Archive for January, 2014

Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Posted: January 10, 2014 in life, writing

I’m reading the last entry on this blog, almost half a year old, and I just shake my head at the world of difference between then and now.

It’s dated July 25, and it’s now January 8, a week into the new year that is 2014. Seems that I just have a terrible time updating this space. But it’s not like my life is so exciting that there are scores of people glued to their screens waiting to hear of my daily goings-on to begin with.

The last few paragraphs of that post are what really get to me though, because they describe my family going through a time of change and adapting to my father, Jack Ruttle, starting a ‘new phase’ of his life by moving into a personal care home. It gets to me because my Dad passed away just a month later on the morning of Monday, August 26. As things sadly turned out, that new phase of Dad’s life was also a very short one. He was 80 years old.

These days, things like emotions can change in what seems to be such a brief instant. That last blog entry speaks about my then-upcoming summer break from work, in which I flew to Las Vegas for a few days of fun and sight-seeing. I had a blast on that trip, no doubt the biggest highlight of 2013 for me, but Dad’s passing just weeks later brought a very somber end to not just my own, but everyone’s summer. Adding to the sadness was the fact that Dad died on his youngest son Brendon’s birthday. It goes without saying that my brother will undoubtedly be filled with a lot of conflicting emotions every time his birthday rolls around every year from now on. And actually, it was only three days removed from my own birthday on the 23rd.

In the immediate aftermath of my father’s passing, one of my first thoughts was the realization that I was the last person in my family to have seen him alive. I take a world of pride in that. It was two days earlier on Saturday, August 24 and I drove down to the long-term care facility in Dinsmore for the afternoon to watch a football game with him. We just sat back, enjoyed watching the Riders take the lead, and we talked about a number of things, like my recent trip to Vegas, the harvest season, and the upcoming Labor Day long weekend anniversary celebrations for my sister Laurel and her husband Shawn. He seemed happy, like he always was whenever someone in the family stopped in to see him. After the Riders eventually won, I wheeled him into the dining room so he could have his supper and we said our goodbyes until next time. Of course, I had no idea that there wouldn’t be a next time.

When Dad died on Monday morning, I just remember that entire week flying by so damn fast because there was so much to do. There were only about a million phone calls to make, and then my family and I met with the funeral chapel on Tuesday morning, followed by more planning the rest of that day. Later that night, I fired up my laptop and eventually typed out my father’s eulogy, a task that I was seemingly the only one suited for, and one I was very honored to undertake. I’ll tell ya, even though it produced more than a fair share of fresh tears, writing a tribute to my father and his long life was a great exercise in grieving and keeping lifetime memories alive and well. I got the thumbs-up from my mother (and Jack’s wife of more than 30 years), and presented it to the minister who was set to perform the funeral service on Friday. In the meantime, there were other tasks ahead of my family, such as prepping the Conquest rink for the service and going through a mountain of photos to put on display.

It was Friday morning before any of us virtually had a chance to breathe, and I walked into the rink with my family in front of more than 200 people to help celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Dad. The turnout was really quite impressive, and it looked like it was standing room only. I know Dad would’ve been happy. I was relieved to hear that the eulogy I wrote went over very well with my family, as well as a ton of other relatives and those that knew my old man. A large group of us went down to the bar and had a few drinks in honor of Dad, my mother (and owner of the place) raising a teary-eyed toast to her husband.

Such was the week in August that encapsulated the passing of my Dad. His death was a shock to all of us, and yet it wasn’t at the same time, know what I mean? His health had begun taking a steep decline in recent times, especially those two months between June and August where the poor guy kept getting moved out of one home care space and into another. Dad went from Outlook to Dinsmore, back to Outlook, a brief stay in Elrose, and then finally back to Dinsmore in his final weeks. If there was any consolation during those moves, it’s that he got to enjoy plenty of car rides in some prime summer weather conditions out in rural Saskatchewan. His driving days were obviously long since finished, but he loved just getting to go for a drive around the countryside.

