It's a hot summer day. It's lunchtime. I am eight-years old.

My family sits around the table in our dining room. Some of us spent the morning picking tomatoes. Some  of us worked in the shade of the trees packing tomatoes to be sent to market.

The tomato sandwiches have been eaten. The plates have been cleared. The watermelon is being carved. My siblings and I sit discussing that far-off futuristic thing -- the year 2000.

Karen: I'll be 26!

Jane: That's nothing. I'll be 29!

Karen: That's, like, almost 30!

Jane: David and John will be 22. Can you believe it?

Grandpa A has been listening patiently to all of this. He wears a big, fleshy grin.

Grandpa A: I'll be long gone.

He smirks. I laugh.

I look around. No one else is laughing.

I look back to Grandpa, he's still smiling. I continue to laugh. Only he and I know he'll be around forever.


In the days after Grandma D's funeral, we were all asked to go through the few things that remained of her possessions. It was amazing to see how little was left. A houseful of things decreased a few years ago to an apartment's worth. Later, it decreased to a room's worth. Even later, a smaller room.

I'm not terribly sentimental about stuff. I was happy to see she'd kept a painting of Henry's and some of the letters I'd sent her.

There, in the pile, was something I didn't expect. A man's wallet. Brown leather, well worn. I picked it up. It belonged to my grandpa.

It's been on my dresser ever since. I've felt a bit guilty, for some reason, for having it. Maybe one of his kids should have it?

I've gone through it a couple of times. I'm always struck by how normal it is. Just a wallet. Evidence of a guy who wasn't planning to die. It contains his birth certificate, his hunting license (expired four years before his death. Naughty, Grandpa), his Social Insurance card, the business card of one of his sons-in-law, a newspaper clipping from when my Uncle Jim made the dean's honour role at university.

Normal stuff.

As I rushed out the door yesterday -- late again for my bus -- I grabbed it. I don't know why. I shoved it in my back pocket.

Such a familiar thing, a wallet. Intimate. It's with you all the time.

"Oops," you say. "Forgot my wallet. I've got to go back for it."

I kept it with me all day. I reached for it several times, thinking it was my own wallet. It surprised me four or five times.

No magical moments to report, but it was nice. Nice to spend a day bumping into a guy I haven't seen in 23 years.

UPDATED AGAIN: The week that keeps on giving

I am in my office. The phone rings.

Me: Hello?

Erin: Hi. You're going to love this. Alice ate a mushroom in our backyard when my back was turned.

Me: Are you sure she ate it?

Erin: Not totally. She spit some out when I found her.

Me: Are they the ones that grow all over in the grass?

Erin: Yes. We should probably take her in.

Me: Yyyyup. I'll be right home.

Erin is on her way to the ER (again) with Alice. I'm sure she's fine, but I know they don't like to mess around with kids and wild mushrooms.

As far as I can tell, they're Panaeolus foenisecii -- Lawn Mower Mushrooms. One site tells me they could be dangerous to young kids. Another says she could be in for a trippy afternoon.

I'll keep you posted.


Update: Who knew there was a doctor in Charlottetown who is also an expert in wild mushrooms? Erin and Alice are on their way now.

Jane, when she was one, also ate some mystery mushrooms. The doctor in Cape Breton made her drink some gaggy charcoal liquid and sent her home. This seems more.... informative. Especially for Erin, who seems a teensy bit giddy about this doctor. Just this weekend she was wondering about where to find a good mushroom identification poster.

And Alice seems good so far. No hallucinations to report.

Update 2: Dr. Shroom gives Alice the all-clear. If she, in fact, did eat any of the mushrooms, it wasn't enough to be concerned about. Now the kids are at a nearby park looking for more toxic things to ingest.

Good hustle, everyone.

Still, life

I'm sitting on the front porch of my neighbour's house. We're sipping coffee and watching our kids play.

Alice runs around with a huge smile on her face. She's barefoot and wearing the prettiest green dress. She laughs. She is beautiful.

