And then there’s the other side of the family

Over the weekend, the slog through the mountain of work was interrupted by a quick visit from my mom’s parents and my uncle, their chauffer for the day.

It was quick, maybe 30 minutes tops. They had to get on the road, see. Long drive. I met them at the back door, out the carport, in my sock feet, as I usually do when visitors are milling in the driveway wondering what door to approach first.

My grandmother asks lots of questions – what’s the dirt for, why do the neighbors have a pile of pumpkins on their front lawn, what are those satellite dishes for, do we get free cable, what happened to this flower garden anyway. I explain a few things as best I can, explain the new septic field that’s going in and why. Behind us neighbors complained even though it’s not our fault the lawn is wet.

My uncle Todd – large, rough & burly, day-old whiskers on his chin – looked around back. “Well no wonder the *** lawn is ***** wet, the ****** lake is higher, *****!”

Yep, that’s Todd. He hugged me too, which was surprising until I realized he was whispering “HELP ME!” in my ear.

Anyway, after a few more storytelling bits about the septic and my grandmother tsk tsking, shaking her head and declaring it an awful shame, we went in.

I did get her toured around the house without too much incident, Emma helping. It reminded her of other houses in other times.

“My, my, look at these railings. Why I haven’t seen these since…”

“Well, would ya look at that..”

“My God, what a shame they let some of this happen.”

“Can you imagine? Just imagine how nice this house was”

“Oh my land, I had wallpaper like this back in..”

Ron had kept Papa busy while I shuffled Nanny carefully up and down the stairs. “Back stairs, too? Oh my land..”

And “My goodness, this will be a lot of work. Just think, you finished that other house – it was so nice – and then had to move, what a shame.”

Papa soon declared “Well Mert – time to go,” and off he went, slower now. They’re both very grey. I was struck by how much they’ve aged, how much slower they move.

Back to the car and goodbyes. My grandmother looked over the backyard one more time.

“Them’s a buncha assholes.”

Yep, they still got it.

Well. That was interesting.

It was such a beautiful, gorgeous and HOT day, that at some point Ron & I couldn’t work in the office anymore. For one, it was pretty hot. So we tidied up some stuff in the yard, took back tables, and went to the local store for diesel & pepsi. Back home, we got out of the car, and wandered around a bit.

That’s when I heard yelling.

Turns out Ron had smacked his head off the tractor, right where the light was, hitting the edge of the metal. By the time he was able to speak to tell me what was wrong, he had moved his hand and the blood started dripping down his face.

I hustled him in the house, got the cold water running, found the towels, got the bleeding slowed down and had a look. Good thing I already knew head wounds bleed quite a bit. I took a look (I’m the mom, it’s my job) and decided that it was in the area of a possible stitch. Ron said since it was quite a whack to his head, we should go anyway.

So we found the ice pack, made a couple of travel mugs, and again – he LET ME DRIVE. We got in to be seen in relatively short order, and they decided that yes, one stitch would do and a bonus tetanus shot. The nurse said he’d have to take today off, so he turned to me and said “Can I take tomorrow off?” partly to get the nurse laughing. When we were done there, I took a turn through Timmie’s drive through and got him a coffee.

Ron has a boo-boo

That was enough excitement for one day. Today my mom is coming over (again) and we’re going to a quilt show, then a bit of around-town stuff, hitting the grocery store, then back here. She’s going to help me clean sort and organize something, I’m just not sure what yet. Not that I can’t find anything for her to do, it’s just I don’t know where to start.

Like moving, only not

This time last week, Ron and I headed down to Saint John and picked a literal van full of boxes and furniture from my grandfather’s apartment.

It was hard. Even pre-sorted and boxed and waiting.

After, on the way out of town, Ron and I stopped at a Chinese restaurant for our anniversary dinner, which was the next day. Good food.

We unloaded the van quickly, all these boxes stacked around the house, me making quick decisions as the where (oh god where) do I even put these things. I said we’d take all the linens, which we could always use, and anything in the kitchen (given Sarah is headed off to college). Boxes and piles are still everywhere. Some new frames are on the wall, on any available nail I could find.

Sometimes I catch one of the frames, and think to myself that it’s out of place. The same frame I’ve seem for thirty years, the same photos inside – just on the wrong wall. Me, me and my mom and my brother, with 1979, 1980, 1981 written under each photo in my grandmother’s neat slanted printing. Another frame, me and my two cousins, always children.

