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Monday 31 January 2022

In the wind

The fire is glowing as I sit curled on the couch under a cozy blanket. Outside, the wind hits the house and the horizontal snow means I can’t see beyond the living room window. This storm is a bad one. On the mantle, faces of our grandchildren smile from the frames. My husband is downstairs, probably having an afternoon nap while I am reading. 

My friend asked me to read a book by Paul Kalanithi called When Breath Becomes Air. She has stage four cancer and wants to discuss her experiences through the cancer treatment and thoughts of dying and death. The book is a good place to begin our discussions. The request and the book have given me pause in many ways. 

Reading the book and reflecting on my life, I thought of my father. I was in my early thirties when he died from cancer, less than a year from diagnosis. He was a quiet, patient man who bore the suffering stoically, withering away before our eyes. He died in palliative care within a day of his arrival there. Not knowing he was so close to the end, my husband, daughter and I were at our home four hours away. When I received the call, I was sad but relieved his suffering was over.

I remember when I returned to work as principal of a small all grade school two weeks after my father died. After greetings and condolences from teachers, everything was back to normal, except for me. Closing the office door that first day back, I sat there devastated, thinking, “How can life go on this way? Dad is dead!”

This much I came to know. Time continued without dad and I had to go on. His story was complete, mine continued to be written. Without him in my life, my time would be different. Slowly, the grief was replaced by the feeling that my father was always with me anyway. His physical form was replaced by a spiritual one, available any time, a thought away. My relationship with him evolved. Eventually, it will be the same for those I leave behind.

I wrote this poem which is far from finished but it’s a start.

In the wind

When time goes on without me

And I am no longer here,

You’ll find me in the wind that blows

Along the beach, and there

A thought will bring me closer

As close as I can be,

Cause in your heart you’ll feel me

There where you cannot see.

When time goes on without me

You know what I would stay

When life events o’re take you,

You’ll keep me close that way.

I’ll be there in the happy times

And in the sad times too

With hopeful thoughts deep in your heart

To help bring you through.

When time goes on without me

And I am no longer here

Don’t fret cause I am with you still

Within a thought so near.

These are my initial thoughts about death. It is the dying that is the issue though.

To be continued…

Monday 24 January 2022

The fly

The golden grand-dog, Georgie, was sick. After a run outdoors with the  kids, she collapsed in the kitchen and wouldn’t or couldn’t walk. No number or type of treats could coax her. Georgie didn’t eat supper which never happens. By the next day, when she hadn’t improved, our daughter called for an appointment with the vet. Meanwhile our daughter was self isolating, due to our grandson’s possible exposure to Covid so my husband and I took Georgie on that potentially fateful drive.

Georgie will soon be twelve years old. We are always cognizant of her age and are bracing ourselves for her end of days. Devastated describes how we will feel to lose her and we feared we were driving her to her doom on this day. There was silence as we drove along while the radio played country music, which can be sad enough. Meanwhile Georgie, sat in the back seat, rested her head on my hand as she often does. She had come downstairs to greet us when we went for her, so a part of us held out hope. Despite my best efforts to stay positive however, a tear rolled down my face and the silence, above the music, was deafening. Words were embedded in my throat.

We turned onto the street to the clinic and stopped behind another car. A line of vehicles waited while a police car was stretched across the centre of the road. Electric utility workers were busy further ahead with a wire down on the road.

My husband broke the silence with, “Now, there’s a fly in the Metamucil.”

I started to laugh and we laughed together for several minutes. That line is from The Golden Girls, spoken by Sophia, one of the main characters. The laughter broke the tension and sadness. We felt better.

When we dropped Georgie at the clinic twenty minutes later, we left with good thoughts on our minds. By late afternoon and a number of tests later, the vet reported that Georgie has arthritis. Several prescriptions and almost $400.00 later, we dropped her home.

Meanwhile, back at her home, two new pets joined the family a few months ago. 

Meet brown Archie and gray Ozzie, the Guinea pigs. Georgie was jealous of any attention the pigs received initially but as you can see from this photo from last week, the dog has joined the pigs rather than attempt to beat them.

There are no flies on Georgie!

Update: There have been six deaths from Covid on the island to date. A neighbour lost a family member, a man in his eighties with several serious health issues. The province is in a lockdown again similar to those earlier in the pandemic. 

The good news is our daughter and family came through the self isolation last week without having Covid. However, it is nerve-wrecking when anyone must be outside the house these days. My husband and I will venture into the fray to get our booster shots on Wednesday.

Monday 17 January 2022

It comes with age

It is one of those times when several items in the house have broken at the same time. You know what it’s like, everything is working until one doesn’t and then several don’t. It is a nuisance and costly at any time. However, these Covid times make any purchase in our local area risky. We may have to order some items on-line because we are staying home these days.

The new stove was purchased locally however. Our previous LG brand was a source of frustration and costly the last several years. We purchased a new circuit board for the stove in the fall of 2020 at a cost approaching $300.00. It lasted a year. Then we replaced the board again and it lasted two months, giving out this past Christmas Day. We were lucky not to have been cooking dinner for the family that day, just ourselves. Tired of the inconvenience and waiting for the part, we replaced the stove. We didn’t buy an LG, that’s for sure.

