Waiting for a forest fire

Our community of Red Lake is on standby to be evacuated from two nearby fires. Three communities north of us have already evacuated some or all of their community members. Last year we evacuated on a moment’s notice because of a fire that started very close to town. This year we have warning and systems are in place. But now we wait.

My mother was evacuated with her long term care home to one in Kenora two nights ago. She is safe.

We are packed. We have decided what we are taking with us.

We have let all of our loved ones know where we are going and what is happening.

We continue to go to work.

We watch Facebook.

We read the news updates.

We wait for the next update from our Mayor.

That is all we can do now.

Wait and be calm. Encourage each other. Be nice to each other. Help each other.

Pray for rain and pray for wind change.

Our firefighters are working hard. We pray for them too.

Contentment

Finally, it has come, a bit of contentment with life. Sometimes a lot of contentment. Content to just be. And really it’s because I can’t be anywhere else than where I am. I have to be content to be right here right now. It is like a gift. Usually as winter approaches, we dream of a vacation to somewhere else; somewhere warmer maybe but just to be somewhere else. With that dream can come a lot of stress. Decisions to be made and agreed upon. Arrangements for travel made. More stress. Plans and more plans. And then travel and meet deadlines and run through airports. Well, not this year!

It is peaceful. Don’t have to fill up my already full brain with all of those extra decisions. Can just stay. Be. Rest.

I see families hanging out together, enjoying each other. I see people spending time outdoors, enjoying creation. I see many things to be grateful for.

Yes, there is a terrible pandemic and people have died and are very sick all over the world. That is a fact. I worry about my mom, in long term care. That is a fact. But I see hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.

And right now, I am content in being.

New Year New Ways

Every day is a new beginning. I love that. If you were grumpy or bitter or jealous or envious yesterday you get today to change that. I am grateful for this.

There was a time when I opened my eyes and did not want to face another day. The pain of losing my child was so huge. Immense. Gigantic. Enormous. Smothering me.

But I got up and fumbled through the day hoping for relief. I did that for a long time. It was lonely. Then I prayed for faith because I had lost my belief in a Creator. I kept praying. And praying. It worked. So I am grateful for healing. For waking up in the morning with a prayer of thanks in my heart instead of an emptiness.

I haven’t written anything for a long time. Like others in this pandemic I’ve been staying close to home and focusing on my world around me, trying to make some peace with the confusion and fear of the unknown future. I’ve decided that I will write whatever I’m thinking about because writing is part of my healing process. I have to write for me. It might not always make sense to others.

I get tested weekly for covid so that I am able to see my mom in a long term care home where she lives her final years in her world with dementia.

I have continued to work throughout this pandemic in an essential job for which I am thankful. Violence against women has not stopped during this time.

Each day is an unknown. And each day I embrace. So with those thoughts I’ll share some photos of my walk the other day. Peace.

We’re cousins

Families get separated for many reasons; divorce, marriage, geography, feuds are a few. In my life I’ve had family members disappear and reappear or just disappear or just appear! I shared a few years ago, about cousins who moved away as children and then reunited with the rest of us forty years later.

You can read that story here: https://momhealing.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/1024/

This summer I met two cousins, Dan and Donna, I have never met before!

A few of us cousins have been in contact via Facebook for a couple of years now and I don’t even know how that all happened. But everything happens for a reason and I also believe in miracles.

My cousins were apprehended by Child and Family Services in the late 60s, here in Red Lake. Their father was my mom’s brother. He was struggling with addictions at that time as was his wife, their mother. Three children were apprehended and put into foster care and eventually put up for adoption. My cousin tells me that there was an add placed in the newspaper.

The three children were all adopted by a non-native family in the Toronto area and raised there. My mom always told me about these cousins who “were taken away”. I wondered what happened to them.

They were fortunate to be adopted into the same family! They have each had their own struggles in life but I am so happy that they have reached out to their bio family. It is only the beginning.

