Posts Tagged With: celebrations

Happy birthday, David!

“Why did you name me, David”?, was the question my youngest son asked of my husband and I on the eve of his 10th birthday. 

“David is a strong, but gentle name.  It is a name befitting of a king and a name associated with great character.”  

Who would have thought that a name could so destine the boy?  

Remember when you were young and Valentine’s Day came around?  There was so much pressure because you really wanted to get a Valentine’s from the girl/boy you really liked?  Well, in David’s class, each child received a paper heart that was place on a string.  The heart was big enough that everyone could write on it – and everyone was supposed to write one word on it that they felt best represented that person.  David’s heart was filled with, “poli, gentil, sage”.  All I have ever wanted for my children was that they were respectful of others – and of course – happy.  I was thrilled to see what my son had come to be for so many others. 

On this, the occasion of David’s 10th birthday, my husband and I rejoice in our son.  He is our gift.  He has been our joy.  Of course, we have always seen all three of our children as wonderful people, but today is David’s day and is he who stands in the limelight.  

Ten years ago last night, I tucked Katya into bed when I experienced – for the first time – my water breaking.  I called to Kevin to get Grandma as she was only two blocks away and was our night-staff to watch the kids should we need to leave to the hospital at night. Kevin rushed the van down the road, jumped out to get Grandma and… locked the keys in the van.  It was -25 that night but he ran home to get the back up set – then back to Grandma’s house to get her.  We drove to the hospital.  To save on parking, we parked a distance away – I felt calm as David was the third child.  We didn’t realize the lower level door would be locked for construction and it was faster to climb the closed for the winter staircase than go back to the car.  Through the snow we trudged – scaled the fence – to discover the next door too was locked.  Fortunately someone else had pried it open and in we went.  The staff in maternity were not expecting traffic from our direction so they were surprised to see us enter.  They whisked us away – prepped for delivery and on the morning of the 17th – our David was born.  

David has never been average – his entrance to this world seemed to seal his fate to be extraordinary.  

This morning – Kevin and I took David to Sicilian for breakfast – Kevin toasted to David.  “To a boy who is never shy to give hugs, a boy who is first inclined to share, a boy who snuggles…”  David is a boy to is quick to offer help to someone in need – to share with those who have nothing – to offer his love unabashedly.  

I know if Mom and Dad were with us now they would be so proud of our David.  Mom always giggled when David played restaurant with her. Her order was always, “I’ll have a steak with baked potato, and an Alaskan baked pie for desert, please.”.  Dad always offered a great big grin when David climbed on is walker in order to get up onto Dad’s pink chair – to give Poppa a great big hug.  Dad would always say, “Oh, that’s so nice.”.  

Today – the Sun rose to wish David a happy birthday – and the sun will set with wishes for a continued wonderful year.  

Happy birthday

A smile says it all!

To our very dear boy – a very happy birthday!  May your day be befitting of a king!  

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Setting the Table for Sunday Dinner

It took me nearly all day to make room for Mom’s dishes.

She was so very proud of them and they came out on special occasions.  The dishes meant business – but it was all good.

Billingsley Rose by Spode.

Her glass pattern:  Pinwheel.

I always thought, “how old-fashioned!”.

So – when Kevin and I were married, we (well, I with lots of persuasion) chose a more modern pattern – black and white.  Mom wasn’t a fan, but regardless, she was the one who purchased most of the pieces.   She was pleased that we were interested in “good dishes”.  Kevin (my husband)… not so much but he went along with the “tradition”.

Sunday was family day when my brother and I were growing up.  It was a day when the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding were presented.  If it wasn’t roast beef, it was chicken.  If it could be roasted, it would be good for Sunday.

We were all expected to be home – to make time for each other – to eat together.

The table-cloth was pressed and we were each given fresh, clean napkins.  I always thought, “good grief, what happens if I wipe my mouth after eating Mom’s pickled beets?”.  Nonetheless, the napkins were there.

