Monday, August 30, 2010


In the middle of the countryside, just down the road from us, nestled around my adopted little church, there is the most beautiful, peaceful cemetery.  I have spent many, many hours down there over the years. It’s where I will eventually spend many, many more.

When you live in the country, you’re happy to have a ‘destination’ when you’re out for a walk.  That was mine.  It’s  just a nice distance to stretch the legs and clear the head.

There were times that I took the donkeys for a walk and we ended up there. And when the kids were little, that was the direction we took. Little feet in running shoes. Medium feet peddling bicycles. Teenage feet in rollerblades.  Mother feet pushing my grandbabes.  It was a lovely place to go – park like and beautiful, lots to see and talk about.  The tall slender monuments looked massive as they towered over my youngest, Alyssa at four - she was fascinated by them. She told me: “I want one of them trophies when I die.” I asked her, “How do you think you get one?”  She answered with great authority: “You’ve gotta win lots and be buried standing up.”

I have always attended the Memorial Service on the last Sunday each August.  I don’t get to go to the cemetery where my own family is buried, so this one has become the surrogate.  It is heartwarming and moving to see so many families come there to honour their loved one. I quietly remember mine - it matters not that they lay two hours away.  On this day, many of the graves are decorated creatively, with gladiolas laid in artistic patterns. I like that.

I am fortunate that I don’t have family there myself, but I do know many, many of the people who rest there.  I often take flowers down to the Mills – it just seems right since this house we live in and love, was their vision. I think of her so often.  She lived to be 99 and my intention is to follow in her footsteps.

They have a big, beautiful old stone from the early 1900’s when their sons died.  I don't want them to look barren and lonely and 'un-remembered', so I take them a little something. I didn't have a chance to get anything for Sunday and was feeling badly about that; but when I arrived at their marker, there was a lovely bouquet. I so wished that I was able to find out who had placed it there. Someone in attendance obviously had memories of them. I had questions for them.  I would have told them that I think of them even though I never met them and really know nothing at all about them. But I know that they slept in the said same room as I sleep; and I know that there were summer nights that they sat on the same porch where I sit, listening to the frogs and crickets. And that is enough to keep them tucked in my heart.

That little cemetery is so well kept and well loved. The history is there - deep and long; old and fresh - sorrow and humanity. On Memorial Day, it is a colourful celebration of the lives who have gone ahead of us. 

I was so moved to see that someone had even been so thoughtful as to lay some glads by a piece of stone that is propped up in a corner of the church. It is just a fragment; there is no name – but still, someone cared enough to take the time to lay flowers. To wonder a moment about the life that it represents. I like that too.  

That speaks of that sacred place. That speaks of respect and love and remembrance. And it speaks to why I will in the end, when the time has come, be content to spend many, many more hours there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And On A Summer Morning

I awoke to the most beautiful morning. There was a light haze hanging over the neighbourhood. Still in my pajamas and before I even had my coffee, I once again jumped in my car and took a little tour down my road, camera in hand. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Late Summer Evening.

I had nothing to do last night. Well, that's not exactly the truth. I had lots I could have done, tons of I should have done.  It's more like I had nothing specifically planned for an incredibly gorgeous evening. It seems that hasn't happened this entire season. I was feeling kind of lost.

Brian was gone; I had seen three quarters of my kids and all of my grandchildren during the day; it was Friday night so my friends would all be busy with their own lives; I was on my own. I was not about to start working on something and I sure was not going to sit in the house.

By the time I determined that I was free to do absolutely anything that I wanted, there was only an hour left before darkness. If I would have figured that out earlier, I would have driven up to the lake just for the fun of it. I've been sticking real close to home for the past week, while we await the arrival of our babe. I don't intend to miss out this time.

It was too late also to go for a long walk. Well, really it wasn't - that just wasn't speaking to me as it's not that special, I do it all the time.  It was certainly getting too late to jump on the bicycle and peddle the five miles around the block.

