Category Archives: Dad

Only Child pays tribute to Dad for Father’s Day

My Dad

When I was growing up, dinnertime for Mom, Dad and me was sitting around the table in our small kitchen. Mom and Dad would sometimes be talking about the household budget while little ears lapped it up as well as the food – often leftover roast. But Dad had one habit that drove Mom crazy.

He looked at his watch, then up at the wall clock above the table, then back to his watch, lifting up the expansion band. I expected it to go “boing, boing,” but it was silent.

Not  Mom.

“Albert, do you have to keep doing that?” she would ask.

“Have to take it in to get regulated,” Dad replied. He had good reason for this.

You see, my late father worked for the railway, CN (or CNR as it was called back in the 50s and 60s). He was a timekeeper but he worked in the head office, then in downtown Toronto. As far as I know he wasn’t out on the tracks timing the trains. But who knows. The trains came in right by his office at Toronto’s Union Station.

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

He carried this penchant for time when the three of us rode the rails travelling in the summer. It was a free ride, and not just for Dad. Mother had the spouse’s free pass and until I turned 19 I had the child of the CN worker’s pass. Mom got unlimited free rides; I was limited to seven a year. But we never took more than three or four trips a year – and one would be not really a holiday. There were a lot of funerals in my family and a few weddings.

But that’s for another post. Today’s post is all about Dad and time. When we rode the rails, Dad made sure we arrived at Union Station early – sometimes two hours before train time. Did Dad think we would miss the train?  No. He was just doing his job outside his job. No one missed his scrutiny – from the cab driver who drove us to Union Station – via a different route than Dad had dictated to who carried our luggage (not the red cap porter) to the trainman who collected our tickets once we had boarded the train. Dad’s favourite expression was “Typical CNR” which could be taken as either a bad review or I suppose even a small compliment. At any rate Dad and his watch kept close company.

But riding the rails had its fun, interesting and now looking back – nostalgic times. Nothing like the murder and other crimes that occur on the train to Hanover in my short story “Porcelain Doll” (Beyond theTripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012).

Consider the times we were travelling in – mid to late 1950s and early 1960s. Right when train travel in Ontario was still in its heyday – although not for much longer with the almighty automobile starting to take over. (Note: my parents didn’t drive so we had no car).

Our main annual trip was to visit the farm relatives on my mother’s side of the family. That took us to Mildmay Ontario (a few miles from Walkerton, the town that had the bad water scandal in 2000), and Lucknow, Ontario. Then we had to take three trains, which meant two changes. But what rides and what differences. The trains from Toronto to Guelph had diesel engines. The one from Guelph to Palmerston still had a steam engine whose noise used to scare me and my constant travelling companion, my doll Darlene. Guelph was also an interesting ride through. As that second train started out from Guelph, looking out the windows you could see the train was running on a track right in the middle of a street. It is still that setup today (although the trains are more modern) and it still makes me hold my breath when travelling through. The third train, with its short ride from Palmeston to Mildmay, was the most interesting. The “coach” we rode in was actually a sleeper car and Daddy would go into a short talk on the closed dark wooden bins above which came down and turned the area into a bedroom. I also remember the texture of the seats – they itched the back of my bare legs.

Only Child at 13 with Mom and Dad at the Lucknow farm

Dad has been long gone (he died of brain cancer, at 66. I was 16). However, I have inherited his penchant for time. I must get what is on my daily to-do list done that day and God help anyone or anything who interferes (Telemareters and long-winded acquaintances on the phone pay attention). But I also go after transit that is not on time, but not the CN, or VIA rail which has taken over the railway passenger service in most of Canada. No, it’s the city public transit, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which more times than naught, messes up on its schedules. So I sometimes complain online about the incident. Couldn’t do that back in the day.

Guess I do have my father to thank for to be aware of time. And in line with that, on this upcoming Father’s Day I will honour my late father by thinking of him and toasting him – not with his favourite drink – beer, which I don’t really like – but wine. It’s the thought that counts. I’m sure Daddy would understand.Happy Father’s Day Daddy (wherever your spirit is), from your little railway brat.

How are you honouring your Dad this Father’s Day?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Father's Day, Only child, Time management, Train travel

Only Child can’t wait for spring weather

From my front veranda March 2018

When I was a child my dad shovelled the snow. We never had eaves trough problems, freezing ice on the ground (except for the skating rink my dad made in the backyard). Perhaps a few icicles. But that was the extent of our winter weather. No worries and none of the rigamarole I have to go through with when it snows more than a few centimetres. I’ve had to get heat cables on the roof and into and outside the downspouts tand downspout extensions  – the latter several revisions by  my handyman until something (hopefully) worked. He also had to extend the downspouts on both ends in the backyard way out, placing them on top of bins. So getting onto the patio, etc. is a winding exercise. Plus I have to calculate when to turn on the heat cables, and roof and downspouts ones can’t be on at the same time or it will shut that circuit off. I’m forever looking up a tthe roof to see the level of snow still there, salting parts of the driveway, veranda, etc. The list is endless and so is my time wasted. I do have someone hired to shovel the snow. All this costs money, my money. No wonder as the month gets closer to the end, I have, as they say, more month than moneyals

It it isn’t house-related, it is health-related that steals my money.

