Friday, 22 August 2014

Living Each Day to The Fullest

I can't believe another month has gone by and that it is almost time for the children to go back to school!! I've continued to live life to the fullest since I've been back home from holidays. I've enjoyed working in my gardens as I try to dig out the weeds and gain control of the gardens. I didn't really plant my vegetable garden this year because I knew I would be away and it would have become choked out with weeds. This was a smart decision because when I came home you couldn't see where I had planted some carrots and a couple of pepper plants or the one lone tomato plant. The first thing I tackled was my vegetable garden.

As I dug out and pulled the weeds (roots and all), I thought about my Uncle Russell (from my mom's side of the family) and how I was going to write an account of his life which included his personality. How do you write about someone and make them come to life when you didn't even know them?! So I pondered this as I pulled the weeds. I thought about my grandma and how much I miss her. I thought about Uncle Russell's other siblings that I knew well into my own adulthood. I remembered the various reunions and how much fun the Martin clan was to play baseball with and the pranks and family love that infused the events. As I pulled weeds out of the vegetable garden and then the first of the flowerbeds, I also pulled up memories of my great-grandmother from when I was a little girl. I remembered her as being in her late 80's as she sat in a rocking chair in my great-aunt's (Aunt Mary) home. The rocking chair was always in the kitchen by the window so that Great-Grandma could be part of the conversations that always took place in the kitchen. She was a small, frail woman when I knew her. It was always hard to imagine that she had seven children back in the early 1900's. Being a fanciful, imaginative little girl, I was slightly afraid of Great-Grandma. She had an old, crackly voice, that I now know as just being from old age, but at the time reminded me of the old witch in "Hansel and Gretel". What I didn't recognize at the time but I do now in my memories, was the gentle smile that often graced her wizened, wrinkled face. If only I could go back in time, talk with her and make the most of the short amount of time I knew her. However, being a child, I didn't recognize the importance of knowing her. I do remember her being sick once when we came to visit Aunt Mary and my sister and I were given permission to go upstairs to visit Great Grandma. We crept up the stairs quietly because we didn't want to waken her if she was asleep. I remember Great Grandma being awake and in a big bed with lots of covers and pillows. She motioned us in and we spent a little bit of time with her beside her bed. This is one of the last memories I have of Great Grandma because she died not long after. In hindsight, she looked a lot like my grandma as my grandma got older. I've been told that I look like my grandma. Although these memories of Great Grandma are hazy, I do remember a sense of warmth and love when I put aside my childhood imaginings.

So as I've spent the last month working in the gardens and pulling up weeds and memories, I've been working on a project for the Co-ordinator of the Visitors' Centre at Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Mr. Gert Jan van Holt. When we were there in July, he asked me to write up an account of Uncle Russell's life including who he was as a person. It's taken me 3 weeks as I've interviewed Uncle Russell's nieces and nephew who would have known him personally. Of course, these family members were only 4 or 5 years old when he joined the Canadian Army as part of the 23rd Field Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. So through the telephone interviews, I've received diaries from 2 of his sisters and various memories from his nieces and nephew. I've also received pictures of Uncle Russell and his wife, Aunt Erma. As I've sorted through all the information, I was surprised to discover that I could see his personality emerging. I was flabbergasted and stunned with the type of person he was according to family accounts and memories! My oldest brother has a sense of humour and personality that we always wondered where it came from. His sense of humour was not like my dad's and not like my maternal grandfather's. What I recognized was that my brother's sense of humour and personality is very much like what Uncle Russell's! Now my project was becoming much easier to write. I finished it a couple of days ago but have spent the last 2 days editing it. I finished it last night and it is now sent off to the Netherlands.

This has been such a treasure and joy to work on. I can honestly say that I have smiled with warmth and humour but I have also shed tears of grief as I've learned who Uncle Russell was. If he hadn't died in WWII, I would definitely have known him well as I did his siblings.

I have been reminded again constantly the importance of living life to the absolute fullest. So I've taken time in the last few weeks to play some golf and continue with my golf lessons. My husband and I have been able to continue our enjoyment of lingering beers and food on the local restaurant patios on Fridays after work. We've included our son in these too. Unfortunately, our daughter has to work on Friday nights. But I've spent time with her as we've gone to the mall and had lunch out. I had promised her at the beginning of the summer that we would go for sushi together for lunch at her favourite sushi restaurant. We did this and had a very enjoyable time. She laughed at my attempts to use chopsticks. Throughout my life, I've tried to use chopsticks occasionally and I'm never successful. My daughter patiently showed me and I ate my full meal using chopsticks!

As I've been grabbing life with both hands and enjoying the ride, my husband and I have been going out on his Honda Goldwing. We try to go out every weekend and sometimes even during the week. Last weekend, we drove to visit friends who we haven't seen in about 10 years. They dropped by our home while I was in chemotherapy but I didn't seem them because I was having a rough day. Our visit was truly enjoyable and full of love and warmth even though we drove through heavy rain on the bike to get there. We played cards, stayed overnight, had a wonderful breakfast, saw both their children who are about the same age as our's, and then visited a bird sanctuary. It was a weekend full of love, warmth, good friendship and positive vibes. I truly am blessed!!

In my humble opinion, this is what life is about. Filling each day with positive experiences and creating warm lasting memories, truly is what make life fun and vibrant. Sure we have careers and responsibilities but we do not need to let the drudgery pull us down. As I've read the diaries as part of my research of Uncle Russell, I saw that the women who wrote them had full days of hard labour on the farm during a time when there was no electricity or "gadgets" to make life easier. But despite the long hours of hard work, they made time to visit with family and friends in the community to have fun. I learned from reading these entries about playing cards and going to dances at the local community centres. I think our society has lost our ability to BE a community and involved. We, myself included, are more prone to individual pursuits and isolation. I truly believe that living each day to the fullest is tiring but so well worth the effort. I like nothing better than to fall into bed at night fully satisfied and joyful from connecting with the people around me. I find it helps fill my life with love and warmth.

In a future post, I will post my account of Uncle Russell's life. Have a super weekend!!