My Father’s Daughter

My attempt at some fiction….. 

I am trying to push beyond my comfort zone and write some fiction. This is a story that I have had in my head for probably 10 years and I am finally writing it. I thought it would be fun to post each chapter here on the blog so that I can finally get the story out of my head and onto paper….errr…computer.

Here goes……

MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER

Grace

The Ford Taurus lumbered along the Forestry road, the last pass of the grader had created a washboard effect and my back was killing me. I had abandoned my navy heels to the passenger seat and was now driving in bare feet, my expertly manicured toes looked out of place against the pedals of the Taurus. Had I known that I was going to have to go out to the lake following the funeral, I would have rented an SUV at the tiny kiosk in the airport.

The pickings were slim at the rental car company. The young girl who greeted me at the kiosk had obviously been midway through a construction project in the moments before her shift. There was sawdust clinging to curly red hair and her worn jeans were dirty where the denim had dragged in the mud. Her friendly smile was infectious and I couldn’t help but ask her what on earth she was doing before her shift.

“Oh! We were building a dog-house and I lost track of time. If I didn’t live so close I wouldn’t have heard the plane coming in and you would have been out of luck!” she said with a wink.

I handed her my credit card and requested the silver Acura that I had spied out the sliding airport doors.

“Sorry sweetie, the Acura is reserved already, but I have a Ford Taurus that is just as nice – we had it cleaned professionally yesterday so it has that new car smell!”.

Clearly, the artificially acquired ‘new car smell’ had worked as a selling feature for previous customers. My tired brain was starving for a bath and a soft bed so I just shrugged, “Sure. The Taurus will be fine”.

Keys in one hand and my hard-sided Tumi suitcase in the other, I made my way out the airport doors into the fresh air. The pavement was uneven and I could imagine my Tumi crying real tears in distress as it was dragged to the parking lot where my grey ‘professionally cleaned’ Ford Taurus sat waiting.

Driving the short distance from the airport to the hotel, I admired the freshly swathed canola fields on either side of the highway. I could smell the harvest air and I was reminded of how magical the Peace Country could be in September. The contrast of the lapis blue sky against the sun-tanned hue of the fields could only be truly appreciated by the eye, not the camera nor the paintbrush.

“If the people at work could see me now!” I laughed. It’s true. My colleagues at my firm were city born and raised therefore had no concept of small town life. They would feel awkward and out of place and probably offend someone with a condescending comment or an errant eye roll.

“You are going to Dawsons Creek?” asked my secretary when I had requested she make my travel arrangements. Her name was Sophia – pencil thin and with a penchant for expensive shoes. This day she was wearing juniper coloured Ferragamo boots with mirror heels that retailed for $6000.00. I never asked how she could afford to feed her shoe habit but we all knew that she had a sugar daddy from one of the high rises nearby. Calgary was full of rich men who had a compulsion to spend their money on expensive things. I don’t judge – we all have our secrets and if pretending was what it took to keep Sophia and her ferocious talent as my gate-keeper on my side of the office, then pretend I shall.

“No Sophia, not Dawsons Creek like the show. Book me a flight to Dawson Creek please”. For my entire life outsiders have queried about the unusual name of my small home-town; I had to remind them that there no was Joey, Dawson or Pacey in my high-school.

A short time later she strutted into my office with my itinerary. “You fly from Calgary to Vancouver and then change aircraft and fly to Dawson Creek” Giggling, she added, “Do you know how small the plane is from Vancouver to Dawson Creek? No business class this time!”

Sophia had managed to book me a flight to Dawson Creek for Thursday, which meant I had one night to get my shit together before the funeral on Friday.

“You are a spoiled brat!” my sister had screamed at me over the telephone a mere week earlier when she had called to discuss funeral arrangements.

“I am a spoiled brat because I don’t want to stay at the house?” My decision to stay at a hotel instead of our family home had rubbed her the wrong way. The truth was, I was afraid to stay at the house. I was scared that the emotions that I had managed to contain over the past few weeks would bubble over and overpower me. I needed to keep it together and that meant staying in a hotel by myself with a fully stocked mini-bar.

The Holiday Inn Express was a new hotel so I was practically guaranteed that there were no bed bugs or lingering cigarette smell on the bedding. My heels clicked on the floor of the lobby as I neared the front desk but the noise wasn’t enough to get the attention of the clerk as her eyes were glued on her computer screen just below the counter.

“Ahem” I tried to politely get her attention.

The blonde head popped up quickly, clearly startled by the sound.

“Oh my God! Grace?”


Krista

“Damnit!” The ice cream had fallen onto the crotch of my jeans and now was soaking into the cloth seat of the mini-van.

I managed to press the button to unroll the window and I tossed the empty cone out onto the highway, quickly followed by the chunk of melting ice cream that I managed to scoop from between my legs.

A horn blasted at me from behind and through my vantage of my rear view mirror, I could see the driver wildly gesturing and mouthing the words, “stupid bitch”.