I now own real art – a chalk sketch of my father playing at a music festival, the program taped to the back with a newpaper clipped about the gallery show for the picture. Another pen sketch of the hospital where my grandfather worked, tall and big on the hill. They tore it down a few years ago, after standing empty and useless.

We’ve gone through all the boxes by now, most of which we packed back up. Too many decisions to make on each piece. Thankfully, my aunt had said that I didn’t have to try and keep it all, it was okay if I put what I didn’t want in a yard sale. I’m glad she said that, nothing’s worse than Memorial Tupperware. πŸ˜€ This way I don’t feel like I have to keep it all.

Even with the stuff I want to keep, there’s a bit of hoarding going on. There are all these everyday items with things I had given them but that are now returned. Unpacking was less like treasure hunting but still with treasures inside.

Just ones that make you want to weep.


Somewhere on my way home, while I was still in Toronto, my grandfather passed away. I found out in Montreal as I was changing trains. He loved trains. He’s the reason I learned about computers at a young age, a really smart man who expected the same in others, the funny English gentleman. He was always referred to as a gentleman, because he was. There was no other word to fit. He’d go down to the harbor whenever a cruise ship came in, and take a picture of it. He walked fast *everywhere*. In later years, he had a cane, and he told us all he had to do was wave it in front of him and people got out of his way.

We had been planning to move him into a nursing home, at his request, as his health had declined to the point he needed someone there all the time. He had been living in a senior’s apartment complex, with home care workers coming in. At first, a couple times a week, then recently almost every day. I say “we” but really my aunt has been doing a lot of the work. :-/

He wrote his own obituary, which if you knew him at all, should strike you as funny. That way it was done right, you see. Some of the things below I didn’t really know, but I do know every time I was pregnant, he wanted as many details as possible about the ultrasounds. One time I asked with, with less sarcasm as you might think, if he wanted me to get my doctor to send him a copy of the reports and he said that wouldn’t be necessary. He did have his shoulder operated on once, and got the doctor to videotape it for him.

We’re going to miss him, but are glad he’s at rest.

THORNTON, Alfred Thomas, of Saint John, passed away on Sunday, March 8, 2009 at the Saint John Regional Hospital, at the age of 93.

Born February 16, 1916 at Ipswich, England, he was educated and trained in telecommunications and radio in England.
He served his country during World War II with the British Post Office Telecommunications Dept., the Royal Naval Wireless Reserve, the 11th Middlesex Home Guard, and the Royal Corps. of Signals. He started his training in electro-encephalography in England and, after emigrating with his family to Canada in 1957, continued at the Montreal Neurological Institute. While working at the Provincial Hospital in Saint John, he did research on the affect of colour on epilepsy and became the first Canadian to win the Monty Wyand Award with a paper on that subject in 1962. After setting up a new E.E.G. clinic at the Saint John General Hospital, he pioneered the use of ultrasound for the detection of tumours in the brain and the breast, and also for checking the heartbeats of unborn babies. In 1976, he established a new E.E.G. clinic at the Dr. William F. Roberts Hospital School for Children, financed by the Colonel Harland Sanders Trust Fund.

Predeceased by wife Marjorie (Gayton), he is survived by 3 children: David Sr,of Toronto ON, Adrian and Glenda, both of Saint John NB; 3 grandchildren: Andrea (Ron) Rennick of Lakeville NB, David Jr. (Ashley) of Toronto ON, and Ryan (Cynthia) of Ottawa ON; 5 great grandchildren: Addison (Kaytlyn) Rennick of Fredericton NB, Sarah, Meaghan, and Emma Rennick of Lakeville NB, and Hunter of Ottawa ON.

According to his wishes, there will be no funeral service. Cremation has taken place at Fernhill Cemetery. The family will receive visitors at the Fundy Funeral Home on Saturday, March 14, 2009 from 1 to 4pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Alzheimers Society of Saint John, Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick, Saint John Free Public Library, Admiral Beatty Seniors Social Club, and David Suzuki Foundation.

You can sign the funeral home’s online guestbook here.

Chocolate and the War of the Roses

Before I get too far into the story below, I should tell you that my father’s side of the family is British. As in, they emmigrated from England to Canada in 1956 and they all have accents (mostly). And ones I can’t really hear most of the time. I can slip into one at will, too. I’ve found when my half-deaf grandfather can’t make out what I’m saying, I just rephrase it to be more British, with an accent and then suddenly he understands me.

