Death in the Family, bad knees, Literature, knitting at swimming….oh yes, and lots of bookwork
To begin, on Wednesday evening last, Jerry’s Auntie Kimi passed away. Her health had been failing these past years and she seemed to be experiencing bouts of dementia (if that can be said?). Auntie Kimi lived in Toronto with her daughter Judy, her son Dennis and her other son’s family wasn’t far from the family home. Kenji and his wife Nancy, along with their children Shawn and Tracy were able to grow up and be with their mother/grandmother for their whole life. Auntie Kimi would have been 87 years old next month.
From what I have understood, her life was very happy when she lived here in the Okanagan. Her husband Soichi was an issei (first generation Japanese Canadian). I don’t know when he arrived in the Okanagan, but I understand that his marriage to Kimi was a very happy addition to the Koga family. Unfortunately, as happened to many Japanese-Canadians who were came to Canada from Japan in those years, he and his family were sent to one of several camps set up by the Canadian government during the 2nd world war. Although I am not sure how long they endured at the camp, I know that eventually they returned to Japan. In Japan, their children were born and educated. At sometime in the 1960’s or 1970’s the family chose to return to Canada. They made Toronto their home as the job perspectives were much better there. Auntie Kimi was Jerry’s mom’s closest relative as all of the rest of her many brothers and sisters were able to stay in the Okanagan having married Nissei (2nd generation Japanese Canadians who had lived their whole life in the Okanagan). Auntie Emmy was the only one who married outside of the Japanese-Canadian community. Although her husband is a foreigner to these parts as he was born and grew up in Tobago.
Unfortunately Auntie Kimi’s daughter, Judy, who has looked after herself and Auntie for many years wasn’t able to be with her family at the funeral as she has been in hospital for three weeks trying to recover from an infection caused by a problem with her new at-home dialysis set-up. The family visited together on Friday (Uncle Suey flew out as the family rep for those of us who live here). The ceremony the next day was held at a local Buddhist temple. Jerry’s mom, sisters and brother just made it back to their homes Saturday as the newest storm to hit the Toronto area came in full blast Saturday.
Auntie Kimi reminded me of one of my own Grandmothers. She was a quiet lady whose economy of words was used to its fullest. She expressed herself always in a happy and positive way. She had worked very hard her whole life for her family. Along with Soichi, they brought up their family not just during the formative years but also well into their children’s adult years. Nurturing and encouraging each of their children and subsequent grandchildren into knowing that they could do, and “be” anything that they worked hard to be. We will miss you Auntie.
Well, the knees have had it. Only on my second trip to the ski hill, my knees gave up the ghost. I actually say what did the knees in was not the ski hill, but the 5 hours of shoveling four days before the actual ski date. Those of you who have been to our place know the kind of pitch we have to our driveway. It’s 60 some odd degree incline MUST be cleared of all snow before we can have any hope of retrieving or returning any vehicles from / to the garage. Anyway, to this end, I have torn / pulled a number of those series of muscle and tendon that hold the joint in place. Although my right knee is much more tender than my left, they both have fallen short of allowing me to do what I have been trying to do. Along with the arthritis, the joints just couldn’t handle the fight. I am happily taking (expensive!!) physiotherapy to help repair and strengthen parts of the knees. In the meantime, even a simple stroll is off my list of “to dos” until there are definite marks of healing. I saw a specialist last week. The good news is that we are not going to do any surgical procedures yet. The bad news is that the only cure I will be able to have for the pain (should I want to do any hiking, skiing, biking and some swimming) is to have regular cortisone shots….I don’t think so (well, not today anyway).
There is always a window when the door is closed. With this time “off”, so to speak, I have been spending a greater deal more concerted effort to the first quarter of my new year’s resolution. Along with balance, this year’s goal was simply put…”the Arts”. I split the year into quarters allowing, hopefully, for me to begin, continue or prepare for each of the 4 arts. Quarter one is literary arts. In this quarter I hope to work some more on some of my short story fictional pieces. As well, I have joined two book clubs (well, I missed one book club meeting even though I read the book…but). I read a “book” called “The Bride” by one of those semi-Harlequin romance “writers” for the first club’s first meeting. Scared that all future books for this club would be the same area of literature, I was much happier to take in the work of Ursula Hegi’s “Stones from the River”. For my family, I definitely suggest this as an interesting and good read (especially you Barb W-F!). The first date for the second book club was Amy Tan’s “The Bonesetter’s Daughter”. I have loved Amy Tan’s books having already read a number of her earlier books. This book was already sitting on my “to do” list of books to read and it did not at all change my glowing admiration for this artist. Last night I finished “The Lovely Bones” (would you like to borrow Barb F.?). I am pleased with this book and it was a rather quick read. I must pick up “Falling to my Knees” by a Canadian author…sorry, McD or MacD…that is waiting for me at the local library in order to be ready for one of the next book clubs.
