Involuntary Loner

Grumpy

I lost my brother recently. Thanx for the condolences, but he’s still alive. I just don’t know where the Hell he is.

I am content to be surrounded only by immediate family, and a tiny group of online friends. This is a cautionary tale about seniors growing older, isolated and alienated from society. (Visit your Grandma in the home!)

My grandson is getting married, and we tried to invite my brother to the wedding. His landline number had been disconnected, and his cell phone number had been assigned to someone else.

My daughter contacted his daughter through Facebook, and a sad, protracted tale of woe came to light. He had turned into a grumpy old man with no friends, although it wasn’t clear whether he was grumpy because he had no friends, or had no friends because he was so grumpy – perhaps a bit of both.

His wife left him and divorced him some years ago. He moved 25 miles, to a small village, to be near his older daughter. Within a year, she disappeared, moving out without telling anyone where she went.

The younger daughter admitted that she had been preoccupied with kids going into teenage-hood, and a small, retail business that she runs. His old buddy, “24 beers in a case/24 hours in a day” Norm, hadn’t stopped in to see him in over 5 years. We didn’t improve things, because, despite the wife’s nagging gentle reminders, I hadn’t phoned him in almost 3 years.

He had a lady friend-with-benefits for several years, but he was retired, with time to drive to Florida, and spend some time there in the winter. She had just started a home-cleaning business, with a growing list of clients, who she couldn’t leave hanging, so she also left him.

He had a guy that he’d gone to school and worked with, who would split on gas and motel rooms to attend curling bonspiels in Ottawa, and North Bay. But he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and brother finally called him a God-damn asshole, and dumped him.

There was a pair of male twins his age who used to give him some time, but neither one was interested in curling, and no longer wanted to car-pool and drive 500 miles to watch a NASCAR race. He never read, and he didn’t own a computer.

There was mention of “some trouble with a neighbor” (or neighbors), and apparently what passed for a village council, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, solve his problem. Suddenly, one day, he put his house on the market, sold it and just moved away.

His younger daughter says that she knows physically where he is, and has a telephone number. When she found out about his decision, she tried to contact him. He felt betrayed and abandoned. He said, “Screw all of you! If you weren’t there for me when I needed you, I’m not going to be there for you. The Government knows where I am. The rest of you can go to Hell. I don’t want to be bothered. Don’t give my contact information to anyone.”

My Mother used to say, about his sulking moods, “He just wants to go out in the garden and eat worms.” I am sorry that he feels betrayed and abandoned, and the situation that he’s in. He and I have led very different lives. For obvious reasons, we were never close, but I’ll still miss him.

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Smitty’s Loose Change

Smitty's Loose Change

No more ‘Shotgun’, no more ‘Seinfeld’, no more ‘Triviana’ (at least for a while), I have a new title to list my stream of confused consciousness posts.  This one will be:

#1

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Number 600

This is my 600th post!  No big deal, I just wanted you to know that I’ve (almost) got over my paranoia about where the next blog-theme is coming from.

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I finally seem to have got both my mind and my publishing schedule straightened out – three posts a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In January, despite it having 31 days, I only published 11 times.  In February, despite it having only 29 days, I assaulted your optic nerves with 13 posts.

***

On March 26/16, I rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, stumbled downstairs wearing socks, YSL briefs and my usual befuddled look. As I was feeding and watering various animals, four-legged and two- legged, there was a discreet knock on my door.  Expecting the neighbor lady, I cracked it open and remained behind it.

I was confronted by a young female who was working with a group to organise a ‘Polar Bear Plunge’. I’m 72, and have to wear socks to bed to keep warm.  They’re going door to door for an April event??  Wha’ happen to a New Years bath?

***

I am on a National Do-Not-Call List, yet still get numerous phone calls from Pakistan where they can’t read Canadian law. Recently, the son added another way to fu….foul them up.

“Hello, could I please speak to the owner of the house?”
“No!  I’m sorry, he’s in jail right now.”
“Uh…. then who is speaking please?”
“I’m a bail-bondsman, doing an assessment so that we can repossess this place.”
…. Click!

***

When we bought this house, 15 years ago, it was owned as a place-holder, by a young newly-wed couple. They were having a house built in the next city, where he hoped to get on with the fire department.  Three years later, as the son was driving to work over there, he hit a patch of black ice, and got tee-boned.  His first words when he called to tell us, were, “The airbags work.”

A young fireman climbed into the back seat to support his neck (just in case) and also to provide emotional support. “Where ya from?” “Kitchener.” “Yeah, I lived in Kitchener for a while.” And the little light went on.  “Is your name Carl?  Is your wife’s name Cindy?  Did you used to live at xx  XXXX  Crescent?” Who are you, and how have you been reading my mail? “Yeah, we bought your house.  So, you made it into the Fire Department?  Thanks for coming out.”

