’18 A To Z Challenge – H

Challenge '18Letter H

HERMIT definition (for 10-year old boys); a man who goes off by himself

We live in a medically marvelous age.  Average life expectancy has almost doubled since my birth.  It was not always thus.

Once Upon A Time in the Old West, Ben Cartwright lived on the Ponderosa ranch, with three sons and a male cook, and not a woman in sight.  Life was particularly hard on women, especially during childbirth, with no doctor handy.

Old Ben had three very different sons.  There was handsome, intelligent Adam.  There was big Hoss, strong as an ox, and almost as smart, and there was smartass, ADHD Little Joe.  The writers may have had a back-story which explained the vast variation among My Three Sons, but many who watched the TV series were baffled.  Finally, several seasons in, they had Ben explain the history and reasons, to Joe (and the audience).

Ben brought an Eastern bride with him when he moved west to achieve fame and fortune.  She gave him Adam, and died.  Ben then married a strapping daughter of a Swedish family from Minnesota, who were moving to California.  She produced Hoss, and also died.  Finally, Ben married the daughter of a town merchant.  She died in childbirth, producing Joe.

My paternal grandfather also experienced similar heartache and heartbreak, but he didn’t have Ben Cartwright’s grit and tenacity.  When the going got tough….he became a hermit.

He married early, and had three kids, two girls, and a son whom he named Cecil – and his wife died.  With the help of an older, unmarried sister, he took care of them until the wife’s clan took them in.  This was a family that my Father was totally unaware of, until his half-brother tracked him down, after he was 65.

After a couple of years, Grandpa remarried, and again, had two girls, and then a boy, my Father, whom he named Cyril. Four years later, his second wife died while delivering another daughter.  Grandpa just disappeared, leaving the older sister, and the rest of his family, to take care of 4 kids, including a baby.

I met never-married ‘Aunt Jesse’ (actually my great-aunt) later in life.  She may have been the first instance in my life of, Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell.  Her actual name was Jezebel, but the devout Baptist would never let it be used.

I don’t know if my Father knew where his father was for almost 20 years.  When I was 4 or 5, my Dad began to take me to visit him, two miles up a concession road, off a nowhere highway.  He was living in a wooden, 2-man logging shack, by the side of the road.  It had a two bunks, a table and two chairs, a latch-string door, (look that one up) one tiny window, a wood-burning stove, no electricity, and a hand-pump for water.  The sink drained outside, but there was no bathroom….and I don’t remember an outhouse.  I used to water a nearby Maple.

After ten years of this, my Grandpa got an offer from a nearby farmer.  The farmer had bought the adjoining farm.  Now he had two farm houses, two barns, and two sets of animals, so he paid my Granddad a little, to live in one farm house, as a caretaker.

As a house, this was a big step up.  This one had central heat, hot and cold running water, a bathroom, and lights.  There was no radio, and no TV.  He had copies of the weekly paper from the nearest small town, but I never saw magazines or books.

Probably, after Dad located his Father, his three sisters (and their spouses) must have visited him from time to time, although we never met anyone else when we visited.  The farmer may have at least passed a little time with Grandpa when he came over to do chores, but he must have been alone for days – weeks – at a time.  As a loner, he makes me look like a rank amateur.

I look forward to your company here, again in a couple of days.  Recommend me to a friend – or an enemy.   😳

 

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I Do

Wedding rings

I guess I could put this post under ‘Old Stuff ’.  The wife is 65, and I’ve had her for over 47 years but, discretion being the better part of waking up tomorrow without a pillow over my face, I’ll just recount the fateful day.

I was raised as a Christmas/Easter kind of Baptist.  Churches and religion meant little to me.  The wife was raised in a strict Catholic family, but like two older sisters before her, had started ‘questioning’, and soon also left “The Church.”

We had met at an Adult Education retraining course in February, and hit it off right away.  We were thinking of waiting till we both graduated and had jobs.  We spoke of waiting till Sept. 21 the following year – not only my birthday, but also her parents’ anniversary.

