The Rebellion of 2010

 

Moving with my family was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic events in our lives. My wife and I were busy in our search for a home in the city’s downtown core, while my kids were opposed to leaving their lives in suburbia.

We searched and searched for the ideal home, but everything we saw raised at least one significant issue with my wife. It was  too far from a school, or not near enough to a subway station. There were homes that were too close to the main street, or too far from a grocery store.  And  the search seemed to continue for what seemed like an eternity. After intensive investigating, and viewing, we finally found something she could live with. It was just blocks away from a high school, right next door to a grocery store, a few blocks from a subway station, and about a 1/2 hour walk to a hospital. “Well.”, she said, “I suppose its as close to perfect as we’re going to get.”

“What do we tell the kids?”, I asked.

“Leave that with me.”, she said. “It will be a piece of cake.” Now, I don’t eat cake. I never did. I just don’t like it, but I was almost certain this would not be a piece of cake.

We sat down with the 4 remaining kids still living at home, and my wife broke the news. “We’ve found a place. We’re going to be moving downtown. You guys will love it.”

“What the hell?”, one of my daughters shouted.

“I’m not going.”, my son said. “I hate it downtown.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”, another daughter chimed in. “I love it here. I’m not going.”, and she burst into tears. They all got up and left the room.

“Well, that went over well.”, I said to my wife. “Perhaps they don’t like cake either.” And, as I have so regularly been subjected to over the years, my wife gave me the Moroccan death glare, the one that implies “I could kill you with just a blink of an eye.”

“You could have helped out a little.”, she said.

“You said to leave it with you.”, I replied. “Remember? It was going to be a piece of cake.”

“What do we do?”, she asked, “Do we stay here?”

“I think we just leave it alone.”, I told her. “They’ll get used to the idea. It’s not like they have a choice.”

Well, things went from bad to worse, and of course, I bore the brunt of the blame. My son had decided that he was moving out. He had a friend who was looking to share an apartment, and my son was moving in with him. One of my daughters was okay with the move, as long as she had her own bedroom, and we took the dogs with. The 2 other girls were emotionally wrought, filled with anxiety, fear, and hatred. They said that they would not move. They informed me that I could not make them move. They threatened to contact Children’s Aid, and have themselves placed in foster care in order to stay in outer suburbia.

“Its all fixed.”, I told my wife. “We lucked out. One is moving in with a friend, and two are going into the care of Children’s Aid. So we have 4 out of 5 kids no longer living with us. And, just to let you know, there was no cake involved. I substituted pie.”

“Nobody is going into Foster Care.”, she bellowed. “They’re coming with us. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are the parents. We decide what’s best for this family.” She often said we, but in reality, she meant that she decided what was best for this family.

The kids continued to be adamant about not moving, singing rousing versions of ‘We Shall Overcome’, and  ‘I Shall Be Released’, that came out as “I hate you”, and “I wish I was never born”. Over the following days, and weeks, they began a campaign to try to force us to change our minds. They employed subversive tactics such as ignoring us when we called them, refusing to do their chores, and refusing to clean up after themselves. They kept their lights and televisions on, and stayed up late in the early morning hours, on their computers. They posted on social media just how unfair and cruel their parents were. They left us notes stating that they would run away, and we would never see them again. I bought them suitcases on wheels, like a good and thoughtful father, so their departures would be easier.

As the moving date neared, their defiance heightened. They flat out refused to pack up their things. They would hold sit ins in their rooms so my wife and I could not pack for them. “It’s really a simple choice.”, I told one of my daughters. “You can leave with your stuff, or without it, but you will be leaving.”

“You can’t make me move.”, she replied.

“That’s true.”, I told her. “I just hope the family moving in doesn’t mind having you here.”

By moving day, my daughters had, I thought, surrendered, given that they had packed what they wanted to take with. Once we arrived at our new home, they amped up their disapproval of downtown living by refusing to eat, staying in their rooms, and giving us the silent treatment. My youngest daughter gave up the battle soon after we moved in.

The older of the 2 dug her heels in, with letters expressing her absolute and total disapproval of our parenting style and decision making process. Apparently, she believed that she had rights, which my wife and I had violated. I reminded my daughter that, since she was over 16 years old, I no longer had to allow her to live with me. I could, if I so desired, toss her sorry ass out on the street. She reminded me that she had rights. “Not in my dictatorship.”, I advised her. “You’re not obligated to stay here. You can pack up, and leave. Sail away to undiscovered lands, and start a new life. But if you choose to stay here, remember, this is not a democracy. I am not taking votes.”

“I want to talk to mommy.”, she said.

“That’s up to her.”, I said. “But I will ask.” I spoke with my wife about my daughter’s requrest.

“What am I supposed to say to her?”, my wife asked.

“I guess you don’t want to try that cake thing again.”, I remarked, as her Moroccan eyes darted back and forth searching for her prey. “Just tell her the truth. She will come around.”

“And what if she doesn’t?”, my wife inquired.

“Well”, I responded, “she really has no choice. Where is she going to go?”

