Category Archives: 1960s

Only Child’s Mom and gardening

Only Child at entrance to Mom’s garden.

I inherited my love of gardening and my green thumb from my late Mom. She could grow everything from roses to currants to beans to tomatoes. It was this latter that gave a new meaning to green thumb for Mom as we shall see in this gardening scenario from my memoir.

One August day, Mom comes in the side door from the garden. She is carrying an open tomato juice can and she is almost scowling.

“Sharon,” she calls as I stand at the top of the stairway. “Have a look.”

Not knowing what to expect, I hurry down and join her at the door. I lean forward, my nose almost touching the can when Mom reaches inside and hauls out a wiggling creature, a mini-Martian with aerials and a big, ugly body, green mixed with white and black. I jump back before it can attack me.

“Green hornworms,” Mom says. “They won’t bite, but they will gobble up all the tomato leaves, and then the tomatoes won’t have anything to hang onto because the branches will collapse. Sharon, they won’t hurt you.” She shoves the tin closer to my frozen face. This time I just want it all to go away; I want to run up the stairs, but I can’t tear my eyes away from these creatures. So, I move closer and stare again into the can and the squirming critters within. Mom shrugs, turns around, and takes the can of wrigglers outside. I peek through the screen door at the same time she turns around again.

Is she smiling? What’s so funny? Those little monsters are worse than the blackspot on Mommy’s roses. I’m glad she is taking them away from the house. The house must be kept safe. We must be kept safe.

I don’t get it. I am still too young to realize that sometimes evil grows from within.

(From Chapter 2 Practicing Gardening and Religion, The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, Copyright Sharon A. Crawford, 2020, published by Blue Denim Press)

Not my Mom’s tomato plant, but one in my garden this summer. So far no little green creatures.

There was more evil in my childhood than tomato hornworms. But there was also some good that has carried forward to this dayt. And that includes my love of gardening. I write about gardening to honour my Mom for passing down the gardening bug. That is something I relish doing and find it helps bring my stress level down. Sometimes I wonder if Mom’s gardening helped her cope with Daddy’s cancer.

Read more stories of my growing up the only child of elderly parents when your dad “gets” cancer.

The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir is available from

Amazon

Chapters/Indigo

Barnes and Noble

Happy Reading – and to enjoy even more – read while sitting in the garden.

Cheers.

Only Child Writes

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Gardening, Hereditary, Mother, The Enemies Within Us - a Memoir, Tomatoes

Only Child Honours her late Daddy on Father’s Day

My Dad long before my time

My daddy was often mistaken for my grandfather. He was old enough for that, pushing 60 when I was 10. Perhaps his age and being a first-time father at 49, his age when I was born, and father of an only child to boot, had something to do with it. Certainly, he tried to protect me (and sometimes one of my friends) from the Bully and her gang when they were on the warpath. Once he locked Dorothy and I in the basement to protect us. That didn’t stop the Bully from making ugly faces at us through a locked window. At least we were safe…then.

My daddy taught me to ride a two-wheel bicycle, when I was nine, way later than when my friends learned. He also let me help him mow and water the lawn. But one day that was put in jeopardy because my friends and I (the Bully wasn’t there then) overstepped our bounds in the garden.

The actual flower, vegetable and fruit gardens were Mom’s territory, but besides the lawn, Daddy had a hand in the shrubs growing on our property. Here’s what happened one day.

In the summer my girlfriends and I play outside with our dolls. Give us green grass and trees, or at least big shrubs, and we are happy. We spread our blankets on the grass, sit our dolls on top, stand up the open doll suitcases for walls and hang their clothes inside. Then we set out our dolls’ clothes and go hunt for dinner.

The raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes in mother’s garden don’t interest us. We are after the big green. Marie grabs a branch from the snowball over by the Swans’ garage, and, one by one, picks off large velvety leaves. Dorothy, Jan, and I do the same and arrange the leaves on our doll plates. We are just sitting down to dinner with our dolls, when Daddy comes through the archway. His stroll turns into a leap of rage.

“What are you girls doing? Stop picking the leaves.” His face is red, and if he doesn’t slow down he’ll vault over the fence into the Swans’ driveway.

The four of us stare at him, our mouths suspended open.

“Don’t you know you are hurting the trees?” he asks.

