Mar 292018
 

Fred Parry
The Music In Me
March 29, 2018

My contrarian father-in-law, Dodie, used to say, “When you get old, you’re a nuisance to yourself and everyone else.” “What the hell,” he’d say, “I’ve lived a good life; I’m ready to go anytime!” He lived independently to 91.

Lately, our normal schedule hasn’t been the same since my mother-in-law reluctantly concluded that moving to a retirement home, sooner than later, would be best. It’s been something we’ve talked about for the last 2 years; and, to be honest, it’s been a difficult process for her, and my wife and me.

Our recent Bright move was, in part, to be closer to mom. And, that’s been a good thing– making us better able to respond to her increasing number and variety of needs. We were wanting to honour her wish for independence, within her own apartment; but, her reduced quality of life, due to deteriorating eyesight and hearing, had become a personal safety issue – in addition to her always threatening heart condition. Now, we’re happy because she’s happy – meeting new friends; enjoying balanced, prepared meals; having 24/7 care.

A good friend, having gone through the same process with her aging mom, gave good advice: that no matter how frustrating it gets today, you want to look back and have wonderful memories. And, looking through her 95-year-old eyes, it’s must be sad holding on to a lifetime of photos and memorabilia of family and friends – mostly all gone.

So, she takes it personally – after our trying to sell her cherished furnishings on websites and ‘moving’ sales – that almost no one was interested in her ‘stuff’. Charities will pick up donations; but, to sell at a fraction of their real worth.

Living on debt: folks riding high on credit with low-interest rates.

People have only so much cash to spare, so DYI (do-it-yourself) furniture and home décor stores like IKEA – despite relatively low quality – offer trendy designs at low prices and, most importantly, easy credit terms. The IKEA “tool” rules. Handcrafted furniture? – not so much.

But, whatever we value, it’s eventually reduced to nothing. As Shakespeare reminded us, “Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers come to dust.” I guess with all our busyness it’s easy to forget that our time on this – life’s stage – is a brief moment… compared to all eternity.

And, when her time comes, we’ll miss the contribution she’s made to our lives, including: creating hand-smocked dresses, and sweaters for her grandchildren; the fabulous family quilts she made for our beds; the many hours she spent babysitting; the family get-togethers she hosted for holidays and Sunday dinners; the timely financial gifts; plus, the holiday baking she’d make for Christmas – the kids always looking forward to grandma’s goodies!

Heart & Soul

Without her presence, all we’d have is fading photos of a bright star that once illuminated our lives. So, during their twilight years – despite often overlapping issues of our own – let’s celebrate our older one’s lives… while we still can. All too soon, our lives will be so wanting without them.

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 282018
 

My paternal grandfather was quite a character. And, from a very young age, I could always remember him as a happy-go-lucky guy – always laughing, with seemingly nothing getting him down.

For Grandpa, it was all about attitude. He was always smiling, whistling while he worked and was never one to stand still. As an entrepreneur … could take any business from nothing and make it into a thriving enterprise. At one time, he had a restaurant, hotel and grand home at a very popular summer resort. My grandmother ran the day-to-day operations and was very happy living there.

He was also very industrious. He could take a rundown house and with a little paint,wall paper and carpentry, turn it into something better – all on a  shoestring budget – with frequent trips to the furniture thrift store.

Volunteering his time, he would also visit kids in the hospital, hand painting their room windows with their favorite cartoon characters. The kids just loved him!

A successful salesman, selling ‘pots & pans’ (as he like to call it) he sold to commercial kitchens; and in later life, before his untimely death, he started up a Dry Cleaning business: his idea of a Retirement Savings Plan.

He often used his great sales skills on me – a typical non-compliant teenager – like the time he asked me to help him with a spring cleanup project. Initially, I rebelled against this… couldn’t see why I should help when all my friends were lazing about. Grandpa saw no future in that; so, using his considerable charm he said,” Freddy, think of how fantastic it’s going to be seeing the house with all those windows shining in the sun!” And, just like that, he had me hooked.

And you know, he was right. Looking back, I can still feel how proud I felt when I had finished. Teaching by example, that was my grandpa!

Some years after he passed away, I asked grandma how she felt living without his larger than life personality? She just smiled and said at times he drove her crazy. He was a great people person; but, he was also a bit of a rolling stone – always wanting to move. She then sighed and said, “Still, I miss him, Freddy.” – as we all did.

His personality and love of life was contagious.

When grandmother passed away and we were getting her house ready for sale, I noticed something written on the old shed door I hadn’t noticed before. Grandpa had written (he was always writing), ‘Man is closer to God in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.’

That pretty well sums it up. He was the gardener of our lives – pruning here; nurturing there. When he died, it left a huge hole in our lives, where a great … not perfect … man once lived. As Elton John sang, in Empty Garden, A gardener like that one no one can replace.”