The negotiations were long and arduous. Hour after hour, day after day of back and forth bargaining had the parties at a standstill. “Why don’t you say anything?”, my wife asked me one night.

“I am using my silence to confuse and befuddle her.”, I said. “I will talk when it is time to deliver the one crushing blow that will bring this to an end once and for all.”

“This isn’t a game.”, she said.

“Ah, my dear wife,”, I advised her, “but it is.”

About 1 week later, my daughter made a fatal mistake, and I could see the end in sight. She had made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in suburbia. She approached my wife and I, asking for money to finance her trip. I took money out of my pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. “How much do you need?”, I asked.

“$20.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said and I picked up a $20 bill, and held it in my hand. “Let me explain how this is going to work. As long as you need to come to me and ask for money, there are rules that must be followed. I will always provide for my family. It doesn’t require you to like me, I really don’t care if you do or not. It does however require you to respect me and your mother. Nothing is free. This money is not just money, it is time taken from my life that I can never get back. It is mine. I have the option of sharing it with you, or not. I am under no obligation to provide with anything other than food, shelter and clothing. I don’t even have to pay for your cell phone. In fact, if this continues, I will cancel it. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”, she said.

“So”, I asked, “What do you want to do, because today we are resolving this. The revolution is over, and we now need to negotiate peace”

“Can I use the money you were going to give me to go to see my friends to paint my room instead?”, she asked.

“When do you want to paint it?”, I responded.

“This weekend.”, she told me. “I don’t think I want to see Elana right now, anyway.”

“Go and get dressed, and we’ll go get paint and the brushes.”, I said.

“I’m sorry.”, she said as she walked to her room to change.

“Me too.”, I told her.

“Well”, my wife said, “that turned out okay.”

“Okay?”, I questioned. “That was a superbly executed act of patience, power and control.  I told you not to worry.”

“I am impressed.”, she added.

“Thank you.”, I replied. “And notice that there was no need for any cake.”

My daughter remained with us for another 5 years, before moving in with her boyfriend, who resides in an outer suburban community. She calls her mother everyday, and comes by and visits at least once a month, whether we want her to or not. She learnt her lesson, and I was proud as hell of her for at least attempting to overthrow the powers that be. None of it really matters to me anymore though, as her boyfriend, who we care for very much, has inherited the little guerrilla inside of her, laying dormant, but waiting for the opportunity to jump out and usurp power and control before he even notices that it is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Comes To The Suburbs…

When it was just my wife, the 2 boys and myself, we decided to get our first family dog. We went to The Humane Society, and found a puppy. It was a Staffordshire Terrier-Hound Of Hell mix. We took it home, proud that we had rescued a dog from certain doom. We named him Rocky, but as he was the third dog that I had owned named Rocky, he was affectionately referred to as Rocky lll. We had the dog house broken very quickly, and it had become a member of the family.

One evening, we all went out, leaving the dog alone. We were gone 2-3 hours, and returned to find our home torn to pieces. Window coverings had been bitten off and chewed up, sections of laminate flooring had been lifted in the kitchen, and the bag of dog food had been spilled all across the kitchen floor.

“What happened here?”, my wife asked.

“Well”, I said, “either our house was broken into by an interior decorator who hated our decor, or this dog is possessed!”

“You think that little dog did all of this?”, she asked, as the dog gagged, and threw up pieces of forest green Venetian blinds all over the floor.

“Um, yes, I do.”, I replied.

My father, who had been training dogs for most of his life suggested we purchase a cage, and when we go out, lock the dog in the cage. I went to the pet & pet supply store at the local mall, and purchased the cage. We trained the dog to spend time in it when we were home, and he was fine. He would simply lay down, and go to sleep.

Several days later, we went out again. I secured the dog in the cage, and left him with a few toys, and a bowl of water. Two hours later, after a Tex-Mex extravaganza at Lonestar, we returned to find the dog out of the cage, with the bowl of water turned upside down on the floor. There was a trail of dog food across the kitchen and into the living room. There were chunks of wood missing from the frame of the door on the main floor bathroom, and deep scratches on the back door, leading to the driveway.

“Oh, my God.”, my wife said, putting her hands over her mouth.

“This is crazy.”, I said, looking at the dog in disbelief. I examine the cage and it seemed secure enough, but somehow this dog had figured out how to escape. The following day, I ventured out to the pet supply company to return the cage that obviously didn’t work for my dog. I explained the circumstances of my returning the cage, and it was suggested that I try a breeder’s cage which, I was told, was escape proof.  I took the new cage home, and introduced it to the dog.

“Do you think this one will work?”, my wife asked.

“Not even Houdini could get out of this cage.”, I informed her. “If it happens again, he’s gone!”, I added.

For several days we watched the dog in the cage. He was content, and not once did he try to break out. We would go out, and walk to the back of the house, peering in through the living room window. The dog seemed to know we were there, turning around and looking back at us. “How does he know we’re here?”, my wife asked.

“I don’t know.”, I told her. “But this is not a normal dog!”

