Is lonely really lonely?

It’s interesting, the cycles people go through. It’s been so long since I wrote anything – blog or otherwise. Unless it was homework. Yes, I’ve been doing that. I started working as casual call-in support staff for the school division here. That’s really just a long way of saying I’m a substitute, but not a teacher. I do education assistant coverage and library coverage in a variety of schools, from K-12. It’s mostly fun, and sometimes a little tedious.

At least the EA part of it is. I enjoy the times when the job is academic support, and don’t always enjoy when the job is behaviour support. But it gets me out of the house, into settings where there are other adults, and brings in a bit of extra cash, which is always worth it.

The library is just fun, most especially in the elementary schools. I love reading to the little kiddos and having them react and interact. Sometimes their comments go off track, but I prefer to have them verbally engaged than to just sit there expected not to say anything at all. I also love the organization in a library, and the ritualistic structure of checking books out and checking books in. I love the way it’s visited by every student at some point during the week. I enjoy engaging aspiring readers by finding books suited to their interests, or by bringing their attention to other topics. The list goes on. I’m never unhappy subbing in the library.

So, this is why I have homework. I am taking a Library Operations certificate online. It’s considered a 2 year program, consisting of 6 required and 3 elective courses, with a maximum completion limit of 5 years. I began in March of this year, and right now I’m taking my 3rd and 4th courses. This is something that I have committed to doing for myself. Throughout my life I’ve been super-bad at finishing things. I get bored, mostly because I find most things quite easy, and I’ve never been pushed to try anything more challenging. So I suppose my challenge will be to push myself. I have grand imaginings of completing a Bachelor’s degree in General Studies (I have a LOT of this-and-that at college level), and perhaps going on to complete a Master’s in Library Sciences. But I know, that if I set such lofty goals for myself this early on, I’ll just feel sad and disappointed if things don’t end up working out. So, for now, subbing in the libraries keeps that ember of interest alive for me, and my goal is to complete the certificate.

This is where lonely comes into play. I sit here, in my house, where it’s quiet and mostly clean. Winter has set in here, and there are several centimetres of snow on the ground. It’s -7C outside (at 10 AM), and the colder nights have frozen the pond. It’s beautiful, but the snow makes me feel housebound, even though I am not. I am sitting on the couch, my laptop in front of me, and have just finished my second cup of really good coffee.

Homework time, right? Sure. Except I get through three pages of extremely dry reading and begin to feel… sad?… moody?… bored? I’m not sure. I turn on the TV so that I can have some background noise and that helps a lot, but I still feel the need to fill the empty room with my thoughts.

And so, here I am, writing to the anonymous void, with no guarantee that anyone will read what I wrote, or relate even if they read this. But that doesn’t matter. Just the act of writing out my thoughts and trying to give voice and circumstance to this uneasy-ish feeling is all it takes for me to be able to feel lighter. Less lonely.

Sometimes it’s crocheting or cross-stitching; sometimes it’s reading or baking; sometimes it’s playing a video game. Today it’s writing. That’s what I need. I’m not really lonely. I have been out of my house and among enjoyable people more than I’ve been home this last week. I’ve got a cleaner house this week than I do many times. The laundry is nearly done. In the last month I have accomplished much, by my standards. And I do have people to talk to, if I needed to. But I don’t need to talk about anything that would make even decent conversation. I just need to blab.

I am free to talk all I want here, in my space, my depository of random thoughts. Here I find that this lonely that I feel is not actually lonely. This feeling that I am lonely because there is no one to talk to in this moment is not actually loneliness. Really, it’s weight. My thoughts may not be deep, but when I started this rambling post, they felt heavy.

And now I feel lighter. So, thanks, to all of you who read this, or just to the void. I’ve cycled back to writing and now I remember how freeing it feels.

J

Birthday

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My little one turned 5 today. He asked for a “Dark Forest Cake”. So I made him one. He likes the cherries. He asked where the trees were, which made me chuckle.

