Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas story...And Gord Bless Us, Everyone...

      The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Daddy bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. ... It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.
      “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Daddy, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?

      I started writing something completely fictional, something I hoped would be like Dickens but it seemed more like the Brady Bunch Christmas special and I was Jan. It just wasn't me...it just wasn't us. Maybe I'm just not that good a writer, maybe the times have finally changed and Dickens has past his best before date (though I doubt that) or maybe we are just too jaded  to be Dickensian anymore. We are a lot of things but the Brady Bunch we ain't. Nuclear family with the occasional explosion, sometimes heavy on the fallout but with few lingering effects.
      I must confess that I love 'A Christmas Carol'. Sure it's a heartwarming beloved tale of the holiday season but it's the deeper meaning that I love. 'Even if you are wicked your whole life, cool ghosts will still come to see you once a year!' So just desserts and all that. OK, I might be reaching a little...The message has always been to me that everyone can get a second chance, regardless of how crappily they have treated those around them. OK, REALLY bad people likely won't get a second chance, they would probably only use it to do more really bad things. You bastards know who you are and you'll get yours...rest assured. Now as for the rest of us.
      At 44 years old, I would like to think that I am a fairly decent person but good christ it took me an awfully long time to get here. You are probably reading this thinking 'What you? A bad person? No, I say. A thousand times no!' Yes true believers, I was not always as I am today. I looked back over my life and tried to remember something good that I had ever done...and I couldn't bring one to mind. I mean I wasn't evil or anything, I never screwed anyone over to get something I wanted but I certainly never did anything that didn't have my own best interest at heart.
      It's strange that when kids come along, all the other shit starts to melt away and adulthood seems to be what's left. I'm not saying that as soon as Isobel was born, that I became a stellar example of a good person, I didn't. Probably just the opposite. Still clinging desperately to the life I left. Remember kids, playing in a band means you never have to grow up. Look at Mick and Keef. But there were real concerns (money and gainful employment and all the other things that you don't give a shit about when it's just you) and responsibilities and now a little tiny thing counting on me to take care of her and her growing list of needs.
      Now there weren't any ghosts (how cool it would have been though) unless you count a hormonally haunted mother with a hair trigger temper and there wasn't any epiphany about the joys of parenthood and the responsibilities of being an adult. I can't even distill it down to any particular episode, it was a gradual thing.
      I was unbelievably selfish and immature to a lot of people and it just sort of went away over time. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I started to grow up. I remember talking to Frantic Frank a few years ago about how I couldn't be angry anymore, over any of the things that happened in the band. It just took too much time and energy to be mad for that long and I think this is more or less the same thing. I simply couldn't be that person anymore. I know there are many fathers who still put their needs before the needs of anyone else, including their children but I couldn't be one of them. I wouldn't want to be. And while we are on the subject, how do you teach your children to be decent people and contributors to the good of the world if you yourself are a gluttonous, joy sucking swine?  Lets face facts, if you don't want your children to do well, be decent people and make the world a better place for them having been in it, there is probably something the matter with you.
      So what's it all about, Alfie? What does all of this mean? Well like Scrooge, I have come to a few realizations about this life and this time of year is about as good as any other to be reflective. I have learned that it it s never too late to change who you are or who you think you are, you can teach old dogs new tricks. I have learned that children have most of the answers to life's problems. Really they do but few ever actually listen to them. I am learning to listen. My children, oddly enough, are two of the smartest people I know. But if I really have to give one thought, one Chrimbo message, it's this; make the world a better place than it was when you got here. Kindness comes in thousands of forms, all of them free. It could be something as simple as helping an old man to get into his wheelchair, or smiling at someone you pass on the street or giving a pair of shoes to a friend who is going through a rough patch. The deed itself doesn't matter, the effect is the same. I was a cold hearted cynical sonofabitch for a very long time and I just don't want to be that anymore. I have seen the difference something as simple as a smile can make in a person's life and I liked the feeling I got from it. The world can be a pretty scary, shitty place to live but I think it wants to be a good place. Good for us and those that will follow us... but we have to help it along. Be nice to one another.

