As a mother of a 20- something year old I have to say that I was never the type to hang to too many memento’s of hers. I would keep the random cute drawing, a report card or too, and few baby items that I felt one day she may appreciate. As it stands right now, she has no interest in any of it- so therefore I am obliged to hang on to it until perhaps 10 years from now she still will have no interest in it.
I have moved so many times over the last 15 years that the opportunity to unload and let go of stuff has become customary. I often tell myself as I’m offloading this stuff that if I did not remember I even had it, I probably do not need to hang on to it. So basically I Marie Kondo the F*** out of my house on a monthly basis.
That was until I had my elderly mother move in with us.
When we moved into a much larger home you would think that after having moved her from British Columbia only a year before that she would have very limited belongings.
This woman has kept everything…as in she still has my reward for “Participation” ribbons. Mementos of my mediocre attempts at anything academic or athletics. My mother also loves to hang onto cards from anniversaries, birthdays, thank you’s…she has boxes of these cards. In addition, the family heirlooms and antique furniture that do hold value, however in the context of my own love for more contemporary décor, stick out like a sore thumb. But at the end of the day I tolerate it obligingly- my mom deserves to be surrounded by the familiar things she has grown to love and cherish.
More recently my mom decided to introduce a new desk into her room so that she could house more of her stuff and perhaps alphabetize her cards and categorize the bill statements she has hung onto since 1995. As she was going through her things she had come across some letters from my father when he had taken a job overseas in Tanzania. Read Here about those adventures! Part 1 and Part 2
Now if there was anything to ever hang on to this would be it. My father passed away in August of 2016 after a long battle with organ failure complicated by dementia. For about 10 years prior to his death, my father had deteriorated and what was left the man I had remembered had been long gone. So when my mom came across these letters to her, I was able to revisit a time when he was vibrant, humorous and the father that I had grew up with. I had long forgotten this side of him, as the decade prior to his passing was overshadowed by so much stress and worry while we advocated for placement and my mom was left as a caregiver.
Before his health declined my father was a hard worker- in fact a workaholic. He was determined to provide for his family-despite some underlying mental health and addiction issues that I’ll save for another time. My father had served in the Canadian air force, taught college Electronics engineering, was a boat builder, woodworker, and avid fisherman. He worked all over the world, and one of his last jobs brought him to Tanzania as mentioned.
Here are some of the excerpts from his letters that I will hang onto without a doubt. Hope you enjoy!
A proper late afternoon it was as I recall in late June. You see we were already in what felt like month 8 of wintertime, so when the warm weather hit, we took advantage of the good weather vibes. Nevertheless, these months can often feel like years. Weathering Calgary winters is a matter of psychological survival of the fittest. You can either fall into the winter doldrums and await the snow melt, or just carry on with life. Our ability to endure is massively under-estimated as many would assume we must be miserable during these months, but we make it work. Others tend to rub salt into our frigid wounds despite our resilience, but should be assured we make the most out of any outdoor time we can get. Located next to us is the Province of British Columbia, who’s residents continuously boast about their balmy year round weather, and it leaves us no choice but to talk about ours occasionally. Our conversations often worth mentioning which I learned is not a well known term among outsiders- The Chinook. They can be lovely and painful.
You see, just as my skull felt like it was going to rupture from the pressure, I realized it wasn’t from a Chinook but from a wicked mid week pandemic drinking hangover. Who knew there would something worse than the Chinook Migraines to consider… Alas there was the Covid-19 headaches lurking around each corner or on the surface of your delivered groceries. It seems that being an Albertan comes often with a lot of headaches no matter which way you go about life. We desperately needed a break from it all. And an early summer was delivered!
While Good ol’ 2020 is the year we all hope to forget, it was forgiving enough to give us a bit of early nice weather for a change, no headaches attached. In fact, as we were all hunkered down at our homes, I worked on my patio most days soaking up the cool spring sunshine. By June the weather remained beautiful and the Province began to lift the pressure of isolation and extreme social distancing measures. After months of binge watching Game of Thrones & Vikings, a date with the outside world would be added to my empty agenda. Kudos to all those who got super creative and cute with their social bubbles…we aren’t that type at all. We were just focusing on finding Lysol wipes, toilet paper, and not murdering each other.