Then my Facebook memories thingy was a picture of him on his first birthday, with the remains of a Black Forest cake smeared across his face and high chair. It made me wonder how many birthdays I have made it for him. I suspect all of them, with the exception of last year, when he wanted blueberry instead of cherry.

I love traditions that start without any effort.

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Lying there

I see her lying there

Silver-gray roots showing

Growing after shades of

Black and mahogany dyes

An attempt to look younger

I see her lying there

Breathing rapidly, shallowly

Her shrunken face pinched

In pain and discomfort

Wringing her liver-spotted hands

Looking ancient and worried

I see her lying there

Covered in sweater and blanket

Cold despite the tropical heat

Everything about her is old

Her mind, her body, her voice

Everything except her watch

I hear her lying there

Gasping each time she’s forced to

Let that stale air out of her lungs

Complaining now of the heat

Groaning, rolling, and flinging a hand

Dramatically to her forehead and face

I hear her lying there

Talking alone about times and people long past

Asking about the people who care for her

Wondering where they are and when they’ll came

Shaking her head and muttering softly

Asking, “Why? Why does this happen to me?”

Written by (a young) me, September 2, 1996

This was written about my grandma (for all intents and purposes that’s who she was), one day when she was sick. She was in her nineties at the time. I haven’t read this in quite some time, but right now I can actually picture her that day. It really does take me back.

Life Endures – short fiction

She was right, as she usually was. My wife had dragged me out for a walk in the park, claiming the fresh air would do me some good. It had been a month since my Nanoo died, and I’d spent the majority of it sorting out funeral arrangements and estate legalities.

I’d also had to pack up her house. It was the same house she’d lived in for sixty years, the same house she moved to when she married my GoPa. It was the same house I’d lived in since my parents had been killed when I was eight.

I remember sitting at Nanoo’s feet with my head in her lap, while she stroked my hair. We were both sobbing – she silently, and me not. She took a sweater my Dad had left off the back of the flowered couch, and draped it over my shoulders, shielding me from the chill. It had smelled like him, and my heart had jumped for a minute, thinking that day had all been a horrible dream.

But it hadn’t, and Nanoo and GoPa had been my parents since that day. I had loved them fiercely. The day my GoPa died had been the second worst of my existence. But, even at eighty, Nanoo refused to leave her house. My wife and I had wanted her to come live with us, but she had been adamant: newlyweds needed their own space.

A severe chest infection, courtesy of a late-spring cold took her little more than a year after GoPa. So many people whispered that she just didn’t want to live without him, and I supposed that was true. It soothed me to think of them together again, in whatever afterlife there was.

I packed up the red sweater last week. It was in a box of my father’s things, stored in the attic. Nanoo kept a lot of things of my parents that I never thought to ask about. Maybe that’s why she never brought them out, or maybe she forgot also. The antique silver comb and mirror were on my wife’s vanity now, along with a few pieces of jewellery belonging to my mother.

There was also a blanket I vaguely remember being rocked in as a toddler, and the rocking chair my mother had used. That had brought back snippets of an old lullaby – notes that were now stuck in my head forever. My wife had insisted on keeping the blanket and the rocker, and had tucked them away in the spare room. We’d have kids one day, she said, and I hadn’t argued. It was another thought that soothed me.

I became aware of my surroundings again when my wife laid her head on my shoulder. The buds of spring were fading now, and we walked in a sultry summer evening. On a bench just ahead, I spotted an older woman, and the splash of red and glint of knitting needles caught my eye. She held her project up, looking at it critically, and I realized she was nearly done a tiny sweater.

Tears welled up unbidden, the first I’d allowed myself since Nanoo had died.


 

I don’t think that I would ever understand what my husband was going through. I had never lost anyone close to me. Except for him, I had never been as close to anyone as he had been to his grandparents. The warmth of the relationship they shared was evident the first time I’d met them during Christmas break in Grade 12. He called them ‘Nanoo’ and ‘GoPa’ with the same affection that a toddler would call ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy’. There was none of the strife I so often experienced with my parents; none of the bitterness or teenaged disrespect. And absolutely no embarrassment when he was kissed, or cuddled, or scolded. He was utterly kind, and his love was returned in full measure.

