Bereavement

Friday, August 8, 2014

I was thinking this morning, in the early dawn, just after 5:00 a.m., as I lay awake in the motel room, waiting for Attila to awake, that a decent analogy for my life can be made by comparing it to vehicular transportation.

My life is like driving a tank. Most lives in North America are like driving mid-size sedans. The lives of the wealthy resemble sleek, stealthy, black sports cars. The lives of most humans on earth resemble foot transportation.

Back to the tank analogy. My life began with a sturdy frame, good health and freedom from physical want, which meant adequate food and shelter. Early on this frame began to take on protective layers, metal armour to withstand the conditions in the environment. Each phase of new experience added a newly forged, steely layer. Each layer added weight and bulk, making maneuverability more difficult with each passing year. To keep the tank moving required love, determination, focus, and faith. And so it went, over the years of my life, as each layer of circumstance added bulk and weight to the journey.

There are roads that tanks cannot travel. Some of those roads are too narrow, and some too delicate to support the weight of a tank. And yet my tank of a life has been able to move down many avenues of opportunity.

When Attila’s Dad passed away last February, his two brothers decided to have a small, and immediate funeral in Florida. Attila was not able to leave work and travel from Canada to the United States at the time. His two brothers assured Attila that they would organize a second funeral in Canada, where his Dad was born, grew up, and raised the family. The brother’s however, did not follow up on this, and nothing was organized. This left Attila at loose ends in regards to formally mourning his Dad.

So, a month or so ago I began to research Attila’s paternal family history. I wrote to a local genealogist in the area where Attila’s Dad was born, Kirkland Lake, and inquired about resources for research. The genealogist was nothing short of amazing. She had collected records that I never would have found on Ancestry, or even in a library. Using her vast knowledge, and careful archiving of records, she found Attila’s Grandmother, for whom we did not even have a surname. She also located the farm where Attila’s Grandparents had lived, and Attila’s Grandmother’s grave.

Taking his bereavement time, Attila and I headed for Kirkland Lake on Wednesday morning. We found a lovely motel on the beach, where we stayed for three nights. It was a one hour drive from Kirkland Lake, situated on the shore of Lake Timiskaming, overlooking the water. The rooms were reasonably priced, and the beds were very comfortable. The wifi didn’t work in our room, but it did work in the breakfast room, and from the sitting area in front of our room.

It was a long drive. The scenery along Highway 11 was beautiful, so that the long hours in the car passed pleasantly. After we arrived in at the motel and settled into our room, we sat outside in the chairs provided, enjoying the view of the Lake, and distant shores of Quebec. Eventually people began to arrive at the yacht club located across the road from the motel. Apparently every Wednesday evening the sailboats are taken out into the lake for a “race”. It was beautiful to sit in the breeze and watch the sails on the water. Later, there was a free concert in the pavilion on the water, just down from the motel, so we walked over and enjoyed an evening of toe-tapping live music.

The next morning, Thursday, after a pleasant breakfast provided at the motel, we headed north to New Liskeard, where we purchased a local map, and accessed the internet in the McDonald’s parking lot. I called the local Genealogist, Cathy, and we made arrangements to meet the same day in Kirkland Lake.

What followed was the most amazing day! We met Cathy, who took us to the Harry Oakes museum, where we purchased a history book, inscribed it with a dedication to Attila’s Grandmother, and donated it to the local history library. We then insisted on taking Cathy out for lunch, and were delighted when she called her husband to join us. As it turns out, Cathy’s husband knows my Uncle, a Geological Engineer, who was born and grew up near Kirkland Lake. He had been working with a friend, who came along, making it a five-some. Cathy led us to an excellent restaurant called Franny’s, where we had wonderful meal. I brought my own food in, and the owners and staff at Franny’s made me very welcome.

After lunch Cathy arranged for us to meet Helgi, a Finnish Canadian who knew of Attila’s Grandparents. Attila spent happy hours listening to wildlife lore, and learning about the land that his Grandparent’s had owned and farmed. It was difficult to end such a pleasant visit, but we eventually pulled ourselves away, and headed over to Cathy’s house.