***

I have to walk a block to pick up my mail at a community mailbox. We are getting to know Mr. Amazon really well – books, Keurig coffee pods, Puffs tissues with lotion, which don’t seem to be available in stores anymore.  Sometimes, with the mail, is a key to a larger, parcel box.  I remove the package and drop the key back in the mail slot.

I recently found a key, even though I wasn’t aware of anyone expecting anything. When I got home, I read the label, to know which co-conspirator to give it to, and found a sample pack of Similac baby food, addressed to Cindy.  Fifteen years we’ve been here.  She’s still havin’ kids, and giving out the same old, wrong address??!

***

I aided my computerless brother in getting tickets and lodging for The Brier, Canada’s big curling finale, in Ottawa. He took along his friend Norm, to split on gasoline and hotel expenses, thereby saving $625 over a nine-day stay.  When he called me with the details, he vowed that, if he ever goes again, he’ll do it solo, or find another partner.

I’ve written of Norm before. He’s a great believer in the ’24 hours in a day – 24 beers in a case’ credo.  My father said he’d never seen Norm without a beer in his hand – never drunk….but never sober.

One day, Norm insisted that they cross the river into Quebec, to get some cheap beer.  Beer in Ontario is $40.99/24case, or $1.71 each.  In Gatineau they put them 4 by 5 on a cardboard tray, stack three trays high, shrink-wrap 60 beers to a cube, and sell them for $61.  Add a bit of tax, and a 5 cent/can deposit that he’ll never get back, and each 55 pound lot cost him $73.00, or $1.21 each.

He bought 8 bundles, spending $584 to save $240 on 480 cans, or almost 500 pounds of beer, enough to last him a month or so.  They almost took the wheels off the hotel’s luggage cart when they moved it into their room.  Now the brother knows why he insisted on driving his new Ford F-150.

Digging in – Digging Out

Snowplow

 

 

 

 

The recent ‘lake effect’ snowstorm which buried poor Buffalo, yet again, has served to remind me of a similar piece from my past.  Lake effect snow is caused by (relatively) warm winds blowing across still-unfrozen water, and then over much colder landmass, which causes the moisture to condense and freeze.  Once the Great Lakes freeze over completely, snowfall is greatly reduced.

In November and December of 1957, Lake Huron, warmer than usual from a hot summer had not yet frozen over.  Storm after storm came rolling across the lake from Michigan, so that we could blame the Americans, as they often do Canada, for the terrible weather.  A 150 mile swath of lakeshore and inland towns were buried under feet of snow.

Now being bused to a high school five miles away, I experienced my first ‘snow day’ on a Wednesday, when the bus couldn’t get through.  Before our days of television, I was at home with my mother, when we heard on the radio that the roof of an arena in a town 50 miles southeast had collapsed, killing several children and a skating coach, and injuring several others.

On Friday afternoon, as we dismounted the now-running school bus, the town’s Police Chief informed several of the members of the Boys’ Club, that there was a BYOS party being organized.  At 10 AM Saturday morning we were to bring (Y)our own shovels, and assemble at the town’s (natural ice) arena to shovel snow off the roof to prevent a similar disaster happening in our town.

Before the advent of aluminum scoops and shovels, snow was moved with heavy, awkward, steel garden spades, or square-mouthed coal shovels.  The next morning, about 25 of us showed up with an ill-assorted mix of tools.

I hadn’t thought about our task, or the reason given for it, until I arrived at the arena.  The collapsed one down the road had a low-domed roof, which allowed the accumulation of a significant snow load.  Our arena had a 90° roof, with a 45°slope on each side.  Snow just didn’t accumulate.

After it had been built, a two ice-sheet curling rink had been added to one side.  It was this annex, with its 7° roof, that we were assigned to save.  Not many school-kids at risk here, but many of the privileged members were also the well-off citizens and business owners who donated to, and supported our club.  That was as good a reason as any.

Snowbank

 

 

 

 

The snow on the roof was 3 to 5 feet deep.  It needed to be cleared off.  A ladder was leaned against the side of the building.  If it had been up to me, I’d have sent one guy up to reduce the weight, and clear a space for another shoveler, and so on, and so on.  It wasn’t….so the Police chief went up, kicked his way into the snow and called the rest of us up to join him.  Soon we had 25 teenage boys, and two adult men on the roof.  If it was going to collapse, this is when it would have happened.

My fisher-boy schoolmate attacked the piles of snow like a Tasmanian Devil, his sharp steel shovel and snow flying in all directions – except actually off the roof.  He was a safety hazard, not to be got too close to.  Within five minutes, he rapidly tired, and really accomplished very little, but he was the one who impressed the Game Warden enough that he was the only one mentioned when the tale was told, for years.