Laughing and perhaps more than a little intimidated, I reached out the open window and gave him the middle finger before stomping on the gas to get as far away from him as I could. The V8 engine screamed with excitement and I surged ahead down the highway.

The ice cream had been purchased on a whim as I had passed the Husky station on my way out of town. “I wonder if they have Maple Walnut”, I mused, finally deciding to check it out for myself. It’s not often that I found myself alone and able to get away with stopping for ice cream. My twins would be outraged, “Momma! We not allowed to eat in the car”.

They didn’t have my favourite, but they did have a fresh tub of vanilla and sometimes you can’t argue with good ol’ fashioned, plain-Jane vanilla ice cream.

“A cup or a cone?” I could see the clerk’s forearm tense as she jabbed the metal scoop into the bucket and pulled out a massive chunk of ice cream.

“Cone please!” I responded, quickly adding, “I am driving”.

She proceeded to complete my order by ramming the large chunk onto the opening of the cone and I wanted desperately to tell her, “First you fill the bottom part of the cone and press it down. Then, once the bottom is filled, you can add the ice cream on top”. Everyone knows that the ice cream that fills the bottom part of the cone acts like a glue for the ice cream on top!

I hadn’t said a word when she passed the massive cone across the glass case to my outstretched hand and now I was paying the price.

It was typical of me. I could think of a hundred times where I wished I had the courage to speak up. The swim coach who told me to, “suck it up Krista” when I was scared of the deep end and I nearly drowned. The daycare provider who insisted that I bring the twins even though another child had chicken pox and that; “it was better for them to get it while they were really little”. Three weeks later I spent the better part of ten days with both of them in the hospital.

My inner voice was wise, but for some reason I was unable to share it when it really mattered.

I stared at the sign ahead on the right, “Tippy Lake 10 km” and was hit with a wave of realization. Slowing the mini-van, I signaled to turn off the highway.

Today is the day. Today I am going to confront my demons and if it gets me emotionally excommunicated from the family then so be it!

Flipping down the visor mirror I see myself: cropped brown hair fluffed haphazardly early that morning using dry shampoo and wide-set green eyes hidden behind cheap dollar store sunglasses.

Reciting one of my favourite movie lines, I speak to the reflection, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important”.

You is all of those Krista. Now if only I could summon the courage to remember that when the time came.


Caroline

“Can we hurry this along please?” My patience was wearing thin and I knew that I was going to be the last one to arrive at the cabin.

“Our apologies Caroline, bear with us for just a couple of more minutes?” The Funeral Director smiled at me with that waxy, practiced smile that I had grown accustomed to seeing over the past week. Why do all Funeral Directors remind me of Lurch from the Adam’s Family?

I was weary of this place: the somber music looping on what I assumed was a Spotify playlist, the lack of colour on the concrete walls, the high-backed chairs. It was all too much and it took everything I had left in me to politely wait while Lurch printed out the funeral invoice.

As per usual, it had been left up to me to settle with the funeral home. “The glamorous life of the Executor just never ends!” Krista had reminded me of this when I had mentioned that I was going to be late to the cabin.

I had wanted to throat punch her when she said that to me, but of course I didn’t do anything of the kind. I had just smiled at my younger sister as she prepared to leave with husband and twins in tow.

Her children were monsters and had screamed throughout the service. During the power-point presentation, one of them had escaped his seat and toddled up the aisle yelling, “I haffa poop!” to anyone who would listen. Finally his father looked up from his cell phone long enough to notice and he took the twins out into the lunchroom for the remainder of the program.

“Caroline! Caroline?” Realizing that Lurch was speaking, I tried to snap out of the fog of exhaustion that had begun to consume me.

Paperwork signed, cheque written, urn in hand, I was now free to leave this ghastly place.

Using my left hip to push the heavy door, I exited the building and welcomed the warm September sunshine.

Freedom!

I was done.

It was over.

Time to move on with my life.

What life would it be? Where do I begin? Can I really start over at my age?

Placing the urn on the passenger seat, I carefully wrapped the seatbelt across it, securing it in place.

This day could not end any faster. My hands shook as I reached into my purse to find my cigarettes. I had promised Dad I would quit, but even he would not begrudge me a cigarette today of all days.

The wind made it difficult to light the white dart, but my habit was a powerful motivator and in moments I was enjoying the first hit of nicotine. My body relaxed and I leaned against the car and smoked – the tension of the past week seeping from every pore.

My brief repose was interrupted with the thought that I’d better get moving: Daylight was fading and the narrow road to the lake could be unforgiving when the poplar jungle woke with wandering deer and moose who tend to get confused in the glare of oncoming bright headlights.

Smashing the butt onto the ground, I gave it a final tap with my heel to ensure that I wasn’t going to drive away being responsible for a grass fire erupting in my wake.

As I fastened myself safely in the car and heard the engine roar to life, I glanced over at the urn and resisted the urge to caress the metal exterior.