The table looked beautiful on Sunday.  Nothing was too good for family.  And my God the dinner was delicious.  There would always be mashed potatoes and corn from the garden – either fresh or frozen.  Always, the pickle tray was loaded with olives and home-dilled pickles.  Delicious.  Sometimes Mom would treat us to an appetizer of shrimp – in special dishes that HAD to be on the matching saucer.

I opted today to go and visit Mom and Dad rather than take the dishes from the condo.  I am ready for them – but it is tough to pull them away from their rightful place.  It seems wrong to remove them from Mom and Dad’s place.

I purchased 12 white roses.  I kept 10 and took 2 to Mom and Dad – I placed one on each of their niches.  The sun was warm.  I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings today, though.  I placed the roses.  It was important that Mom’s rose had baby’s breath and Dad’s had something more masculine.  I don’t know why.  1921 and 1924, I read.  The roses framed their plates and made them look very distinguished on this very special Sunday.  I felt the roses prepared them for Sunday dinner.  The other 10 roses are on my dinner table – just to be sure that Mom and Dad are with us on this very special Sunday dinner.

And so here we are – an hour from dinner and the table is set.  Our good dishes are out and the wine glasses sit ready for action at each place setting.  The pickle tray is loaded and the roast smells delicious.

It is Sunday night and the family will be here to dine together.  Nothing is more important than making sure that Sunday dinner is special.  There is just more to it than meets the eye.  Cuz today, nothing is more important than setting the table for Sunday dinner.




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Mom’s Computer

Note:  Today’s post is written in my (Stacey’s) voice

t’s the calm before the storm.

I am at home with my family.  Kevin is out picking up a few random things we need for the visitation tonight.  Ben and Katya are still sleeping as they have both been burning the candle at both ends between writing final exams, working their jobs, helping out around the house, caring for me (for which I am so grateful), and grieving the loss of their Poppa.  David is up wearing his house-coat (because I am wearing mine) watching television.

I just finished downloading recent photos of Dad – and Mom (who passed away November 2010) off Mom’s computer.  I was so relieved that Kevin was able to open it as the computer had been locked.  It is most likely the battery was dead – but to me – memories were as good as erased.

Mom’s computer was full of recent images.  There were photos of birthday parties, dinner parties, special events… ordinary days.  And in each photo, Dad was smiling.  And in each photo, Mom was smiling.

Mom’s computer was the testimony to how much a part of our lives Dad was.  He was inside our house, outside our house, apart from the house, singing, laughing, eating, celebrating.

Mom’s computer unlocked history.  Family Christmases, Malloff reunions… oh my goodness.

More recently, Mom’s computer unlocked a world that only Dad and his care-givers knew.  There were no images of his “girls” getting him ready for bed – pouring the brandy, changing into pyjamas, putting on is slippers, preparing his “whistle” so that he could whistle for help in the middle of the night if help was needed, wishing him a ta-ta-for-now, and turning off the light.  But there were photos of Dad well rested, well dressed, and content.

There were no images of his “girls” getting him up in the morning – putting on his slippers, his house-coat, walking beside him as he used the walker through every step, giving him a shower, helping him shave, get his teeth ready, putting on clothes, preparing his “shakes”, sausages, eggs, pills, coffee.  But there were photos of Dad smiling and healthy and clean and content.

There were no images of his “girls” playing cribbage with him (and wondering who was going to skunk whom), reading the newspaper with him, playing cards with him, doing the crossword with him, going to walks with him, talking him to the pool and doing physiotherapy with him, talking with him about God, Mom, and family.  There were no images of him guiding the girls through their relationships, finances, education, and celebrations.  But there were photos of Dad smiling – knowing that he was respected as a person for his wisdom – knowing he had been a Dad when there was no Dad around for the girls.

Sometimes what is not seen is what is more important than what is seen.