“Sorry, we didn’t know,” Marie says.

I say nothing. What’s up with Daddy? We have to feed our dolls. However, our dolls’ food now seems like poison.

That evening after dinner, Daddy hauls out the lawn mower and starts pushing it along the front lawn. I step out onto the verandah, but stay back, still reeling from the afternoon. Daddy catches me watching him, stops and beckons to me.

“Do you want to try it?” His voice sounds like the normal Daddy.

I must have nodded, because he invites me over to the mower and patiently explains how it works, First, he helps me steer it, then lets go. Pushing is heavy work on my own, but I shove it forward and at his instruction and encouragement, move it around to our starting point.

(Excerpted from Chapter 3 – Practicing Gardening and Religion from The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, © Sharon A. Crawford, 2020, Blue Denim Press)

Although it is almost 55 years since my daddy died, I still think of him. He had cancer during the last six years of his life and that was hard for a 10- to 16-year-old to deal with, especially as I had to find out he had cancer from someone outside the family. It affected our closeness. But something almost miraculous happened the day daddy died.

If you want to read more of what happened, you will have to read The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. And timed perfectly with Father’s Day, my memoir just arrived at three Toronto Public Library branches and is circulating. The link to my memoir listing at the Toronto Public Library is here.

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy, and to all the fathers in the world.

Cheers.

Sharon

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, cancer, Dad, Father's Day, Gardening, memoir, Memoir content, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Reading memoir and other books good COVID-19 distraction

Memoirs are supposed to be big sellers now. Especially true in these COVID-19 times. We are stuck at home under STAY HOME regulations, so we read (and watch TV too). Sure, we are watching and reading the latest news on the virus. But for our sanity we need some escapism. So we read mysteries and memoir.

I write both (and read both) so maybe have some insight on this, from a personal point of view. I am not a medical professional and don’t profess to be one.

The beauty of memoir is it is a genre that deals with past events – even if only recent past. Memoirs are written by celebrities and by some of us who aren’t really famous. When you read a memoir, you are transferred to something in the past. The story may not be the happiest, but it is not now; it is not COVID-19. It is a distraction and, in my opinion,, a good one. And I’m not saying that because I write and have published memoir. Studies have been done on this and articles written on this. Here are a few links to check out. Some were written before COVID-19.

This one goes into the benefits of reading. If you scroll down far enough you will find the Section on Stress Reduction

This one references some studies, what we expect from a Psychology Today article.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201905/can-reading-books-improve-your-mental-health

This one is specific to COVID -19. I like the message in large print right at the beginning. “Reading gives us a place to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley.

https://mhpl.shortgrass.ca/blog/reading-save-your-sanity

My recently published book, The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, is set in the 1950s and 1960s (the grey ages as I call them), mostly in Toronto, but some scenes in southwestern Ontario, Detroit, Michigan, and New York City. Although the main focus is my relationship with my dad and his cancer, there is a lot of humour (not with the cancer) with my family – including cousins and aunts and uncles and my school days. I am a firm believer in finding the humour in situations where possible, but at the same time being serious about serious matters.

Here is a brief blurb about The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir.

“Your dad has cancer.” Ten-year-old Sharon hears these words. Not from her parents. They lied. Set mainly in 1950s and 1960s Toronto, this  is Sharon’s story before and after Daddy’s dirty little secret surfaces. Before, she is Princess to her elderly father’s King. He protects her, a shy only child, from best friend, The Bully. Sharon also deals with a bullying nun at school. She distracts herself playing baseball and piano, riding the rails with Mom and railway timekeeper Daddy, and visiting eccentric Detroit and rural Ontario relatives. After learning the truth, Sharon withdraws from Daddy. At 13, she teaches Mom to play the piano. Then Daddy gets sick again, and again…and dies.

Sharon A. Crawford’s memoir is a powerful, sometimes humorous, account of a young girl’s lessons learned from difficult teachers – bullying, betrayal, and cancer.

More about The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir is on its blog page connected to my author blogs. This page also gives you links to where my memoir is available should you be interested.

Comments about the content of this post and/or my memoir are welcome. I do reply except to spam.

Cheers.

