“Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”
My Boomer sister, and brainchild of this blog, Wendy Susan Hare, went to her happy hunting ground on January 7th, 2017. Wendy (Susan) always told me to write short blog entries as that’s all people wanted to read. Sorry, Wendy. This is a long one.
Wendy was not only my blogging partner–she was my sister. We shared the same chortle (as all my sisters) and the same bathtub as toddlers. We yelled, calling out: “Move to the back of the tub–the plug is out, and we’re all going down the drain!” There were three of us crammed into that tub–my brother Peter, too.
An independent spirit even as a baby–think of Sweet Pea from Popeye–she ventured out into the world through the milkbox, a household innovation of yesteryear.
Wendy was a living miracle after a near-tragedy during her early childhood. She was caught under a rolling vehicle at our former Muskoka cottage. My father had the foresight to kick her completely under the car so the wheel passed over her foot, and not her head. She used to show us how she couldn’t move her toes on that foot after that–they were a badge of honour.
In elementary school, she had tenacity. On Hallowe’en, I’d give up after an hour, but she wouldn’t come home until her pillow sack was full. You didn’t need your parents as chaperones back in the day.
When we lived in Montreal, I was having my Grade Three birthday party–she was wheeling around Oak Ridge School when she hit her elbow, taking a corner, and breaking her arm. Me, being a typical brat, blamed her: “How dare you put the kibosh on my birthday party?” It brings to mind the wooden sign in her laundry room: I Can’t Remember if I am the Good Sister or the Evil One. (Perhaps I am the second one?)
Before the boy-crazy days, we were in a childhood band (using a friend’s crutches for guiitars). We were called The Juicy Fruits. My claim to fame was a song about a monster called Flyswatter Man. (My mother was horrified when I crooned it to a bunch of parents!) Wendy’s song was titled “Rats in the Attic.” I just remember one lyric: “Rats in the Attic. yeah, yeah, yeah!” No love ballads for us!
We moved a lot as kids. Montreal to Edmonton and then to Toronto and back to Montreal. Whiel out west, I remember once how Wendy felt wronged in the family, and ran away to our Edmonton garage, set in the alley. She sent us notes to explain her departure as if she were in a faraway land.
In high school, we shared the same underwear basket–there was no such thing as having your own underpants in those days. You fought for them and prayed they’d stay up!
Wendy went one way as a young newlywed and mom, and I went another as a singleton, Separated by many kilometers, and provinces, we grew close again after decades. She had that ability to be your best friend. Not just yours but everyone’s. She gave you her full attention–and she really did care about your problems. She was a wise Mothership–her son Sam and daughter Bronwen were the luckiest to have her as a mom, but they shared her. She was everybody’s shoulder to cry on. We went to her for comfort when our relationships failed, when we grappled with our jobs or lost them, when we had to pick up sticks and move. When we lost hope.
Wendy was a creative soul. Quiet by nature, she loved to draw. How she treasured her pencil crayons! Every year I looked forward to her handcrafted Christmas cards. I never threw them out, so I’m trying to find them all and plan to frame my favourites in a grouping. So far I’ve only found five, but I have more boxes of cards to pore through. My favourite is an illustration of them in Wayne’s little blue Fit car, coming back from chopping down a Christmas tree, their dog, Penny looking out the window.
Wendy had a penchant for writing too–she wrote some humourous short stories–one was about blind date between two indecisive people. Wendy had a quirky sense of humour. Together we wrote a children’s fantasy novel. She’d write one chapter–I’d pound out the next–it was so much fun to see where we’d take the main character, Hollyhock, on her adventures. My favourite was an illustration called Valley of the Dachshunds. The novel was her baby–she illustrated it beautifully.
One November, we joined a novel writing marathon. Her daughter, Bronwen, joined too. You had to knock off 50,000 words in one month to win. I struggled to meet my daily word count–at the end of the month, I had 29K. Wendy reached 50K even though she was working full-time. Unlike me, she made goals and reached them. I admired her for that.
I was not ready for Wendy to die. There was so much more for her to do in life. We had plans for getting our novels published. She would have made an excellent great-grandma. But it was not to be. I am a lonely scribe now.