Mom’s computer asked me to read between the lines to understand how happily Dad lived with Mom and then, how much happiness the girls brought to Dad through their care and stories.  Dad was not allowed to be sad – he did not want to be sad. He always told me when we talked about Mom, “Think of the happy times”.  He told me the girls helped him live through Mom’s death because they were always happy.

Mom’s computer revealed smiles – happy times.

A picture tells a thousand stories – if you read between the lines.

Thank-you for all you have given to my family and I, girls.  On behalf of Dad, I would like to thank Diane, Tessie, Adrienne, Heather, Mely, Abby, Ana, and Dorothee and all the other wonderful ladies (and Rou) who gave Dad quality of life.  God bless you all.  I am forever in your debt.

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Happy Anniversary Floyd and Francis!

Today marks a very special day for another set of friends who take up “two” fingers on my five finger friend hand.

Paula and I were so very lucky to have met such dear people as the Marlatts.  It is not often when couples are so compatible with both members of another couple.  But, such was the way with Paula, myself, Floyd and Frances.

We first met in New Lowell.  We were all much younger then and modest in our means.  Frances used to come in to buy supplies from the General Store.  She was a spectacular looking woman (not like my Paula – but a close second!).  Floyd was a miserable, ugly bugger (eh, Floyd?).  Okay, he was a young, handsome Kenny Rogers to be kind of looking guy.  Well, I guess it happened that Paula and Frances were immediately two peas in a pod with their good looks and incredible fashion sense.  Floyd and I were a bit wilder and sure did enjoy a good party.

We got to know each other and worked picking tobacco leaves in New Lowell at one point.  New Lowell used to have a lot of tobacco farmers and smoke houses.  We seemed to get along quite well and lo and behold if we didn’t learn that each couple were avid bridge players. So – our week-ends were spent playing bridge with each other.  We used to like to tease the girls that we “let them win” every once in a while, but the truth be know, they were pretty good opponents.  I can say that now –

Well, as time passed, each couple moved away from New Lowell – but we never lost our friendship.  We’d visit each other often when Paula and I moved to Barrie and Floyd and Frances moved to Dundas.

Floyd became quite a successful contractor – with his wife keeping him in line – she had control of the books.  In fact, Floyd was who we trusted to build our beloved home at RR # 1.  Don’t tell him, but I think he did a pretty good job.

There was one winter before we moved to the farm, we lived in a little house on Donald Street.  The Marlatts came to visit – between their three children and ours, plus the adults and grand-pa, we had a house FULL.  Paula and Frances were busy cooking to feed this mob of people.  Wouldn’t you know it, that night there was one hell of a snow storm.  It snowed all night long.  The next morning we awoke to a winter wonderful – and closed highways.  Everything was closed.  There was nothing to do but get out the sleds, the eggs, the snowmobiles – and have fun.  I joked with Paula and the Marlatts years later that they out us out of house and home.

There were so many adventures with Floyd and Frances – we travelled to so many wonderful places together.  The girls would always cook the most exotic of foods and Floyd and I would always be sure to sample the rum.  One of the nicest vacations we had together was when we traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico.  Fantastic.

When Paula passed away, Floyd and Frances came to Barrie to support our family.  Floyd picked up my spirits – we always joked around together – there was always this standing reference to bananas.  Remember that, Floyd? Frances helped Stacey to select Paula’s outfit – Francis ensured that Paula looked her best – even in death.

Well, today, if they were here, I would certainly raise a glass to Floyd and Frances:  “Good health, good friends, good food!”

Congratulations, my friends.  I sure do miss you – but am with you in spirit.


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High Flight

It is difficult to imagine that it has been one year since this blog post was made – I recall Dad was not well, but still , I did not believe that he would only live another two weeks or so… what a man he was – courageous. It was a very difficult decision to give him the freedom to choose to fly for the last time – how silly when I think of it now – but a year ago I was so desperate to have Dad live forever… I did not once consider quality over quantity — ha! Anyhow – on this, this occasion of his 92nd birthday – I wish to repost this blog post – happy birthday, Dad. I still love you. – Stacey

Well, it’s official:  I am 91.

