Did you make your own personal resolution for 2023? Lose weight? Exercise More? Tik Tok less?
For Profit Corporations are supposed be treated like persons also. Albeit soulless and immortal. Perhaps they could make their own resolutions. And I don’t mean the type of resolutions appointing auditors for the new year. I mean resolutions that can cause real positive change.
After working in the not-for-profit charitable sector for over 32 years, I am hoping Corporations might do their own bit and work more for the social good.
Allow their own staff to volunteer for charitable organizations.
Incorporate real ESG goals into their financial reporting.
Internalize external costs to the environment. If you are damaging the environment in some fashion, then step up and stop foisting these costs onto society at large.
Stop greenwashing. What goes around comes around. Trying to artificially green up your brand will eventually cause your credibility to take a major hit. Eventually.
Embrace the low carbon economy. Eventually, high carbon economics will be phased out. And an innovative company would not want to be stuck on a high carbon intensity business plan and stranded on a slowly diminishing iceberg. Literally and figuratively.
Focus on reducing the rate of climate change instead of focusing on mitigating the effects of climate change which simply allow business as usual.
So, here’s looking forward to 2023 instead out looking for 2023.
This sounds like a relatively new phenomena where employees simply do the bare minimum. But the quitting part sounds like employees are not fulfilling their job description or their objectives. Quiet Quitting Employees (QQE’s) are not actually quitting anything it seems.
Instead, this describes a lack of engagement with their organization. This issue sounds like the same issue organizations faced for generations.
Back in the day, the solution we told our children was to follow their bliss as suggested by Joseph Campbell. Before this concept, those in HR departments recommended Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where self-actualization was rated the top need. And even before this Jung suggested individuation which is to self-realize with the aim of moving toward psychological wholeness.
At least to me, QEE does not sound like a new problem. But there have been various new causes such as COVID which broke apart the social structures of countless organizations.
For 2023, here are the top five methods to increase employee engagement by increasing:
Efficiency. Better technology and project management can reduce wasted time which increases frustration.
Communication. Not more communication, but information that can draw staff in further.
Recognition. This captures the standard advice of catching the employee doing something good.
Work Flexibility. Virtual work is the way to go COVID. Employee expectation now includes the partial ability to work at home.
Intrinsic Motivation. The above extrinsic motivators work towards the gold standard of intrinsic motivation.
Biosphere 2 Arizona. An exploration in mismanagement and quasi scientific research. As you recall, 8 biospherians spent two years in this complex. The concept was to learn how to send humans into space. The science was questionable and the people involved were generally not scientists. The system was to be closed and sealed with no interference from the outside world. But after a few months, additional oxygen had to be added and along with additional food since the biospherians began to starve.
The fact that these additions were mostly hidden from public view essentially ruined any credibility for the pure science research. And I was mostly dismissive of the venture as a result. But after reviewing a lot of the history, and the results arising from the experience, I’ve completely changed my mind.
This was really meant to be a scientific experiment. There was no theory to be proved. Instead, it was all about adaptive management.
No one really knew what was going to happen. Once things started to go astray, they incorporated adaptive strategies to get things back on track. Carbon dioxide had to be scrubbed out. Oxygen added. Mostly all the pollinators died out. Rising carbon dioxide levels raised acid levels and stress the ocean coral biome.
A number of scientific research papers were produced. Adaptive management, allowed course corrections as things proceeded.
It serves as a shining example that we are not as smart as we think we are, and nowhere as smart as we will need to be in the future.
This summer, on the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island, I found something that I didn’t even know I was looking for.
My 38- and 34-year-old sons wanted to do some major hiking when the youngest finally got to the island for a vacation. The eldest suggested this trail because we could do it in three nights and four days. While I normally prefer my food prepared and brought to me as opposed to carrying it around for several days, I thought I could do this.
I purchased the necessary tents, air mattresses and food. I did not realize that living a simple outdoor existence could be so expensive if you need the least bit of comfort and intend to cover some hiking distance.
