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May 29, 2013

I wrote this nearly one month short of three years ago. It's difficult to believe that it's been that long. It reflects a moment in time that I hope I one day forget. I stumbled upon this piece while ridding things from my hard drive not long ago and initially decided to post it next month — on her anniversary, of sorts. I hoped it would prove cathartic and that it would, somehow, help me come to terms with what she did and why she did it. I've since changed my mind. I'd rather not think about her on that day. I would rather forget what she did and forget the person that she became. Instead, on that day, if I choose to think of her at all, I want to remember the person she once was.... no matter how hard she's since made that. I hope to make that day not unlike any other.

Much to the chagrin of anyone that knows me well, I don't speak much about what's going on in my head or in my heart. I compartmentalize things. I shove them far away to a place where they can't hurt me. This is different. No matter how I try, this doesn't go away. I'm better now at talking about things. Megan has helped me. Knowing that she's there unconditionally means a lot. In actuality, Megan means more to me than she could ever know. Still, there are times when the only way I can ever fully express what I feel is through the written word. Sometimes the pain hurts too much to speak it aloud. So a keyboard becomes my minister; the pixels on my screen, an arm around my shoulder. My words calm my rage. They soothe the hurt. They, too, are unconditional. You try to move past it, yet this never fully goes away.

That has become her legacy to me.

I wrote this the night I found out. I re-wrote a passage of it a few days later. It has remained unchanged ever since. It marked the first time I had written anything meaningful in years.

I hate it.

I hate that I needed to write it. I hate that she forced me to find these words. And mostly, I hate that I hated her. I wondered if I would ever write again. The passages below are reminders only of grief, sadness, and pain. Writing became a reminder of that hurt. It became a reminder of who and what she became. The birth of my son, however, helped me find my words again – happier words. I hope he never feels hate like I did... perhaps, how I still do.

I lost someone this week.

It's sad to hear that she died alone. No one should die alone. There was a time once when she looked out for those closest to her. She cared. In your hour of need, she was there, always unquestioningly and without hesitation. That person wasn't there when she died. She died depressed. She died anguished. She died physically scarred.

She died alone.

It will be difficult to reconcile her life with her death. She had such promise: Smart. Pretty. Kind. There were so many ways to describe her. One would be hard pressed to apply any of those words at the end. Her brief life took her on a path removed from the one she once deserved. She abandoned her potential. Poor choices compounded by ill-advised decisions left her addicted, sad, and lonely. There were so many points at which she could have righted her course, but she seemingly never sought to correct her steps. It's only in death that I realize how many tried to help her find her way. The tragedy, of course, is that in her desolate, final moments, she likely never saw the hands tirelessly grasping to steady her as she fell.

She had her enablers. These are the very people that now cry and claim to have loved her. They were the ones that aided her confusion and fed her depression. They over-looked her descent. They told her to avoid others steadying words and instead helped her embrace her paranoia. She clung to them. But they weren't there to help. They were voices in a room that left her to her vices and devices and, in the end, they left her to cower, alone. She comforted herself with chemicals. She sought to heal herself with her enablers' words. And, all too often, she traveled further from the ones who saw through her pain and who had hoped to give her true comfort.

She will never find absolution for her own role in her ascent to such complete madness. Her passing was by her own hand. No one else can be held responsible, nor should we forget that this was her decision. It was planned. It was fully thought out. The simplicity of her end masks the complexity of her final days. That the pain she carried will be passed on to her children is unforgivable. Her responsibility to her children trumped her disillusionment and desolation. Her true burden was not addiction and it was not depression — it was to persevere through the pain. Those children were more than enough reason for her to have found courage. I will be forever angry that she instead found such an end appropriate. I will never forgive her for surrendering to her demons. Her shame is not that she failed, it's that she failed to struggle on. There were too many reasons to continue. There were too many people trying to help her.

In life, she wasn't alone. She was never alone.
She did, however, die alone.

Finding meaning in what she was and what she became won't be easy. Her life ended far too soon. She left far too many questions forever unanswered. I took comfort in knowing she was there — but without necessarily being there as she forged ahead on their difficult journey. This, naturally, made it all too easy to ignore a heart filled with such pain and a soul so lost when you're able to summon the strength to look the other way. I did that. For too long I closed my eyes to her problems. I told myself that I had tried to help. Owning up to that, here and now, doesn't make my anguish any easier. My struggle will be to ensure that I take something from her life and from her death. That will be my burden.

Her pain, both real and imagined, is gone. It is for all of us to shoulder now. Too far from her true path, she lost the courage to wander any more. Now, forever alone, her early promise lives on in the two small hearts that survive her.

I lost someone this week.
Her children lost their mother.
We all lost Kim a long time ago. I will miss her, always.

