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

My Brothers

Today I am remembering a project that I worked on with my two youngest brothers; I am the eldest of six. We were involved with digging a trench and installing a drainage pipe for an ancient septic system. None of us had ever tackled such an “aged” project before. We all had our own unique technical knowledge, gained from other projects we had been involved with over the years. We all had some transferable skills to offer the project.

What struck me most was my brothers’ mode of interaction. We listened to each other respectfully, considering each concept presented. What a pleasure, a deep pleasure, it was to interact with these two men as a member of a team. It is not often males have the personal confidence to allow egalitarian female participation. I think our parents did something very right by us.

Older people have a lot of something that is really, really important to the human species. Experience. There are different kinds of experience. One can, for instance, gain experience through experimentation; experience that is isolated in time and space. The experience that older people have though, is a richer kind of experience, because it is cumulative, based on generations of experimentation and practice. This kind of experience is invaluable. This kind of experience cannot be gained in a classroom, it has to be developed “in situ”, over generations.

My Grandparents were the source of all wisdom in the world where I grew up. I adored them. I admired them. I respected them. I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could manage. Luckily, through the 1970s, I lived within driving distance of their home. I visited them several times a week, and always came away feeling enriched. I had a close and loving relationship with my Grandmother, who never spoke a harsh word about anyone, and tolerated no “nonsense”. Our time was spent being together; I helped with whatever my Grandmother was doing. We spent time together, in her world.

When my Grandmother passed away it shook my world. I continued to visit my Grandfather several times a week, spending time, helping with whatever he was doing at the time, in his world.

I still long for the company of my Grandparents, always will I suppose.

I learned a lot from my Grandparents, things I could never have discovered through my own experiences or education. It wasn’t just how to bake bread, or how to keep a fire in a wood stove. There is much to life (and survival) beyond the physical. I learned that love and respect are vital to peace of mind and healthy living.

Through my many years I have built on the cumulative experience that was shared, mixing in bits and bobs from my formal “education”, BA, Hon BA, MA, PhD, and marrying it to that cumulative experience whenever I could.

It has been heartbreaking to watch information become a cheap commodity on the internet. To find that self-proclaimed experts abound, and that the difference between self-promotion and knowledge is not recognized by a lot of people.

“Respect your elders” has come to have very little meaning in today’s world. That is the basis for social breakdown, when humans cease to recognize the value of cumulative experiential knowledge, passed down through connected generations; it is the DIVIDE AND CONQUER of the information age.

For example, in Nunavut people are primarily dependent on imported foods, and have lost the ability to sustain life on local resources. Their survival skills are all but lost to them. A whole history of cumulative experience exterminated in one generation.

The Changing Food Economy in Nunavut: Will Country Food Stores Secure Nunavut’s Food Supply?

Nunavut Food Protest: Inuit Organize Widespread Protest Over Hunger And Food Costs

When young people gain knowledge, support, and experience from older people it has to work both ways, benefits must be available to all parties involved in an equitable exchange. “Mining” older people’s knowledge, resources, and experience without reciprocity degrades the quality of the exchange, inhibits flexibility and balance.

I suspect that if you are reading my journal, you have already considered all of these points, and more. Thanks for listening!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-1 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -1.0°C
Dewpoint: -1.7°C
Humidity: 95 %
Wind: NW 5 km/h

Quote

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”
Marshall McLuhan
1911 – 1980