“You comfortable Dad?”

It was over.

He was gone.

I was free.


 

Bugs, Beds and Bags – Oh My!

“They were everywhere! In our beds, our bedding, our clothing….even in the furniture. After months of fighting the little bastards, we finally gave up – abandoned everything and moved away”.

THIS is the conversation that I replay in my mind every, single time I open the door to a hotel room. It is the horror story told by a friend who traveled overseas and brought home a suitcase inhabited by bed bugs.

It doesn’t matter if I am staying in a 5 star hotel with dedicated Butler service – the same scenario plays itself out during my stay. Kind of takes the fun out of travel.

Bed Bugs! The thought of a female bed bug, belly filled with eggs, hitching a ride on my clothing or suitcase and setting up shop in my own home is terrifying.

I am Canadian and we are, for the most part, generally very welcoming to immigrants. I am not welcoming to pregnant, single mothers who climb into my suitcase with the intention of crossing the border and making their home in MY home.

I cross the threshold into my hotel room and look for the luggage rack for my suitcase. I usually set the rack in the bathroom and place my luggage, elevated, in that wee room for the duration of my stay. My rationale for using the bathroom as my temporary closet is that there is no carpet in that room, therefore it was less likely that an errant bug would find its way into my suitcase. If I found that the bathroom was carpeted? I would run out screaming.

Strangely, there were no luggage racks in my hotel room, so my suitcase is placed directly on the tile floor of the bathroom. It is a small powder room and the large suitcase now becomes a tripping hazard but hey…..sacrifices are sometimes necessary for the greater good.

I mused aloud, “Should I leave a note for the cleaning staff? They are going to wonder why my suitcase is in on the bathroom floor”.

Nah…..they have no doubt seen plenty of crazy and my eccentricity will barely register The suitcase will stay on the floor and no note will be necessary.

I immediately grab my magnifying glass and strong LED light and use them to inspect the mattress – checking for black specks. Whew! There are no black specks to be seen and I exhale with relief.

I still need to take precautions because those stealthy little bastards could be anywhere. I have brought plastic bags from home for my soiled laundry but am kicking myself for not investing in the ones with a seal. What good is a plastic bag if the tiny, blood-sucking fuckers can crawl out?

I remind myself that I haven’t seen any evidence of bed bugs so anything that I do from this point forward is unnecessarily prophylactic – basically overkill. The lack of sealed plastic bags is not a deal breaker…..carry on.

I spend the next three days ensuring that I do not mix clean and dirty – that I do not throw anything onto the bed or the couch, increasing my chances of contamination.

This exercise seemed to be so logical while I was at the hotel, but as I write about it I realize that I am a wee bit bat-shit crazy. Who does this? Who is so paranoid about bed bugs that they basically operate a Hazmat operation out of their hotel room?

I arrive home, satisfied that I have taken every precaution to avert bed bug disaster. As I enter my own home, my suitcase is left on the outside deck in the cold in the hopes that any cling-ons will die of hypothermia.

I remove my clothing on the spot and take both it AND my bagged, soiled clothing  from my suitcase and immediately toss into the washing machine on hot. I have a feeling that my sweater won’t survive the high heat, but there are sacrifices needed for the greater good and honestly it was from Old Navy so….not that expensive. I then hop into the shower, physically washing away all evidence of travel, psychologically ridding myself of the invisible bugs.

I walk into the living room in my robe, my wet hair tied up on a towel, and only now am I able to sit and chat with my husband about my trip.

“Hey sweetie…..the Erma conference was a blast!”

 

Don’t Blink!

On average, human beings blink approximately 15,000 times per day. Each blink lasts between 300 and 400 milliseconds (1000 milliseconds equals 1 second). Which means that we spend approximately 5,250 seconds or over 1 HOUR each and every day blinking. Do you ever wonder what you miss?

As writers, we love to spend our days wide-eyed……constantly watching for those ‘missed’ moments – the moments that last a mere blink of the eye.

What does this mean? Well….other than an incessant need for eye-drops, it means that we are inspired by those ‘moments’.

An intake of breathe by a bride, seconds before she walks down the aisle.

The partially hidden eye-roll from a pre-teen during an argument with their sibling.

The flicker of embarrassment you notice on the face of your teenage daughter after she stumbles wearing her first pair of heels

While others have moved past the moment, writer’s remain, watching……observing.

We wonder if the bride to be is nervous, afraid, or suffering from indecision. We wonder if she suddenly realized that she really needed to pee (or worse) and isn’t certain if she can make it through the ceremony. Thoughts of, “Why did we choose to eat spicy Indian food at our rehearsal dinner” run through her head as she makes her way down the aisle. Damn! That storyline writes itself!

A writer will endeavor to create a story around the eye-roll, conjuring up a scenario where the pre-teen grows up to be a serial killer aka Dexter.

