The Visitor, A Remembrance Day Story

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I wrote this story a few years ago and post it every Remembrance Day.  It’s one of my favourites and is appropriate for today.  Lest we forget….

I watched as the plane landed with a thunderous roar, the engines coming to an abrupt halt as if the pilot had simply turned the switch to the ‘off’ position.  I stood with my back hard against the biting wind, wondering if I should prepare a salute or simply stand at attention.  I waited for some direction from my superior officer, but none came.  I believe the shock of the arrival and the excitement of having such a prolific visitor come adrift upon our rocky shores had sent us all into a wave of silent awe.

It was November 1942.  The world was engulfed in the biggest conflict known to man, the classic battle between good and evil personified by the leaders of European nations struggling to define the world on their own terms, ignoring the plight and suffering of those they plundered into despair.  Leaders who were so enmeshed in their own agendas they took no notice of the people being tortured and beaten or of children being left to die on the streets with explosions and gunfire rattling their souls, shattering lives and dreams without a second thought.   Our little part of the world seemed so distant and removed from such gross atrocities against humanity, save the work our army was doing to assist our allies.  Our shores were vulnerable and England knew the possibility of oncoming attacks, sending reinforcements to protect our rocky cliffs by setting up battlements to keep constant watch over our ocean.  I say ‘our ocean’ as if we, the country of Newfoundland, could even suggest possessing such a thing.  This living, breathing entity entrusted to us by God to forever protect and nurture, and in return permission to fish her open blue waters.  She bestowed food in abundance to feed our families, nourish a growing country and sustain our people through long harsh winters, all the while, the stars beckoning fishermen to take to their boats and sail beneath their watchful gazes, enrapturing them in the ocean’s song of freedom and peace. The salty water blowing upon our land giving weight to the wet laundry strung out to dry on the tenuous lines, the gale force winds blowing it skyward.  Salt we could taste upon our lips, and feel the sting in our eyes after waiting and watching for our husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles to return home from months at sea.  Our lives hung in limbo, much like the laundry blowing haphazardly across the blue horizon. We were left to protect our waters, land and people with nothing more than a few strong men and the good sense God had granted us to outlast the evil dictators who were waging war against England.  We watched as our men and women departed for lands far out reaching our own, with the ever present knowledge that they may never return.  We applauded their bravery, mocked the suggestions of indignant retreats and prayed for their eventual safe return to Newfoundland’s humble embrace.

The wind blew out like a blast from God as I blindly stood, tears streaming down my face with my hands frozen by my side.  The Botwood air base was abuzz with excitement, people milling about in the cold waiting for the slightest chance of catching a glimpse of his surly expression, most likely with a lit cigar firmly planted between his teeth as ashes trailed his every step.  This was the man who held the fate of England in his hands although promising years of struggle and grief, he never wavered in his belief that we could withstand the loss of lives brought upon us by Hitler’s egocentric views that embraced the inane and contemptible.

The entire world watched as England waged war against the tyranny of this dictator. The population poured passionate and all-encompassing faith into a beloved and respected Prime Minister, believing he could lead the world to victory over the malevolent force spreading across Europe.   I was excited by the prospect of meeting the leader of almighty England, but nervous he may look upon me as subservient.  His stellar military career had ignited my own aspirations of service, however I knew that I was not his equal.  His brilliance was far beyond my capacities and I was quickly daunted by the challenges of such a life during this tumultuous time. It was as if people knew this was an era of change and historic will; nations rose together in allegiance to restore peace, hope and the conviction that all people should live without having to witness death and destruction in their backyards. It was a time where the future seemed uncertain, the constant news of battles and resulting casualties the topic of every radio broadcast, but when he took to the airwaves, we rose in unison to hope the end of such senseless slaughter would soon be upon us.  I recalled hearing the warnings from the Prime Minister years before this terrible outbreak regarding Hitler’s rampant greed for superiority and his assembling of armies in the name of ‘white supremacy’.  Although he was politely ignored, Churchill could see Europe’s demise propelling forward and he was prepared to rally a nation to stand tall and fight.  His inspiring words sprang intense patriotism that only war time mentality could comprehend, and years later as he took his seat as Prime Minister, he became England’s savior as well as our guide into the dark abyss of war.

