Last Day Away

Sunday, February 9, 2020

9:37 a.m.

Fairweather was awake before her phone alarm went at six. She’s been sitting here at the table, writing, till now. Before that she sat on the couch next to the dog, petting him, while sipping her first cup of coffee.

She stripped the sheets from her bed and deposited them by the basement door to take downstairs and wash them. She’s having her daily bowl of cream of wheat right now. She’s had a text from the homeowner; she and her husband hope to leave Edmonton by 11 and will text Fairweather when they cross the Alberta border. She plans to go home before dark; the dog will be stuck outside for a few hours till they arrive. His doghouse has a lightbulb in it and a towel over the door, so he’ll be fine. It’s a beautiful sparkling hoarfrost day and she’s looking forward to being home, even though being here has also been good for her. So much silence and space. So much convenience. So much ease.

She spent more than six hours yesterday going through her day planner and transferring MORE THAN 90 uncompleted tasks to the beginning of a new notebook. There are yet nine pages to sift through. It’s fucking crazy and if Fairweather’s been overwhelmed by her new job, this shows her why. She won’t claim these hours to be paid for, though she could. She believes in giving more than you receive, though, even at your job, and this time spent reorganizing her planner will help her feel a bit more clarity as she tackles the weeks to come.





Letter to a Dear, Dear Old Friend

I saw on your daughter’s Instagram account that your dad has passed. So sorry to hear it. Glad I got to meet him, back in the day. I recall his gentle nature and good humour. You’ll be busy helping your mom I suppose, just as you have been there for both parents over the past few months. What a hard thing it is, I know. Even believing we do go on to something bigger and better doesn’t seem to help a lot. Wish I was closer to give you some hugs and cups of tea. Your husband will be taking good care of you, I’m sure. 
It sounds like your son is a big worry for you, too. Damn kids. BiggusLunkus is for me, as well, with his talk of suicide being a good way out. I feel so helpless, as I imagine you do too, having done everything we can yet unable to control anything about their attitudes or choices or mental health. I make a point of showing Biggus how important he is to me and how much I love him, no matter what, and trying to give him hope that things can change for the better if he only stays around to let it happen. Even that may not be enough, as you know. They have their own paths and we just have to let them walk. But it’s not easy when the path is dark and scary and parents’ hearts kind of break as they ignore the better ways!Inez phoned yesterday. She’s happy as a clam up near her northern lake, not working but busy as usual. She was about to bottle wine yesterday and they’re off to Maui on Wednesday for a week.

I’ve been staying at an acreage near my home town for the past two weeks, house/dogsitting for a friend, and will be here till Sunday. It’s so convenient, just 5 minutes from the village office where I work three days a week. I’m off to Watertown today to do some banking and then will stop at home for a few hours — Himself wants to make supper for me and I haven’t seen him since last Sunday, though we talk on the phone morning and evening.

The little ones who visit us are his two granddaughters who live in the next province; they’re two years old and 10 months old. He is absolutely smitten with them, which is sweet. I’m a little less so, not enjoying small children the way he does; at least, not for a long time. I like shorter visits! Just call me Grinchy Gramma. Earplugs don’t really handle the noise so I struggle some. More like my dad every year, it seems!

Your New Year’s Eve party with music and singing and friends makes me a little envious. Ours was quiet; we managed to stay awake till 11:45 and then crawled into bed and asked ourselves whether we should try to stay awake for a NY’s kiss at midnight, and said to hell with it, kissed each other, and went to sleep!

I had best get a move on while I still have some gung-ho left. I’ve been here since Thursday after work without going anywhere or seeing anyone, and have been perfectly content with my own company. I could be a hermit easily. It’ll be good to get back home on the weekend too, and then shortly after that Himself will probably go to see the grandchildren in the next province so I’ll be on the farm by myself for a week or so, which I always like too. Except for the chance of getting snowed-in at this time of year, which normally doesn’t bother me but when I have a job to go to … .

Again, I’m sorry about your dad. There are no words that help; I wish there were.