Today, we’re approaching nearly five months since Dad died, and I can’t believe this much time has already passed. Every time the 26th of every month arrives, it’s another reminder of the biggest loss in the Ruttle family. I especially missed my Dad during the Christmas season, since he loved that time of the year and getting to see all his kids and their growing families. My mom, brothers and I drove out to Calgary on the morning of Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with my oldest brother Jim, sister-in-law Daniela and their two kids. It was a quiet Christmas, an enjoyable one, but Dad’s absence was definitely felt. He should’ve been there, handing out presents and sitting at the head of the dinner table, as well as playing card games of Uno by his own rules. (“What? You can’t play a red 5 on a green 9? OK, fine…”)

As painful as losing my father was this year, and still is, 2013 did contain plenty of historic, much more positive and memorable highlights for me. The list basically comes down to three big things that stood out:

– My first Comic Con experience: Brendon and I drove out to Calgary to take in the city’s Comic and Entertainment Expo on the last weekend in April. I always had an idea of what to expect at comic and sci-fi conventions, but my first time at a Con blew those expectations away. There’s just a certain energy you experience at something like this, and I loved so many of the costumes that armies of people had on. Where else can you see Batman standing in line for a Coke, while the Terminator is using an ATM? It was almost overwhelming, but I played it smart and just took my sweet time trying to take it all in, from the trade show/exhibit booth aspects of it to checking out awesome things like the DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future’ or Han Solo encased in carbonite from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. From there it was time to check out the autograph tables and have photos taken with a multitude of stars over the course of the weekend, like WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Edge, Wil Wheaton, Stan Lee, John Carpenter, Misha Collins, Norman Reedus, the cast of The Walking Dead, Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage from ‘Game of Thrones’, and Nathan Fillion. Very cool, but also a very expensive weekend. Can’t wait to go back in a few months.

– Seeing WWE live once again: It’s always cool to see WWE action live and up close, especially when you score front row seats like I did (again). But this time was different because Brendon and I actually got to meet a few of them before the show in Regina on May 25 at a gym that was located right by the arena. Yeah, we unleashed our inner stalker and staked out the gym parking lot. Sure enough, we eventually see the likes of Sheamus, The Miz, Natalya, Wade Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio come out. We didn’t hound them or anything, and we were actually pretty polite as we asked each wrestler we saw for a quick photo, to which they all said yes. Very cool, and now I know where to go for more possible photos and autographs the next time WWE rolls into Regina for an event. Hey, some people go nuts over a favorite football player or musician; I get all ‘fanboy’ over my favorite wrestlers.

– Viva Las Vegas: My Las Vegas experience at the start of August. Memorable. Eye-opening. Life-altering. I’d waited to venture to this city for many years, a trip my friends and I talked about going on since high school. But there it was laying in front of me as my plane landed down – Sin City. I got there via direct flight from Calgary and grabbed my luggage, meeting up with my driver and heading over to the Platinum Hotel. I say ‘driver’ because that’s just what she was, as I kicked back in the plush seats of my private limousine and just took in the sights and sounds of this legendary city. My hotel suite on the top floor was amazing, with a king-size bed in the bedroom, two-person jet tub in the washroom, all the kitchen appliances I needed, in-room temperature control, and a balcony that provided me an incredible view of the Las Vegas Strip and landscape of the city. I couldn’t have been happier at that point, and I felt on top of the world. I love that feeling. But the vacation had even started yet. The next few days were filled with great food, even greater fun, and only about a billion photos snapped to try and capture it all. (Except for that one night out at the strip club. I figured they wouldn’t appreciate some jackass Canadian tourist in there snapping photos left and right.)

I think one of the best things to come out of that Vegas trip, aside from things like the Mob museum at the Tropicana Hotel or seeing Penn & Teller’s magic show (and meeting Penn) at the Rio, was that time each night when I’d pour myself a drink, step out onto my balcony, and just sit down with my own thoughts as the city of Las Vegas glistened with color and stood out before me. They were like moments of zen, and it was in those quieter moments that I did a lot of reflecting on life, both in general and my own, specifically. I got to thinking about the kind of person I want to be more, some things that I want to see change for me, and I thought a lot about the future. To be able to have that time to myself, relaxing on my balcony above one of the world’s most famous cities, is one of the reasons why I’m glad that I went solo on this trip.

Mixed in with a lot of smaller things, like lazy Friday afternoons at the office before a long weekend or just something like meeting some friends out for drinks, that’s pretty much been my 2013. There are things I have in mind for 2014, but I don’t wanna get into that right now. It’s just some personal stuff and professional goals kinda mashed together. I will share two things, though. In 2014:

– I will write a novel. I’ve got a notion to put together a string of short stories and compile them into one collection, but at the moment I have a very rough draft of a singular story idea that I don’t want to lose any momentum over.
– A second Vegas adventure will come to fruition, only this time with my friends. We’ve already started talking about it, and it’s just a question of when do we fly down there. Can’t wait.

And yeah, I’ll update this thing more often than once every six months or once a year. Promise.