Their story is theirs to tell, so I’m not going to tell it. From my perspective, it has been a surreal experience, meeting people I had heard about since childhood but never expected to meet.

I can say that there is talent in the family! You can check out Dan’s artwork on his Facebook site: Trip with me.

An evacuee again

After our escape from our little town, we had to spend the night in our vehicles and get some rest. We’d left in a hurry and crawled out of town in the long line of cars. Everyone in town went to the one gas station to get gas and then onto the one highway out of town. We were three vehicles but we were all filled with gas so didn’t have to endure the gas pump line up.

There were no hotels available in the nearby towns, so we decided to get some sleep in Ear Falls and then carry on to my brother and brother-in-law’s cottage another five hours’ drive away. Even though I had packed my two tents, sleeping bags and an air mattress, I was too stressed and tired to even think about putting up the tents at 1:00 a.m. We just put our seats back and crashed in our SUV. My sons and their dog were in their vehicle next to us. And my brother, Bill and his partner, Dave, were in their truck at the other end of the park.

At that point, my mind was just on getting some rest and relieved that we were away from the fire. I was also worried about where we would all go and for how long. We were evacuated for two weeks the last time, in 1980. If the fire crossed our highway and burned the hydro lines, our town would be without electricity until the lines could be replaced. Food would go bad in fridges and freezers. Phones could be down. Internet could be down. Things could be very bad. And houses could burn.

When daylight came, we decided to head for the cottage. The community of Ear Falls kept their gas stations open all night for evacuees. Food donations were being organized. We got gas and carried on down the highway to Dryden, where we stopped at Walmart and picked up food and clothing necessities. I’d packed my clothes but forgot a nightgown. I need my nightie. I also didn’t pack my sunglasses because we’d left at 10:00 p.m. in the dark.

For the next week, we stayed at the cottage, very grateful to have somewhere to stay, trying to keep busy and keep our minds busy but watching the updates from our municipality on Facebook.

Praying that the weather would be helpful; the winds would stop, the rain would come. And the winds did change direction. And the rain did come. And the amazing fire fighters were able to contain the fire.

I wish I could say that I did well that week. That I was calm and trusting in God. I can’t say that. I was a basket case inside. Trying to be brave on the outside. It was very traumatic. My family was great. Everyone helped out around camp and we behaved well. Some trees were felled. Some saunas were had. And boat rides were enjoyed. But always in the back of your mind is wondering when and if we could go home.

When I read the post six days after we fled that said we could now return home; we wouldn’t have our natural gas turned on, but we could go home, I cried.

Flight from Forest Fire

Fleeing from a forest fire in a pandemic was not even a worry in my worried head. My head was full of Covid 19 changes in my life and the usual worries about my boys.

Strangely, I had posted my story about our evacuation due to forest fire in 1980. This year was the 40th anniversary of that time.

https://momhealing.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/fire-1980/

But, really, did it have to happen again?

Yes it did.

Here’s a short version of my later on longer version.

On Monday, August 10th, I was at home enjoying a few days of holidays. My brother and brother-in-law were staying with me for a few days and we had arranged to visit out mom in the Lodge that day. It was a good visit and we scheduled another one for the next day. We then went to the beach.

It was windy. Really windy. I am not a windologist but it was crazy windy. Things were blowing down the streets and trees were having a hard time. We gave up at the beach. The sand was blowing in our faces, giving us unwanted dermabrasion.

We went home and sat outside. My brother checked his facebook feed and saw a post about a fire. We looked to the west and yes, there is was, a big plume of smoke. Naturally, we were curious so we jumped in the vehicle and sped off to investigate. It wasn’t long before we realized that was dumb and turned around. The fire wasn’t that far away. That was at approximately 4:00 p.m.

We notified my sons, who were home at their apartment and then we all went to my house to watch the smoke and keep up with facebook posts. Facebook is the way our little town communicates.