Xdr passed his level 4 swimming (yahoo) and is now working on his level 5. While he swims, I knit. I have been working on blankets for the homeless for years. I realized that my blankets needed some colour help, so to fill in some areas, the original one blanket has now been split into three nearly complete blankets. Although they may not serve much use this year, they hopefully will be part of the blanket supply for whoever will need them first. Since these are made out of various squares of simple knitting, I can watch TV, Xdr swim, movies, etc without having to look up. It amazes wee children who always come over and ask if they can learn…what fun!!
Now to provide for these habits of mine, I have been doing some very overdue bookkeeping. Although I understood my husband had taken over this task well before we moved here, I have since learned that although payments were made to various and sundry people…keeping a record of those payments has not. Several surprises let us know that we needed some major work. This will be week number 4 of intensive work to try and figure out if Peter paid Paul and Mary or just Paul (as should have happened!!). Thank goodness I was trained in historical archeology!!!…just take it a layer at a time….OMG!!!
My baby brother is 33 years old today!!! Yippee! Congrats Trev. I hope you have an awesome day.
The morning Trevor was born we were bundled up early in the night and rushed out the door to Brian’s babysitter’s house. The change to the routine was enough to elicit the anticipation for the event. However I don’t remember Mom and Dad being frantic. I don’t remember Mom practicing her breathing with each contraction but life has let me understand a bit about what that moment was really like in the early morning fog. I couldn’t wait. Finally my new baby sister would come into our family!!
We would be two!! We would be able to dominate Brian. We would be able to play with the things girls like to play with. I could share my room with my new sister. I could help change her clothes and feed her. I wouldn’t have to pretend with Thumbelina because I would have my very own baby doll sister.
It’s a boy!!! Dad passed out cigars (as was the custom in those days) with his fellow teachers in the smoke hazed staff room. The cigar box packaging bearing the animation of a sophisticated cigar shaped figure and Dad’s magic-markered words proclaiming his exciting news. “It’s a boy!”
I was 7-1/4 (the quarter year was important in those days) years old. I was a responsible young girl and rather precocious. The whole family including Grandpas and Grandmas, Aunts and Uncles and cousins would eventually come to visit. The tin t.v. tables with the ivy decoration on top would be set up. The ashtrays, including the green leaf-shaped ashtray we had bought while on a trip to Northern Ontario, would be placed around the livingroom. The camera would be ready for “the” shot. I would wear one of my Sunday dresses and my clicky black shoes. I would entertain the group with my most recent dance routine or new song. I would tell them about my grade 2 teacher and show off how well I was printing. They would be so proud of me!!!
But they really only wanted to see the boy!!
The boy cried in the night. The boy pooped in his diapers just like Thumbelina. Although his were real diapers and real poop. Stinky, dirty and totally disgusting diapers were dropped into the toilet then dipped up and down in the dirty water removing all of the disgusting goop to drain down the swirling toilet water. Then the diaper was transferred to the diaper pail. A standing disinfecting holding tank of bleached water was used until the diapers were ready to be laundered in the old roller washing machine in the basement.
The boy pooped, cried and cooed. When I was “allowed” to hold him, there were great cautious reminders of the spot on his head I wasn’t to touch, the neck that had to be supported and he wiggled. Not at all like the wiggles of my Thumbelina that would stop once the cord in her back magically pulled into her insides. He wiggled nearly all of the time. It was dangerous to hold the boy. What if he fell? What if I broke him?
Well he did fall. Thank God it wasn’t ever while I was around!! He fell and broke a leg and a hip. Then he fell and broke his arm. Then he fell, a good 10 feet, and didn’t break anything. Unlike my Thumbelina he changed with each new adventure. The boy laughed. The boy giggled when I hid my eyes and said, “Boo”. The boy was beautiful. His big brown eyes were so different to Brian’s grey-blue. His hair was dark and full!! He attracted attention when we walked him in his stroller. The boy would hold my hand when we walked!! The boy always drew the attention of other children his height and their accompanying parent or sibling. “What beautiful eyes.” “What long eye lashes.” “I wish I had lashes like those.” Yes, Trevor was my brother and he was beautiful!!
