© Les Becker
December 8th, 2010
Taken with Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Yes, I’m in the running for the “Not Necessarily Banal Blog Title” crown. And I have been feeling rather like that banana looks as though it must.
I kinda fell off the internet for a while, there. And y’all know how much I hate the real world.
Then my mom died, on December 1st. I haven’t yet got accustomed to that. I want to write about her, but I’m still trying to fathom that she’s gone.
When I got the call about my dad’s death a couple of summers ago, I sat down and wrote my goodbye to him and rushed it out into the ether.
It seems so much more complicated with my mother. There are a thousand little memories that bring her into my mind – smells, certain songs, every different season. Food.
No, I think my mom’s going to get more than one goodbye, here. Just not quite yet.
Work has been stupid. Christmas. Ugh. I swear (again) that I will not do another Christmas in Retail next year. One of these years, that’s got to stick.
My own Christmas was quiet and lovely. I received two housecoats, a bottle of rum and enough chocolate to live on for three days straight. I made good use of all of the above. And I even have housecoats left over!
And I’m newsed out, now, so…
A Letter from Overseas-1944
Taken June 18, 2009 with Canon PowerShot A550
In three days’ time, my father will have been dead for a year. I have a hard time believing that.
Sometimes, it feels as if he’s been gone forever. Other times, I hang up the phone mid-dial, when I remember that he won’t be there to answer whatever question I wanted to ask him – usually about World War II.
I didn’t ask him enough questions…
A while ago, I wrote here that I was going to publish all the letters Dad wrote home to my mom. I’ve since had the chance to read them, and truthfully (surprisingly), they don’t make great blog-fodder.
Instead, I will publish just this one – which my mother has given to me to keep, as it seems to have just a little bit of everything in it. It’s very strange to read my father’s words while he was courting my mother (while my mother was courting somebody else – gasp…!); he sure was a tease – I can just hear his voice when I read this.
Anyhoo… I’ve kept the syntax the way he wrote it – some sentences may need to be read twice to get the proper gist – but I’ve taken the liberty of breaking things up into paragraphs. I guess paper was at a premium, and he didn’t want to waste it.
He was training in England when he wrote this.
July 19, 1944
#1 C.O.R.V. C.A.O.S.
Dear Teacher –
I received your letter and pictures to-night so here goes for a start at least. I don’t know when I’ll finish this.
Say how do you manage those pictures anyway? That ‘close up’ of you alone looks like Dorothy Lamour. They were all very good and Thanks a million for sending them. Now I’ll have something to spend my spare moments at gazing.
There was a buzz bomb went over a few minutes ago and of all the jobs I had to doing. By the time I realized what it was and got outside it had gone past.
I thought it was a squadron of our own planes until it was right above us – one of the fellows here has had his camera ready for a couple of weeks intending to get a picture of one but they seem to be too fast.
They make a terrific noise and fly very low and fast. It is only a few seconds from the time you first hear them until they are gone out of hearing and at night look like a ball of fire in the sky.
This place seems to be charmed or something. There has been any number of them went over but none have taken a notion to stop here yet. The closest were a mile or so away and just shake the windows and doors.
Well I wouldn’t mind if I could get a couple of weeks leave on the Island now. I can imagine the nice weather you would be having there. I am kind of disgusted with the weather over here. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the winter and summer.
We had a few weeks nice weather the last of March and since it has been raining about three parts of the time. The fogs are beginning to start now & also the blackouts again.
I wouldn’t mind so much but through what nice weather there was we weren’t allowed any leave and by the time this course is over the fog will be so thick we’ll have to carry a shovel with us to make a way for us. Of course that shovel would be handy to have along for the B.S. too wouldn’t it?
This is a sort of gloomy letter I guess it’s the army blues.
I hear they are going to give the 7 day leaves soon (I hope. I have 16 days coming now). They have already lifted the ban on train travel & the 20 mile limit. Before we had to ride on the buses or hitchhike as the trains were supposed to be reserved for the evacuees. I guess all the small towns are filled with them now.
Bill (Ahem…* Sorry to interrupt: Bill is my mother’s brother) thinks England is O’K. eh? To tell the truth I like it a lot better than Canada too as far as army life goes. I’d sooner be in Canada just for the sake of being in my own country though.
The stuff isn’t rationed as much now as it was. We can get most of the things you can in Canada but only in small amounts and they use you more like a human than an animal.
