Category Archives: Relationships and Behaviour

Thoughts on what we do and why – men and women, parents and children, friends and strangers.

Oh. No. Oh no.

About to get up from my sister’s kitchen table, I look with satisfaction at my selections from my mother’s jewelry: three family rings, a chain of purple crystals, and a necklace.

Nothing is worth much monetarily, but every piece will mean something to me or the other intended recipients: my daughter-in-law and granddaughter.  As I look around the table and see my siblings happily packing up their own selections, I smile.  It’s been a good process, with good outcomes and good feelings.

“Mom will be so pleased,” I think.

Oh.  No.

Glancing back before the funeral  service starts, I catch sight of Mom a few pews back.  “What’s she doing back there?” I wonder.  I mean, her regular seat is on the other side of the church.

Oh.  No.

“Did you see that?”  At the uncharacteristic excitement in my brother’s voice, my head draws back from the camera viewfinder.

“Well, I saw a white mini-marshmallow being picked up by the parent barn swallow.”

Barm swallow adult removing fecal sac to protect mud-daubed nest from discovery.

No, my brother says that I saw a baby bird’s fecal sac being removed from the nest to be disposed of where it can’t alert predators to the nearby presence of defenceless young.  As he explains it to me, I’m wondering how soon I can download and process my photo when we get back into town.  Mom will be so interested.

Oh.  No.

And so it goes.  The email about the bear quintuplets that I almost forward.  The photo magazine on oceans that I almost buy at the grocery checkout stand.  The video of the ducks and ducklings at her seniors’ residence that I almost send.  The chocolates I almost re-order, prompted by my monthly calendar reminder.

“Mom will like to get this.”

Oh.  No.

Oh no.


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Filed under Mortality, Relationships and Behaviour

The Look of That

“I don’t like the look of that.”

I don’t quite wince, although it’s not what I like to hear from my doctor when she’s staring intently at me—well, at my nose, and at two spots thereon that just won’t heal.    Continue reading

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Filed under Day-to-Day Encounters, Relationships and Behaviour

When I Grow Up

“Does anyone else feel uncomfortable?”

Chuckles run around the assembled floor sitters, university students all.  It’s the summer of 1971 and we’re being oriented to our upcoming four months of work at what is then called Ponoka Mental Hospital.

The psychiatrist leading our evening session has just asked us to share how we’re feeling.  The response?  Many averted eyes and nary a mumble.

As the silence fills the room, I do my standard thing: going first so others don’t have to, and using what I fondly think of as humour to defuse the tension.  Well, at least to relieve the discomfort I’m feeling as, collectively, we fail to meet the leader’s expectations.

“Does that mean you feel uncomfortable, Isabel?”  The psychiatrist’s question appears, unbelievably to me, to be genuine.

Duh.  Come on.  Fer chrissake.  And, umm, yeah.  I mean, isn’t that the clear meaning of the expression I used?  But beyond that, of course I feel uncomfortable sharing my feelings with strangers.  Who doesn’t?

To the newly minted 19-year-old me, his question also appears to be an impatient rebuke: “Come on, Isabel, share your feelings.”  Or maybe a criticism: “What’s wrong with you, Isabel, that you can’t share your feelings?”

Excellent.  Now I feel uncomfortable and inadequate.  Thppt.

Fast forward 45 years and I’m watching a delightful YouTube video in which Idris Elba, hitherto unknown to me, asks people what they want to be when they grow up.  Given that the askees are all adults—a few are seniors or close to it—it’s an ask that provokes a few chuckles.

Their answers are disarmingly honest: an actor, a drummer, a hot-air balloon pilot, a professional football coach.  Their answers are revealing, too, in how they’re delivered: quietly, raucously, defiantly, matter of factly.

“What’s stopped you from doing that?”

Ah, now they step back from that precipice of self-disclosure.  Each responds with a comment about, you know, people in general.

“It’s time, isn’t it?  It’s taken years just to get to where we are now.”

“At a certain point in your life, if it hasn’t happened, you think it’s never going to happen.”

“I don’t think that people have enough time to dream, bro.”

“Unfortunately, real life does get in the way of your dreams, I guess.”

As I listen to them, I wonder how often I speak this way: Stopping short of owning the feeling, or of owning my life decisions and actions.  I wonder, too, whether I want to speak differently sometimes, as that psychiatrist was gently suggesting, bless his heart.

But bless Elba’s heart, too.  He doesn’t say, “Does that mean you don’t think it’s going to happen?”  Or, “Are you saying real life has gotten in the way of your dreams?”

Because, duh.  That’s exactly what they’re saying, in a way that allows them to answer without disrobing.  Or without crying, maybe.

And that’s OK.  They aren’t obliged to share or to hide their feelings; neither am I.  And there’s no need for them—or me—to feel uncomfortable or inadequate for choosing either path.


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Filed under Language and Communication, Relationships and Behaviour

A Conversation with Tammy Wynette

Miss Wynette? Come in please. I’m the new lyrics editor here at Epic Studios. I have a few questions about your latest song. If it’s all right with you, I think we should just go through it together, line by line. Shall we get started? Great!

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman

Hard, easy – isn’t it just inevitable, at least for you and me? Ha ha! But I don’t want to pick, because I can see that you’re setting up for the next line. So let’s move on to it.

Givin’ all your love to just one man.

Now there are two assumptions embedded (ahem) here: that a woman does give her love to just one man; and that somehow things would be easier for her if she didn’t. I’m pretty sure the record from Biblical times to the present day shows that both assumptions are somewhat fraught, so I’m going to suggest that you take a look at those lines again.   Continue reading

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Filed under Relationships and Behaviour

Not Yet 60

The mid-afternoon autumnal light slanting across the parking lot warms the day and lifts my heart, an involuntary response to something in the quality of the light. The air has a crispness we don’t get in the heat of summer. Dried leaves whisper among themselves, thrown together at random by the winds swirling in the corner of the L-shaped strip mall.

Without much difficulty I dodge the cars moving gingerly in and out of parking spots just a shade too narrow to accommodate them, and make my way over to the mailbox. As I stand in front of it with my card in my hands, I think of the intended recipient.

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, all-round good soul. Not yet 60; starting chemotherapy.   Continue reading

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Filed under Relationships and Behaviour