In light of loss, I am so grateful
Over the weekend, a groom and members of his wedding party were violently gunned down in New York City on the morning of what was to be his wedding. There are questions as to the reasons NYPD officers pumped so many bullets into the car the group was riding in, but initially it looks as though there was some sort of mistake. Papers reported that the church in which the groom was to be married was instead filled with flowers and cards for the mourning bride and the two families.
This morning, I read a victim impact statement written by a woman who lost her fiancé to an armed robbery in January. She expressed anger towards the convicted murderers for robbing her, but most of the statement reflected the emptiness and sadness she felt at losing the love of her life amidst plans for their dream wedding. I admire her nobility in refusing to be bitter and angry because, she said, that is not how her fiancé lived, nor how he would want her to live. I was absolutely touched that in that period of grief and loss, she honours his life with dignity in his death.
I was also struck, in both instances, of how lucky I am. I haven’t had to look far and wide for my fiancé. I haven’t suffered a broken heart. I haven’t been forced to question my self worth by my loneliness on a couch on a Saturday night without a date. I have always had a partner, and I have found someone that I know will be beside me for the rest of my life. I am incredibly lucky. I am not going into this wondering how long it will last, or even what will happen “if” we split up. It’s not even in the cards, according to the tarot card reader we visited. I have great friends I know would sustain me if I didn’t have him, and I know holidays would be spent with a loving family. I would not be alone without him and that alone makes me lucky. But reading about those poor brides who will forever waiting for their grooms, I felt an intense gratefulness that on top of it all, I have him.
In this gratefulness, I will always be proving to myself and I guess the universe that I deserve it. I figure this way, he won’t be taken away from me unjustifiably. I won’t lose him to lack of love or another girl, because I will always want to prove my love and gratefulness for him. I hope the universe won’t take him away from me either, because we have so much to do together. Our being together is such an awesome gift that I feel like we must be together to do something. You don’t get something for nothing, right? And so we go forward on our mission, whatever that is.
While the news can be depressing, with the bad news are so many more reasons to hold on to what we’ve got and to do with them what we’re supposed to. To fulfill all of our own missions to fulfill and repay the gifts we’ve been given. I am so thankful, I hope I never stop fighting for this.
The lifeguards at the Orleans Recreation Centre know my Grama well. She’s there at the crack of dawn as they sleepily open the pool gates for the early shift. She knows them all by name and often brings them little morning treats she bakes. She drives down every morning for a swim to start off her day, except in the summer, when she rides her bike to the close outdoor pool. She is never put off by how the cool the water is, even when everyone else is shyly dipping their toes in and shivering.
I used to dislike my Grama. In my teenage years, I’d written her a couple of letters complaining about my mum and how unfair she was, and could she just talk to her for me? Instead, my Grama told me to be patient with my mum because she’s a busy lady. Well, if she wasn’t going to listen to the desperate (dramatic) pleas of her eldest granddaughter, then I would have none of it. Forget the childhood summers spent swimming and eating freshly picked strawberries on top of vanilla ice cream with her. I was 15 and had no tolerance for her dismissal of my pleas, or her excellent climbing tree in the backyard.
The dynamic shifted when my parents divorced and all of a sudden we were all on my mum’s side. My mum and I learned to overcome the distances of my teen years and unite in this time of need. Consequently, I tiptoed out of my Grama anger, still leery. I knew she was a wonderfully generous person. She spent her days volunteering and visiting, and had all the time in the world to help anyone else. I grew into my young lady days and into a respect for her. I learned more about her, all she’d overcome with the ability to smile through each day, and I was impressed, but never as much as I was this weekend when I heard this story.
She brought over a DVD of my aunt’s and parents’ weddings because the VHS tapes had almost worn out. I watched them with my mum and laughed at the hilarity of my aunt’s wedding. It was held in Greece following a movie-caliber romance between herself and a Greek fisherman who instantly fell in love even though they didn’t speak the same language. My aunt was the first ‘foreigner’ to get married on his island and it was quite the affair. My mum was the maid of honour, so she flew over with my grandparents, two cousins and a friend of hers for the wedding. I asked my mum how expensive that must have been, as I am learning about all the intricate wedding costs myself. She explained that there had been a deal at the time where if you sent in your grocery receipts from a certain chain brand, you would get points towards airfare. My Grama stood outside the local grocery store all day for days and weeks asking people for their receipts as they left the store to help for her daughter’s wedding. Some people looked at her like she was scum, and some obliged. Eventually, she had collected enough people’s grocery receipts to get free flights for her, my Grampa, my mum and her cousins. I imagined her, all 5”0 in her overcoat and hat asking people in her high-pitched, gentle voice if they would give her their grocery receipts. I imagine people looking at her, my beautiful, sweet Grama, like she was dirt. I was touched at how much toil she would go through, for days on end, for the greater good of her daughter’s wedding. The indignity she must have suffered and felt moves me. Then I felt awful, guilty at how easily I too had dismissed her because things didn’t go my indignant 15-year-old way.
