ten years   11 comments

Posted at 2:29 am in being alone,Don

Don and Maggie on Mississipi near Indian River – October 2004

It’s been two years since I posted anything new on this blog. There were some technical difficulties – a new website host – and I was without my computer while living at a friend’s farm for a few weeks after my mom’s death in August 2017. However, here I am – writing on the tenth anniversary of Don’s death on September 6, 2008.

I chose to use the same photo to head up this blog post as on the post two years ago it was always a favourite. Such a familiar scene, of Don sitting in the front of the canoe, turned to talk to our collie, Maggie. She loved the canoe and wouldn’t miss a trip — lying in the middle between us. I still remember the day of this photo even though it was about 15 years ago. We had put in our canoe on the Mississippi River at a spot just a stone’s throw from its confluence with the Indian River between Blakeney Rapids and Pakenham, Ontario. It was sometime in October. You can see that the leaves have turned and many have fallen. The water was getting cold and we were wearing warm jackets and hats. We would keep going out in the canoe each autumn until the rivers began to freeze. Then it would be time to put away the canoe and go hiking, and eventually snowshoeing.

Don and Sabrina at Scott’s Bay in September 2007

Each time I write one of these annual remembrances, I contemplate what to say about my life with Don, and how much to reveal of my thoughts with each passing year without him. When I read through my previous posts, I find that I’ve pretty much said it all before. So, what to write at the end of another year and a whole decade of aloneness? All I can think is that ten years is a pretty long time to go it alone. At times it feels like a lifetime, while at others, my memories of Don and of past events are still so clear and strong that they could have happened yesterday. That’s how it is with me — and perhaps for many people.

I still miss Don as much as ever. He hasn’t faded away as some abstract shadow of a person. To me, he’s still the same wonderful, handsome, capable person he always was. He looks the same as ever and I still remember his voice and laugh. He’s just not here with me. Of course, that’s somewhat problematic. Here I am, a decade older, still struggling along with life. At times, I get very weary of going on alone and just wish he would return. This past couple of years have been very difficult. It would have been good to have him here, helping me to deal with the stress. Even now, as I work on this old house, I often think of how much nicer it would be to be working on it together the way we used to when we built our barn and studio back in Ontario. Figuring out the best way to do things and then mixing concrete, cutting wood, shingling roofs, and all those other things we did together. At times, as I muddle onward alone, I wonder how and why I keep going. I’m pretty tired of this weird and unwanted merry-go-round ride that never seems to end. Just as the music slows and you think you’ll finally get to step off, it speeds up again and there you are, stuck on it for another year of relentless spinning.

Don on the trail down to the Illinois River

Well, that doesn’t sound too inspirational, does it? But oddly enough – especially lately – people have told me that I’m very inspiring. That always comes as a bit of a surprise as I don’t see that about my life. However, it seems that because I try new things, travel places, take risks, don’t give up – something about this seems inspiring. Go figure. I’ve mused over this a little and have come to the conclusion that it is probably easier to take risks when you’ve already lost most of what you ever had and don’t actually think too much about what happens next. There is less holding you back. My anchors are few and not very heavy. That’s largely why the wanderlust has been pretty strong for most of the past ten years. When there is nothing much waiting for you “back home”, it’s actually pretty easy to pack up your gear and hit the road.

Sage and Shelby next to the van in our garden – Sept 6, 2018

However, since returning to Nova Scotia, I haven’t traveled much. It’s not so easy now. Sage has an autoimmune disorder that requires a lot of prescription meds, supplements, and cooking special food. Stress isn’t good for her, so better to keep things pretty low key. Also, the political climate in the states is such that I have no inclination to travel there anymore. I’d love to travel across Canada again though – and maybe I will in a year or two. But for now, I’m okay with life here by the brook. This has been a busy year, working on several projects that should make life a little more comfortable this coming winter.

This evening, while cooking dinner on my gas barbecue, I snapped the above photo of Sage and Shelby. I haven’t really given this much thought before, but I greatly prefer cooking outdoors and sitting in the garden when my day is done. Tonight, I realized how much I like being by the van with the dogs — and that’s probably because it was our home for so much of the past decade. Of course, now it’s filled with lumber and sacks of cement for project work, but it still feels like home to me — and probably for Sage and Shelby too. Maybe we will do one more trip together next year if we’re all still kicking. It would be nice to go out west on a long, meandering trip the way we used to do. Probably just a pipe dream, but who knows.

