Archive for the 'Stories' Category
Christmas Eve

Last year, Ailish decided it was time to host Christmas at our place. We had bought our house about sixteen months before, and had recently got married. Ailish decided this officially made us adults, and adults hosted Christmas.

So we went out and bought a tree. An artificial tree, because none of the real trees looked very impressive. And we bought Christmas lights. Ailish wanted to decorate the whole house with Christmas lights, but we eventually settled on the two posts outside our door. The tree shed sparkles, but she accepted this unexpected issue with grumbling annoyance. The house looked beautiful and even smelled Christmassy (though this was probably from the pine-scented floor cleaner we used).

On Christmas Day, we had my Canadian family over to visit. We had prepared stockings to hand out to everyone, and had a ready supply of beer to share. My sister announced her engagement. We exchanged gifts. We talked to relatives in England and in Medicine Hat. We cooked Christmas dinner. It was a wonderful day.

This year, I’m having a hard time. Last year was so magical. This year, the artificial tree has remained in its box. I don’t even know where the Christmas lights are. I’ve avoided people as much as I can. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I will stop off at the cemetery as I do about once a week. And I will cry.

Things Ailish was better at than me

Naps, sleeping all night, cooking bacon, socialising, mopping the floor, stacking the dishwasher (though not pre-cleaning the dishes), rearranging the living room, reading, watching hockey games, painting walls, swimming, eating complete meals, loving friends and family, watching West Wing episodes back to back, Settlers of Catan, scrabble, studying, smiling, catching swedish berries in her mouth, tossing swedish berries at me, talking on the telephone, eating chips (or really, pretty much anything potato-related), cooking noodles, cooking vegetables, sitting outside on a summer morning, going for walks, her career, travelling, finding excellent hotels to stay at, shoes, playing the drums for Rock Band, drinking beer (regular beer, not fruit-flavoured beer), bettering herself, picking good gifts for people, golf, wearing scarves, playing the piano, getting into the Christmas spirit (including tree and lights), the nose beeping game, sewing, dancing, eating McDonalds, You Don’t Know Jack (but only the PS3 version, not the computer version), finding time, being happy.


The last three times I visited the cemetery, I noticed a rabbit who appears to live about five feet from Ailish’s grave.

We bought our house back in late August, 2008. That winter was particularly cold, but we often noticed a rabbit sitting, shivering, in our back yard. We couldn’t figure out why he didn’t dig himself a hole in the snow; he could at least get out of the wind. He was far too skittish for us to feed him, but he did seem happy to take up residence out back.

Around that time, we decided it must be good luck to have a resident bunny. What better judge of a house’s back yard could one ask for? We didn’t even mind when all the snow melted and we discovered how much poop a rabbit generates.

We fenced the back yard (and boy, that’s a story for another day), and the bunny visits reduced significantly. Still, we’d occasionally see rabbits in our neighbourhood, and so declared any day with a rabbit sighting must be a good day. When we were deciding on a location for our wedding, we visited the University of Alberta, which seemed all but overrun with rabbits. This was certainly not a deciding factor, but it helped.

I am happy to see that Ailish’s grave is bunny-worthy.

Six months

Today is six months. Since months since Ailish died.

Six months and one evening ago, Ailish went out with her friend, Janna, to celebrate her birthday the previous week and to chat about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To Boston Pizza, if memory serves. As she always did, Ailish had a wonderful time. Six months ago, Ailish woke up before dawn and gave me sleepy hugs before she jumped in the shower and dozily started her day.

Most days, I would come downstairs to say goodbye to Ailish as she left to work, but that morning, I had had a terrible night of sleep so I didn’t go downstairs. But Ailish stopped by the bedroom before leaving, and gave me another sleepy hug. The last thing we said to each other that morning was our ‘I love yous’. I tried very hard never to leave the house without saying that, as did Ailish.

Three hours later, the doorbell rang and my world shattered.


The winter of 2010 – 2011 was particularly brutal here in Edmonton. It just never seemed to stop snowing, and it didn’t help that the roads weren’t cleared for weeks at a time.

Ailish drove her little 2000 Honda Civic to work most days, while I had my 2000 Chevy Cavalier. Hers was the better car, certainly, but mine had winter tires. And air conditioning, for that matter. The Cavalier quickly became the go-to car for longer trips but Ailish was perfectly happy driving hers to work and back.

Except last winter.

Ailish’s Civic just couldn’t handle the snow we got last winter. It quickly became standard practice for me to start putting on my snow pants while Ailish started her car, just so I could push the little Civic out onto the main street in the early morning darkness. And some days, even that didn’t work. Some days, Ailish just threw her hands up in disgust, and borrowed my Cavalier. Not a big deal as I worked from home all last winter.

After one particularly difficult morning where even the winter tires on the Cavalier didn’t seem to help, Ailish announced that she was not going to suffer through another winter with our cars. By the first snowfall of the next winter, we were getting an SUV. Something with four wheel drive and ground clearance. And winter tires. And it was going to be an import, because domestic cars are crap (even if the Cavalier always managed to get her to work, ahem).

