Monday, June 30, 2008

"the strongest man in the world"

To everyone who met Jeff, the first thing they'd notice was his size and strength. He was 6'4 and weighed 285 lbs. He was tough and stalwart. He could seemingly move anything he set his mind to with his hands. I once watched him carry a 300 lbs chain along the shoreline through town, a distance of 2 km or so because he couldn't find an unused truck to get it into right then. But to those who really knew him, this physical strength paled in comparison to his inner strength.

His ability to weather any storm amazed me. He was able to carry on. He may not like what was going on but he would deal with it.

He was honest to a fault. At times, he wouldn't be completely forthcoming BUT if you asked, you'd better be prepared for the answer. He wouldn't flinch as he told you the way things were through his eyes. To him, honesty was synonymous with honour. And he did not respect lying. He wasn't afraid to tell it like it is or was in his mind.

Along with this, however, came stubbornness. If he got something into his head, it'd stay there until he was ready to let it go. We locked horns over this early on, but soon, I realized that he didn't take these decisions lightly. He thought about his actions and their results. At times, he would change his mind...especially if I had a difference of opinion and could state it rationally and calmly to him. He'd think about it and sometimes, he'd sway.

He had done things in his life that he had regretted and made mistakes. He was not proud of these things and did his best to not repeat them. He'd talk about these things to me but he wouldn't mire himself in them. He pulled himself up and moved along.

Despite some terrible events that happened in Jeff's too short life, he could laugh. Huge, loud, self-confident belly-laughs. He was always cracking jokes when someone was down. Giving hugs and teasing mercilessly.

But when he needed to, he'd cry. He wasn't embarassed or afraid to show these emotions. Anything that was important enough to cry about was greater in worth than the worry of judgement. He felt so deeply. I remember initally being so surprised that a 'guy's guy' like him was so thought-filled and caring.

He loved SO strongly. He was fierce in his protectiveness of our little family. Any small perceived threat to the three of us at home was taken seriously. Silly things like the teenagers across the street swearing in front of his daughter. Someone driving to fast on the road outside our house where the kids were playing. Incidents causing drama and chaos. He dealt with them. He'd talk to the 'offending' person. When necessary, he'd bellow. He suffered if we were in pain. I remember watching him be reduced to tears after another child upset Liv. He so wanted our little ones to feel happy, safe and loved.

He didn't care what other people thought. He'd carry my purse, run to the store to buy nipple cream when I was breastfeeding, let his little girl dye his beard green. He'd watch sappy movies with me...usually he'd fall asleep half-way through but he'd stay with me. He loved sunflowers and hummingbirds. When his friends made comments about Briar having a doll or wearing a pink hand-me-down sleeper of Liv's, he'd say, "So? We know he's a boy and so does he." He loved playing dolls with Liv, peekaboo and chase with Briar and I am hoping that the horribly small amount of time the kids got to have their daddy near was longer enough to have such a strong and caring man influence their lives and that they always feel how immense his love was for them.

I want everyone to know the strength that Jeff possessed...not just his undeniable physical strength, but his strength in character, honesty, love and caring. He was the strongest person I know...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

mama's trip away

I've been thinking that I needed some time away. Time to think things out. Time to lose it when I need to without freaking out the kids. Time to have conversations with other adults about this grief that I carry around like cement footware. So this weekend my mom, Oma, came to stay with the kids. I headed out to my good friend, Simon's, to relax. I figured he'd go and do whatever he had planned and I'd hang out and cry and sleep. I ended up having a less melancholy time than I had expected. There were definitely times that I sobbed, thought of Jeff endlessly and things we used to do together, wondered if he was 'with' me but I found that there was room in this weekend for both...the dark of sadness and a small flicker of the light of joy. At times, it felt foreign and pained to smile or laugh. I know Jeff would want me to laugh. I know he'd be laughing along with me.
Simon and I went quading. We drove logging roads and the paths up the power lines. (I usually hate ATVs as I feel that they destroy the natural forest floor and erode the fragile soil into creek beds....thanks for the guilt, Todd!) I took SO many photos and I even had enough time to work in manual the majority of the time without the pleas from Liv, "Come ON, Mama! Let's go over there!" I saw a tonne of native plants, bear poop, a few deer, a pileated woodpecker, etc....