Our little Spitfire was sitting there with the roof down, so I thought the two of us should get out and enjoy the weather together. Summer is dying and I'm not ready to let it go. Already, the air is cooler, the evening sun has a deeper golden tint, the leaves are drying and there is a subtle fragrance that says that we'd better savour these last few minutes while we can.

I grabbed my camera. I was thinking - if I were in Ireland or Newfoundland, and saw the landscapes that I see around here on a daily basis, I would be pulling over constantly.  I really need to take more time and make more opportunity to capture the ordinary in my own backyard. I don't do that enough.

So that's what I did last night. I just drove around, enjoying our rural landscape; enjoying the peace and beauty of my own neighbourhood. Soaking it all in. I captured a few shots on our road and captured an extra few minutes of a perfectly gorgeous, late summer evening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Since I’m talking about people in my life who have made a lasting impact, I really need to acknowledge the very most important and influential person of all time. 

Today happens to be his 104th birthday.  My goodness … you can sure tell you’re getting long in the tooth when the people that you’re remembering are over a century old; especially when they’re your own parent. I'm thinking of him today, but that's not unusual; I carry him in my thoughts and in my heart each and every day. 

A hundred and four years ago, Ada Mary Wellwood was busy bringing her fifth child, little Harold Francis, into the world; the baby who would grow up to be my father.  He’s the babe that she’s holding in this photograph. Don't you just love these old family photos where they placed people randomly about the lawn.  Why don't we do that anymore?

My Dad was 47 years old when I was born, pushing fifty when Bud came along.  Perhaps some of his mellowness in parenting came from living long enough to understand that a lot of stuff really doesn’t matter.  Mostly though, his patience, and calmness was just his nature. I adored that man and had a case of hero worship for as long as I can remember. Still do.

I recall when I was about four years old, holding his hand and walking down the aisle of the church, pretending that we were being married. I shared with my sister that I was ‘going to marry Daddy when I grow up.’ She bluntly retorted: ‘You can’t.’ I didn’t believe her. ‘Why NOT?’ I snipped back, to which she huffed ‘He’s ALREADY married.’

Dad was a pioneer in the sport of harness racing way back in the forties. Since it wasn’t well established in Canada at that time, from March to November each year, he stabled in New York or Michigan. We’d join him when school got out, and for a number of years we would attend school there for the first few months in the fall. It was a bit of a culture shock, going from an American city school with classrooms and cafeteria, to a rural, one room public school that was lucky to have indoor plumbing.  It was a great way to grow up though, and the fact that our world was so diverse was most likely responsible for my deeply engrained love of adventure.

Originally from the Detroit Free Press in 1950, touting him as 'One of the country's best' - it was reprinted in 1990.

I was acutely aware that he was older than my friend’s fathers, and was always worried about losing him.  It made me hang on tighter and cherish each and every moment we had together. I shadowed his every move, spending all of my time in the barn or wherever he was.  Never once did he make me feel like I was underfoot. Around the racetrack, I had a huge amount of pride that I was Harold Wellwood’s daughter. Not because he was successful and important there; he was, but you’d never know it by looking at him or talking to him. He was humble and down to earth. I was just proud because he was a wonderful man who everyone admired and respected.

At 63, when others his age would have been retiring, he bought a farm and started farming. He raced horses until he was 74 year old, and still worked on the farm until his health suffered when he about 80. He quietly went about his life’s work with determination, perseverance and humility.

When he died at 83, it was in all of the newspapers across Canada, on the radio and television news and written up in magazines as the “passing of one of Canada’s best known and respected horsemen”. He was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in Toronto as a ‘Legend’ in 2001, eleven years after his death and has been honoured on other occasions as well as a ‘pioneer of the sport.

In the Canadian Sportsman article where the cartoon appeared above, it said:

‘The world was not always kind to Harold Wellwood but his misfortunes were never anyone else’s burden.  He faced and overcame extreme adversity throughout his entire lifetime, always seeming to find the silver lining in every cloud. His many setbacks never seemed to dull his spirit. Harold was a genuine original, a person who stood by his principle always. In a sport whose records are often short lived, Harold will always be remembered for his style as much as his statistics.

