At four in the morning, the alarm goes off and I hear the announcer on CBC Radio drone on as usual, something about the orange clown south of the border.
I slap the radio like it's some sort of pesky mosquito, in hopes of getting a few more seconds of peace.
My little Aussie Shepherd jumps to attention.
Pearl is four months old, and she's good at it.
She reminds me of Anna waking up her sister in the opening scene of Frozen.
The sun is awake.
And I'm awake.
It's time to play!
It's Saturday, and I have to drive my husband to work in downtown Ottawa. Later, I have a date with my son and my granddaughter to celebrate Father's Day one day early. Time is a wastin'.
I jump out of bed before Pearl pees on my shoes, then sit outside with my tea while Scott gets showered. Four in the morning is a fascinating time on my street which is almost always busy. It's a major artery during the day, brimming with buses, firetrucks, and bustling worker bees.
But it's quiet this time of day as I sit out here in the side garden, sucking back some hot liquid behind a protective screen of hedge while watching grumpy but purposeful stragglers trundle down the boulevard, while the crackheads in the building across the way bid farewell to their prom dates on the doorstep.
Occasionally, there is an older person walking a dog, or a cyclist headed for downtown where the streets will be blocked all day, impeding traffic, for some charity event or other. It's the nature of Ottawa, a city that is both beautiful and frustrating on the weekends. Damn, this town is too healthy.
The lake beckons.
Only two weeks to go before I head off to stick my toes in the sand at Lac O'Neill, which is about an hour and a half from the pavement where I rest them now -- an hour too far in my view. Here, life is full of soot and grime. There, the air is clear and the only sirens I hear are the mating kind.
Here I am grandma, changing nappies and singing songs from long ago to my granddaughter Squish whom I look after during the week while my daughter builds her corporate career. Here, I am the sitter of Belle the Basset Hound, the consoler-in-chief for the heartbroken, the fixer, the mender, the smile on a terrible day. Mom, I guess you'd call me.
There, I'm just Rose, a flawed creature of failed career and marriage, who sits on a rented porch drinking homemade hooch, unjudged by the loons, puppies, and the anonymous paddlers.
It's been a terrible year, full of sleepless nights and crabby days. There are too many "what ifs" this year, and I need to put them behind me. I told my doctor the other day that aside from the people on Facebook, I don't have any friends anymore.
They're all dead.
I lost my best friend Jennette to cancer just after the New Year. Then, days later, I lost my beloved Black Lab, Finnigan, the dog who graces the photo above. Both loved the lake, and left their scents there over the years. This year, there will be an empty chair for Jennette, and a lake left quiet by the absence of a dog who revelled in the toing and froing of the daily Kong toss.
Oh well, I tell myself.
At least we had that time together.
This year, for the first time, I will be spending my birthday at the lake.
I'll be 62 this year. Too old to find work, too young to retire.
So I guess that means I'll be talking to you.
Come to the lake with me, let's share some stories, a few laughs, and hopefully fewer tears than I've spilled over the past year. You see, I want to remember, but I also want to forget the hurt, and wash my soul clean in the shallow lake. I want to go out and shout at the mountain, and sleep with the crickets and my ghosts.
It's a good place.