So, well, what else to say after ten years? I guess… that life and death are still a mystery. Last night, I felt like looking at photos of an old friend — posted on FB — on other people’s walls. We were very close friends as teenagers — had many crazy adventures together. We lost track of each other at some point after we both got married. I was living in Ontario and she was in Quebec. Before FB, it wasn’t that easy to find and reconnect with friends. About three years ago, I looked for her on FB and made the very sad discovery that she had died from cancer just a few weeks before. That made me unspeakably sad. She had always been so full of life, and as I discovered from photos on other people’s walls, she must have been much the same right until her illness — keeping several Siberian Huskies and being very involved in skijoring. Last night, it was so nice, but also sad, to see a photo of her with her grown-up son — to see how four decades could have passed, and all of this interesting life — and now gone forever. How I would have loved to talk with her and hear about her life. But that is how it is. We’re all just here for awhile, and when our time is done, we depart. Life goes on for some of us but not for others. For those who remain, it is never quite the same, is it?

And so it is that I carry on. Ten years. The merry-go-round picks up speed once more.

~ * ~

For Don ~ As always, I miss you very much. Love you always.

Written by Administrator on September 7th, 2018

11 Responses to 'ten years'

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  1. Bev, I can only imagine the tangles, sadness, feelings of being lost, anger, gratefulness for all the years you did have, questions with no answers, pressure to push forward, etc., that have colored the many days and nights of these 10 years. I remember a comment I made to you once along the way making you very angry and feeling surprised at your reaction. I do not recall what I said but probably some expression of trying to encourage you to feel better without realizing my words may have felt dismissive of your deepest feelings. In any event, I have learned a lot from you as I have traveled via your words through the years, listening more carefully, being thankful for your willingness to share, hoping that easier paths will find you when things feel especially difficult, and always happy for the joys you celebrate in music, art, and nature. I am so glad you came into my life, albeit virtually, and as different as we and our lifestyles might be, enjoy thinking of you as a friend. I worry about you being up high on ladders, driving home late in bad weather, being injured in your work in the wild, etc. I laugh sometimes, at my being a worrywart since I know you are capable of taking care of yourself, but it is just a part of my personality. I wish I had been able to know Don, and I do through your eyes and shared memories. He left on my birthday. Thoughts of you are now a part of that day for me, as I may have told you in the past. Yours is such an extraordinary love story. The life you continue living is a study in strength and determination. Of course, it is inspiring! You are a pretty amazing woman. Big hugs sent with these words.


    7 Sep 18 at 6:38 am

  2. Sky – Thank you for leaving a comment. I’m glad that my once angry response a long while ago (now forgotten by me), did not drive you away. We have come to be good friends over these many years. Grief is a very complicated thing. Even after all of this time, I’m still learning things about myself and how I feel about life and death. One thing I know is that I will never become an expert at it — and forever a student. I did not know that yesterday was your birthday — but hope it was a good and fun day. Hugs sent to you too, dear lady. 🙂


    7 Sep 18 at 7:41 am

  3. It’s hard to imagine that ten years has passed since your beautiful love Don died. I woke yesterday morning and looked at the date and wondered why September 6th tugged at my heart. Ah, now I remember. What I have learned reading your words all these years is that love lasts forever, that we continue the tasks of living before us, but on a new trajectory. You are truly an inspiration in every way, Bev. Your words are poetic zen mantras as you continue your journey without your love here by your side. You have taught me from afar how to proceed. And while you are so much stronger than I, unafraid of heights and projects that would utterly defeat my little crooked body, I have learned that life can proceed with the inner strength of the heart and some good doggies at your side. Thank you for writing this all down and sharing these photos.

    robin andrea

    7 Sep 18 at 10:34 am

  4. Robin – Thank you for your kind words. It truly is hard to imagine that ten years have passed. Some things have changed greatly in that time, others barely at all. I find it strange to think of where I’ve been all of this time — not just in a physical sense, but where my mind has wandered. Sometimes it feels more like I’m a nomadic amnesiac who has been rambling around the earth trying to find — my home. During my mother’s illness, as she became increasingly unwell, she used to say to me, “I just want to go home.” These were not some kind of demented ravings. I would say, “but this is your home” and she would reply, “no, this is just a house — it isn’t my home anymore.” I think she didn’t feel like her home was a home anymore as the last of her family had died, my dad was gone, Don was gone (whom she loved very much), and there was just my brother and I remaining. Her home was someplace else — a place she longed to be. It made me very sad that we couldn’t take her home. I understand that now. I am here – and I do love it in this place — but I am never really home. Anyhow, well, I will continue to write — and to do the things that seem to have meaning. Take care.