Wild onions!
Indian Paint brush....
The power lines are crazy! HUGE strips of land covered in bloody scotch broom with enormous towers and cables.
The mosquitoes were AWFUL at the top of a hill we ascended. You could see a cloud of them around each of us.

I tried to take a photo or two on the back of the moving bike. Didn't work well.
Dipped our feet in a river...
Found a gargantuan beetle. I took a lot of pictures of it as I wanted Liv to see it. I brought home giant pinecones and a raven feather as well. Liv was so stoked and loved looking at all the pictures. She was having a hard time with me leaving over-night. So I gave her my smaller camera to take pictures of everything she did so she could show me when I got home. She was thrilled! As soon as I got home, she was showing me here photos.
Simon found a steep 30-35 metre drop off that he wanted to rappel down and climb up.

I got a lesson too!

We found this HUGE washout from the giant storms we had here in 2006. It was about the width of a football field and went right into the lake.
The weather was SO hot (about 40 degrees celcius). Driving down the logging roads was sweltering. Suddenly, you'd get a blast of COLD air preceding a waterfall. There were a lot of them but this one was my favourite.

The river here was so stinkin' cold. It's seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but there is so much evidence of the presence of humans. Large chunks of glass littered the ground. It broke my heart. Why would people just dump their bottles? In the depths of the woods, we'd find a pile of garbage...mattresses, newspapers, bottles, etc. Why?! It only costs a few dollars to take it to the dump. You'd spend more in gas getting out there.

This pile of logs was massive. Can you see the quad for size reference?

Those of you who know this island will know exactly where we were by this sign.
I had moments of extreme sadness. I know it is still so early on but I am hoping that with practice, I can learn to one day be happy again. To smile freely. To not have pleasant moments immediately proceeded by thoughts of those painful last moments with Jeff. To remember Jeff as he was in life, not at his death or the concussion blow to follow. I'd like to have my and the kids lives be a wonderful tribute to him, not a frozen and melancholy memorial.
I will never, ever, ever, stop loving or missing my love. But maybe, just maybe, I can carry these along with the help of the occasional happy moment. I'll let you know if it works. Do you think it's possible?

Friday, June 27, 2008

one of the best places on Earth

We went to B&P's today. It is definitely one of the kid's (and mine) favourite destinations. Briar got in some 'guy time' with Brent.
Liv always comes home with treasures from there...Today was no exception. She and Penny went tadpole hunting.
I remember having three tadpoles when I was a kid. I had named them, "Bette", "Davis" and "Eyes". I don't think Eyes liked his name. He ate Bette and Davis. When he morphed into a frog, I put him in the garage in a jar. He got run over by the car....That's what you get when you eat your friends.
One of her favourite places to look for eggs is the hayloft. It kind of freaks me out up there. There are holes in the floor and the stairs are extremely steep. Briar likes to stand at the edge and look down at the farm happenings below. Makes me want to barf a bit...the thought of him falling down there.
I wandered around taking photos. As I took this one, Brent says, "What are you taking a picture of?!" It's a horseshoe, Brent.
Briar hung out with the horses. Actually, there are horses seemingly everwhere. Maybe the horses were hanging out with us.

We witnessed chicks hatching...and some dying. Liv takes all those things in stride now. I guess having your daddy, your ducks and your little chick die all in a remarkably small space of time makes you a bit hardened to it.
She said the other day, "I'm a tiny bit glad that the ducklings and Lola died. Now they can be with daddy and he can know what they were like too!....We also get to hatch more now."
Briar found a dead rooster. He was pretty stoked to lug it around.
Again, I think it is so funny to see photos of animals looking you straight in the...lense. I don't know what makes it humourous. But it is.
Briar is a donkey fan. So are we. The mini donkeys are like dogs. They follow you around for cuddles.
I was in love with the buttercups. They are so jaunty and jolly.