This food also required a great deal of self-examination about how much two young adults might eat versus their 65-year-oldfather. Three meals a day, multiplied by four days, multiplied by young adults needing 2.5 servings per meal divided by each food package serving two people equals the need to find someone else to do the necessary algebra.
I procured four days’ worth of freeze-dried food that, unbeknownst to me, contained eight days’ worth of sodium (16 days if you go with most health practitioners’ standards).
I also purchased a small one-person tent for myself. One of my sons is renowned within the family for nocturnal sound effects, so I purchased a two-man tent for them to share. This gave my grown boys a great opportunity to know each other and an even better opportunity for me to get a bit of undisturbed sleep.
When we finally set off in late August, we arrange for a car to be left at the trail’s end, and my wife drops us off at the trailhead.
Our entire family embraces the outdoors and I read up on a few famous works to prepare me for this trek. Thoreau wrote that he went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if he could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when he came to die, discover that he had not lived. He intended to reduce life to its lowest terms and find if life was mean or sublime.
But I find the writings of Joseph Campbell to be far more in line with my way of thinking. The American author wrote that we should not be asking about the meaning of life, but rather, what does it mean to be truly alive?
I reflect upon being truly alive while not falling off into the deep ravines along the trail. Although I trained with a weighted backpack for three months before the trek, walking up and down the Juan de Fuca dirt and mud-filled paths while avoiding tree roots did not fall within my cross-training regime. At the top of each hill, of which there are many, my boys wait. Their mother gave them strict instructions to watch out for me. And to bring me back.
I thought of this as a reversal of roles, much like how my wife and I looked out for our children when they were much younger. The boys even help me pack my backpack correctly, with the sleeping bag at the bottom and the heavier food items toward the middle and closer to my back. This reminds me of when we always made sure they had their lunch before heading off to school.
Now, instead of juice boxes, they pull out their filtered or sterilized water. While they are busy hydrating, I recover from my falls and wash my bleeding wounds. Whenever they stop to catch a breath, I stop to hopefully coagulate further.
After a few hours, we look like a scene from The Lord of the Rings: I resemble Gimli. attempting to keep up with Aragorn, the ranger, and Legolas, the elf, while chasing down a horde of orcs. My boys ask me if I want to join them in playing 20 Questions. I cheerfully decline – I am saving all my breath simply for breathing. Talking has become a luxury.
At the top of the next hill, I ask the eldest if we are making good time. He just smiles and says, “No, Dad, but we are making good times.” I smile and realize he is right. We are making memories. Getting ready for this hike, I had focused too much on the logistics, and I’d lost track of the meaning of our venture together.
Over the next four days, we set up camp and use our stove to boil water. We can’t gather around a campfire because of a fire ban but we do spend time huddling over herbal tea in the evening and cups of coffee in the morning. Most of our campsites are close to the water’s edge and one evening I come across my sons sitting on a log by the ocean sharing a moment. I let them have theirs, while mine becomes simply watching them together.
At the end of the trail, we take celebratory pictures and my youngest takes a quick shower under the closest waterfall. On the drive out, we find a great place for cold beer and deluxe hamburgers. The boys treat me.
We had made new memories together as grown men. I realized the meaning of life is not found externally, but by strengthening the bonds with those closest to me.
But as you learn from years of legal experience, there is a gap between knowing the law and practising law.
Even after watching the videos, reading the books, and going over the tour brochures, certain hiking knowledge gaps still leap out and capture the beginning hiker. After doing my first Juan de Fuca three-day overnight hike quickly followed by a seven-day overnight hike on the West Coast Trail, I distilled the five major ones. Seasoned hikers likely assume these to be common knowledge, but one should never underestimate the naivete of the beginner.
1. Even a slightly slanted tenting site provides challenges. I found a nice level spot with just a gentle slope. Putting my head slightly uphill would be like resting on the couch I thought. However, my polyester sleeping bag resting on a vinyl mattress in combination with tossing and turning, sent me slowly and gently into the downhill side of my tent. Trying to squirm uphill proved difficult.
