Sunday, May 01, 2011

Life as we know it

Dad loved bottle feeding calves
The First of May

It is early Sunday morning and a fierce spring storm has swept in and covered everything in a wet, white blanket. We are subjected to one every year, but this time it has come later than usual. The weather network has just proclaimed this “the worst first of May ever.”

I am up as always, with a hot cup of coffee to the left of my keyboard, and a mind filled with ideas. A writer has nothing without the snippets of memory that stretch into stories. I can write whatever I want today. Afterall, it is Sunday. Where shall I start? Polish the book I’m working on, blog, revise a few favourite short stories with a contest deadline in mind? Do non-writers even understand this excitement? Too many question marks I know. I will edit them out before this blog is posted.
It is nearly 10:00 a.m. my time. In a few minutes, Dad will call. 11:00 a.m. his time.

He’ll be wondering about the snow and the flooding predictions that have taken over the news these past few months. He’ll ask about the Portage Diversion and how the water flowing from the south into Lake Manitoba will affect the lake and the ranch land that surrounds it as it makes its way to Lake Winnipeg. He’ll want to know if the ice is off yet, but he won’t ask about any of this until he has asked about the calves. Calving season isn’t quite over yet and this is the deadliest kind of weather, arriving at the worst possible time, discouraging the rancher who is already exhausted from months of night checks and everything it takes to bring calves into the world and keep them alive until pasture. We’ll talk about all this and Dad will listen, even though he has heard a variation of this same story many times, but like a child listening as you read his favourite bedtime story over and over again, Dad will absorb himself in what I am saying and in his mind’s eye, will see it all so clearly as if he were looking out my window.

Then we’ll talk about how things are with him. He’ll tell me that he was out at Nancy and John’s house yesterday to check on the boat and that he’ll launch it next weekend. It will cost $1,200 in slip fees this year, and he’ll feel a bit bad about that since the money could be put to use somewhere else, but oh well, he’ll say, what the hell – you only live once. And then he’ll chuckle and change the subject. The weather was good so he took the Christmas lights down, winding them around a clever wooden holder he made specifically to keep the lights from balling all up like they did when I was a kid. And the Jeep needs to go in for its annual spring check-up and even though the odometer reads 325,617 kilometers (he checked it the other day), there isn’t a spot of rust on it. Pretty good, eh?
Next we’ll discuss tomorrow’s election and he’ll swear a bit. A union man stuck in a traditionally Conservative riding. What was the point in even voting? But then he’ll say he understands because a Conservative government is good for the farmers and that is where his roots spring from and his heart resides. Then he’ll clear his throat and have to go get a glass of water. I’ll wait, and smile, because this happens every time.

Except this year, I am not there. I watch the storm from a large apartment window in Winnipeg, but like Dad, can still see the farmyard in my mind, and while completely unaffected by the wind and wet, my heart aches for the ranchers the same way Dad’s did.

And he is no longer here either. I can honestly say that I always looked forward to his Sunday morning phone calls. Never once did I not pick up. Almost as if I knew that someday the calls would stop coming.

Grief is a grievous thing.

Dreams plague me all night and I wake up with a throbbing head every morning. Advil barely helps. And no, it isn’t the glass of wine (or two) I sip some nights in an effort to relax and forget. I’ve been sipping wine, sometimes even drinking it, without these after affects before, so no, it isn’t the wine. It’s the stories. All piling up in my mind, fighting against my daily “To Do” list for space in what has become a hoarder’s closet. It needs to be cleaned out.

It has always been like this for me. When I was a girl, if something was bothering me the only way I could extract the thoughts were to put them down on paper. Now, while trying to write professionally, the internal fight between what I have to write by deadline and what I need to write to clear my mind, has created a huge block. I can’t get to one because the other is in the way.

So now it is time to clean out the closet, to begin writing about Dad.

For me it is definitely the worst first of May ever.

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