I am lucky because at 80 years old, her swims and bike rides have kept her body young, so I don’t fear her time is running out. If I’m luckier still, I have a good many years to make up for my anger. I know she may not recognize the change, because she’s always seen the best in me, believed in me. Now, I hope, she will feel it radiate from me as I intend it to.
It's a Friday at the end of another busy week, and I'm counting down to Sunday: the day I can sleep until I wake up not when the alarm clock wakes me up.
The man has passed his security screening and will be heading to Regina to start training in less than a month. Crayzay! So we've fast-tracked some of our plans, will likely have to cancel our New York City Christmas shopping trip :( but luckily he will be home for Christmas, albeit briefly.
Part of fast-tracking our plans was the understanding we'd have to pick wedding rings before he leaves, because he won't be back in Ottawa until a few days beforehand, once he leaves for training and then his posting. Next to trying on my veil, this has been the coolest part of wedding planning. I tried on and picked out my ring first, and I decided to go with a traditional white gold ring. Watching him try them on was something different. I guess I'm used to having a ring on that finger already, so adding another wasn't that dramatic. But seeing him try different rings on his ring finger almost made me cry! I didn't because we were in a busy jewelry store with glass walls so all the mall-goers could see us. But I smiled and felt giddy all over again, just like when we got engaged. Happy!
Today is our negative one-year anniversary too! Tomorrow I will be helping best friend's aunt decrate the reception hall of her wedding. I'm excited to see how all the magic happens (though ask me if I call it magic after decorating for six hours tomorrow), and get ideas for my own next year. I feel like because he's leaving and because we're going through all these plans now while he's still here, I am going to get myself all excited... and then just wait for a whole year. Yikes! But such is the consequence to a type-A personality and a move-around fiance.
My fiction fix
An unsuccessful attempt to buy tickets to the Borat movie ten minutes before it began left fiancé and I eager to enter any close building to escape the cold winds that found their way through the seams of our coats and onto our goosebumped bodies. That meant Chapters bookstore.
I lost fiancé right away as he darted for the fantasy novel section. He never liked books, or at least the classic lit stuff they offer in high school, until he found out about fantasy books, god bless him. I, on the other hand, walked slowly, deliberately shuffling my feet along the back wall where the new releases were. I picked up a few, opened to the front flap and was taken away. The Starbucks brew from the storefront shop no longer permeated my nose; instead, it was the smell of new book. I smiled, and my pointy cheekbones made my eyes squint and I was so glad to be with books. I felt nostalgic for the books I read growing up, the coming-of-age tales that inspired me to carpe diem my own growing-up. I reminisced about the works that showed me beauty in everything, descriptive prose that brought new light to bugs, candle flames, stair climbing, everything that is part of an overall day’s picture, but so beautiful when interpreted microscopically with language. I read the flaps of more and more books. Titles from the Oprah list, titles recommended by friends. My “to read” list grew ten-fold as I struggled to decide what to take home to my bed covers that night.
I found gorgeous picture books that I long to cover my future coffee table in my future living room with, but of course, more than one would be too much. So, I add that to another mental wish list for another day’s consideration when I escape to the bookstore. I zero in on the bridal magazines, but find I can’t decide on just one, so I relent. I walk to the on-sale paperbacks and choose one that I’m sure will distract me from all the essays and assignments I have thus month. But I gladly accept such distraction. Words that take me away, identify concisely things I’ve felt but could not express myself, and illuminate elements I don’t yet notice. I await the exploration that comes with the thin pages next to a candle, my reading lamp and my fiancé reading his book.
Lest we forget
I look forward to Remembrance Day. I began celebrating it in my elementary school's gym in my girl guide uniform watching Brian Adams videos about never forgetting. Red cardboard-paper poppies together formed a large wreath and we all sang, 'O Canada' really loud. I entered a Remembrance Day poem in grade 5, in the Royal Legion's annual contest and came in second.
