Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Last Hurrah

As the last breath is finally released and the strong heart gives up its valiant fight; Betty finally relinquishes herself to an eternal rest. The date is July 18, 2005. Today on July 22, 2005 we come together to pay respect to this wonderful woman. I know that I will never forget this birthday, my 44th.

I think about how Betty is finally forced to rest and how that was something that she rarely allowed herself. I think how odd it is to be here for a funeral in the very Church where I married her son Bill some 26 years ago. I sit quietly with my thoughts as sweat drips down my face and neck. Was it this hot when we married? I think so, but I probably never noticed on that day. I was too wound up in nervous, happy tension. I look up to the ceiling at the small blades of the ceiling fan dangling high above and wonder why they would put such a small fan up so high; its blades too weak to push enough air towards me to evaporate the dampness that clings to my body.

Memories of my wedding day and Betty standing proudly at the front of the Church, watching me walk down the aisle, make me cry. She infused her never ending energy into our wedding preparations; making sure that every last detail was perfect.

I sit two rows behind the one that holds my daughter, her father, his second wife and their two sons. I sit with my mother alone. The other side of the Church in the front row are my ex-brother-in law, his third wife, his father, his mother’s sister and her husband.

It is obvious that my ex husband is not considered one of the family and neither are we. The black sheep as he has often been referred to, is forced to sit on the opposite side of the Church because his father’s sister and her family have taken up squatting rights in the second row, not offering to give up their prime seats when he arrived and certainly not even entertaining that perhaps their actions could be considered inappropriate or rude. My daughter told me of the awkwardness later and how it made her feel angry and sad. Bill did not make a fuss. He quietly moved his family to the third row, the first two were designated for the Pall Bearer’s, and sat silently, obstructed of a view to the spot that would soon hold the casket of his mother, listening to the quiet chords of the organ whining in the background.

I wonder what thoughts are going through his mind but I cannot even imagine. I have lost a parent and I know how terribly devastating that can be, but I did not have the underlying tensions of dislike and competitiveness that he has, so I wait for him to explode because I know that he will.

My mind stops for a moment and I feel guilty about my wilful pondering in this holy place where we have gathered to worship the passing of a wonderful, strong, vibrant matriarch. I decide to ignore the snub and try to focus on all the contributions of a woman that I loved as much as my own mother.

To try and describe her is a feat in itself. How do you explain a woman that could run a business, do everything and I mean everything for her husband, maintain a show home that was open year after year for Public tours, volunteer and actively participate in several charitable organisations, run for Public Office more than once, stand for hours on end preparing home made Chili Sauce, Zucchini Relish, Corn Relish, Dill Pickles, Strawberry Jam, Raspberry Jam and numerous other culinary delights in the heat of the summer in a house only equipped with fans, without one complaint because she knew that her husband would be happy. If that is not enough, try to imagine this same woman probably the day after doing all of that cooking, going outside and cutting the lawn for 7 hours and when she was finished you would swear it was nicer than the greens of an exclusive golf and country club. That was her weekend. She would be at work on Monday morning to start the whole thing over again, managing a thriving Travel Agency during a time when many women did not hold a position above Secretary.

Her limitless energy and talents made me shameful of my own wifely contributions. I tried to keep up to her but I realised that I was not made of the same stuff as Betty S. She was unique and bigger than life. I never heard her say that she could not do something or accomplish something. Those negative words did not occupy any space in her thought process. Instead her mind was always busy imagining her next task or challenge. She taught me many things and I am changed because I met her son a month before my 16th birthday and eventually married him a month after I turned 18.

She taught me how to make the best pie crust ever and often bragged to other people about the beautiful apple pies I could make. I can feel the blush on my cheeks that would instantly appear when I would hear her talking about my own abilities, because I knew that it would never compare to hers. After years of hearing those same compliments, I am forced to accept that it was a sincere compliment and not a half truth that you may hear from less genuine individuals.

Betty was not dishonest. Many people may not have understood her frank honesty but I’m sure that it was respected. She would not purposely try to hurt you but if you asked her opinion, you would get it, even if it was not what you wanted to hear.

Our relationship began on rocky ground because she couldn’t understand why a young girl would be interested in a man 8 years her senior. I think that she questioned my own integrity in those early years, but it wasn’t long before I was one of the family and treated like the daughter that she always wanted but never had. When my marriage ended, I promised her through our hugs and tears that I would never abandon her or Frank and they would always have access to their granddaughter Melissa. That was not even a question in my mind, but I knew that it happens often when couples part and I could see the fear in her eyes when I told her that Bill had left. She loved both Melissa and I and she was openly upset and angry at Bill for his unfaithfulness. We did remain close and she was a huge part of Melissa’s and my life until the very end.

