Monthly Archives: January 2014

October Sky

The October Sky – it can be stormy, or warm and welcoming. It behouves us to predict its ever-changing nature.

I confess, I just rewatched the movie October Sky which depicts four adolescent boys building rockets in the 60’s as  they become successful in their bid to win scholarships to escape their previously predicted lives of coal miners.  I found myself wiping tears from my eyes at several junctures….
In this movie, I make note especially of the role of the teacher (Laura Dern) in providing the inspiration these boys needed and  the support they required in order to pursue their dream.  She is dying in the movie (of cancer no less). Her enthusiasm and support of these students under her care was reminiscent to me of the many times I also tried to inspire my students. I can only hope that some of them will look back at my time with them and be grateful that I cared as much as I did.
So many things in my life came to the surface in this movie. The dynamics of a home where there is so much feeling yet none  of it expressed, the silent relationships of father and sons,  the loneliness and isolation of the mother, the routinization of the lives of the kids at the school, and the lack of imagination on the part of the administration there.

In the end, father and son finally communicate and the four rocket boys are successful in realizing their dream of getting out of “coaltown”, despite the lack of support from many.

The final rocket goes up and you see the faces of all of the stakeholders  looking up in the sky as the rocket disappears in the distance: the dirty coal miners heading underground once more into the mine, the inspiring teacher dying in her hospital bed, the mother and brother happy for their family member who stuck to his guns despite their doubts, and the father who finally puts his hand on the shoulder of his son – at long last –  proud of his kid’s ability to seek out his dream and demonstrate success.

Yes, I cried for many reasons: I know what it looks like to die. I know what it is to doubt the love of a son. I know what it is to be a teacher who gives it all to students every day hoping for a glimmer of inspiration in their eyes. I know what it is to hope for a future, wondering if there is one.

This  movie inspires me to keep going no matter how confused  I may be or how very sad.  It tells me that what works for others may not work for me.

I am unique and I need to answer for myself.

The October Sky – unpredictable, changeable, hot, cold, windy,  still  –   beautiful in its own special way – right now – that’s what my life feels like. Making sense out of it will be interesting to say the least.

It’s OK to Breathe

I have come to the realization – today – that I don’t owe my time or my activities to anyone. I am not responsible to anyone for anything – unless, of course, you consider the utility company, union gas and the tax man. Personally, the world is my oyster. I can travel, create art, have a bath in the middle of the day, get dressed or stay in my PJ’s anytime I feel like it. Rules are for other people – those people with other people in their lives – those with mates, siblings, kids or the like. We single gals get to have it our way, every day, all day.

For the first year of my widowhood or singlelife, I kept going as if I needed to. The dishes were done on schedule, the floor vacuumed and washed, the clothes cleaned and meals prepared – like all of those things mattered – like someone was going to notice. I even did my husband’s chores as if he were still here and would begin again to do them himself when he got over his – wait a minute – his death??!! Yes, as squirrely as that sounds, I think I was just “on hold” waiting for him to get back.

It suddenly hit me when a friend told me that he would not expect his wife to do everything that he was doing now if he died. That struck me like nothing else has since Jim’s death. I am sure that Jim would say the same thing. I realize that I am still living and working for his approval, his permission, his admiration and his respect. When I fail at something, I feel that I am disappointing him and when I succeed at something, I want to share it with him in the worst way to make him proud of me once more. That will never happen again.

I need now to turn away and look ahead more than behind. I need to recognize others in my life who really can be proud of me or disappointed in me. I, most of all, need to be proud of myself. I need to generate joy for my own existence, my own accomplishments, my own days and nights.
It’s OK to be me.
It’s OK to be good at something and pat myself on the back.
It’s OK to swear a little bit at myself when I do something stupid.
It’s OK to be happy.

It’s OK to breathe.

The Favourites List

My husband was no wizard on the computer.  Even though he was the one to turn me on to technology, he did not appreciate it and he did not keep up with it to suit his “perfectionist” self.  He was, however, a very intelligent and accomplished individual – and I will explain why I think this…

Jim loved flight.  He knew all of the war  movies, all of the war battles and he knew the steps in the development of manned flight as well as anyone anywhere.  He was smart and he was also enthusiastic about this topic and when you combine those two things – well, you have some big thoughts and lots of knowledge.

He built model airplanes for years – flight in miniature.  I told him one day – gave him permission, I guess – to take it one step further and get his “real” pilot’s licence.  He did.

Then he, ever the builder, began to muse about building his own plane – and I once again gave him the ‘why not’ response.  So he thought he might build an RV7.  He did.

He had to decide half way through the build – about 2 years – when he was diagnosed with a killer disease – whether he would finish his beloved RV7.  After much consideration and conversations with  good friends and me – he decided to keep going.  He got it completed in the next two and half years .  Yes,he did.