I watched in wonder as the man of whom I had been inspired emerged from the plane, the propellers slowing as the engines died.  He stood, his long trench billowing about his ankles and lit his cigar surreptitiously beside the plane’s engines.  I smiled as I watched, seeing the horrified looks from my superiors at Churchill’s disregard for such trivialities as an impending explosion from a lighter in proximity to the plane’s fuselage.  They hurriedly escorted him away from the danger zone and into a path leading directly to where I was standing.  The smile must have still been securely glued upon my face as he approached and smiled back at me.  His hat had almost succumbed to a violent gust of wind and he forcefully replaced it upon his head.  He looked me up and down as if inspecting my presence in such a desolate and isolated place and said loudly, “Hello, Sergeant!  So, how do you like it up here in Newfoundland?”  I was momentarily stunned staring into his bright blue eyes and the energy and warmth behind them tempted a reply from my gaping frozen lips. “Fine, sir” I sputtered, “I like it fine.”

 

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No Kicking Under the Dinner Table

The presidential election is happening today and many are quaking in their boots.  People are cowering in the corner, listening to the radio with bated breath, wondering if there is going to be a tomorrow.  It’s like Y2K all over again with proclamations of imminent disaster and chaos, water supplies are dwindling, stock markets are shaky and folks are gearing up for computer crashes and a zombie apocalypse.   It’s a presidential election to end all elections.  It’s great it’s finally over since it was the longest, dirtiest, most horrendous campaign in the history of American politics.  Mudslinging, scandals, accusations complete with a misogynistic bastard as a forerunner, and as unfathomable as that seems, there it is.  Right there.  People are scratching their heads in bewildered amazement thinking how did we let this happen?  Ask the residents of the states.  See the people at his rallies.  Watch the speeches.

The train wreck that is happening just south of our Canadian border is hard to watch, but also impossible not to.   It affects us too.  We are like a member of the family, the little brother with the cute haircut and the affable personality.  The kid that gets the shit flung his way, but still manages to smile.  He’s polite and nice to a fault, has enough room at his table for everyone, tolerant and respectful to others with differing backgrounds and has some gas in the tank if you need a ride to the rink on a cold day or a run to Timmy’s after a snowstorm or five.  Oh, sure he has his flaws, he has trouble with the bullies at school who continue to bring drugs and guns and he tries to talk some sense into the senior kids who want to riot about unfair treatment and long wait times at the ER, but that’s how it goes.  Not everybody is perfect.  At least he tries hard and wants to ‘do the right thing’ the majority of the time.

His big brother has more problems and more issues and more guns and more…just, more everything.  And with a bloated ego maniac waiting to take the reins, the affable little brother is trying hard to grin and bear it, but it’s getting increasingly difficult.  Fear is bubbling just below the surface along with trepidation and the knee-jerk reaction to shut it down.  Shut down the openness that would possibly allow the intolerant, self-centred misogynistic attitude seep into the psyche of the well-adjusted little brother.  Shut down any remote possibility that the ego maniac has any chance of negatively     influencing the little brother’s sensitive and altruistic being.  Just Shut. It. Down.

Good luck to our neighbours to the south.  I hope democracy wins and you all are happy with your decision.

Just, don’t kick us under the dinner table…

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Thanks for Making Me A Better Smartass, Apple.

I should not be allowed to have any kind of ability to message memes or GIFs to other people on my contact list.  It can easily get out of hand and I will substitute actual words for a video clip.  It’s like Apple decided I shouldn’t speak, but allow others to do the talking for me, so they give me all of these options of random celebrities doing awesome facial expressions like rolling their eyes or sticking out their tongues or giving people the finger…you know, stuff I do all of the time, only now I can get Beyonce to do it for me!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  I can be Beyonce without actually being Beyonce.

Conversation has taken a back seat to Justin Timberlake dancing or a random actor rolling their eyes or even Prince looking bored and uninterested.  If my kids ask me a question, they brace themselves waiting to see if I respond with actual words, or a short vid of Honey Boo Boo dancing like a maniac.