      We were watching 'A Christmas Carol', the George C Scott version. Izzy asked me why his voice was like that?
      "Because he was full of evil and badness, eventually your voice will go like that too."
      "Really?"she asked.
      "No," I said. "I think he just smoked too much."
      "Aww," she said. "I want my voice to sound like that."
      We continued to watch and she was excited by the ghosts.
      "When do the zombies come?"
      "Wait, what?" I asked.
      "The zombies," she said. "When do the zombies come?"
      "There are no zombies in this, only ghosts."
      "Oh." she said, not hiding the disappointment.
      "Daddy, who's Gord?"
      "Gord, what are you talking about?"
      "The kid on the commercial said 'and Gord bless us all. Everyone.' Who the hell is Gord?"

   From all of us at Fuzzy Blue Chair, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...It's a Christmas WTF...

       Suddenly what  should appear before me but a jolly giant with dark brown curls. He wears a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carries a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia and appears accompanied by a great feast. He states that he has had "more than eighteen hundred" brothers.
      Daddy: "Please, let me go! Don't eat me!"
      Ghost of Christmas Present:: "Why would the Ghost of Christmas Present - that's me - want to eat a distasteful little miser like you?... Especially when there are so many good things to enjoy in life?"

      Ahh friends, it is indeed that time of year again. Fresh new snow falling on the cedar trees that line the backyard. A husband shovels and salts the walk so no one slips on the way to work or school. A mother makes hot chocolate for after school, to warm hearts and cold hands and the days tick down as the moon reflects off of the crisp snow, all signs that Santa will soon be here.
     Sounds wonderful? Sounds Christmasy?  Sounds like anywhere but here. No sir, here it's beginning to look a lot mid October. It is occasionally cold and I think we have had maybe an inch and a half of snow that has now long since melted in the 8 and 9 degree temperatures that seem to keep returning. We're not complaining but it is awfully hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the weather outside is dreich.
      However, we have muddled through. Particularly Isobel. She has been excited in small bursts. First picking the Christmas tree. For those keeping score, she picked a second good one in a row. We got it home and though a bit was missing from the tree stand, I improvised and it went up nonetheless. Turns out it was quite an important bit. Not only was the tree leaning like a leftist (see what I did there?) the damn thing wouldn't stay up.
      "Can we decorate it now?" Izzy asked.
      "Sure," I said." "We can just throw balls at it and hope they stick on. Twenty points if you can bounce it off the floor and get it on the branch."
       "Really!?!" she asked.
        "No," I said. "We have to get it straight.
      And like a Christmas miracle, I took the majestic tree out of the stand and made the straight cut the tree man assured me had made when we bought the tannenbaum. I took up the level fir and brought it back into the house. Hosanna in the highest, the bastard fell over. And lo like the wise men of old,  I went right to the Canadian tire and bought a new stand and our marriage was saved and Christmas was on again and there was much rejoicing and feasting on popcorn and the drinking of distilled spirits.
      So there are a couple of Christmas ground rules I would like to set. First off, I will hang only the decorations that cannot be reached by the other members of the household. Decorating has never been my bag. It was always a means to an end. 'If I decorate this giant bit of wood, the fat man comes and puts prezzies under it. Ergo I will decorate the tree.' And as I got older- 'If I decorate the tree, my mother will be happy and I will get prezzies under the tree. Ergo, I will decorate the tree.' Now it's much easier with Izzy. She is a decoration hog and will happily decorate the tree. Mostly by herself this year. Including a great deal of the hard to reach stuff. Done and done...I think I hung all of two decorations and only because she guilted me into it.
      Secondly but by far the more important of the two, under no circumstances will I pull tinsel out of the cat's ass. Anybody who has ever had a cat at Christmas time know exactly what I am talking about and why silver plastic string is an exceedingly stupid thing to hang within grazing distance of a cat. I have very clear memories of our cat running around the house looking like the Super Chief with shimmering streamers trailing behind it. I reached to pull them out and got a look from the cat that said " I will take your god-damned eyes out if you go near my ass, sonny." He trotted out of the living room looking like a disco ball and I can only assume that my mother took the tinsel out. But the rule was born that day.
       But it just doesn't feel like Christmas...maybe because I am in school and have more time off than the kids do. It's very different to not be praying for the days to go quickly so I can have my four days off. It's also the first Christmas in many years that I haven't been handed a Christmas hamper or voucher or gift of some sort by an employer...but Christmas it is. I think the only real reminder I have had of it was Izzy's mangled version of the 12 days of Christmas. I will do my best to faithfully reproduce it.
      On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me; a runny nose which is not cool. (apparently this comes from a television show but I thought it was really pretty clever so she gets the credit.)
      On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; five crocs in a tree. (it actually sounded like five roosters in a tree but I'm willing to go out on a limb and paraphrase a little here)
      On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; four calling birds. (wait, what? How many?)
      On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; four...wait Daddy, I messed up.( Can't say I didn't see this one coming. She started over, sang it identically to the first time and we moved on.)
      On the fifth day of sickness, my true love sent to me; five gooooooooooold riiiiiiiiings. (Don't cheer, everybody gets this one. And yes, she did sing sickness, also from the aforementioned show.)
     On the eight day of Christmas my true love sent to me; eight margleflerbnern. ( I asked her what she said, she said 'I don't know the real words so I just mumbled something that was close. I asked her why she skipped three days, she said 'I just couldn't do six and seven. Not today.')
     On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; the ninth day of Christmas. (seems pretty self explanatory)
     On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; ten pipers...hey Daddy, pipers! Like bagpipers do you think? (Of course they are!)
     On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me; SOMETHING,  SOMETHING, SOMETHING! 
     "Daddy?" she asked.
      "Yep?" I replied, fully expecting to answer something about the significance of the song before she went into her big finish.
       "Daddy, why is called the twelve days of Christmas when there are only eleven days in the song?"
       "I have often wondered about that." I said.
       As a post script, she came up to me this afternoon and said she remembered the twelfth day. It was very much like the eleventh....identical in fact.

