Wednesday would have been Greg’s 58th birthday so I made my annual pilgrimage to Grassi Lakes just outside Canmore in honour of his life. It may not have ended well, but I am forever grateful for the children he gave me. Without Greg, there would have been no Rebekah, Matthew, Bethany, Hope or Hannah.
It occurred to me, as I was scrambling up the path, that it has been five years since we lost Greg, he was in his fifties at the time and I am in the last year of my fifties. Next year I will be sixty. I don’t know if there are any Bible scholars out there but five is the number of grace. Grace is defined as the free and unmerited favour of God. I feel like these past five years have been a period of grace for myself. I have done nothing to deserve the life I have been living, but that has now come to an end.
As I approached the lower of the two lakes I was dismayed to find the path blocked due to construction. Is nothing sacred? Greg loved to hike in the mountains and we had visited Grassi Lakes a few times with the children. I can still remember clambering up the more difficult route in the winter time with a child in a pack on my back, me in a skirt, trying to keep up with Greg and trying not to slip on the ice! But the view of the lakes once there was absolutely breathtaking. The lakes are crystal clear and emerald-hued. The children and I made that pilgrimage together once more in 2014 to scatter Greg’s ashes where he would rest among the evergreens, lakes and mountains.
Now it seems to have been marred by humans and has lost its appeal to me. On the journey down I noticed the old broken down shack beside the trail had been removed. I’m not sure I will be making that trip again.
Speaking of trips, I am now in Grand Forks, B.C. for a wedding today. It is heartbreaking to drive through this province, smoke-shrouded and gloomy. The wildfires are so widespread that, according to the latest reports, the smoke is reaching as far away as Ireland! I can only imagine what this is doing to folks with respiratory ailments. One of my sons has been plagued with an unusual allergic reaction to the smoke, breaking out in an insanely itchy rash. The only medical solution he has been given is potent antihistamines, which cause him to be so drowsy he can’t work. So, he just tries to turn off his brain in order to make it into work each day. As he is the owner/operator of his business he can’t just not show up.
I brought Nerah along with me. I thought she would enjoy the change of scenery. When we travelled in the RV sometimes she would lounge on the dash, taking in the ever-changing sights with the natural curiosity of a feline, and sometimes she would be buried underneath the covers of the bunkbed, quietly suffering from travel sickness. What triggered the sickness I never managed to pinpoint. Travelling in a compact car, however, has proven to be a whole different animal. I put the litter box in the trunk and utilized the pass-through back seat so she had access to it. She cried for the first two hours of our trip and then hid in the back on the blanket beside her litter box. She came up front seven hours into the drive, drooling copiously. My brain began itemizing everything in the vehicle. Did she eat something she shouldn’t have? There was nothing she had access to that would have made her sick so I can only conclude that it was the long drive. Once in the motel room she recovered instantly and was ready to go on the prowl. I haven’t let her because I have places I need to be and can’t risk her wandering off for hours. One thing is sure, she will be very pleased to get back to our tiny apartment.
While at the wedding I went for a stroll along the river bank. Sitting on a log I was suddenly overcome with immense sadness. It then occurred to me why. No wonder I have battled for so long, trying to put my life back together. It is an impossible task. You can’t rebuild a house with half the materials. You can build a different house, but it will be much smaller. Attempting to build the original house will forever leave it incomplete. In a marriage, in the truest sense of the word, the two become one.
If one half leaves, the half left behind is eternally lacking, defective, imperfect. I may have internal organs that, if removed, you would never notice, but my body would function differently. It would learn to adapt, but it would never be fully functional. I may not have considered Greg to be a visible element in my life, but, silent though he was, his presence made me whole. I am maimed, disabled.
The wedding was beautiful, the love these two young people share more than evident, and not just because it was their wedding day.
Which brings me back to grace. (Huh? How does that bring you back to grace? It doesn’t. I just got side-tracked and needed to return to my theme.) My grace period is now over. I have to stop playing around and get serious about life. I can hear the echoes of some who know me saying, “It’s about @#$%* time!” I know it’s my own fault I find myself in such a precarious position. I did have resources to begin with. I spent them all foolishly. So, no, I don’t deserve any help. But I have to say, in my defence, I was in a completely foreign world. I did not know how to navigate my way through these unfamiliar waters. I did honestly try. I went to SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) for a term until I realized just how much I really hated accounting, though I earned an A without having completed the exam (ran out of time) and a GPA of 4.0. Not bad for someone out of school for almost forty years. Then I cleaned houses for a while. That was brutal. Next, I managed to get hired at a bookstore, overnight stocking, but then we moved and the store I transferred to kept cutting my hours. Last one in, first one out.
I then started up my own vegan food business. I was so proud of myself. It was incredibly hard work, though I was beginning to have a steady clientele. Sadly, my body could not keep up and revolted. I became extremely sick and lost over 20 pounds. I now weighed 97 pounds and had no energy to do anything. I have since been informed that others were rolling their eyes over my business decision, knowing full well that I was likely to fail due to the labour involved. Would I have been influenced by this knowledge prior to embarking on the venture? Probably not. I am stubborn and determined. These two character traits have been tempered since, due to my subsequent monumental failures. But, think about it for a moment, how did you feel when you graduated from high school without a clue as to your future career? Add forty years to that and then wonder why I have been all over the map desperate to find a solution to sustaining myself over the next few decades. I have always known that you have to invest resources in order to grow anything. The idea is that you don’t invest all you have and still come up empty. And you do it before you hit sixty.
I couldn’t continue and was mulling over my future when the Calgary Public Library called. They had a position open if I was still interested. I had applied at many places looking for work, but that was in the previous year. Anyway, it was like manna from heaven. I was so grateful. I know this is pretty repetitive stuff for those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning. I’m really just trying to justify my existence for the past five years. And while I loved working at the library at first, I couldn’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life. I wasn’t gliding through the library, pausing here and there to help a patron, I was running through it, shelving books.
While this was happening in my life, I was also trying to keep Greg’s business going. That was the single biggest mistake I made. Actually, no, that was one of the two biggest mistakes I made. The other one was selling everything I owned to go on a fantastical journey to Central America where I was going to settle down and live happily ever after. I only made it to Mexico, where I shrivelled up and almost died (figuratively). I desperately wanted to be close to my family.
I said all that to say this……I DID try! I just had no clue as to what I was doing. I still don’t. And, you know, if they laugh at me at the university next week, I’ll stop with my crazy ideas. I’ll resign myself to living a miserable life, doing what I am trained to do, which is nothing! I’ll give up my lofty dreams of doing something special and making a difference in this world. I’ll get a job at Tim Horton’s, if they’ll have me. I’ll be sad, though.
On a happy note, has anyone watched Trevor Noah? He is an extremely thoughtful comedian, a little controversial, but that’s what comedy is, n’est pas? You should check him out.
The name “Hannah”, the name of my youngest, means “grace” in Hebrew, associated with God. It is also a Kurdish name meaning hope (هانا), a Persian name meaning flower (حَنا), and an Arabic name meaning happiness (هَنا). It was also the sixth most popular name in Canada in the year that she was born.
It never ceases to amaze me how names become popular virtually overnight. I am obviously extremely susceptible to whisperings of the spirits, as I have managed to choose the third most popular boy’s name in Canada in the year he was born (Ryan) and the most popular boy’s name in Canada in 1988 (Matthew). I loathe that I am so easily swayed by this invisible force, but if you are looking for a unique name for your baby, feel free to contact me and I’ll give you a list of what not to name your baby!