What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul --- Jewish Proverb
I’ve been thinking about crying. Not engaging in the act of crying – at least not at the moment, but rather thinking about what a blessing the act of crying is for human beings. I doubt that anyone ever plans to cry; that is why crying is so terrific. It catches us by surprise and releases our pent-up emotions. Have you had a really good cry recently? If not, you are missing out on life. All the really profound moments of our existence are perfect opportunities for crying: births, weddings, terrific jokes, and wonderful surprises, feelings of great loss and sadness, death, grave illness, deep disappointment, true patriotic feelings, love and pride. If you haven’t shed a tear or two you’ve been missing out on some of the most memorable moments of being human.
Certainly we don’t want to drag out our crying towel on a daily basis or even weekly or monthly, but occasional crying is mandatory for humanity. That is not to say we yearn for death, illness or great loss, only that when these events enter our lives, as sooner or later they must, the act of crying helps us to reach a state of equilibrium once more. Just as we cannot live in a state of perpetual ecstasy, we cannot live in a state of perpetual grief. Eventually we must return to normalcy or equilibrium. Crying helps us to find that balance in our lives.
When was your last sincere cathartic sobbing? Maybe it's time to shed a tear! One such occasion for me was an occasion of pure gratitude and joy. It was a special occasion, but I was completely unaware. As usual, Cecilia and I were at Quail Run RV Park in Arizona on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2014, my seventieth birthday. It was a routine birthday in all respects as far as I knew. Receiving birthday wishes from several friends and neighbours in the RV Park, I felt the day brought little out of the ordinary. In the evening Cecilia and I went to the recreation centre with some friends for the Saturday night dance.
As we entered the hall looking for a seat, the Needham Twins were on stage preparing to provide us with dance music and entertainment. We like to sit near the back of the hall where the music is not as loud and it is easier to slide in and out of one’s seat to go dancing, but to my annoyance someone had plunked a “Reserved” sign on the back table forcing us to take the next table. The band was ready to go and still no one was occupying the “Reserved” table. We settled in next to that table, visiting with our friends, when suddenly the RV Park manager made an announcement that there were some special guests coming to the dance. Would we please welcome them? To my absolute shock and amazement, through the front door walked my sister and her husband, one brother and his wife, another brother and finally our son. I could not believe my eyes. To hugs, kisses and tears of welcome they entered the hall. Unbelievably, the “Reserved” sign was for me and all my relatives. A few minutes later when I was just regaining my composure an old school chum and his wife entered to join the celebration. My friends and relatives had traveled from their homes in various parts of Canada all the way to Arizona to help me celebrate my seventieth birthday. They brought tequila, rum, rye whiskey, beer, munchies and a huge birthday cake which we shared with the hundred or so people in the hall. My relatives had rented a large four bedroom house near the RV Park, were set to party for the weekend and party we did. After the dance, we all crowded into our very small park model trailer where there was another huge surprise and more tears. My other sister and her husband, whose flight from Canada had been delayed, suddenly showed up at our doorstep.
My brother Jim was the instigator and my wife Cecilia was the co-conspirator of the whole event, keeping the surprise a secret from me for months. Every time that weekend when I considered the thoughtfulness and kindness of my relatives and friends, as well as the huge expense they incurred to help me celebrate my seventieth birthday, tears of joy and gratitude welled up in me, and remembering it now gives me a repeat performance. Thank you dear people!
Sadly there are times when our lives are filled with other tears, tears of sadness, loss, grief and sorrow. The death of my Granny and my Mother were two of these moments, but there were others, perhaps not as tragic to me but still tugging at the floodgates of my heart.
