Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Markers and Measures

As we get older, we are sometime preoccupied with things that might seem silly to others but which have some sort of significance for us. With a family and personal past as complex and as chaotic as mine, I have often wondered about things I experienced as a child or learned from my parents. For years, I have been trying to track down the owners of the farm in Alberta where, in 1949, my family spent our first winter in Canada in a chicken coop. A couple of days ago, I was finally successful. What I really wanted was to see if they might have a picture of the coop because, since I was only 4 years old at the time, I don't remember much from that time. The picture shown here of me and a 'friend' is from 1949, but was taken elsewhere in Alberta.

The original owners of the farm had died but had left the farm to one of their sons. He would have been about 11 years old in 1949. He actually remembered my family and me and the 'teasing' that he subjected me to. He, apparently, got me to pull carrots from his mother's garden and then eat them, dirt and all, to his great delight. I don't remember that specifically, but joked that it might explain why I am in such good health today. I do remember an occasion when this fellow and his sister induced me to climb into a manure sled. I was covered, head to toe, in pig poop. My mother must have been thrilled, having to bathe me afterwards and wash my clothes with cold water from the well, because there was no running water in the coop.

I have never felt disadvantaged because of the less than perfect circumstances during some parts of my life. I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me or to help make things better. I learned that from the example of my parents. They just wanted to be left alone to succeed on their own. That is all I have ever wanted. Don't help. Just get the hell out of my way. Don't give me anything, but don't take from me what isn't yours either.

The telephone conversation with the current owners of the farm where that chicken coop had once stood caused some laughter, some reminiscences, but resulted in no picture for my collection. Who would photograph a chicken coop anyway, and why? It was worth a try, though, to satisfy my curiosity.

I have been alive for 60 years now, over 56 of them in Canada. I hope to live a lot longer. That old chicken coop has been sort of a marker for me, an indication of where I began my life in Canada, and a way to measure, by comparison, any achievements I have enjoyed in the years since 1949. I wonder what my son will use as a similar marker as he grows up.

It is not the destination, my friends, that is important in life. It is the journey that matters. The journey will pretty much dictate your ultimate destination anyway. And if you are going to make the journey, why not make the best of it? Enjoy it when it is good, learn from it when it is troublesome, live it as if it is your one and only chance to be alive.

I don't know who said it first, but it is true: Life is not a rehearsal.


  1. Like you, I have very few memories I can recall. The most important according to my father was the fact that I was premature, under three pounds. Since I was their first child my parents would do anything to help me to survive. Our family doctor told dad there was no way I would make it, "but don't worry. You are a young couple and you will probably have several children."
    This was nonsense as far as dad was concerned, and without hesitation he switched doctors. Dr.Holmes recognized that I was starving because my mother's milk was not nutritious enough to help me prosper. Our new doctor gave her a special Carnation milk formula which helped me make it. Even to this day. I can't stand the smell of the stuff. But what the hell. I'm still here, and have plans to continue existing, Whatever it takes.


  2. I'm glad you managed to hang around, Bill.

  3. "Don't help. Just get the hell out of my way. Don't give me anything, but don't take from me what isn't yours either." I love this.

    Life is not a rehearsal. I tell that to the bitter and lamenting members of my family that are waiting for something to change or things to get better. When they give me their apathetic complaints, I often respond with, "Well, next time, then, right?"

    I finally had to sit a cousin of mine down, who had been cynical and blaming for years and I had to ask him what he hoped to achieve with his attitude. Sure, no one would blame him for his sourness, when he was eighty in a nursing home, having accomplished nothing; maybe, people would even understand why his life had turned out the way it did. So, what was his purpose exactly? To cause mometary feelings of pity and empathy in those around him, once he'd descended into the end of his life? Well, job well done. After a decade of moping around, he got off his behind and went back to school.

  4. All of us,Penny, at some point or another, need a kick in the pants from a loved one, relative, friend, whatever, to rid us of ennui and get us off our behind. Your cousin listened to you and that is good. Often we don't listen and are worse off for it.

    Your powers of persuasion must be finely developed!