I knew she had Stage 4 breast cancer, and it was not curable. I told her, “I don’t think of you as Wendy with cancer. I think of you as just Wendy.” She said, “I don’t think of myself with cancer either.”
I was heartened by the fact that she had rallied after the summer–my mom told me Wendy was driving her car again. I saw a photograph of her swimming across the lake at our sister Anne’s cottage. I prayed for a miracle. But Wendy did say that she was a moving target to the cancer–and when it suddenly moved to her brain, it wasn’t long before her liver failed. When I heard Wendy was gone, I gulped for air. There was not enough oxygen on this earth to breathe. I’m still struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Every day I feel shock that she is gone.
My sister Jo said, “We have to learn to live our lives without Wendy.” I’m not sure If I can. But little things help. While filling the bathtub today, I noticed the label on my ginger bath oil. It read: Calgon Take me Away. I remember Wendy using that as a catchprase in one of her blogs. She was probably dreaming of escaping a dreary Ontario winter.
I had a dream about her recently–she’s youthful and healthy. Wayne and I are both slim. We three are going for coffee on a frigid day. We drive to an indoor mall so we don’t have to venture outside. While walking to the bistro, I look down at my feet. They’re bare. People are starng at me. Wendy gives me five loonies to buy socks. Yup, that’s Wendy. Ready to share of herself.
I think often of Wendy’s favourite things, and somehow they comfort me. How she loved the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird. She loved going to the movies, and my sister Anne is now doing that in Wendy’s memory. Her favourite childhood book was Freddy Goes to Florida, a chapter book about a pig, a cow and a rooster who set out on holiday. Her favourite Blue Jay was Superman, Kevin Pillar. Her favourite dogs were pugs and Boston terriers. She and Wayne have a cross of the two breeds. Penny’s a Bug.
I have fond memories of staying with Wendy and Wayne in Cobourg. Of course there was the hot tub, but the best thing was the card games late at night, played with their kids. Something about a president and being demoted. I loved saying outrageous things just to hear Wendy laugh. Her laughter emitted in loud spurts, similar to the way our Dad laughed. Serious people breaking out of their serious shells.
A while ago, I asked Wendy Susan what we would do with the blog when she was gone. “End it–Sam will archive it,” she said. I said nothing. But just yesterday, my sister Jo said, “Let’s not end it. The sisters can keep it going.” So we’ll keep writing the blog in Wendy’s honour. Anne and Jo and Beth are artistic too, so they can also add their artwork. Guests will be welcome to chime in.
I’m so happy I have kept many of Wendy’s emails. Here is one I’ll share with you all. It was written in November, when we all thought Wendy had a few more years. Just a sisterly chat. This is how I’ll remember her.
I have finally finished a new blog. Trying to slowly start some writing. I also added some new header photos and changed colour of background and headings just to refresh it a bit. I also updated my profile as it was dated talking about retiring 5 years down the road at 60.
Sorry I haven’t been very communicative. Just seems I am still tired a lot of the time and when I have one activity like an appointment or a visit with a friend or some house work I need my rest.
Bill was very pleased with his presents, he wants me to give him original of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon I revised to have Pooh Bear.
We are having some sunny days and temperature is still 4-18 degrees, depending on the day. What’s the story on Edmonton. Do you still have snow?
The US election is making me crazy. I have decided not to watch anymore CNN. I can’t bear the thought of Donald being president.
Anyway, tomorrow Bronwen and I are going to Stratford to see a matinee play, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Nice to have some time alone with her.
Wayne is off at Sam’s house doing some drywall. He made a beautiful white mantel for their kitchen fireplace. They have hired a contractor to do a complete kitchen makeover. It starts the end of November.
Say hey to Mike and dogs,
Lori here again. Since writing this post, (last night actually), I had a dream that Wendy read my entry on her. She made a comment on the blog. It read, “Nice!”
“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go,
I’m standing here outside your door,
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn.
The taxi’s waiting, he’s blowin’ his horn.
Already I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Peter, Paul and Mary