Believing that the cage was secure, we again went out, leaving the dog in his cage, with toys and water. As we returned home, we all sat in silence, deep in our own personal thoughts about the dog.

I parked on the driveway, and we entered the house through the door leading into the kitchen, and so far nothing  seemed amiss. We walked down the hallway, into the living room, and found the door to the cage still locked, and the dog laying on the couch. My wife shrieked.  I went upstairs to the bedroom, and found trails of shredded linen on the floor. In one of the bedrooms, the blinds had been pulled down from their frame, and several planks of the hardwood floor had been ripped up and chewed. When I returned downstairs, my wife was shaking.

“I want him out now!”, she stated, rather sternly. “This is very creepy, and I don’t get a good feeling about this.”

“I’m way ahead of you.”, I said, as I picked up the dog and walked towards the door. “One of us will be coming back, I hope.”, I responded.

“Well,”, she said, “I’m not sure which one is a bigger pain in the ass.”

I dropped the dog off at The Humane Society, and returned home. As we laid awake in bed, my wife kept hearing the sound of a dog whimpering, and growling. “Did you hear that?”, she asked.

“I didn’t hear anything.”, I told her.

“What if its the the house that’s possessed”, she asked, “and not the dog?”

“Well”, I said, “if that’s the case, I won’t be the one coming back.”

 

 

Sons & Mothers

 

Not only are my kids moving out, but those who are on their own, are now considering moving away. I waited for years to get them the hell out of my house, but I am having mixed feelings about their relocating to different cities.

My wife informed me that my eldest son and his new wife are moving to Hamilton, on June 1. While it is not that far away, a mere 45 minutes down the QEW, I have reservations about this decision.

“Are you kidding me?”, I asked her.

“No.”, she answered. “They’re going to Hamilton. Houses are much cheaper there.”

“Well of course they are”, I advised. “Its freakin’ Hamilton.” This was very disturbing to me. “Hamilton?”, I asked again, hoping that I had misunderstood. Just hearing myself say it, sent shivers down my spine.

I called my son. “What the hell are you doing moving to Hamilton?”, I demanded an explanation.

“Ya.”, he said, “We just can’t afford to live here anymore. Its killing us. We have to find somewhere that’s more affordable.”

“There’s nothing in Hamilton.”, I inform him.

“I have friends there.”, he said. “There’s a bunch of stuff to do, if you live downtown. So we’re going to see some places this weekend that are right downtown. Near the clubs, and stuff.”

“And don’t forget the drug dealers, crack addicts, prostitutes, homeless, and runaways”, I told him.

“We’ll be alright.”, he told me.

“Hamilton?”, I questioned again. “Its like Canada’s version Buffalo & Pittsburgh, only worse!”

And now, my other son is planning on moving to Belleville. That’s right, Belleville, Ontario. population 50,000. Situated in the beautiful middle of nowhere, halfway between Where The Hell Is That?, & Can You Even Get There By Car?. “Houses are really cheap in Belleville.”, he advises me.

“I’m sure.”, I agree. “They’re even cheaper in Iroquois Falls, but I wouldn’t recommend that you live there either.”

He informs me that his live in girlfriend is having a difficult time securing a position as a teacher, and has applied to The Hastings & Prince Edward District School Board. I ask him where he plans on working, and he begins his ADHD laden dissertation.

“Well”, he said, “I could find work cooking in a golf club, but I don’t want to turn 50 years old and still be on my feet all day, cooking. I’m going to get a job at a gym, and take a training course to become a personal trainer. The course is short, so I can start working on building up a clientele right away.”

“How many gyms are there in a town of 50,000 people?”, I ask.

“I don’t know.”, he tells me.

“How many personal trainers are there in Belleville?”, I continue to probe.

“I don’t know.”, he responds.

“Well”, I said, “Sounds like you’ve thought this through.”

“I don’t know why I even tell you things.”, he states.

“Because I’m the only one who tells you what you need to hear. There’s no reason for you to move to Belleville to buy a house. You don’t need a house. And you certainly don’t need to follow Cruella Deville around the province while she looks for a job. Let her go to Belleville. Tell her to send you a postcard. Go visit on weekends. I don’t give a shit. But I think its time you took your balls back from her, and made a decision that works for you.”

My wife had been standing in the doorway, listening in, as usual, to my conversation with the boy. “I think that you’re being a little hard on him.”, she said as she walked into the room.

“You told me to talk to him.”, I reminded her.

“Yes, I did.”, she replied, “but I didn’t want you to yell at him.”

“I wasn’t yelling.”, I corrected her.

“I heard you.”, she said as she rubbed the boys back.

“You realize that he’s 32 years old, right?”, I asked.

“Yes.”, she replied. “What does that have to do with anything? What do you want to do?”, she asks him.

“Go to Belleville.”, he tells her.

“Listen to your mother.”, she begins. “That girl doesn’t know what’s best for you. If you move to Belleville you’ll be too far away. We’ll never see you.You need to stay here. If you need help, we can help you out.”

“Do you understand what your mother is telling you?”, I asked the boy.

“Ya.”, he said, somewhat dejectedly.