The first post by the municipality stated that the fire was not a threat. We sat and watched. The second post a couple of hours later said to be on alert. What!! I packed my little suitcase and waited. Evening came. The smoke looked like it was not as bad. The helicopters were on scene and then the water bombers.

Then I was notified that the Lodge had evacuated mom and all residents to Kenora, three hours away. What?!!

Then the post from the municipality stated to evacuate that night if possible. What?!! I’m not sure what time I saw this but we all packed up in about 15 minutes and were out the door. (We had parked our vehicles on the front street). We left at about 10:03 p.m.

Everything happened so quickly. What do you pack when you leave in a hurry? What are those important things? Well, we took my Dad. He is still in my closet at home, waiting to be laid to rest, when mom leaves this world.

Out on the street, people were getting in vehicles or waiting for rides. We noticed a man with his thumb out and asked him where he was going. He had no clue where to go or what to do as he had just moved to town. We told him to get in. Off we went and joined a line of a thousand other vehicles leaving town in the dark on our one road out of town.

What a relief to be heading down the highway. We had decided we would go to my brother’s cottage six hours away; just drive all night. It didn’t work out that way. We were told to register in the next town. People were diverted into the town to register which caused a bottle neck of vehicles. What normally takes 45 minutes to get to, took three hours. Yes, we were in a line for three hours. Wondering how close the fire was. By the time we reached Ear Falls, it was 1:00 a.m. We were exhausted. We pulled into the beachfront park and slept in our vehicles. Happy to be alive.

To be continued….

The tree fort

I believe it was during our first summer at the fish camp that mom’s younger brother worked with Dad, fishing. And it was that summer that Dad and Uncle Larry built us a tree house.

It was simple, just a floor built between three trees with a railing around it and a ladder. It was set in the large poplar trees on the outskirts of the back yard and near the old garbage dump.

It was cool, our own tree fort. But it was also a little scary at times if you were there alone. We spent many hours there over the years playing with friends and cousins.

Our little dog could not climb the ladder but always wanted to  be with us so we attempted to pull him up in a box. He didn’t like that and  jumped out. In the end he mostly stayed on the ground as our protector.

I liked to sit in the tree fort and sing, imagining I was Julie Andrews. Rain drops on Roses and whiskers on kittens, light copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favourite things.

Up the ladder we climbed

to our secret hideaway

there in the trees

where we could be

whatever we wanted to be

Away from the adults

away from the rules

in our own world

where we were kings and queens

Come on, let’s play

make up our own rules

and live happily ever after

in the tree house

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I’m not an artist!!

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The beginning for a fisherman’s daughter

It was probably the most exciting thing that could have happened to us as kids. We didn’t understand the purpose or the commitment it involved. To us, my brother, Billy and me, it meant spending summers camping, having fun and freedom. To my father it meant being self-employed, not having to punch a time card every day or answer to someone else. Something he really wanted. To my mother, however, it meant isolation, hard work and loneliness. At least that’s how I see it looking back. She got the sharp end of the stick.

Her life wasn’t easy. It never had been easy, from her birth on an island outside a small reservation to her life with her husband in a small urban northwestern Ontario town. Our house was situated at the end of our street and was not connected to the town water and sewer system. Mom had to carry water in buckets from a well down the street or use the awful well water from one of the wells that Dad had dug in our back yard. It took him three attempts before he found water. A large rain barrel sat near the front door where rain water was collected. That water was used for bathing and hair washing. We got to have a bath once a week. During the winter months, mom collected snow and melted it for our baths.

Dad, who had been born on a farm in Saskatchewan, worked at one of the gold mines in the area most of the time. He preferred the outdoors to the underground though, and so had many jobs during the course of his working years as prospector out in the middle of nowhere deep in the wilderness. He would sometimes be gone for months cutting lines or staking claims for himself or for others who hired him.

Then one day came the announcement, “I’ve bought the Fish Camp. I’m going to try fishing.”

“You don’t even know how to set a net,” mom said.