May 29, 2013

May 10, 2013, I wrote about an exchange I had with a couple of Vaughan employees regarding the frayed grassy bits in front of my house. The damage was largely the result of a couple guys that decided to both store crates of stone and park their back-hoe on a patch of city-owned grass abutting my property. I had long assumed these guys were city workers charged with erecting a fence alongside my house. During my rap session with my newly-befriended civic employees, I subsequently learned that the damage, and the indeed the fence itself, were actually the result of work performed by subcontractors employed by my housing developer.

This put me in a bit of a pickle since, for more than a year, I’ve been, ummm, kinda mean to Vaughan, Vaughan’s civic employees, and Vaughan’s municipal planning standards. And, when I sat back and really thought about it, I may have even cast aspersions on Vaughan’s relevance as compared to other towns, hamlets and villages in the region. I mean, c’mon, after countless months of work, they showed up one morning and had to excavate and reposition dozens of concrete-encased fence posts because they dug the holes in the wrong spots!

So, yeah, I wasn’t very nice. And, clearly it seems, I was completely wrong. Vaughan had nothing to do with any of it. The incompetence surrounding the glacial pace at which the fence was built should be squarely laid on the shoulders of my community’s builder.

So, feeling a little cheeky, it was with hat in hand that I again emailed my new friends at City Hall – the ones that, in effect, I had previously labelled, and I guess mischaracterized, as slacking no-good-nicks who couldn’t chew gum and rub their tummies at the same time – again asking for help getting my grassy bits repaired. I’m struggling to contain the damage the rabbits are doing to the grass I actually own, there’s no way I have the will or stamina to wade through the carnage a back-hoe inflicted on land I don’t own.

Say what you will, but once you finally track down the people responsible for grassy bits, they get on their proverbial horses. In this case, I was told that, though my builder was responsible for the grass, it was clearly taking them too long to get around to it, so he would have a city crew come patch things up.

Now that’s my tax dollars at work! Good on you Vaughan! I’m now glad they built that new, awful-looking city hall! This guy deserves a gilded cathedral from which to dispense his email goodness! I have to admit, I began to feel particularly badly for all the things I wrote about Vaughan. Come to think of it, I even Photoshopped some rather mean pictures that inferred some equally mean things. Had I looked into the matter more thoroughly, I would have learned that my anger should have been placed at the developer’s feet… and not on the lap of the wonderful city from which I decided to raise my family.

Flush with the news that my grass would soon be fixed, I figured I might as well go for broke. I wrote another email and reminded my new chum that the sidewalk by my house was also still unfinished. A refresher for those that aren’t geographically in-the-know: the sidewalk in front of my place ends at the edge of my property – its zenith is right alongside where the fence is. There’s an opening where the sidewalk should extend and meet up, some ten or so metres, with another sidewalk, perpendicular to my crescent and parallel to the major street my house sits beside. The area between the two sidewalks is treacherous. It’s a sea of mud and rock. People have taken to laying old cardboard signs and spare pieces of wood along this no-man’s land to help them bridge the gap. More than a few hardy souls have nearly fallen. If I’m completely honest, those people are of little concern to me; the space is ugly and I want it made pretty and more gooder. I’m sure most people, though maybe not the ones that hurt themselves, agree.

Like always, my buddy quickly replied, but this time he was a touch more cryptic when discussing the sidewalk. Unlike the grass, he never placed responsibility for the sidewalk on my builder. Seems the sidewalks are the city’s deal. I read his reply. I read it again. And, just to be sure, I gave it whirl once more. Then I dabbed the tear from the corner of my eye.

“As for the internal sidewalk being connected to the external sidewalk. The [external] sidewalk first needs to be shifted closer south, closer to the fence. This is scheduled to be completed sometime this summer.”

No, the City of Vaughan didn’t build my fence, and it didn’t take the City a year to do it. And like he said, the City didn’t damage the grass in front of my house. I was wrong. I apologize for ever insinuating those things. Instead, however, the City of Vaughan constructed a sidewalk – a sidewalk, I should note, that stretches more than a kilometer – in the wrong spot. The City of Vaughan, in its unmitigated brilliance, will need to construct a new sidewalk, likely no more than a few feet further south than the existing one and, to do so, will need to completely tear up the old one.

I see.

I shall have to temper my reply, but the general tone shall reflect that, in the deepest recesses of my being, I now truly wish I lived in East Gwillimbury.

