Love

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 65 years old. She and Dad would have probably been tooling around in the camper, maybe checking out some hot springs in the wilderness, maybe hitting the outlet malls in Washington State.

But she’s dead, so they’re not. With this in my head, I went forth in my day, and what did I discover? Not sorrow, not anger, but rather love. My own for other people. And you know what? It’s fucking scary. Love leaves you vulnerable as a bug on a tablecloth, but wow, does it ever reward you as well.

After the gym, I turned on the computer to check my email. As I read and replied, I was vaguely aware of the sound of E in his room, watching Battlestar Galactica. All at once, I felt the most intense wash of love come over me, along with a chilling awareness: One day, he or I will be dead first. The other will be left behind. I can no longer imagine what that would even look like, let alone the bone-deep, aching loneliness. I understand how people refuse to love, saying it’s too painful. But what about the joy? Isn’t it worth it? As my wise friend Morgan once said, “It’s the only game in town.” Love sustains us throughout a lot of crap, and let’s face it, life throws us a lot of crap. We need love to navigate the crap. It’s a compass and a lifeboat. Or, (Thanks, Shakespeare), “Love is the star to eve’ry wandering bark”, the North star. Willie said it best in those particular 14 lines (Sonnet 116), and I have to say, he’s right.

With these thoughts brewing in my brain, I went to visit my grandmother. She’s got Alzheimer’s, and is in a care home. A very good one, and I tip my hat to them. We went for a walk in the garden and had lunch together. At her care home, when someone comes for lunch, they and the resident eat in the main dining room, whereas the residents mostly eat in the dining rooms on each floor of the residence.

It took my grandmother almost an hour to eat her lunch, but at least she was working under her own steam. Douglas has to feed his mother. Marilyn has to feed her aunt. Doug’s mom and Marilyn’s aunt are almost incapable of speech at this point. But Doug’s there almost every day. Marilyn, too. So what keeps them coming back? Love. It’ll keep me coming back as well, as long as I can manage the time away from work to do it.

I expected lunch to be purgatory, but I had a pretty good time. I know her condition will only get worse, and it will make me sad. But for now, the simple fact of my presence makes her so happy. Why would I distance myself to spare my own pain when we have fun together even though she has no short-term memory? I’m seizing the moment, because all she has are moments.

I don’t think we’re the only animals who feel love, and therefore I can’t say that it’s what makes us human. But I think it’s what makes us alive to the good stuff in life. And the more people you love, true, the more pain you’ll feel over your lifetime, as they die, or even make negative or self-destructive choices. But the more people you love, the more people love you (generally speaking) and the better supported you’ll be throughout life. Love is like Lembas bread. As long as you have it, you can keep going.

How The Internet Brings Us Closer Together

So one of my favourite ways to kill time is to read and post on the off-topic board of a British wedding planning site, which is a good place to go for celebrity gossip, recipes, sex tips, good old British dry wit, debates, and to ask for advice. Oh, and it seems, to make friends.

On Saturday, my buddy Saby posted a thread asking how many of us don’t use vibrators. (General consensus recommends the Platinum Rampant Rabbit, which you can pick up from the Ann Summers website, www.annsummers.com should you be interested.) Rabbit users love ‘em. Talk about ‘em. Advise anyone to get ‘em. There’s a thread every day. Sometimes two. Really. So Saby’s thread was somewhat unusual.

I posted that I was, in fact, one of the few who choose to do without.

Saby’s reply? “this is sick, but before, I was thinking “I wonder if Canadian Liz has one” (I also wondered if a few others had one too.)”

Now, how cool is it that there’s a British Expat who married an Italian, living in Rome, who wonders about my sexual habits, without ever having seen my face?

Three cheers for t’internet, bringing strangers together to talk about masturbatory technique!

Jenny ( from the Block)

So I spent yesterday afternoon with the friend I have been friends with the longest. In a month’s time, we will have been friends for twenty years! She is a mother of two, so I made some supper for her family and went over to see what I could do to help. I’ve been thinking ever since about the nature of friendship and how it is one of those things that shape us most.

We were 13 when we met (Actually, I was a month shy of my 13th birthday), and she had just moved down to the big city from Anaheim Lake, where her father’s ranch is.

None of us city kids could really comprehend her life before she hit Vancouver. She knew how to break a horse and how to cut firewood. Thanks to home schooling, she was a better critical thinker than many adults I know today. However, at the time, her new friends were mostly worried about her fashion sense. We of the West Side didn’t know how to explain that you didn’t wear boots with tassels on them. Those were for girls who lived in the suburbs.

But she befriended who she wanted, went where she wanted. Social stigma was as gum under her heel. Annoying, but you keep moving. The rockers, the popular girls, she greeted them with the same frank smile. The rest of us knew our places, thank you very much, in the High School Social Scene. Jenny didn’t bother. High school is its own little ecosystem. As soon as you hit grade eight, you get a label. But Jenny hadn’t been socialized like this. She didn’t see popular people or losers, she just saw people. It was hard for her at first, to realize that there were these laws of our fishbowl society. To her credit, she spent her high school career breaking those rules.

