Blank

I haven’t been writing much lately. I have ideas and thoughts that’ve been kind enough to stick around in my head for some time. I have articles that need drafting.

Things I wanted to have done before leaving for vacation. Not gonna happen. Little things have been getting done for work and whatnot, but being unable to write, for me, is like being unable to read. Something’s missing and unbalanced and my brain isn’t getting enough exercise.

Come to think of it, my body hasn’t been getting enough, either. I suspect a correlation.

Hopefully this trip will do good things. I’ll have a notebook (laptop’s staying at home), I’m sure we’ll be getting plenty of exercise, and no doubt my camera will get a workout (I haven’t been taking many pictures, either).

Huh?

There was a bad reflection from the glass in this one, since it’s through a store window on a sunny day, but given that the outfit in question actually stopped me in my tracks, I had to get a picture.

red sweater with pink blouse

Srsly, are they joking? Cuz that, ladies and gents, is a tomato red, scoop neck sweater with half-length leg-o-mutton sleeves, paired with a fuchsia, horsie-printed blouse with poofy, full-length sleeves and extra long neck bow/ribbon ties.

I mean, I enjoy a little crazy in the big fashion capitals of the world, but this was in a store window in uptown Waterloo.

This “survey” showed up on the page following a form submission I did online this week. A weird enough word choice/typo. Though really, if you’re going to screw up the letters, why not throw another R in there and make things really interesting. And deterring. 🙂

banded web survey

Tuesdays at 4

I almost laughed out loud yesterday, just after the graveside service. Immediately after the pastors finished, one of my aunts started talking to my Mom, and they began discussing setting up a visiting schedule.

This is fairly standard stuff for my family, really. Everyone’s concerned about my uncle being alone after many years of being married. So the family arranges to make sure he gets fed (natch), and that he’s not left by himself a lot. Especially for the first while, with the shock and the changes and everything else to get used to. They did the same for my grandpa after my grandma died.

What was funny to me is the fact that, despite his age, my uncle is not a doddering old man (yet). He could pass for someone in his 50s, and as my grandparents’ oldest son, inherited among the biggest portions of the family’s formidable stubbornness and go-getter attitude. He’s also one helluva talker, and, like my Dad, will strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone, any time.

So having some idea of his personality and social sphere, I suspect that if my uncle wants alone time, he’s going to have to go hide somewhere. Like France.

Let’s see… Eight surviving siblings and their spouses, seven children and their spouses, oodles of grandchildren (and, in some cases already, their spouses and their children), hundreds of extended family relations, the church community, the local community (my uncle’s lived in the same house for pushing 50 years, I believe), the clubs/organizations he belongs to…

As an introvert who cherishes a fair bit of alone time, but who lives within the same family mentioned above, the idea of the aunts organizing around you is a bit terrifying in a funny way (the five sisters alone…) At the same time, though, there was an understanding my aunt and my Mom shared while talking, that I could observe, but was well outside of, relating to how completely dismantled life would instantly become after losing your spouse after many years. (The two women in question have nearly 100 years of marriage between them.)

So hey, I’ll smile, let the ladies get to work with their scheduling (and casseroles, one imagines), and hold on to some gratitude that in the event of such dismantling, my end of the family would receive, and need, no less.

(Don’t worry, I’ve no plans to continue writing about dead relatives indefinitely. Next week will bring a change of scenery — quite literally.)

Go

Today we finally managed to make some progress in booking things for the trip. Since I hate things being disorganized, and have travelled more with Sherry, who’s like me, this getting to less than a week before flying out and having nowhere to stay or anything to drive bothered me.

Of course, Andrew considers hostels in which toilets seats are optional in the (possibly shared) bathrooms acceptable lodging standards, and is of the attitude that you’re good to go pretty much anywhere as long as you have a credit card and a passport. I’m hoping the combination of us brings balance to The Force…

As I made bookings and tallied costs the nagging in my brain that I can’t really afford this trip grew louder. We’re going anyway. Of course, I have all the usual bills to pay, and need a new bed, and Christmas is coming, etc… What can I say, I suck at fiscal responsibility. My talents lie elsewhere.

Also today, though, I went to my aunt’s funeral. I stood in the vestibule where a number of us cousins had been seated, as all the pews were full, and watched everyone file slowly out of the church on the way to the cemetery. It was a shock to the system, all those familiar faces. Because they’re getting old.

Hell, they ARE old. My uncle — whose wife we buried today — is two years shy of 80. My Mom is the youngest in her family, and she’s over 60. Even cousins who I consider to be within the range of “my age” were looking awfully middle-aged. My God.