May 27, 2013

Following the pattern set last year, it appears that, at least for the time being, my violent uprising against the voles has reached a lull once again. It’s been a full week since I last snared one. You had to know their side couldn’t maintain those sorts of horrific losses before something had to give. It’s a bit cliché, but my lawn really has been a full-on killing field the past couple months. It was messy. Kinda gross-messy, actually. At any rate, the voles seem to have marshaled their forces and retreated across the border to the safety of other, less-lethal backyards. For the time being, peace has returned to Wormald-land. With the de-escalation of violence finally taking hold, I’ve been advised to begin the disarming process. Forgotten traps are a bit like landmines, and with the boy often playing in the backyard, it’s probably wise that I fetch the unused ones. Failure to do so would likely make for an interesting discussion between me and the police and Children’s Aid at the emergency room. “Yeah, that’s right officer, I often keep armed traps scattered through my backyard…. What of it? Hey, any chance you could un-cuff me and continue this later? My son’s fingers were, by sheer coincidence, mangled, completely unexpectedly, earlier today, and I should probably see how he’s doing.”

My ongoing conflict with the voles has left my lawn a shattered mess. There’s marred patches of grass everywhere. That I really haven’t done a great deal to remedy this beyond killing more voles hasn’t helped. But here’s the thing, the damage seems to have intensified recently, even as the number of voles has waned. Initially, I wondered if it wasn’t grubs. We had a lot of them last year and I assumed those ugly bastards were again chewing away at on my lawn’s roots. This notion was recently dispelled, however, when Megan and I dug holes for a series of bushes we planted along the fence line — seven holes and we found only a single grub. It ain’t grubs.

We also have a thatch problem. Thatch is a layer of living and dead material just below your grass, but also just above the soil. It’s a pain to deal with and I fully recognize that it’s well on its way to becoming a significant, long-term issue. But, in this instance, the thatch is almost everywhere and the damage is localized to select spots. It ain’t thatch.

I was at a loss to explain why my lawn was in such free fall… Well, at a loss until yesterday. Seems Nature’s sending in her reserves and is looking to finish the ground war. After putting Owen to bed, I peered out the window and saw a rabbit gnawing on the grass. When Bugs had had his fill of that, he made his way to one of our newly-planted bushes and started chewing on its leaves. It suddenly occurred to me why the emerald cedar beside the porch is dying, and why the bark appears to have been chewed from the oak in the backyard, and why half our garden is “slow to a take-off this year.” While I’ve been stamping out voles, Nature mustered her rabbits and launched a blitzkrieg.

And Thumper’s scorching the earth.

Adding insult to injury, there’s a small gap between the base of my house and the base of my deck. It’s no more than a couple inches wide. Besides a vole and the odd creepy crawly, I’d always assumed nothing could get through it and didn’t pay it much mind. Apparently Bugs couldn’t fit either, so he chewed himself a larger, rabbit-sized hole in the wood that’s wide enough to for his grass-and tree-eating butt. So help me, they’ve established themsleves an outpost within my territory! While I’d seen the hole before, it only now dawns on me that this latest damage to my lawn and garden is occurring during Thumper’s nightly patrols of my property.

This is a problem.

Whereas I can “eliminate” voles, the law protects rabbits from a similar fate — some sort of hippie, Geneva convention that says they’re off limits from harm…. And I can assure you that I ain’t doing time in the clink over a rabbit. And, even if I were to consider it, knowing Vaughan, there’s some sort of armed, Rapid Response team ready to helicopter to my home the instant a bunny shows any sign of distress. They’d then bulldoze my fence as punishment. Trapping the rabbits is of no use either as I’d need to lug them somewhere only to subsequently release them (and, let’s face it, I’m far, FAR too lazy to even consider something as labour intensive as that… frankly, I’m impressed I even got up to look out the window). There are all sorts of spells, potions and other concoctions aimed at preventing long-ears from setting foot on your lawn, but from what I’ve read, none of them actually do anything. Cayenne pepper is supposed to work like gangbusters, but you can apparently blind the animal with that stuff. I’m too soft for that to happen and, with my luck, in place of fully-sighted ones, I’d end up with a gaggle of blind rabbits that not only ate my grass, but also concussed themselves by hopping aimlessly into the side of my house.

I suppose I could loose Peanut on them, but she’s old and, being a cat, doesn’t take pointed instruction all that well. Also, with her disposition, and general annoyance towards Meg and I for introducing Owen into her home, she’d be just as likely to side with Thumper. For all I know, she’s already forewarning him of my movements. No, beyond patching the hole, at present, our best course of action is to wait for Hoppy to make his presence felt again during the day and spray the furballs with the hose. (For what it’s worth, I’d just as soon brutally hose down Thumper at night, but I can’t stay up late enough to do anything now; I have an 18-month-old, anything requiring action after 9:00pm, 9:30pm tops, is simply a lost cause.)

Hopefully they don’t like being damp and high-tail their cottontails outta Dodge. Failing that, I’m off to begin work on a series of “FREE BUNNY” posters. After all, they’re super cute and have healthy appetites!