Make room, move over

I would never consider myself to be popular in the sense that I have a vast list of friends and acqaintances but I have, what I would describe, as a comfortable number of very dear people whose company I enjoy – my circle of friends is not large but it’s very treasured.

There’ve been people in my life I could’ve sworn were lifelong pals, but for whatever reason the dynamic changed and we moved in different directions. Then there are those who ‘circle the airport’; they come in and out of my life periodically and we pick up the conversation as though we’d never parted. There’s no anger or resentment; no “where’ve you been for the last 5 years”, we just appreciate eachothers company in the moment.

Every now and then you’ll come across a stranger with whom you feel an immediate connection for no obvious reason – it just feels right. You are compelled to initiate a conversation, anything to prolong the encounter because there’s somethng about this individual you want to know better. These instinctual feelings are worthy of attention because our intuition is  never wrong. Every encounter in our lives serves a purpose – we were meant to meet these people, and they were meant to meet us.

In our busy lives it’s easy to ignore these gut feelings. We’re busy with family, jobs, life,,,, and making new friends is work, so it’s easier to just cling to the circle we have because it’s comfortable and requires little effort to maintain, but is that wise? Broadening our circle of friends opens us up to new ideas. It exposes us to a whole range of characteristics we might not be aware of in humanity. It makes us more accepting of our differences. It teaches us how to trust and how to love. It also teaches us how to laugh and cry in the comfort of a familiar embrace and all of these are good reasons to take on the work of forging new friendships whenever the opportunity presents itself because we never lose when we expand our circle of friends.

Every year my husband and I go to Florida where we rent a condo for a month. We have a close group of friends who travel with us, also renting a condo in the same complex. We have a routine with these friends that includes our gathering at 5:00 each evening by the poolside for what we call ‘happy hour’. We recap our events of the dayand plan any evening events but the best part is the gathering of friends. We move the pool chairs into a circle and spend the next hour laughing and talking, then we part to have dinner. This routine has remained unchanged for years, as have the participants,,,,until this year.

On one such evening a friend and I arrived first so we started gathering the chairs for our circle. A gentleman sitting in a lounger reading a book immediately got up and started to help us (see, chivalry isn’t dead!) Our ‘happy hour’ was a familiar daily sight so he clearly knew what needed to be done. Once our circle was in place he returned to his lounger to read and my friend and I looked at eachother with the same thought – lets invite him into our circle. We did and he enthusiastically accepted. In fact, a few moments later he went up to his condo and returned with snacks,,,,and his wife, so we added another chair and our circle expanded.

Other couples, also vacationing from various parts of Canada and the US, joined our rapidly expanding circle and every time a new face emerged onto the pool deck someone quickly got up to retrieve more chairs. Our daily ‘happy hour’ was indeed happy. People were talking and laughing and we got to know some very interesting personalities. I felt like a kid opening a present and when the month ended and we were gathered for our last ‘happy hour’ of the year, all exchanged contact information and vowed to meet again by the poolside, same time next year.

We are all of retirement age so you wouldn’t think making new friends would be so exciting but it was. Each new opportunity to make a friend is a gift and gifts are to be enjoyed and appreciated. We are never to old to make new friends and there is always room in the circle for more so the next time you see the opportunity…..make room, move over. You’ll be so glad you did.

Friends

Time to go

Two days ago I got word that the elderly mother of a dear friend passed away and I was surprised at my reaction to the news. Typically I am saddened, shocked even, given the circumstances, but in this case I felt a flood of relief and dare I say it, joy.

Marie was 99 years old and up until 3 years ago she lived in her own home, drove her own car and enjoyed an active social life. She had led a full and accomplished life; enjoyed an illustrious career, raised a son, and took great pride in the accomplishments of her grandchildren. An episode at the age of 96 rendered her immobile and she had to be placed in a nursing home and despite her ravaged body, her mind was as sharp as ever.

Marie was the ultimate matriarch; capable and strong, a true leader, but she was also wife, mother, and friend to many, and it was these roles that brought out the compassionate and loving woman in her. She had a practical way of viewing things in life – always a realist she could cope with anything life brought her so when she lost her independence she prepared for the inevitable. Marie was not afraid to die. In fact, I believe she was more afraid of living too long and over the last three years she greeted each day with acceptance as she secretly prayed for death. She had lived a very full life and had no regrets. It was, in her mind, time to go home.

When her body started to shut down her mind remained as sharp as ever. She said her goodbyes to her son and grandchildren and then slowly, peacefully, slipped away. How beautiful is that?

Death is part of life and no one escapes it, but in a world where so many pass too young, too painfully, we can only dream to leave this world as peacefully as Marie so instead of tears of sadness and regret, we shed tears of joy and contentment in celebration of a life well lived. She lived and died on her terms. We should all be so lucky.

Thank you Marie for setting such a wonderful example of how to live a rich, full life, for giving us perspective, and laughter, and joy. The world is a better place because you graced it. I won’t cry because you are gone, rather I’ll cry out of gratitude for having known you, however briefly. Rest  in peace, dear Marie. Welcome home.

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You are what you are…..

Because I made you so, and all things considered, I think I did a pretty good job!

Every now and then I find myself in a conversation that ultimately finds my kids reminiscing about their upbringing. They’ll rag on about how I made them eat certain foods because it was good for them, and bedtime was strictly observed because children needed their sleep (actually I’d had enough and was pooped so their bedtime was really for my benefit,,,,ok, I said it,,,,, are you happy now?) Candy and junk food was limited, curfews were adhered to, and yes, I will admit it now, we kept a very close eye on the company you kept because there was always those kids that looked for trouble and we wanted to keep you away from them.