      As a parent, I am noticing that there are times when you need to bend the truth a little. So's not to damage the fragile ego of a child. Maybe a bit of writing that makes little or no sense can seem like next in line for the Pulitzer. Or a drawing that looks more like a plain mutant than a ninja turtle could be treated like it should be put in the Louvre...and sometimes you just gotta shake our head and take a step back.
      Yesterday Isobel came home with something she was very excited about. A sculpture she made at school, complete with a backdrop for that ultra authentic and steeped in realism look. She said it was a holiday sculpture...she said it is a combination animals that are just right for Christmas...she said it is a cross between a beaver and a duck....
      "Wait, what?" I asked.
       "A beaver and a duck." she said.
      "How is that a beaver and a duck?"
      "See, there's his teeth" she said.
      "OK." I said.
     Even Mrs. Narrator, the great extrapolator and equalizer had to scratch her head.
      "A beaver and a duck?"
      "Yep." said Izzy.
      "What are those, then?" asked Mrs. Narrator, point at three spiky things sticking on the side of the holiday mystery.
       "Those are his spikes." said Izzy.
      "Oh, OK."
      I love my kids, I encourage healthy expression of all kinds. I am absolutely flummoxed by this. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, if you gaze to your right you will behold the Christmas What The F#*k in all of its unnatural glory. Brilliant and creative...but a duck-beaver it ain't.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beginnings and Endings...Izzy Claims her Birthright again...

      A video was on T.V. One of the hundreds of nameless fresh faced teen aged girls that are putting recordings out these days was singing Santa Claus is coming to town.
       T.V: "You better watch out, you better not cry."
       Isobel: "What?"
       T.V: "You better not put, I'm telling you why."
       Isobel: "Why?"
       T.V: "Santa Claus is coming to town."
       Isobel: "LIAR!"
       T.V: "He sees you when you're sleeping."
       Isobel: "I hear you and you're LYING!"
       T.V: "He knows when you're awake."
       Isobel: "I know when you're LYING!"
       Daddy: "You sure about that?"
       Isobel: "Yep."
       Daddy: "Sure enough to risk your whole Christmas if you're wrong?"
       Isobel: "Santa Claus is coming to TOWN!!!"