The rest of us soon organised a much more efficient system.  Starting at the roof edge we cut 2 foot square blocks, like for an igloo, and slid them off the smooth roof. Then others would move up and cut more blocks, and slide them down, to be pushed over the edge.  Soon we had several crews cutting, pushing and dumping.  The roof was cleared and our civic duty done by noon.

The side of the building that we dumped snow from was a town works-yard, with piles of sand and fine gravel that crews used to cast concrete water culverts, as well as dozens of finished units.  By the time we were finished, these were all covered, and there was a 20-foot high, 50-foot wide pile of snow about the same slope as the now-clear roof.  I don’t know if they did any water work before June.

Do those of you who live in snow country have white horror stories?  Will those of you who don’t, stop snickering!

Food Service

On the third Saturday of November, we went to the Farmers’ Market.  They have the steel frame of the temporary replacement building up, and the plasticised canvas cover over it.  They’re just working on heating systems and internal power supply.  It should be ready for re-opening soon.  We later made several more shopping stops, and we all, but especially the daughter, had a big day.

The brunch meeting of the Free Thinkers was the next day, but she was nearing her next pain-med infusion treatment, and was just too weak and sore to attend.  She urged the son and me to go without her.

After parking, we picked up three beer bottles and three cans which had been left, after parties had spilled outside the night before.  We walked downstairs to the door that is always open, to find it locked, because of sewer work being done outside, so we walked back up two stories, to the door which is usually locked.  It’s a good thing the daughter didn’t come along.

Since we didn’t stop to pick up daughter/sister, we were early, arriving at 10:20, for a 10:30 meeting.  Something about the new hotel’s service caused them to begin the meeting at ten AM.  The son and I are not “members” so we weren’t notified, but we weren’t the only ones.  Other members continued to amble in after us.

Two full tables and a part table, where we soon joined the meeting in progress, greeted us.  Sitting across from each other ensured that both the son and I were surrounded, and well supplied with copious, varied conversation.  A later move to an emptying table, as the early birds left, garnered us more erudite, and non-Atheist, discussion.  My “boy”, who is almost BrainRants’ age, wants to go again.

The room was set up.  The coffee was ready.  The buffet was available, and more Sterno heaters were under the chafing dishes.  The food was warm.  Scrambled eggs with cheese had been replaced with eggs Benedict, a dish I refuse to touch.  The (cheap) ex-Mennonite lady demonstrated that there is menu service, something I may look at in the future.

She wears a pair of glasses, but took them off to read the menu.  I don’t know what the glasses do for her, but, if her nose had been a quarter-inch longer, she wouldn’t have been able to see it.  She is working with the chapter president to produce a Humanist/Atheist study module for the regional (and Ontario) schools.  No school, or teacher, will even mention it without having authorized course paperwork available for preparation.

She wants to have a list of influential people who are Humanists/Atheists.  The SOFREE website mentions Canadians such as actress/director, Sarah Polley, Canadian rock group Rush’s singer/songwriter, Geddy Lee (attn. Madame Weebles), actress Caitlynne Medreck, and scientist/oncologist/linguist, Rob Buckman.

She asked the room at large to send her names of others, especially Americans.  She has a Smartphone, but no computer, and has never seen a movie nor ever watched any TV.

There will be another meeting on Dec. 15, another early, third Sunday, but it will be overshadowed by the Winter Solstice party they have scheduled.  The calendar, this year, allows them to celebrate the 21st, on a Saturday.  We have decided to skip the December brunch, and not return till January.  We’ll have to check the website, or email someone to find out if they’ve returned to Waterloo, and what the start time is.

Because the two top (male) execs are members, the solstice party will be held at the premier local curling club.  They offered to take anyone interested, out for a quick instruction and practice session.  I picked up, and investigated a variant word usage.  The one man mentioned “a quick jitney”.  I was aware of meanings of that word being about unlicensed cabs, bus-type van-cabs, and small motorized non-autos.

In this usage, it refers to an unscheduled, fun match/game, with teams picked from a pool of attendees, particularly referring to curling, or lawn bowling, which is where I first saw the term as a child.

Shortly after I started working 40 years ago, at the building the son now works in, at the corner where you turn off the highway out of town, a six unit strip mall was erected.  Recently, it has changed hands.  Taking advantage of the destruction of the Farmers’ Market building, the internal walls were torn out, and it became a pretentious new boutique Market.

A recent newspaper had a two-and-a-half page congratulatory, Grand Opening announcement.  It has two meat vendors, one specializing in beef, the other in pork.  It has a seafood outlet, a coffee company, and a deli/cheese sales and lunch seating area.

Part of their advertising tries to pull disappointed patrons of the Farmers’ Market, but, it’s bright and cute, and I assume, more expensive.  A few might make the switch, but it just doesn’t have the same look/feel, and there are no vegetables, plants, Mennonite baking, or much parking.