Sharon, aka Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, The Enemies Within Us - a Memoir

Only Child Resurfaces with Memoir

I have been absent for too long but have not disappeared. Been busy rewriting my memoir – the one I sometimes alluded to in my posts. Finally finished and The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir has been published by Blue Denim Press and it was released October 1. I have been posting in my author blog including about this new book. So I’m going to copy and paste a few excerpts from my postings there.

But first, a looksee at the cover of my memoir.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-enemies-within-us-smaller.jpg

Drum roll here: After 18 years of on-and-off writing, through several versions with several different content, The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir is done. And it is about time. I’ve been teaching memoir writing workshops for 10 years, so now the teacher has to put her pen where her mouth is  – or something like that.

So, folks,  meet meet me from age four to 22  in my memoir THE ENEMIES WITHIN US.

Oh, oh. PI Dana Bowman, who is not in my memoir, but the main character in my Beyond mystery series is insisting she step in now. She wants to introduce the new book. She is already doing that elsewhere, Give someone an inch and they will take a mile. And don’t ask me to put that in metric. When I was a child we measured in feet and inches, not centimetres and metres. Okay, over to you Dana.

PI Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series

Sharon wrote a memoir about her childhood  way way back in the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike me with my fraternal brother, Bast, she was an only child, her parents were what she calls “elderly.” She won’t tell you this, but the book’s title wasn’t the first. She went through many titles and finally her publisher, Shane, at Blue Denim Press  came up with

THE ENEMIES WITHIN US  – a Memoir

And here it is…again

Another drum roll please.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-enemies-within-us-smaller.jpg

Okay, back to you Sharon.

About time. Dana eluded to some of the memoir’s content. Perhaps the best way to summarize what the book is about is to post the synopsis on the back cover of the book.

“Your dad has cancer.” Ten-year-old Sharon hears these words. Not from her parents. They lied. Set mainly in 1950s and 1960s Toronto, this  is Sharon’s story before and after Daddy’s dirty little secret surfaces. Before, she is Princess to her elderly father’s King. He protects her, a shy only child, from best friend, The Bully. Sharon also deals with a bullying nun at school. She distracts herself playing baseball and piano, riding the rails with Mom and railway timekeeper Daddy, and visiting eccentric Detroit and rural Ontario relatives. After learning the truth, Sharon withdraws from Daddy. At 13, she teaches Mom to play the piano. Then Daddy gets sick again, and again…and dies.

Sharon A. Crawford’s memoir is a powerful, sometimes humorous, account of a young girl’s lessons learned from difficult teachers – bullying, betrayal, and cancer.

In future blog posts I will quote here and there – sometimes – from the content, but I also will ask questions (and give a few tips) about memoir writing. Here’s a question to start you off,

Who reading this is also writing a memoir or has written a memoir? What is the memoir about (briefly)?

Okay, that was two questions. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

The books’ arrival I alluded to at the beginning are my author’s copies, which this time the publisher sent directly from the distributor to me. Yes, we authors get our own copies, but at half price. The traditional reason for author copies is for us to sell them at readings, festivals, presentations, etc. we attend but the venue is not in a bookstore or the publisher isn’t there to sell the books.  Or we want to give complimentary copies, for example to people who helped us with research, media book reviewers, etc.  In these COVID-19 days in-person presentations, etc. are on hold. But hopefully sometime in the first part of 2021, things will change for the better. So why the author’s copies? Because some of them will go with my virtual book launch in November, which will have a bookstore (as in bricks and mortars) involved, although anyone will be able to purchase The Enemies Within Us at

Amazon and Chapters/Indigo online. Amazon also has the print version.

And some of those complimentary copies, and I suspect a few books sold, will go out to the buyer via Canada Post  – for those who want to get their book directly from the author (i.e., a signed copy). Hey, these are different times and we authors, like everybody else, have to adjust.

 I’ll leave you with a sample of one of the photographs from my childhood. It shows Daddy, Mom and I on the veranda of the house I grew up in. In my memoir, I sometimes refer to the house as “139.”