So, while the above photo may look bleak except for the sky, I prefer the dry no snow on the ground to snow. It has been dry on the ground in Toronto for a few weeks. Sure there have been traces of rain and a few snow flakes, but they are not staying on the ground. So it looks dismal, but hey, not snow or ice – at this point.

Spring arrived today (12.15 p.m. noon with the Equinox) according to the calendar. The meteorologists’ predictions call for more snow and rain  as we get into April. Some rain I can handle (as long as it doesn’t get into my house. The gardens need the rain. And I need my gardens  0utside – soon.

Meantime, I’ve finally planned my outdoor garden, sent in my seed order to the seed catalogue company, bought a few heirloom seeds at a garden show (indoors) at the Toronto Botainical Gardens last month, attended Canada Blooms, and in the food department bave some basil varieties just starting to grow in a sunny window, am growing potato plant indoors (I get a few potatoes, albeit small), and one of the three rosemary plants I brought in last fall  is still doing well (so far). Plus tending my other indoor plants such as coleus, palm, various Spring cactus and the one begonia that has survived (so far) being brought indoors last fall. Some of these latter two are starting to bloom.

And I’m taking photographs of the dead gardens, live ones indoors (like at Canada Blooms) and looking at last year’s garden photos. Here’s one below.

How do you survive winter?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s Day Lily summer 2017

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Only child, Snow, Uncategorized, Winter blahs

Only Child on Christmases past

When I was a child (back in the grey ages, of course) there was no Facebook, no Smart phones and no Internet. We had phones – even party lines – at least in the country. We certainly didn’t walk aimlessly on streets or block subway stairs while texting. Things were somewhat simpler then, and although not perfect, perhaps we can learn from looking back into our childhood or for those who are under 45, we can talk to those whose childhood was in the 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s.

Here are a few of my remembrances to share for Christmas.

Before Christmas, my Mom and I would share our Christmas wrapping in a unique way. She would be wrapping mine and some of Dad’s presents in the kitchen and I would be in the dining room right next door wrapping hers and some of Dad’s. Mom had put away her sewing machine which usually sat on the dining room table to make room for wrapping,paper, scotch tape, presents, etc. A closed door hid what we were each doing. Paramount was keeping the gifts secret until Christmas morning. When either of us needed more wrapping paper from the other room, we would loudly give warning so the other person could quickly cover up the unwrapped presents. When wrapped they were all placed under the 6 foot tree in one corner of our tiny living room.

The tree was where Dad came  After it was brought home (and it was a real tree), he would work his magic fitting the tree into the stand – often a long tricky process that left me sitting in the kitchen (no presents around then) staring up at the clock and listening to Jingle Bells on the radio and waiting impatiently to help decorate the tree with the boxes of decorations and lights Mom had brought up from the basement. But when the tree was up, I had to wait even longer until Mom and Dad strung up the lights. Then the moment arrived when Dad plugged them in.

Nothing. No lights. Back then the only way to find out the dead light bulb, was to try each socket  individually with a bulb we knew worked until we found the culprit. But it was worth the wait, especially when we could add the ornaments, the tinsel and the angel on top (Mom or Dad did the latter. I was too short).

Sometimes just before Christmas Day, my godmother, my mother’s younger sister would make a “flying” visit (by car) from the farm for a quick visit. Then Mom would cook a bird. And she didn’t just stick to turkey – it was sometimes a duck, chicken or goose.

When Christmas morning arrived, I was allowed to check my stocking. Nothing else. That had to wait until breakfast and then Mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church. We had no car, so either walked there and back or got a ride from one of Mom and Dad’s friends who lived nearby. At church, the pastor who was long-winded, did shorten his talk after the gospel reading but it was still too long for a kid impatient to open her presents and more important to see her parents open what she had given them.

Back at the house we unwrapped the presents. Yes, I got dolls from “Santa” but clothes and games, too. Dad got the usual dad presents of socks and ties. One year Dad and I went into a jewellery store to get Mom’s gift. But it wasn’t jewellery we were after. I wanted to get Mom a china decoration of fruit to hang on the kitchen wall. Dad, of course, had to pay for it.

