What Side of the Fence Will I Fall on?


I hate shopping on weekends, with the crowds, the bratty kids, the impatient parents, and the incompetent sales clerks.  But I had to get a few groceries so I reluctantly headed to the mini mall.  I pulled in the parking lot.  Without warning, a car stops dead in the middle of the lane, puts an indicator on, and sits…….. blocking traffic, and by traffic, I mean, me !!

After a minute, after my blood pressure has soared, I decide to squeeze around this asshole.  Just as I am next to him, he reconsiders his parking place, pulls out and cuts me off.   Beeeeeeeeeeppppppppp, I lay it on the horn. I am so pissed.

Now, I am generally a very cheery, “glass half full” kind of gal, but this incident, as well as my occasional rants about “kids these days”, “the lazy generation of 20 somethings”, irresponsible parents”  have me fearing that I could, indeed, fall on the wrong side of the fence.

The way I see it, old people fall in two camps, there is no “in between”, just two sides of the fence. One…. the old, cynical, swearing, grumpy ones, and two…..  the sweet, optimistic, nonjudgemental cheerful seniors. You know the ones that always make you feel better when you see them.

I have to admit, as I age, I am finding more aging people around me becoming grumpy, old people.  And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was afraid of falling on the wrong side of the temperament fence, myself.

I don’t have a grand plan to ensure I fall on the “right” side of the fence.

I am hoping awareness is half the battle.  I am counting on this consciousness to jolt me into less irritable behaviour every time my curmudgeon side reveals itself.   I will also try to silence all negative or judgmental remarks that pop into my head.  Finally, I will surround myself with more of those cheery, optimistic types and hope their goodness will rub off on me.

Wish me luck, and let’s hope I fall on the “right” side of the fence.


Fridays With Murray

Today was, what I sincerely hope is,  the first of many Fridays with Murray.   When I awoke this morning, I did not set out to start a regularly scheduled event, but now, in reflection, I want it to be “Fridays With Murray”.  Last weekend, our visit to my father-in-law had left us gobsmacked.  The decline in his health since Christmas was shocking (unnerving, really)  So this week, I decided that on a weekday, all alone, I would go visit Murray and do a one-on-one visit.

With a freshly baked Quiche (to try to entice him to eat SOMETHING) I headed down the boring 401.  I was a little nervous.  Although, I feel comfortable talking to Murray, I adore the man, I had never made the 1 1/2 hour drive to visit him by myself.  The advance warning email had gone unanswered so I was unsure how he would be feeling or if I would have to awaken him.  I just didn’t really know what I was expecting at all.  What would we talk about?

I arrived at 11:30 am. The sound of the car pulling into the driveway had alerted Holly, who consequently awoke Murray. Still half asleep, he came down the hall. He beamed a beautiful welcoming smile as soon as he saw me, but peeked into the living room (I could tell he was checking the time)  He confessed last weekend that when he wakes up, he is confused whether it is day or night.

In the same manner that it took me a moment to adjust to his frail body last week, this week his facial hair took me aback.  Never in 30 years have I seen facial hair on Murray.  His Asian culture means there really isn’t much potential for growth, but here it was, a good three millimeters of scruffy (all-be-it thin and patchy) whiskers. In a few seconds… I had adjusted.

I announced that I brought Quiche and muffins and invited him to share some lunch with me.  Last weekend we were shocked to hear he had no appetite and had lost 10 pounds.  He said, “sure, a small piece”, out of politeness, I am sure.  So we ate some Quiche and chatted about the weather and other non-important small talk.

Then he put the TV on, I was a little relieved since that would provide more topics of conversation.   The Lance Armstrong’s confession, a Notre Dame player fabricating a dying girlfriend and a woman set free after serving 5 years for hiring a hit-man to kill her abusive husband.  It seemed bizarre and stupid to be discussing this silly stuff when, let’s face it, Murray and I did not have an infinite amount of time to exchange stories; he had Cancer, stopped treatments and from all external signs, was declining fast.

So I talked about the kids.  I showed him photos of Sarah’s recent snowshoeing trip and discussed Alyssa’s project and upcoming trip to Uganda.  Murray was bewildered “GRRRR, travel, why don’t people stay at home, I don’t have any desire to go anywhere”

I challenged him, “Hey, you don’t want to go anywhere because you have done that, you have seen the world.  You have been posted overseas and seen so much of our North.”

Yes, the North, that was great, but that is Canada!!  And I never wanted to go overseas, never wanted a European posting.

I was surprised, because when we were in the military, an overseas posting was like winning the lottery.  We certainly would have loved one.   But it was obvious that Murray’s heart was in Canada.  And truthfully, he always asked us why we don’t travel more frequently in Canada.  I reflected on all his time in the North, working off icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.

So I got him to tell me about the things he saw, things most people never get a chance to see.

He shared stories of Polar bears, he said they usually had two cubs following. He told me about Musk Ox, how they travel in herds.  With a cute guilty laugh, he said the chopper scared a big herd once, causing them all to flee.  There was Hare Island that was covered with a ridiculous amount of arctic hares.  He said someone (off the boat I assume) did cook one for dinner one night.  He told me about a Bay that was really pretty.  I thought it was cute that he used the word “pretty”.  I will have to ask him again what the Bay was.  I was curious if he had ever seen the mythical narwhal.  He said that he had seen some, but they were usually on the beach, postmortem.  He spoke of low-level flowers and caribou, walruses, dolphins and foxes.  He told me about the time he saw one lone red fox, which he found unusual, since it was the land of the Arctic fox.  Him and his buddies once found a wall of soap stone.  One of his friends (I can’t remember if is was Wayne) carved a big 2 foot by two foot piece out so they could try their hand at soap stone carving.  He ended with saying he didn’t understand how Climate Change could affect things much.  He obviously remembers those years flying a chopper from the ice breakers very fondly.  He has seen things that most people could only dream of seeing, and it wasn’t on a trip or tour, it was just his job.  So cool!

As I drove home after 2 and a half hours of chatting, I thought about how I talked to him more in this short time than I had in the previous 30 years I had known him.  I decided that I would love for this to be a regular thing, a “Fridays With Murray” date.