My longish point there is we still have family “over there”, and every Christmas we all exchange cards and our cousins send over a monstously huge 1 kilo bar of English Cadbury’s milk chocolate. It is slightly different than the Canadian Cadbury’s chocolate, is why.

So last Thursday, there I was, out and about doing my shopping. (See? The British phraseology is slipping in there. Between this and the over-indulgence of Jane Austen over the holidays, we should just pack our bags and head back to the Queen.) The children were naturally with me, and we split up when we went to the mall.

Sarah came running up to me as I was once again perusing the scrapbook aisle of the Great Canadian Dollar Store.

“Mom! In Shopper’s they have a big Cadbury bar! And it’s on SALE! And it’s the LAST ONE!”

At this point we had no word about the annual chocolate from England, only that it was somewhere between here and there. Ron had said if ever we saw one of those bars here, we should grab it. We *had* seen it before, but it was elusive. Always when we didn’t have the extra cash, or it was heavily pre-holiday priced.Γƒβ€šΓ‚Β  I hemmed and hawed a bit, waffled some more, and in the end got it. The clerk even thanked me profusely for “getting rid of it”.

On the way home, we stopped at the post office to pick up the mail. Sarah came back to the car grinning, carrying an armload of packages. She tossed one to me. “Guess what Mom? It’s from England!” It was suspiciously chocolate-bar sized. Now, normally the cousins send the whole thing to my aunt, and she divvies it up and sends along our portion. But I suddenly thought, what if it had been done on their end?

I laughed and laughed.

When we got back to the house, I opened up the parcel, and instead of chocolate, there was a book. I gotta tell you, I actually love new books *more* than chocolate. It’s true. Even better, it was a book our cousin had co-authored, AND it was on a portion of British history. Enclosed was a note stating he hoped we liked it.

I think I may have swooned.

The Battle of St Albans tells the story of two epic battles during the War of the Roses. These took place in the city of St Albans, which not only stands today, but that’s where some of my family now lives. The authors help clear up some of the confusion and legend surrounding the War of the Roses, explaining the political landscape of the time. They bring the battlefields to life, thorough series of diagrams, modern-day photographs of actual places and generous descriptions of the time and places. There’s even pictures of reenactments of soldier’s uniforms and fighting techniques, even snippets of text from documents from that time frame, in theΓƒβ€šΓ‚Β  participant’s own words.

As Emma and I flipped through the book, we seriously got lost in the 15th century. We were immersed. And I longed for England once again. Mike did a bang-up job, and I’m sure our family could not have been more proud.
Back to the book – it’s jam-packed at 182 pages, 5.5″ x 8″ bound format and loads of b&w photos. By the time I got to the back cover, I was absolutely delighted to find it was part of a series of books based on all sorts of battles in Britain – all the way up through the Second World War. I immediately though of all our homeschooling and/or history buff friends who would *love* to get their hands on such books.

You can Γƒβ€šΓ‚Β  and visit the publiser’s site, Pen and Sword books for more historic battles. I’ll be over here, curled up with the book, noshing on chocolate.

The holiday wishlists

Since most of my family reads my blog, I have to list our holiday wishlists so that everyone can find them in one central location. πŸ™‚

Me: anything from the scrapbooking aisle, cardstock – any color any size, blank cards for cardmaking, pens, notebooks (ie; anything from the stationary aisle), movie & cd gift cards, books, Amazon wishlist here. A large stack of second-hand romance novels (especially historic ones) would make me squee.

Ron: He shops at Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and Tim Horton’s. πŸ˜‰ Also, I have noted some items for him on the wishlist linked above. We really like watching movies together. (That is a really broad and non-subtle hint. We like action with minimal swearing or blood, and romance/comedy with minimal n00ds. If it was released in the past year or two, we probably haven’t seen it. Used or previously rented movies are good gifts, we think.)

Sarah: her wishlists are here and here. Books, music and tshirts make her happy. Also, candy. And gift cards. It’s like free money.

Meaghan: wants gift cards too and has a wishlist here. It might need to be updated, I dunno. Some art stuff would probably be good too.

Emma: movies, tons of ’em, clothes, board games, educational-type toys, and she’d probably love Chickadee mag.

Addison & Kaytlyn: house stuff (yes?), gift cards for house stuff. Also, cool stuff.