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Archive for the month “November, 2014”

Cam’s Turkey Story

I know they don’t look red now”, said Jamie, “but you should see them in the fall.”.

She was referring to the Ruby Mountains in Nevada, and we were all ooohing and ahhhing, imagining the colour shift. Jennifer said she had seen Ayer’s Rock in Australia and remembered its flaming orange and sombre purple colours depending on the time of day. Frances piped up, “The Canadian Thanksgiving is always a gorgeous time of year. You should see our trees turn colour!” There were Americans on the trip so with the air of a teacher, Frances added, ”Our Thanksgiving takes place in the fall. I always wondered why yours is only six weeks to Christmas… “She rambled on , questioning why families would want to gather twice in such a short period time, and how even tv shows always seemed to focus on the squabbling , drinking and dozing after too much turkey…

Cam interjected, “Boy, do I have a Thanksgiving story for you.”

We were a small group of fifteen and over four days on a bus trip through Nevada, we had begun to make in-roads at figuring out who we were and why we had been invited to investigate the ghost towns, caverns, cowboys and cultures of the sagebrush state. We were of mixed ages, some from Quebec, others from Alberta, a few from Ontario and the rest from the states. Most had spent their flagrant youth as writers, guides or travel tour owners. Frances confirmed my suspicions that she might have been an educator and she moaned about being recently retired. With some humility, she confided that she had written the odd scholarly article and even a magazine review.

Laughing, she explained she had always wanted to be a writer and on a wild whim had e-mailed the story of at trip to Rio to a local newspaper. Someone was interested in her night at Mab’s place along the Copacabana Beach and the endless stream of gladiolas offered to the sea and the family groups swaying on the beach under a halo of twinkling stars on New Years. She continued that someone had contacted her, politely asking if she was up for a tour to Nevada. At first, she figured that someone was trying to sell her a condo in Vegas.. “I refused out right,” she chortled, some of her teacher qualities evident in the way she spoke, “ but then I actually listened and soon I was on the bus with the rest of you. I am so excited to be with real writers.” She beamed in her searsuckers, honestly pleased and gushing.

Cam was a guide from Texas. He was young, blond, sturdily handsome, had kids, been divorced – and now lived with a girlfriend. If America had decided to replace Uncle Sam as a symbol for America, Cam would have been it. He shared that he had guided groups into the Grand Canyon at least one hundred times. He said that he could fix an overheated Ford engine with duck tape and had saved four old ladies when their car had stalled for three days in the desert. He seemed affable enough and I believed his tales, even marvelling at his acuity with tape.

Jamie, the tour organizer, was strict informing us when we had to board the bus. Many of us hung around at lunch and supper breaks, waiting for the doors to open but when I looked, I almost always noticed that Cam had disappeared.

At a state park, I watched Frances follow Cam’s lead, stepping into his footsteps to avoid tumbleweed and leaning bushes that grabbed at the bottom of her washable, practical pants. She stopped where he stopped and observeded him nibbling on every plant in the park. He kept up a dialogue: partly wise and mindful parent, partly half- knowledgeable geographer, partly charming explorer. He explained about the benefits of a scraggily growth called Mormon Tea and a plant named creosote that apparently holds wondrous powers to refresh the dehydrated and heal wounds. He’d seen it for himself, he confided. He sniffed out mint, breaking off stems and adding it to our containers of water. He said he had once been a boy scout and still carried with him a couple of his badges. I expected them to be embroidered on his sleeves of his tee-shirt, worn, but constantly rubbed as amulets to his expertise.

Frances was obviously in awe of him, nodding, smiling, praising him, encouraging his ramblings and long winded explanations. She made me think of parents’ night when teachers nod and nod, hoping to suck up to the parent of their top achiever.

Cam didn’t apologize for delaying the group when he arrived back late. Jamie’s tart looks did not end his routine of keeping the rest of us a little late, waiting. Frances moved to the empty seat beside him and it appeared that he was tutoring her. I could overhear how the earth’s Tectonic plates shifted and how stalactites were formed by depositing calcium- rich water on limestone rocks. We’d just visited the Great Basin National Park and the Lehman Caves, discovered in 1880 when Absalom Lehman’s horse broke through the earth’s crust. Ranger Katie had shone her flashlight at formations that resembled hanging strips of bacon and frozen steams of water. It was another occasion for us city-folk to oooh and ahhh.