 

Fred Parry
The Music In Me
Feb, 2018

 

 

Jan 312018
 

Sometimes I wonder how I can write something ‘up’, when I’m feeling ‘down’. I’m sure everyone has experienced less than positive feelings from time to time. My solution is to write a list of all the things in life, for which I’m grateful. (Robert Burns said something about hating the “language of complaint.”) Because everyone’s list is often hidden, you may have to look hard for it. Once you get going, however, it’s quite remarkable how long the list can be.

My list includes:

  • A loving wife and special kids…  who love us back!
  • Comparatively good health
  • Terrific grandchildren
  • Friends: “Do not have a 100 Rubles, have a 100 Friends.” (Russian proverb)
  • Writing this, now

So, what’s your glass-half-full list look like, and how often do you count them? I think if we’re truly honest, we would find lots of reasons to count ourselves lucky. Some people will always see their glass as half empty; but, they should remember the words of Helen Keller’s famous quote about crying because she had no shoes until she met a man who had no feet.

A few years ago, The Smile Epidemic – a noncommercial organization – introduced a website that enables you to track and share what makes you happy. You go on a 30-day mental diet – weeding out negative thinking and developing an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ My eight-year-old grandson, Kolton, is happy playing hockey, baking cookies and beating me at computer games; but, I know what makes him ticklish.

Some may say that children can afford to feel this happy, because they don’t know any better. As adults, we know that there are real problems… misguided people exist… innocent people die. And, 24/7 news channels respond to this… our unquenchable thirst to know… by recycling often disturbing world events, making everywhere seem dangerous. No wonder people become cynical. But, the world is actually a beautiful place.

And, children’s hearts haven’t yet been changed by the world’s harshness.

Let’s encourage them; because, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta explained, as essential as food and medicine is, only love can cure the worst disease that any human being can ever experience: that of being unwanted. From children, we learn that perfect love means unconditional acceptance. We may dispute it; but, how do we feel when meeting those rare, loving people who truly care for others? I find it’s embarrassing to find that I’ve not always acted like them. Not that love is about saying “yes” all the time. Sometimes love is tough; but, it’s there.

And, when it comes to dealing with ordinary folks – which includes 99% of us –  then we can’t afford to have harden hearts. In his song ‘Bullet Proof’, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy described himself as careless, cruel and easily bruised. How many of us can similarly admit to being half of the problem? Still, Burns had a knack for summing things up best… asking, “A decent means of livelihood in the world, an approving God, a peaceful conscience, and one firm trusty friend – can anybody that has these be said to be unhappy?”


The Music In Me by Fred Parry
January, 2018

Nov 262017
 

Turning the corner onto a marketplace in the heart of Florence, we hear a street musician playing a flute outside a beautiful Italian cathedral. His song selection seemed to sum up our vacation experience and appreciation of life here – past and present. And, the song he’s playing? – written by a Canadian.

“Now, I heard there was a secret chord / That David played, and it pleased the Lord” Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen     

The haunting notes emanating from his flute seem to reverberate from every corner of the square as we sat to listen on this, perfectly mild, fall evening. Dropping some coins into his open violin case he acknowledges his thanks with a smile and, with a nod to my generation, slips into a rendition of “Yesterday.”

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…Oh, I believe in yesterday.”   Yesterday by Paul McCartney

Later, watching the sun dissolve into the red glow of a Tuscany sunset, I was reminded how we, on a good day, can replace fear with love; cynicism with hope; and tolerance with acceptance. Italians – despite their highly efficient 300 kms/hour bullet trains and lightning quick Ferraris – keep the really important things a central part of everyday living. Things that will never change: love of children, respect for the elderly, and superb cuisine made with pure, simple ingredients.

Households often include multi-generational families residing under the same roof. And, allowing for a greater quality of life, especially with family, most businesses are closed in the middle of the day. For example, we found that restaurants close at 3pm and re-open at 7pm: something to get used to, although businesses vary. Afterwards, Italian families stroll away the evening – seemingly without worrying about tomorrow – enjoying the excited laughter of children playing games.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci Wikipedia

Italians also revere their history – especially the Renaissance era represented by the priceless works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Of course, there’s a big difference between honouring the past and living in it – which they don’t. I was equally impressed by their feisty spirit and can-do attitude. Yet, most Westerners would see their city driving habits as a little chaotic; or,  the whistling around blind turns – offered up by winding mountain roads – as somewhat death-defying. Yet, they get things done… their way.

As the evening church bells ring out – our flutist, switching to the violin –  plays the healing and beautiful strains of Ava Maria. At the end of the day, this only seems right for a caring society: one rooted in faith from the past; and in the future, a faith resolute within themselves. So, is it any wonder, we find ourselves falling in love with Italy: its people; their way of life; and, naturally, the ancient Italian culture?

By almost any measure, Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live. But, let’s be honest, Italy’s something else. It’s called “La Dolce Vita” (The Sweet Life)… something wonderful enveloping you.

Can I get a witness? Oh, yeah!