Tag Archives: Mom and Dad

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 on public transit then and now

More modern TTC bus

Traveling on public transit (TTC) in Toronto when I was growing up was simpler than now. And yes, sometimes fun. I lived half a block from a major street. My street was partway between two bus stops so Mom and I would get to the end of our street, look both ways and see if a bus was coming. It it was, it became a judgement call – go to the left (closer, but a street with lights to cross) or go to the right (a little further, but no waiting for lights to change). We had some idea of the time the bus was supposed to show up and it usually was on time or close to on time. Sometimes the bus stop was just around the corner as the TTC had a penchant even back in the late 1950s and 1960s to move the bus stop.

Mom and I had several adventures on public transit – not heart-stopping or bad – but adventures for a little girl. Riding on old streetcars in downtown Toronto. Riding the King Street car to the CNE (yes, it did go to the CNE back then), coming home on the streetcar and almost falling asleep on the way home. Mom stayed awake (I think), but even if she fell asleep we were going to the end of the line.

Newer, but not newest TTC streetcars

Then the first subway line opened March 30, 1954 . We missed the opening day, but took lots of rides on it to downtown Toronto and back afterwards. Sometimes Daddy came along too if on a weekend and we were heading up north (North Toronto) to visit family. Sometimes we had to make a change to a bus at the Eglinton end. But in winter before the first part of what is now called Line 2 opened on the Bloor-Danforth, we didn’t wait down on an inside platform to go east. Instead we stood shivering on a somewhat open platform in the middle of Bloor Street, just east of Yonge. Our only “shelter” was a back wall with an overhang temporarily in place. The second phase of the Yonge line, the University extension, running from Union Station to St. George Station opened February 23, 1963.  But I didn’t take it until a few years later when I started working as a secretary at Queens Park.

The first phase of the Bloor-Danforth line from Woodbine to Keele opened in 1966 – just in time for me to take it to business school that fall. By the time I started work the following year, subway cars were getting crowed. People blocked doorways so getting on and off in rush hour was a challenge. In late 1969, when I worked as a clerk in Morality at Toronto Police headquarters (it was on Jarvis Street then), I often ran into a couple of the detectives in Morality. One day, they decided to teach one of these door blockers a lesson. Mr. Door Blocker was the only one who wouldn’t move out of the doorway to let people in or out. He just stood smack  in the middle of the doorway. So the two detectives decided to teach him a lesson. No, they didn’t arrest him. Instead when the  three of us arrived at our stop – Sherbourne – they each grabbed one of the blocker’s arms and took him off the train. I followed and watched. The detectives held him there on the platform until the train’s doors closed and the train sped away. I stood there and laughed.

Fast forward to today and it is too complicated and not as gentle. Yes, we have more subway lines but not enough to get people to work and everywhere else without them being stuffed up against each other. Subway stations, particularly the ones to transfer to another line, are jam packed, particularly in rush hour or of there is some big event on in Toronto on weekends (read “every weekend”). Passengers have escalated the rudeness and inconsiderateness to high (low?) levels. They not only stand blocking doorways while absorbed in their digital devices, some of them think they are entertainers and swing from the poles or overhead racks where you hang on for dear life. There are blue seats for us seniors, those with disabilities (I qualify for both although the latter is somewhat invisible), and pregnant women. But in crowded subways who is sitting on some of these seats – young men and women too busy with their digital devices to see if there is someone else who needs to sit there. Not all are like that and I am grateful for those who have given up their seat for me and without me even asking But I’ve had a few words with those who don’t. And despite the TTC criteria for who can sit on those seats, if I see a parent and young kids sitting in the blue seats, I don’t say anything. I think they need to sit there too.

The infamous blue TTC seats not usually empty

There are also all the TTC subway renovations, signal problems, track problems, closures and bus drivers who can’t seem to stick to their schedule. But that’s for another post. I have stories here. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, Public Transportation, Toronto public transit, TTC buses, TTC Subways

Only Child on rebooting your life

House front of my childhood home

Growing up an only child can often unleash a myriad of feelings. In me, the negative ones  were fear, loneliness, and often being the victim of bullying. My late mother used to help combat this by setting up a restful situation which I now call “rebooting my life”.