I knew I wanted to marry him after witnessing that. We’d gone through university together, finally saying ‘I do’ a couple years later. We’d settled into an apartment of our own, just two bedrooms, and saw his grandparents several times a week. We were close.

He was devastated when his grandpa died, and doubly so when his grandma followed so soon. I’m sure we’ve all heard the term ‘died of a broken heart’, but I hadn’t truly believed it, until she passed away. She always had a smile for us, a kind word, little tidbits of advice, or snippets of gossip. But the glow slowly left her cheeks, and the sparkle faded from her eyes.

I don’t think we truly realized just how fragile she was until she got sick. That’s when I realized how heartbroken she was. Her husband’s death was one she could not bounce back from. Perhaps, if it had happened when she was younger, or when she was still raising children, she would have persevered. But, with all her earthly responsibilities fulfilled, the loss of her life-mate was insurmountable.

I watched my husband struggle to stay strong as he dealt with all the details of death. He had taken some time off work, but his grandparents had not raised an idle child, and he did not do well sitting around. Eventually, every notice had been sent, every bill paid, every box packed. He would go back to the office in a couple days, and I still wanted to talk to him. Maybe I could bring some light into his gloomy day.

The afternoon was perfect. The sky was not clear, but the clouds hung low on the horizon; they would add colour as the sun set. There was still plenty of light left, though, and the temperature was on the comfortable side of hot. I thought about the secret resting between my hips and smiled. My husband would have noticed a missed period at any other time, but he had been understandably distracted this month.

As we rounded a bend in the path, I noticed an elderly lady knitting on a park bench. Every so often she would stop, put down her needles, and look around her with a smile and a deep breath. She looked utterly peaceful. Her task was neither hurried, nor burdensome, but clearly a labour of love. I saw it was a little sweater, made for a child, and my smile bloomed once again.

I stumbled when my husband stopped abruptly, and turned to watch him break down into tears. His grief-stricken eyes were trained on the very scene that made me smile. I’m not sure why that made him cry, but it was the first time he had wept since his grandma died.

Perhaps now was not the best time to tell him we would soon be parents, after all.


 

I rested my hands in my lap, letting my grip on the knitting needles loosen. The red yarn was still caught in my fingers, pulling up from the canvas bag at my feet. After a moment, I held up my project to look at it. The light of the day would fade soon, but I was nearly done. Nearly. This would be the last baby sweater that I would make. I had knitted one little red cardigan for each of my great-grandchildren, and this would be the last one. My children’s children were great planners, and they had ensured there would be no more children in this generation.

I would not be alive to see the next one, and I was at peace with that. I hoped that one of these little sweaters would survive where I would not.

Blooming

And through the gloom of the misty night

The sun rose, stretching upon a distant hill

The dew shimmered softly

Like a thousand diamonds sparkling on the leaves

Basking in the glowing warmth of the young sun’s light

A timid blossom shyly turned a delicate

Petal out towards the sun

Tasting for the first time a new and wondrous kiss

The embrace of a gentle spray of passionate rays

Then slowly accepting her lover’s caress

The innocent flower hesitantly revealed her virgin secrets

And opened herself to welcome the glorious

Penetration of a new day

 

Written by (a young) me, August 28, 1996

When my morning coffee is perfect

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It’s -5°C and I’ve just finished seeing my older son off to school. Gone are the midnight blue mornings. Gone are the stars and planets bright in the sky as we wait for the school bus.

Instead, the sun has started its journey across the horizon and in the morning we now see the treetops above an orangey – pink sunrise. Even though the mornings are still chilly, the promise of spring comes with the morning light. Soon the pussy willows will bloom, and the aspens will push forth new leaves.

This morning my coffee is perfect, and even though I am sick,  I feel content. Hurrah for the morning light!