“I’ll learn. We’re going this weekend to see the island.”

And for the next six summers that’s where we spent our summers while Dad fished the lake.

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Young Ian of 1943

I loved the stories my dad told me about his childhood. It was hard times during the Depression for farmers and his father enlisted in the army at the age of about 42 to provide for their family. He was away for four years and my dad, Ian, had to help out as much as he could.

The wind in the poplars, that’s what it was, just the wind in the poplars. He must keep telling himself that. Morning would come, it always does, and he would see that all that surrounded him were fields of yellow and the large old poplars.

Lower, he laid himself in the old truck, resting his head on his jacket. He closed his eyes to shut off his racing mind. It was a warm night and he would have liked to open the window but he dared not. If there was someone out there, he felt a little more protected with the windows shut and the doors locked. It was a false security but it worked somewhat.

Be a man, he told himself. You’re old enough to work now, past thirteen and getting to fourteen. Old enough to make some real money and help out at home. Lucky to be hired, to have work.

He thought of his father and felt a lump form there in his throat. Dad had been gone for over a year now serving this country. What was the name of the place where he had been sent? Ian tried to focus on his father so far away from the family on the other side of the country.

It was 1943 and the war had changed everything for Ian and his family. They’d had to leave their farm outside the little town of Mervin, where Ian was born, and move to the larger town of Maidstone. Ian’s father, David Tetlock, enlisted in the army. He was considered too old to be sent over seas so he was sent to the East Coast to the military base there where he served as a cook at times or in the warehouse for medical supplies.

Money was scarce, times difficult and Ian wanted to be a help to his mom. He usually knew no fear, which had always gotten him in predicaments in the past, but this predicament was different. For the first time, Ian felt fear.

What are you doing here? The wind seemed to breathe through the leaves. Ian’s heart was about to punch its way out of his chest. The wind whistled as it blew warnings through the leaves of the tall, stern poplars. Be careful, on your guard. Don’t close your eyes or fall asleep.

He couldn’t remember the name. What was the name? They just received a letter from him, a while back. Ian could see his sister’s face smiling as she read the letter out loud. Oh yeah, Halifax, that was the name. His dad was in Halifax.

Ian’s heart returned to a more normal thud, thud. Soon the sun would be up and he could finish the job; the reason he had come to this empty, lonely, creepy place to begin with. He had been honoured when Mr. Beren asked him to come and swath his fields. Mr. Beren was a member of the richest family in Maidstone and he trusted Ian to do the job, so Ian was not going to let him down. He was almost fourteen years old now and had driven himself over here in dad’s old truck. Well really, it was a car that had been made into a truck, but it was faster than bringing the horse.

Ian had proudly told his mother of his job and packed himself some food before venturing over the Beren’s farm, some fifty miles away. First, he had to cross through the large sheep ranch and then the cattle ranch. That in itself had been an experience for the young lad. There were hundreds of cattle on that ranch that were left on their own for the summer. Instead of a fence to keep them where the rancher wanted them, a moat that was five feet deep was dug to surround the perimeter of the ranch. The cattle dared not cross this deep and scary crevice. At certain points there were makeshift bridges that allowed vehicles to cross but these too looked formidable to the leery cattle with big brown eyes.

Ian had crossed the bridges easily, marveling at the simplicity of the moat system. It seemed to work well. There were no fences for the rancher to mend and the cattle seemed safe and happy.

When he arrived at the large, old house, it was late afternoon. The sun was heading on its way down over the west side of the top floor, casting an eerie shadow across the front driveway. The tractor and swather were parked in the field ready and waiting to begin the yearly job of swathing the wheat. It would then be left in nice neat rows to lay and dry while awaiting the combine.

The big two-story house made of poplar logs was supposed to be empty. Ian was positive that he was told that. No one from the family had been over to the house for months. Since the old man died, the house stood there, alone and lonely, crying out for company to fill its rooms once more. Occasionally the sons came and stayed there when they had work to do on the farm, but they all had homes and farms of their own elsewhere.