Now that my children are adult and starting families of their own I take a keen interest in how they will rear their children. Young mothers today reference the internet for advice on feedings, rashes, even sleep patterns, and of course all join a mom-chat room to consult with other young mothers (who know nothing). Did I pass on anything of value? I know I was the one who nagged. I was the one who yelled (oddly enough, since my children grew up and moved out I don’t yell anymore, coincidence? I think not) I was the one they all feared cause when mom’s in a ‘mood’, lookout!

What about dad? How come he’s never the bad guy? Whenever there’s a walk down memory lane, how come no one’s bashing him? Whenever a firm stand had to be taken, mom took the heat, and dad was the poor nice guy who helplessly shrugged and whispered, ‘ you know your mother.’ Dad was the popular one; the one they ran to when mom said no, looking for an appeal. But…..when they were struggling, in need of help, real help, who did they come to?

Mom.

Because when push comes to shove, mom was their voice of reason. She made everything alright again. She comforted, supported, and yes, gave honest opinions that were not what you wanted to hear,,,,,but you needed to. She told you when your skirt was too short (can you see the eyes rolling?) She constantly reminded you to hold the door for someone behind you, and to say please and thank you. She did the hockey practices, ballet, swimming lessons. She oversaw homework, threw countless birthday parties, made you healthy lunches and most important of all, she taught you the value of family and tradition.

I am very grateful to my mother for the sense of tradition she instilled in us. Christmas, Easter, birthdays, they had a special meaning and routine. You prepared for the occasion, dressed for it, and celebrated it recognizing the importance of doing so together. Was my mother perfect? No way. Who is? She was a screamer (ok, that’s where I got it) and worked us hard. We had household chores and the expectation was high. And when I look back my father was the nice guy, mom was the heavy, but she made us what we are today. She was the enforcer and while I don’t condone all of her parenting methods, I am willing to acknowledge that she did the best she could with what she knew. And I like to think each generation improves upon the last.

I am not the perfect mother, but I did the best I could with the resources I had, and you didn’t come with an instruction manual, so all things considered, I think I did ok because you’re pretty amazing! (how’d that happen?)

Am I the best mother? No, but I’m damn good, and you are what you are today because of me.

You’re welcome!

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The spider and I

I really, reeeally reeeeeeeeally hate them, Spiders, that is, and I do not feel the list bit odd about that because I know bug aversions are so common in society, especially fear of spiders.  Recently I found myself wondering why they scare me the way they do. They’re actually quite pretty; they’re symmetrical, and sometimes have pretty patterns on their back or legs…ok wait, that’s it! They have legs,,, and I think that’s what invokes fear! Legs! (too many of them) It allows them to move too fast. On the other hand, centipedes have dozens of legs and they don’t bother me at all. (I’m just glad I don’t have to buy their shoes)

About a month ago I went into my basement heading to the freezer when in the corner of my eye I caught sight of something dark on the rubber mat of my treadmill. It was a spider, and not a small one I might add. Now let’s face it, I’ve encountered lots of spiders in my life but most were small house spiders, the kind you scoop up and squish with a Kleenex.

Seventeen years ago, my husband and I moved to a home surrounded by forest. Trees and shrubs and wildlife and…….bugs. Big bugs, so spotting yet another massive spider in my basement, while not a surprise, was still worthy of a lot of screaming and dancing around. Eventually, I realized no one was home so the screaming was futile. I was also surprised that when I screamed and jumped……the spider seemed to ‘jump’. (ok, so they can hear) It scurried under the treadmill so I turn it on and as the rubber mat rotated, so did the spider, he’s here, he’s gone, he’s here, he’s gone. I screamed again to see if it affected him and it did. He flinched, and I actually felt kind of sorry for him. Looked like this little guy was as scared of me as I was of him. (that, or he was laughing at me)

I debated what to do. If I kill him, I have peace of mind. If I don’t he’ll be lurking somewhere here, and we can’t have that. I grabbed a box of Kleenex and waited for the treadmill to recycle him into view and then wham, I pounded the whole box down on him. Despite a good slam he didn’t seem bothered. In fact he scurried under again apparently unharmed. Ok, this is creepy, how resilient are these things?

I found a book, a great big one, and I waited again for the treadmill to bring him back around. As I waited I heard the radio announcer in the background talking, oddly enough, about spiders in his basement. He went on to say he didn’t much care for them but let them be because they ate other bugs. Was this some weird coincidence, or was it a subliminal message to me? He made me feel guilty for killing something that was actually of benefit to humanity.

The spider didn’t resurface (I think he’s on to me) and eventually I put the book away and went upstairs grudgingly acknowledging that sparing this small creatures life would be my good deed for the day.

I opened my front door, as I often do, because I love to have the daylight stream in and what do I see on the inside of my screen door? Yup, you guessed it, a nice big spider (probably a relative of my friend downstairs) I gasp and jump back preparing to scream and dance again, then realize quickly it’d be a wasted effort, (what’s the point of carrying on like an idiot if you don’t have an audience to humiliate you?) so I sit back on the bottom step to think about what to do. Will this one keep other bugs out of my home too? (how many do we need for bug control?)

I stare at the door deep in thought. Is my fear of these creatures really justified? I mean, what harm are they really? I wonder if they feel fear when in the face of a human. As I struggle with my conscience the spider moves slightly and my decision is made. I get up, grab my husband’s size 10 boot, open the door knocking him onto the concrete porch and pound him into mush.

One good deed a day is enoughscared woman

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