He was a man blessed with kindness, a man rich in his learning and wise in his philosophy, a credit to his sport, his country, and his family.’

Indeed, he was. He was the first man I loved and he set me up for loving the world. As long as I can remember, I was consciously aware that I wanted to emulate all the characteristics that I admired in him. 

I have an audio tape of an interview that they did for the archives back in the late 70’s.  I just can’t bring myself to listen to it – I get all choked up if I even think about.  I should listen to it. I’m sure there is a lot of information that I would appreciate knowing now. And I should, because one of these days, a person is not even going to be able to play cassettes.  I think it might be easier if it was a video, but for some reason, hearing his voice come out of nowhere, just tears me apart. I tried it once a long time ago and couldn't handle it. Maybe now thinking about it is harder than actually doing it. Maybe I'm ready after two decades of not hearing his voice. Maybe. We’ll see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Maggie Annie

One hundred and ten years ago today, Margaret Annie Green was born.  She was known as Maggie Annie and grew to be an adorable child with long blonde wavy hair. At nineteen she married Frederick Scott and had four children – two boys and two girls. Both daughters are living. One son died at birth and was basically never spoken of again.  No one is really sure where he is located in the cemetery, although we do believe that he is there somewhere. We don't even know his name. That always struck me as odd. The other son passed away sixteen years ago. He was Brian’s Dad.

There is quite a residual of Grandma Scott’s life in this house, starting with her childhood. I have her baby dish and spoon; her little handmade wooden kiddie car, a tiny dress, her photograph at four years old and a book given to her when she was 8 years old.  I have her wedding picture, the wooden clothes basket from when she was a new bride and a crotched night cap. I have the big old console radio and a baby quilt that she appliqued with Brian’s Mom and took to the county fair.

And I have memories.

I was so happy to marry into having a Grandma. A Real Grandma. She was my vision of what I thought a grandmother should be. She was the one in the Dick and Jane books and all the elementary school readers: white hair and glasses, short and round; someone who does huge amounts of baking and slowly shuffles around in a flowered dress.  My own grandmother was none of the above. She was a pistol who dyed her hair red, smoked and drank and partied. She was wiry and quick, and had no fondness for children until we were old enough to drive her around.  Grandma Scott taught me how to make rhubarb custard pie, the one and only recipe that I would ever use. My grandmother taught me how to raise your middle knuckle up when you make a fist and punch someone, so it sticks out and hurts more.

I was very happy to get a storybook grandmother. I vividly recall thirty years ago today - her 80th birthday when I took her a cake and had lunch with her. She sighed and said, “I do hope that I don’t live to be too old.” I was 27 years old and thought that was such a bizarre thing to say.  I asked her, 'How old is TOO old??’  She said simply: “You know when it’s too old.”  I've learned that it is a very individual thing all related to the quality of life. On her 96th birthday, I sat beside her bed, holding her hand. She didn’t know me, didn’t know herself, didn’t know where she was or what day it.  “Yes, Grandma.”,  I said to the shell of a woman laying in bed: “I understand now what is ‘too old’.”

She died on Valentine's Day at 97.

Sad thing about Maggie Annie though, is that she had sort of given up on living long before that. Life as I would like to have it anyway.  It’s not the fact that she wasn’t as vibrant and active as Aunt Ruth; very few are, and living vivaciously and enthusiastically wasn’t her personality at any stage. That’s okay, she had done it her own way.  It seemed to me though, that she wasn’t using her days for anything other than ‘waiting to die’. She actually said that to me on numerous occasions. She sat by her window, hour after hour, day after day – “I’m just sitting here waiting to die”, she said.  She waited for almost twenty years.

