Monday, February 6, 2012

Life lessons

Some weeks are simply a series of events that you sort of careen into or pass by. Last week was one of those.

This month's blog posts are dedicated to the memory of Kay Mannell, who died January 28th. She was 94 (well, another two weeks and we could say that without lying) and her passing creates a large hole in our universe. Those people who anchor us to our past, who are in our thoughts on a daily basis and who carry us in their hearts are the ones we miss the most.

I should say that Kay was Steve's grandmother and mine by marriage. Our son Lucas was the first great grandchild and we dubbed her Great Grammy not only because of the 4 generations but because she was so great to us.

We didn't get to see Great Grammy often once we moved to Halifax. To fill that gap we bought a clock that chimes the hours with bird calls. At 5:00 the owl would hoot, signalling to Bruno (our departed fluffy cat) that it was time for dinner, and he would tear across the house from where ever he was to find me and help me get the can out of the fridge.

We put up two bird feeders for all seasons, a heated bird bath, several summertime watering spots for insects and visiting cats, and in the house, we painted the staircase wall a lovely shade of mauve.

In my studio, I have two iconic statues. At one point in their retirement, Great Grampa would go to garage sales and buy up silver. He eventually bought up everythingn for miles around and switched to creamers. Cow Creamers. Mauve and purple cow creamers.

As well, Great Grammy loved cupids and swans.

I feel very lucky to have these two little ornaments. They make me laugh quite often.

Great Grammy taught me how to talk to a baby who made no sense to me at all. She showed me how to listen and act as if all that gobbell-dee-gook was a story the baby was telling me. It meant that I began to feel confident in my handling of Lucas and eventually, to read what all the different noises meant. It was a door to confidence and a lesson in deep listening.

Great Grammy had a sun room in those days. It wasn't very big, but it was filled with terrific house plants. It looked out over her backyard. When they bought the house, it was mostly a sand lot with a few mature trees. Great Grampa would buy little tree seedlings at the end of the tree planting season and plant a few 100 every fall. Over time, they had a forest coming up to the back door. One day a deer and her doe came by. This was a regular occurence for Great Grammy and a real treat for me to watch. The deer was hungry and headed to the apple tree.

"But wait," said the deer and she turned her head.

Great Grammy groaned, "Oh not my lupin, not my lupin." "Great Grammy, why don't you knock on the glass?" I asked. "Oh no, that would frighten her. She needs it more than I do, dear," Great Grammy answered.

I learned then not only to love people, how I live my life and relationships passionately, but that sometimes we have to sacrifice for those loves and that it is worth it.

Years later in Halifax I was in a swimming pool doing aqua fit with a bunch of seniors. I was working out some serious kinks from moving all those boxes and books as they were working on arthritis in their hands, so the activity allowed for some discussion. I told the story about how Great Grammy had built her retirement home and painted all the walls mauve, had mauve carpets and chandeliers in every room.

One of the women looked at me strangely and asked, "Does your Grandmother have mauve bathtubs and toilets?" "Oh yes, " I said, "and sinks too." "That woman nearly killed my grandson," she said, "He's the developer and those toilets took him all over Ontario." I laughed and eventually, the other woman did too. I don't know if her grandson ever laughed about it, but he should have.

I learned that day two special things. One is that what we love, however peculiar they appear to others, love deeply and enjoy them fully.

I also learned how far reaching the things we do in our lives can be. Literally and metaphorically, our actions go beyond anything we are often aware of and most of the time, in a positive way. And that the things we think are our legacy to the next generation might not be the thing that is remembered or honoured most. It might be that the way we approach our passions and relationships is what matters most, not what we "Do".

For this month, the back ground will be mauve, in honour of Great Grammy. If we come back as anything, then I expect Great Grammy has found herself to be a very fine little mauve bird with an incredible tail. If you see one, wave to her for me.

(toilet, lupins and brooch all google images)

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