“Well.”, I tell him. “My advice is to go and pack. I’ll drive you to Belleville myself.”

Later that evening, when we were alone, my wife reminded me that I have 3 daughters who, one day, may decide to move away.

“Its okay.”, I tell her. “I may finally have a chance to use a bathroom around here.”

“You an joke about it all you want,’, she stated, “but it will drive you crazy.”

“That’s okay.”, I said, “I’ve had an enormous amount of practice living with you. I’m pretty sure I’ll get through it.”

“Keep it up”, she advised me, “and you might not make it through the night.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lock, Stock & Over The Falls Without A Barrel

 

Niagara Falls has always held a special place in my family’s collective heart. Just over an hour drive away, it had always been the go to destination for family outings, and weekend getaways.

The other night, all of my kids and their significant others were over for dinner. As the conversation turned to our family trips to Niagara Falls, the day trips and the weekends, my wife asked if I remembered the first time that I took her there. There are many things that my aging memory has lost somewhere in that time and space that seems to swallow up my keys and eye glasses, but that first weekend in The Falls, is forever tattooed in my brain, and on my right forearm.

We were still dating then, in that place between let’s live together and what the hell is going on with you? We went for a weekend, and now my wife was questioning my ability to remember that trip.

“Well”, I said, “Let’s just go back a lifetime or two. Pay attention boys and girls, this will both shock and amaze you.”

“Its not going to be about sex again, is it?”, one of them asked.

“No.”, I said, “Its been so long, I don’t remember any of that stuff.”

“You’re such an ass.”, my wife said, as she hit me in the arm.

I began my tale of the most expensive weekend in Niagara Falls history. “We left on Friday afternoon and, before heading out on a mere one hour drive, we stopped and had a late lunch, as your mother was hungry. Back on the road, after her cheeseburger and fries, I took her to Niagara-On-The-Lake. We parked and walked down the main street, filled with artisan boutiques and shops. Your mother had ice cream. We dove on to The Falls, and checked into our Hotel, a quaint little establishment complete with a heart shaped Jacuzzi, and water bed, nestled between a Wedding Chapel, and a liquor store. To this day, I am still not sure if the trip to the liquor store is to be made before or after the stop at the Wedding Chapel.

After settling in, we headed out to wander around the falls. As we walked along Ferry Street, she spotted a Taqueria, and decided that she was in the mood for a snack. Two tacos and a white wine later, we were off to see The Falls. We walked along the pedestrian pathway that edged the gorge, and marveled at the international tourists  who ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ at the wonder of it all. By now, it was rapidly approaching feeding time, and when she spotted the sign in front of The Love Boat advertising Prime Rib, our dinner plans were secured. Your mother had the prime rib, complete with a baked potato, and some green vegetable thing. I had mussels in garlic and wine sauce. We left the restaurant, satiated, and headed back to the room. As we neared our hotel, your mother spotted a 7-11, and determining that we should have emergency rations in the event of a sudden global shortage of prefabricated junk food, stopped to purchase a bag of potato chips, a bottle of ginger ale, several chocolate bars, and a pack of beef jerky.”

“And you had to pay for all of that?”, one of my daughters asked.

“Oh,”, I said. “In her defense, she always offered to pay. I wouldn’t let her. I figured that she was bound to make herself sick long before I ran out of money.I was however, wrong. I had to make several trips to the ATM just to keep her fed. I mean, she only weighed 100 pounds. How much food could she eat?

Anyway, we spent the night in the room where she finished off the chocolate bars, half a bag of potato chips, some ginger ale, and most of the beef jerky. I was starting to feel sick just watching her eat.”

“You should have dumped her, right there.”, one of them blurted out.

“I thought about.”, I said, “but she was so damn cute. The next morning, we went to Perkins for breakfast. Your mother had an order of pancakes, an order of bacon, and order of sausages, toast and coffee. I kept asking myself where all of this food was going, and hoped that it wasn’t some sort of gastrointestinal parasite. We spent the morning horseback riding along a secluded spot on the shores of Lake Erie. On our way back to Niagara Falls, we stopped at a farmer’s roadside pie stand, and purchased a fresh, home made apple pie, although I have no idea how it was made fresh in the back of his pick up truck. On the way back to the hotel, we had to stop at the 7-11 because, as it was explained to me in the car, no one should have to eat apple pie without ice cream!

Lunch was McDonald’s, and there was fudge from a dessert shop that was being saved for later. After visiting several tourist attractions, and The Harley-Davidson store, I took her across the border to one of the best Italian Restaurants known to man, Como’s in Niagara Falls, New York. We both had veal parmigiana, served with pasta, salad, and a basket of bread big enough to feed a small orchestra. After dinner, there was fudge at the hotel.

Sunday came, and it began with breakfast at a local greasy spoon, after which we checked out of the hotel, and headed back to Niagara-On-The-Lake, to wander through Fort George. We left Niagara, and headed back to the big city. We spent the afternoon at my place, and went out to Swiss Chalet for lunch. It was time to call it a weekend, and I was taking her home, when we passed The Towne & Country Buffet.”

