Just Life / Uncategorized

Near misses …

I’ve never understood why the expression is “a near miss” instead of “almost fail” or some such. When one avoids a collision or any misfortune, we say “near miss” when it was certainly a miss, or a near hit.

Last night, when I was putting away my buttermilk coloured paint, I thought I’d get this dusty old picture out and try to “make it my own”. I wouldn’t perpetuate a fraud; I simply intended to paint over what I assumed was a department store print. I liked this image because it suggests the decrepit house that Susan and I bought and then replaced.


There were a couple of drips on it which looked liked coffee and I wanted them gone, even if I painted over the blemishes. So I licked my finger and rubbed those away, right down to the paper. At that point, I decided I rather liked the print just as it was and would postpone reinventing it. I flipped it over just to confirm that I really HAD paid just $2 for the item (the wooden frame was worth more than $2!).

So this is what I found on the back:


Now I like the picture even more. I will not be painting over it.

Here’s a tale of someone’s absolute miss relating to artwork. Years ago, Myrtle’s family was charged with clearing out her duplex (she was alive but in a nursing home and eventually DECREED that this should be done, and soon.). Over the course of two separate weeks a month apart, we worked very hard at doing what Myrtle wanted, trying to treat all items with respect while feeling overwhelmed by the task. Her collections were varied and huge, some of considerable value and some not.

Breathing down our necks on both occasions was Doug. He had been Myrtle’s tenant on the other side of her duplex, and her friend. He did many things for Myrtle that none of the family could do. She treated him as a son, and for some years did not charge him ANY rent, because, as she gushed, “My Doug does so much for me…” . Who wouldn’t have, in his place?

Doug was helping with the work almost every day that we were there, and some days that we weren’t there.  He was rushing, anxious to take things to the landfill, and when he did help maneuver large items, they were likely to get damaged in the haste and brute force.

Myrtle was paying for renovations on both sides of the building and Doug implied that WE were inconveniencing HIM. (He later bought the duplex for less than half of assessed value, which was FAR less than market value. He also benefited from a large hail damage claim, though he had not paid any of the premiums.) But I digress.

The last night that my sister and I were at the house, along with my daughters, Doug bought Chinese take out, and we sat around the kitchen reviewing the success of the project. The surrogate son congratulated us all, and even apologized for criticizing our methodology. There is another whole tale of Doug’s interference there, and my resentment, but I was too exhausted to care. We had completed the task, thanks to all of our hard work and Shelly’s ingenious ideas.

As we talked, I averred that I had been anxious about the possibility of discarding some thing of great value, or otherwise misappropriating items. Then Doug shared a story that has me gloating to this day.

He says that after his mother was moved to a nursing home, he spent a couple of days clearing out her household. Doug invited his brother and other family members to claim things. Then he took loads of items to the dump (as he was anxious to do with much of Myrtle’s household, had we “let” him).

I do not remember how this occurred to Doug, and I can’t ask him, as we are not on speaking terms. But somehow, it came to Doug’s realization that he had destroyed an ORIGINAL work of one of the Group Of Seven.  Perhaps his mother was still alive and asked about the painting. How fitting.

That I should be smug and gloat is also fitting, because I’m not telling you half of the resentment that built up, eventually, over Doug. He finished the improvements to his duplex, and listed it for sale four months after Myrtle’s death. Yes, I know that this was HIS prerogative.

Now Doug lives with a childhood sweetheart in Victoria, B.C. in summer, and they winter in Palm Springs, so I was told. He became relatively wealthy in a very short time because of his association with Myrtle, who did indeed want him to be happy. Kind of a rags-to-riches story, and in a way, he deserved an inheritance too, but the way he treated us toward the end of this saga was inexcusable. I think that suggested a guilty conscience.

So I have used the tale of ME almost destroying an Andrew Wyeth #1206 print as an excuse to weave the tale about Doug and perhaps the one really bonehead move he has ever made. I shouldn’t be smug, because truly, Doug played his cards of life perfectly despite throwing away some small thing of exceptional value.

Recently, I visited Myrtle’s elderly cousin who still lives alone in a small old home worth about a million dollars, in Calgary. Claire and her family didn’t want very much from Myrtle’s household (and they had been happy recipients of some items over the years). Imagine my surprise when Claire berated me for our family not contacting a certain antiques dealer when we were trying to disburse everything! How would that have been better than the family taking home all we treasured? I assured Claire that we did  not sell off valuable antiques in a yard sale, to which she retorted, “Well, I know for a FACT there was a yard sale because that lawyer told me!”. (The lawyer to whom she refers is a family friend, executor of the Will, and I have no idea why Claire and Dana were chatting.). Yes, some of Myrtle’s plastic crap from HER garage sale excursions was sold. I asked Claire several times, “What are you trying to say?” and then, “What are you trying NOT to say?”, to which she would just dismissively wave her hand. In my opinion, the visit went badly, and up until then, I hadn’t realized there was any resentment there.

I apologize to those who have heard this story before. This all is still a weight on my chest… but not as much, as time goes on. Some things one can “let go” of all at once, and some resentments die by attrition over years or decades. I think people need to give themselves permission to stew and simmer over things, even if there is nothing that can be done. Much as I would like to have an unresentful and kind heart, there are things I need to work on in order to be more forgiving. Give me time.

I’m going to dash out to Dunster for their Saturday indoor market and lunch break. Hope you all have a good day, or good days, until I talk at you again!

Love, Ann

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