In high school, a piper paraded into the gym with students who transformed into army, air and sea cadets. The choir sang remembrance songs, though I was always convinced they did it because they liked hearing themselves sing more than anything else. Regardless, when the grade 8 music teacher, in full foot guard patrol gear, played Last Post on the trumpet, I would allow quiet tears to sip down my pointy cheekbones and rest salty on the edge of my jawbone.
I graduated and began attending the Remembrance Day ceremony in downtown Ottawa, the biggest in the country. The Prime Minister and Governor General show up and aren't the main attraction. Groups of us huddle together with our warmest coats on, shifting our weight from foot to foot.
This year it rained, but I couldn't justify staying at home for my own comfort, watch it on TV. I'm pretty good at making up excuses, but not on a day like today. I mean, really, what outweighs the sacrifice millions made for the freedom for me to make this choice? I met up with my Dad and sister and, having assembled late, placed ourselves at the back of the crowd beside the war memorial. There was the recital of "In Flander's Fields", the playing of Taps and Last Post on the bugle. WWII planes flew past and the cannons were fired. I took off my hat when appropriate, looked down and closed my eyes to honour the dead of long ago and of recent who donned a uniform, left home, and never returned. Associations took turns putting wreaths beside the cenotaph and my sister was getting bored.
Then, with the bagpipes, begun the veterans parade. Around the circle of spectators, everyone had the chance to clap and thank the veterans as they filed passed us. That's what makes me cry. I see the veterans look at the crowd amazed at people clapping for them and they wipe a tear. And so do I. We clap well past when our hands become numb. We made our way with a small crowd to the tomb of the unknown soldier, buried on behalf of all those whose bodies stayed behind on the battlefield, unidentified. We took the poppies off of our soaked jackets and laid it on top of the tomb among the hundreds of others.
There was controversy last July, on Canada Day, when a journalist took picture of drunk people peeing on the war memorial. Today was a stark difference as people quietly wet looked up to the sky and down at the ground to remember the sacrifices of those perhaps more brave than ourselves.
Little girl me
There I was, walking through the Rideau Centre yesterday, getting excited inside-giggles about Christmas as all the store have begun setting up their holiday windows. I even stopped in at the Body Shop to sniff the cranberry lip balm that only comes out for Christmas. Then, all of a sudden, gleeful happy me was overcome with a strong feeling, like the gust of wind that subsequently swept up my hair when I went out the door: I miss my family!
They live about 20 minutes away by car and I call them all almost every day. I had just seen them this past weekend for my mum’s birthday and slept over Saturday night. None of that factored in yesterday, when I could only think of the next time I could go home, drink tea and cuddle up into a Dad hug. I put it away in the oak chest in my brain that holds thinky-thoughts I’ll take out and feel later. I went to ex-roommate’s birthday party and floated the evening away. I felt a little like Zach Braff’s character in Garden State at the party where he sits in one spot and watches everyone around him moving. I watched everyone come in, go out for smokes, pour beer, sit beside me, slide down, and there I was on the comfy chair. Then the thought poked itself slowly out of the door, asking, “Can I come out now?” To which I replied, “I want to go home!” Not home to my apartment, where fiancé would come in after I went to bed and leave before I got up. Home where my cat lives and where there is a backyard to rake.
I am sad, a little bit, that with each passing day as I excitedly countdown to the wedding (which is still 376 away) I am moving further away from my childhood. I agreed to let it go so easily after high school and in university when I first moved out. I was so sure I wanted out of the house where my toothbrush sat in the same toothbrush holder since I was four. Now, I’m not sure I wanted to let it all go. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down into the future. Some days I want to take a few steps back so I can run full force and leap into it. Others, like yesterday, I want to turn around and run into my dad’s chest for him to hug me and take me home.
I bite my tongue at me
Remember last April during Lent when I gave up celebrity news? Remember when I chastised it and dismissed it and said how easy and wonderful life was without it. Well, I take it back. Luckily, I am not a scorned lover and so I can take things back from myself. So I am.
While essays and deadline make me crazy, I have found solace in candy and celebrity news. There’s nothing Perez Hilton says that won’t make me laugh and think, “Oh no you di-in’t!” People.com is now my distraction from thesis supports and statistics.