When her parents got the contract to run the Theater Royal at Barkerville, Katherine and I took the train up to see her. The freedom allowed us in a small town was seductively heady, but Jenny took it in stride. She nodded or spoke briefly to everyone who passed us in dusty pickup trucks. I asked her how she knew so many people. It turns out, the whole north of BC is like its own small town! Walking around at night between distantly-spaced halogen streetlamps held no terrors for Jen. We scuffed our boots and laughed a lot. For an urban flower raised in an overprotective greenhouse like I was, it was pure heaven.

We graduated, went on with life. My first weeks in Port Hardy were less terrifying than they might have been because of my experiences with Jenny in Barkerville. Strangely, these were the opposite tenets proposed to ‘streetproof’ your kid. I smiled a lot. Made eye contact. Talked to whomever I wanted. And (Shock! Horror!) I was perfectly safe. Directness and self-confidence are a powerful duo to have on your side. I call it “Port Hardy Liz”, this manifestation of the divine, but its roots are in my friendship with Jenny.

Eventually, Jenny went to Germany to study. She met Joerg, they fell in love. I think I might have been the first ‘old’ friend to meet him. Now Joerg and I are on our way to becoming old friends, ourselves. I can’t wait for that to keep happening.

When Jenny’s sister died of cancer, I didn’t know what to say. When my mom died of cancer, Jenny knew just what to say.

A few months ago, I had dinner with a vastly pregnant Jen, and her oldest friend, who she’s known for thirty years. We women sat around the table, talking about businesses and future plans, and I saw the grey in Jenny’s hair and the crow’s feet around Mandy’s eyes. Thought of the shadows under my own eyes. For a second, I wondered how we got so old. And then it was like nothing had happened.

We were still us. Our lives were still unfolding. The world was still turning.

Amen.

West Coast Day

7:30 am: Gym. Meet Em. Work hard, turn pink. Smell pits. Euugh.

8:30 am: Cafe. Drink coffee with Em, chat about how plus-sized clothes don’t meet the needs of plus-sized women. They need to factor in bigger boobage.

9:15 am: Em’s house. Pull blackberry runners and morning glories out of Em’s garden. Give the cat some catnip. Bask in the sun.

10:30 am: Call Telus to give them the new account number for the woman who bought my phone. Get told it’s she who has to call. Roll eyes.

10:32 am: Call woman with phone. Explain. Remind her to double-check addresses, as the person she is talking to is in a call center in Calgary.

11 am: Home. Shower, touch base with E, etc.

12: 30 pm: Go out to pay Cooperative Auto Network bill. Flash pass at driver. Realise it’s August now. Ask to be let off bus. Driver says, “Don’t worry, you can get it next time.” Cool. Watch Beautiful People getting melanomas at Kits Beach. Worry. Did I put on sunscreen? I did. Good.

1 pm: CAN office. Compliment Karen, the CAN car receptionist and troubleshooter, on looking great in the Pride Parade. Discover they’ve been charging me for the higher use rate plan, even though I haven’t used the car much, since February, so I’ve got a fifty dollar credit! Sweet! Then she says to help myself to the Core Passbook, which is full of coupons for health and wellness places. I choose one for Dahn Energy training because I know nothing about it.

1:18 pm: Courthouse. Tell the “Free Marc Emory” protesters they’re doing a good job. Offer to get them some water or something, as it’s a warm day and they’ve been standing a while. They say no thanks, so I continue on.

2:20 pm: Home. Turn on the computer.

3:00 pm: Promise an online friend I will write her a country song called “Waggle His Thang”.

4:30 pm: Work. Do some grammar and vocab and stuff. Think of possible rhymes for ‘Booty”.

6:50 pm: UBC. Consume sandwich dinner whilst power-walking to tutoring students’ house. Sidestep revving, decked-out Mitsubishi Eclipse with a Hello Kitty dangling from the mirror.

7:45pm: Hampton Court. Turn simple English conjugations into cheerleading phrases. Realise I like the same movies as my 11-year-old Korean student. Also, explain that an eleven-year-old Korean boy looks silly yelling, “Go, mama, I’m yo’ bad boy.” Feel bad, then realise it’s for the good of society.

9:03 pm: Try to explain how ‘Pocohontas’ the Disney movie was not like the historical figure to 14-year-old Korean student. (Previous student’s older sister). Discuss Human nature and suffering, beauty theory, and plastic surgery. Explain that beauty is not a racial thing or a size thing to a girl who thinks only European supermodels are beautiful. Marvel inwardly at my apparent calm. Reinforce the instruction not to pet wild animals.

10:50 pm: Step aside so a raccoon can come out of my front gate before I go in.

All in all, kind of a cool day.

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