So to my surprise, my adorable boyfriend made a plan to take me on a picnic at Prince’s Island park.
The sun was out and I was dressed for the occasion, wearing an adorable little romper with white polka dots. In fact it was one of 20 I would buy throughout the months of online shopping that kept me busy during a pandemic lockdown. As the Pandemic marched on foiling my runway Covid release party, I’d send them all back in defeat. I kept 2 rompers in total to symbolize the 1 time I picnicked in the park, and then one in case we’d do it again. On this day I felt sort of normal. Our picnic basket that had been given as a gift years ago was filled with some champagne and pre-ordered Lebanese food from a store that was doing “pick-up only.” We were into supporting the small businesses in which many as a result of our Stage 1 shut down were on the brink of closing their doors for good. I assure you we single handedly did our best to keep them afloat with our hearty appetites and my lack of desire to cook.
As we strolled making our way through the park on the hunt for the perfect picnic spot we ensured the two meters apart protocol. I should mention when you are in a park, its really hard to avoid the floods of roller-bladers, skateboarders, cyclists, and people who just didn’t give a shit. This was probably the most stressful part of the date as we worked really hard to do our share of distancing, dodging, ducking, and all around avoiding passer-byers. This may seem ridiculous but remember this was in the early months when no one knew whether to wear a mask, or thought Covid was a 5G network conspiracy.
This anxiety inducing element made finding the “perfect picnic spot” got old real quick and we lowered our standards somewhat settling on a plot of grass that had the least amount of Canadian Goose Shit in or around it. We settled for a beautiful spot under a tree where my honey could sit in the shade and I could soak up the long awaited warm summer rays. Blankets were laid, food spread out, champagne poured and a good vibes playlist begun.
I vividly remember how amazing it felt to be out in the world again, watching new faces stroll by, all equally desiring the same need to reconnect with the world again. Colors seemed amplified, the flowers and grass more fragrant. The sounds of the birds and the fountain heightened against the rousing melodic music in the background. Even the face of my boyfriend looked fresh and new despite having stared at it non-stop for the previous couple months while in the pandemic lockdown. Perhaps I was going to recant my initial thoughts of smothering him in his sleep? The edges of his lips would begin to curl up and a smile peaking through…indeed I would not be smothering him.
I had only wished we had brought a frisbee, mitts and a ball. Maybe badminton rackets even, not that I can actually do any of these activities well. There is something about being in a park however that suggests that when in Rome, these activities could be enjoyable even for a gigantic accident prone clutz like myself. I imagine that during better times in the world you could probably catch a scene from Top Gun where all the boys are playing volleyball shirtless, dogtags stuck against their glistening sweaty skin. Silver framed Aviators perched perfectly on the bridge of their Adonis nose, complimenting a strongly chiseled jawline. If luck would have it, maybe a rogue volleyball would make it my way, rolling into my peripheral view. I’d glare at the broad shadowy figure above me, looking sheepishly irritated with the interruption as I adjust my bathing suit flush against my oiled and cellulite free bottom. I did say it was “better times” y’all, 20 years ago give or take.
Let me get back to reality here.
Our food was so delicious, and so was the company. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect late afternoon; dining Al Fresco on our little patch of heaven in the park. We found new things to talk about that left us freshly engaged as our conversation danced with ideas, ready to execute for when things returned back to normal. Careful to not get too hopeful, but enough as to not let the cynicism seep in and ruin the day. We’d talk about places we wanted to travel too in the next coming years, and what kind of adventure we were seeking from these travels. We would go through the list of what we had learned about ourselves during the isolation from friends and family and what good things came from these lessons. We’d acknowledge the fact that the pandemic was not going to be forever but here for now. Just like how the time we had together was going to model a similar outcome. We’d have each other now, and in this moment hoped it would last forever, but impossible.
We would not get the opportunity to picnic like this again during the summer, but would spend some time on the Bow river floating, snacking and sipping in the sunshine. It would be the simplicity of these afternoons that I hope we can repeat next summer as soon as the warmth returns to us. I suspect the world may still be in a similar state in 7 months whereby our gatherings stay small, our travel plans stay local, and expectations stay realistic. Picnic’s in the park for a Pandemic Date Win!