    7 Sep 18 at 3:21 pm

  5. Bev– Your comment reminded me so much of a woman who lived in the Memory Care Facility at the same time as my mom. I can still picture her… she would walk around all the time and repeat, “I want to go home. I want to go home.” Over and over. We had a sense of where home was, beyond the time and place of here and now. Oh what it means to be humans with consciousness and language. I hope someday our paths will cross. Maybe we’ll make plans and meet somewhere in British Columbia or Alberta. Doesn’t that sound like a fine idea!

    robin andrea

    7 Sep 18 at 5:11 pm

  6. Hugs to you, Bev, on another year gone by.

    What I find inspiring is how you have stayed and kept your dreams with Don alive, despite his absence. I think it’d be easier to let the wanderlust take me away from the memories of him.


    7 Sep 18 at 7:10 pm

  7. robin — I remember you writing about that woman and thinking at the time that she may have felt like my mom — not talking about home as in a return to her house — but home with her people. I’m getting to feel that way too.


    7 Sep 18 at 8:13 pm

  8. Laura – I did try the wanderlust way of life for a good long while. It sort of helped earlier on, but then I came to realize that no matter how far you travel, the memories will still be with you. What would have been impossible for me was staying at our farm. I went away the first winter and returned to sell the place. People kept telling me not to rush to sell it. However, the closer I got to the farm, the more that my mind was filled with dread and sadness. The place had become a sort of “ghost house” and wasn’t our home anymore.


    7 Sep 18 at 8:17 pm

  9. robin – I meant to mention that meeting up out west sounds like a fun idea. I’ve been wanting to make one more trip out there. Had actually been hoping to visit friends in Oregon, but if things don’t change for the better in the next year or two, I doubt I would cross into the states. Well, we’ll see what the new year brings. 🙂


    7 Sep 18 at 10:47 pm

  10. About the idea of “going home” – My dad had dementia, and during the last year of his life spoke to me quite a bit about this idea of “going home.” I found it odd that he never mentioned the home he had left before entering the nursing rehab facility where these conversations would occur. He and my mother lived in that home close to 50 years. No, he dreamed every night that he had walked “home” to the house he had lived in with his family of origin. And every morning when he woke he felt tired from the long walk back to the facility where he was then living on the coast, a city he never seemed to remember or know. The trip was 200 miles each way! He had never lived in the coastal city prior to this, but he had been there many times visiting family. We never expected him to feel a deep connection to it, but we did expect the home he had left to be a prominent memory. It was not. I realized his dreams of going home, the place he felt safely nestled, had changed from the one he shared with my mother. She had died 4 years ahead of him. All sense of safety left with her. He was in great emotional pain. He had changed his place of “belonging” to the one he had shared with his mom and siblings. He needed to feel the safety he once knew, and that was “home” for him and remained so until his death. (Dementia may have affected the ability of what was most easily remembered, too. Older memories seem to hold on the longest.)


    10 Sep 18 at 6:04 am

  11. Sky – Thanks for sharing that about your dad. I think it was sort of that way for my mother as my father died in 1999, so she had been living on for another 18 years. She was extremely close to her own brothers and sisters and several of them lived just a couple or so blocks away. There had been a nearby family business, so everyone bought and built their houses around the same time. We had sold and moved away for about 10 years, but when we returned, my parents bought a house in the same small neighbourhood. One by one, all of the brothers and sisters and their spouses died until my mom and one brother were the only ones remaining. Her closest sister had died a few years ago. The last brother died 3 years before my mom and she truly felt alone in the world — a feeling with which I’m very familiar as I feel very alone in the world now that my parents and husband are gone and I just have my brother living 1000 miles away. Anyhow, I think my mom just wanted to be “home” with her large family and her closest sister and brother. Home for her would have been an old neighbourhood in her city, but I think the “home” she was thinking of was back in the country about 60 miles away, along the St. Lawrence River where she was born and grew up. She talked about it often during her illness – just like to reminisce about fun things that happened there. I don’t think it was dementia — she was still fairly with it most of the time in spite of the horrible physical stuff she was enduring — but just missing her family and the sense of safety she once knew.


    10 Sep 18 at 4:03 pm

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