          I was going to write about something completely different this week but I guess this thing is as much my story as it is the kids. If we are continuing to grow, all of us, the I have had a gigantic growth spurt this past week and I will never be the same...nor would I want to be.
      So I went back to school and felt odd and out of place and yadda, yadda, yadda. Here's the rub, I seem to be doing well. Much better than I ever did in high school. My good god, I am nearly a member of the intelligentsia. Well let's not exaggerate...
      A major part of this course is field placements. Real treatment on real people. I know, right? Needless to say I was crapping myself on Monday morning knowing full well that the following morning I would be in the trenches and really doing what I had signed up for. I have to be honest...I actually thought about turning the car around and going back home. Who was I kidding? Would I want me to care for me?
     Let me put this into perspective though. I am a PSW student. Not a nurse or practical nurse. I am at the bottom of the health care ladder but I spend more time with a resident than any of the other professions. I feed a lot of meals, I change a lot of briefs and I give a lot of showers and baths. If you are no longer able to perform these things for yourself then me, or the many others like me, will help you to do this things or do them for you. Bowels and Baths are what a good portion of my day consists of. I know, right? Would I want me to care for me? With all of this sensitive potentially embarrassing stuff? I jumped in-I didn't figure I had much of a choice and I wasn't alone. All of my class mates were all suffering the same anxiety, I'm almost certain.
      Here's the thing about the elderly, they are for the most part, some of the happiest people I have ever met. They want respect and to be treated with dignity and to feel safe and warm. And we owe it to them...in spades. My first client really set the tone for all of it. If he had been difficult, maybe tings would have been different and I wouldn't be writing this, though in retrospect I doubt it. I helped to change his brief and get him dressed and take him to the dining room. All of the things I was so terrified of doing on Monday morning, I just did on Tuesday. Not flawlessly, not by any stretch. But I did them and I made sure to ask about the things I still had questions about and asked for feedback for the things I felt confident about.
      After lunch, I sat with my client and held his hand. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we just sat in silence. He wandered in and out of lucidity but it didn't matter to either of us. A lady I met briefly, had watched me just sit and talk with this gentleman and at first I thought she might be upset with me. Maybe for spending too much time with him but for good or for ill, I sat with him until I was told to go do something else. Later on that afternoon, I met the staring woman right after she requested me to be her PSW for the duration my time in the facility.
      I got home at the end of the first week and Mrs. Narrator asked me what was my impression of it all. I told her that what I was about to say sounded kind of stupid, even in my head. I can't imagine what it would sound like if I actually said it. But I hadn't held back anything else this week so I figured why start now?
     "This going to sound stupid," I started. "But t feels like I am meant to be doing this. Like maybe this is the kind of thing I should have been doing all along."
      Now that is a gigantic statement to make but hear me out. Do you know when you start doing something new or meet someone and you feel as though it's something you have been doing all your life? Like it was a natural fit? That's what I felt. It was a tiny spark that started about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning and was an inferno by Friday afternoon.
      I'm not talking about finding my destiny but maybe in a way I am. I have had many jobs, musician included but never one where I felt 'I'm supposed to be here.' A man with a dream has hope, a man who feels he has a job to do has purpose, a man who has found where he fits is unstoppable. Maybe a tad flowery but I do feel as though I have gone through an epiphany of sorts. Am I glowing? I feel like I'm glowing? So would I want someone like me caring for me?

       I played a show in Rochester a long time ago. The show was over and I was likely hanging off the bar, smoking and drinking and making a general nuisance of myself. When the time came to pack up the gear, waiting for me on stage was a small electric bass with a note that read 'One day you will have little bass players of your own. They should learn on this. A Fan.'
     I gave that bass to The Boy who has begun to pursue another path and lost interest in playing music. Stringed type music anyway, we have bets whether or not he will start writing his own electronic music. Anyway. Izzy saw the bass a while ago ad asked if she could play it. The Boy naturally said no but I reminded him that he hadn't touched in at least a year and a half so he grunted and conceded and Izzy left beaming.
     I though she too had lost all interest in music until this week, as she has begun regaling us with bass concertos and a few bawdy songs to keep us going through these long winter nights. Her biggest hits like; 'I like lunch, Santa doesn't come to my house early, I play bass like a brosup'. Have really been keeping our spirits up.
     Her latest composition is much too good to keep to ourselves and so;
      " I just farted, can you smell it?
        I just farted, can you tell it?
        I have gas bombs
        I have gas bombs
        I have gas bombs
        So where are you?"
       Lennon, McCartney and Zawada-Baker...