I soon became quite protective of my brother. He had to learn everything!! He ate his food all over himself. That pleased our dog as anything that fell into her territory was for her consumption. Trevor kept her well fed. Cake, beans, pudding would end up all over his face, hands, hair and tabletop. The after-supper challenge was to be able to wash Trevor up fast enough and economically enough in one swoop so as to not create an additional mess from the hand that hadn’t yet been wiped. He was always active. He was always on the go. He was always with us. Now we were three. Not really two brothers and a sister but more like a tribe of three. We would crawl around the new neighbourhood construction areas, always aware of Trevor’s whereabouts. We would walk in the neighbourhood and meet the other tribes of kids.
Soon Trevor was into the regular routine. School was followed by home time, cookie robbing, TV selecting, some homework, supper and to bed. As Trevor grew up, so did the house with its new colour TV., then carpeting in parts of the house, an extension off the back to house Mom and Dad into their own retreat, the deck…and then the “piece de resistance”, the family room. Sided on three sides in barn board, fireplace clad in rock and topped with a mantel railroad tie, barn door entrances constructed for the entries to the laundry room and the special half-door into the crawl space, a brand new orange rounded “L”- shaped couch covered in a plush corduroy, wicker chairs, tables and the modern shag carpet led from the top floor down into the family room and up the fourth side of the room. Trevor’s growth in strength and height was mirrored in the ever-evolving home reconstruction.
Following his brother’s example, Trevor wanted music. He wanted to listen to everything. Then he wanted to record everything. Then he wanted to collect everything. In short order he was recording and collecting EVERYTHING!! During this time in his life he started to transform from the lanky kid into his own person. Cleverly painted lines accentuated his eyes. His hair was sculptured with gooey guck that only he knew how to use. His good clothes now included fancy shirts and jackets with shoulder pads. He started to wear black…but always accompanied by a splash of pink or purple somewhere. His feet grew from ragtag sneakers into black boots the size of giants. He was taller and seemed to be growing taller every day.
That is about the time I left home to continue with my life away from the centre core. However Trevor never let me really feel far from home. He always recorded special tapes for me. Just for me. Different from any other tapes, these compilation cassettes were special bits of songs that kept me up to “the” songs of the day. Whenever I was “back home” he never treated me like I had been away. He always included me in with his friends. Trevor always kept a spot in his life for his big sister. His love, courage and strength grew and grew.
Soon he too left home. I was there the day he and Barb moved out of their homes to live in sin…I mean, move in together. My baby brother was growing up. He learned new things at school, at his home and with his best friend Barb. His independent ideas and directions that were experimented on at home were now allowed to flourish in his new home. He had become a very capable, loving and independent man.
Well, now he is 33. He is a man. He is the boy that came into my life 33 years ago. He has been there for me through the good and he has helped pick me up during the bad. I continue to gain strength, example and enrichment by who he is and his life experiences and choices. We now live thousands of kilometers apart. We count our face-to-face visits by years rather than weeks but somehow he is with me every single day. I read about his changing life nearly everyday online. When we talk on the phone, our conversation isn’t often marked by simply recapping events that have happened in absentia of the other, but by sharing what we are feeling and thinking at that moment. He wasn’t the sister I had been anticipating that late winter evening 33 years ago. He is so much more than my imagination could have ever fathomed. It’s a boy!! He’s my brother. I love you Trevor and I wish you everything that is good for today…and for each of the 3 times 33 years that we will share together. Happy Birthday Bro.
This morning I took Siana for a walk onto a trail that has been established near our neighbourhood. As I walked along the trail I was met with a number of juxtapositions that led me to tell you a bit more of what life is like here.
Along the trail wild and domestic animal prints were sculptured, cast as modern fossils in the frozen mud. The roar of the not-so-distant traffic created a dissonant symphony with the cacophony of the black ravens. The manicured chip-wood trail with its rocky border meandered through the ancient trees and boulders. The sun warmed my face from a ray cast between the sheets of clouds while my fingers jealously lingered in the cold shadow of my torso.