The flicker of embarrassment following the stumble in the high heels? That becomes a part of a bigger story, perhaps leading to a screenplay for a coming of age movie like Ladybird. Our character ‘Joanne’ refuses to wear shoes for the rest of her life because of that one instance and eventually she runs for the Presidency and wins and now there is a President called Shoeless Joanne.

We notice things. We stash them away in our subconsciousness to be retrieved at a later date or we drop everything and rush to a computer and begin writing.

I am so excited to become an Erma Bombeck Workshop Freshman. I have loved Erma since I was a child and to be surrounded by so many other individuals who share the passion for laughter is…well….it’s mind blowing!

The fact that in one week’s time I will be sitting alongside so many like-minded individuals is truly a dream come true. Knowing that you all are so observant will be unnerving – which reminds me to pack extra floss because y’all will definitely notice the errant piece of spinach in my teeth.

Writers…..well, we try to make the ordinary EXTRAORDINARY. Humour writers make the ordinary extraordinary and FUNNY.

See you soon! If you see me staring, unblinking, don’t worry…..I am not a creeper (at least I have never been charged). It is only because I don’t want to miss a thing!

Judy

PS: Can I bring my cape? I hear some people are bringing tiara’s…..

Yes…..I own a cape

The Hands of Time….

Do you ever look at your hands and think, “Did I do hard time at a prison picking rocks?”

I caught a glimpse of my hands while taking a selfie in front of a mirror. I normally don’t pay much attention to my hands but when I saw them reflected back to me in the mirror……my pudgy, tiny, wrinkly hands dwarfed by the huge Samsung phone, I thought, “Damn girl!!!! Your hands are Ugggggly!”

The selfie I was taking was to document my journey to brighter, whiter teeth. I had purchased a teeth-whitening kit and was excited about my new smile in “one to two weeks of using the product as recommended”.

My brain said, “Guuuurrrrl, your teeth ain’t the issue here….your ugly ass hands are!”

I shouldn’t be surprised at my revelation. I have been taking my hands for granted all my life. When I was barely out of the womb, I began chewing my fingernails. No…..I didn’t just nibble my nails, I gorged upon them as if they were a food group. As a child I would sit in front of the television, twirling my little baton in my right hand and have my entire left hand in my mouth, ravaging my fingernails. People would say, “Do you know how many germs are on your hands and fingernails?” and I would respond by biting the corner of my cuticle, pulling it off and chewing it – I sounded like one of the zombies in the walking dead as I feasted on my flesh.

Disgusting…..right?

My fingernails bled, my cuticles bled, and my nail beds began to shrink down in size.

That’s when I realized that I was bendy enough to pick at my toenails: ten extra digits in my buffet of nails. I couldn’t chew them, but I could pick at them until I had a corner free and peel it back. Sometimes it didn’t let go willingly, sometimes I would have to tug and twist until the crescent of toenail finally let go. I am certain that if it had a voice it would be saying, “Noooooooooooooooo!”.

There was no toenail that was exempt from this picking practice. In fact, my baby toe no longer even grows a nail which weird’s the heck out of the technicians at pedicure salons. They gently lift my foot out of the warm, soapy water and towel dry it in preparation for the pedicure and then begin to examine my toes. The last time I was at a salon getting a pedicure, the technician didn’t speak English so I had to imagine what she was saying to her counterpart as she examined my toes. There was the shocked look, followed by the worried look and then she would look at me as if to say, “WTF?”. I would shrug my shoulders, no longer embarrassed about my feet and continue to flip through the magazine I had in my lap. Then she would call over her boss and they would have a conversation about my toes in a language that I could not understand; the conversation punctuated by laughter and pointing. Finally she would say to me, “Nail polish today?” worried that she would have to paint the empty nail bed of my baby toe. Not unlike the scene from the famous Anjelah Johnson ‘Nail Salon’ comedy performance, only my technician didn’t ask me if I wanted “Crystal Gel”. Remember the dude from Silence of the Lambs who made a coat out of human skin? I wonder if he could recreate fingernails?

I would respond with, “No….no nail polish needed…..because obviously” and she would visibly relax saying “I will give you an extra massage because you don’t need polish”. Then she would begin carving and scraping my heels, followed by dousing them in some acid that would magically remove my calluses. The massage was followed by the warm wax and I would leave the salon ¼ inch shorter.

But I digress……we were talking about my gnarly, nasty hands that are reminiscent of a old prisoner who picked rocks every day.

My father would try desperately to entice me to quit chewing my fingernails. He would vacillate between, “I wish you would quit biting your fingernails” to, “Judy! It’s a dirty, filthy habit!”. He offered me large sums of money to quit chewing my nails and when that didn’t work, he conspired with my Uncle. They created a slurry out of grass and clay and told me it was “chicken shit” and dunked my hands into it hoping that it would keep me from chewing my nails. I remember clearly when I defiantly plunged my hand into the mixture and then went to the bathroom to scrub them clean. I would not be ‘scared straight’ by anything! (Also…I knew deep down that it wasn’t chicken shit).