Frances’ looks of admiration suggested that Cam was an awesome teacher as he kept providing her with multiple metaphors and analogies so that she might better understand the earth’s eruptions and melding she had obviously missed as an elementary school student. He drew pictures, gesturing with his hands, but not making a lot of eye contact. He almost seemed to be talking to himself, needing but oblivious to Frances’ congratulatory comments on how smart he was and how deficient she was in her own knowledge.

There was something about Cam. Maybe it was his too loud voice or the voices of minorities that suddenly emerged every now and then from nowhere in the bus. I’ld turn around to look and only see Cam pushing buttons on his cellphone. In spite of his monologues with Frances, there was something about his being an odd duck who leads but does not fit in with the pack. I put aside any judgments, and was impressed by someone with the patience to discuss rudimentary geology with an old teacher.

Yet soon, as Cam veered from travel facts to a personal story, I realized that there was something strange about him. Frances’ comments on Thanksgiving prompted Cam to tell a story that so flawlessly performed, it must have been reiterated many, many times.

“My dad once ate six Thanksgiving dinners”, Cam boasted, pausing dramatically to gather our reactions. We laughed and Frances said that his dad must be a glutton and he probably never wanted to eat turkey and stuffing again. I figured that Cam’s dad practiced honing his eating skills at those eating contests where the participants in overalls pack themselves full of hot dogs and cherry pies at county fairs like the one I’d seen at Martha’s Vineyard in the 90’s. I imagined a rotund man dabbing at his rosy face with a checkered handkerchief as he paused between heaping plates of greasy corn dogs and overly-plump dressed sausages slathered in mustard and relish en route to gobbling up turkey dinners with all the fixings.

Cam quietly responded, “No.”

I assumed his listeners generally reacted this way, wanting to know more. Always the writer, I considered that Cam was structuring his tale, inciting interest with a rhetorical device like the hyperbole he had just used, building his crescendo to the climax and eventually providing the satisfying ending. Much like the sturdy base of Legos needed to support children’s wavering towers, Frances pushed him on with her encouraging manner, big thin-lipped smile.

“ My dad rarely spoke about Viet Nam” Cam began .

Maybe Cam had inherited his pensive demeanour from his dad, needing factual questions to draw him out to demonstrate his command of a situation. We turned subdued now, realizing that the story might not be the antics of a family Thanksgiving where some family members watch tv, snooze on the couch or gossip in the kitchen. Cam’s story was likely a war story, and maybe we had been duped into entering territory that we might not like navigating, but we had all ready given him permission to press on .

Straightening himself up military style ( I could almost imagine that peaked hat appearing), this time solemn, Cam began, “ Dad rarely spoke about his time in Viet Nam. Dad said that when he returned home, the vets were not welcomed as heroes.”

Frances interrupted, “ I’ve recently become more sympathetic towards veterans because my neighbours’ daughter is a social worker in Baltimore and she works with vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. She said they suffer from PTSS, or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and they really need safe transitions from one culture to another back home. Even their kids need help and understanding…She says there’s this one lost soul who keeps coming back to the Centre, just to talk to about friendly fire…” I figured Frances had identified quite a number of lost souls in her former line of work.

There was palpable tension between Frances’ words and Cam’s jiggling of his pocket knife between his fingers. Now uncomfortable, we wondered what Cam’s revelation might have to do with eating turkeys on Thanksgiving .The leap from falling leaves to exploding landmines was pretty far, but we had already consented to this introspective man’s foray through brush and bravado. Like his instruction to Frances, he was enjoying the focused attention, but was twitchy to get on with his narrative.

Maybe to distance or prepare herself for sites of carnage and chaos that were likely to arise, Frances, like a teacher who wants to distract a rowdy student and change the course of class conversation, interrupted again, nervously beginning a discourse on Viet Nam movies. “Does anyone remember Coming Home where Jane Fonda rides on the back of Viet Nam vet Jon Voight’s wheelchair on Santa Monica Beach? What about Born on the Fourth of July? With Tom Cruise? When he was younger, of course. Before he married Katie Holmes…”

We stared out at the mountains whizzing by, but we could still hear her.