“I think you’re making a lot of this up.”, my wife said.

“Really?’, I asked. “You don’t remember going back 3 times for the prime rib? You also had apple cobbler with chocolate ice cream for desert. Remember now?”

“No.”, she said. “I do not!”

“Well, that’s pretty much how it was, give or take a few meals and snacks. After dropping you off, I went straight to the hospital to donate a kidney. I needed the money for the rent, and a car payment or two.”

“That’s a lie.”, she exclaimed.

“Yes”, I said, “that’s a lie.

“I can’t believe you went out with her again.”, one of them stated. I looked at my wife, and saw in her eyes what I had seen so many years ago.

“She’s was worth it.”, I told them. “Still is. But now you know why I can’t afford to retire. I’m still paying off a restaurant tab from 1995.”

 

 

 

The Sun Rises Over There

 

I have recently confirmed what I have suspected for years. My family is directionaly impaired. There is now, no doubt. Not one of them knows east from west.

“How do I get to the H & M clearance store?”, my wife asks, as I really don’t want to have to waste a day shopping for a new coat.

“Take the Yonge Subway to Queen St. Take the Queen streetcar going west. Get off at Spadina. Walk north about 2 or 3 blocks, and its on the east side of the street.”, I tell her.

‘S0, when I get out of the subway, which way do I go on the streetcar?”. she continues.

“West.”, I repeat. “You go west.”

“Which way is west? Is it my right or left”, she inquires, near panic.

“It depends which way you are facing.”, I answer.

“I don’t understand.”, she moans.

“Okay.”, I explain, I’ll take you.”

We have been dancing to this tune for many, many years, and I am still being asked the same questions.

“The lake is south.”, I tell them all. “If you know where the lake is, the rest is easy. If you’re looking at the lake, your left hand is east, your right hand is west, and behind you is north. The zoo is east, and Kensington Market is west.” Simple? Right. Not to my family.

“Which way is the lake?”, they ask.

My eldest daughter found her way to The Confernece Centre, at Queen and Bay, a mere 30 minute walk from our house, to attend a symposium on Mental Health. Sometime late evening, she called me to tell me that she was lost. She was at Queen & Ossington. “How did you get way over there?”, I asked.

“When I left the building”, she said, “I turned left, and kept going until I realized that nothing looked familiar.”

“You were supposed to go east, not west.”, I told her. “You were supposed to turn right.” I got dressed and drove over to pick her up. I have asked them about this inability to find where they are going, and the consensus is that they all use landmarks to identify which way they should go. The trouble is, they have no idea which way to go to locate the landmarks!

I have purchased compasses, but this  proved unhelpful as well. I have provided each of them with maps I have drawn indicating the route there in green, and the route back in red. They still get confused, and call me to ask for directions. I have suggested using the GPS on their phones, but my frugal wife will not spend the money for the service. It is obvious that my kids inherit this directional impairment from their mother, who I am certain received it from her mother. It is astounding to me that no one can seem to find their way to where they have to go and then get back home again. I have recommended a trail of bread crumbs. They are concerned that the birds will eat them, and they will not be able to follow them back.

“What is the easiest way to get to the clinic?”, my wife asks.

“Take a cab.”, I tell her.

“There’s no way I’m spending that kind of money on a cab.”, she says. “I’ll go by transit.”

“Okay.”, I say. “Go down to Queen, and take the 501 streetcar westbound.”

“Westbound?”, she asks.

“Westbound.”, I repeat. “It will be the one that stops on the north side of Queen. The front of the car should read Neville Park or Roncesvalles. Get on it. Get off at Landsdowne. Its right there.”

“Landsdowne?”, she asks.

“Are you okay with that?”, I inquire.

“Well, it seems complicated.”, she answers. “I don’t know any of those places.”

“Never mind.”, I tell her. “I will drive you.”

“Really?”, she exclaims.

“Ya. It will probably take less time than to have to go out on a search and rescue mission after you don’t come back.”

And I often do lay awake at night wondering if they will all make it back. My family goes out into the great unknown like a rolling stone.And while I am certain that they will gather no moss, I have reservations about their ability to find their way home.It’s enough to drive a directionaly competent person south. On the upside of all of this, I am pretty certain that I could leave, give them directions to where I’ll be, and they would never be able to find me.I am seriously contemplating using this technique as I plan my next vacation.

 

 

The Rites Of Spring

 

Ah, spring. The time of year when trees blossom, and flowers bloom. The days when the air smells like a barnyard, and the dogs go missing, to be found days later sitting on the front porch, smoking cigarettes. My family has always been excited by the announcement that spring is upon us. There is much reflection on what is to expect according to the revelation of Wiarton Willie, the rodent weather wizard. There is an equal amount of joie de vivre, when day light savings time is initiated, and the days get longer. No one in my house dares to complain about the loss of 1 hour of sleep.The highlight of this festive time of year, is the much anticipated 1st Robin sighting. What it does to the heart, and soul. How the sight of this bird is so embedded in the family’s collective psyche.