I really never expected to even out-live my wife and yet, here I am. 

It is a beautiful morning – the sun is shining and the sky is clear.  It is indeed a good day for a high flight.  And a flight is what my son is giving to me. 

Last year was quite a celebration. My family arranged a wonderful open house for me.  There were so many people that came to help me celebrate – I was embarrased and thrilled at the same time.  It was the first birthday I had celebrated without my wife and so I must admit it was rather bitter sweet.  I was so grateful to everyone (nearly 150 friends and family) who helped me ring in my 9th decade.  There was music, food, dance, and of course, wine.

The day after this party, my son took me up in a plane.  It was a little Cessna that flew out of the Oro Airport.  What a flight!  The weather was much like it is today.  We flew over the farm, New Lowell, Kempenfelt Bay, and Barrie.  Spectacular.  The pilot even let me take the “stick” for a while and commented how “we old pilots seem to have the magic touch”.  I don’t know if he was actually terrified or truthfully impressed.  My daughter joked that I went into the air as a 90 year old and came down as a 70-year old. 

So – this year – I don’t know how old I’ll be when I arrive back on the terra firma. 

One of the nicest gifts I could get, though, was the opportunity to see my grand-son, Ben, graduate from high school.   Ben attends a French school and wouldn’t you know it – the entire ceremony was in French.  So, the Dancing Nannies and I watched and laughed when others laughed.  I didn’t understand a word.  Still, when Ben was called forward for an award, my heart swelled.  That’s my boy!  Paula would have been proud.  I found out later the award was for “Most Continuous and Genuine Respect”.  Wow.  What an honour.  I went home with the Nannies a very tired and very PROUD 90 year old.

I wonder what great things are instore for me this coming year?  I appreciate every day and I appreciate those who still think of me from time to time.  And I appreciate those of you who allow me into your world though this blog. 

My birthday wish for you is the same as it is to my family:  good friends and good health!  Cheers!

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Billy Burgers and Polly Dogs

This was a post that my Dad and I created a year ago. Actually – I created it on behalf of my Dad as he was “out of stories” at this point in his life. I remember, though, how wonderful it was that I could pull stories out of a hat – based on what I knew so well about my Dad and how he felt about life – in this matter – Billy Burgers and Polly Dogs. I think this was one of the last posts that I read to Dad that he actually “edited”. How lucky I was to be able to share these days with him – and time with both Mom and Dad to know these stories intimately. Anyhow – I re-blogged this one in memory of Mom and Dad – Hope you enjoy! – Stacey (the ghost writer)

Most people would agree that there are some pretty “beefy” BBQs on the market these days.  What would life be like without these super models?  Well, my friends, I have a confession to make.  I have never been a fan of these new tools of the trade. I am a pioneer and to this history I have remained true. Especially when it comes to barbequing.

Paula, my beautiful wife, loved to shop.  She also loved to cook.  But I, however, was the master of the outdoor grill. Paula and I entertained a lot when we lived on the farm.  Every week-end there would be at least 4 or 5 people who would come to experience the “country life”.  This would include a swim in the pool, some of Paula’s famous veggies with sour cream and onion dip, some “body builder” (home-made wine) and for dinner…Billy Burgers and Polly Dogs.

The secret to a great burger was the way it was cooked, although I must admit that Paula did mix the burgers from scratch with her secret recipe!  Early in the afternoon, I would gather some twigs from the bush – I’d recruit the company to help to add to their “country experience” – and some larger kindling.  I would pile these strategically on my little, round, BBQ and set a match to the whole works.  While everyone else was cooking with charcoal and gas – I cooked with wood.

My favorite type of wood to use was maple.  Boy, that would give the burgers a good flavour.  The trick was to get the fire going nicely so that you could get some good coals.  After about an hour or so, I’d set the grill down – cover the lid and let the heat build. The coal had to glow. No flames were allowed.