Neighbour: Alice, that's a very pretty dress.

She stops. Her face turns serious. She grips the front of her dress and stares at my neighbour.

Alice: Touch it.

Something scary


I'm driving Erin to the hospital for the second time in as many days. Last time, they confirmed her miscarriage.

We sit at a red light. I'm trying to look calm, for her.

She's pale. I should have taken her in an hour ago.

She tries to make a joke. To reassure me.

I should have called an ambulance. Why do these lights take forever to change?


She's sitting in a wheelchair in triage. The nurse is taking her information, asking her for the third time why she's here.

Erin: I'm having a miscarriage. I've lost a lot of blood.

The nurse writes something down.

Erin: I'm feeling faint.

She slumps over the bags on her lap.

Me: Erin? Erin!

The nurse leaps up. He is pushing her into the emergency room.

Nurse: I need a room. Now!

A dozen faces look up.

Woman: I think they're all full.


Erin is still slumped over. I try to hold her up as the nurse wheels her from room to room. Finally, he finds one. It is instantly filled with people lifting my limp wife from her chair.

Doctor: Get a line in! I need vitals. As soon as you have them, shout them out.

I don't hear a lot of what's going on. I'm standing useless in the hallway.

Doctor: Sir! Are you the husband?

Me: Yes.

Doctor: I need you to sit right here and tell me exactly what's going on.

They're sticking her with needles, attaching monitors, and shouting impossibly low blood pressures and pulse rates. They're preparing to resuscitate.

I blink.

That's my wife.


The woman you're cutting the clothes off of.

Nurse: She's trying to speak!

I look, and see her mouth making silent movements beneath her breathing mask. It occurs to me she's either trying to express concern for someone other than herself, or attempting to make a bad joke.


Minutes later, in critical care.

She has stabilized, but is still quite weak. She's being prepped for surgery. This, apparently, requires being asked six times if she's wearing jewelry or nail polish.

I stroke her hair. I don't care that I'm mimicking a bad TV hospital drama.

Me: You scared the crap out of me.

Erin: I know. I'm awesome.


Hours later, in her room, which because of someone's sick sense of humour is in the maternity ward.

Me: I love you.

Erin: I love you, too. I'm so sorry.

Me: Don't be silly.

Erin: I can't help it.

We're quiet a long while.

Me: In the emergency room, there was a moment in the middle of the chaos where you tried to say something. Can you remember that?

She thinks, then smiles.

Erin: I woke up and was vaguely aware that someone was cutting my clothes off. I was trying to say that it's a good thing I shop at Value Village.

Me: I knew it!


Erin came home the next day. She lost a lot of blood, and is very weak. I've been home taking care of her and the kids since then. I return to work tomorrow. Imagine how many times I'll be calling home.

We're obviously sad about the baby, but happy to have Erin. It has been a comforting experience having a normally silent community speak to us about their similar experiences. Life, as they say, goes on. Thank-you, everyone, for your love and support.

Something sad

Erin's had a miscarriage. She is healthy and feeling OK. But sad. We all are.

She's been resting as much as she can. I took today off to play with the kids.


We were outside this morning in the rain, not doing much of anything. Jane made a discovery in the garden.

Jane: Hey! There are tomatoes growing on this plant! I can see tomatoes!

We'd been looking every day for the last several weeks. Today, suddenly, there they were. Jane ran from plant to plant, confirming their existence on some, but not all.

Jane: Sometimes the little yellow flowers turn into tomatoes, and sometimes they don't.

This post sounds like bragging. Really, I think he's a huge (lovable) dweeb.

I am making supper. Henry walks in. He's wearing cleats.

Henry: When's the World Cup final again?

Me: Sunday.

Henry: (visibly aching) Oooooooh.

Me: I wonder who Paul is predicting to win.

Henry: Who is Paul?

Me: Didn't I tell you about this? There's an octopus in Germany named Paul who has predicted the outcome of all six of Germany's matches in the World Cup.

