Monday, 31 December 2012

#331: Twelve Days of Sickness

Between us, Bruce and I had our Christmas holiday sabotaged by 12 days of sickness.

It started for me on December 19 and ended December 24.  Bruce became ill with the same 6-day tummy-bug-plus-extreme-fatigue on Christmas Day.

Adjustments were made. The tree went up on December 24.  Santa was less generous, having fewer opportunities to find perfect presents.  The larder bulged with tins of chicken and rice soup, saltines, and ginger ale.  Thank goodness we had made reservations for Christmas dinner at the fancy local Inn, but Bruce stayed home with his crackers and pop.  We forfeited our Boxing Day dinner and movie (Les Mis) in Toronto. 

It could have been worse.

Had we been working, we would have had to take off at least five days each -- this was no minor virus.  And we would have ruined a 5-day Christmas break which could not be redeemed. You don't get do-overs for ruined holidays.

But it doesn't matter so much now that we are retired. We can pick and choose "breaks" as required.  We are going to Les Mis tomorrow.  And we'll have a another chance for a celebratory meal when my birthday rolls around, mid-January.

So I can deal --- this time.  But let's not make 12 days of down-time a tradition.  No repeat performances in 2013, please!


Monday, 24 December 2012

#330: Merry (Stressless) Christmas

I appear to be a retiree who has retired from the business of Christmas -- or at least from the business of Christmas cooking.

I have contracted out the baking to my eager husband, the guy who makes piles of brownies, chocolate chip banana bread and oatmeal-cranberry cookies, and then complains in a dismayed tone that "baking" makes him gain weight. 

And then there is the actual Christmas dinner.  I no longer prepare it, or even supervise the preparation.  For the last three years, we have had our festive meal at a very nice nearby Inn.  I am not exactly sure how this came about --it is not as if our previous dinners had been inedible.  It may, however, have related to the fact that we are a very small family, and the effort of preparing a holiday meal for only four people seemed unnecessarily stressful.  Less stress:  that was the selling feature, as I recall.  No-one commented on my gravy-making ability.

As a Christmas dinner dropout, I feel slightly guilty, but less so after reading today's Facts and Argument's essay in The Globe and Mail.   After 47 years of overseeing holiday meals, the author dreams of escape to the very Inn we have been frequenting. But it won't happen this year; she cancelled her reservations when her distraught family begged for another Christmas dinner at her place. (I'll post this item when it becomes available -- the online G&M must be taking a seasonal vacay),

And for us?  We'll be livin' the life-without-lumpy-gravy-and-left-overs tomorrow again. We are off to the Inn. And it will be lovely, and perfect for a retired couple and a grown daughter and her husband.  But this is not necessarily a permanent arrangement. I look forward to having everyone (plus grandchild!) together at home for occasional future Christmases.  (Honestly, in our family, nothing really says I Love You like lumpy gravy.)

Monday, 17 December 2012

#329: Rhea and Danny and Nancy and Bruce

I've been out west for a couple of weeks, so Bruce is glad to have me home again.  I know this for a fact, in spite of a conversation in which he noted (ruefully, it must be admitted) some of my recent housekeeping irregularities: 

He:  You know the salt and pepper never put them back on the shelf the same way. I always put the salt on the left.
Me (thinking):  Huh?

He:  And the free weights in the basket upstairs?   Now they are all mixed up.  I had them organized by size.
Me:  OK... that sort of makes sense...I guess

He:  You do weird things with the broom, too.  It has a beveled edge, but you put it in the closet backwards so that it falls out when the door is opened. 
Me:  The broom?  The BROOM? 

This whole conversation strikes me as hilarious, although I'm sure that my lack of consistency might actually drive some husbands nuts.  Bruce, bless him,  just finds my behaviour puzzling. But I have known forever that he has a greater need for order than I do, so I listened to his inventory and I nodded.  I should be more rational, but I'm making no promises.  Because I know that for a few weeks I'll behave as logically as I can, and then I'll revert to type: random, scattered, a bit messy.

I recalled a recent afternoon of shared yard work. Bruce and I had been raking leaves together and I could see that 46 years living with a Master Raker had not improved my technique a whole lot.  My side of the lawn was filled with many little leafy piles; Bruce's leaves were in nice straight rows.

The rows are Bruce's; the heaps are mine

As I surveyed the yard, I got to thinking about Rhea Perlman (64) and Danny Di Vito (69) who had separated that week after 40+ years together.  (I wish celebrities wouldn't do that.  It makes the rest of us old-marrieds nervous.)  And I wondered what could make them split after all that time?  They seem like such a nice, regular couple.  Were they just bored?  Was it a single, silly event (an affair?) or one of many petty annoyances (she never did learn to rake properly!)?   

Today I learned that Rhea and Danny are trying to "work things out".  This may be hard. It seems that the problem, Danny's dalliance with a starlet, is the latest of many not-so-petty annoyances.  He is apparently a serial flirt, and Rhea has had enough, and I don't blame her.  But old habits are hard to break, even when you love someone. So I wish them luck. It would be so much easier if Danny just had to remember to put the broom into the closet the right way around. That's what I intend to do.....for a little while, anyway.


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

#328: Return Ticket

I had an "open" ticket to Saskatoon.  I might have stayed one week, I might have stayed four. Being retired, I was completely free set my own timetable.  I could leave for home when it felt right.  You usually don't get to do that when you are working.  Lucky me.

But, while I would happily hang out with Baby Erik indefintely, I really should let his new mum and dad get on with the task of caring for their dear wee boy.