Cathy is an incredible Genealogist for the area! She has meticulous records, collected over many, many years, and organized for quick and easy access to information. She printed a map for us, of the Township where Attila’s Grandparent’s farm was located. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with Cathy, chatting about family, and genealogy. We discovered that some of her ancestors lived in the Parry Sound area, and I had the family recorded in my genealogy database! She had collected several binders of information on the Parry Sound area, which she gave to me, as she seldom refers to them. I assured her that any Parry Sound queries she might have, I would be very happy to share whatever I know. I would like to keep in touch with her.

On Friday we drove back to Kirkland Lake, purchased some flowers at a local store, then located the cemetery where Attila’s paternal Grandmother was buried. After consulting with the very helpful man in the cemetery office, we followed the map that he provided and easily located the grave.

It was an emotional time for Attila, kneeling before his Grandmother’s resting place, bringing her flowers. We stayed at the cemetery for quite some time, sitting under the trees beside her grave, talking about the things we knew about her.

Attila brings flowers for his Grandmother’s Grave
AttilaGrandmother

After leaving the cemetery, it was time to find out where Attila’s Grandparents had farmed, and where Attila’s Dad spent the early years of his childhood. To do this we drove south and turned onto a gravel road, heading into the bush. We drove many miles, and in places the road was so riddled with potholes that we had to inch our way forward. At one point we came across a vehicle, and a woman at the side of the road who was picking blueberries in the forest. Her father was with her, so we asked him directions to the Eby Pothole, which is just south of the farm we were looking for. He told us it was another four or five miles further.

The road did not improve, so we slowly proceeded and finally came upon the Eby Pothole. The gentleman had been correct, we couldn’t miss it. After examining the condition of the road beyond that point, we decided against driving further. Our car is low to the ground, so that it was possible we could become stuck in one of the road potholes. We were a long way into the bush, and had no desire to be stuck out there!

The Eby Pothole. Not exactly prime farmland!
Ebypothole

We could see that the land in the area was ill suited to farming. It must have been difficult to have wrestled a living out of the landscape!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Attila and I arrived home on Saturday afternoon. Our drive from the Timiskaming area to the Muskoka’s was through a varied and beautiful countryside. The lush farm country around Earlton and New Liskeard slowly gave way to the ancient rock formations of the Canadian Shield. We stopped at several picnic areas, to rest and refresh. We stopped in Katrine for lunch. The parks were full of families picnicking. No room there for us. No matter, after parking in a shady spot, we lifted the trunk of the car, set up my lawn chair, prepared a quick cold meal from the cooler in the back of the car, and enjoyed a quick and satisfying lunch.

After arriving home we unpacked the car and began the post trip chores, washing laundry, cleaning out the coolers, unpacking the bags, etc.

Attila spent the rest of his evening splitting and stacking firewood.

Today, Sunday, Attila spent the morning splitting and stacking firewood. Then we packed the car for a visit to the camp lot. This trip was focused on base of the very mature tree beside the new driveway. The roots were cut on the driveway side, to accommodate the new entrance. With us we brought plants that had overrun the driveway at the country house, Hosta Lilies, Ajuga, and Echinacea. Attila scoured the camp lot for large rocks, gathering them beside the tree with the cut roots. I began to fill buckets with top soil, left by the contractor who put in the driveway for us. The rocks were stacked around the trees exposed roots to build a small stone wall around the disturbed area. I filled the area within the rock wall with earth, Attila did the planting, and I watered the transplants. It looked wonderful!

While we were working, Harriet and Hogan arrived for a visit on their ATVs. We sat chatting, looking at the view, for some little time. Then they were off down the track, returning to their cottage for the evening. They had a fishing trip planned for later that evening. We went back to working on our rock garden. Then Attila loaded as much firewood as he could manage into the back of the car, we packed up our things, put away our chairs and the assortment of items we leave at the camp, and were on our way home.

As I write Attila is moving the firewood to the woodshed.

What a nourishing and enjoyable time we have had these last five days! A colleague of Attila’s asked him how he managed to get a “holiday” in the summer! Attila, full of humour and honesty, said, “someone had to die.” Attila felt well satisfied that he had honored his Dad’s memory by taking this trip.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

24°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Sunday 10 August 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 23.5°C
Dewpoint: 15.9°C
Humidity: 62%
Wind: W 4 km/h
Humidex: 28

Quote

“The words ‘I am…’ are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to. The thing you’re claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you.”
A. L. Kitselman

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15 Responses to Bereavement

  1. What a lovely, positive response to bereavement. I’m so glad you had an enjoyable time. I was a bit worried, given the title of your post.