I remember a span of a couple of years a while back when it seemed my parents attended funeral after funeral. They were for her aunts and uncles, those who’d reached their 80s and 90s. My turn will come, too, when I find myself reaching into the closet for what has become my de facto church-going garb and conservative heels.

And then this morning I stood in the sunshine, surrounded by relatives and maple trees, and my brain replayed a conversation that took place around my parents’ kitchen table three weeks ago. The very same aunt and uncle were talking about assorted travel destinations in the US with my parents, and had planned to head south to a couple of them within the next little while. They were on a jaunt to northern Ontario when my aunt died.

Needless to say, with that conversation echoing in my head, as I watched the casket being lowered into the grave, a great many things felt both final and confining.

So yeah, my Visa isn’t getting paid off in full any time soon. But I’m no longer young enough to wrap myself in an illusion of immortality. “You don’t know how much time you’ve got” applies to me and mine now. (And, hell, I’m worth far more dead than alive — take that, debts.)

Can I go on this trip? Are we physically capable? Do I want to find out if Andrew and I are good travel partners? Do I want to eat an obscene amount of sushi and breathe mountain air and browse little shops and see friends?

Yes. Good, then go.

Observing traditions

Last evening I went to a funeral home visitation for my aunt. It’s strange the things you notice, or how you react in that environment. (Especially since I’m still somewhat unsettled about having visited with my aunt and uncle at my parents’ place a couple weeks ago.)

My family being the size that it is, we were in an area that is potentially three separate rooms when the extra space isn’t needed, and despite the occasional waft of air conditioning, I could feel sweat trickling down my back within minutes of arriving. How my Dad was surviving in his coat and tie I’ve no idea.

At the points when I was standing within eyesight of the casket, I kept noticing a small bruise on my aunt’s left hand. Kept thinking how that was never going to heal. I’ve always had a weird thing about things healing, so it bothered me. (In a similar way, I guess, to how it bothered me to know that, once he became diabetic, it meant Dad would tend to heal much more slowly now.) Honestly, reminded me of Owen in the last season of Torchwood.

The awkwardness of the interactions showed up, as expected, as well. Kind of inevitable, really. I’m not one with a command of golden words under any circumstances (nor is my brother, hence why he’d been there and gone already by the time I arrived). Combine that with making small talk with lots of people I see infrequently, and it ends up being the same topics, briefly, over and over. The excuse of “I should go say hello to…” tends to be a life saver.

Oddly, the most fluid conversation was the one with my uncle, the widower of the hour, as it were. But then, talking has never been a weakness for him, and I’m pretty sure he was keeping what equilibrium he had by engaging with as many folks as possible.

The little “shrines” around the room got me pondering. They had a display of photos, and one of keepsakes and such. Made me think about how we encapsulate life, and how rarely the really key moments get captured with photos and things. Wonder what would be set up on a table if I was the deceased in question?

The funeral itself will be easier. Less talking needed, and I know what to do in church. The process is the same, whether it’s a Sunday service or a wedding or a funeral, really. As I mentioned to someone last week, in my family, anyway, the main difference between a wedding and a funeral seems to be the number of people at the front of the church. So I can go, listen, sing, bow my head, and then have the handy excuse of needing to get back to work.

Which is what we all do, of course. Go through the motions, then go back to work until life’s patterns are disrupted, and it’s time to observe the rituals once again.

“Judgemental bitches!”

You know you’re in good company when that phrase can become a running joke and everyone laughs. 🙂

The weekend wasn’t perfect — Sherry and Chaya couldn’t be there — and I got slightly off-track on the drive up (God bless you, BlackBerry + GPS + Google Maps) but it was a great time and just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, we had obscene amounts of cheese. In hard, spreadable, and fondue formats. Oh yeah. Fortunately, as the French do, we healthily accompanied our many cheeses with equally obscene amounts of red wine. And oysters. And baguettes. And cheesies. And sausages. You get the idea. Nom.

Somewhat wisely, we did not polish off the tequila. *shudder*

Delightful seeing Kim, Catherine, and Helen, as always, and just as delightful meeting Chris, Katie, Caroline, and Brooke. I’ll play dirty campfire revelation games with those dames any time. And the family ghosts are welcome, too. The raccoon can suck it, though.

Amen.

How to be Outstanding

As someone who’s spent the better part of a decade finding the end of that particular rainbow?

Yeah, save yourself a lot of time and effort. Don’t be like me. 🙂