With the odd bomb around and France not far away you’d be surprised the difference it makes to the N.C.O.’s & officers. There are very few A.W.L’s here. Fellows that were always away in Canada never think of going loose here.
For one thing there really isn’t anything to go on the loose for like Canada. No means of travel and no place to go or stay or eat if you did go.
Say I hope you don’t get tired of reading this monotonous thing supposed to be a letter and throw it away before you finish.
I had a letter from Edith, my sister-in-law last week. You should see some of the queer English expressions but I’m getting used to them. I suppose if I’m over here another year I’ll be completely “Limetized”. There is a Limey camp right near us and we see quite a few of them often.
Did you know Jack MacMillan from Cockburn Island? I met him in the canteen last week. He is here on an A.F.V. course. I had quite a chat with him. It almost seemed like going home.
Well I haven’t been out of camp for a month now. I think I’ll go on a “bender” at the wet canteen and then settle down for the duration of the course and get ready for trade test Bay. It is only 4 weeks away now. It’s nearly three months since I came here and it only seems about three weeks.
By the way don’t let Eiro tickle you too much (I HOPE). It makes me nervous and I’d hate to have to tell the instructor some day what is wrong with me. ha. ha.
Let me know how your pictures of you and Helen and you and Helen and you and you and Helen, turned out eh? If I were you I would move my shorts around and get all sunburned the same. That would feel too much like shaving only one side of your face (Of course I’m not you though).
How are you and the cows getting along in the mornings?
Well I guess I’ll close as there isn’t anything else I can think of. In fact there was nothing to write about in the first place: Write soon & long.
I’m getting so I can almost start an argument with myself eh?
A Doctor in Sequatchie Valley in Tennessee was called to examine the young wife of an elderly, deaf mountaineer. “Your wife is pregnant” he told her husband.
Mountaineer, hand behind his ear, queried, “eh”?
The doctor shouted, “I said your wife is pregnant.”
Finally the doctor screamed, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
The man walked to the edge of the porch, spat out a mouthful of tobacco juice, and drawled, “I ain’t a bit surprised. She’s had every opportunity.”
Excuse the writing. It is slightly worse than usual as there is a poker game going on, on the next bunk & every once in awhile somebody just has to step back & shake my bunk.
I would dearly love to know what “job” it was that my dad was doing when that buzz bomb went over. I don’t know if he started writing the next sentence without realizing he hadn’t finished the last, or if it was something a little embarrassing and he didn’t want to say. Perhaps, he was in the latrine…?
My mother still remembers writing to him about that sunburn she got, from laying for too long in one position. And how her father used to give the girls holy hell for going out in public wearing shorts. He thought it was shameful.
And I guess one might have to be a man to figure out how shaving one side of your face might feel the same… does shaving hurt like sunburn?! I wanna know.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – Meatloaf
Maude on her Hog
Photo copyright either My Brother the Trespasser or My Sister Tootie
(Maude can’t remember who was standing behind the camera…)
I drove down to Teeny-Tiny Town today, having had no sleep since… well, I’m not certain when, but I’ve been writing – really writing – for real writing, so No Sleep Disease isn’t exactly a bad thing. This time.
On the way down, I saw a small plane tipped over on the four-lane median strip, surrounded by a single fire truck and a couple of cop cars. I thought I might be hallucinating at first, but then remembered that if that was the case, my imagination would have turned it into an airliner. I ought maybe check the news to be certain (I assume a plane landing on the highway might be considered news around here, anyway), but I think it’s safe to say I actually saw what I think I saw.
Yup. It’s good to know I’m not completely nuts. Ahem…*
When I got to Teeny-Tiny Town, though, and saw that photo of my mother in leathers on a motorcycle… well…. that was something I was pretty certain was all in my own mind.
Until she started to laugh, and told me the story…
Seems My Brother the Trespasser (or maybe it was a nephew – I’ve had no sleep, and my mom can’t remember…) bought himself a new ride this past spring, and went down to show it off to my mom and my sister, who were both suitably impressed. Mom was so impressed, in fact, that she told one of the aides in the Nursing Home that it was her hog.
I don’t know why, but the aide didn’t believe her!
Mom said she would prove it, and got the Trespasser/Nephew/Whoever to fit her up, put her on the bike to pose, and then had [somebody] get a couple of copies of this pic printed up. The aide displays her copy on her fridge at home. I stole the other copy, to show you all how cool my mom is…
Look real close now… she’s not pointing at you. She’s giving you the finger (yeah, yeah, she’s flipping the bird backwards – give the ol’ lady a break – she’s 85).