If my aunt hadn’t dropped in, Mom cooked the turkey (or goose, etc.) for dinner and we stuffed ourselves. Or we took the bus and streetcar to Dad’s younger sister’s place in what is now Toronto’s Annex area. We shared Christmas dinner with my aunt and uncle, my grandmother, and their three daughters. One Christmas, the youngest one, my age, and I pretended we were private eyes, sure the grownups couldn’t see us through the banister, sitting on the stairs in the hallway My cousin and I peeked into the dining room and listened to the grownups talk and scribbled down notes. What we planned to do with them, we didn’t know.

Sometime our grandmother, who lived there, took us upstairs to her tiny attic apartment on the third floor for a private visit and chat. Always, there were three presents still under the tree and my aunt made it known that they were for her eldest daughter whose birthday was on Boxing Day and she couldn’t open her presents until the next day.

That was then. Now things are so different and not so nice in some ways in the world and that and personal experiences over the years have changed my view of Christmas  and how I spend it. And maybe some of what is important and what is not.

Stay tuned for next week’s post with a bit of what Christmas and New Year’s mean to me today.

How do  you spend Christmas? Is it different from your childhood Christmases? If so, how? And why?

Hope all of you have a good and healthy Christmas or whatever holiday you are celebrating and however you are spending it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Christmas carolers showing the Christmas spirit in song

Only Child with her late Mom and Dad obviously not at Christmas

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas, Christmas tree, Dad, Family

Only Child says snow snow – yech!

Last evening and overnight, Toronto, Ontario got blasted with the first snowfall of the year. At 14 cm it is certainly not the biggest snowstorm, but being the first one of this season, it seemed like way too much. Especially if like me you had to shovel all the white stuff. Especially when the two guys you used to hire to shovel your snow the past six to eight years seem to have disappeared.

As a senior, I shouldn’t be shovelling the results of big and/or heavy snowstorms. Especially as I am just now getting over a 48-hour virus – which was probably caused by an allergic reaction to too much dust. I don’t have time to dust my place very often and I certainly don’t have time to shovel snow – repeatedly during the winter season. Cutting the little lawn I have repeatedly in the summer is a different story. Especially using a hand mower as my late dad did.

Dad also shovelled the snow when I was growing up – until he got cancer.

But storms weren’t as bad as now back then (1950s and 1960s) – at least on a regular basis. Yes, we had some doozy winter snowstorms. I remember walking home from school at lunch time (yes, we didn’t stay at school for lunch unless we lived too far away) and the snow was up to my thighs. But I was so much shorter then and not so wise, not so knowledgeable, and well, a kid. Now, I’d just like to skip winter – not just for the snow but we get too much of this mixed precipitation and then there are the ice storms.

Actually shovelling the snow was very invigorating. Lucky my virus seems to have either disappeared or got buried for now. But I would still rather go for a walk…in the freezing cold? Temperatures nose-diving later today and will stay that way for the next couple of days. Brr!

Below my signature are a few more photos  of the snow on my property  before I dug in and shovelled.

Do you shovel your own snow or does somebody else? Or do you live in a rental apartment or a condo?

Do you consider snow shovelling a winter sport?

You can probably guess what my answer is as I don’t take part in real winter sports. But I like to watch figure skating – probably because I used o skate as a child and young adult – nothing fancy, just enough to keep from falling as I glided around the rink – outdoors or indoors.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Recycling bins snowed in back of driveway

 

Backyard patio snowed in

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Life demands, Only child, snow shovelling, Winter Weather

Only Child says Memoir reads like fiction

Only Child and Dad few years later

In today’s Memoir Writing session I deal with the different ways you can write your memoir. It can be humorous, serious (or both), in chronological order (or not), but most of all it contains emotions and feelings and people. Although the people are real, from your life, there is a resemblance to fiction – in the way you write your memoir.

You don’t just want a list of events. You want to engage your reader. You want your reader to see your life and the family, friends, and enemies, too, in it.

So write it fiction style. Emphasis on the word “style.” The difference here is memoir is not fiction, it is your truth, your story. So the characters, the people, must be real, and the events must be real. Unlike fiction, you are not making it up. The emphasis is on how you tell your story.

Probably the best way to see how that is done is to read published memoirs. The list of memoir authors would cover several blog posts and I’m not going to post my starter list here. Just Google “memoir writers.”

Below is an excerpt from my memoir-in-the works, but I have shortened it and reworded it some, so it is not exactly as in the memoir. This particular piece of prose deals with being bullied as a child. But it covers a lot more as you will see.

The Bully Gang – Vera, Mare, Shannon (the Bully’s younger sister by two years), and the Bully – line themselves against Dorothy and me. They pursue us up and down the street. Then we run throughout the Harmon front yard, onto the street, back to the yard. This time Dorothy and I chase the others and we trap them inside the yard.

They are jumping up and down, and through the steel gate, yelling, “Nah. Nah, Nah.” I am rolling on a high and nothing and no one can stop me. I pick up a fist-sized rock from the ground, glare at them, squeeze the rock as if it is my new best friend. You’re in for it, Bully. I raise my arm over the gate and throw the rock… smack into Mare’s forehead.