I never got over how surprised our guests from the city were that you could use wood to cook food.  Imagine! I guess they were just too spoiled from having indoor cooking surfaces.  Really.  Wood stoves were a part of my life.

In any case, in a ceremonious way, the burgers were presented by Paula to the BBQ and on they would go.  I’d get them seared on both sides and then – lower the lid to get them smoked over the maple.  Sometimes the wood would be wet and we could hear the sap sizzle as it evaporated out of the wood in the heat.

The Polly dogs were our guests other “smoked meat” option.  Truthfully, they were just hot dogs, but boy did they taste good when they were cooked over wood!

A little cheese and a few condiments made this meal complete.  Paula’s caesar salad was always a hit – her dressing she made from scratch.  And, yes, it was made in a different blender than the one I used to make “Beetle Juice” from.

We all had a great time on the farm.  It was so different too eating in the great outdoors.  The bug zapper took care of the dusk mosquito attacks – or at least until they got so thick that we all had to rush inside for a reprive.

While everyone else hid indoors, I’d start another fire in the bonfire pit.  It was a good way to get rid of all the scrub brush that I had hauled out of the back 80 acres during the day.  We’d tell our guests that the mosquitoes knew there was fresh city blood coming that week-end and that’s why there were so many of them around.  City blood was always sweeter. (grin)

One of the best memories I have of those bonfires was the singing and dancing that we did with the help of a couple glasses of body builder.  My wine was a little stronger than the average wine and sometimes it was a little challenging to restrain our enthusiastic guests.  With the help of my collection of hill-billy band instruments including a mouth organ, string – bucket, and washboard, everyone had a good time.  Remember, “Oh, Susanna’s the funny old man..?”

The next morning – all that was left of the celebrations were a few groggy heads, tipped chairs, and good laughs.

The billy burgers and polly dogs were indeed a hit – but without our good friends to share these tastes and times – no one would have been quite so  “fired up”.

Cheers to the memories!

Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons, The Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

What’s the Good of a Birthday?

When my wife Paula and I were younger, we decided that we weren’t going to have any more birthdays.  Even though we had made this decision, birthdays just kept coming.  And we kept celebrating.  The funny thing about birthdays, though, is that the number of the year may change, but the spirit remains the same.

Up until recently, I didn’t feel like I was 90 (turning 91).  Paula always got after me for doing things that she thought I should have left for someone younger.  “You’re not 20 anymore you know, Bill”, she’d say.  I would hear her words and do what I needed to do anyhow.  What’s the point of letting age get in the way.

The first time I slowed down was when I was 75.  Paula and I were preparing out winter wood supply for the house and the maple syrup operation.  I had chopped down a great deal of wood during the summer and it had been curing in the sun so that it would dry out nicely and burn “clean”.  The logs were still pretty big and so I needed to split them.  So, I rented a wood splitter and Paula and I were away to the races.  We made good progress as a team and zipped through several cords of wood.  I guess I shouldn’t have pushed as hard as I did to finish as when you get tired, you get a bit careless.  When we were almost finished, the last “log” per se, I didn’t remove my hand fast enough from the log and the machine split my thumb and index finger from my hand.  Paula put my digits on ice in an effort to save them should they be re-attached, but the efforts were in vain.  I was a smoker at the time – and I guess that impacted blood flow.  In the end, I was left having to re-learn to write with my left-hand.

In spite of the challenges I’ve had to my health since then, I have always remained young at heart – or at least I have tried to.

Last night, my daughter Stacey and Mary Anne held an early birthday celebration for me.  A few of my friends and of course, family were in attendance.  Every party must have music and food – this party was no exception.

The greatest hope that I could have for anyone is the gift of family and friends.  I have always said, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”  This, of course was something I’d say when some of me cousins were around and I’d try to get their goat! (grin)  And I must admit I have the best family a man could ever want.  I am surrounded by wonderful people who continue to enrich my life.