I was still in grade school, around eight years old. On sunny summer mornings when no one was around to play with, Mom would set up the card table, a chair, my big box of crayons, my colouring books and me outside on the front veranda. I could colour to my heart’s content. But more so, I got the chance to look around at the green grass which my Dad (sometimes with my help) mowed with the push mower, at the shrubs and  roses and at the quiet neighbourhood. Occasionally I heard a bird chirp. Seldom would a car whiz by on the street which I faced and never would a wasp dare to come near me – at least  not that I remember. But once in a while someone, maybe a neighbour I knew or didn’t know, would walk by on the street below. We would give each other the friendly eye and smile.

Today I do my own version of Mom’s rebooting my life. When things get overly problematic and/or busy (which they have this summer) I go out into my garden. I may dig in and remove weeds, pick berries or collect vegetables, but often I sit outside to eat my meals at the patio table in the backyard. Sometimes I sit in the shade of my neighbour’s overhanging black walnut tree and look out at the garden or read. Sometime I take photos of my garden. And yes, I do sometimes sit out front on my veranda, but I don’t colour. The recent trend (probably now passe anyway) of adults colouring in adult colouring books never caught on with me. Could be because I am a professional writer and amateur photographer. You really wouldn’t want me drawing anyway. I can’t even draw a straight line – with a ruler.

View of today’s backyard garden from patio

Dusk view from my current front veranda

However, looking back at my childhood (I know – my age is showing), I realize Mom had cottoned onto a good idea. We all need to reboot from all the stuff in our lives.

Only Child’s home and garden for her health circa 2011

Do you reboot? If you reboot, how do you reboot?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, Crayons and coloring, Gardens, Life Balance, Mom and Dad

Only Child explores senior living past and present

Only Child and Mom mid 1960s

My late mother had a saying – “you can’t win no how.” Which sounds negative, but when you look at how people’s lives pan out, Mom maybe had a point. Especially as her life was cut short  by a brain aneurysm at age 63. She was also somewhat crippled by arthritis and scleroderma. All this happened after my dad died of cancer at 66.

Perhaps I should consider her somewhat lucky that she didn’t live longer to have to deal with more bad things happening in her life. At the time of her death she and I shared an apartment. However, I was engaged and the wedding ceremony and reception were already booked – the latter by Mom herself. She was scared to live alone and pondered whether she should spend six months (late spring to early fall) annually at her younger sister’s on the farm. Maybe not a good choice as Mom fell on the doorstep outside my aunt’s farmhouse. This was a new house and these entrance steps numbered two.  It was the damn arthritis.

The damn arthritis really was what killed her. It made her fall off the vanity dresser chair  (in her bedroom) onto the wooden floor and bang her head. She got headaches but thought they were because of her eyes – maybe new glasses – and she had an ophthalmologist’s appointment in mid-September.

She went into a coma overnight the end of July and had to be rushed to the hospital. Despite surgery, she never woke up and died five days later.

When I look at my life compared to hers, I begin to wonder. First, about her saying “You can’t win no how.”

I certainly am not going through my senior years without a fight despite my health issues of diminishing eyesight in my left eye and getting worse, a digestive disorder, living on low income, and  having to deal with more problems than well – let’s just say that the phrase about God not giving anyone any more crosses than they can bear is a myth.

As a child,  I was meek, mild and shy  and didn’t really get my courage legs until in my 30s. My writing and being a single parent then forced me to change. It grew gradually. But I have one trait ,which I think comes from my Dad – I am a stubborn senior and God or somebody help those who make my life miserable. On the other hand those who are good to me and help and treat me well, I try to do the same for and to them. “Do onto others as they do onto you” is more my saying than “you can’t win no how.”

Perhaps besides the stubborneess, my saving graces are my writing, my garden, my son and his girlfriend, my cousins,  close friends, reading (despite the bad eye) and even watching favourite TV shows, and walking. A keen interest in life and a desire to see justice done doesn’t hurt either.

Now, if I could just find time to get to bed early enough to get enough sleep…

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What is your story – along these lines?

Sharon

Only Child Writes

My son, Martin, me, and Juni by my garden

 

 

 

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Filed under Arthritis, Assertiveness, Health, Mother, Only child, Seniors

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 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

 

 

 

 

C

 

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