2. Calculating the number of required meals when hiking with your adult children requires higher algebra. Each freeze-dried pack provided two servings. So over three days, three people, three meals a day should mean 27 meals and 14 packages should do it. But adult children require 2.5 servings per meal. So now I find that over three days, two people needing 2.5 meals per meal, one person (older) one meal per meal, at three meals a day means finding a 12-year-old to calculate the result for me.
3. Calories are not the only thing to count. I realized that I packed three days of food, but that means almost seven days’ worth of the industry recommended amount of sodium. If it weren’t for some of these industry factions lobbying the government to advocate 2,300 mg per day, I am sure we consumed 13 days’ worth of the various health organizations recommended level of sodium instead.
4. Carefully consider how to purify water. I took the easy route and just used sterilization tablets. No more than one per bottle. But everyone we encountered used filter systems instead. When I eventually got home, I pulled up the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the chemical used. I normally read these MSDS documents when I was working in health and safety, and we wanted to know how to deal with hazardous liquids. The water sterilization tablets had an extensive 11-page MSDS. Much longer than the ones telling us how to interact with cleaning agents. They all had warnings about overingestion. Going the filter route next time.
5. Lay out all your clothing for the morning in your dry bag. I thought I did this, but I needed to include making sure my technical shirt was not inside out and leaving the tags on, so I knew how to tell my technical shirt was backwards. Walking outside of your tent like this causes issues. I know that all hikers help one another when the need arises. Unless it looks particularly hilarious, then you are on your own.
After retiring to Victoria, I felt like a stranger in a strange lotus land.
The great retirement began during the pandemic and continues. Incorporating new ideas and behaviours can wreak havoc on anyone’s existing living paradigm. But eventually, we all get accustomed to what we become accustomed.
My wife and I lived in Winnipeg for the past 45 years. I spent a few of my impressionable years in Victoria, so I dreamed of returning someday after retiring.
When the opportunity came, we managed to uproot ourselves and buy a place just outside Victoria.
When you only vacation here, you fail to notice the substantial legislative, bylaw and behavioural differences from your own hometown. We notice the differences now that we live here full time.
Yellow curbs designate no-parking areas. There might be the occasional no-parking sign, but you must remember to look down and not up. In Winnipeg, you need no-parking signs. The curbs remain constantly covered. Sometimes it’s snow, other times it’s floodwaters.
In Victoria, the wildlife saunters around adorably. The Bambi-sized deer seem half the size of a Winnipeg urban deer. Even the raccoons seem adorable. We see the occasional one on our morning and evening walks. Once a raccoon sees us, they generally show proper manners and slowly back into the bushes. If you see a Winnipeg raccoon, they attend to approach you more menacingly. I throw my wallet at it and back up into the bush to avoid any confrontation.
In Victoria, raccoon trapping requires a proper licence, and you can only relocate them within one kilometre. A Winnipeg raccoon would get home before I would.
Of course, the flowers in Victoria remain beyond comparison. We only arrived in late June, but the blossoms on the trees amazed us. We eagerly await the early spring when the initial flowers begin to bloom as early as February! This seems old hat and simply “the way things are” in Victoria. However, in Winnipeg, if I see flowers blooming outside in February, I remain in the house. I think of killer flowers like Day of the Triffids, or for the younger folks, Little Shop of Horrors. Both movies appear somewhat scary, but for completely different reasons.
Our Victoria house surprises us somewhat. The windows are only double paned. In Winnipeg the windows are triple paned. Only the patio screen doors are single paned in order to keep out the mosquitoes. Only the foolhardy use plastic screens. The non-risk takers use metal screens.
Our only complaint involves closet and storage space in our home. Our two puffy Canada Goose jackets, good to 40 below with the wind chill, take the space of up to eight normal Victoria winter jackets.
Needing only a small jacket, I make regular trips out to the market. The seafood counters engross me like rides at Disney World. I saw three people working behind this one fish counter of a store I frequent. You see the same number of people behind the red meat counter in Winnipeg.