Henry: Cool. How does he do that?

Me: They have two boxes in his aquarium with mussels in them. One has the German flag on the outside. The other has the other team's flag. Whichever he goes to first is his prediction. He's six for six. It's amazing.

Henry: Well, octopuses are the molluscs with the biggest brains.

Me: They're molluscs?

He looks at me like I'm a moron.

Henry: Helllllo, no backbone?

Jane is awake

Wednesday night, 8:30. The kids are in bed. I am chopping vegetables in the kitchen.

I hear the padding of what Alice calls 'nakey feet' in the hallway. Jane walks into the kitchen.

Jane: Dad...

Me: Not sleepy?

Jane: No.

She slept on the way home from the beach this afternoon. I understand.

Jane: What are you doing?

Me: Making tomato sauce.

Jane: Can I help?

Me: That's very nice, Janey, but you should probably do something quiet. Why don't you get out your pad and pencil crayons and draw pictures with me here in the kitchen.

Jane: OK.

Erin joins her at the kitchen table and they draw a monster together. It has a yellow face, orange horns, light green ears with dark green spots, red teeth, and pink claws.

Erin: This is very scary.

Jane: I know.

Erin: (getting out her black pencil crayon) What shall we call it?

Jane: "Fire Belly Monster With Penis."

Erin: (pauses slightly, then writes) OK...

Jane turns four on Sunday. She has requested mussels and chocolate cake.


We are in Canadian Tire shopping for camping supplies. Alice sits in the cart. She is sharing a sensory-overload tantrum with Jane and Henry.

Alice: Want tent!

Me: (scanning the shelves of sleeping bags) Hold on...


Jane throws something into the cart.

Jane: I want this.

Me: What is it?

Jane: Um. I don't know.

I pick it up. I have no idea what it is, but it has a pink zipper. I put it back on the shelf.

Jane: But I NEED IT!

Me: You don't even know what it is! Hold on, guys. I just need to pick out a couple sleeping bags...

Alice: Want tent! Want tent! WANT TENT!

Me: We already have a tent. We have two tents. They're at home.

She starts crying.

Alice: Want tent.

I pat her on the back and try to discern the difference between the 18-dollar sleeping bag and the 38-dollar one.

Me: It's OK, sweetie. (muttering) This doesn't look like it would be warm enough....

Henry: I want this one.

He's holding a shiny brick of nylon in a hockey motif. Strapped to one side is a crappy water bottle. Strapped to the other is a crappy flashlight.

Me: We're not getting that.


Me: (holding up the 18-dollar bag, muttering) Cold-weather rating, 0-5 degrees. Length: 75 inches. (to Henry) How tall are you? In inches?



Hours of screaming later. We have put up two tents in our yard. We have inflated Erin and Alice's air mattress. We have laid out our sleeping pads and bags. We have eaten supper and put on our PJs.

I am in a fowl mood and am snapping at everyone. I am questioning the wisdom of our great backyard camp out. I walk into the kitchen to find a mess of construction paper scraps and tape.

Me: What is this.

Henry: Badges!

Me: What badges?

He brings me to the table. He's drawn little pictures on tiny squares of construction paper.

Henry: This triangle one is my Camping In A Tent badge. This toothbrush is my Brushing My Teeth badge. This one with a guy beside a triangle is my Helping Dad Build The Tent badge.

My grumpy mood melts.

Me: These are wonderful. What's this one?

I hold up a badge with a picture of three swooping lines.

Henry: I made that for Jane. It's her Always Tripping And Falling Over badge.


Later still. The windy evening scared Alice, so she and Erin are inside the house, cuddled up in a cozy bed. I lay in my sleeping bag between sleeping Henry and sleeping Jane. I put down my book, as the sky is now too dim to read by.

I put my hands behind my head and relax for the first time this evening. The kids lightly snore beside me. The tent flaps in the wind. It starts to rain.

It is a lovely rain -- pit-pit patting on the fly.

This is alright, I think. This is OK.