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Micro memories

27 Nov

nov26

I make mental notes of little memories I am afraid of forgetting. E finding his voice and realizing that 3 a.m. is the best time to “woo WOO” in his crib. How he’s so close to flipping over from his back to his belly; his little back arches until he’s right up on his side, but he can’t quite throw his shoulder over. He walks around in a circle in the Jolly Jumper, and turns to my voice when I call his name. I can’t handle the moment when he sees me: his giant smile and excited bounces. I love how he laughs like a tiny velociraptor. He’s such an incredibly happy, flirtatious little guy. He got his four month immunizations and forgot all about wailing to grin and coo at the cute nurses. He’s so much less cuddly than he was when he was tiny; he likes to show off how strong he is by pushing off of me, but I revel in those times he falls asleep in my arms snuggled up to my chest. Even when I’m exhausted, seeing his face light up when I collect him from his crib in the morning is the most amazing part of my day.

… on wedding planning …

27 Jan

I wasn’t one of those little girls who planned and acted out her future wedding. I was a hopeless romantic —  don’t get me wrong — I spent hours getting lost in stories about great love. I never wanted to be a princess, but I wanted a guy who realized he didn’t want to be without me.

B and I had a conversation about romance before we got engaged, and we realized that his perception of romance and mine were two different things. He ranted about girls who wanted romance because he saw these big romantic gestures that, to him, just seemed like such a lie. Some guy going out of his way to proclaim this big love just to make a girl swoon. My idea of romance is that his parents hold hands when we hang out together, or when B pokes my nose in the middle of a conversation, or that we talk about our future as we chop vegetables in the kitchen for dinner.

This the type of romance that I want people to see when we get married. We’re not there to put on a coordinated performance of beauty and this perfect love. That’s not what we have. What we have is nerdy and awkward sometimes and whimsical and quietly sweet. It’s bocce ball and cribbage. It’s being surrounded by the people who have made us who we are and who will be there to support us both in happy wedded bliss and in the trying times ahead. It’s not about an expensive designer gown. It’s not about seating charts and place cards. It’s not about a coordinated colour palate. It’s about Journey and lawn games. It’s about people being excited to be there and wearing clothes they’re comfortable and happy in. It’s about remembering all those “someday” plans and promises and officially becoming a family.

These are the things I have to remember when a vendor or potential marriage commissioner scoffs about our future plans.“But I’ve gotten so many compliments on my ceremony — why would you ever want to change it!? What do you mean you’re not going to have chair covers?” Just as in our everyday lives, the goal is to surround ourselves with people who are open and thoughtful and fun. We’re getting there.

{photo by Andrea}

Just look at those hands

2 Dec

My remarkable siblings wrote this eulogy together in honour of Grandpa B.

There are only a handful of men in this world that are respected by everyone and hated by no one. One of those men is Grandpa Behrns. If one of us grandkids mentions he is our grandpa, peoples’ faces light up and we are given instant respect. It seems like everyone knows and has a story about Grandpa.

Now raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. Grandpa had his fair share of stories, and he’d tell them to anyone willing to listen. He had a story for everything, whether it be about this tool he picked up at the flea market in Yuma for twenty five cents, his experiences at the tile yard, or that owl he won when he got a hole-in-one golfing, and he didn’t even know there was a contest. But that’s how life was for Grandpa, he was winning things all the time!

Some of Grandpa’s winnings include one thousand dollars from Roll up the Rim, and all those times he and Grandma would go “grocery shopping” to “Walmart” in Hanover and, surprisingly, they always came home with more money than when they left. He was so lucky that even us grandkids would save our scratch tickets for him in hopes of hitting the jackpot. But his greatest wins were marrying the love of his life, being blessed with five kids, 18 healthy grandkids, and one smiley great-grandchild that he couldn’t get enough of. He was always sure to brag about all of us when given the opportunity.

We all miss him, but we have been blessed with many memories. One time he came for corn on the cob, but forgot his false teeth. So of course he says “Mother, I forgot my teeth,” even though we all knew he only liked to lick off the butter and pepper anyways. Or that one time he leaned over and his comb-over leaned a little further; he wouldn’t notice, and we’d all giggle while he would walk around with his hair blowing in the wind.

Something Grandma said shortly after his passing was, “Just look at those hands.” Those hands told just as many stories as Grandpa did. His hands built a house, a family, and a great business. He used those hands to make all of us grandkids a set of coffee tables, and we all feel so blessed that he worked so hard to complete them even when he wasn’t at his best. He always thought about work and wasn’t one for sitting around “watching the beans turn.” One day in the hospital, he was staring so intently across the room and he explained, “You know that screw over there at the end of the bed? Well it’s screwed in a little too tight; if I had a screw driver I’d go over there and loosen it a little.” And we all know, if something is a little too tight, the only way to loosen it is to stick out your tongue and give yourself a little leverage.

We all have a lot of memories that we hold dear to our hearts. But one thing is for sure, from this time on, any time we have a cold beer, or a stiff rye, it will be in memory of a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather; just an overall great man. If we were to ask him about his life, I think he’d only have one thing to say, “Well, that was good!”

On life

29 Nov

As a small child I dreamed of my death.

In dreams, I was conscious of the fact that I was underground, my body was decomposing, and those who I loved and who loved me were beginning to forget I existed. Morbid, I know. In these nightmares, I transformed from a girl, to a mother, to a grandmother, to nothingness.

When I went crying upstairs to my dad, he let me sit down and told me that he used to be afraid of dying, too. But the secret was to live a good life. To be happy. To live and love fully and completely. So that when the time came for your life to be over, you were good and ready for it to be over.