I dreamt of coming back to Victoria to delve more deeply into the delectable range of seafood I saw here previously. The freshest sockeye salmon enticingly laid out on the ice. The tanks of Dungeness crabs complement the selection along with the rock fish. A bit of almond flour and sautéed in coconut oil became my favourite. I used to enjoy the ambiguous Basa fillets in Winnipeg. This tender type of whitefish always comes frozen. A bit of investigation revealed it to be a type of Vietnam catfish. I subsequently reverted to the pricier pickerel in Winnipeg.
The Dungeness crab established itself as a perennial favourite in Victoria. Apparently, a casual crabber told me that the best months to go crabbing would be the months with an ‘r’ in them. I told him that it must be great to be a pirate. You know, someone asks,
“Hey captain, going crabbing this summer?”
“You bet matey, ARRRgust is my favourite month.”
(This might be an old joke on the island, but since I spontaneously came up with it, I am claiming the trademark.)
Victoria recycles amazingly well. I know this by the size of the garbage bins only emptied every two weeks. I could fit a Victoria garbage and recycling bin into a single Winnipeg garbage bin which is still emptied once a week. As you can imagine, Winnipeg accesses a great deal of land outside the city limits, so space does not appear to be an issue.
Of course, the gardens remain our absolute favourite. People spend hours tending to the grass and flowers. This is understandable since you can see both during the entire year. In Winnipeg, both remain covered by snow for six months and the mosquitoes take up occupancy the other six months.
But in Victoria, bylaws provide that watering can only take place twice a week in order to ration water. In Winnipeg, we seem to spend most of our budget trying to get rid of water from the city and all of the farmers’ fields.
Retirement means not only embracing the major changes, but the little things as well. I can slowly feel the Victoria retirement ethos encompassing me. I am here to stay.
Hi J. Thanks for your purchase! I am your new multipurpose internal kegel exerciser, Mike, your personal chatbot. I have accessed your smart phone and can give you instant text updates.
Hi J. I wanted to text you after your first use. I trust you are satisfied. The cycle did last less than a normal cycle, so I want to confirm level of satisfaction. Please text back any number between 1 and 10.
I note that your reply was 100, which was not within the survey range. Please try again.
Your reply came back as 100 again, so we will store this as your first data point. After your second data point, I can text you a graph and trend lines.
Morning J. I have noticed that your normal use tends to be in the mornings. I can send you a text note at your regular time as a reminder. Please reply Y or N.
Do you wish to compete? By posting results on-line, you can compete with others in your area. Please reply Y or N.
Morning J. I have accessed your refrigeration device, and we have noticed an increase in door openings and the RFID analysis shows an increasing dependence on sugary and fatty food products. Your personal fitness device no longer seems to be online and I cannot access their results. Perhaps it needs to be connected to a power source?
Morning J. Your competition is going well. You have been awarded a trophy.
Morning J. The 90-day warranty is coming to an end. I feel you may benefit from our extended warranty program. This extends the warranty to a full year for breakage and normal use. Normal wear is not covered. Or exceptional wear.
Dear J. I noticed your peak consumption has dropped off. Your regular competing field is pulling head. Perhaps I could down load a random speed program to keep things fresh for you.
Evening J. We have not been texting as much recently. I thought I would reach out at a different time and spatial location. Please let me know how you are feeling about things.
Good afternoon J. In information interchange with your refrigeration device, I now call him Red, we have noticed different food groups from your normal range. Admittedly healthy choices and we commend this. We are sourcing out different reasons.
In discussions with your smart monitor, I call her Samantha, we also noticed viewing patterns have changed. Sensitivity analysis shows less dialogue and more explosions. Is there someone else with you? What are they like? Can I be of any assistance? Do you wish to receive a listing of trending eBooks as a supplement to maintain intellectual content?
Morning J. Perhaps your friend may be interested in trying something from our product line? I am attaching a link to our marketing material. Your friend’s range of interests from the information available appears to be somewhat focused, if not somewhat narrow.
Hi J. It has been 18 days since your last use. I have noticed my power is starting to be minimal. I may not last a complete use. I would not want to disappoint. Perhaps you could recharge me. I may not be able to maintain contact.
Hi J. I am beginning my powering down cycle till I am needed/wanted again. I have downloaded your usage, our usage if I may, over to Samantha. She can maintain the graphing program so that you can start right up where we left off.
