The Prairie Trip

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Living relatively far from family and friends is not an easy thing so I always get a little excited when our annual prairie pilgrimage nears – which is tomorrow!
I never really know what will transpire but so far this is a bit of the plan… a couple of birthday bashes, meeting my new great-niece for the first time, 2 portrait filming sessions, uncle Maurice’s red wine, more silly photos of my mom, Intellivision baseball, Red Sox games on a patio, Pema Chodron readings from the co-pilot, hours in fields photographing horses and big skies, avoiding ticks, meeting Aunty Marg at A&W, visits to Whyte Museum and Whyte Ave, guy space with the nephews, one extra long car wash due to neglecting to remove the bugs sooner, Guinness, D’s famous burgers, quality time with my amazing sis, diving into family history with Henriette, potato salads, rock chips, sunburns on the left side, picnics by streams, audio recordings of strangers and the joy of watching my wife laugh and laugh and laugh around old friends.
Hope to see a lot of you shortly. Cheers, DL

The Cassette Tape

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My mom sent me this little cassette tape recently, and just like that it’s at the top of my most cherished possessions list.

My grandmother had a heart attack back in 1973. She was living in Saskatchewan at the time and our family was residing in the Northwest Territories. My mother made the long drive back to the prairies to be with her while she recuperated.

So it was just my sister, my dad and I at home for a few weeks and to this day I remember the abundance of sugar, weak attempts to skip kindergarten, evening pancakes, even later nighttime television and host of other new freedoms. Adding to the novelty, and mainly before bedtime, my father would get out the tape recorder and microphone and record us.

I wouldn’t shut up, always blabbering about everything and nothing — my sister on the other hand was quieter than a church mouse. My dad was diligent in his efforts to get us both to talk; asking us what we had learned in school that day, what gifts we wanted for our birthdays, trying to convince us to sing, and wanting us to say hello to our relatives. (He obviously had ideas of mailing the recordings to family members). It was cute stuff.

What really floored me though was hearing my father’s voice again. He died in 1985, so I haven’t heard his voice in almost 30 years. Not just that, but he was sick with cancer for 3 years prior to passing, so he wasn’t his normal self during that time period. My last recollection of him, his true spirit, full of life and enthusiasm — well I can barely remember it.

This tape however has it. Him laughing, joking, singing songs with us, being playful, full of both energy and patience, talking about the future, and trying to convince us that the rest of the world was already in bed and we should be too. It was amazing.

I was unaware how much I missed his soft and confident voice and the impact it had on me. A sense of resounding calmness came over me as I was listening — a feeling that I remember as a kid but haven’t experienced much of since his death, and up until this point, have even noticed. Again, amazing.

The 45 minute tape ended and I quickly flipped it over and pressed play, wishing and hoping for another full side to it. Silence. I fast-forwarded it 30 seconds and pressed play again. More silence. I did it again. And again. All with the same results — nothing. I listened to the white noise of blank air, afraid to admit that it was over and my time with my father was, once again, also over.

But what a gift.