About 2 weeks ago, my daughter squealed with delight, as she came home announcing that she had just seen a robin, perched in a tree outside of our home.

“It seems a little early for a robin.”, my wife said.

“Not necessarily.”, I interjected. “What kind of robin was it?”

“What do you mean, what kind of Robin was it?”, my daughter asked. “The kind with the red stomach.”

“Well”, I asked, “was it a Canadian robin?”

“A Canadian robin?”, my wife repeated, as skeptical as ever.

I informed them both that there were many birds that no longer went south for the winter. Unlike years ago, I informed her, some of the birds stay here, and now, its mostly the people, the senior citizens who migrate south. I went on to explain that these birds, had adapted, and could withstand the harsh Canadian winters. If it was a Canadian robin that was sighted, well, then it doesn’t really count.

“Why do I not want to believe you?”, my daughter asked.

“Because you’re a skeptic.”, I answered, “just like your mother.”

I pointed out that there are geese, and then there are Canada Geese. There are Arizona cardinals, and St. Louis cardinals. There are orioles, and then there are Baltimore Orioles, as well as Baltimore Ravens. Why then is it so hard to believe that there are Canadian robins?

“How do you tell if it is a Canadian robin?”, my wife asked, suspiciously.

“It would be wearing hockey equipment.”, I answered. “But only because its hockey season.”

My daughter stormed off to her room, cursing under her breath as she walked away. “Why do you always have to torment the kids?”, my wife asked.

“I don’t have to.”, I replied, “I choose to. Its like asking why do you have to irritate me? I know you don’t have to, but you like to, right?” My wife tried very hard not to smile. “I know you do.”, I continued. “As bizarre as it is, you like to watch me get irritated.”

“Oh, I do!”, she stated emphatically. “Its so funny to watch you get frustrated, and not know what to say.”

“Oh, I know what to say.”, I told her. “I’m just not stupid enough to say it.”

It was so much easier when my kids were young. They believed everything. None of them ever doubted any of the stories I told them. “You can’t tell them that kind of stuff anymore.”, my wife said. They’re too old for that. Try talking to them about important things.”

I thought about what was important to my kids. Wifi was certainly important, and shoes, shoes were a very important issue for my daughters. I had no desire to talk to my kids about the internet, or footwear, or, in the case of my sons, gaming systems. “I’m not sure there’s anything that I can talk to them about, that they’re interested in.”, I said.

“Well,”, my wife responded, “then just don’t talk at all.”

“I’m sorry.”, I advised her. “That’s really not an option.”

“Do you remember what you told one of them years ago, and the trouble it caused?”, I was asked.

Many, many years ago, when my middle daughter was in elementary school, grade 1 or 2, I had informed her that my family was from another planet, far far away. At school one day, they were asked to talk about their families, and where they were from. My daughter spoke up, and reported that her mother’s family was from Spain, and Morocco, while her father’s family was from another planet, that she couldn’t remember the name of. Well, there was a big tadoo at the school, and my wife and I had to attend to discuss my daughter making up stories, and disrupting the class. My wife was embarrassed, but she embarrasses easily. I informed the school administration that unless they could prove my daughter had been untruthful, we really had nothing to discuss. I was asked by the Principal to confirm that my family did indeed come from another planet. I merely replied that I could not answer a question like that as it could jeopardise the entire mission. We left the meeting no worse for wear, and my daughter received no consequence for the revelation of her family history.

“I remember.”, I told my wife. “And I still think that I should have shot them with my laser.”

“Go talk to your daughter,”, she advised me, shaking her head in disbelief.

I went for a walk with my daughter, to Riverdale Farm,  and Sugar Beach. It was, after all spring, and the smell of manure permeated the air.

“Did you bring your camera?”, I asked her. “You’ll never know when you just might see a Toronto Blue Jay.”

 

 

Over The Hill

My children, my loving, caring children, have decided that I should try to find a seniors’ living center to move into. They are very concerned that I am having difficulty with my memory, and my ability to complete basic, daily living tasks. I have ensured them that my memory is fine, I merely choose not to remember things that have little or no interest to me, including their piddly ass opinions.. And as for completing basic daily living tasks, well, nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, can cook osso buco or make matzo ball soup, like I can.

They have sent me a barrage of links to various programs and centers, each with a specific theme. There are a few outdoorsy adventure ones, nestled in Elliot Lake, about 200 light years from anywhere else, and a couple of far more passive, and sedate ones in the heart of the city. I have confirmed with my wife that this is not happening. Not ever.

We discussed our position with our kids, and informed them that while they may think that they know best, in fact, they still don’t know anything. I requested input from the dogs, the 2 smartest creatures I have raised, and my sons became offended.

“Alright”, I told them. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to mind your own business, and leave me alone. If you need to worry about something, worry about yourselves. I’m fine. Your mother’s fine. Go home.”.

My kids were silent. They were shocked. My kids just looked at each other, none of them sure how they should respond to the crazy, old man who stood ranting before them. One of my daughters started to cry. She was worried that there would be no one to take of me once they all move on to different cities, to live their own lives. It was all so very ironic.