Briar REALLY enjoyed carrying the rooster. I was actually worried that he had killed it with his cuddles initially. But no. It had been dead awhile. It was hard and cold. Not something I would want to carry around. But to each, his own.
I love all the shapes of the farm machinery. Looking like it was forgotten a long while back. But in actuality, it is all still used regularly.
The last surviving turkey. It's really sweet. It is so fat it waddles. Penny doesn't have to heart to kill this one. That says something about it's character. Penny is a definite farm girl.
As usual, Liv found gooey stuff and was all for inspecting anything she found interesting. Asking a million questions. Delegating. Exploring. Giggling. Asking to take one more thing home.
Penny ended up with the rooster. It IS so pretty. It may become an ornament on the mantel!
B&P are awesome and their place is like coming home. It's so wonderful to just wander and play and talk if you need to. Eat if you're hungry. Laugh and cry. And just be with two wonderful friends....and all their critters. Thank you, guys.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

up late....or early

It's 4:10 am. I can't sleep. I keep thinking about what my and the kids lives are going to be like without Jeff. Not great sleeping material. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that he'll never come home again. He won't see Liv master all her new skills. Or see Briar learn to ride a bike, swim, read or talk with words that only a mommy can decifer. He won't be here....isn't here, as I need him the most. It's just so fucking final. I can not seem to get it. I feel horribly bereft. BUT I still feel that there is some possiblity that he'll come home again. It's insane.
I've reached a stage where things that initially comforted me now really freak me out. In the first few weeks of this hell, I'd listen to his answering machine messages again and again. I was terrified that I'd accidentally erase them. I could trick myself into thinking that he had just left the messages. Now I can't listen to them. I play the new messages ont he machine and then quickly turn it off. If I happen to hear his voice, I crumple. It makes me miss him more. He tells me he loves me and to 'squish Liv and Briar'. In another, he tells me he'll be home soon. And yet another, he tells me how the fishing is and that they're not having a good trip. I can tell that at the end of this message, I manage to pick up the phone and talk to him. If I had only known them that it would mean so much to me now. That some seemingly inconsequential action would become so envied.
I should go back to bed. I just get so freaked out. Scared, if I'm honest. I'm afraid of sleeping because I'm terrified of the dreams. Even worse, I'm afraid of staring into the darkness...thinking.
I uploaded these pictures early today...yesterday. They're pictures that make me laugh. I was thinking of just leaving them in the draft folder with so many other half completed posts. But right now, I need to smile. So I'll just use them now....Some are old. Some were taken over the last couple of days.... Okay, this is really a hang-nail that she is showing me. She probably thought I was deranged laughing hysterically at her injured finger and taking pictures.
Briar wants the camera. Jeff was standing beside me and we were killing ourselves imagining his teenage friends seeing this photo.
I took this one today. She's such a bloody ham. I am so fortunate to have these two little ones. They're great giggle therapy.
My nephew, Gabe, came out of the bedroom with this when he was over on Wednesday. IHe was non-chalant about it. Made it funnier. Like walking around in a pig mask with a soother was the most normal thing on the planet. Reminds me of a baby Zorro.
I don't know why, but I get a total kick out of pictures of animals staring straight at the camera. This chicken, Lucy, reminds me of one of those guys sitting in the balcony seats on the Muppets in this photo. So disapproving!
This one isn't as great but I find the straight line 'Dolly Lama's ears make it amazing. She is such a sweet sheep. I wish we had more land. I'd so definitely have sheep.
Anyhow, I'm off to bed to either have tortured upsetting dreams or to stare into the darkness at the void that seems to be my life (yeah, I'm dramatic in the early morning) until the kids get up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

cranky rant

The kids and I went to a small toy store to find a little toy for Liv and Briar on our way to the wedding on Sunday. The saleswoman was one of those types that drive you insane while shopping by following you around and making comments on anything that holds your attention for longer than 3 seconds. She must have been curious about why we kept referring to ‘Daddy’ in the past tense. (Daddy didn’t like that. Daddy thought that was funny. Etc…) When I went up to pay, I explained that I was trying to find a few things to keep the kids busy while I was doing photography at a wedding. She says, “Well, where’s your husband?” Like it’s any of her business. What if he left us for some skanky, gymnast with a leashed pet bunny named Gerome? I just said, “He’s dead.” I’m so tired of the questions and the ridiculous euphemisms for death (passed away, left us, in heaven, etc.) I find if I just say ‘it’ they usually stop. Not this chick.
After getting past her questions about the circumstances relating to his death (I STILL have a hard time telling people that it’s none of their business and that I’d rather not talk about it to a total stranger, she begins this fucking stupidly long story about her grandfather’s death in a car accident when she was 3 years old. I didn’t quite understand why she was telling me all of this. Now, I don’t doubt that her grandfather’s sudden death caused her family a lot of pain and that it was hard for her family. But she then says to me, “So I totally know what you’re going through.” Huh?
I fail to see very many parallels in these two events other than that they were both males and they died suddenly. UNLESS:
- She was over say age…..5.
- She was in love with her grandfather and not in the grandfathery sort of way.
- They had children.
- Her and her grandfather’s children were there when he died.
I could go on, but I am sure that someone will take offence to this anyhow and I think you probably get my point.
I think often people don’t know what to say and so they just spout off the first experience that they’ve had with death and assume that it’s all the same. Maybe after I left, she thought “God, I’m a dumbass.” But I doubt it.

