Looking back, looking forward

 

 

I always feel like the end of the year is like being at the top of a mountain. Look one way and you can see where you were in the last year, look in any other direction and you can see the possibilities for the next year. Between Christmas and New Year’s is when I like to climb my mountain.

 

 

 

2016 was another year of adventure and change for me.

  • In February, I took my first solo trip out of the country. I went to Cuba over the school break. It was important to me to prove to myself that I could do it. Plus I saw some new birds. 🙂
  • In March, Bill’s brother, Bob, died. He had cancer and it changed him. It was like his spirit died when he got his diagnosis, and finally his body caught up with it. It really was a blessing.
  • I retired at the end of June. Thanks to Bob’s generosity, I was able to retire a few years earlier than planned. After seeing too many people die too young, it felt like the right thing to do. I am enjoying it immensely!
  • I finished two quilts this year. One for myself and one for a friend’s new baby. I’m not speedy, but I am enjoying it.
  • I went camping for two weeks in August at Kimball Lake. That place always restores my soul. And I survived a big storm in my tent – playing my ukelele and singing at the top of my lungs because no one could hear over the thunder anyway. 🙂
  • I visited my friend Bett in Kitchener at the end of August. I was amazed that almost every building there is made of brick. And I saw both a male and female cardinal. Bonus!
  • In September, I fell down an old well hole and broke my arm. I should say, and only  broke my arm. It could have been much worse. And it’s about 90% back to normal now.
  • Right after breaking my arm, I visited my friends Cathy and Nick in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Of course, it was a little different trip than I had originally planned, but they took good care of me and we had a wonderful visit. Cathy and I drove up to the magnificently beautiful Crater Lake one day. If I had seen that sight on a postcard I would have sworn it had been photoshopped. Amazing.
  • I’ve done a little subbing. Breaking my arm put a kink in those plans, but I’ll do more next year. Although I have to admit I really enjoy being able to go “Umm, no, I don’t feel like working today.”
  • My retirement dream trip was a December birding trip to Costa Rica with my friend Adele and her husband Ray. We arranged it through a company called Costa Rica Gateway. We had a guide (Steven Easley) who took us around to different areas of the country and over the 12 days, we saw an incredible 382 different birds! Plus learned to take better pictures. I didn’t get pictures of all the birds we say, but I’m working my way through the thousands of pictures I did take and am sure I have over 200 to add to my site. It was a fantastic trip with great friends and a terrific guide.
  • Greg and Troy and I spent a quiet Christmas together. I’m lucky to have them so close. We opened presents, ate turkey and watched Elf, which was Bill’s favourite Christmas movie.

So, overall it was a good year. And more adventures are planned for 2017!

  • In February I’m going to Cuernavaca, Mexico with a group from church and then hopping over to Mazatlan to visit my friends Myrna and Glen before flying home.
  • In June I’m going on a tour of Newfoundland and Labrador with my friend Jo. Hoping I see some icebergs and some puffins.
  • In July I’m going on a bus trip to Haida Gwaii with my friend Betty Lou. Then my year of retirement travelling is done. I’ll do some more camping in August, then get a dog and stay home. And be very content.

I have so much to be thankful for. True, it’s a different life than I was expecting, but it’s not a bad life. I still miss Bill, and always will, but I know he’s near and is always looking out for me.

I hope 2016 was a good year for you as well, and wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Saying Good-bye

The house is sold. The new owners take possession next Friday. It’s time to say goodbye.

 

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This is the ramp that led into the house from the garage. When we first bought the house, the ramp was only 2/3 as wide, and folded up against the wall. After Bill became less mobile and needed the ramp all the time, some of the guys that he worked with at Mitchell’s came out and widened the ramp and added the railing. It’s a testament to the great relationship he had with his Intercon “brothers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The living room – Bill’s chair was always at the left edge of the short wall, next to the magazine rack/table with the phone and (of course) the remotes. The couch was originally along the longer wall, but later was replaced by a loveseat in the corner and Bill’s computer desk along the wall.

 

 

 

 

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The view of the living room from Bill’s spot. The TV was in the corner to the left of the windows. The dogs’ beds were next to the TV under the window, which explains why one shade was always part-way open – Shadow would rest his head on the window sill and watch the goings-on outside.

 

 

 

 

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The kitchen was largely Bill’s domain, for most of our marriage. He made the majority of the meals. He wasn’t a fancy cook, but he was a good cook. And he made the best ribs – bar none!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was Bill’s room, where his hospital bed was. We had a lift put in as well, after his second lengthy stay in hospital. But once he got some of his strength back he preferred to lower the bed to the same height as his chair and slide over on to it. He was a proud and independent man, and it was hard seeing him lose that independence as he become sicker and sicker. The stand held (of course) a TV and his own satellite control box so he could watch whatever he wanted while he was in bed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill loved BBQing out on the deck in the summer. Hamburgers, steaks, pork chops, chicken, sausages – and of course, finishing off his awesome ribs. He’d have the stereo on, blasting songs from the ’60’s. “Who’s this?” was his favourite question. I sometimes knew – he ALWAYS knew.

 

 

 

 

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This is the fencing around the garden that Bill and I strengthened the summer before he got sick. We made a great team. He was the brains and I was the brawn. I always appreciated that he showed me how to do things and encouraged me to learn how to use basic tools.

 

 

 

 

I loved this house, but without Bill there, it was no longer a home. I like my new condo and I’m glad the house sold quickly. Glad and sad. This was the last place Bill lived, the fifth and last place we lived in together. It’s right, but hard, to say good-bye.

Untitled

For days I’ve tried unsuccessfully to come up with a title for this post. But tomorrow’s the big day, and I want to get this written before then, so “Untitled” it is.

Have you ever had a safety symbol? Something that you touch or look at or think about when you need to remind yourself who you are? Here’s mine:

Yep. It’s a mole. A large mole right on my collar bone. It’s been there as long as I can remember. A lot of people have remarked “you should get that taken off” but I never did. I’ve had it checked – I’m not crazy – and it’s not cancerous. But I never had it removed. I needed it. It represented me – the real me.

When I left home, I stepped into the unfamiliar world of university. I didn’t last long. 🙂 But while I was there, when I felt like I was losing myself, I could surreptitiously run my finger over my mole and know that I was still me. I’d be okay.

A few years later, I met Bill and fell in love. I was happy to marry him, but a little bit scared, too. Would I lose me? Relationships require compromise. There was a new exciting “we” but would there still be a “me”? If ever I was in doubt, touching my mole would ground me and remind me that “I” was indeed still there.

Then came the boys. Children consume your life, and rightly so. Again, I sometimes worried that I would get lost in being a mom and a wife. But as long as I had my mole, I knew I was still around.

YES, I KNOW HOW BIZARRE THIS SOUNDS. 🙂

Anyway – I’m now a 56 year old widow. No more compromises with Bill (but what I wouldn’t give to have him back to compromise with). My boys are adults who, although they still need me, I don’t feel I need to alter my life for them. They have their life paths and I have mine. Sometimes our paths cross, sometimes they run parallel, sometimes they aren’t even on the same planet.

So I’ve realized that really, there is just me now. All me. I no longer need to hang onto a bit of me to feel secure. My life is mine and I can do with it as I choose. Sometimes that frightens me, but I can talk myself down. Life is what you make it, and I’m going to make it mine.

Tomorrow morning, I’m having the mole removed. It’s a small change, but it’s also a very big change. And I’ll be fine.