Saturday, June 30, 2018

Variations on the Melody of Love - Part 4


Lana at the site of the Reversing Falls.

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here

First of all thank you for the very supportive messages sent to me. This has has been extraordinarily difficult to write. I am also conscious of Lana's privacy (her name has been changed and of course I am anonymous). However, there's a catharsis to this as well, and I am a firm believer in sharing both taboo or difficult topics in an effort to bring more understanding to challenges we may face along the way. One of Lana's favourite expressions is "throw the floodlights into the dark corners of your life" and this she has done in her own life and has also encouraged me to do the same. Only then can we heal.

Lana has been enormously helpful to me over the years. She has a very loving, understanding heart and is brutally honest with others and with me. I know she has read this blog (my invitation) in the past but such technology is beyond her now. My teaching her texting has been a giant leap for her and this is also assisting her in memory jogging and more on that later.

Once The Conversation was out of the way, we settled down to chatting about her condition. It was very emotional, many long hugs, tears and then the jokes. Our senses of humour had not failed us. At the end of Day 4 as we sat there in the living room, she said:

L"I hope I'll remember all of this in the morning."

Me"I should have a tape recorder perhaps."

L"It would get too full and then where would we be?"

M"Maybe just the important points?"

L"What are those?"

Laughter.

Sometimes we have to dig deep in our hearts for understanding and words.

She says: "my brain feels like a long highway and the potholes surprise me. And the stones and pebbles too. I can't predict them."

"Much like life," I respond, "We just never know when our stumbles and falls are going to occur."

There was much in the power of silence.

Love takes many shapes and sizes, I think. The love between two friends can surpass many types of love when total honesty prevails and our fears, our hurts, our uncertainties find an often trembling voice. Only then do we find strength, only then do we gather the courage to carry on.

We hold on to each other physically many times. I touch her more often than I normally would. Assurance. Trust. I kiss her forehead as I would a child. I don't know when, if ever, we'll see each other again. I stay in the moment. I act normally and she notices.

"Before," she says, "I knew there was something wrong in our conversations, a slight reaction on your face, a little shock sometimes, though you tried to cover it. I was aware of you being patient and kind in repeating things for me. But I couldn't verbalize this without pulling down all the walls. I knew I had to probe deeper and find words to break through. But now, there's no barrier at all, now we can talk in the sunshine!"



Thursday, June 28, 2018

Variations on the Melody of Love - Part 3


Lana on the deck of our cabin


See Part 1 here, see Part 2 here

I'm always learning. I listen closely to people, even strangers, and they unknowingly teach me what to do, but also what not to do. For instance (small thing): I hate doing dishes by hand. I've always had a dishwasher. There is no way a dishwasher fits into my kitchen now. Even though I've explored all possibilities, the drawer kind, the shelf kind, the box kind and even a portable is out of the question. So a blogmate recently wrote about making dish-washing a kind of meditation at the end of the day and I find this extraordinarily peaceful and think: I am so very fortunate to still be able to stand and do wishes even with my PVD as I can lean on the counter if needed, but yes, taking care of one's self involves washing dishes and leaving a welcoming clean kitchen for the morning. Thank you, Kate.

So Lana, upstairs in the cabin, made friends with this enormous tree outside of one of her windows. She'd come down in the mornings and tell me about the movements of the tree, how it was reacting to the sun (light and shadow, ever changing) and how the rustling sound of it soothed her thoughts and kept her present in the moment. The tree was speaking to her every day.

I sat outside with her and we watched this particular tree together and looked at the many colours of green and the interweaving gentle branches and how it sheltered us and we speculated how it was watching us as we were watching it. Extraordinary to take that kind of time with someone else. Normally I would read a book or knit or write. But I sat with her and did absolutely nothing.

Now, if you're ever wondering where to eat when you are travelling and if you can, try the local golf club restaurant if there is one. A tourist who stayed with me back in the B&B days passed this tip on from her father who was a world traveller. We tried our local golf club the second day of our stay and were bowled over with the quality of the food and reasonable prices and fantastic service. So we went back on the 4th day.

And it was there that Lana sat staring at me across the table for what seemed like an eternity and then put her slightly shaking hands flat on the table and taking a huge breath said:
"We go back a long way, WWW, and I'm wondering if you could answer this big question I'm going to put to you. If you can't, I'll understand but there is no one else for me to ask."

I couldn't even think of anything she would want to ask me, but I nodded: why of course.

"Have you noticed any major changes in me? I'm thinking physical, mental, emotional or spiritual?"

My heart skipped a beat. I couldn't stop the sudden rush of tears to my eyes. I took my time. Sweet Goddess help me, I thought. Truth? Fudging? Evasion?

"Yes," I whispered, "Yes, yes I have, Lana."