She tried to move towards a political discussion and recounted that recently she had heard the Lyndon Johnson tapes as he conferred with all of his chiefs of staff, agonising about sending more troops or bringing them home from Viet Nam. She said that in spite of Johnson’s domestic successes during the Civil Rights Movement, she had always associated him with the inappropriate showing of his appendix scar, a second rater next to her generation’s affair with John Kennedy and the dreams of Camelot. She contributed ,”Lady Bird was down right dowdy and Johnson seemed a Texas buffoon… ”

I could see Cam was bristling, opening and closing the little knife more and more quickly.
But Frances went on saying that the Viet Nam war was a scar that would not heal, a wound that had festered way too long and that there had been kids from her days at university who had been draft dodgers and she, herself, had participated in marches where she screamed slogans about using Napalm on innocent people. Trying now to portray herself as balanced, she rattled “I knew that protesters often departed the protests if the weather were bad, but police sometimes got violent at those giddy, innocent faces that chanted and challenged them non-stop.” She couldn’t help herself, tipping towards her anti-war sentiments by creating an image of that scene in Washington where hippies had shoved flowers into police guns.

When Frances took a sip of water, Cam slid effortlessly into the silent space, continuing that except for his Thanksgiving story, his father had spoken little about those days.

“My dad was given his papers at 6 a.m. He had lived in the jungle for two solid years with only his dog, Kane, as his companion. He was in the K-nine unit. He was sad to leave Kane…”

“Why couldn’t he bring Kane stateside?” Frances interjected, hoping to prolong but avoid a bloody conclusion to the story. In her world of carefully chosen stories with happy endings and lessons for her students, she was conjuring Kane as man’s best friend and a docile animal who would retrieve Cam’s father’s slippers and fetch the newspaper once stateside.

A robotic voice, staccato-clipped , “Kane was trained to protect my dad- to kill – by tearing out the jugular or ripping open the veins of the enemy.”

Cam paused again and smirked, likely at Frances’ ignorance of specially trained war dogs and her dropped mouth.

Another voice now, almost leering, “ You know they smell differently… “

At first, we thought he meant the dogs, but it became obvious that was not at all what he meant. “ The army couldn’t risk it so dad knew Kane would be put down. That was hard because Kane would often munch on the enemy and soften them up before dad questioned them. Kane was dad’s best and only friend in the jungle for those two years.”

Waves of silent horror rolled over Frances’ face as she must have reflected on how easily Cam had used the words “ munch” and “smell” ,and “them” as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to munch on someone to soften them up.

He seemed to relish her naiveté, speaking in an official way that not only sanctioned his words, it dismissed any thought that there was something terribly wrong about his story. His calculated pauses had nothing to do with a moral shift or war is hell or maybe this was a ghost story to bring out the shivers.

He continued, “Well, someone came and told dad that it was time to leave. It was Thanksgiving. So, he had to leave.
On the plane from Phen Rang, he ate turkey dinner.
On the flight to Saigon, he ate turkey dinner.
On the flight to Japan, he ate turkey dinner.
On the flight to Alaska, he ate turkey dinner.
And finally, on the flight to San Francisco, he ate turkey dinner.
At home that night at 7 p.m, guess what he had for dinner?”

He was still, smiled boldly into our faces, calmed to have commanded our total attention.
“Yup, you guessed it, turkey dinner.”

Cam was quiet. He made a funny noise in his throat to break the eerie silence, to indicate he was finished. The little knives now lay like small steel puddles in his relaxed palms.

We didn’t know what to say so we turned and gazed at the Ruby Mountains and imagined them in the springtime, covered with flowers. No one looked at Frances.

My Father’s Daughter: Mac Rant

I could scream or cry I am so frustrated. How is it possible to be my father’s daughter and yet be so incapacitated when it comes to technology. I take my cup of tea, proceed towards my couch and am unable to manipulate the television. At first I laugh, but quickly realize how embarrassing this is-I must call my husband who tries to lead me through a variety of steps using two of the four remotes, but to no avail. He finally says, “ You must have done something”.

I did nothing.

He suggests I go upstairs because there is another television. I turn it on and great, it works. But when I fumble with the sound and touch the channel indicator, I again lose the picture. So here I sit again, feeling stupid.

Today has also been useless in trying to also drag photos to the desktop: I had planned to do a surprise photobook for my newest grandson: something I have successfully completed, believe it or not, several times previously. But again, I cannot manage it.

I decide that since a Mac- so they say- is for people like me, supposedly creative, there must be another door that will open to allow me to complete my task. So, I reread the instructions that remonstrate that I must select the photos from my desktop. I go to my photos highlight them, put them in an album but they will not move to the desktop. Grrrr. Rules of transfer, by the way, change should you use your Ipad. But doesn’t everyone know that? In the process, I somehow discover how to change my screensaver.