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Blue Denim Press, Books, memoir, Memoir writing, The Enemes Within Us

Only Child getting through winter

As a child growing up in the mid-50s to mid 1950s in Toronto, I actually enjoyed winter. That included slogging to and from grade school three times a day (we went home for lunch), to ice skating. The winters I was seven and eight I learned to skate at home  – outside of course. Dad turned the hose on our backyard and overnight instant skating rink. Next day, and several days afterwards, Mom taught me how to skate. She wore boots and sometimes Dad’s old hockey skates on her feet. I wore brand new white figure skates but I did not cut a good figure. Even the heavy coats and mitts couldn’t help as I dug my hands into Mom’s as she walked or skated backwards and she tried to get me to move forward. Finally when I was eight, she figured I was ready for the big time – skating at the public Dieppe Park. There I learned that the best way to keep my balance was to skate forward clutching  a skate guard in each hand.

Today, as a senior, I hate winter with a passion. I do not find the white stuff outside as it comes down and when it stops,  a winter wonderland. I hate the cold. I hate all winter precipitation and with our climate change, that can include rain and variations of the mixed stuff. Strangely enough I don’t mind shovelling snow (when it isn’t a lot – then I get the guy I hired to shovel snow to do so) – probably because it is like hitting back at the weather. I wield a mean shovel, but my target is only the snow. I do like the sun in winter (when the sun does actually show up) and going for walks. Not as many as in spring, summer and fall. And I don’t go out much evenings – besides the cold I have a fear of falling on ice, especially after three friends and colleagues took bad tumbles on ice last winter. My hairdresser suffered the worst. She broke one leg in two spots after falling on the ice in her driveway.

So I spend a lot of time inside a lot. Plenty to do, including stuff I detest, such as dealing with house problems – the latest being an ornery freezer. But I write a lot, read a lot (although not as much as I would like), watch some TV (Weather Network addict here, plus some regular mystery and the like TV shows and movies), and purging the excess paper in my office.  And email and Facebook my son and friends. And chat on the phone with them. Also get together with them – but not as much as in the summer. It took five weekends before I could get down to my friend Maggie’s because of bad weather each weekend – some that snowed me in. But this weekend is my son’s birthday and the plan is for me to take him and his girlfriend out for brunch (mind you, at a restaurant near me) and then we are coming back to my place afterwards.

Meantime I have something else that is visual to see and create – and not bland like snow. My houseplants, some of which are flowering. And also I am going through the seed catalogue to order some seeds for this coming spring and summer’s garden. And planning the garden in the process.

How are you spending your winter? Or if you are south of the equator  – your summer, where some of those who live “up north” go in winter.

 

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Gardening, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Winter Weather

Only Child Christmases Past and Present

Many of us have rituals on Christmas Day and I am no exception. Except my rituals have changed. When I was a child, after Mom woke me up, she, Dad and I had breakfast. Then I was allowed to look in and empty my stockings. Presents under the tree had to wait a bit. Mom, Dad and I headed to church first, often suffering through the pastor’s long, long sermon. Afterwards we  walked home.

And then we “attacked” the presents. Previously a few days before, Mom and I had wrapped each other’s presents and Dad’s – with her in the kitchen and me in the dining room and the door between firmly shut. Until she needed more paper or scotch tape. She would give fair warning though so I could cover up the unwrapped presents. But on Christmas Day it was usually me who crawled over to and under the tree for the presents and handed them out. Of course I was doing this to try and figure out what was in the wrapped gifts and looking for that doll or other toy I had asked Santa for. My mother had a habit of hiding any unwrapped toy and bringing it in while we were opening the presents. So I got my doll.

Afterwards we relaxed  – sort of. I played with my doll or any other new toy and mother went to prepare the bird for dinner. I say “bird” because it often was not a turkey. Sometimes it was chicken, or a duck, or a goose, but no matter it all tasted good.

Fast forward many, many, many years to now (and also a few years ago). Like my parents before me, I have one child (got to repeat history here, you know), Martin, who is well beyond being a child. So, yesterday he and his girlfriend, Juni, came bearing presents, a bottle of white wine and a container of juice (the latter for Martin as he was driving). I had snacks out on the coffee table and so we dug in to presents and food. At some point I had to get into the kitchen to prepare the bird and put it into the oven. Not a turkey – I’m allergic to turkey  – so chicken, along with baked potatoes, yams, and  a salad.

We stuffed ourselves so much none of us had room for the apple raspberry crisp I had baked the day before, so I sent some home with Martin and Juni.  After they left, I called a friend to wish her a Merry Christmas and thank her for her present, watched a Christmas movie on TV and during the commercials did the dishes.