And then our real conversations began.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Variations on the Melody of Love. Part 2

The fireplace at the cabin in New Brunswick which heard much of our shared history.

See Part 1 here.

I quickly become accustomed to repeating information, very gently, very softly. Always current information.

But our past memories are easily accessible and validated.

Odd questions are thrown at me:

"How are the neighbours around here? Have you gotten to know them?"

"Do you like your neighbours?"

I'm a type A personality so appreciate this rather rapid descent into tolerance and patience. Lessons are valuable no matter how I learn them.

I take charge of the driving and mealtimes and quickly realize that entering any new establishment at odd times like 3 o'clock in the afternoon is a signal to her that dinner is soon so I avoid such afternoon introductions of new places.

At night, I begin to read to her a novel I am editing, but realize that her retention of memory from the night before of what transpired has now evaporated.

I am mindful of her mother, laughing like a child, remarkably aware, who descended rapidly into dementia, saying that now she read the first page of a new book over and over as it was always fresh to her.

I abandon this endeavour on the 3rd night and she never remarks on the absence of this activity.

Instead we talk, of her family and mine (mine are re-introduced, she'd forgotten my siblings even though she met them a few times). Her clarity on her own family is superb, including the distance she maintains from a fraudulent and abusive sibling. Our common friendships are relived and savoured. Our past relationships and erstwhile partners are evaluated with hindsight, wisdom and laughter. She even proffers some startling new (to me) information on a former husband that she has previously withheld.

She is very kind to me, even though I have to repeat, gently, my health challenges just about daily to her. I carry my cane to reinforce this with her. And it works.

"Tell me again what's wrong with you?" she says every morning, with such deep concern and compassion and love. I slowly explain about my PVD as if for the first time every time.

A frightening panic-filled moment comes when we leave a historic market place on the fourth day of our holiday.

"Somebody stole my car, where's my car? What are we going to do?" she wanders around the parking lot very upset.

"It's OK,"I say,"You know what? I think I drove today. Look for a sapphire blue car!"

"Oh my God, of course that's it! You drove today!"

I drive every day we're together.

But unbeknownst to me, the miracle is waiting just around the corner.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Variations on the Melody of Love. Part 1

Our beach in New Brunswick

I'm laying down my deepest thoughts here - mainly as a way of processing them as they are all rather new and at times unexpected and often so poignant that they take my breath away.

I've written of the plans for these past 11 days here. I've now returned from this trip. Exhausted in many ways, not least of which is that old woman syndrome that thinks driving 3,500k in 11 days is just the same as when she was 60. Not so. Toll on body and mind is, how shall I put it, excessive. But I made it.

I reached the cabin we had rented on Friday, June 13th. My friend hadn't arrived yet, even though she had texted me (a new skill I had taught her) that morning. A slight panic ensued as this leg of her trip should have taken, longest, 6 hours and I was now looking at 8. A man pulled onto the driveway in a truck just as my panic mounted.

"Your friend has followed me down here," he said, "I found her lost on the highway." He looked serious.

First intimations of trouble. She had three GPS units in her car in case one broke down.

Soon enough, Lana pulled in behind him, laughing.

"This handsome dude went out of his way to guide me here!" she said as she climbed out of her vehicle. We bade farewell to Dude, very handsome and kind.

She looks down at the cabin (gorgeous) below on the water.

"You have a lovely place here!" she says as she hugs me.

"Well, we do," I say, "You and I rented it for the week."

"We did? Oh yes, that's right."

We negotiate the many wooden steps down with our belongings and quickly select our bedrooms. She upstairs, me downstairs. The place is lovely, very large but homey with an unexpected bonus - we have our own beach.

I make coffee in the kitchen and she joins me.

"I must say," she says, giving me another hug, "You sure know how to pick lovely places. How long have you lived here?"

And so the week begins.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Aging In Place

I was reading Joared and threw a long comment on a question she asked about aging in place and wouldn't you know it, it went poof into the ether. I had stopped copying blog comments as backup a while ago but I should start again if they are long. Live and learn.

So instead I thought I'd write my own post about the changes I've made and how I'm living my life in much changed surroundings since this time last year.

I am struck (joyfully) by how whittled down my possessions are now. I have downsized more than a few times in my life. And upsized too. Does anyone ever write about upsizing except in reference to Happy Meals? Life can be writ excessively large in a 4 story century old home which was my marital home for many years and where my children were raised. A lovely old place but also where my marriage finally withered and died. So mixed memories.

So yes, the finally downsizing perhaps if my (mental)health holds out.

This is a great place to age-in-place as long as the marbles don't roll around. The only time anyone exits is when the stove is shut down and the meds are in electronic dispensers in the bathroom and you're doing your laundry one knickers at a time every hour and forgetting where your apartment is. One 90 year old recently made such an exit. A former high profile banker. Her only child, a son, was worn out from visiting every day with meals and checkups. His suggestion of daily home help was met with words he had never heard her utter in his life - a blue laden dictionary of profanity from a high church Anglican which, he, a merchant seaman (ret.), had never encountered anywhere. It was enough to have her removed, knickers and meds, to a full care home.

