Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Thoughts on turning sixty

As my birthday approaches, I’m quite excited to see what this change of decade year brings me.  When I look back, each of those birthdays ending in “0” has been a time of decisions and change. One of the blocks on my Year of Travel quilt quoted "Life is a journey, not a destination".  So far, the journey has been great.

Year Zero (1955)

In the spring of 1965, just before I turned 10, I had a conversation that started me thinking about what I might become as an adult.  For the first time in my life, I got sent to the office for talking back to a teacher.  “Mean old Mrs. Marshall” was a stickler for rules including the one that said boys and girls couldn’t play together at recess.  When she broke up our coed game of tag, and I told her what I thought, of course the next step was the office.  I imagined that I was going to be strapped, or suspended or shot... and certainly lectured.

Where was I the summer of 65?  Exploring the Rockies, apparently.

Instead, Mr. Evans the new principal sat me down and had a chat about things (turns out he didn’t know what I had done).  What were my plans, he asked, for when I graduated from high school?  (How many adults do you know who ask that of a grade five student?)  Hmmm.  Hadn’t thought much about it, something with computers, maybe, as that was what my dad was excited about.  No, he said, you need to think about the new university nursing program they just announced.  It would be perfect and is the wave of the future.  Pretty good forecasting five years before the U of C program even admitted its first class and when less than 3% of all nurses in Alberta had a degree.  But it got me thinking.  Who knows what I might have done if I hadn’t had that chat.

As it happens, Mr. Evans continued to influence my entire tenth year.  He taught us English, Social Studies, Art and Drama in a lovely mishmash that felt exciting and somehow very adult.  It was a game every morning to parse a sentence and see if we could figure out the parts of speech and how they related (the only actual teaching of grammar I got in 12 years of school) and is probably why misplaced apostrophes are so irritating.  He also read fascinating adult books for the last period every day.  That’s where I met John Buchan and Prester John. This led me to discovering that I had to take my mum to the library so I could take out adult books, because I couldn’t wait for the days or weeks to get to the end of the book to find out what happened. It also led me to sneaking books off the shelf in our living room and meeting Nevil Shute and Ayn Rand.


I don't honestly remember this picture being taken.
 Tom found it after Dad died in a box of slides
that we had never seen.
This slide was labeled Windermere 1975 but I think it was 1973,
That year I worked at the Radium Golf course and stayed with Cal's family.
Tom and Dad were passing through on the way to a sailing holiday. 
June 1976.  We drove up to La Crete to see where we were going to move to.
Learned that once you drink from the Peace River you will always come back.
Then traveled through Jasper and Banff to spend a few days in Windermere.
Practicing long distance travel has come in handy.

Third year summer practicum in High River.
Orientation included what to do when a bat came flying through the hospital
 (close patient doors, open front door).  Loved small town nursing.

In my 20th year, I got married, graduated from university (third class of the Bachelor of Nursing program in Calgary), became a registered nurse and made plans to move to small town northern Alberta “for a year or two”.  On a whim, I checked out the Holmes stress score for all the events that year, and it came in so high that I could have/should have had a major depressive illness.  Instead, that year of decisions set me on a lifelong path.  Try new things, don’t fear change, think positive. I am so grateful to the people who patiently explained about rural life, the realities of small town nursing, and how to be truly curious about things.


RCMP ball.
  How often are you all dressed up
 AND there is a photographer wanting to take your photo?
  I learned that under the formal red serge an RCMP member
 will probably wear a wacky tshirt.
Guest speaker was a retired RCMP member
 who talked about dog team patrols in the high arctic.
 Way cool.

In a number of small ways, my 30th year also showed changes. With two small children, I chose to not go back to my full time job and instead moved into a staff development position at Fairview – the next major decision to go for something new as it had no job description and I was allowed to more or less figure it out. Shortly after, I became a CPR instructor, started my first fitness class and got my second set of ear piercings.


Around the pool (1997).
  There is a certain pride in being an outdoor swim club kid.

Regionals 1997. I'm actually judging turns.

Turning 40 was another year of changes.  Just after my birthday, and after two years of working casual at a variety of positions across the Peace Country, I accepted a part time job as mental health therapist in Fairview.  It was a new position and again it was exciting to develop my job description and to work with a group of people (thanks Doug and Noreen and Ardis and Gerry and Jan and Laureen and anybody I have missed) that pushed me to excel. In a year or so that position would become full time, but 1995 set the direction I would move in for almost ten years. On the home front, this was the year that I first worked as an official at a swim meet, caught the swimming bug when all three children qualified to swim relays at Provincials, which led to taking clinics and moving up the ladder of experience....

Of course Kier's graduation called for a quilt.
Red and Green for Shamrocks boxing and heavy metal black.
Any excuse for a quilt.

Turning 50, last child graduating and moving out.  Moving across the hall at work from mental health to public health had happened the year before. Instead of feeling sad about these changes, I gloried in watching my young adults making their first steps into the world.  The turning point was coming to Edmonton to work at the World Masters Games.  40,000 athletes (more than the Olympics, apparently) and a swim meet of 1600 or so folks aged 25 to 96.  I learned that Masters swimmers will come up to the officials and thank you for being there.  I heard many stories of why people had chosen to become a Masters swimmer (or to continue to swim after their time as an elite athlete).  More importantly, I learned that the next games were in Sydney, Australia in 2009.


I came home bubbling with enthusiasm to head to Australia in four years.  Cal could run and I could be a swim official....His response was “well, if you swim, I’ll run”. Over my 50th year, I got up the nerve to get into the pool (I’ve written about the whole process here) and also committed to starting a group fitness class in the fall of 2006.  Talk about turning points. Coming to travel very late in life, as I was 54 just before we traveled to Australia in 2009, I spent the decade exploring places that had fascinated me and meeting people from the many corners of the world.  The last trip of my 50s was a year of travel along the silk road.


I’m curious to discover what this year will bring. If the past is any indication, something will come along and I’ll jump in with excitement to try something new.  I’m definitely looking forward to this  year.

Thanks for the birthday cake and lovely outdoor picnic.

Morning work out. 

And the office got decorated

In case I didn't remember what birthday it was.

1 comment:

  1. As I was writing this blog post, I was also thinking where I would find photos for the decades. Surprisingly, it was easy to find photos for age ten and twenty. Thanks to Tom for taking the box of slides he got from our dad and carefully digitized (and labeied) them all, I had a file of classic photos to choose from. However, for thirty, forty and fifty, it took a lot of searching out the corners of closets and basement shelves - apparently, parents take photos of their children, not of themselves.