Apple has made it so easy for me to basically dumb down any communication to a glib video response instead of a long drawn out ‘okay’  or ‘Thanks for letting me know’ or the ever popular ‘WTF?!’ Now all I need is a search term and a little patience to scroll through all the video clips, then pick the best one and voila!  My answer to the question of ‘what’s for dinner?’  ‘Did you remember to pick up Son?’  or ‘I got an A on my paper!’ is as easy as typing ‘dinner’ and I get clips of food and people eating food and sarcastic memes about food, all at my fingertips waiting for me to push send.  The possibilities are as endless as the videos and when I run out of them, I simply type in another search term and BAM, more choices to be sarcastic without even typing a single word!  APPLE FINALLY GETS ME.

There is a downside to my laziness…the written/spoken word is diminishing before my eyes and I’m unwittingly supporting it.  I’m a major contributor to the degradation of society by allowing myself to fall victim to the temptation of random video responses!  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!

I know what’s wrong with me.

It’s easy.  It’s fun.  It’s engaging.  It’s smartassiness at its finest and I FUCKING LOVE IT.

I enjoy the search for the videos and the reactions I get when I send them.  I like seeing the funny face or the OMG STOP IT, from my kids or my friends who I bother at work…or in the middle of the night.  You can even do it while you’re drunk, and people will just think you’re being a smartass.  Not that I’ve ever done that, before.   I think I should actually text words a little more often.  Everyone may be expecting a video response every time they message me, so they’ll stop messaging me and then they’ll stop speaking to me.  Pretty soon, they won’t even want to text or talk or anything!  I WILL LOSE ALL COMMUNICTATION WITH MY CHILDREN AND MY FRIENDS ALL BECAUSE TAYLOR SWIFT HAS A BETTER EYE ROLL THAN ME!    SOCIETY WILL COME TO SCREECHING HALT AND CONVERSATION WILL BE OBLITERATED IN THE FAVOUR OF A BEYONCE HAIR FLIP!  EVERYBODY WILL THINK I’M A WICKED SMARTASS BECAUSE OF THE FLIPPANT VIDEOS DRIPPING WITH SARCASM AND SASSINESS!

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Now, I’m not only the worst conversationalist ever, I’m the BEST smartass ever.

Way to go Apple.  YOU JUST MADE MY LIFE.

Backward is the New Forward

 

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I like being alone.  I crave time by myself.  Many of us introverted types usually do.  We don’t care if we have a houseful of people and we aren’t looking to be with a crowd.  We tend to want to be with ourselves.  We need time to think.  We need time to be…well, just be.  It’s not that I’m anti-social, I don’t think I’m anti-anything, it’s just I like being with me.  I have shit to think about.  Stuff to read.  Stuff to write.  Stuff to paint.  Just stuff to do that doesn’t include others.  I get in a crowd and it makes me uncomfortable.  I’m much better than I used to be, but still…it makes me edgy.  It’s better when I know everyone and they know me and aren’t expecting me to be witty, or engaging or a major conversationalist.  I suck at conversation.  I can be witty with a couple of glasses of wine and a good friend or two, but more than that and I shut down.  I get nervous.  I think they have more interesting things to say that I would like to listen to.  Not that I’m not intelligent enough to participate, on the contrary I can be a smart ass…just, I have to know that you can take it first.  I can talk about books and authors and movies and sentence structure and my dog and…other stuff.  You just have to show me that you’re interested in that stuff too.  We make you work for our time…you have to show us that you want to be in our company.  We don’t NEED somebody else to feel ‘complete’ or to feel like we matter.  We matter.  We know that.  We like our space.  Our time.

We introverts are around but we aren’t as noticeable as our extroverted counterparts.  We usually aren’t the life of the party.  We tend to watch the goings on.  Not that we don’t speak up, we just listen first.  We tend to be lurking in the shadows or watching from the sidelines.  We’re not ‘stuck up’ or think we are superior, we just wait until we feel we have something important to contribute.