One such occasion, which neither Cecilia nor I will ever forget was in October 1983. At the time, we lived in Regina, Saskatchewan with our son Greg who was attending the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, taking Honors Chemistry through the co-operative work study program. To his credit, Greg had secured a four month work-study job at the RCMP Crime Lab in Winnipeg. But when it came time for him to leave home, Cecilia and I had such intense feelings of sadness, emptiness and loss that we literally cried upon his departure and many more times over the next two days. His temporary departure was like a death to us. Who knows why? We had just lived together eating, laughing, vacationing and fighting together for eighteen years. What was the loss? He was just our only living baby leaving us forever!
So for two days we sulked as we aimlessly roamed around the house quietly mourning our loss, wondering if life would ever be the same. On the second day of our “wake” Cecilia decided to try to distract herself from her grief by raking the front lawn, but as she raked, the tears streamed down her face. At that moment an older neighbour walking his dog chanced upon her sorrow, and noting her sadness, he asked her the cause of her tears. Sobbing, she told him of the temporary departure of our son and our profound sorrow at our loss. His response was simply that he understood her feelings. He and his wife had four grown children and he intimated that with the departure of each youngster they both cried as though their best friend had died.
When Cecilia came back into the house, she told me of her encounter with the neighbour. We both had a hearty laugh, more tears and that was the end of it. After that initial sorrowful departure and eventual return, Greg left us on many occasions for jobs in various places, but never again did we grieve. We celebrated his departures and his returns as beautiful parts of our lives.
So, I’ve seen sunshine and I’ve seen rain; I’ve experienced great joy and profound grief. They weave an amazing tapestry, our lives of tears. May your tears be joyful!
Go back and click on the teary eye to listen to "Tears in Heaven".
Gerald M. Sliva
“I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.” -- Molly Ivins
Anyone who has followed my blog over the last five months will know that I have gleaned my material from a wide variety of sources. Two weeks ago my good friend Don sent me a photo of a knife, telling me that it was in use in the 1940's and 1950's while I was growing up in Kuroki Hotel. It was in service three miles west of Kuroki Hotel on Don's parents' family farm. He said that the knife has tales of cutting willows, soft with rising spring sap, perfect for whittling into a whistle. In the family farm kitchen it would slice bread that was fresh out of a wood stove oven. It even saw front line action when pig butchering was necessary.
He wonders if any of my blog readers are able to solve the puzzle of the heritage of the knife from the faint inscription that remains on the blade. I've included a photo of the whole knife as well as an enlargement of the the worn down inscription. Please comment or speculate if you have an inkling about the knife's heritage.
Below the photos of the knife I go on to muse more about our boyhood knives.
Don's email and knife photo started me cogitating about knives, particularly the huge, razor-sharp butcher knife I used to murder the innocent hen in chapter two of my book. I also thought of all the other common uses of knives in the early and middle part of the twentieth century, about the hunting knives so many early settlers routinely carried with them, and about the jack-knives most school boys carried in the 1950's.
This brings me to Mumbley Peg. Prior to beginning this blog I had never heard of the term "Mumbley Peg". However, one fond memory I have is, on a stifling hot day in July in the mid 1950's, sitting with three of my friends on the cool green grass in the shade of a huge spruce tree in the churchyard just one block from Kuroki Hotel - everything in Kuroki was about one block from the hotel - and playing a game we called "Knife". The game was played with a jack-knife and consisted of making various intricate moves with the knife and throwing it so that it would always land blade-first and stick into the soft sod of the lawn. Each player took a turn at throwing the knife in the prescribed manner until he failed to make the knife blade stick in the sod. The knife was then passed to the next player who attempted to execute the whole series of knife throws, which became progressively more difficult, until he too failed to make the knife stick. It was a great competitive game boys played to waste time in the days before smart phones, computers and iPads.
Now to the mystery of "Mumbley Peg". As I was surfing the net, trying to recall all the intricate moves in the game we called "Knife", I came across the description of a game called Mumbley Peg. Go back and click on one of the photos of Don's knife to take you to a web site that describes the game of Mumbley Peg and reminisce about innocent childhood days throwing dangerous weapons into the cool, green churchyard sod.
Gerald M. Sliva
Still Barking! Blog of