But I forgot one more present and I didn’t discover it until after midnight. It was hiding under the Christmas tree, or rather under the end table where my tiny fake tree sits. I blame missing it on the cloth bag it is in  –  burgundy – same colour as the velvet cloth right under that tree. The present is for Juni (note: she had others from me). So this week I will have to restart my Santa Claus sleigh and deliver the present to Juni. Translation: I will take public transit and deliver the present to Juni. And hope no wandering reindeer are running around en route, although obviously Christmas Day we could have used Rudolph and his glowing red nose to find the present. Or maybe not – red is close to burgundy in colour and that mini-tree has all red lights and they didn’t help.

So  on this note, I will stop this rambling and wish everybody a happy and peaceful holiday season.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas tree, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Only child

Only Child and the Do Not Do List

Only Child and Dad

My late father was a fanatic about time. He would drive my mother crazy at the dinner table when he did a time check with his watch and the wall clock. But the height of his time fanaticism was when he, Mom and I went on holidays. En route to Toronto’s Union Station by cab, he always mapped out the quickest route there and insisted the taxi drive follow it. We also left a couple of hours earlier than train time and were always the first in line to get on the train. Daddy also kept an eye on all the train procedures and he was always saying “typical CNR”. I suppose he had some rights here as Daddy worked as a timekeeper for the CNR (And it gave us free train rides).

Which might explain my penchant for time, including keeping a daily “to do” list. It doesn’t seem to be helping with all the stuff I seem to have to do. I constantly run around in overwhelm, get cranky and am up way too late doing things around the house. And not getting enough sleep. It is now affecting my health. So I am putting my foot down. I decided I am doing too many different things and some have to go – or at least get postponed. I know; I’ve been this route before. But I have come up with a new idea that might work and that I would like to share.

Teddy reminding me to slow down

Starting with this month of November, I am now doing a monthly “Do Not Do” list . The list has things I will not do this month but will do next month. The list has things I will never do, including things others want me to do, and one off events that I really don’t have time to go to and aren’t important in my life, at least now. This is an ongoing list as no doubt more of these events and other things will pop up as the month goes along. It is my incentive to say the big “NO” more often and focus on what I need to focus on this month.

The big three to focus on doing this month are finish rewriting my memoir for my publisher – it is due the end of November and I am fed-up with just doing bits and pieces of it at a time. The rewrite is coming along, but I can do better. No. 2 is to catch up on the bookkeeping for this year for my writing and editing business. Number 3 is also something I’ve been doing in bits and pieces – but not just because of time, but the weather. I’m talking about preparing the garden and house for the season I hate with a passion – winter. I don’t do all the prep. myself as I have hired a fellow who cleans the eavestroughs and Mike, the main handyman. Of course I  have to organize all this and I even have hired a new fellow to shovel the snow when that four-letter stuff arrives. What they do and what I do are on a couple of “to do” lists – one for house prep. and one for garden prep.

Yesterday I was outside on a rare afternoon when it wasn’t raining. But it was so cold. Among other things I had planned to plant the rest of the bulbs, but only got one planted. However, I managed to do three things: cut down some plants hanging over into the driveway (in the way of snow shovelling), do a little more with the tool shed (I’m clearing out most of the stuff in there as the shed is in bad shape), and I brought in my mannequin, Raggedy Annie, who sits out in the front garden in the summer.

Raggedy Annie

So, from that I learned to do three things each time outside and hopefully  it will all get done in time. But it is the “Do Not Do” list that may be my saving grace. As long as I stick to it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Time management

Only Child prepares house & garden for winter

Daddy & Mommy in charge of house and yard winter prep

My parents had rituals for preparing our house and garden for winter. They would do it all themselves, unless there was a plumbing problem. Dad was in charge of the windows. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, windows were not all-inclusive. In autumn, you had to remove all the screens (we had at least a dozen) and replace them with the storm windows, stored for the summer in the garage, with the reverse in the spring. So Daddy had to climb up on a ladder and do the switch. Obviously I don’t get my Vertigo from him.

Mommy focused on clearing out the garden and finishing the canning. She canned some horrible concoction with green tomatoes (I didn’t eat them), rhubarb strawberry jam, currant jam and jelly, and pickled yellow beans, among other things. I’ve never been one to try canning as I’m always afraid of messing up and poisoning everyone. So, I stick to freezing extra vegetables and fruit and drying herbs.