We had a visit to the graveyard (my dad’s monument is finally in place – his boat, sailing off into the sunset lasered into it somehow – he would have been right impressed, I think – and it’s an odd kind of comfort to see that boat on there, sailing away…), and went out for lunch before I sneaked off back home, pilfered photo safely tucked away.
On the way back, I saw an upside down tractor-trailer in the ditch, which my brain turned into a crash-landed Borg ship for a minute. The lack of armed militia tipped me back into the real world soon enough, but not before a whole ‘nother story clicked into place, waiting for me to start writing when the current project is put to bed.
Which is where I’ll be going… once I’ve pecked out a few more scenes.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Graceland” – Paul Simon
Taken August 9, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550
Ky’s finally sleeping again, and is back to school for her morning classes, which is good. I’m assured by the school that she’ll manage to get those credits without a problem – music class, which is hardly surprising (the principal tells me she’d have passed that one based on her talent, never mind that she doesn’t bother with any assignments – I don’t know whether to be proud or pissed off), and geography. Now, that surprises me.
Two credits is better than no credits, though, I guess, isn’t it? I’ll try to be proud.
My own sleeping is not happening again, now. I’m a little concerned about my job. I’m getting there, but it’s difficult. Luckily, I don’t have to drive to get there, so no lives are in danger – unless I blow the place up, but there are safeguards in place against idiots, so maybe that’s not such a big worry…
I need to finish the latest novel. That’s that “hard” one I mentioned a while back. It’s still got a lot of the same elements that the sitcom had in it, but the entire pilot plot has pretty much disappeared, along with a character or two. I’ve kept the bare bones of what would have been the first season. I tried to change the main characters’ names, but they just will not be renamed. All I’ve managed to do is steal away their last names completely.
I had a lot of false starts trying to pick this project back up again. There was a time that I ate, slept and breathed it. That turned into boozing and smoking it, and I think I just wanted it to go away. Working on it kept bringing up nasty, bad thoughts that I didn’t want to think.
I lamented about this to Ky one day, and she surprised me by telling me I should be getting it done and over with. When I told her I didn’t want to listen/watch/write my main characters anymore, she rolled her eyes.
I told her I’d noticed she wore the one and only promotional t-shirt made for the project all the time, even though she’d once told me she was glad it was dead in the water so what’s up with that, huh?! And then, she made me laugh by paraphrasing Holden McNeil: “They’re fictional characters, Mom. Fictional characters. Am I getting through to you at all…?”
So I’m working on it. And it gets a little easier (and a little closer to done) every time I sit down to it.
My blog is turning back into a place to air my grievances, and although that’s part of what it’s for, I really want to get back to telling the Ruby stories (there’s a ton of them), and The Father Chronicles (there’s a ton of those left, too).
And I talked to my Mom today, and she’s feeling a little lost and lonely without my Dad. She said it’s gotten worse, lately, and she’s been rereading his letters from World War II. At first, they made things worse, but now she finds them a comfort and is glad she saved them…
Wait a minute…. “You have letters from Dad during the War…?”
All his letters…?”
Wow. I didn’t know this….
“Can I read them…?”
“Ummmm…… can I blog them…?”
So as soon as I can get myself down to Teeny-Tiny Town, I will have a new category here: Dear Maude…
Another worry is my imminent move. Far, far away.
I’m not certain how imminent it is, now, considering new and ugly turns of events of legal and financial persuasions that may (shudder) bankrupt me (not if I can possibly avoid it), but I will be moving to Vancouver and will be there for at least a year, once I manage it.
I’m going to be going back to school (yes, again), in an accelerated screenwriting program at the Vancouver Film School. I chose this program, because a Canadian school somehow seems more “doable” than trying to get into one in the States – although I’d rather be in the States. I have more friends there. 🙂
It’s going to cost me a mint, though. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from, yet, but then again, I bought the Prissy-Van with money I didn’t have yet, and so far, so good, she’s still mine. I’ll manage this. Somehow. Gulp…*
I didn’t think I’d be able to convince Kyla to go with me, so was working out an alternative arrangement for her, but when I told her about it (actually, I let it slip in a moment of upset over all this stress), she surprised hell out of me by telling me she would love a change of scenery.
It’s amazing how fast things change.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Black Coffee” – Ella Fitzgerald
Peekin’ Over…Taken March 2, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550
There Were Moments of Stupidity… – © Les Becker, 2010
Click the link to hear me tell the story..