Three weeks earlier, she made the decision to remove herself from her dialysis treatments. She was tired and unable to maintain the struggle that she had endured for the past 4 years. It was an emotional visit with her the July 1st weekend, as she held my hand in the emergency room and told me how much she loved me and how sorry she was that Bill and I were not still together. She told me once again that I was the daughter she never had and how much she appreciated everything that I had ever done for her. I knew that I may not get another opportunity to express all of my feelings for her too, so as hard as it was, through sobs and tears, I gave thanks for her love and generosity. I told her how much I loved her and we cried and kissed in the small cubicle of the emergency room, while Doctors and Nurses rushed around caring for the injured and sick.

It wasn’t the last time I saw Betty S. but it was the last time I was able to have a meaningful conversation with her. Her health deteriorated quickly after that day and for the next two weekends, Melissa and I made our way to Collingwood to spend as many hours as possible with her before she departed.

My thoughts are broken by the wail of the bagpipe and everyone stands in respect for the lady being carried down the aisle to the front of the Church. My tears will not be restrained and I struggle to find some tissue in my purse as she passes by me.

As I listen to the rushed words falling from the lips of the gentleman reading the eulogy, I can’t help but think that this is a shame. His speech has all the information but does not have the emotion or love that she deserves. The facts, read in a hurried monotone, pale against my memories of the real life moments that were felt standing with her as she succeeded time and again at whatever she chose to strive for.

The Minister follows with her own limited knowledge of this great woman and I cry as she speaks of how Betty took joy in her sons, Bob and Bill, their wives, the two Mika’s, her four grandchildren, Melissa, Deborah, Julian and Patrick and her great grandchildren Joshua and Ariana. The dialogue continues but even after mentioning her sister-in-law, her husband, nieces and nephews there is no mention of me. That hurt. It hurt because the people that were left behind, the people who wrote the death notice for the paper, the people who gave the information to the Minister never thought that I was a part of Betty’s life, or felt that I was not important enough to be mentioned. They didn’t know because unlike Melissa and I, those people were never around. They did not have Frank and Betty to their homes for special occasions like Birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas like I did. So how would they know?

Their efforts in the last couple of weeks of her life do not make up for the years of occasional visits and phone calls. They will have to live with their conscience; mine is clear.

The moment of celebrating her life is over and the Minister prays as we say farewell at her grave site. That’s it. A few meaningless words and the story of a very productive, strong woman is over. It will never be over in my heart though because she will always be there, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, July 01, 2005

So much more than just a pic...

**After posting this earlier and linking to two of Ben's pictures, I googled Hotlinking and found out what it means. I've since removed the pictures. Sorry Ben. If your pictures have tags to prevent this, it didn't work.

I was reading a post by Ben and his dilema surrounding posting pictures on his blog.

What picqued my curiosity was the bit about "anti-hotlinking tag". I've never heard of the term and I'm wondering what it is, and more importantly what does it do? I thought it would prevent someone from stealing his pics and posting them on their page, so I decided to try it.

The picture featured here is one of Ben's. (I've since removed the picture). The "anti-hotlinking tag" isn't doing what I thought it would do.

Ok I'm going to try and post another one of his pics. Maybe that one didn't have the tag.
Removed Picture. Ok then, I've managed to post two of his pictures in different formats, so what is that tag for?

Maybe Ben will tell me.


Wow, another week has slipped by. I must say that typically I am out of the house much more in the nice weather than I am in the winter. This would account for the declining posts.

This past week I was out every night except one, last night. It's fun but tiring all at the same time.

In my last post I was talking about my visit with Em2 and posted some pictures. We ended up getting together on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday I toured him to Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, Tuesday we met for dinner and I took him to The Astoria on the Danforth. Great Greek food. It was so friggin hot though. I felt like I was soaking wet by the time we left. We had decided to sit on the patio because Em2 said that he doesn't often get the opportunity to eat outdoors. I know that I don't, ever since I moved to Mississauga almost 4 years ago, so it was a nice change.

For Em2's last evening, I picked him up at his Hotel and brought him to my place for dinner. We ordered in pizza because I didn't want to make the poor man wait until midnight to eat if I planned on cooking once we got there (I have been finding it difficult to leave work on time and was later leaving that night also).

It was funny because I was kind of nervous about him meeting my mother. My mother was nervous about meeting him because she said that she is sure I post nasty things about her on my blog and he would have an opinion about her already.

I'm not sure if Em2 was nervous because he always presents a cool, calm facade.

I think the evening went well. It went quickly, that's for sure. I hated driving him back to his hotel because I knew that it might be the last time I see him and I felt like we were just getting comfortable with each other.

I would have to say that meeting Em2 was one of the most enjoyable things about blogging. It makes it so much more fun to finally meet the person behind the words. He is nothing like I had imagined. We all have little fantasies of what the bloggers look like, act like etc. and in my mind, Em2 would have looked and acted like Neuman off of Seinfeld. He wasn't like him at all, except that he has the best sense of humour and had me laughing the whole time he was here.