The Past and the Future

I treasure life’s unique experiences, especially those that come out of nowhere.

Last weekend, I had one of those experiences. I went to two parties on one weekend – one for our 96-year-old Baba and a first-year birthday party for my littlest niece. It was the past and the future all rolled into one weekend.

One of my favourite people in the world.

Baba first.

At 96, I can’t help but be amazed at the life Baba has lived.

Born in 1923.

Let’s think about THAT for a second.

To say it was a different time would be like saying the winters are a little cold in northern Saskatchewan.

Her mother and father were children of Ukrainian immigrants, simple farmers fleeing violent oppression, seeking cheap farming land in Canada. She grew up in a time where religion and community went hand-in-hand, through times when her family didn’t know if they’d have enough to eat over the winter, and in a home with no running water or Google (FYI, of the two, I think I could survive longer without water than the internet.)

She survived the Great Depression, all the sicknesses that took so many back then, and literally had to walk miles through blizzards to attend school. (And me, I complain if I have to walk to my car in the rain.)

So, imagine how the world has changed in her lifetime.

She saw how the world transformed after World War 2, from the rise of feminism, to the growth of suburbs, to the civil rights movement. She would have listened to the Beatles on the radio, watched men land on the moon on her black and white TV, and seen the ushering in of the computerized world.

For most of her life, she would have used a rotary phone, likely with an overly long spiral cord that risked strangling anyone who got in-between you and the phone. For most of her life, she would have gone to an actual store to shop, not Amazoned a blender or a book about bees. For most of her life, she would have had to rely on her memory to recall who was that actor who played that doctor on that show set during the Korean war, not simply spoken her request to the god-like Siri.

I could go on and on (and actually did, but edited this for brevity). This was a woman who not only lived through those times but refused to be confined by those times.

She never finished school, yet created architectural drawings for the church she helped build. While raising 4 children, she helped run a drive-in movie theatre (which I think is super cool). All of her life, even into her 70’s and 80’s, she organized and led her church women’s group, and worked in the kitchen cooking up legendary dinners at the Ukrainian Hall in Surrey.

She is a woman who has never slowed down, never given up, and always finds a way to contribute.

So, for her birthday, we all gathered to celebrate this amazing woman. Married at 16 to a man 8 years her senior, she had four children, who went on the have great lives and provide her with a boat-load of grandchildren who, in turn, brought forth many, many more great-grandchildren.

One of several tables full of family. Great Baba is at the head of the table.

Nearly all were able to come for her birthday. We sang, (poorly,), laughed loudly, watched a slide show of her life with her family, and cried with her as she thanked everyone for their love.

Personally, I love spending time with her, listening to her stories, hearing her history and shaking my head in wonder at someone who has been through so much, remains so positive, so productive and still so funny.

She is an inspiration.

Tomorrow, the future.

What Writers Do on a Vacation in Vegas

You got time for a confession?
You got time for a confession?

Confession time. I hate everyone, and everything at 6

I hate everyone, and everything at 6 am in the morning before I’ve had coffee.

I do not leap out of bed and think, wow, what a wonderful world, I’m so grateful to be alive. I think, why no one has invented an intravenous machine that pumps hot coffee directly into your veins?

Everyone is still asleep when I get up and it’s hard to sneak out to do writing because The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World has momma-hearing, (and that means she detects the exact moment my breathing changes.) After thumping around, I kiss her on the forehead and tell her I hope she gets back to sleep.

The strip and casinos are dead at 6 am. Even the in-house Starbucks isn’t busy. The few who are up seem to be either rushing out with a suitcase, or staggering around red-eyed like they never went to sleep. There are a few nutbags at the hotel gym, I should imagine. Some at the slots looking tired and broke. I see one sad-looking soul at the bar (and I’m not even sure they’re serving anything.) But a casino is a spooky place without a lot of people.

Right now, I hate everyone I see. The thin guy in his expensive jogging shoes and high-tech sweat gear heading out for a run. The large black woman who’s closing in on 400lbs who has decided yoga pants are a good look this morning. The overly nice barista who tries to make happy-happy conversation with me when all I want to do is order a coffee, grande. The white-haired old guy who couldn’t figure out what to order despite standing in line for 10 freaking minutes and stands at the counter, looking at the board like this is his most difficult decision of his day and if he gets it wrong, he’s going back to the concentration camp or something, (spoiler alert, this will be me when I’m 200.)

Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.
Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.

I need coffee. Coffee doesn’t so much restore my faith in people as it moves my brain way from sleepy grumpiness to wide-awake creativity.

It really quite a transformation. I go from wanting to murder the guy who looked like he shined his bald head with a floor buffer to give it a blinding shine to reading the burlap sacks on the walls of Starbucks and wondering when the sack says “save the Amazon, use Jute” what the heck Jute is? A tree? A plant like hemp? What if I had a character named Jute? From the Amazon? Who wears burlaps sacks?

So, this morning, yes, not only will I write a bit, but I have to figure out how to make the tickets to the High Roller Ferris Wheel usable on my mobile phone. We’ve also brought tickets to the Beatles Love (Cirque du Soliel style) because The-Oldest needs a good music fix. He hasn’t been able to play his piano for nearly a week, listened to no classical music for at least two says, and I can see that his eye is starting to twitch.

Last night I failed to get those tickets on my phone. I was simply too tired to figure it all out. With more coffee, I hope everything becomes clear. Last night, The-Youngest, who listed the High Roller in his top 10 then asked, actually asked, if he could bring his iPad cuz it could be boring and he didn’t want to be bored on it.

This from the guy who bugged us for WEEKS to go on the High Roller.

I said, ah, that would be a no. No iPad.

New York, New York, in Las Vegas. The Holy Grail of the kid side of Vegas. Rides. Candy. Arcades.
I would actually love to visit the real NY one day, but for now, this’ll have to do.

Also planned for today…NY NY, mostly for the rollercoaster there, which (after supper), The-Youngest vowed NOT to go on because of his terrifying experience yesterday. He’s gone from literally vibrating with excitement at the mention of a rollercoaster to looking like he’s about to have his liver removed with a spoon and all his electronics sold to hobos.

But The-Oldest is dead keen on that coaster. He’s fearless on those things. Beyond fearless, really. He loves the speed, the exhilaration, the feel of terror and impending death.

He’s 13.

Then after NY, NY, we’re hitting the candy shops, a place that The-Youngest can talk to you about for hours. I kid you not.

The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers
The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers

“Joe, did you know they have giant jars of Jolly Ranchers that are just the red kind, but I don’t know if they’re actually the watermelon kind or the cherry kind or what, but it doesn’t really make any difference because I like them both, but I also like the apple ones which are green, and they have jars of them, too, and all the other colors, and I think, if I have enough room in my luggage, that I’ll get the green ones, cuz apple is my favourite and Joe, did you know that they have Hershey bars that are so big that they cost $50…”

Knowing how much time everything takes, we’ll have a full day. I suspect we’ll be spending hours in the candy store alone while The-Youngest debates which two jars of candy he’ll take home. Joe, did you know that on one hand, the watermelon ones are good in the summer because they taste like real watermelon, and that’s refreshing, but apple is kind of refreshing, too, and tastes like, you know, apple, which always tastes good, but then, again, oh, look there’re the jars filled with the blueberry ones and they’re my all-time favourite…

Fun times.

And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

After I’ve had my coffee, that is.