When she was in her early 80’s, her cousin passed away and left her a substantial amount of money. “That was really thoughtful and such a nice surprise.” I commented. “Hmmph.”, she grumbled: “What good will it do me?  The only thing I need is a winter coat and I won’t live long enough to wear it out, so why should I bother.” She didn’t buy the coat, or spend a single cent of the money.  How enriching it could have been, when she didn’t want or need it herself, to have the power to direct it to some of the people and places where it could have made a difference.

Everyone who comes into our lives and stays in our head or heart, leaves a lesson, a legacy. I watch and learn. I have learned and kept some stuff from Maggie Annie Green besides how to make rhubarb custard pie.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When I Grow Up

I’ve talked about it before. I want to be Aunt Ruth when I grow up. 

I have just spent three days with this wonderful woman and came away, as always, feeling upbeat and positive about aging, and a whole bunch of other things as well.

My Dad’s sister was 93 last January.  Or so her birth certificate would say.  In reality, she is basically ageless.  She has more energy than people half her age, and more depth and spirit to boot.

Her openness to new adventure is evident in the fact that she has just moved into yet another new chapter of her life … a place at the lake that she embraces with great enthusiasm and gratitude.  She is spending every moment she can there – walking the beach, writing her memoirs, meeting new friends and getting involved in yet more social activities. 

It was a wonderful little holiday for me. I love going to the lake and I love spending time with Aunt Ruth. We squeeze a remarkable number of things into a visit.  Not the least being a great deal of story telling on both our parts.  She listens just as well as she shares.

We covered a lot of things, first starting at the cemetery where all of our relatives are buried.  Her parents and my parents. Her siblings and my siblings. Grandparents and Great Grandparents of both of us.  We dug out around the aged gravestone of my sister and brother, and then the stone of her brother who also died tragically as a child, almost a hundred years ago.

I think that it’s really quite unique that our family rests so close together. My grandparents - her parents, within feet of all but one of their eight children and their spouses, and just a small stone's toss from each of their parents. Both of her parents are there, and so are both of mine. I have three brothers and two sisters buried there, and as it happens, so does she. It seems we have a great deal in common, besides our passion for Life.

To be in that place with my Aunt Ruth, the last remaining in her generation, is a honour. We happened to be there on the anniversary of the death of her own child, who died 21 years ago at the age of 26. It was just the right place for us to be that day.

After our tasks were completed there, we headed to the lake. We walked and talked. And talked and walked. And then we sat and talked. Then we went to bed, got up and started again.

We had a wonderful dinner with some of my cousins who live in that area. Her son, who was born the same year that I was, came out on his motorcycle and I jumped at the chance to go for a ride. When I returned I asked Aunt Ruth if she had ever been on a motorcycle. She said no, but someday she would.  I asked: ‘Why not now?’ She said ‘Sure!’. That’s the Aunt Ruth I know – it’s always ‘SURE!’  “Would you like to go to Newfoundland: Sure!”  “Would you like to … whatever … every single time with me, it’s been ‘Sure!’  She's the one who's motto is: 'If anyone asks you to go somewhere - GO. Or they'll stop asking.'

So she hopped on the bike. Truly she did.  Supple and nimble – she HOPPED on the bike. She greatly enjoyed it, just as she does all of life.  She values each and every day and makes the most of it.  She is an inspiration and example to so many ... especially me.

She shared her take on the secret of aging well: that the ‘trouble with a lot of seniors is that they expect to be catered to. If they’d forget about that and get out and help someone else instead, they’d be a lot better off.’ Wisdom really for any age: quit thinking about yourself and put your energy into others.

She sent me home with carrots and tomatoes from her garden and a handmade quilt for her new great nephew, Spencer, and one for the child who hasn't arrived yet. She has made almost a hundred baby quilts in the past couple years, sending most off with the missions and always with a stack ready for any little babe that comes into her life. 

Yes... my ambition is to have the health, the stamina and the rich and full life that Aunt Ruth has. Actually, I am totally blessed with that now - I just want to keep it when I grow up.