Family Comes out for my Birthday

It’s always good when people drop by.

It’s even better when it’s family. And they bring gifts.

Most of the Tisdale clan descended on Calgary this weekend. Partly because we hadn’t seen everyone in a while, partly because a few people (namely Mom, Cathy, and Craig) wanted to see my house, and the rest because my 30th birthday was looming in the coming days.

I arrived at the airport on Thursday (11 July 2002) around 8:30, a couple minutes after the flight from Toronto was to have touched down. But somehow, I managed to miss them at the gate. I managed to find them down by the baggage claim, though — Craig flagging me down.

Bags claimed, we headed back to my car, and off to my house. Cathy and Craig were staying with me, but Mom was going to stay at the Westin. She really wanted to stay in her own room, and get some time to herself. But first, she wanted to check on Spaz.

Spaz is my “new” cat. Spaz was originally my Grandma’s (Dad’s mom) cat, which she named Yum Yum. However, Grandma has never called any cat by the name which was given, always calling them “Puss”. That’s what my family calls the cat. I’ve always called the cat “Spaz”, for the way she acted since she was a kitten. When my Grandma moved into a care facility, Dad took Spaz into our home. With Dad’s passing in March, Spaz was to become homeless — Mom’s not really a pet person.

Ironically enough, though, it was Mom who really wanted to see Spaz and make sure she was okay. This almost drove me to the point of lunacy. Miao-Yin and Spaz haven’t exactly been getting along. They still stare and growl at each other. Well, actually, it’s mostly Spaz. Miao-Yin’s been pretty easy with the whole situation, but Spaz … well, I love her to death, but she just doesn’t make sense sometimes.

Mom hung around for a couple of drinks, before I took her over to her hotel. Cathy, Craig, and I waited up a while longer, but soon we all went to bed. They were tired … I had to go work in the morning. I had thought it would be a bit of a challenge in the morning getting out without waking them, too, but it seems Craig’s an early riser and really needed coffee.

The day was typical for me: Meetings, fires to put out, fires to start, and the general half-calm/half-chaos that seems to regularly engulf my life. It’s something I’ve gotten used to.

I bolted as close to 5:00pm as possible, making an immediate run for my bike, and a fairly brisk ride home. The first surprise of many that I would receive on the weekend was waiting for me as I came through the back gate: A patio set.

I love my family.

This was a gift from my Aunt Brenda, Uncle Mike, and Nana (Mom’s mom). It looked strangely normal sitting on my deck, though not quite as comfortable as Mom, Cathy, and Craig looked sitting at it. I joined them for a while, until Tamara came home. (Tamara, as you might recall, is my roommate.) Tamara then got the chance to finally meet my family, having on a short introduction that morning.

We were off to a family dinner up at my Aunt and Uncle’s. It was a typical family dinner, with lots of talk, lots of laughter, and lots of good food. In attendance were Mom, Cathy, Craig, Nana, Aunt Brenda, Uncle Mike, Jen (Brenda and Mike’s daughter), Pam and Darren (cousins from another branch of the tree), and Muck, Pam’s boyfriend. (“Muck” is a nickname, his real name is Sean. For some reason, everyone calls him “Muck”.)

We got what I consider to be a first glimpse of what Craig and Cathy’s wedding will be like. Muck, Darren, Mike, and Craig were constantly laughing at something (particularly in their group concensus of how much beer to put on the steaks), which gave the rest of us a little pause. If they were like that at just a dinner, we could only imagine what the wedding will be like.

The next day I was not allowed to sleep in. Apparently, it was shopping day, and I had no idea what we were shopping for, or even where we were going. I wasn’t allowed to know. But before we could start, we had one little detail to take care of: Breakfast. Taking a page from Ed and Jen’s visit, we went to The Galaxie. While the food was as good as it had always been, I probably should have taken them to the Arden Diner — both are huge fans of Jann Arden.

After breakfast, we picked up Mom, and prepared to go shopping. At first I wasn’t sure where we were going — only that it was towards the northeast — but it was only a few minutes (and a phone call) that gave me the hin that were in search of a dishwasher.

I had a dishwasher. It came with the house. But dishes came out dirtier than they went in. I knew that the dishwasher wasn’t that great — the home inspector had told me it would need to be replaced. I just hadn’t expected this.

We ended up at Field Appliances in the northeast, where awaited my new dishwasher. It was a lot fancier than the ones I had looked at before, but I did rather like it. And it all mine, ready to install. All we needed to do was get it come, and take about an hour or so to hook it all up.

This is where Mike and Brenda came into the picture again. First, they showed up in their truck to haul the dishwasher back to my house. Then Mike graciously donated not only his tools but also himself — so he, Craig, and I could take a crack at getting the new dishwasher installed.

It was fairly easy to remove the old one, though it was very rusted and virtually falling apart. Getting the new one in was a bit more of a challenge, but it wasn’t long before it, too, slid into place and started whirring. I must say that it’s very nice, and it does a much better job.

Did I mention that my family is amazing?

About that time, Mom and Cathy returned from their shopping side-trip (we’d split ways at Field Appliances), which had been to Revy. They returned with some supplies for installing a doorbell (another gift), an extension cord (even though I already had one), and a screen door replacement kit. (My sliding door has a screen door, but no screen.) While they ordered pizza for lunch, I replaced the screen.

For family dinner #2, I invited all those still in town (Pam, Darren, and Muck disappeared off to Waterton earlier that day) to come over and experience Beer Can Chicken. It’s a ridiculously simple recipe that I had been dying to try. Luckily for me, no-one seemed to mind that they were guinea pigs.

I managed to sleep in a little bit the following morning, which I really needed. But there’s no rest for the wicked — we had things to do that day, too. First off, was relax with the family. This was easy. The hard part was trying to install the doorbell.

If you look in my basement, it looks a little small, compared with the rest of the house. This is because it’s not full-sized — it’s actually about 2/3 the dimensions of the house. The rest is infill of some kind, for reasons I neither understand, nor will likely be able to find. But this is what we had to get into to find where we were going to install the power line to the doorbell. Or specifically, Craig.

Craig is the original handiman. He’s a commercial electrician, and appears to have installed everything known to the modern household. And he’s not shy about rolling around in the dirt. But it took him, Uncle Mike, myself, a two-foot long drill bit, and a 3/8 spade bit to figure out where the wall was under the floor, carve two holes big enough so we could run wire, and then pull the wire up from the basement.

It was a little more drawn out that that — about two hours drawn out — but I don’t think anyone really wants to read those details.

But before long, about an hour before Mom, Cathy, and Craig had to be at the airport, the largish white box next to my front door burst out with the 1812 Overture.

Craig ran through the shower, changed, grabbed a beer, and we were off quickly to see Nana before the flight. We stayed only a few minutes before I had to take them the rest of the way to the airport for the flight out.

About an hour after leaving, I was back home, and starting to clean. We’d managed to create quite a mess. But it’s all part of the fun of having family around.

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