According to the weather forecast, there’s a chance of snow flurries on Tuesday. Today, I took delivery of a Subaru Forester, a crossover/small-suv with lots of ground clearance and all-wheel drive. It was a vehicle Ailish and I had specifically discussed. Ailish wanted a larger SUV (Tribeca or perhaps a Toyota 4Runner), and perhaps we would have gone with one of those, but I preferred something smaller, something with better gas mileage.

It’s a beautiful car, and I miss Ailish like crazy.


On weekend mornings, Ailish and I would cook breakfast. This requires two people.

I was responsible for the coffee and the eggs (poached medium, of course). And setting the table. Ailish was responsible for cooking the bacon (extra crispy), and pointing out all the things I had forgotten to put on the table when I set it. We’d handle our own toast. Me, because I liked having the toast ready and buttered for when the eggs were finished. Ailish, because she couldn’t stand cold toast and so had to time it to perfection.

It’s really quite difficult to get the timing down exactly. Coffee’s easy, of course. But bacon takes far longer to cook than eggs do to poach, so we had a whole system in place. I would set the table and then prepare the coffee. While Ailish started on the bacon, I would set up the egg poacher. Just before she flipped the second set of bacon, I’d plug in the egg poacher. Then, we’d put in the toast. Ailish would examine the table and point out all the things I had forgotten this time. Once that was corrected, the bacon would be finished, the toast would pop up, and the eggs would buzz. Breakfast would be perfect.

It just doesn’t work by myself.


Today is my birthday.

It is also four years since I started dating Ailish. You can read the story of how we started dating here. We actually started dating on the 2nd, but it was kind of early-morning on the 2nd.

I was remembering back to my birthday in 2007. I celebrated it at Ailish’s place. She cooked me dinner and what I particularly remember was desert. She had made a sort of porcupine out of various fruits, including a liberal amount of pineapple, which we had just been discussing via email. She also gave me some candies for a gift. :)

The porcupine, particularly, was wonderful and made me laugh. I think Ailish was a bit disappointed that I didn’t eat the whole thing, but it was a significant amount of fruit. She must have spent quite a while preparing it.

That was a great birthday, made better by us starting to date, officially, in the early hours of September 2nd, once I returned home.


Ailish and I had very different approaches to how fast one should drive.

On the highway, I believe you should pretty much go the speed limit. This used to drive Ailish absolutely crazy. I used to catch her looking at my speedometer and rolling her eyes. I’m pretty sure this is why she normally slept while I drove, just so she wouldn’t get annoyed. She thought the speed limit was a mere suggestion, and a rather stupid one at that. She did not drive recklessly, but she did not drive the speed limit.

On the other hand, I also managed to drive Ailish to distraction when in residential areas. There, too, I went the speed limit. Ailish thought this was dangerous and irresponsible, and that one should drive 30 Km/hr in neighbourhoods. She claimed this is what society demanded. I claimed if society wanted to demand that, they could do so by lowering the posted speed limit from 50 to 30. Ailish would just roll her eyes at me.


Almost two years ago, Ailish convinced me to try jogging. This was a pretty monumental task because I hadn’t run at all since grade 10 in high school, and then only when forced. I was out of shape, hated sweating, and was rather dubious about the whole idea. And we had a wedding to plan.

Ailish, true to her nature, didn’t give a single minute of thought to any of that. Not only were we going to start jogging, but we were going to run a half marathon in the spring.

The first time out, I could hardly run one hundred metres without gasping for air. It took weeks until I could comfortably run five kilometres, and longer still to break 10. Focused as she was on the half-marathon, Ailish often decided it was a better plan to go out for dinner and a couple of drinks, and who was I to complain? Still, come April, 2010, Ailish, Siobhan (Ailish’s sister), and I, we all ran in the Edmonton Police Half Marathon. And we all finished. My time was 2:15:21.

After Ailish died, a year to the day after our first half marathon, I needed some reason to leave the house. My friend, Nicholas, convinced me to sign up for a training camp thing. So for the next sixteen weeks, I ran once again. I still hated every minute. I still don’t like sweating. I still think running is dubious. But once again, I ran a half marathon with my friends, Shane and Nicholas. My time was 2:07:45.


The very beginning part of a relationship can be quite difficult as the two people struggle to define boundaries and agree on definitions.

Ailish and I first met in the middle of August, 2007. From very early on, we played the occasional board game. Later, we would discover the joy that was Settlers of Catan, a game Ailish won about 2/3 of the time, but early on, I tended to win most of the games we played, much to Ailish’s annoyance. So, with that in mind, I asked Ailish in an email on September 2nd, 2007, if she thought I was cheating.

Ailish’s carefully worded response was to question if we were officially dating (something we had not yet discussed) and, if so, we had better be exclusive and I had better not be cheating. Clearly underlying her wording was the guarantee that my answer had better be clear and straightforward because even the possibility was unacceptable to her.

I pointed out that, errrm, that wasn’t what I meant at all. Indeed, the email had just been talking about board games before I asked her about cheating.

But, hey. That was as good a time as any. So I officially asked her out, after clarifying that I wasn’t cheating on her, and telling her how much I enjoyed spending time with her and how much I liked her. And of course, Ailish said yes.

So I count the official start of our relationship from September 2nd, 2007. Ailish always counted from our first date at Marahari, but hey, the occasional disagreement just adds spice to a relationship. I never did confirm that I wasn’t cheating at board games.