(Oh, come on! Ya know ya want to!)Holy shit – 21 days into 2009, and this is my first blog post of the New Year. I should be ashamed.
I’m busy. It’s a good busy, that I am, and I’m happy not to have too much idle time on my hands. I’m not so happy that it’s my blog that has to suffer first, but I’m hoping to alleviate that over the rest of the month.
Hope springs eternal. Sigh…*
I’m off the night-shift – that move was not my idea, and it pissed me off, at first, but holy ol’ shit, Blogosphere, did you know there’s a great ball of fire in the sky for a short period of time every day?! I KNOW!!! I’d forgotten all about that! Good to know it’s still there.
Now that I’m actually dancing in the parking lot* in the daylight for eight hours at a time again, I seem to have more energy left over for other stuff… like cleaning house. The Idiot Child (AKA The Evil Hypnotist) was tiring of being the housekeeper all the time, so she prefers me on the day shift, too.
I’m still not cooking, though. Methinks, that will never change. The kid turns out to be a not-too-shabby chef, anyhow. Granted, she hates it as much as I do, but prefers eating to starving, and so continues to make my meals. Life is good. 😀
Sault Ste. Marie has, for the first time in possibly a decade, NOT had a January thaw. There are no complaints about the lack of snowmobiling/skiing/snowshoeing snow among the 5-Minute-Conversationalists in the parking lot – just fears of frostbite.
My father speaks to me in the middle of my head at some point during every shift: “Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!” – his mantra during the winter Cockburn Island treks of my youth. I’ve taken to saying that to “my boys” – the young fellas with whom I dance every day – some of whom The Conversationalists mistake for my children, which I’m trying to find funny. I’m failing at that, but the boys think it’s right hilarious. If they were my kids, they’d be grounded for laughing at their mother.
Back to the snow, though…
The photo above was taken in March of last year, but that snowbank was even higher the other night – I know because I took a photo on my way home from Ruby’s, having forgotten I’d already done so last year. Thankfully, I don’t have to shovel (except that J.O.B. parking lot, but getting paid for something makes it less of a chore, doesn’t it) – my wonderful landlord has the Prissy-Van’s security parking area plowed every day, and Prissy has no trouble getting over the build-up the plow leaves around her, so I see no need to do much of anything about it other than gun through it in reverse and try not to hit the fence behind me.
Nine times out of ten, I hit the fence. Hitting fences in reverse at high speed is nothing for Prissy – another plus to having purchased an “All Plastic Vehicle” circa 1992, which, I understand, they don’t make anymore. I did see a similar mini-van marked “MPV” the other day… what’s that stand for, do you think? “Mostly Plastic Vehicle”?!
But, I’m spending too much of this post talking about snow, when I wanted to create my own January Thaw with a story from a late summer event that I wasn’t even in existence to witness. So on with it…
In 1962, my father tried to kill the entire family.How’s that grab ya?
The only reason I’m here to write about it is because everybody lived, and nobody called the cops.
No, he wasn’t trying to kill them all on purpose – it was one of those moments of brilliance-turned-stupid. He tried to asphyxiate the family, himself included, at the family cottage.
This was the Before I Was Born Camp – I wasn’t around, then. My parents bought a camp on Basswood Lake down the line, right next door to my dad’s nephew’s lot. Dad’s nephew, Lorne, was a good buddy – his dad, Marvin (yes, that Marvin), was a lot of years older than my dad, so Lorne and Dad were good pals. Their closeness in age confused many people into thinking they were brothers – and there’s a whole ‘nother story about a town-wide misunderstanding that had my father dead before his time, and my mother labeled as a nutcase because of that confusion. I shall have to tell it here, sometime.
Late one summer, probably in ’62, based on the age of My Brother the Trespasser, who was about two, Dad took the brood to the camp for the weekend, and Lorne took his, as well. As was the routine, the two families ate most meals together, supper being cooked by the men on the barbecue.
Now, this wasn’t the Hibachi of my experience, but one of those round, tri-legged thingies – state-of-the-art in the early 60’s, fueled with charcoal.
Also routine, was the marshmallow roast on the BBQ embers after supper, just before the kids went to bed. Apparently, juicing the kids up on pure sugar and sending them to “sleep” actually worked in 1962.
This marshmallow roast, though, was more exciting than usual.