Grandpa Behrns, November 2010

 

While talking to my grandma last week, she said, “I lost my navigator.” She launched into a monologue about driving, but in my mind, these words meant so much more. Grandma has always taken care of everyone; she raised her kids, cared for her father, and doted lovingly on Grandpa. I dreaded dialing the phone — what do you say to someone who made a vow “until death do us part” only to have that vow run its course?

It turns out, all you need to say is, “I love you.” Grandma spoke of the love surrounding her, and how losing Grandpa won’t completely sink in until the hectic days of arrangements and visitors are over. Before we hung up, she said, “If the world had as much love as we all do for each other, there wouldn’t be any of this terrible stuff going on.” We’re lucky to have each other.

Grandpa spoke this summer about his disappointment in his waning energy levels; he couldn’t spend much time in his workshop anymore, but he was thankful to leave the grandkids with sets of coffee tables and end tables that he had built with his own hands. Grandpa lived the kind of life Dad told me to live. He built a successful business, grew a wonderful family, and lived a life filled with tales of adventure. He was good and ready for it to be over.

Alberta bound

18 Aug

It’s a pride that’s been passed down to me / Deep as coal mines, wide as farmer’s fields / I’ve got independence in my veins / Maybe it’s my down-home redneck roots / Or these dusty old Alberta boots / But like a Chinook wind keeps comin’ back again /  I’m Alberta Bound / This piece of heaven that I’ve found / Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground / Everything I need beneath that big blue sky / Doesn’t matter where I go / This place will always be my home / Yeah, I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life / And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die    

 Paul Brant, Alberta Bound  

I sat by the window, my favourite spot, and watched the sun set all the way from Toronto to Calgary. For a moment I was back in 2006, when I left the same airport for my new home in Edmonton. Once again, I was hopeful, but there was a heaviness in my stomach from leaving my family behind.  

Four years later, and the magnitude of being 3,000 kilometres away from the people who tease me about my lacking sense of direction, who remember the traumatic Christmas when Dad chased me around the house with a pair of scissors and cut off my waist-length hair, and who have developed many of their own “inside jokes” without me, has finally hit me. I was touched when Kiki announced she wanted to take B and I to breakfast to spend more time with us, even more so when my brother told us to stop by his house on the way to meet Kitty for sushi. At Christmas, all four of us gathered around the coffee table my grandpa built for my brother and his wife and played games with our significant others in tow. It was a magical moment, a time of togetherness and camaraderie which didn’t need a parental referee. This is the start of a beautiful friendship. The “Great Sibling Tour of 2010” across southern Ontario only further cemented this memory in my cerebral cortex.  

I have no intention of moving back. I have a love for Alberta that I’ve never felt for any other town or city in which I’ve lived. The great big blue sky, long summer nights, Edmonton’s river valley, and the mountains (which still make me squeal with glee), these Alberta elements feel like home almost as much as my family. My sisters and I listened to “Alberta Bound” on repeat during the week between when I found out I was leaving and when I hopped on that airplane. Every time I hear that song still, I feel it in my insides.  

 a few weeks after moving into my sweet downtown Edmonton digs

Giggles and bare feet on the dashboard

28 May

This week Mandy was talking about road trips over at Kyla‘s.

While I’m not sure mine qualifies as a road trip per se, it was quite the adventure.  I was thinking of this visit home the other day, merely because it was the weekend that I casually mentioned to my dad that there were jobs in Alberta.  He picked me up from school, we grabbed a burger and were chatting, and the next thing I knew he was telling my grandparents at their anniversary party that I was moving across the country.  I hadn’t even applied anywhere at that point.

Country music reminds me of summers back home: beer on the porch with friends in the summer, beachy trips, adventures or various random road trips (such as Dad’s inclination one summer to hit up all the small towns in Ontario with waterfalls).  And it reminds me of the time when Kitty (the baby sister) and I went prom shopping to find her a dress at the nearest mall (approximately 45 minutes away from home).

We had a great drive, singing along to tunes on the radio. We scored a classic, super cheap prom dress (Kitty is known for being thrifty).  We grabbed a bite to eat and called Mom to let her know we were beginning the journey home.

And then, we got lost.

We came out of the city a completely different way from how we went in.  We had no clue where we were.  We did not have a map.  And Kitty and I have a reputation for having absolutely no sense of direction.  It would seem as though we were doomed.  But Kitty and I giggled and pointed ourselves in the direction that we believed home to be in and went on our merry way.  We were keeping our eyes open for signs that we were on the right or wrong track.  We did come across a town with a gas station and thought we may find a map, but it was closed.  So, we just figured we’d keep going, and this is something how it went.

“Berlett Road? We know some Berletts! Good sign!” Keep going.

“Cows! We have cows! Good sign!” Keep going.

“Cemetary! Uh oh, bad sign, bad sign!” Turn.

“Wellesley: Home of Apple Butter and Cheese Festival. I like apple butter. I like cheese. That’s definitely a good sign!” Keep going.

“Abandoned house? Bad sign!” Turn.

“Oh look at that… military guys? Why are there military guys in camouflaged Jeeps in the middle of nowhere? They have guns? Um… good sign? … maybe?” Keep going.

Every time we spotted a “sign” we would burst into fits of giggles. And, strangely enough, we made it to “Anna Mae’s! GREAT SIGN!”  From there we knew exactly where we were and how to get home.  We managed to turn ourselves in the right direction amidst our travels and made it safely home.  We were torn between telling people or not as they may never let us take out the car or travel together again, but in the end decided that the story was far too hilarious to keep Mom out of the loop.  Others expressed their astonishment that Kaye and I survived.  Without a map.  On our own.  But we knew all along that we would make it, and we just enjoyed the ride.

Cheesy moral of the story: You don’t need a map, or a set of concrete plans to get where you are going.  Sometimes you just have to follow your gut, and be able to laugh along the way.

Kitty and I, summer 2008