No. No. Not Mare. I like Mare. I can’t understand why she’s hooked up with the Bully. I stand still and shocked. We seem lost in this sudden limbo second. The rock falls to the grass and we jolt into screamland.

Then the Bully Gang breaks free.

“You’re in for it,” they say. “We’re gonna get you now.”

Dorothy and I turn and fly towards my place. The Bully Gang is a posse on our tail. My Dad, on holidays from work, shoves Dorothy and me downstairs. He locks the outside doors for our safety. I look up and peek towards the basement window. The Bully and her followers shake their heads and waggle their hands. Then the Bully flattens her face against the window and ugly intent and uglier looks mesh into what could pass as road kill. I shiver and turn to Dorothy. If we looked in a mirror, our facial expressions would show us resembling twins. We back away and I wish Mom had made curtains for the window. But there is no bright light, no feeling of freedom in running around inside an unfinished basement with its white cement pillars and tarred concrete floors. Dorothy and I are the victims. Why are we the ones confined inside?

Excerpted and shortened from Chapter 4, Protecting the Princess – from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2017 Sharon A. Crawford).

What are some of the fiction techniques used in the above passage?

Until next week.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir

Only Child plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

Only Child on fears about getting old

Only Child with Mom and Dad in the early 1960s.

Only Child with Mom and Dad in the early 1960s.

A artist friend has sent out a survey of four questions on aging for those 60 years and over. The survey is in connection with an art show she is exhibiting in fall 2017. I haven’t done the survey yet, but the first question has really got me thinking. Her question?

As a woman approaching/over the age of 60, what is my greatest fear?

Before I answer it, I’m going back to my mother and my father as their lives as seniors or almost seniors are influencing me.

My father had some form of cancer the last six years of his life. An operation that removed half a lung stopped the cancer there, but it spread to his brain and surfaced twice in two different places. Radiation stopped it in the one area, but four years later it returned in another area of his brain. That one killed him. He was 66, So much for three times is a charm – unless it is a bad charm.  At least Mom and I were with him at the end. I was 16 and despite expecting this to happen, still felt the loss. We had all gone through so much suffering and for this?

After Dad died, Mom was never the same. She had lost her soul mate and her body began to betray her. Arthritis appeared in mega-doses – rheumatoid arthritis in her hands, feet and ankles, causing much pain and disfigurement. If that weren’t enough, God threw in something just as bad – schleroderma – which attacked her insides and her face – hard puffy cheeks and a low (as in not loud, not timbre) almost squeaky voice. She had lost her autonomy and no  matter what her youngest sister and I did, she got worse. She decided to downsize to an apartment and so began the long job of getting rid of stuff. Looking back, I wished I had done more. But I was a typical late teens adolescent, although I was working at my first job as a secretary for the Ontario Government. My boyfriend (later my husband) stepped in to help and organized the two of us to at least get some of the smaller stuff to the apartment, stuff we didn’t want to go in the moving truck. He didn’t have a car or drive then. So there we were, making many trips back and forth (a five-block walk) with as much stuff as possible crammed into her bundle buggy.  And once we were moved to the apartment, I took over most of the grocery shopping, including paying for groceries. But she helped – she taught me how to budget and how to shop. Something I use to this day.

Mom would visit her sister on her sister’s farm in western Ontario but that brought problems too. She fell on the steps (two steps) and back home, she fell off her vanity bench. The latter sent her into a coma and despite an operation, she died five days later, officially of a brain aneurysm. I say arthritis killed her. It happened to fast and I, at 22, was in a daze. Her sister, my godmother, took me back to the farm to heal. But a few days don’t heal. Especially when Mom died at 63.

So, here I sit, in my late 60s, surpassing both my parents in age, and faced with Ramune’s first question.

As a woman approaching/over the age of 60, what is my greatest fear?

It’s a multiple answer, hung together by three words “losing my health.” The litany for that goes something like this. “I fear getting cancer, any cancer, stroke or aneurysm, completing losing any of my senses (and in the last year I’ve had a taste of temporarily losing 85 per cent of my hearing and being threatened with going blind in one eye), losing my mobility and losing my mind.”

Any of those could put me over the deep end. I am not one to wait it out and/or live life not to its fullest. I would like to live to 80, barring the above happening (and I do have health issues which at this point I live with – complaining a lot of course). If any of the above in quotations happens, get me out of here.

Funny, I don’t even consider heart issues as a fear. Maybe I think I could deal with that?

What is  your greatest fear in life? No matter what your age now.

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Only Child at 13  and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

The teenage Only Child with her late mother who inspired her to do good deeds

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, cancer, Dad, Death and Dying, Family, Health Seniors, Mom and Dad, Only child, Seniors