And so – to Martin and Toni, to Claude and Anita, Mary, Mary Anne, JJ, and Megan, Adrienne, Dorothy and Gerry, to Ana and Dorothee, and to Stacey, Kevin, Ben, Katya, and David,  I say to you, “My dear friends (and family), your kind words warmed my heart. Thank-you for a wonderful party.  Thanks for coming.”

So, what’s the good of a birthday?  Keep having them and you’ll see!  Cheers! Image

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Single… But Never Alone

My 91st birthday is coming up this June 15.  Imagine.  I’ll be 91 years old.  Holy smokes.  I really never thought I’d outlive my Dad who made it to his 82nd year.   It looks like to celebrate I’ll be hosting some friends and family for a small open-house with my daughter and also taking another flight out of the Oro Airport with my son.

I live on my own.  But I am never alone.  With the help of my 8 care-givers, who I like to refer to as my “angels”, I live like a King.

Diane is my longest-standing employee.  She is always smiling and always busy working.  She makes me “healthy” foods and is a strong advocate of diet and exercise.  She makes me do “Zumba” when she comes in addition to getting me to walk when I can and to drink lots of water (which I hate – I much prefer wine!)  Diane stays with me overnight during week-ends and we enjoy talking to each other.  For my 90th birthday she gave me a copy of my favorite book, “Who Has Seen the Wind”, by W O Mitchell.  The book is wonderful in that it reflects on the cycle of life and death through the eyes of a boy growing up in the Prairies.  “Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the trees bow down their heads, we know it passes by.”

Tessie – we refer to her as Mother Tessie – is our matriarch of the girls from the Philippines.  Tessie and Diane both worked here when Paula was alive and so they know what a task master my wife was.  Everything had to be “just so” – and cooked “just right”.  Tessie is still very loyal to Paula and feels strongly that Paula still tells her what to do and how to do it.  Tessie helped Stacey arrange my care when Paula passed away so quickly.  Tessie’s line then as it is now was, “Don’t worry”.  “Everything will be alright – the Lord provides”.  And so – the only thing I do worry about is that Tessie works too hard.   We love Tessie very much too and always teach her about her accent.  When people leave I have a favorite expression, “Ta-ta- for – now”  or “TTFN”.  Tessie thought it was “Tuc – Tuc- for Now” – we all chuckle and have adopted this new expression when we want to get her goat.

Heather has known me the longest of all.  Every Thursday she gets me up and ready and sits me down to a game of cribbage hoping that I don’t skunk her too badly (grin).  I’m just teasing as I think we are pretty well matched.  The cards, these days, though are very well worn.  Maybe I’ll get a new deck for my birthday? (grin)  Heather is kind and caring.  She always makes me laugh.  Her dog has become my dog in that I know him so well from her stories about him.  I look forward to Thursdays and to Heather’s visits.  Did I mention I skunk her at cribbage?  (grin again)

Adrienne is another long-standing care-giver.  She and Heather both knew Paula too and they knew that things had to be “just so”.  Adrienne keeps me organized.  It’s time to get up – or time for pills – or time for something or other.  Lately, I must admit she has been more flexible with me as I’ve been so tired.  It was hers and my little secret last year that I had an “episode” (I have fainting spells) just before I went up flying with Jamie.  I knew if Adrienne told Stacey, Stacey would worry and wouldn’t want me to go – Adrienne gives me the grace of allowing me to make my own decisions.  So does Stacey – but I hate to worry her.

The others include my two nannies (and my daughter) – but those… are for another post.  And that one I’ll call, “The Dancing Nannies”.

I am looking forward to my birthday only in as much that others are so excited about the celebration.  I think birthdays these days are not as much for the birth-person as much as they are for those who wish to give the gift of “well-wishes”.  And so – in anticipation of ice-cream cake and well-wishes – I close this post.

Categories: Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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