It is the technology that befuddles me and I do not possess a simple bone in my body or thought in my head that assists me in my travails. I overthink, I jump to step D from Step A, I attempt to outthink the computer or cogitate like a computer. I am anxious and angry at a piece of hardware that is unable to care for my assignations. Yet apparently it can anticipate my moves and correct my spelling even when its corrections do not align with my thinking. My emotions do not know whether to boil, to scream, to laugh, or to whine like a child in distress. Maybe thumb sucking would soothe.

How was it possible not to have inherited the mechanical savvy insight of my father who understood condensers, wires, pulses of electricity and connectors? Sadly my thinking was so much more like my aunt’s who also possessed no affinity for the mechanical or technical. She denigrated the trades because her intelligence did not take her there, but I am in clear awe of them, those thoughtful lay brothers and sisters of bonecrackers, and my electrician son-in-law who can figure out anything

I endeavoured to understand: to speak the logical language of my father so he might have found pleasure in my smarts. I wanted desperately to be able to communicate in a way that did not irritate. His attempts to teach me chemistry, physics or even driving always resulted in my crying and his frustration, yet with my sister there was an ease, a collegial respect and admiration that they maintained eternally. Mine was a scowl. Yet, sometimes I played along with a thin veneer of superficial nodding, pretending I had a glimmer of insight into symbols, signs or sign posts.

He musty have scratched his head in wonderment at how a girl who resembled him in demeanour and outlook might have intellectually been on Mt Kilimanjaro in problem solving, frankly clueless, lost and confused about the simplest of propositions, equations, logical solutions…

I did not know the questions to ask which might breach the limits of my unknowing, throwing open doors to meaning. Similar to teachers with whom I would later teach, he did not attempt diverse and alternated measures, strategies or pedagogies to enlighten. What was resoundingly clear and simple for him was a cave of cobwebs for me. After a while, sitting next to him on our maroon couch, I could fathom exasperation in his voice and I turned resilient. Side by side, a rock and a hard place, with me feeling disparaged by my stupidity in areas that were his passions.

When I worked at the College, they planned all day instruction sessions on computers and bravely I attended However five minutes into the presentation, I had all ready lost my way, unable to follow the instructions of the leader. Being ashamed at my ineptitude where my colleagues were happily clicking and moving things around on their screens, keeping time to the leader’s timely beat, I felt myself shrinking under the desk, hoping the instructor would not notice my incompetency, look askance beneath befuddled brows as if to suggest any child can perform this task.

With false laughter and finally revealing my exasperation to my peers, I ascertained that some people often took the same course many times over. At my work as a program officer at OCT, I had concocted powerpoints to dazzle importing photos or pictures from a variety of sources, animating words, even co-ordinating funny sounds to underline bullets. Likely, this sounds like the abc’s to most people now. And I possessed THIS knowledge before attending the seminars that nonetheless set me adrift with no lifeboat during those days of intense instruction.

What I discovered usually worked for me was learning one new task and repeating that task over and over again until I was able to move on to a second. Small successes that built basic building blocks absorbed and demonstrable.

But here I presently sit at my computer, pounding out a few sentences, gratefully knowing how to use spell check, but not much else. And yes,I did take classes reasonably priced for new Mac owners with those nerds who blankly ran on for several minutes on the workings of the computer -for which I could care less- or who provided unrequested information that only muddled my original queries. When I pondered why no capitals on first words in emails, I was told to get another program because no one had thought that all first letters in first words in sentences should appear with caps? Most strange, I reflected. And why can you not insert boxes or diagrams into emails directly, and why does Pages behave so differently to Word? And why can you not “command-tab” between Safari and Email? ( I understand they belong to different genres and are not even distant cousins? But can’t we all just get along ???? Not even in the world of computer silos!)

We purchased the Mac because it was supposed to work for so-called “ creative” types, but I have not found it any better than the clones. Although it does not pick up viruses! Many people express undying love for the machine and a friend even does something magical by linking her sewing machine to it. Even now, I’m having to separate my words as the machine ( inspite of the space bar) is slurring them together in one word unless I POUND.

Maybe it is a network thing.

Once I called Rogers repeatedly, entreating them to address a problem. I received no satisfaction, being sent to websites with loops that did not help one bit. Finally a friend arrived and he called Rogers. Maybe it had been my language or lack of lingo to express the issue because we found the problem originated with them , not me. Was the technician not listening, did not want to hear me, did not want to engage with an old bat, what? My friend is in fact a male and very conversant in computer, riding every new wave with aplomb, bravado and unending explanations as he comprehends the reasons. It is easier, of course, if you speak the language. I thought I communicated quite finely.