I got out, and got a job, and she would soon follow.  We saw no point in waiting.  I told my Mom that we planned to just go to City Hall, but she insisted that we both should have a day to remember.  We talked the Anglican minister in my home town into marrying us.  The guest list was only about 25 people.  All the ‘Good Catholics’ in her family boycotted, although the two ex-Catholic sisters and their husbands showed up.

We chose Dec. 2, 1967, as a mutually agreeable date.  My sister was living directly across the street from Mom and Dad, in the ex-Presbyterian Manse, which had a huge living room/drawing room combo.  She and Mom cooked like crazy, and that’s where the reception was held.

The wedding ceremony was held after the regular 11 AM service, once the minister shooed the parishioners home.  We had bought a wedding license at City Hall, but the church issued another one, so we are twice married.  Perhaps that’s why it’s lasted so long.

The brunch reception started around 1 PM.  We gave the camera to my brother to take a few pictures for posterity.  He quickly got loaded at the open bar.  He remembered to take the shots; it’s just that people have the tops of their heads cut off, or one arm.

Long before the internet, and without phoning ahead, I had hoped to get us to Niagara Falls for a bit of a honeymoon.  About four o’clock, Mom strongly suggested that we get underway.  A freezing rain storm had blown in off Lake Huron.

I checked the car over before we left.  There was some soap on the windows that was easily removed, but no tin cans dragging from strings at the back.  We took the highway south, out of town, and turned off onto the secondary road that headed easterly towards The Falls.  Within a mile we were sliding off the crown of the road on a half-inch of ice.

Do we continue slowly, hugging the gravel shoulder, or take a different route??!  I elected to turn around.  Just as we got back to the main highway, a sander/salter truck rolled past.  Follow Him!!!  He went 30 miles southwest, down the lakeshore, and then turned southeast.

At some point, we began to notice a smell, a definite aroma.  I stopped and raised the hood.  One or more of ‘my friends’ had jammed three small whitefish between the engine block and the exhaust manifold.  Heated up with 30 miles of driving, the hot exhaust was cooking the fish, and burning off the fish-oil.  I managed to remove them with very few burns, but the smell lingered with the car for a week or more.

All plans definitely out the window, the best we could hope for were roads not too icy to prevent us from at least getting back to Kitchener.  Such was not to be.  As the freezing rain abated, it changed to wet, slippery, clingy snow.  The Ontario Works truck ahead stopped seasoning the road, and put his plow blade down and pushed the accumulating white stuff back.

We followed him to the small town of Listowel, which was barely bigger than my stage-coach stop burg.  We hoped that he would continue on through, towards Kitchener, but, just at the outskirts of town, he pulled into his home base, apparently done for the day, or at least his shift.  Now where??!

The town of Listowel was known only for The Blue Barn Inn, a motel with a couple of dozen rooms, an in-house restaurant with food famous for miles, and an entertainment room where B-acts and wannabes played.  Could we get a room?  Since no-one else drove in over the ice, there were rooms to spare.

After settling in the room, we now wondered about supper.  What little we had eaten, was 7 hours ago.  I went downstairs to the dining room and asked if I could get something to take back to the room.  On Sunday nights there was no a la carte – service was only from a giant buffet.

The cooks had worked all day to prepare for the usual huge crowd, and the ice storm had prevented almost all of them from showing up.  When the host found out that we were newly-weds, stranded there, he asked for a couple of dollars, and told me to take as much food and drink as I could carry on a cafeteria tray.  We remembered the place with nostalgic fondness for years, but, about 30 years later, it burned to the ground.

Very little of the day was as we had hoped or planned, and none of it elegant or impressive like a Hawaiian location wedding/honeymoon. It was an adventure, where all eventually turned out well, and set a sort of pattern for the marriage.  If we could survive this, we could survive each other.  We’ve passed 47 years, and are heading for the Golden 50.

Even as a second marriage for my Mom, and a war-delayed first for my Dad, they celebrated their 60th anniversary just before they died.  While we increasingly complain about aches and pains, and various medical problems, I think we’re strong and healthy enough to reach that mark also!     😀

#467

Jesus Loves You

I have a brother, almost three years younger than me. When I was seven and eight, he was only four and five, and almost a full-time job for my mother. In the summertime, in my little town, even full of tourists, I was free to get out from under foot, and go wherever I wanted, as long as I didn’t get into trouble, and was home for supper.