“I can’t get any of you to take out garbage, or pick up after yourselves. And now you’re worried who will take care of us?”, I pointed out. “If you want to help, go clean the mess you just made in the kitchen. Or cut the grass, or clean the damn bathroom. That would be a big help.”

“We’re taking about what’s going to happen later on.”, one of my genius sons said.

“I’ll tell you what’s going to happen later on.”, I replied. “You’re all going to leave, and your mother will clean the mess you left in the kitchen, and I will cut the grass. Any more thoughts?”

“You’re just being difficult.”, another son said.

“Perhaps.”, I said. “But your mother and I will decide what’s best for us. Until I start walking round the house in my underwear, trying to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle on the microwave, I can make my own decisions.”

” We just want to make sure you guys are alright.”, one of my sons replied. “Its only because we love you.”

“I know.”, I said. “But it would be okay if you spent less time loving us, and more time cleaning up after yourselves. Now, you can either go home, or stay here and mind your own business, but now I feel like taking your mother into the bedroom, and getting naked. When I no longer want to see her with her clothes off, you can look for a place to put me. Until then, we’re good.”

It came as no surprise, really, that they put their coats and shoes on, and left.

“I hope you don’t think we’re really going to get naked.”, my wife said.

“Well, I did.”, I told her, as I headed into the kitchen, trying to improve the reception on the microwave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Kids Are Away…

 

Many, many years ago, when the kids were still small, and there never seemed to be any time for us, my wife and I decided to go away, without the kids, for a mini vacation. We arranged for my mother-in-law to stay with the kids, and off we went. We had reservations at a wonderfully small, all inclusive resort about 4 hours north of Toronto, for 3 nights and 4 days of summer fun.

The drive up was surprising relaxing. We took our time, stopping at farmer’s markets, and shops that dotted the highway. We arrived, and images-6checked into our room. There was a king size bed, a jacuzzi tub, and a terrace that, from our 2nd floor room, allowed for a spectacular view of the lake. There were canoes, wind surfers, and sailboats, and there were no kids. Not only my kids, but no kids at all. It was quiet and serene.

We headed down to the beach. “Let’s go for a canoe ride.”, I suggested.

“Okay,”, my wife replied, “but don’t go too far.”

“It’s a lake”, I reminded her. “We can only go as far as the other shore.”

“No, no.”, she pleaded. “We can’t go way out there. Can’t we just stay close to the shore?”

So, off we went, with me paddling, and her holding on to the sides for dear life. As we began to follow the shoreline, she lost sight of the resort. ” We’re too far.”, she shrieked.

brannonlake3-1024“Not really.”, I said. “We just went around a curve.”

“I want to go back.” So we turned around and went back to where she could see the resort. She told me it would be alright if we just paddled back and forth in front of the compound. After 10 minutes of this nonsense, I headed in, and returned the canoe. “Imagine that,”, I said, ” we wasted time putting on the life jackets. We never got out of 2 feet of water.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, drinking beer, and watching canoes, sailboats, and windsurfers disappear across the lake. We returned to the room and changed for dinner. She seemed distant and consumed. “I have to call home.”, she said. “I have to check on the kids.” And why not, I thought, it’s been 12 hours!

Everything was fine. She hung up the phone, and burst into tears. In between the sobs, she was able to tell me that she hated the resort. She didn’t like being so far away from the kids. What if something happened? It would take forever to get home from up here.

I went to the front desk, to see about a refund. None was available. We packed the car anyway, and headed back through the Near North of Ontario, through pine trees and maples, past farms and towns so small they don’t exist on any map. ” I have an idea.”, She said. “What if we find a hotel close to the house and stay there for a few days. It could still be fun, but I’d feel a lot better being closer to the kids.”

 “Correct me if I’m wrong,”, I said, “but wasn’t the whole idea of this trip to get away from the kids?”

“I know.”, she replied. “I just can’t relax being so far away. I’d feel better if we were close to them”

“Well, it’s a good thing we didn’t end up going to Vegas.”, I said.

 

After driving for 4 more hours, we were having different finding a room on a long, holiday weekend. Several hotels had no vacancies. We were forced to settle on The Emerald Isle Motel, the motel which coincidentally, during my high school days, I had been to with several female classmates, and a blonde French teacher I shall refer to only as Mademoiselle Nips.

When we got into the room, she called her mother to check on the kids. She spent the next 3 days calling her mother and verifying that the children were all still okay. 4 times per day.

We did have some fun, though. We went to Wonderland and Pioneer Village. We visited Klienberg, and St. Thomas. We saw the Elora Gorge, and revisited Centre Island. And through it all, she seemed happy. I, however, just wanted to sail, canoe, and lay on a beach, with a beer in each hand. Over breakfast on the last day, she thanked me for understanding, and for bringing us back to be closer to the kids. She took my hand, and gently squeezing it asked “What time do we have to be out of the room?”

I looked up at her, and she was smiling. “Not yet”, I said.  She winked. Man, how I love that woman.