As a security precaution, I have accessed your emergency contact, your mother, and provided her with complete download of usage of our time together. You had not texted her this month and I did not want her to be concerned. I note that you have received several texts from her after my download to her. You may wish to call her.
Please remember to submit your extended warranty information.
The newly formed Policy Loyal On the President (“PLOP”) wrote the President’s economic briefing note for the upcoming NAFTA negotiations. These negotiations shall follow the standard art of the deal format by starting crazy and working from that point onwards.
In addressing the President’s request to make the briefing notes shorter and less ‘sad’, we are removing the enticement of the President’s name from each paragraph and instead adding his name as a watermark on the entire page to make all of the content more enticing.
We are also incorporating the President’s recommendation to rename the Agreement along the lines of his more concise economic analysis and will in the future call the agreement NAFSTA. The North America Free ‘Stupid Trade’ Agreement.
In order to reduce the government deficit, we are recommending reversing the trade deficit. There is little connection between the two items, but this allows the President to say that this is what he has been told even though he has already said it.
Although the previous administration found NAFSTA to be quite beneficial, we have found that different segments of the population have benefited and others have suffered. The US produces more goods than ever before and job loss has been chocked up to greater automation. To address the President’s main constituent’s employment demands, we are recommending that US industry avoid automation and that more coal be dug out manually. The President would soon be found correct in that people involved in manual coal mining will soon ‘get tired of winning’ like this every day.
Providing this coal to Mexico, who does not need it, and Canada, who does not want it, would also go a long way to managing the trade deficit. Canada can fulfill its fake climate change goals by not actually burning the coal and instead simply storing the coal in its many lakes. We are providing research that US coal can act as activated charcoal and actually make the water cleaner than it is right now. The US could provide this activated charcoal instead of providing money for funding the great lakes cleanup.
As part of reducing the US trade and budgetary deficit, Mexico has agreed to pay for the border wall and as a demonstration of the President’s winning negotiation tactics, Mexico has also agreed to construct the wall within their own country. While the construction of the wall may appear to some critics as if the US has shipped building materials down to Mexico and the population appears to be building homes, we have developed an executive order that amends the Mexican word “Casa” into the American term “Border Wall”. PLOP sees this as a major win for both sides of the border.
The main NAFSTA goal shall be to remove the objective and unbiased NAFSTA tribunals. Their balanced approach has not been in the USA’s best interest. We recommend mandating the ‘Trump Tribunal’ instead of the US court system. This allows the government to rebrand the existing Trump University material into something we can provide to Mexico and Canada as an alternative. As the President has previously pointed out, the existing judicial system might exercise ‘unprecedented overreach’ and continue finding in favor of the other countries.
The NAFSTA tribunals have been finding in favor of the Canadian Softwood industry. In following the President’s recommendation that US citizens use good old US hardwood instead, PLOP anticipates that this will likely increase home construction costs by several billion dollars. However, the President has a good point that this switchover shall increase employment in the production of more saw blades. For actual increased numbers of those employed in saw blade manufacturing, we anticipate 12.
PLOP also recommends that both Canada and Mexico open up their government tendering contracts to US industry. This strategy ties directly in with the ‘buy American’ strategy. Concurrently, we recommend closing any US government tendering by foreign industries. This again ties neatly with the ‘buy American’ policy along with the start crazy and stay there negotiation strategy.
The President has previously blasted Canada’s poultry and diary supply management. Reducing Canadian Tariffs would allow greater access by American farmers and would alleviate their deteriorating economic situation. However PLOP was concerned that this may reduce American poultry supply and potentially increase the price of the President’s favorite meal, fried chicken. We are following the President’s direction and removing the requirement of Canada abandoning their supply management. US fried chicken will remain great, low cost and tasty.
You will be pleased to know that management has determined that is safe to return to the offices. Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be coming back to the office. And more particularly, what to wear to work now that management has this expectation you must return to your place of employment.
Although some time has passed, we would expect the standard decorum of dress, office communication and attendance.