I continued to chew and pick at my nails – finding solace in the mind numbing practice.

Which brings me to today and the fact that my hands are ugly and my fingernails are half the size of the nail bed. My ten digits are my best friends and always there for me when I need to stress chew. Could I give that up? It is a relationship based on supply and demand – one that has worked for 53 years.

If I stopped today, my expectations of the outcome would need to be lowered. I have one fingernail (my favourite one – my ‘treat’ nail) that is so badly damaged that it would probably grow into a bizarre looking like a coke snortingesque talon. The rest of them might come back, but even so, they would be attached to hands that look like they picked rocks for a living.

Regrets…..I have only a few, but my hands are one of them. Is it too late to turn back time? Is it too late in my life to begin caring for my hands (and feet?).

I don’t want to lose all of the memories that are triggered by the sight of my hands. Those same hands cared for babies, changed diapers, made cookies, gestured wildly while telling a story, held the hands of someone dying, wiped the tears from a face, and yes….actually did pick a few rocks.

The skin on my hands is reminiscent of my grandmother’s hands – soft and crepey in that patch of skin between the thumb and the next finger. Sure….the fingers are little nubbin’s but my kids have known nothing else in their lives. The fact that I have very little fingernail has kept me from being asked to remove slivers or peel tape off of a window. The lack of fingernail also makes it impossible to pick up a dime off of a tiled floor. Ying and Yang.

I guess taking the selfie in that mirror prompted an even deeper reflection……

A Room with a View

Here it is
And here it goes
What it means
No One knows
I wish I did
I wish I could
I wish I had
I think I should
Life is fleeting
Love is blind
You is special
You is kind
Dark to light
And light to dark
The sun comes up
A new day starts
I wish I may
I wish I might
Live each day
From morn to night
With passion and purpose
And wonder and joy
Not overthinking
Our brain redeploy
To a place of peace & quiet
A room with a view
A space without stress
A place we once knew
A mind of a child
Simple, honest and clear
No worries no hang-ups
A smile so sincere
A heart that is full
Of laughter and life
Hugged by a world
That does not struggle with strife
This is my wish
This is my dream
This is my purpose
This is my scheme
Let’s do it together
Let’s go all in!
We have only one life
It’s time to begin

Copyright 2018 by Judy Kucharuk

Eileen Kucharuk Sept 25, 1927 – Feb 1, 2018

She stood at the bow of the Aquitania – one of the 43,000 war brides who arrived by ship to Pier 21 in Halifax after World War II. The crossing could not have been easy with the unpredictable Atlantic during the cold month of January 1947. I imagine her standing there, her petite frame struggling to stand against the wind, dressed in her long skirt and jacket, lively red hair tucked neatly under her cap. She would have been excited about the new adventure that waited, but wary of this new world of which she had only heard stories.

Can you imagine leaving your Father and sisters behind as you traveled alone at 19 years of age across the Atlantic? I liken her at that age to a colt that could not be tamed, struggling against the reins of status quo, willing to give everything she knew up for the man she loved.

The Halifax port loomed larger and larger and finally the big ship docked. As she disembarked from the steel giant, she lightly stepped onto the cold Canadian soil with very fashionable, yet impractical footwear – her open toed shoes.

The trip via train from Halifax to Spirit River would have been long and exhausting. I can imagine as she laid her head against the cold glass of the train window, watching the foreign landscape speed by, she would have reflected on her life.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales September 25th, 1927, Eileen was the youngest of 10 children. Her mother, Elizabeth, passed away when she was only three years old, leaving Eileen in the care of her widowed father and older siblings. This is where her strength began to develop out of necessity; coupled with her red hair and welsh/Irish heritage – Eileen grew strong and resourceful.

I spoke at Jack’s funeral about their first meeting in a restaurant. I wondered if he spied her across the crowded room and noticed her twinkling, laughing eyes and lovely red hair. A petite sprite, with an almost uncontainable zest for life.

There is a quote that I recently read that speaks to her nature and it is, “There’s only one place I want to go and it’s to all the places I’ve never been.” That was Eileen – always looking forward to the next thing, the next step.

When her train arrived in Spirit River, she stepped off the train with those open toed shoes into what would have seemed like a frozen wasteland.

Many of us would have wanted to get back on that train and head home to Britain and the familiarity of family. In fact, many did just that – they turned around and went home.

But no….Eileen was committed to this adventure and although part of her might have been wary, her free spirit would have been enthusiastically embracing it!

After living for a time with a family in Spirit River, Eileen and Jack made their home on the farm. There were no cobblestone streets like London, but there were also no air raid sirens or buildings in rubble. She left that behind for the wide Peace Country skies.

I can’t imagine how both exciting AND challenging this time would have been, coupled with wee Jacqueline being born in November of 1947. As we recall, Eileen lost her own mother 17 years previous, so she had no one to guide her through this emotional and exhausting time of her life.