So I'm homeward bound tomorrow on a flight that will have me back in Guelph at 1:00 a.m. although  my body will think it is just bedtime -- midnight, Saskatoon time.   I will think of two weary parents trying to coax one restless little nightowl to sleep.  Sssssssssssh.  Sssssssssssh.


I have had a lovely visit,  but I comfort myself with the knowledge that there will be many more. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

#327: S'no Fun

Lots of Shoveling
Somewhere dark and early in Saskatoon (via The Weather Network)
Last night when I talked to Bruce, he observed that my conversations are becoming predictable.  First I talk about the baby, and then I talk about the weather.  It has been like this for two weeks, and I am voluable on both topics.

But I just can't believe how cold it it feels!.  This afternoon, for example, it is -20 C (-4 F) but the windchill is -26 C (-14 F).  Saskatoon is, in fact, the second coldest city in Canada.  (Winnipeg is the winter winner.)

These frosty facts translate into a lot of necessary, adaptive behavours.  Let's face it:  Winter is work.

Do you want to drive somewhere?  If you park your car on the street, you will first have to clear it of snow, unplug it (cars left outdoors in winter are "plugged in" so the engine block is heated), and then warm it up for 10 minutes so that the interior is no longer freezing. If the plough has come by, add "digging out the car" to the list before you even hit the road.  Make that the icey road.  It is too cold here for road salt,  so "sand" must suffice-- pinkish potash tailings which seem minimally effective. Drivers quickly learn that they will be skidding into every intersection for the next five months.  That's right: winter sets up camp sometime in November, and doesn't move on until April.  The good folk of Saskatoon are in it for the long haul.

Driving or walking, at least everyone knows to "dress for the cold".  (You wouldn't want to be caught in your stalled vehicle without proper apparel!) So we all suit up with parkas, boots-that-mean-business, heavy mitts, and hats.  Hats are a must, and if you look dorky in a hat, too bad. At least you will have a lot of company.  Personally, my outdoor ensemble also requires passably heavy pants.    I cannot imagine wearing a skirt and tights in this weather, but I am sure it happens -- perhaps on younger women who seem a bit more impervious to the cold than I am.

And that starts me thinking:  why would retirees endure this punishing winter climate? Because surely very few older people are delighted at the prospect of girding themselves against Extreme Weather every time they leave the house. I am convinced that older residents must surely sell up and move to the Okanagan in droves. There must be fewer people over 65 living in Saskatoon than in a comparable city (Kitchener, for example) in southern Ontario.

But I am wrong.

In 2011, Stats Canada shows both cities at about 220, 000, and both have, proportionally, about the same number of residents aged 65 and above.   You can check this out for yourself: 2011 Canadian Census

I am beginning to feel very sorry for the snow - bound retirees of Saskatoon and mention this to some locals.  But they point out that older Saskatchewanians are typical Canadian snowbirds;  if they can afford it, they fly south in the winter and thaw out in California, Arizona, and Florida.  Some go to Mexico or Hawaii even if just for a couple of weeks.

But not everone needs to escape, apparently.  I was also told of a guy who retired to BC and then moved back to Saskatoon because he missed the winter sun--the sun that rose at 9:04 today, and went down at 4:54. 

I guess they just breed tougher retirees in Saskatchwan. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

#326: Look Younger!

Today's "Look Younger" tip is courtesy of the friendly Korean woman who works at The Rice Bowl, a restaurant near my daughter's house in Saskatoon.

I dropped in there today to get some bi bim bap to go, and as I went to a table and turned my back to gather up the take-out dinner, the waitress who spoke very little English, rushed over from where she had been sitting with a friend. The two women must have been discussing me, because the friend gave me a big grin as my waitress declared "You looking so younger!"  I obviously didn't get it so she made a swooping gesture that took in all of my rear view -- hat, parka, jeans, the works.  Now I understood.  "Well, that's because I wasn't turned around" I replied, pointing out that face on, I definitely look my age.  And the three of us--all older women--had a rueful laugh.

Hmmmm.  I suppose we do all have a younger side and that is a cheerful thought.  I just wish I could think of some practical application -- one that didn't involve walking backwards.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

#325: Life is Grand

So...what day is it?

I'm not really sure, but I think it is Saturday.  In the little house in Saskatoon where my sweet, new grandson lives with his new mum and dad, time is measured in successful feedings, wet diapers, and sleeps for both baby and parents.  (So far we are having a bit of trouble with the latter, but it is early days yet.  Right?)

Alas, sleep deprivation does not make novice parents feel any more competent, and even when a new mother is not recovering from a c-section, caring for a tiny infant can be an anxious time.  Never mind that the child is wonderful, amazing, adorable and all those other superlatives.

If only our darling boy would figure out that nighttime is naptime!

So I cheerlead, and say things like  "You are doing a great job!  It will be so much easier when he is a bit older".

What I do not say is "Cherish this precious time."  As far as I am concerned, parenting a newborn is only precious in retrospect.  (Besides, I know that my sleep-walking daughter does not cherish the memory of yesterday's bare-and-naked Poo and PeeFest.)

Since I have very little practical advice to impart, I have tried to make myself useful in other ways. I do a bit of cooking, cleaning, and a whole lot of cuddling.

I wonder if I enjoyed rocking my own firstborn this much?  I don't think so. Like every other new parent, I knew that it was Amatuer Hour in the Nursery.  I hadn't a clue.  I was terrified that we wouldn't get it right.  But, somehow, we did.  Our girls are just fine thank you, and this little guy will grow up to be amazing, too.  Perhaps this is what other grandparents mean when they say "It is different with your grandchildren."   Grandparents can see the big picture and they know it will all work out.

My cuddles now are without concern; they are confident and full of hope for this dear, wee soul.  Finally I can really cherish this precious time.

All will be well.