Somewhere in the fall, Mom ordered a delivery of manure which she and Daddy spread on the lawn. Most of my lawn has been turned over to garden – flowers and some vegetables and herbs. So if I cut the little lawn left, I consider the job done. I focus more on bringing in the rest of the tomatoes when the weather gets too cold, which I did last evening.

One of Only Child’s pepper plants in a pot

The pepper plants (grown in large pots) are inside right now but if and as the weather warms up a bit, they will go back outside, at least for during the day. And they are still getting peppers – all sizes as they grow, mostly green, but some turning red if I don’t eat them right away.

I find there are many fall preparation for winter tasks with my house and yard – besides the garden. Although it is a bungalow similar to the one I grew up in, and windows and screens don’t need to be switched, there still seems to be more things to do. Over the weekend I finally made the list for this year. Some things have been done; some still to be done. I don’t do them all as I have a couple of handymen who do some of these jobs, like cleaning  the eaves troughs (remember, I have Vertigo and standing on a chair is as high up I climb). And one of the handymen just measured for the new bathroom window so that should be here for him to put up in a few weeks. It will be nice to have a bathroom that isn’t freezy in the winter (despite a radiator spewing out heat). I’m slowly replacing all the house windows, one every fall (can’t afford more than that at a time). Most are done, but still a few more to go.

And I have a new snow shoveller for when that dirty white stuff (snow is a four-letter word) arrives. The fellow literally landed on my doorstep looking for customers and he has a few in my neighbourhood. So hope he works out. I deserve a pleasant person who does a good job shovelling my snow after last winter’s bad experience with the Bully from down the street. It started out with the teenage son shovelling my snow – he was a recommendation from another neighbour. The teenager was fine and also friendly…until his Dad marshalled in and bullied him and me.

I’ve been talking to the neighbours at various times during and after this bad experience, and find they see Mr. Bully the same way. Good to know my journalistic skills at reading people still works, albeit after the shovelling started. Now I just need to turn psychic so I can sense what will happen before it does. My consolation is knowing that what goes around comes around. My feeling is Mr. Bully is not having a good 2019.

Now back to some yard prep including planting some of those narcissus bulbs I finally got around to buying two days ago. Here’s a fall photo from my garden taken over the weekend.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Home and Garden, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, snow shovelling, to do list

Only Child Coping with Daddy’s Cancer

Children can be more resilient and creative than adults think or maybe even the child herself. When my dad had cancer it was devastating. I was almost 10 years old when the first cancer episode happened – Daddy was diagnosed with cancer in one of his lungs. An operation to remove half the lung was supposed to stop the cancer.

It did in the lung. Two years later it had spread to his brain. He had horrible continuous headaches and was constantly vomiting. In those days (early 1960s) the only other cancer “treatment” was burn, i.e., radiation. And so my Dad back in the hospital had radiation on his brain. He wasn’t expected to live. Mom and I grew closer and one of her older sisters came to stay to “help” us out. She meant well, but wasn’t the best help to be around. However, after  some weeks the radiation seemed to work and Daddy returned home. My aunt also returned to her home. Now Mom and I had to get used to Daddy being back home and back to work and get back into the routine.

It was then that I got the idea to teach Mom to play the piano. But I never connected it to dealing with Dad and his cancer until a few years ago. So I wrote a story about this called “Don’t Look Down”. After rewriting and rewriting and after a few rejections from submitting it and more rewriting and rewriting, I submitted it again last year to The Smart Set, an online only magazine published by Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was published January 17, 2019 (and for writers reading this post, yes I did get paid. The copyright also now reverts to me at this time, as long as I state where it was first published and when, which I just did).

The story begins like this:

“Don’t Look Down

Coping and communicating through music

By

There we sat, Mom and I, side by side on the piano bench. A mirror on the panel above the keyboard reflected our fingers, perched to perform. Deadly piano-playing duo? Not quite. You see, I had decided to teach Mom to play the piano. She was in her mid-50s; I was 13.

