I skipped 2016

Posted: April 14, 2017 in stories, the mystery, The Way People Behave

I skipped 2016. It was the year an officer called me while I was at work, a week after my Greyhound paused in Kelowna and I wondered if I should walk to Rutland. That would have been my last visit with her.

An officer called me when I was at work. He was dialling from my apartment intercom and had no idea I was in the middle of supervising a client. That was the year I was a team leader, the one who programs, who devises ways to develop the hidden potential of individuals with support needs.

I skipped 2016 as soon as it left the gate. My first taste of Canadian teaching was nigh and I was riding my bicycle daily. I did everything I could to enhance the fitness regimens of my clients and I began my affiliation with a meditative community, back when they met in unfinished basements with small windows. It may have been my first week in that community when an officer called me when I was at work.

My mom had been writing about meditation and increasing happiness in your life. Cancer, she told me, was one of the best things to happen to her. “I’m here for the bliss” was the name of her forthcoming book. Already she was the visionary behind numerous issues of Okanagan Woman, Okanagan Life, Saskatoon Home, Orchard and Vine, the Mission Review, and book titles including Okanagan Secrets and Surprises, Summerland S&S. “You Mistook Heaven” was her award-winning book of poetry that invited the jeers of utopianists, protective of their mind-forged paradise in pink stucco seas of well-organized, civilized, bourgeois mock-mansions.

Anyway, I skipped 2016.

She watched as, one by one, they all diffused into the ether. Bowie, Cohen, Prince, Williams. Every one of our household staples save Cobain, who preferred the 27 Club. Had he persevered, he’d have probably perished in 2016. An officer called me at work to tell me she’d joined them on the mothership.

From the soil of her castoff snakeskin I wove myself into my familiar cocoon of education, and taught temporarily at an elementary and junior high school. I nearly forgot the officer’s voice, wavering as he delivered a stock phrase, “This is the hardest part of my job.”

My father got closer. Personal tragedies do that. They waive differences, forgive grievances, help us focus on the important stuff. But now I wish I hadn’t skipped 2016. As with photography, the dark juxtaposes contrast exposure and light becomes brighter. Dad and I took a ferry from Waterton Village to Crypt Lake. We nearly didn’t make the hike back. That would’ve made a great post.

I finished 2016 by purchasing a vehicle for the first time in my life and braving the drive from Lethbridge to Hillspring to teach grade sevens about pre-Confederation Canada. Don’t tell anyone, but I really loved my drives out there, treacherous as they were form time to time. Don’t tell anyone because sometimes I pretend my hand is forced when in reality, I value my alone time. Waking at 6 am and seeing a sleepy LDS community slowly unfurl its fernlike tendrils and extract comradery from its young. I love that community. We don’t need to believe the same things to casually chat about the CBC at the front desk or share perspectives on what to do about the problems facing the new generations. Please tell my city friends, the lines you draw in your minds are imaginary.

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So, I skipped 2016. I shouldn’t have. The dark juxtaposes contrast exposure and light becomes brighter. New Year’s resolution for 2017: I won’t skip it.

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