Both Eileen and Jack worked very hard. The land that had been provided to Jack upon his return from WW2 by the Canadian government was completely tree covered and needed to be broken in order to grow both a crop and a garden. It was a stressful time in their lives as they made both a home for themselves and developed a livelihood.

Life went on and with that came their second child Linda in the warm, summer sun of June of 1953. Their family was growing.

In 1958, the Kucharuk’s moved to the big city of Dawson Creek and settled into the Blue Bird Motel as they searched for more permanent accommodation. This did not mean that they abandoned the farm – no, far from it. They continued to farm the land and every summer were spent there, tending to the crops and garden.

After their short stay at the Blue Bird Motel, they moved into a rental home not far from where they built the existing home in 1961. During that time, they welcomed Bob or “Bobby” as his parents and siblings affectionately referred to him.

Jacquie, Lindy and Bobby – the family was complete.

Eileen flourished in her new home, finally able to tend to a flower garden once again which no doubt reminded her of her beloved England.

While Jack worked away from home, Eileen immersed herself in the goings on of the community. In fact, from 1957 onward, Eileen worked for Elections Canada in various positions of authority. In her time with Elections Canada she was a part of every Prime Minister elected from John Diefenbaker to Justin Trudeau. From the 18th Prime Minister of Canada to the 29th Prime Minister – Eileen was a part of the process.

Her unwavering community service and her intense desire to continually improve herself was known by those who knew her well. Perhaps it was because she was a proud immigrant to Canada or perhaps it was because she needed constant change and personal fulfillment – whatever the case, the list of organizations that she contributed to is endless.

Two projects that I recall clearly were the fundraising campaign for the DC Hospital CT Scanner and the paving of the road in front of their home. While different in scope, both were projects where Eileen could leverage her negotiating skills.

Have you ever negotiated with Eileen? Well…..let’s just say that she came out on top most of the time. As publicity manager for the CT campaign, Eileen cajoled Jack into participating as well, which was no small feat! When she became determined that she was “no longer going to live with a dirt road in front of her home!”, she petitioned her neighbours and led the charge for fresh asphalt – that red haired English rose was in full bloom!

We say that it was because she was a Libran that Eileen was devoted to fairness and equality for her fellow human beings. She would stanchly defend the underdog and speak up for those who could not or would not speak up for themselves. As someone surrounded by Librans, I do believe that it is true. I am looking at you Bob, Michele, Amy, and Jessie.

Eileen was a career woman – she worked for many years at the Hudson’s Bay as well as she was a ticket agent for Pacific Western or PWA. Airline work seems to run in the family with Jacqueline, Linda, Brian and myself all working for airlines.

Working at the airport no doubt fed her desire to travel and both she and Jack did a lot of traveling over the years: They went overseas, stuck their toes in the sand of Hawaii and Mexico and traveled to Eastern Canada. I see that same desire in her children and her grandchildren as they travel frequently to all corners of the world.

We all agree that without the passion of Eileen and her incredible desire to better herself and her surroundings that Jack might have been content to stay home and tend his garden. She pushed him gently (and sometimes not so gently) out of his comfort zone and the reluctance he felt most often gave way to pure enjoyment once he arrived at his destination.

Food was a big part of Eileen’s life – not only was she a great cook, but she loved great food! She had an incredible palette and could pin point even the most minor of gastronomic errors. One time while camping, I was making her some hot chocolate before bed. I was tired and therefore I microwaved the water and mixed in the coco. Handing it to her she took a sip and made a wee face.

She then asked, “Did you boil the water?” and I was caught red handed! So I lied and said, “Of course I boiled the water…..just the way you like it”.

Jacqueline’s discovered a love of cooking from her mother and her ability to make satisfying, nutritious comfort food. Linda’s love of fruitcake and subsequent recipe tweaking was a result of being introduced to the heavy, fruity dessert by Eileen. Linda went on to make up her own recipe, complete with ‘raisins that make me feel funny mummy’ – as poor Brian was sneaking rum soaked raisins from the kitchen.

Bob shares Eileen’s red hair and her temperament and has the same fierce sense of fairness. He too fights for the underdog.

After Jack’s passing 6 years ago, Eileen could have given up…..but she didn’t. Her incredible strength allowed her to rebuild her life as her own person and she blossomed. Her companion and dear friend John was someone who helped her thrive and live her final years so fulfilled. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you John.

Last night as we visited with Pastor Cory, he said something that really struck home. He spoke about living a life with passion instead of perfection. That is exactly what Mom, Eileen, Grandma, Grandma K and Great Grandma did in her 90 years – she lived her life with a passion for life and a wicked sense of humour. A life of perfection would have been boring – can’t we all agree?