Roll out of bed in the morning, pull on a bathing suit instead of underwear, shorts, tee-shirt, runners, a towel around my neck, and I spent large portions of my days at the beach. With almost two miles of warm, white sand, I attended different sections on different days. One day, about two blocks off the main street, I saw something intriguing. Six or seven twenty-somethings marched out onto the sand. Two of them were toting a pump-organ. The rest had shovels, bamboo poles, a rolled-up banner, and a bunch of books.

Watcha doin’? They were a Christian outreach group for youngsters, labelled C.S.S.M. – Children’s Special Service Mission. We’re having a meeting. Go gather up all the kids. Me like a damned fool, I did it. They put up the banner on the poles, dug trenches and piled the sand behind – instant pews. Got a kid to pump the organ. Evangelism lite – handed out songbooks – a few hymns, a bit of sermon, believe in God, obey Jesus, a little homily. 40/45 minutes, we were done, same time, same place tomorrow.

The seeds of individualism already growing strongly, along with cynicism, I didn’t see this as missionary Christianity. I was just fascinated with the social aspects. The next day, and the next – two weeks on the beach, I put up poles, strung the banner, dug the pews, pumped the organ, and helped them carry stuff to and from the beach.

Soon there were afternoon get-togethers – hikes, scavenger hunts, badminton games. Although we had a net, and acres of sand, apparently volleyball had not been invented. I learned discriminatory thinking. An item for ten grains of sand in the scavenger hunt didn’t mean only ten, very carefully counted, grains. Lean down and pick up a handful – there must be ten grains there!

Then, before the town got all pissy about them, we cleaned the driftwood off the beach, and had evening campfires and sing-alongs. Silly camp songs, a few hymns, an uplifting story, roast some marshmallows, a quick benediction prayer, and off home you go kids, it’s getting late. I was part of a group!

Next year, they came back. Same hymn, different verse. I was ten, and it wasn’t a bad way to spend two supervised weeks. The following year, they returned again. I was eleven, they were nice, and I was learning interpersonal relation stuff.

On the day they left, I had my Dad drive me to the cottage they used, to say goodbye. At a time when two dollars would gas the car for most of a week, my Dad dug out and donated $5.00, to help repay for all the things they’d done for me and given to me. By the time they returned the next year, my Dad said that he should have put his hand in his pocket, and just left it there. They had spent $10 on paper, envelopes and postage, beseeching him to donate more, and more, and even more.

The next summer, I was 12, going on almost mature. I hadn’t even thought about them coming back. I headed downtown one July Saturday. I was just in front of the Baptist Church we infrequently attended, a block off the commercial district, when a sedan and a station wagon rolled in and parked in front. Out piled most of my old faces, along with a couple of new ones.

Hi! How are you? How was your winter? You’re looking good! Hail-fellow-well-met! These people remember me. They missed me. They love me! We’re so proud of you! Oh, what for? Well, we heard that, over the winter, you were baptised here at the church.

There were three Smith families in town, no two related. One had an only-child son, with the same first name as mine. They religiously (every pun intended) attended the same church we occasionally hit. It musta been the other “John Smith” – and the shades came down, and the lights went off. They couldn’t dump me on the sidewalk fast enough.

If you’re donating money, they can’t get enough of you. If you jump through all their strangely-shaped hoops, recite their magical words, and make their particular mystical gestures, you will be adored and supported. If you have the temerity to tell them that you have opinions about other ways of living your life, these Good Christians will treat you like a fur-ball the cat hacked up, and Jesus will be the only one who loves you.

I’ve met some very Spiritual Christians, loving, forgiving, inclusive, acceptant. These weren’t them! Sadly, I’ve met many of their compatriots over the years. Christ drove the money lenders from the temple, but the “business” of religion marches on.

Time Keeps On Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’,

into the future, or so says Steve Miller’s song, Fly Like an Eagle.  I wish I were like an eagle.  I’m more like an overfed, ground-bound tom-turkey, lucky to have survived two adjacent thanksgivings.  But the time is still dashing past, while I do little more than mourn its passing and grow ever closer to my own.