To Talk or Not to Talk, That is the Question

“Don’t you ever feel that there is so much that needs to be said, that it would be such a relief to get things out in the open and try to understand each other better, but that to do so means stirring up shit and making everything worse so you just avoid certain subjects instead?”

That’s what Fairweather said to Himself this morning.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Also,” she told him, “I’m not sure that every problem I have with our relationship is caused by both of us. I want to figure out my part in things and take responsibility for what I’ve created. Sharing all my upsets with you might be raking up muck instead of clearing the waters. At least, it’s often been that way when I’ve tried talking to you about things. I don’t trust, anymore, that talking gets us anywhere but more upset and angry.”

They were chatting over the phone and she heard his cellphone ring. It was a videocall from Princely coming in, and so Himself’s call with her was immediately terminated. Princely comes first. Always.

Is Fairweather resentful? Why, yes. Yes she is.

Hard-Hearted Annie

Fairweather Walker has no sympathy for people who can’t afford to pay veterinarian bills yet keep getting pets.

She knows pets are difficult to resist. They are so cute and lovable. They need homes. They are good for a person to have around.

But seriously, if you’re a grown-ass adult and always anxious about paying your mortgage and your car loan and your insurance premiums and your heat and electricity costs, the expense of a pet is beyond your means.

Your blog sports a “tip jar” in hopes your faithful readers will help you out, while you have two or three cats and a large dog, you get regular pedicures, you buy cosmetics and new clothes all the time, and so on … and bydammit your blog is excellent and it’s great if your readers want to pay for it … but Fairweather has no sympathy for your “poverty” plight.

If you worry about money, it’s because you choose to spend foolishly. That’s not Fairweather’s problem and she won’t be giving you two cents to help you pay for the fact that you live beyond your means. Grow up and learn to say No to yourself once in a while.

Letter to Shrimpette After A Week or More of Not Feeling Like Responding to Her

Hi Shrimp,

I dreamed about you the other night. You said you had been calling me and getting no answer — and how true is that in a way! 

I’m about to go upstairs for a shower and then, with luck (neckache gone or intensity reduced), drive into the village and work for a bit. Things are still far behind (like, years) and these things are serious, like tax-collected reports to government and such, and three days a week simply doesn’t give me time to do them. Worse, the village owes so much money to various places that paying me even for those three days will mean going thousands of dollars into the overdraft at the end of this month. 

So I won’t reread your last couple letters right now, will just respond to a couple subjects you wrote about as I recall them. 

Eating — different bodies no doubt have different needs, and no one is an accurate judge of someone else’s requirements. Judging other people’s choices isn’t productive. Talking about our own choices may be interesting to others if we manage not to be self-righteous. Even when we do manage it, some people will feel criticized. Why anyone should care if others don’t eat dead animals or animal products, I don’t know. Perhaps because everyone who doesn’t do as they do makes them question their own choices? It seems to be taken personally by Himself if I don’t like what he likes: meat and potatoes. Which I often eat — I too was raised on them — but not three times a day, or every day. 

I’ve always been wary of pressure cookers because of the possibility of explosions, which can happen when you don’t know what you’re doing as you operate them. The first time I used the one Himself bought, I had to read the book that came with it, sometimes I had questions that weren’t answered in the book or when I searched online and I’d already started cooking, and this made me sweat. I’ve used it three times so far, all satisfyingly. The taste of stew meat I tried didn’t even seem so bad; I don’t usually like stew except for the potatoes and gravy in it. 

I got over my anger at Himself as soon as he “heard” when I explained why receiving kitchen items from him made me feel like his chief cook and bottle washer instead of his sweetheart. You are absolutely right, though; sometimes I don’t like him very much. I don’t like everything he says and does, or doesn’t do. Underneath that, I love him. We may not be very good for each other, however. The jury’s still out. I’m enjoying my time away, though we talk several times a day. Apparently neither of us finds the other easy to live with. 