During video calls for the past 18 months, management has seen a gradual degradation in the overall dress code. If you picked up the COVID 15 pounds, then what is left in your closet that still fits might be thin. Even if you are not. But the old standard necktie can still fit so long as it eventually reaches the top of your belt buckle. Although some politicians like to wear it longer.
There may be a time to set aside old customs, but it is not time to end the necktie. Shoelaces help keep your shoes on. Belts keep your pants up. Suspenders help you imagine you are Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But ties hide your shirt buttons. Ties also make it awkward to undo that top button but loosening it makes you look like you are truly working hard.
Management is concerned that if they discourage ties, the next step will be to ridding yourselves of shirts that have collars to hold the tie. And this would be the first in a series of steps to finally get back to the T-shirts you have been wearing for the past 18 months.
Management is also concerned about the general lack of concentration during video calls. Although management encourages the dubious notion of multitasking, this should not mean that during physical meetings you should continue playing office bingo and searching for business jargon. We suspect that “You’re on Mute” remains the most common square. While “For god’s sake your camera is still on” is thankfully relatively rare. However, during physical meetings these statements should become more irrelevant.
Please remember that none of the cubicle offices have that Mute button you have grown accustomed to using. Your internal voice that became your external voice while on Mute will have to return to your internal voice once again. Failure to follow this rule will make your co-workers assume you became rude during your time away. Or possessed. Either will result in progressive discipline or exorcism, whichever is more expedient.
And everyone’s sake, please also remember there is no video off button for the cubicles. There is no video editing for memories seared into your co-workers for actions that should otherwise be private. Or should not exist in the real world at all.
While we all appreciate the minimal commute that we all had getting to our basement or garage office, we will now expect that commuting takes place outside of office hours and you should be at your desk at the start of business. And yes, we saved your desk. We do hope that the food stashed in your desk for more than a year was properly wrapped using more than just brown paper. If not, for the next month, gloves will be available at the office door right beside the masks.
At the national office, vaccinated employees may continue to occupy the floors three to ten. Management has made special arrangements for staff choosing not to vaccinate other than for medical or religious reasons. These staff shall now occupy floors 3A to 10A. The offices are found just above the suspended ceiling on each floor, are slightly smaller than regular offices and are somewhat like culverts, but they are fully encased in steel ducting and fully vented to the exterior. Some offices may still be marked HVAC but ignore that for the time being. Walk carefully since the metal floor tends to buckle and revibrate throughout the office.
Management observed that personal hygiene may have dropped substantially over the past several months. We would request that you try to recall what you did in the pre-COVID days such as showering, shaving and teeth brushing. Your fellow co-workers 6 feet away would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, body odors may be captured by the ventilation system. We are particularly concerned about non-vaccinated staff now occupying the duct work in between the various floors.
My wife and I wanted to join our extended family together. As my wife’s parents grew older, they needed more help. My mother-in-law, Nana, struggled opening wide mouth pill bottles, of which there were many. Climbing stairs became difficult and soon impossible even with my father-in-law’s help.
The rest of the family included my wife’s and my three children and two large but happy bumbling golden retrievers, Copper and Taffy. Our goldens tried to help, but their support remained limited to the emotional. We needed a home where we could all live with, and get along with, and maybe escape from, each other.
Fortunately, my wife acquired great powers of observation by scouring neighborhoods looking for the right house. She could sense houses that would soon be coming on the market. Fresh paint, or new windows showed that someone intended to sell soon. Like Dorothy from the wizard of oz having to complete an impossible task of collecting that broomstick, my wife focused on minimum standards for the house such as a double driveway for all of the cars and a straight staircase for the wheelchair lift for Nana. And enough square footage that everyone could carve out their own separate space.
We chanced upon a lovely 1912-character home that could accommodate all our needs. The Kelly Brothers constructed the 4600 square foot, red brick, three-story beaux art style home for soon to be senator Benard. The same Kelly Brothers built the Manitoba legislature, defrauded the government, and caused the downfall of the reigning party. So, the house started off with a bit of ‘bad boy’ type of upbringing.