We are so dependent on others and when the damn internet goes down, we are medieval travellers back in the dark, banging our heads against the walls until a candle is lit and points us on our way. People like me, a boomer who possesses a penchant for the written word, the telephone, the mail are out of touch. Just yesterday, I was delighted to read an obituary in which the notice proclaimed that the deceased used only pen and paper, foregoing all technology. It made me recall a letter received from an acquaintance- on parchment- from which dried rose petals gently fell. The information was inconsequential, but the fact that someone had selected lovely paper and matching envelop and actually written a note: tactile and beautiful amulets of things past and to be cherished. Much like the handknitted sweaters from my mother, chosen materials that demonstrated a human’s touch to communicate more: each stitch a stitch of love, she would tenderly whisper.

For some, technology comes easily; for others, it is a pain, making one feel out of control, victimized by their own stupidity. Times change but not necessarily for the better. I wonder if by just TALKING to the new IPhones, we will return to the state of the Illiterati :in which we will not need to know how to write as we will speak our intent to Siri or some other robot who will record and track our requests through more “cookies”.

Schools no longer teach cursive writing, but why writing at all if we need only speak to initiate our communication via technology. Schools of the future may teach computereez, likely with no real humans in the classroom. E-learning is all ready the norm in many places. I envision control by those elite who will continue “writing” only for themselves and program what must be shown to the rest of us, the ordinary folk who will have no need for writing. Then we can be told what to do, what to think, where to go, or where to sign. Maybe we will be allowed an “x” or “o” to sign our names to computer agreements or perhaps we will return to reading pictures as people once did, now words made unnecessary.

Shakespeare in writing the seven ages of man ( All the World’s a Stage monologue) penned “ sans teeth, sans sight, sans…everything.”

How utterly true.

Mothers and Grandmothers

Yesterday was a tough day: my daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s funeral: GIGI -short for great grandmother passed away. Every time the organ played, I wept, memories of my mother rushing in and filling me with sadness. Perhaps thoughts of my mom had also been evoked by my posting her eulogy on my blog.

On the same day as the post, I had sent out her last picture to my sister and cousins. In the photo she looks pretty good, well for a 91 year old, hardly ready for the Grim Reaper although I recall she was not in a good mood the day that picture was snapped. From one day to the next, even in a minute, our lives change. She is like a shadow who is there but whose person I cannot touch, and whose face I cannot kiss. That fixed image captures and reflects one of a thousand moods.

When people ask how old was she when she died, and I respond with the number, they look askance, just as I did when someone else revealed their mom or dad had passed at 80 some. Now I feel embarrassed at my reaction to another’s grief. Although, of course, it is much more terrible for a life to be cut short earlier, a parent is still a parent and no matter how long they have inhabited your world, you will miss them in some way when they are gone.

However, my mother’s mother, the beautiful Layah in her youth, was a tyrant and I have few sweet memories of her, which include her blunt rejection of an African violet that I presented her with one Mother’s Day. My mother’s stories of her own mother’s tirades confounded my distance from this haughty woman. How can you feel close to person who grabs books from her child’s hands, tears them to shreds and throws them in the their face? Or the person who constantly tells you that you are ugly. Although that was not my experience, my mother seemed to relive these tales often enough to make me weary. Somehow in the spirit of resiliency, my mother grew up determined to break that mother-daughter cycle with her children- and so she did.

But as the years accumulated after my grandmother’s passing from emphysema ( she was a smoker), I was amazed to hear my mother intone that my grandmother’s life had been impacted by her coming to Canada, that my grandfather would bring home “landsmen” and relatives arriving from Poland, strangers even, that he had encountered on the street and would lodge them in her parents’ house for many weeks or even months. My grandmother bore the brunt of the cleaning, cooking, and tending to all of the visitors’ personal needs prompted by my kindly grandfather’s open door policy of welcome. This Jewish tradition of treating guests as family often resulted in the children being routed from their beds to sleep toe to jowl with one another. As well, to demonstrate some familial affection, she did look after my cousin when she was a baby, the cousin who dragged the bedraggled Lassie with her everywhere…

Perhaps she was kinder to my aunt, whom she believed prettier than my mother, and her children. An aunt, who by the way, departed for California with her family, as the gossip goes, to escape the wrath of the matriarch. I wondered how my mother could set aside all of the abuse she had endured throughout her life, even after she was married, to view her mother in a kinder light, empathizing with her as immigrant to Canada, accepting a life so vastly different in status from what she had experienced in Europe.