You said you were trying to help me by pointing out what seemed to you to be my blind spots about myself. Last time I tried to do the same for you — when I suggested that putting your marriage first, at the expense of your own self-esteem, might be an unhealthy thing to do — you insisted you were in fine mental fettle thank you very much and how dare I suggest that you, who is considered so wise by so many who have come to you for advice, might want to consider putting your own self-esteem top of priority; and that I had best change into someone who does things more like other people do if I ever hope to be happy. 

After that, I don’t try to correct you in any way (for “your own good,” though it was, of course; but is it really? isn’t that what people always convince themselves they are doing when they analyse other people’s motivations?); not because I’m afraid of your anger, but because I could see how upset you were and to me, this meant you were hurt and wouldn’t hear me anyway. Maybe I had touched a sore spot you have because of your brother’s condition? 

So to be fair, you’re not the only one who takes care with what she says to the other, and how she says it. I tiptoe around you every bit as much as you say you tiptoe around me.

This is a good thing; it shows respect for another person and a faith that, unless I’m asked for my opinion or guidance, my friend is well able to know herself and figure things out for herself. I hold my tongue fairly often rather than respond to some of your statements about how and why you manage your life and marriage as you do. If to me they seem misguided at times, enough to fail you in the end, they’re yours and you’ve a right to them. You know yourself better than I do and you know what’s working for you and what isn’t. I assume you’re acting according to your beliefs and convictions while meeting your challenges. The idea of acting in spite of my objections and serving men and marriage has only ever sickened me, though it’s been suggested many times by you and by the culture we live in; for you it’s possible the result is totally different! If it gets you what you want and you feel good about the way you got it, more power to you. I don’t know how much of your success is real and how much is rationalizing your choices, some of which I see as manipulative as much as strategic, as self-preserving more than courage to stand unapproved; I don’t know how much of my behaviour is that, too. When I read about how you approach things, I take and use what I think are helpful ideas (and thank you) and ignore those that are out of character for me. That’s not to say I never try approaches that are uncomfortable; if they help you, they might help me. But generally, as much as I often wish to get over myself and be more like someone else — anyone else! — I don’t really believe this can be done. There are games we can play to positive result, and games we can’t. 

It’s all too easy to misjudge a person when you don’t actually spend time together. Writing is good because there is time to think before one “speaks” and when alone, writing, it’s easier to be clear on what I mean. Those with whom I’ve spent time in person over the years don’t find me hot-tempered or bullying, or whatever the words you used were; I trust their observations of and experience with me more than yours for that simple reason. The one person who has seen me quick-tempered or “intense” is the one who behaves in ways that would make anybody angry, make anybody speak up; if it has made that person think twice about what he says and does, it’s a good thing. I hate to imagine what kind of doormat I’d have to be to let verbal abuse and lack of consideration slide too often. Thanks to that very temper you speak of (if that’s what it is; is anger always temper or bad-temperedness or whatever you called it? or is it sometimes quite justified? I think the latter), he has gotten a handle on his habits and although he still slips up from time to time, I’ve seen real growth in self-control from both of us. 

I don’t want to “fight” either. I hope that’s not what our long friendship is turning into. I’ve written all the above in an effort to be as forthcoming with you about you as you said you were being about me, ostensibly to help me see myself more clearly and/or honestly. I’m sure you won’t agree with some of my perspective about you any more than I see myself as you have described me. Blind spots are blind spots; I’m not the only one who has them, or whose ego or “pain body” are sometimes in the driver’s seat. It requires ongoing effort to be aware of them. Getting free of them is a whole other story. 

Monday morning:

I never got this email finished and had best get it sent off before it languishes long enough to be even more “dated.” My sister’s coming over this afternoon and I’m going to hop into the shower first; there’s a lovely enclosed shower in a warm upstairs bathroom where I can have a quick rinse every day … my life is complete! Between that luxury and a dishwasher to run every two or three days, I’m having a nice little holiday. Did you get the job at the funeral home?

Early One Morning

8:06 a.m.

Fairweather was talking to the new postmistress yesterday and was asked how old she was. The lady acted disbelieving, even shocked, when Fairweather said “61 next week.” She insisted Fairweather doesn’t look a day over 45. “What do you eat!?” she exclaimed. “What do you do to look like that?!” After just that morning looking in the mirror and being chagrined at how old and tired she appeared, Fairweather knew the lady was being kind but appreciated her enthusiastic insistence.