The day his test pilot flew his brand new plane was a day I shall never forget.  How many people do this!! Even he was thrilled with the perfect results of his “build”.  I loved him more this day than ever – and I did not think that would be possible. Yes, it was.

Today, on the laptop we bought him while he was dying in the hospital – light but with a big keyboard so his large hands would not stumble over the keys – I deleted all of his favourite sites.  I got rid of the RV7 guys, the two guys that were doing a build at the same time as Jim, the fiberglass experts, the lycoming guys, the airplane spruce people and the department of transport.  I felt like I was deleting Jim’s life, one puzzle piece at a time.  Those were his little dreams that added up to the big dream.  All totalled, that was his research – the stuff of his brain and heart combined.  I loved him then and, today, I think I love him even more.

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To Blow Snow or Throw Snow – That is the Question

OK, so I am feeling better and out I go into two feet of soft snow. The snow blower actually started on cue. I plugged it in and pushed the button. No hesitation at all – vroooom. Out to the driveway I go – up and down in an organized fashion – waving to the other “men” who were out doing their driveways too. Feeling confident and rather gutsy. The driveway cleared, I turned my attention to the sidewalk and zoomed up toward the house. I had not remembered that, when setting up the Christmas lights in November, I had placed an extension cord across the sidewalk and sunk it between two slabs of cement. My snowblower complained and stalled. Yes – I had wound my new blue extension cord around the wheels. OK, I can do this – I can make it right. Retreiving a screw driver, a wire cutter and some needle nose pliers from the garage, I returned to the scene of the crime to rectify my stupidity. I cut and I pulled and I untwisted those wires – as a proficient knitter, I am good at untangling a mass mess of wool – until finally my machine was free. Would it start? Did I kill it? No….I plugged it in again and pushed that little blue button and vroooom – success. On I went – to the next extension cord – also forgotten in my little pea brain. Once again – disaster. This one took longer to unravel because it was an old one – keenly constructed to last. Once again, success. I finished the job and limped into the house feeling more stupid than I ever had before and deservedly so.

I admit, I felt like a kid again. My gloves were solid masses of ice on my hands and when I took them off, I had frozen blood all over my thumbs – apparently I had skinned them in the processes of detangling my wire messes. My track pants were frozen to my legs and as I began to defrost, I got the feeling that the only way I was going to thaw out was in the tub.

While I felt good about cleaning off the driveway, it kept snowing and blowing and by supper time, you would never have known I had done such a masterful job.

Today, my neighbour – having witnessed the horrors of yesterday – was out shoveling off my driveway before I had a chance to get going. I think he was trying to protect me from myself. He used a shovel to simply throw the snow – maybe that is what I should try.

To blow or to throw – you be the judge.

Alone on Purpose

This is the first day of 2014. The first morning of the year. The first breakfast of the year. The end of the year that my husband never saw. He died in 2012.

I am mournful this morning for the first time in a long time. I am mindful of the absence of the one person in the world who knew me, respected me, loved me and guided me. To call him a “life partner” is no exaggeration. As much as all of my wonderful family have included me in their lives, they are their lives – not mine. I guess I have not re-invented my existence as well as I thought I had. How long does it take to move on so that each day once again becomes a gift – something worth working at and appreciating. How long does it take to breathe, exercise, eat, smile and relax without feeling guilty that you are here and he is not. How long does it take to be yourself again – I am not there yet by a long shot.

I will, as I have been, keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have lots to do, of course, like everyone else out there. I will take down the Xmas decorations (I did not enjoy them anyway), and organize a new storage room for them. I am going to actually label them well this year so as to lessen any confusion next year as to what goes where.

It won’t be until the weather warms up that I take down the huge number of lights outside. I sure am not looking forward to my next hydro bill!!

I will get out my snowblower and get that driveway cleaned off – my neighbour (bless his soul) cleaned it up yesterday once again. He is my hero.

I will stop over-eating and over-drinking because I am feeling sorry for myself or because I am trying to find excuses for over-indulgence. So what if it is Friday or Saturday – celebratory nights for Jim and I when we were both working. Special food was our way of having “us” time. I still try this – thinking the taste of steak and mushrooms will continue to give me that feeling of completeness or serenity like it did when Jim was here. It does not. We used to think we had the world by the tail – well the world has escaped our grasp for sure and I am wallowing in the imbalance that remains.

This story is full of the word “I” – because I am trapped inside my pain today. My apologies for not editing them out – it is easy enough to do but it would not express the great self-sympathy that is so much a part of this day.

Writing this has been a help to recognize feelings that engulfed my spirit this morning. No wonder I chose to be alone on purpose today. On to the tasks at hand.