Can I justify this by saying that as a journalists, I must keep myself up to date on all aspects of public interest, whether that be the resounding consequences in Iraq over the Saddam conflict or Eva Longoria’s new haircut?
(Sorry so short. School is robbing my free-thinking brain of all literary creativity, and even creation)
Day off of what?
Today is my day off and my feet haven’t stepped back into my house since they left the doormat at 8:30. Over the next month, I have a cumulative 60 pages due in essays and feature articles. This month is peppered with a stint as my online magazine’s managing editor, an article on the conditional sentencing bill, four more weekly deadlines at my newspaper I edit at, and another article, with pictures, though I don’t yet know what on. I think I’ll call it “No-life November.”
1) I cannot wait to have one job, and one home life.
2) I will need to stop working so much in order to make the deadlines I don’t get paid for. Then I will become a canned tuna aficionado, as that will be what I can afford on reduced work hours.
3) Giving increasingly long essays to journalism students tuning the art of short, concise writing is torturous.
4) Some Hill reporters and Press secretaries have massive egos they need to check.
5) With fiancé leaving in just over a month for six months of RCMP training, we should definitely be able to fit in lots and lots of quality time…if time together involves him rubbing my shoulders as I engage in endless hours of eye sex with my laptop screen, and develop typing calluses from typing so many essays and articles.
Kill me. Or invent me a clone who can help do this work for me. Preferably of the Asian-genius, time-management excellence breed.
My apologies for the delay. Hopefully you’ll understand that I was occupied with happenings and challenges that warranted the devotion of more attention than this blogging world. Because really, while I enjoy the chance to write and log life and express, nothing beats living and doing, right?
I must begin by saying that unless you’ve lived in Ottawa, you fully appreciate the beauty of Parliament. What? When you live here, when you drive by it every day, when its clock tower tolls the end of your lunch hour, it becomes a landmark less noteworthy. When they tell you that you’re attending the best journalism school in the country and that you’ll be working in the heart of government happenings, you’ll be excited. If you live here, you just want the envelope confirming you have something to do for the next four years. I lamented the inconvenience of having to walk down Wellington and pick up my press pass. Just for grades, check off to do list and move on.
But as I left the press pass office, I saw a “celebrity” reporter and got excited. As excited as seeing a real celebrity. Maybe this would be a little bit more fun than an assignment. My cameraperson and I walked onto Parliament Hill to get footage. We stopped on the sprawled green hill and looked up (“Way up”, as the giant used to say) at the Gothic-inspired stone majesty of Centre Block. We filmed the steps, the doors, the hallways. We walked past security stops and, carte blanche, explored the halls of our country. Portraits of past prime ministers line the walls. Gargoyles stuck their tongues out at us from every direction. Tourist amoeba groups slimed past us, unable to stop and revel and the beauty as we could..
We went to Question Period. I had been telling myself I “should” go to question period while I still live here. It’s one of the quintessential Ottawa things to do as a journalist, and here I was with the sand sliding down the hourglass and I was looking for excuses not to. There were deadlines, bus schedules, quality time at home to contend with. But a story took me to question period, and so we went.
We waited in the marble stone foyer outside the House of Commons we see every day in the news. Through the iron ivy across the windows, we saw the men and women debating our policy. We waited to interview some. The seasoned journalists hung out at the back. They didn’t go over notes, or refine questions because they knew what they were doing. They talked about going to the pub after, and about the strategies being used inside the House, they “clearly” knew what the best decisions would be, forget what the politicians are doing. Egos were big enough to fill the back of the room as their jeans-clad camera people waited patiently for their targets to come out at the front.
A few MPs came out and garnered little attention. Some steered clear of the bright lights, boom mikes and made mad dashes for the stairwell. I saw the prime minister briefly as he characteristically ignored the journalists. It was like being star struck. The faces I’d written about, had seen reported about on TV and read about were all around me. The pack journalists jumped on the popular MPs, sticking every mic, camera and light as close to the MP’s face as possible. Some yelled the MP’s name, some yelled inappropriate questions trying to get a reaction. I watched and smiled at how entertaining this scene was.
After about an hour, the MPs had been interviewed and moved on. We gathered our coats, bags and camera. We walked out the big stone doors under the peace tower. We left our media-access only and went out into Ottawa. Down the Parliament steps. I looked back at the Hill. At the thing people come to Ottawa to see, but that I only began to truly appreciate minutes earlier.