Eileen passed away in her own home, with her children at her side in the wee hours of February 1st. She leaves behind her children Jacqueline and husband Lorne, Linda, Bob and his wife Judy. Grandchildren Deris, Michele and her husband Greg, Brian and his wife Krista, Jennifer and husband Bob, Amy and husband Ian, Matthew and wife Samantha. Greatgrandhildren Charlie, Carter & Bennet, Dylan and Isla.

Eileen is predeceased by her husband Jack and her 8 sisters and one brother.

The family would like to thank each and every one of you who touched Eileen’s life and for coming here to support us today. Thank you to Jaki Stanley for the lovely movie presentation and the cozy crocheted blanket that she dropped by the house for Eileen – we are in your debt.

In closing I would like to read a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Mother, you were just a girl,
So many years ago.
You had your loves and had your dreams,
You watched us come and go.

You watched us make the same mistakes,
That you had made before,
But that just made you hold us tight,
And love us all the more.

We haven’t always thought about
The things that you have seen.
To us you’ve just been ‘Mother’,
No thought of who you’ve been.

But we remember now in love,
Your life from start to end,
And we’re just glad we knew you,
As Mother, and as Friend.

We will miss you, Love Judy

Stupid Elf on the Stupid Shelf

Stupid Elf…….

Nothing gives me more pleasure than knowing that in 4 or 5 years, on this very day, Amy will be on the phone with me b$tching about the Elf on the Shelf!

Both of my kids: Amy and Matthew were very evolved children…one could say they were ‘ahead of their time’  Elf on the Shelf had not been invented yet when they were young and admittedly, neither child REALLY believed in Santa Claus. But……they did believe in a stupid elf and they would make a bed for it out of a matchbox and leave a letter for him/her.

Thankfully they dropped that Elf like a bad habit and I was never forced to prop it up on weird places overnight like parents do now.

I am thankful because I would probably forget to do the Elf thing at night and the kids would wake up and the Elf would be in the same spot and ask, “What happened to the Elf?” and I would be forced to make up a story about how the Elf had experienced a wee cough so a shot of Nyquil had been administered the night before and then the Elf had a bad reaction that rendered him/her unconscious and unable to move. After a few times of that occurring, the kids would lament about our family getting, “a sick Elf” and why do other kids have such fun elves. Then I would guilt them back and tell them that, “all Elves deserve to make a living and that our Elf was doing the best he/she could while suffering from poor health and we should be more generous of spirit, etc.”

Christmas miracle would have been achieved……

Sometimes I feel like the ‘Girl on the Train’

Sometime when I am out on my deck, I feel like the ‘Girl on the Train’ with my neighbours Dawn and Ralph. Of course I have never been married to Ralph and they don’t live in my old house or anything like the book/movie and….so far I haven’t witnessed a murder (watch yourself Ralph). But everything else is the same….well except I am not on a train, I am on the deck…but the point is I can see them through their dining room window and I make up stories about their day.

Today for example, Ralph is wearing both his hat and his jacket in the house, so I called Dawn and said, “Is Ralph cold? He is wearing his jacket in the house.”

I am a bit of a creeper I guess, but I have been watching the Dawn and Ralph show for so many years, I feel like I know them really well (I actually do know them really well even without the creepy watching them through their window).

We are really fortunate having such wonderful neighbours. Dawn Johnston and Ralph on one side and Kim and Julian and kidlets on the other.

The Skin family got a dog recently….”Pickle” is his name and now I get to watch the kids play with their new dog and live vicariously through them (RIP Ozzie and Riley) as they love their new puppy.

Their children are ahhhhhmazing kids and we love seeing them play in the park across from our house. I even had a wee tear when their oldest moved out, I was gonna miss him!

I also can determine how many kids are getting into their vehicle by the sounds of the SUV door’s slamming. One time, we heard so many doors shutting, Bob and I turned to one another and said, “Exactly how many kids is Kim driving to school today?” Yes…..Bob and I are creepy people like that – with nothing better to do than make assumptions based on sound.

We have become THOSE neighbours.

I wonder what they think about us? They probably don’t have the time to creep on us like we creep on them. Is it creeping if they know we are doing it though? I guess we will see after this post and Julian goes out and builds a higher fence and Dawn and Ralph close their blinds (please don’t….this is the best part of my day!)

Neighbours are more than people who live next door – neighbours become like family. We watch out for one another, we care about one another and we watch each other’s families grow. We consider both neighbours dear friends and would be there for them in an instant as they would be for us.

Note: Kim, Julian and Family have a fairly large tree that blocks most of my view, so no ‘Girl on the Train’ looky-loo happening there – no worries about that Kim.

Ladybug, Ladybug

Yesterday my Mom told me that she had seen a ladybug in the kitchen and had picked it up and placed it in a plant.