Slept late today; Himself’s phone call woke her at 7:45. She’s been waking at 5:30 all week.

She’d gone to bed around 8:30 unable to stay awake and with a headache coming on. Took 3 ibuprofen and had to get up shortly after midnight for an Indocid suppository. That did the trick and she slept well except for the damn dog barking and whining to go out about 3 o’clock. Headache’s slightly there this morning and she hopes it doesn’t last as she has a dentist appointment in Watertown at noon.

Merriweather texted yesterday. Would she like to invite a few friends on her birthday and Merriweather’d bring cake? Fairweather said no thanks to the friends, dear sister; just you. Merriweather said “What about our aunt? I could pick her up.” Fairweather said no, I’d like you all to myself.

Fairweather thought about that reply for a minute before sending it, as she knew their aunt would enjoy the outing and she should be kind and include her. But her aunt was with them on Friday (Fairweather was in town anyway so offered to drive her to Merriweather’s to have her dog groomed), and the sisters will have a better visit if it’s just the two of them.

Fairweather sees enough of their aunt anyway. Even on her days off, after she’s been there three times that week, her aunt often phones and keeps her talking for an hour. She hasn’t been going for lunch since staying near the office to dogsit; she comes to let the dog in and eat something – it’s a drive of five minutes if not less – but she stopped at her aunt’s Wednesday after work. She was offered a cup of tea and they sat in the living room to drink it. Her aunt has been cutting out fabric for another quilt so her kitchen is full of cloth strips and she’s been hard at it all week. Fairweather hugged her before leaving and said “Kinda miss you, not seeing you three times a week!” and it’s funny because at that moment she does mean it or she wouldn’t do it or say it, but in reality it’s a relief not to go there and she dreads the phone calls because they go on too long. Fairweather knows her aunt’s lonely and needs that hug though, and Fairweather does appreciate those hot, prepared lunches. Some of her feelings conflict. Story of her life.

Shoot, she should try to phone her dad again. A bit early now, only 6:30 in British Columbia. He’ll be up, mind you.

There, she called. He’d been up a half-hour. They talked about 10 minutes.

I Ain't Missin' You at All

Monday, January 20, 2020


Fairweather has just ran a sinkful of hot water to soak the dishes. She hasn’t washed any since arriving Friday afternoon at this acreage she is looking after for the next three weeks for a friend.

She hasn’t seen a soul since then. She talked to her aunt on the phone twice, but didn’t answer her call on Sunday night when she was watching a movie and her aunt’s probably pissed off. Fairweather didn’t want to miss an hour of the movie and it’s hard to get her aunt off the phone.

She talked to Birdie once, and to himself every day but today so far.

She’s not lonely at all and is only sorry she has to spend the next three days at the office.

Fairweather’s been thinking about what it’s like when she and Himself are together. Do they actually enjoy each others’ company? She’s much more relaxed and herself when he’s not around, and he probably feels the same way about her. As a matter of fact, she’s hardly herself at all with him anymore. She’s always slightly guarded about what she says and does.

The other day at home they were in the kitchen and she closed the folding corner cupboard door – carefully, not because she was aware he was watching but because he always criticizes the way she does it – and he lost his shit. He insisted that she slammed the door against the other cupboard instead of making sure to close it properly. He’s accused her of this a number of times and so she does take care to close the door gently and slowly, but apparently she still doesn’t do it right and, according to him, now it doesn’t close properly.

This time, as he freaked out, she said “It’s not made of glass. I’m not going to spend 15 seconds closing the door each time; I’m trying to get things done.” He yelled and slammed the cupboard door hard, twice, in an exaggerated fashion, saying that’s what she does. Is it any wonder she’s not relaxed when he’s around?

He’s finally stopped blaming her for the fact that the tiny, stuck-on rubber stoppers slide off the cupboard doors. But it wasn’t until one of his sisters remarked that the stoppers on hers slide off all the time too and she doesn’t understand why.

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