    Your picture of Attila putting flowers on his grandmother’s grave reminds me of the journey I took almost exactly 20 years ago, to view my own mother’s grave. My mother died when I was 11 and I couldn’t handle going to the funeral, so no one forced me, thankfully. But it did leave a rather large hole in my life, especially some months later when my grandparents and I moved from Seattle to New England. Some 25 years later my grandmother and I traveled back to Seattle for me to finally visit my mother’s grave. It was hard. I really didn’t know how I’d handle it. I feared I would break down. Instead, I found peace on that lovely hillside overlooking a beautiful lake and a jagged emptiness in my heart was closed.

    I see your point about adding in layers and becoming a tank in your life. I’ve had experiences that brought me to that point. Fortunately, somehow I’ve survived and found that I can shed some of the layers. Finding DH, my shade and oasis, has made life less “heavy”. He allows me rest and a place where I needed hold onto those protective layers. There have been times since I met him that I’ve feared he’ll be like others I’ve met along the way but he’s always proved to be the upright, forthright, loving, trusting man I first judged him to be. He’s my safe harbor and even though I didn’t have him early in life to protect me and support me, I have him now at a time where we can create comfortable, happy times in our later years.

  2. That should be ” He allows me rest and a place where I no longer needed to hold onto those protective layers.”

  3. Maggie says:

    Teri, your visit to your mother’s resting place sounds heartwarming and beautiful. The phrase “jagged emptiness” is so apt, and it is heart warming and beautiful that you found closure.

    A good partner is worth their weight in gold! Your husband sounds like a wonderful man. Attila is such a dear companion, but I find his time and energy are consumed by the demands of his job, which gobbles up his focus almost entirely. I enjoy his company for a few short hours a day, and am always wanting more!

  4. Steve-Paul says:

    Wonderful story. Blessings.

  5. Maggie says:

    Thanks Steve-Paul!

    Hope you are enjoying your summer!

  6. Bex says:

    I feel like I’ve taken a vacation in the North Country myself after reading your very literate and descriptive tale. A true tale but it could be a wonderful book, so many twists and turns in it, filled with colourful characters and surprises. Have you ever written a book Maggie? It’s in you… it just needs to come out, if you haven’t.

    xxx

  7. Maggie says:

    Goodness Bex, you certainly are a positive energy! The only books I have written are dry, dry tomes, an academic book, and a genealogy book which consisted primarily of who begat whom.
    I have written several short stories, and lots of poetry. Creativity was not well understood or received in the environment of my youth, there have been many barriers to free expression that have hindered my writing. I am in a happier place now! You have given me something to think about Bex! Thank you.

  8. Joan says:

    I’m so glad you had such a good time, so well deserved! Blessings!

  9. WendyNC says:

    Maggie, what a wonderful way for you and Attila to honor his father’s passing, along with that of his fore-bearers. I suspect it was far more meaningful than anything which might have been organized by someone else. While it’s a shame that “someone had to die” for it to happen, it did give the two of you quite a stretch of days together, which is a nice final gift from Attila’s father.

  10. Maggie says:

    Thanks for the good wishes Joan!

  11. Maggie says:

    Wendy, I think Attila will be touched by the idea that those five days were a “final gift from Attila’s father”!

  12. Wendy, I love the idea of those five days being a final gift from Attila’s father. What a wonderful thought!

    Maggie, you speak of retirement often. Hopefully, you and Attila will be getting to that point soon where you can focus more on each other. I know I’ll be happy when DH is finally retired from his job, though I know that my little side business will probably go on for many years simply because I truly need something enjoyable and productive to do with some of my time.

  13. Kate says:

    Loved it. Almost like being there!

  14. Maggie says:

    Teri, retirement for Attila is at the very least 13 years away. My retirement has not been by choice, but by lack of opportunity to do otherwise. So we make the most of the few hours we have together. And for the next 13 years, as far as we can determine, I will be spending most of my time left to my own devices, with limited resources. It is not ideal, but there are worse things!