I was always labelled ‘shy’…even ‘backward’.  I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.  Backward.  Like, I walk backwards?  I talk backwards?  I don’t think I think backwards.  I behave backwards?  Who the hell made this up?  Somebody backwards…

I think we are a misunderstood species.  I think people make many assumptions about our personalities before they have the opportunity to get to know us better, but then again, that happens with anyone who is perceived as different…or even ‘backward’.  It’s assumed we don’t like people or parties or any type of social gathering, so don’t get invited.  It’s assumed we are stuck up, or have a superiority complex.  We’re just quiet.  It’s assumed we are ignorant or even stupid.  We’re just waiting for an intelligent conversation and don’t want to bore you with semantics.  It’s assumed we have nothing to contribute, but we just are waiting for the opportunity.  We don’t do small talk.  It’s uninteresting to talk about the weather and who really wants to know if it’s raining out…again.  We take our time and want to get to know someone before jumping in to anything.  Our time is valuable and so is yours.

I’m saying ‘we’ because this isn’t just a ‘me’ thing.  Introverts are nothing new and I’m not alone.  It’s like a movement of sorts, now.  There’s Quietrev   a website that has a newsletter I receive regularly in my email that talks about being an introvert and how being ‘quiet’ doesn’t mean that you are any less important, less intelligent or less anything.  It discusses how to make gains in professional circles where networking is a key component and how to maneuver in a world that tends to dismiss the quiet few and reward the noisy majority.  ‘Squeaky wheel gets the oil?’ is that the saying?  We think that’s wrong.  We can be heard, just in our own way and time.

Blogging gives me my voice.  Writing gives me the opportunity to say what I’m thinking and people get to know me who otherwise may have had the knee-jerk reaction to dismiss me as uninterested or ‘stuck-up’, or that I simply have nothing to say.  No part of that is true.

Give us our space and time and we will give you our thoughts…just don’t expect us to yell over anyone to be heard.

Moving Forward Reluctantly

I was debating how to start this one, as it’s fraught with euphemisms and ‘life is like a box of chocolate’ kind of sayings.  It’s challenging and scary and moving forward is always hard.  Children become adults without even blinking and suddenly university is over and moving out is on the horizon.  And not just moving across town.  Moving across the country.  Moving to another province, another time zone, another way of life.  Ugh.  When did I give birth to adults?  This is a lot harder than they told me.  I don’t remember anybody saying that moving on would be harder on the parents than the adult-seeming children from whom I wiped snot from their runny noses and caught their vomit in buckets and chauffeured them to dance classes and guitar lessons and Tae Kwon Do sessions and even the occasional hockey-from-hell practices.  Christmas presents are no longer dolls or toys or games, but dishes for their new apartments, or new bedding for the new beds or gas cards to get them across the province.  We don’t eat supper together every night because one is running to work then class, another is running from class to work and the third one is preparing his four thousand word essay on the bombing of Hiroshima and can I possibly let him eat in his room tonight?  Gawd, where did these people come from?

The daughters will be finishing up university in the Spring which has brought discussions of Chapter 3 into the round table.  Everybody wants to be supportive, but with applications flying from one end of the country to the other, my nerves are starting to fray.   I’ve got one with ambitions of working in Intelligence and one nursing in a warmer climate.  I’ve got the other one applying for unis in Ontario and BC and then saying ‘well, you know I have to think about Medical school down the road.’  MEDICAL SCHOOL???!!!  WHO ARE YOU?!  WHERE’S MY LITTLE BOY WHO SPILLED CHEERIOS ON THE FLOOR AND REFUSED TO SPEAK UNTIL HE WAS THREE AND SANG ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ SONGS TO HIS GRADE ONE TEACHER?!!  * As a side, they weren’t really ‘inappropriate’, but when your kid goes to school singing “Save a horse, ride a cowboy” you get a call….

I had a long discussion with co-worker who has been through this with his son and he was very good at allaying my fears.  “She’ll be fine.  She’ll land on her feet.  It will work out.”    Okay, I’ll nod and trust you are right.

In the meantime, I’ll be around the house looking at old photos and lamenting the times the children were children and asking for friends to come over to play barbies and making snow forts in the backyard and NOT looking to get as far away from me as possible…

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