 

Of Mice And Menopause

 

One of my daughters who still lives at home, has decided that she NEEDS a pet to make her life complete. She cites loneliness, and heartbreak, following the demise of her Beta Fish, as the driving force. She has asked to many pets over the years. She has requested a hedgehog, an armadillo, and a pig. She got none of them. She has tried to get me to say yes to a donkey,a tortoise, and a goat.

She gets this from her mother. Many years ago, my wife called me and asked if I thought we should get a dog. I have always ones dogs, and I knew that I, not my wife or kids, would be doing all of the work. I’m told hermit didn’t think it was a good idea. She begged and pleaded. I dug in, and told her I didn’t think so. She cried. I said nothing. Her crying turned into hysterical sobbing. I said yes. And, as I told her that fateful day on the phone, I had to train the dogdog, walk the dog, feed the dog, and take the dog to the vet. She told me she was sorry, and blamed menopause for her crying.

A few years later, she told me that the dog seemed lonely, and she thought we should get another dog for him to play with. “Perhaps the dog wouldn’t be so lonely if the kids spent time walking him.”, I suggested. She started crying again, explaining that she really wanted a puppy. It occurred to me that the reason we had so many kids, was simply that she liked babies. Once they great up a bit, she wanted another one. And now, she was after another dog. I knew it really didn’t matter what I thought, said or wanted. She brought the new puppy home 2 days later, and again I was the walker, feeder, and trainer.

She has not supported my decision to get ban pets. She keeps watching animal videos on the internet. She regularly oohs and ahs over videos of puppies, pandas, and most recently an owl. She animalsinsists that I watch the video clips and asks “Isn’t he cute?”. I don’t respond. “Well”, she says, “Isn’t he?”.

“No pets.”, I tell her. “No animals.”

“I just think it would make her happy, if we got her a small pet”, she says.

“How small?”, I ask.

” I don’t know”, she answers, ” something like a guinea pig. They’re small”.

” It’s not happening.”, I say quite sternly, ” I am no going to clean that damn rodent’s cage.”

evil-mouse” I’ll clean the cage.”, She replies. We both laugh. We both know she will never, ever clean the cage.

“Perhaps we should just get her a field mouse. A free range field mouse. It will live outside, and much like her, will come around whenever he feels like it. If we leave food all over the place, it may come more regularly. Maybe bring a friend or 2.” My oratory complete, I sat there like a peacock. If only I owlhad a sceptre. My wife agreed. No pets. No animals.

“You have to watch this”, she told me, “they’re adorable. Look how cute they are when they’re paying. Ahhh. Ooohh”

“Ah, hell”, I thought. “We’re getting an owl!”.

Chai Anxiety

 

I get anxious allot. In fact, I feel anxious most of the time. Even right now. I was in my late twenties when it started, it is the reason I no longer watch the news. I just can’t.

anxietyMy wife bombards me with daily updates on the state of the world. It begins with one of those “Did you hear…?” questions, that she knows I did not hear. But it makes her feel important, so I indulge her, despite my angst. The other day, as I walked in the door, I was greeted with “Did you hear who died today?”, and then silence, as if I would need some time to take an educated guess. And so, after careful thought, I offered “Big Bird”. Quite upset at my childish response, my wife asked if I could take anything seriously. “I hope not.”, I told her.

It seemed that Florence Henderson had died. I had assumed that she had passed away many years earlier. My wife was actually quite saddened by the news, and I told her it was, indeed, sad news. I, however, didn’t really care. Death is the most anxiety provoking thought I have. It reinforces my immortality and, as I get older, the certainty that I too will share this fate with the talented Florence Henderson. Sometimes it keeps me up at night.

Many years ago I spent some time with a Dr. Twatwaffle, dressed in a tweed jacket, patches on the elbows, and a black turtleneck. We came to no resolution. I disliked the man, and I particularly found his attire quite anxiety provoking.

news“Did you know. Stephen Hawking predicts the planet will be uninhabitable in 1,000 years?”, my wife states with some exuberance. “Do you know how much money we could save if we got rid of the cable, changed our cell phone plans, stopped eating out, and lived on a very strict budget?” Feeling like my head is going to implode, I tell her we need to talk. I remind her, once again, that I don’t want to know. I cannot fix the problems, bring back the dead, or live like a hermit. I just want some peace and quiet. “Why can’t we talk about other things?”, I asked.

“Do you want to talk about the kids?”, she queries.

I reach for the jar of Lorazepam, and prepare myself for the upcoming deluge of things I don’t want to know about. She looks at me, puts her arm around me, and kisses me on the cheek. “Never mind.”, she says, “I’ll take care of it.”

“You know”, she adds, “the light is out in the kitchen, and the toilet is clogged….”. Before she can finish the sentence, I let her know that I am on it. I get  up, and she reminds me just how much she loves me. Instantly, the universe settles, and the anxiety dissipates.

“We’re having goulash for dinner”, she advises. I despise goulash. I turn to look at her, and it really doesn’t matter. The world remains as it should. I will eat the goulash, and forever remember that this is just how it should be.