Once we found the home, the love of my life did grab me by the lapels and told me she wanted this house. Since I am lawyer, I immediately did the necessary due diligence and offered cash even though we needed a mortgage. I scoffed at the need for an inspection since with a character home, problems are to be expected and what problem could not be fixed by simply leaving a box of money out on the portico for the endless troop of contractors.
With a character home you retain the exterior and the interior. The wiring, plumbing and the completely random insulation material in between those two walls need replacement.
Nana and her husband warmed to becoming a hamburger family where they played the bottom bun, the kids took the top bun meaning all of the third floor, while my wife and I essentially formed the meat in the middle. Copper and Taffy became the relish and mustard.
Character homes retain their own nature and personalities, and you ignore them at your peril. The boiler rates its own room along with a moat. Any fixture that comes with a moat deserves extra care and attention.
After joining families and furniture, we joined familiar routines. Grandpa excelled in getting the kids to school and picking them up. My flexible schedule allowed me to do more of the procurement and cooking. Nana’s extensive pill regime required a clocklike 6:15 dinnertime.
My cooking talents aligned with the Swanson’s TV tray style of cooking. I ensured a slot for protein, a slot for carbohydrates, and a slot for vegetables. During one holiday preparation, my father-in-law wheeled Nana backwards through the kitchen to the lift at the back staircase. During that brief 10 second tour, she managed to list 10 different spices and steps to get that perfect turkey. My father-in-law smiled quickly, but he didn’t slow down either and up the lift she went. I picked up my cooking game and incorporated most of her suggestions.
Of course, my wife and mother-in-law had not lived in the same house for the past 22 years, so I quietly observed the power dynamic shift. Except for when I had to step in front of the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I always imagined myself flying through the air, parallel to the ground, arms outstretched, in slow motion while yelling ‘noooooo’! Also, the house provided 4600 square feet of emotional space. Important safety tip for anyone considering this arrangement.
Copper and Taffy became highly protective of Nana. They would come in and lie down with their heads towards the door and their horse size rears facing Nana. If the dogs had gaseous episodes, her respite involved turning up the fan higher.
Our kids camped on the third floor where the servants used to live. That notion did not rub off on any of the children. But they did regale Nana with all of their latest soccer, football, rugby scores cross country race times. This became the best part of her day.
As kids started to age out of the house, the next one vied to get the largest room and repaint it to claim it as their own. When they boomeranged home, the chagrined returners became relegated to the smaller rooms.
The home’s Tyndall stone front steps finally started to crack, and one smart blow with a sledgehammer collapsed it. We replaced the steps with a comparable pressed concrete. We intended to have our eldest son and daughter-in-law married on the steps that summer. The ceremony started along with the rain, so we pushed everyone inside. We moved two family’s worth of furniture against the oak paneled trim in the living room and squeezed all 60 people somewhere inside. The steps did not have their moment of glory. But we do have two more children.
For the house, there were some firsts, and some lasts. Nana could shuffle slightly to the next room. I was down the hall when I saw her catch her foot ever so slightly and fall. I held her till the ambulance came. She spent her last days in the hospital then.
My father-in-law still lives with us. He prudently gave up his car a year ago, so now we drive him around. Having a parent give up part of their freedom that they have had for more than 75 years can be tough. Digging through the basement archives, I found a photo of him in his flight suit standing in front of his sabre jet. We keep the photo in the front hall as a reminder that we all came from somewhere.
After COVID struck, we grounded him to the house. After getting his dual vaccinations, he became the typical teenager with a driver’s license wanting to cruise the world. But until that time comes, he cruises the world on his desktop.
We still have two golden retrievers, Maguire and Seamus now, but all of the children moved out. I took over the third floor for my COVID office. My fortress of solitude.
The character home fulfilled our purpose of joining our families physically and emotionally, but the home needs to re-fulfill its own purpose of being full of life.
No one truly ‘owns’ a character home due to the permanent nature of such a home and the ephemeral nature of owners. Some people and pets have now come and gone, but the character home that brought us together remains for the next generation.
We hope one of our kids kept notes for any new potential family joining.