Perhaps a grade eight history-teaching project had infected me with the teaching bug. More likely it was connected to Dad’s second bout with cancer. At the hospital, the radiation had zapped his tumor. Now he was back home and had returned to work, but Mom and I were left with the aftermath of his life/death ordeal. We needed a diversion to keep us sane in this sudden change to supposedly safe routine. Besides, my music credentials were impeccable — five years of learning Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin on our pink Roxatone-coated piano.”

You can go to The Smart Set for the full Don’t Look Down story

When you were a child did you use your creativity to cope with a horrific experience?

 

Still have the piano today. It really is pink.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Cancer Treatment, Dad, Health, Mom and Dad, Only child, Piano

Only Child asks: Are Toronto buses missing their schedules?

TTC bus today

 

When I was a child, my mom and I would play a mild form of roulette to catch the bus. Our street was halfway between two stops so we would walk the very short half block to the main drag, look both ways, and decide which bus stop to go to. Sometimes we could actually see the bus coming and sometimes we couldn’t. But there was always the chance the bus would show up as we walked (or ran) to either stop.

Fast forward to today. Bus schedules for each route are shown on the TTC website. Any “alerts” as the TTC calls schedule interruptions or changes are posted and continually updated. Those with smart phones can get an app so they can get up-to-date bus arrival times. A few bus stops have digital information with arrival times for the next two buses. Subway station bus levels have electronic times posted that change to match the actual bus schedules.

So all should be working well – even when buses are delayed for some reason. AND WE BUS RIDERS SHOULD KNOW ALL THIS BECAUSE THE INFORMATION IS ACCURATE.

Hah!

Here’s my experience… or some of it.

From where I now live I can take four different bus lines – two stop at the stop near my home and all four stop a long block away. Usually I check online before I leave to see what’s what with the schedules and any alerts including construction nonsense.

Might as well save my time and eyesight, though because…

The Woodbine bus does run to schedule – its own schedule which seems to be timed about halfway between the actual schedule posted online..

The O’Connor bus – well it will take you for a ride (or not). Even on Sundays when there is no construction in the way, the drivers (and in some cases their supervisors) can’t get it right. Last Sunday I was coming home from some grocery shopping – no problem with the subway, but when I landed at the subway station to switch to the bus, it was “fun and games”. The electronic schedule said that one O’Connor bus was now due. I can take either one to get home. So, that was good. A bus did come in right away and stop on the O’Connor side of the bus platforms. But its sign said “Coxwell 22” bus, which means it was going the other way on Coxwell Avenue. So after unloading the passengers, it drove around to the other side of the station where the Coxwell bus picks up passengers (and unloads them too). Furious, I returned to the electronic schedule on the wall. Now the O’Connor C was scheduled to arrive in 14 minutes and the O’Connor A in 18 minutes.

Guess what probably happened. The a****** supervisor probably gave the O’Connor bus driver instructions to switch to the Coxwell south route because of the bridge work there and a festival being held by the Lakeshore. Meantime the Coxwell buses were arriving okay and people got those buses. So what was the problem?

The O’Connor buses? The C was late and arrived a couple of minutes before the A. I boarded the A. Both buses took off right away from the station like a herd of elephants was after them. (Maybe that should have happened earlier). As the A bus beetled out of the station, another A bus was entering. My A bus was right behind the C bus, until the C turned down one street.

This is a regular occurrence. So is the change of drivers’ nonsense. I don’t know if the drivers themselves are arranging to switch at stops partway along the route instead of the subway stations (or wherever the end of the line is) like they should – just for their convenience, or some you-know-what supervisor in his or her “wisdom” is telling them to do so. But it is annoying to have the driver suddenly grab his bag and leave the bus – often with not telling us why – because his shift is over. Sometimes his replacement driver doesn’t arrive for some time.

Customer service?

I have sent in complaints to the TTC before on these shenanigans, but is anybody doing anything about it?

It would appear not.

I have a courtesy rule. When I get off a bus, I say “thank you” to the driver. But not when they are late or do the driver switcheroo mid-route – especially if it is after dark.

Too bad I can’t afford a cab or Uber.

Will I be forced to hitch-hike?

As for my late Mom – she is probably rolling around in her grave. Or her spirit is frowning. She definitely is not laughing.

Anybody have similar experiences with public transit where you live.

Let’s share stories.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Customer Service, Mother, Only child, Public Transit, Toronto, Toronto public transit, TTC buses