The evening was cold. It was late August, and my dad said there was a cold snap – frost in the mornings and everything, which isn’t uncommon in Northern Ontario, but it sure can put a damper on a marshmallow roast. The kids’ hands were warm enough, holding their sticks over the barbecue, but their little feet were freezing (“Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!”).
My father was a problem-solver extraordinaire, though, and of course he had himself a bright idea.
Which is how he and Lorne came to drag the the barbecue inside the camp.
The kids thought that was right cool. They had their marshmallow roast, and the only dark spot on the occasion was when Big Sis, who would have been around six at the time, started to feel a little, ummmm, unwell.
My mother tucked her into bed, wondering what bug was about to flit from one kid to another until she had four sick children to sit up with all night.
Thankfully, Mom always said, when she and my dad told this story in tandem (oh, the duets between those two, when they told a story – it’s a shame those days are over, now), the rest of the kids seemed more sleepy than usual, so she was able to get them all into bed and sleeping with none of the usual arguments or cajoling to stay up later. Un-Brother Ken, the oldest, was surprisingly willing to go to sleep without a fight, so my mom was pretty sure he was already nursing that nasty bug, whatever it was…
Kids tucked in, the grown-ups sat around the barbecue with a beer each, set to enjoy the rest of the evening. Lorne’s wife, Kay, was the one exception, having gone over to her own camp to put her kids to bed. My parents and Lorne began to chat about the day, and one after another, they started to yawn…
By the time Kay came back, my mother had decided she was going to turn in early. Kay noticed Lorne was a little loopy, which aggravated her somewhat, and she told him they’d better get themselves home. He reluctantly agreed.
Left alone, my dad checked the barbecue and decided it would be okay for the night, and yawningly got himself ready for bed.
He wasn’t sure why he decided to check on the kids – it’s not something he normally would have done, that being my mother’s habit. He checked on them, though, and all were sleeping deeply. He checked on The Trespasser – “The Baby”, as he was called until I came along four years later to usurp his position – last of all.
This is when he noticed something odd…
There was something… ucky… on The Baby’s pillow… on closer inspection he realized he’d been sick in his sleep. Dad couldn’t see leaving him like that all night, so he gently removed the pillow from under The Baby’s head and set it on a chair where my mother would be sure to see it in the morning and take care of it.
Yeah. It was 1962…
And then Un-Brother woke up, complaining of thirst. Dad brought him water to find he’d gone back to sleep already. He rechecked Big Sis and Tootie, to find that they had an odd tinge to their complexions…
Hmmm… whatever was ailing these kids, it wasn’t something he’d ever seen before… He thought he’d have to make sure to mention it to Maude in the morning.
And then My Brother the Trespasser upchucked all over his bed.
That did it for my dad. When the baby starts barfing up BBQ, it’s time to wake up my mother.
Except my mother wouldn’t wake up.
And that scared hell out of my dad.
He flew out the door and over to Lorne and Kay’s camp. They were still awake, having mysteriously become less loopy shortly after they left my parents’ place, and Kay went over to see what was what. Lorne got into the car to go fetch the doctor.
Dad went back to wring his hands and nervously wait for the doctor to arrive with Lorne, and in a fit of “keep busy-ness”, he decided he’d better put the barbecue back outside so the doctor wouldn’t accidentally bump it over…
The doctor arrived. Slapped my mom around a little in an attempt to wake her, and finally frowned and asked my dad how she’d been feeling before bed. Dad told him about the Mysterious Bug that seemed to be traveling among the kids, and the doctor went into their room.
Checked The Baby. Fine, if a little vomity.
Woke up the rest of them, one by one. Sleepy, they were, but that was kind of to be expected. No sign of a strange pallor with either of the girls, either.
The doctor was a little pissed at being called out into the middle of nowhere for nothing, and told my dad so. And then, as he was going grumpily out the door, he heard my dad tell Lorne he thought he’d bring that barbecue back inside, since it was still so chilly….
Whereupon, my father got a loud lesson in charcoal fumes, asphyxiation, poisoning, smothering one’s family, and how-can-you-possibly-not-know-that-are-you-stupid?!
My father conceded that he just might be. About charcoal fumes, anyhow.
After Lorne left with the doctor, Dad opened all the windows, and threw more blankets on the beds. My mother slept the night through, waking up to a slight headache and a good story, thankful that the kids were bug-free.
Thankful that she woke up at all.
– – –
* I say “dancing in the parking lot” because it sounds way fancier than “pumping gas for a living”. So, uh, no: I’m not a stripper.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” – Huey Louis & The News