Remarkably, my mother seemed able to hold a longer, wider view, to be able to comprehend the once haughty, beautiful, wealthy woman whose new life was not easy or rewarding. I just scratched my curly head in disbelief. Had my grandmother ever expressed affection to my mother, with a simple kiss or tentative hug, Maybe? However, it is unlikely, for my mother never revealed a moment that would have illuminated her world with the grace or wonder of an uplifting touch or caress.

I did not experience any closeness with my Buby, not even an embrace. I do recall her weighing in on my poor showing in Grade 9 where my math and science teacher, a small and bespeckled Mr. Gauthier did not encourage my studies. My Buby admonished my mother, “Send her to secretarial college.” My father, on crutches, went in to see the junior high school principal, a Mr. Chellew, gentle and soft-spoken, who reaffirmed my mother’s belief that I was not a lost cause and did in deed have potential for university. It is funny how these signposts in our lives make all the difference.

Recently reading Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, she presents her character, Ursula, whose life first goes one way ; and then readers are shown an alternative, another direction that occurs. Throughout Ursula’s life, we observe a diversity of the same life, with some consistencies in terms of locations and people, but as Frost would say paths not taken. Atkinson once wrote books for children and there is that strong element of the fairytale in this telling : children who fly off roofs, shunting down garden lanes, disappearing. It made me think of embroidery that goes sideways. But the possibilities of following or not an experience makes all the difference.

One often wonders, why this? Why that? Why did I meet so and so, and why did his or her words stay with me and help or hinder me in making a decision? Sometimes I think about myself: that I am a Teflon brain in that that only some stuff sticks.

But it does make me ponder why of all the books that I studied in my first year at university, these lodged themselves in me : Pascal’s Les Pensees- where he explains that it is the chase, not the end ; and in particular, Jean-Paul Sartres’ la Nausee -where he says we hold on to our childhood toys and hairbrushes to remind us of our relationships and who were were at certain ages: who/m we loved, what we did, and what we cared for at that age. These books above all have remained my companions even till present day.

And why was I so moved by Le Petit Prince’s ( hmmm- I’m noticing they are all Frenchmen!)? and It is only with the heart one sees correctly; this book one was a friendless girl’s inauguration into a cadre of like-minded young women, so it is surrounded me with more than the warmth of words. As well the lilting poetry of the music of some of W.B Yeat’s ; How can we know dancer from the dance, and When We Are old… along with , Turning and turning … things fall apart…” persist where other lines and authors have fallen aside into a heap of dead leaves.

Even in my late teens these resonated in my head.

True, words echo and we hear them, directing and circumscribing our moves. We make our decisions no matter what, but I believe that so much comes from fate. When I think of how my parents’ world succumbed to his polio. And how ironic that at a young age when his parents had decided to emigrate to California his mother insisted they return to Canada because of an outbreak of polio! Was it his destiny that followed him? Was it chance that he had swam at Sunnyside pool during the polio outbreak? Or repaired radios in ambulances where polio victims had lain and put him in contact with the virus? And on that holiday weekend when his doctor was away and Doris, the rude wife of his cousin, angrily dismissed his phone call—until he collapsed, having spent his muscles mowing the grass instead of resting and conserving the nerves that would be forever destroyed…

We think of connections and missed connections, phone calls and lost letters ( not so much these days, although in Transatlantic Colum McCann works the magic of a letter never delivered!)as in Kate Atkinson’s story of Ursula and her family : lives that might have had different trajectories.

All the what ifs, the could- have- beens.

Often I feel helpless, a victim, unable to battle the co-incidences, the surprises, the onslaught of “ it shouldn’t have happened” but it did and does, as we spin caught in vortexes not propelled by ourselves. I imagine an Arshile Gorky painting of sheer swirling movement that catches one in the whirl and blur of life as it flashes past.

Maybe the ancients were right : the three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spun, drew out and cut the thread of our beginnings so we believe there is magic afoot, things beyond our control, controlling us- falling apart as Yeats would say.

Yet, we are lectured that if we don’t smoke, if we eat beans and fish, if we exercise regularly, we will triumph over death and yet the man who succumbs to lung cancer has never smoked a day in his life. So it goes.

I always hated statistics, for they are numbers. There are no faces, no individualized scenarios- only a so-called set of facts gleaned to prove a thesis. We are like the medieval crew, wandering in the dark, banging our heads against nights of unexplainable confusion. No answers then and even the enlightened 21st Century has not turned on many lights even now.

Perhaps this is a good place to stop: the light has gone off for both GiGI and my mother. Rest in peace good ladies.

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