I haven't looked back since I moved here. I still wake up every morning and listen to the birds outside and am so very grateful I don't have to worry about anything except taking care of myself and my simple needs.

Frankly, I never thought I'd adjust to living in a one bedroom apartment. But it's perfect. I'm on the second floor, overlooking a lake and Signal Hill with a slice of ocean across the way. I am content. Truly content. It seems like a very long time since I could say that. Everything I need is at my fingertips. And I'll have it ready for show and tell once I get back here and wade through the huge boxes and tubs of photos (you wouldn't believe!)with the help of Grandgirl who is arriving next month.

I had lunch yesterday with a friend who followed me in here from her country home (her home has been in her family for generations). And she said to me that she'd be quite happy of she never had to see it again. She has agreed to keep it for the family for now but her heart is in her apartment here.

Anyway, we wound up giggling like schoolgirls at this new lease on life we both feel, like we are teenagers again, ready to explore a new world with "parents" taking care of all the endless maintenance and entertaining (her family - me B&B) and animal care and making up beds and wondering when the snowplow would clear the driveway, and what happens when the pipes freeze again, etc., etc.

So we ran off to the Habitat for Humanity store for a while and poked around and then hit our local library dancing around the shelves, stocking up like mad things because now there's lots more time to read.

And savour.

Savour this glorious stage of life.

How very lucky I am.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Moving On

Rumination:

Do you write with your heart or with your head or a combination of both?

I tend to write from the heart.

Opinion pieces tend to be distancing I find and ring false and judgmental as the personal experience is absent.

And passion. Passion is absent from so many lives, isn't it? Being in this lovely village which is my complex I am puzzled as to why it is lacking in so many lives. Enthusiasm. Delight. Joy. Self-deprecation. We need lots more of these. How to stoke those internal fires?

Home:

My long awaited custom chair was finally delivered today. I had to send the incorrect one back 2 months ago as it rocked. This one is perfect. I test drove it like a child after the delivery men left. Now I'm finally ready to play with my space.

A perfect bathroom mirror I found. I'd been looking forever.

Travel:

5 more sleeps till I leave, but it's a busy 5 days, jammed with meetings and a paying tax project which finances part of my travel expenses.

My Cape Breton friend has planned a trip on our second day together to her local wharf to await the lobster boats coming in and then gorging ourselves silly in the wharf cafe on fresh lobster. I will photo this feast.

Travelling by car enables me to pack quite carelessly which I love.

Crafts:

"Not your Granny's dishcloth"

I made this dishcloth and I couldn't believe the response on FB. I've made quite a few more as so many want to buy them.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Mansplaining


It's hard to surprise this old blogger. But sometimes I can be shocked. Particularly by a male blogger who considers himself a feminist.I won't use names here but suffice to say that I've been following and commenting on his blog for a very long time. And he on mine.

Naturally, over the years, we have accrued readers in common who regularly comment. Some commentators are fairly detailed in comments on my blog and on others. A trait that charms me. Imagine readers taking the time to evaluate carefully and comment and offer well thought out, often opposing opinions. Some take exception to that. I watch a lot of this unfold on others' blogs but rarely on mine. A battle of insults ensues, often ad hominem attacks which I have always deemed unfair unless the writer writes from a lofty privileged platform and not from personal experience - i.e. monolithically condemning great swathes of the population for having the effrontery to be fat or alcoholic or consuming mindlessly, take your pick.

I truly don't write to have an army of sycophants worshipping at the altar of my deathless prose. I write from experience and often receive personal emails from readers looking for help with addiction or grief or loneliness or depression or even knitting. Many I meet in the flesh, many are supportive - for instance when Grandgirl was in India, a long time blogger friend offered to look out for her.

But the email I received the other day took my breath away in its condescending mansplaining. I was told, in no uncertain terms, not to "encourage" a female blogger whose comments were "upsetting" him. To stop "taking her side". And please note I have rarely, if ever, commented on a comment on anyone else's blog. And certainly not on his.

I'll let that sink in for a minute there.

Note that my opinion and regard for this blogger was completely shoved aside in his subjective consideration. He just needed to set me straight as to how he "felt" and how her "accusations" and "put downs" were going on a long time. That was all that was important.

Well, heat and kitchen come to mind. Seriously.

I will also note that the blogger he refers to has never, ever, upset me in any way.

In fact she has been incredibly supportive through grief and depression.

I guess I should take my ladybrain and scurry back to the kitchen and forget this blogging business and leave it to the Big Boyz who know what's best for bloggers like me, you think?