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Friday, January 14, 2022

The gold chain

My dad was a snappy dresser. He was the last generation of public-school teachers to wear a suit to work, every day. He never wore running shoes because he had no intention of running. His sweatpants never made it outside the house. He ironed his jeans. He wasn’t fond of jewellery, except for his thick gold wedding band, and a flat serpentine chain. 

When my dad passed away in January 2008 after just four months of illness, we were all in shock and struggling to face a world without his huge presence in it. I decided to throw myself into a new challenge at work and found the learning curve quite steep. I needed quiet, so I could focus. Mom had gone to Florida with friends, and the house was empty. I packed a lunch and brought my work there. I spread my files out on the coffee table and opened up my laptop. I sat quietly on the couch and closed my eyes. The house hummed with the energy that our family had embedded in its walls over the previous twenty years. I felt a sense of total comfort and support, as if he was still there, sitting in his favourite armchair to my right, answering my questions and encouraging me. My mind was clear and the words came easily as my fingers flew across the keyboard. My focus on that first assignment was laser sharp. The work led me into a whole new path in my career. I doubled my salary overnight and began making what my writing was worth – for the first time in my life. 

A year later I had taken on yet another challenge, as project manager on a documentary film project. It was completely out of my realm of professional experience, but I felt pushed and supported by the trust of the Indigenous group that had requested me on the assignment. As we packed our bags to head up to Northern Quebec, I realized I didn’t have a suitable jacket for the damp chill of springtime in the North. I borrowed one from my Mom. 

As I walked out on the frozen Rupert River to assist our film crew on that chilly April morning, I slid my hand into the pocket of Mom’s coat. My fingers closed around something, and I pulled it out to take a closer look. I recognized it immediately as the gold chain that my father wore continually in summer. It had been polished to a shine by the leather of his tanned neck. I put it around my own, under my scarf. I felt him walking with me as I stepped out confidently onto the ice. 

It took my mother a couple years until she was ready to bury my father’s ashes. His remains are on a soft hillside overlooking the creek in Oxford Mills. We have found deer prints there occasionally, near his headstone. He would like that. But I don’t feel his presence there, so I don’t visit the site often. I can’t visit the old house anymore either, as it has been sold and my mother has moved on. Now, when I want to feel close to my dad, I wear his gold chain. 

I realize it would be unwise to form an attachment to this inanimate token of my father’s memory, because that would just lead to my losing it. I need to find other ways to keep his memory alive, before I forget the sound of his voice, the tilt of his smile, the touch of his hand and the glint in his blue-green eyes.

Remembering Larry / Grandpa / Dad, and keeping him alive in our hearts


Larry Andrew Alan Leeson

September 4, 1941 - January 14, 2008

It’s been fourteen years since we said goodbye to a very special person.

He wasn’t a saint. He wasn’t always easy to live with. But he loved teaching, laughing, dancing, and driving. And he lives on in the memory of so many. If we could, we would pass these messages on to him today.

Hi Dad, 

We keep hearing your favourite song "Rasputin" and catch ourselves mimicking your dance moves along to the music. 

We still have dreams of you where you are helping us to be good moms - where you would have been a great grandpa, and Dad. 

Miss you so much. ~Cathy.


I keep hearing funny stories about you – so I’m writing them down before I forget them. I hope you don’t mind – I might turn them into a book someday. There are more than a few life lessons in there for all of us. From you, I learned to follow my heart and do my best. I learned to notice that everyone is good at something, so we shouldn’t compare. I learned that if someone gets the courage to ask you for something, you should give it to them, if you can afford to. And if someone asks you to dance, dance.

I love you, Dad. ~Dee.

Dear Larry,

Wow!  Fourteen years since you left us; the years are going by so quickly now.  

Your family of five generations misses you and we talk about you often, your favourite music and crazy sayings, so the younger ones will know you too.

During this pandemic, I have felt so grateful to be living comfortably in my own home and with wonderful memories of our43-plus years together ... raising our two beautiful daughters, building homes, boating, snowmobiling, travelling.  Thanks for spurring me on so often to make those life-changing decisions that make my life what it is today.