Maybe I'm just in a foul mood. While carrying my laptop across the lawn, thinking 'don't drop the laptop', I tripped. I didn't just little trip. I fell all the way down smashing my body against the house impaling my ribs (slight exageration here. It'd didn't break skin) on the outdoor tap, and landing on my hip. I am thinking that all those years working as a bartender paid off, however, because I somehow managed to hold the open laptop like a tray of drinks balanced on my hand and relatively gently placed it on the front step during my descent. No harm done to it. My knees, forearms and ribs are another story.

I rolled around on the front lawn moaning obscenities through clenched teeth hoping that our extremely sweet and religious elderly neighbours couldn't hear me. I hope my sister's boys don't go home with a new set of words in their vocabulary today. Sorry, Kirsten.

Mr.Chicken's personal ad

This is the ad I put on the local online used site. I've had more messages of people getting a laugh out of it rather than people interested in Mr.Chicken. I'm wondering if I should change it someone will actually give Mr. Chicken a place to live for us...

Transvestite Chicken Looking For Good Home

We were so hoping that 'Mr.Chicken' was a hen...but he wasn't. He's all rooster. Unfortunately, we have to find him a home not so close to our neighbour's house. He is a Buff Orpington cockerel. 10 weeks old. Sweet guy. Doesn't mind being man-handled by children. Needs a home where his vocalizations are a little more celebrated. (Although, he isn't very loud in terms of other roosters...In fact, he doesn't say 'cockadoodledoo'. He just says a rather loud and awkward 'bwaaaaaaaak!' We'd prefer he was kept as the poultry casanova on a happy little farm....but what we don't know won't hurt us...although it may hurt Mr.Chicken.

my buddy, Eli

I woke up this morning to the nauseating smell of dog poop. Poor Eli was downstairs looking so upset with himself. In all his 15 years, he has only had an accident in the house a hand-full of times...all of them due to human error (leaving him in while I went out for longer than expected).
I am worried about him....actually, I'm being selfish. I am worried more about me. He has a herniated disk. I've taken him to veterinarians, neurologists and even had someone show me how to preform 'doggy massage' to help his recently failing mobility. It was only a year ago that he could sail clear over the closed tailgate of the truck if he decided that he was going to accompany Jeff somewhere in his travels. Now somedays, he half-drags himself across the yard, giant kong in his mouth, barking incessantly with frustration at his inability to play as he'd like to. It breaks my heart....A LOT.
I've had Eli since I was 18. He's been the best dog in the world. Crazy. Protective (not in a attack people way, but in the stopping baby from falling down the stairs by laying across the top way) He's definitely driven me insane at times with his need to be in constant motion but he forced me to be active when I wasn't really in the mood more times than not. He has been my constant companion through everything I have experienced since I became an adult. Jeff loved him. He called him 'Buckethead' and they'd snuggle on the floor. That was big because Eli is SO not the cuddly, lick your face kind of dog. He's a bit of a doggy snob. Only interested in his 'family' unless the new person is throwing a ball. As soon as they stop throwing, Eli ignores them again.

He and I drove to Mexico together (with an old boyfriend) and back. We moved to a new town without knowing anyone there. Jeff and he were buddies when we started dating. He's been with me through the birth of both of our kids. And now the death of Jeff. I can't imagine life without him....But I think it may soon be time. I am dreading it. I am afraid. Jeff and I were supposed to do this together.
I realize that this post may sound silly to someone who isn't a dog person. I also know that it may be crazy for me to feel as if I'm having to deal with the mortality of a best friend....But I love him. And he has shown that he loves me with his brown doggy eyes through so many years. I love you, Eli.