rose) Benson and nieces Heather, Jolene, Leanne and families; sister Reta (Carl) Morris and nephews Nathan, Damon and family; brother-in-law Don (Grace) Johnson and Kathy, Karen, Cameron, Joan and families; wife Shirley; daughter Karla (Dallas) Dareichuk; son Gerald; and grandchildren Tristan, Gracie and Paxton. He will also be missed by Marley, the little dog Bruce called “Fluffy.”
Bruce would be pleased if donations in lieu of flowers were made to the Margo Hall.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forty Days

Each day for 40 days this glass on the kitchen window sill will be refilled with fresh water.
I learned about this ritual from a neighbour who attended the Greek Orthodox church. When someone dies, the water is placed out for 40 days for the spirit of the loved one to come and drink.
It's a reminder of Bruce many times a day; it's a prolonged, private goodbye; it helps me mourn.
It brings to mind the biblical promise of the Christian god not to send another flood after the one that lasted 40 days and 40 nights. It's a reminder that there won't be another Bruce, either.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Your Long Journey

After you've spent a few hours with someone meeting their death, you may be fortunate enough to understand that it was time to go and that he was ready. At least, that's what Bruce told me on the day he went into the hospital, and while I hoped he was wrong about being "on my way out," as he said, I can understand that he had had enough. I'm glad he was ready, even if the rest of us really weren't ready to part with him.

Anyone who's had to say a final farewell to a loved one had best prepare to shed a few tears if you're going to listen to this song, a duet by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Quick 'n' Dirty

I've spent a lot of time at the hospital over the past week with my Uncle Bruce, who passed away on Saturday afternoon. Between that and working in my office ... well, you can understand why I haven't had time to update. Will get back to it when I can. - Kathy