Ian remembered the old man. He had been quite a formidable person who commanded respect by the way he walked and talked. He was remembered by all in the community for the wealth he had accumulated and the properties he had developed. Even during the hard times of the depression when many people were lining up for food or government assistance, the Berens family was prospering.

The chills on the back of Ian’s neck crept up higher to make the hairs on his head tickle. He sat up in the truck and looked over at the house. He could see no movement.

When he had entered the house earlier, there had been a cup and a plate on the table. Why? Who had left them there? He took a deep intake of breath as he recalled his mother’s concerns a few days before as she related the news she’d heard of an inmate escaping from the nearby penitentiary.

There was a crazy person running around somewhere, desperate, probably hungry. He might be anywhere. Maybe he had hidden there in the Beren’s house, leaving the dirty dishes on the table. Maybe he was still there. Ian’s heart beat wildly in his chest. He lay lower in the old truck. The wind still whispered through the leaves. Look out, look out, it said to him.

Suddenly he sat up straight, his body aching and stiff. He had fallen asleep and been dreaming about a large, bald man holding a large, shiny knife.

He heard voices outside and strained to hear what was being said off in the distance to the left of the clearing where he lay in his dad’s old truck. Was it the crazy escaped murderer and his partner? Were they coming his way? Should he run? Should he drive away? Should he hide? The sound of his heart pounded in his ear drums. He crouched low and closed his eyes and said a prayer.

“Hey Ian, wake up,” the voice of a man called out as someone banged on the window by his head.

He recognized the voice of Judge Beren, the son of the old man Beren. Ian sat up smiling sheepishly and opened the squeaky door. Judge Beren and his brother-in-law, Fred Matheson, stood there with confused looks on their faces.

“What are you doing sleeping out here?”

“I, uh, fell asleep.”

“Well, you could have slept in the house, you know.”

“Yeah, I worked as late as I could swathing and then just zonked out here. It’s okay. Had a good sleep.”

“All right. You ready for another day’s work? We can try to get it finished today.”

“Sure am. Let’s get it done,” Ian said as he hopped out of the truck and joined the two men walking back toward the yard where the tractor was parked.

Ian looked up at the large, log house. Was that his imagination or did he just see a shadow in the window? Ian shook his head and ran to catch up to the two older men. The sooner he could get away from this place, the happier he’d be.

Ian on the right with friend Buddy

Ian on right, with friend

Granny and Grandad

David and Daisy Tetlock

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Ian, Ethel, Cliff

In the Heat of the Pandemic

I said to my millennial son the other day, “I can’t believe my children have to live through a pandemic; I never thought that would happen when I had my babies.” His response, “Yes and there will probably be more,” was surprising to me. He was very realistic about it. I am freaked out about it. He is taking it in stride, but knows that this could happen again. His thoughts and comments actually made me feel better. Me, the mother, who knows everything.

I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day as I try to talk to her often these days. She is in a long-term care home and I am not allowed to visit. She is 88 years old and has dementia. I phone her as much as possible so that she doesn’t forget me. I tell her on every call, “there is a bad flu going around and so I can’t visit today but I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Her response yesterday was, “Oh don’t worry, I’m not a baby.”  And then she went on to tell me about the experience she went through as a young person with tuberculosis. Half of her community of Pikangikum, Ontario died from TB, including her brother and his baby and numerous aunts and uncles. Mom, herself, spent almost two years in a sanitarium because of it.

It’s all about perspective.

I am trying to follow safety guidelines and go on living my life. I’ve had to stop reading, watching media on Covid because it became too much for me. For now, I enjoy going home from work through our fence gate, looking at our small front garden and then going out the back door and jumping into the lake to cool off. We have been in a heat wave for the past couple of weeks. Most days have had heat warnings. Not complaining and I’m lucky that I live by the lake. We do not have air conditioning, just a couple of fans going.

I’m focusing on my little world for now.