You were one of a kind and will always be loved.  




Saturday, January 8, 2022

What is your WOTY for 2022?


Many different organizations around the world declare a Word of the Year for different purposes. Usually it’s the word that has had the greatest impact on the population. The Merriam Webster Word of the Year for 2022 is: VACCINE. In 2021, the word was PANDEMIC.

Well, those words may indeed be the stars of the search engines these days, for many different reasons. But I prefer to choose my own personal Word of the Year each January as a positive guidepost of sorts. It’s my form of New Year’s Resolution.

In the past, I have chosen words like: Present (to remind me to stay focused on the here and now, instead of getting caught up in things that have already happened or worrying about what is to come); Less (as a reminder that I already have more than enough, so why eat / drink / buy more? Except where books are concerned, of course – you can never have too many books); and Listen (another way to stay present and grounded, as I work to develop my grandmothering skills). This year, I have chosen a word that will remind me to make time for my favourite lifelong pastime, because it brings me joy and relieves stress.

As a little girl, I kept a daily journal. I had the traditional kind with the tiny lock and key. Each evening I listed things like what I ate, what I wore, who I saw, who hurt my feelings, and what new song I heard on the radio. Into my teen years I secretly listed the names of the boys I liked, while carefully recording the fashion and hairstyle details of the girls I admired. I didn’t write with any particular goal in mind. I certainly wasn’t planning to publish my journals some day. And yet, I wrote. If not every night, then at least every week, without fail.

Journaling helped to keep my brain organized. It was like a data dump of worries and concerns that allowed me to clear my head so I could sleep soundly. I found it especially helpful when I was a young mother. Sometimes at the end of the year I burned my journals, as a symbol of a hopeful change in direction for the year to come.

Over the years as I took on writing professionally, I let my journaling habit fall by the wayside. This year I have been gifted a brand new journal and I plan to use it. Who knows? Someone might find my notes interesting in the future, after I’m gone. My word of the year is WRITE.


2021: The Farmwife Year in Review


Well they say we should never look back but I always like to do a quick review as one year ends and another begins.

As 2021 began we were in the thick of quarantine and isolation from loved ones. The upside to this, if there is one, is that we rediscovered The Great Canadian Winter. My memories of January and February are about meeting family and friends at the toboggan hill, burning Christmas trees in a fragrant bonfire, and skating down a winding forest trail. We bundled up, poured the cocoa, and made the best of it. It looks like I will be dusting off the snowpants again this year.

As the snow melted and the calendar pages flipped we braced ourselves for another wave in the spring. Two of our daughters’ households were hit with Covid and we held our breath until they made it through, virtually unscathed. Our Easter gathering was cancelled and schools closed, but we managed to get out to the dog park often so that we could see each other.

For Mother’s Day, my daughters surprised me with a picnic in the back meadow. We had charcuterie and mimosas on quilts surrounded by dandelions, under a sky of rolling clouds. I might request that again this year – it was more fun than a restaurant reservation.

In May I started a new job that allows me to work from home permanently. Like many others during this pandemic, I have taken stock of my priorities and made changes to reduce the stress that comes from getting up before dawn to commute to the city. I can also shift my working hours to accommodate personal time with grandchildren. This has deeply enriched my quality of life, and I truly believe it has led to improved health and quality of sleep.

We spent the summer at the cottage. My family bought me a kayak for my birthday, and the Ferg and I enjoyed many leisurely paddles around the lake. The cabin was a great retreat from the pandemic, and I became a happy recluse.

In the fall we were able to host our traditional large Thanksgiving gathering at the farm. I am really glad that we were able to do this safely, because I had really missed our extended family over the past 18 months.

Christmas 2021 was once again held outside in the stable but hey – that’s where it all began isn’t it? We might keep at least part of that as our holiday tradition going forward. Everyone seems to enjoy a hot drink beside a campfire in the snow.

Now that we have made it safely through another pandemic year, we are ready to launch ourselves (masked) into 2022.

Wishing you and your family a Very Happy – and Healthy - New Year!