This morning at 6:30 a.m. that same ladybug (I am assuming it’s the same one because…..winter and all) was crawling outside her bedroom door. I picked it up and carried it into the kitchen where I had my glasses so I could take a look at it because at that point I was thinking, “Is this a tick?”. That would be me….pick up something thinking it is a ladybug only to find that it was an engorged tick and then get bitten and infected with Lyme disease or ebola or whatever else ticks pass along. Anyhoo……

I go into the kitchen, put on my glasses and see that it was indeed a ladybug and then I promptly dropped it. It survived the fall and crawled away. (I watched it until it crawled away to live its very best life because the alternative would be crawling under the stove to die).

I knew that ladybugs were special, so I googled them this morning and this is what google said, “Ladybugs bring good luck, are a symbol of protection ‘A talisman for safety and protection against all harm’, are a symbol of love, a symbol of self reliance and they even have a religious significance!

THANK GOODNESS I didn’t kill it when I dropped it! And I feel a bit better knowing that the ladybug is crawling around my parents home keeping them safe and protecting them.

Ambulance, Paramedics, Fire Department…oh my!

(Originally posted in the Alaska Highway News and the Dawson Creek Mirror in my column ‘From the Desk of the Green-eyed girl’

What happens when you lose trust in something you believed to be rock solid? Something that you never questioned, that you never stopped for one minute to wonder about.

How do you go on? How do you move forward? How do you continue with your life now that you have a seed of doubt permanently planted into your psyche?

Our family recently were saturated in a downpour of seeds of doubt and left us questioning. Let me explain.

On Nov. 19, I received a call from one of my sisters that my mother had fallen down the stairs and she was hurt. Dad had called the ambulance and they were on their way. I said, “Holy crap (or something not as pretty),” and that I would meet them at the hospital. That call came to me at around 12:30 p.m.

I arrived at the hospital and began waiting for the ambulance. It shouldn’t take long: they live in Dawson Creek proper and nothing is more than 10 minutes away, even with rush hour. I’m thinking a half hour or so to get mom stabilized and transported to the hospital.

A half hour passed, so I anxiously called my sister and asked, “What is going on?”

Because mom was lying at the bottom of the stairs, the two Paramedics apparently needed  the assistance of a second ambulance to help extricate and load her for transport. They had contacted Kamloops dispatch and one should be arriving shortly.

More than an hour had now passed and still no second ambulance. My 75-year-old mother had now been lying with a suspected femoral fracture at the bottom of the basement steps for an hour and 15 minutes. Thankfully, the Paramedics had been able to stabilize her and get pain meds into her—but still no sign of the additional ambulance.

I texted my sister: “Why not call the fire department to assist? What’s going on?”

At this point, someone must have made the call to find out where the missing ambulance was, and were advised that the call for the second ambulance had been inadvertently dropped—meaning that the request didn’t make it from the phone to the computer. No second ambulance was coming.

Thank goodness for the Dawson Creek Fire Department, because now they were dispatched and were on the scene in minutes. They helped lift and load mom into the ambulance and she was on her way to the hospital, 90 minutes after the incident occurred. It was 2 p.m.

But 90 minutes—90 minutes for my mom to lay on the bottom of the basement steps, 90 minutes for my father to wring his hands with anxiety about his wife of 50-plus years in pain and unable to do anything.

I heard the ambulance arrive at the hospital and my mother being brought inside. My sisters had driven my father down in their car and were coming into the hospital at the same time. He immediately went to check on mom and to be there by her side.

The next moment we heard screaming and I realized it was my mother and sister. I ran to the back to see my father had collapsed, my mother watching on from the gurney. Medical professionals are swarming the area, rapidly responding to the now changing emergent medical situation. In between the “stay with us, dad,” and the “Mom, its going to be okay,” we realized dad might have had a stroke or a heart episode. I truly believed it was brought on by the stress of the situation.

At this point, I need to say our medical team at the Dawson Creek hospital were amazing and our entire family is very grateful to have such a committed group of professionals at our local hospital. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

Meanwhile, they were stabilizing Dad, trying to determine what happened, and he and mom were lying side by side in the emergency ward. All my sisters and I are there by their bedside and the scene resembled one of those Kardashian Family Christmas card photoshoots.

As the hours wore on, my dad regained his speech and strength, and after having a CT it was determined he had probably suffered something called a TIA. Mom, on the other hand had suffered a femoral fracture/hip fracture, and was scheduled for surgery the following day. She was moved upstairs onto the ward to await surgery and dad was kept for observation in emergency.

Quite a day, right? Our lives were changing in a blink of the eye and we were powerless to do anything to stop the train wreck.

BC Ambulance, we have lost trust in a system that we felt was working. We were under the impression it was working because we had not tested it before. I’m certain hundreds of calls happen where the dispatch is seamless but, in our case, it wasn’t and that terrified us.

I spoke with Kamloops dispatch and they did admit a ball was dropped and a mistake occurred. They were very empathetic and took responsibility, and gave us the contact information to follow up with an independent investigation.

We all realize a system reliant on human beings will, at some point, have a human error. We just never consider we will bear witness to the error.

Where do we go from here? How do we go about our lives with that reoccurring thought, “what happens next time?”