That was my weekend (two weeks ago), how was yours??   By sheer coincidence of an every-three-days posting schedule, today, December 2, 2013 is our 46th wedding anniversary.  Don’t I get frequent flyer miles or something??   😉

On The Road Again

The wife, daughter and I very much enjoyed the food and the treatment we got at the luncheon in my recent post, Sugar Beets Boredom.  The presentation was to begin at 11:30 AM, with lunch at noon, and done by 1:00, but….the guests couldn’t all be wrangled into the dining room, the speeches ran long, there were more questions than anticipated.

Unfortunately, this was also the day I had to take my daughter an hour up the highway for medical treatment.  We were to be there by 2:20 PM.  Skipping a delicious dessert and coffee, we bailed at 1:15, dropped the wife at home on the way out of town, and headed for the highway.  With a mile left to go, we were stopped at a crossroad by police.

Not only is the International Plowing Match being held right beside the interchange, but today’s the day the Prime Minister is visiting.  We can’t get through!  All we have to do is go a mile and a quarter in the wrong direction, drive up a county road and then back to the on-ramp from the other side.  We made the hospital appointment, barely.  In the city, or out in the country, you still can’t get there from here.

A plowing match!  Yeehaw!  How bucolic.  In Southern Ontario, in late September, what could possibly go wrong??!  Other than eight successive days of rain?  Aside from our handsome Prime Minister, (Nope! I just couldn’t write that, and live with myself.) we had the Queen of the Furrow in a short little skirt and knee-length rubber boots because of mud up to your John Deere’s hubs.  There was a pole climbing contest like a lumberjack meet.  There were dancing tractors, like the Mounties on horseback, only in diesel.  The soft glow on the horizon was from all the red necks.

A week later, the three of us went to the beautiful town of St. Marys, Ontario.  I’m still old-school.  I don’t shower much.  I prefer a nice hot soaking bath.  I’m a macho he-man kind of guy, so I don’t use bubble bath.  I put in fragranced bath gel.  There’s an important difference….to my ego!

We used to be able to buy it by the gallon from the distributor in Mississauga, when we went to the wife’s rheumatologist in Brampton, but they moved the warehouse to Barrie.  There is a candle supply shop in St. Marys which carries the gel, and the wife and daughter wanted to stock up on wicks, tabs, holders and beeswax for candle-making, so off we went.

We drove out to Stratford, and turned left, and that was the first problem.  Stratford is just on the edge of Mennonite country.  Its streets aren’t quite as convoluted as K/W’s, but some still manage to run together at strange angles.  Making left turns at two successive traffic lights just didn’t seem to make sense, so we enjoyed two and a half miles of pastoral scenery in the wrong direction, before I turned around.

We got to the store and home safely.  When I checked Map Quest, for the distance from home to the store (it’s 63 Kilometers!  If you don’t get lost.  Thanks for asking.), it suggested a totally different route which would eliminate driving through Stratford entirely.

Stratford is the hometown of Justin Bieber, and I apologise profusely.  As I said, it’s the edge of the Mennonite Tract, and with the name of Bieber, he didn’t know he had German ancestry.  He claims he has enough native Indian blood to get free gasoline.  He must be huffing it, because even full-blood Indians don’t get it free.

Instead of YouTube and Bieber, I offer you Canada’s first, and still best, Shakespearean Theater and Festival, and the handsome Canadian actor, Paul Gross.  I attended Stratford’s Theater as a youngster in a school group. The main theater opened in 1953.  I saw As You Like It, in the early summer of 1959.  I’ve been to a few plays over the years.  There are now four theaters.  While they concentrate on Shakespeare, they also present plays by other playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw.

Paul Gross played a Dudley Do-Right type Mountie, bureaucratically stranded in Chicago, and assisting the Chicago police department, for three years, in the television series Due North.  He was Canada’s highest-paid TV actor, making two million dollars a year.

After the program was cancelled, he went on to produce and star in a movie called Men With Brooms, about BrainRants’ favorite sport, curling.  About ten years ago, just before my employer fell out from under me, I got a chance for the wife and me to see him on the Shakespeare stage as Hamlet.  Unlike his previous light comedy, he rendered the brooding Dane quite well.

The next time we have to go to get candle supplies or bubble bath bath-gel, I think I’ll take the route Map Quest suggests.  It will take us through the small town of Tavistock, well-known for the Tavistock Cheese makers.  A half a mile above the highway is the tiny crossroads village of Sebastopol.  I’d never heard of it, but apparently it has a huge, famous, Lutheran church.  It’s just down the road from another Mennonite cross-road village called Punky-Doodles Corners, named by a drunken farmer newly arrived two hundred years ago, from Pennsylvania, trying and failing, to sing about Yankee Doodle.