The electric can opener finally broke such that not even my husband could use it. I always had trouble with it anyway. Now I use the GI can opener my father had, an old reliable design which is still in production, used by soldiers during war. Simple and reliable!

Our corded landline phone is on its last legs. Since we only use our cell phones for emergencies, our landline is important. Our portable phones are on their last legs too and replacing both types will be more than we want to spend after the stove purchase. We can’t do without at least one home phone however.

Smoothies are on the breakfast menu for my husband and the hand blender is causing problems. It will have to be replaced soon.

This brokenness is a function of old age for everything and everyone concerned. We’ve lived long enough to expect everything to wear out, including appliances. Besides giving out ourselves, old age means we see major and small appliances we’ve had for their natural lifetime give out, many at the same time. 

On the other hand, aging is a privilege. How fortunate we are to live long enough to have to replace appliances! Yay!? At least that’s the way I am looking at it, in an effort to stay positive in these times.

Update:  sad news from Prince Edward Island. We have had our first deaths from Covid. Two islanders died this past week, seven others are in hospital. Presently there isn’t anyone in intensive care however.

My four year old grandson may have been exposed to Covid at daycare last week. Now our daughter’s family is in isolation but due to a staff shortage on the island, she has to work isolate at the nursing home where she works. This involves full PPE and isolation from other staff during breaks.

Meanwhile we had another storm this past weekend, worse than the previous weekend, followed by windchill in high -20s C. The snow banks are piling up now. However, daylight is lengthening and when the sun shines through the windows, there is warmth.


Monday 10 January 2022

Notes from the island

A gift from my husband this Christmas was a huge hit. I am late to the enjoyment of weighted blankets but I love the weight and the fuzzy side of mine which feels so comfortable and cozy. I move the blanket to various locations and feel quite challenged with its heft. I am back at hand weights now to make the blanket movement easier. I am a weakling in my old age.

Since my second cataract surgery, I am able to read books again. Reading was lost to me for several years, a chore I undertook for book club but it was a huge challenge. Now I am thoroughly enjoying books I received for Christmas and time slips by in that old familiar way that a book in hand affords. I had protected myself from the immense sadness of the loss of reading. However, I will never again take for granted the comfort of a good book in hand, especially while covered in a weighted blanket.

The weather has been strange. The bay was slow to freeze, then melted back to the first range light which was strange indeed for this time of year. 

We had a week or more of pleasant weather, without much wind, so walking the boardwalk was feasible. You know it’s cold and windy again when you want to use a Covid mask as a windbreak whilst out walking. The stationary bike or the treadmill are preferable but I miss the time in nature. Our first major snow storm was this past Friday into Saturday. Our daughter sent a photo of the golden grand-dog, Georgie, after her visit outside after supper. She was not impressed!

We had a great few days with our family over New Year’s. On the Eve, we played games as we waited for midnight. Even the four year old stayed awake. The girls organized games which we played in teams, including a craft and ball toss game, among others. I organized a scavenger hunt at request of the kids but they did a great job too. Our game playing future is in good hands.

A scoff and a scuff followed. The food, a scoff, included a variety of appetizers and sparkling juices or champagne. The scuff is dancing, which for us includes Celtic and Newfoundland music. We were exhausted by the time the old year passed, in more ways than one after this past year.

Finally, my husband and I have appointments for our vaccine booster shots in the last week of January, the earliest appointments we could book. Until then, we will be hunkering down at home, other than for quick grocery trips every few weeks. There are two people in hospital on the island, one in intensive care. The number of cases, now over fifteen hundred is not indicative of how many cases of the Omicron version of Covid are here. Testing has not been able to keep up with the demand. However, so far, the 90%+ double vaccination rate has held us in good stead and most people have a mild version of Covid. The apprehension, as you well know, is not knowing if you’ll have a mild version or one to land you in intensive care or worse. These are scary times on the gentle island! We have never had such large numbers of Covid cases. Meanwhile, school is out at least until Jan.17th. As the pandemic drags on, everyone continues to make sacrifices. It is wearing on people everywhere!

                    School at home                                               

Monday 3 January 2022

The party

It was the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. My husband and I were headed to our daughter’s home to spend the evening with family. I decided to walk the boardwalk before the rich food and champagne.

I saw the party as I drove towards the parking lot. In the bay, now partially covered with sloppy ice and snow after the melting temperatures this past week, a huge gaggle of geese floated in the open water. It’s a strange sight for this time of year. The geese are usually gone by now because the bay is frozen by the start of a new year. Exiting the car, it sounded like the party had started hours ago, the imbibing well underway. Some geese were tipsy, that’s for sure. You can see the partiers here.

The geese had a beautiful setting for their revelry, with the rafts of ice from the ice melt along the shoreline having been taken to sea by the receding tide.

The hint of fog in the air, put the old lighthouse on call in case the fog crept into the bay.

Nearby, two American black ducks stood a silent vigil by the melted section of stream. Later, I saw them with seven friends, ready to join the party.

In the distance, the city looked on expectantly as the minutes to the New Year ticked by. No fire works this Year. Maybe for Canada Day in July? 

I am hopeful.