When you are young, you have not had many experiences to produce memories.  Each memory is separated from the next, and the mental reach to retrieve any given one is so large that time seems to stretch.  I wrote recently that, as a child, summer seemed to last a whole year.

As you grow older, you experience more and more, and the memories begin to pile up, one against the next, and the mental reach to retrieve each reduces, till time seems to fly past.  With so many memories, it’s not unusual for old folks to reach back and mis-remember, by grabbing the wrong one.  Did I feed the cats today??  I remember feeding the cats, but, with 2000 days of cat feeding, did what I remember, happen today?  Or yesterday?? Or last week?

Four things have occurred in my life recently, in, what to me, was the blink of an eye.  First, I had a birthday.  I turned 68 on the autumnal equinox, and temporally hurtled past it so fast, that I didn’t even blog about it for two months.  Next I managed to reach my 100th post, at my frenetic pace of every-three-days.  Then, on Nov. 21st, two months to the day past my birthday, I reached my blogiversary, and got around to mentioning my birthday.  Last, but definitely not least, the wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary on December 2nd.

I look at a couple of photos taken that day, which we have mounted in a collage, and wonder, who are those kids?  Where have they gone?  Of three people other than us in the shots, all later married, and all have got divorced.

We were poor as church-mice when we married.  We met while taking educational upgrading at the local Community College, and had both just got jobs, after living for over a year on the equivalent of Unemployment Insurance payments.  We married in my home-town in a compromise church.  She was about to become an ex-Catholic, and I was a non-attending Baptist, so we were wed in an Anglican Church.  I tipped the preacher $5.

My mother and half-sister prepared food, and the tiny reception was held at the sister’s big house, which had once been a Presbyterian manse.  Of the wife’s nine siblings, only the two other failed Catholics attended.  The group numbered only about 30.  The bakery provided a two tiered cake.  Normal wedding cake is heavy and solid, like Christmas-cake, to provide support for the tiers.  Since ours was so small, we convinced the baker to do it in white cake.  He slid a disc of cereal-box-like cardboard under the upper layer.

We wanted to spend a night at Niagara Falls, a two and a half hour drive.  Married at noon on the Saturday, by 4 o’clock my mother mentioned that we should be on our way, but it had just started freezing rain.  We left town and took the county road toward Niagara, but within three miles, we were falling off the crown of the road, and limping along the snowy shoulder.  We decided to turn back for guidance.  Just as we approached the crossroads, a sander/salter truck went by.  He must be going somewhere!  So we followed him.  He went about half the way to Niagara, and, as night fell, he pulled into a works-yard in a small village.  We spent our first married night at the village inn, and didn’t reach Niagara for several years.

I carefully inspected the car before we left, but found no soaped windows or just-married signs.  I disconnected the de rigueur string of tin cans, and off we went.  About five miles after we pulled behind the Roads truck, I found that someone had purchased a smoked fish, and wedged it under the exhaust manifold.  The grease got hot, and I re-cooked it and burned it on.  Getting it off a red-hot manifold without getting burned myself was an adventure.  The smell of overcooked fish dissipated in about two weeks.

Like many other things in our lives, the wife and I are not so much stubborn about being married, as determined.  We’ve been to counselling a couple of times, to file some of the sharper points off.  As we age, and aches and pains multiply, and the number of external idiots seems to stretch to infinity, our patience diminishes, and we irk each other a bit more than we did when we were younger.  I like to think though, that there is still some solid love for each other under the tough crusts.

When you are married for 50 years, you get a congratulatory letter from the Prime Minister.  My Mom and Dad received theirs shortly before they died, but it was Mom’s second marriage and Dad’s late first.  I think it meant more to me then, than it did to them.  Still, I am looking forward to reaching that milestone, for more than just a piece of paper from some politician.

All aches and pains and diminishing strength aside, both of us are healthy enough to last another 15 years.  My Mom was 92, and Dad was 85 when they passed.  I have good genes.  If the family cancer hasn’t even touched the wife before now, there’s a strong chance it never will, and medicine continues to improve.  After 60 years of marriage, you also receive a letter of congratulations from the Queen, in the same way you can now get a personal tweet from the Pope.  I anticipate getting my certificate from a Royal Footman.