Thursday, February 27, 2020

Blog Jam

I am forcing myself to not give in to exhaustion today for it is stealing my life away. These beta blockers! But enough of that. I just put on the Brandenburg Concertos and have celebrated the fact that much reading has taken place so far this year.

I was quite taken with May Sarton's "The Reckoning" which is about a 60 year old woman finding she has terminal cancer. And has to prioritize the life business of the few months which are left to her.

Some rather wonderful lines:
"Her attachments now are only to those who serve her". When she realizes she doesn't have the energy for family drama or for those fluttering around her or taking her much needed energy.
"The dead are not asleep...for sleep is the domain of the living."
And how gorgeous is this:
"It was pure bliss to stretch out on the sofa then with a Haydn quartet pouring its vitality into her like wine."
"Little by little, we are more peopled by the dead."

It was a slow and wonderful read and I so enjoyed her wanting to be solitary and "desiring a lot of time to think".

I have lent it to Daughter but once she brings it back I would be more than willing to send it to one of you out there. It truly is a marvelous read (published in 1979) and way ahead of its time in many of its concepts. I will hold a raffle if there are a few requests.

As the Lodge Lurches
A rather lovely gentleman, Bill, was taken quite quickly. He was 81 and when I did my laundry on Sunday mornings would come up to the second floor community room (it's a gorgeous gallery overlooking the main community room and outside gardens and golf course) and sit there and chat to me as I went back and forth. I was surprised he was 81 as he had the energy and vigour of someone much younger. He was very good to our common cleaning lady and helped her with her cars and hospital visits. He just had a knee replacement which was followed quickly with his ulcer acting up. That turned out to be terminal stomach cancer and he died within a week of being in palliative care. So 10 days between diagnosis and death. It is such a shame his cancer wasn't "caught" before his extremely painful (and how unnecessary!) knee replacement.
This is the outside wee area of my apartment. The artwork on the walls is mine. Instead of wreaths on my door I have yarn and needles. The two chairs are in one of the many such nooks and cubbies around the building for private talks or just sitting amongst the fine plants.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

One Twist Away

I disabled myself just about completely during the past week. I was behaving like the flexible 21 year old I used to be way back in the last century. Throwing a leg on a bench and reaching for my scarf at the same time.

I know I don't have to supply you with all the grim details. Suffice to say is, in spite of fiction writers, there was no sound just a horrible sharp discomfort which worsened. And worsened. To the point of, you know, squealing every time I moved.

I did not look as good as the picture on the left side here...Crab was the position I favoured and even then it was accompanied by a symphony of different sounds I didn't believe I was capable of anymore.

I doused myself liberally in Tylenol 3s, Voltrane and CBD oil which took the peak edge off but on the whole, exhaustion took me over quite frequently and a fetal position seemed to work for pain easement on the bed. And my blessed recliner which I have never regretted buying.

On top of all this my doctor had requested I go back on beta blockers for 3 weeks to see if my body would handle them a little better than before (Symptoms: concrete body and constant irritability and exhaustion). Do not give up he said to me on Monday.

So the Twist and Shout happened on Tuesday. It is now Sunday and though still in pain I have moved to a slightly tilted (think Leaning Tower of Pisa) position. Daughter drove in yesterday (goddess bless her, it's a 2 hour drive in) and went nuts in the grocery store. I swear I could live for a month or more on all she brought in. Stuff I would never buy. Mexican, Indian, coffee beans, cans it. She hauled it all in and ran out of shelf space.

I am so grateful that both she and Niece are close by. I can't imagine not having family close by. Incapacitated like this would be a huge challenge for anyone.

I am at the stage of life where I take nothing for granted.

The smallest gesture of kindness just about does my head in with gratitude.

I am reminded even more clearly that many of us, in our old age, are just one twist or fall away from complete dependence.

Be careful out there, my friends.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Time Out

At times I am so overcome with sorrow and compassion for another that the only relief I feel is in a poem.

We can be unaware of our privilege at times. I am lonely very rarely. Many are lonely all the time. A huge hole inside them with the cold wind blowing through and hope a word they read about but have long abandoned as being applicable to their own lives.

I was quite devastated after this visit from someone who broke down in her despair as her last friend ("in the whole world") was moved to palliative care that day.

Her Grief

She wept on me today
With her broken heart
Leaking from her eyes.

Her grief led a procession
Of other losses, other hurts,
Other days, other cruelties

Pouring like a river
Over the bumps and
Potholes of her life

I do not know her
Well enough to
Hold her tightly

But I listened to
Her lament of loneliness
With my heart and hands

And stuffed my own avalanche
Of sorrow deep down
In my own graveyard.

I am posting this not as a "downer" but as a reminder for all of us to recognize our own privilege in the face of such appalling grief.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Beautiful Obituary

In these troubling times it's good to be reminded there's an amazing and enthusiastic bird watching community in this province. They monitor the bird life zealously and record the "blow-ins" - those birds sent off course in storms and all things avian. The photos are stunning.

One of the more diligent and observant amateurs is Shawn Fitzpatrick. And he posted this on his FB page yesterday and I thought to post it here.Quidi Vidi Lake is right where I live.

Gary is Gone
Copyright(C) Shawn Fitzpatrick
Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's NL 20200215
The familiar and resounding call from Gary.... his calling card... Hooooonk...Hoooonk _______ Hoooonk Hoooonk!!! It will sound no more 😞
I took this photo three days ago at the lake in blustery and at times white-out conditions.
I have taken many photos of Gary since he graced our beautiful central city lake with his presence.
During his tenure as self-appointed leader of the waterfowl there, he kept an orderly operation. Sometimes he'd scold the Double-crested cormorants for taking up too much real estate for too long.
He was always polite with human patrons of the lake and particularly gentle with children there with their parents feeding him and the ducky's!
I always talked to him and called him in when I went down to feed the crew at the west end of QVL. Gary would always only take a little, never seeming to want to hog everything. It was as if he sensed that the food had to be shared around as best as it could stretch out. So, he would gently eat right from my hand and then move on back out to the water, keeping an orderly eye on the assembly of his waterfowl family.
Gary was a Graylag Goose. He showed up at the lake after being coaxed along by a couple of bird lovers after being first observed along the roadside of Logy Bay Road a few years ago. He was lured to the Virginia river and onward downstream to where it opened up near the Legion into the lake. The rest is legacy 🙂
I started calling him Gary the Graylag and happily enough, it stuck. I think his name suited him well.
From there, he established himself as a much loved fixture. At times keeping the rowers on the water practicing for the regatta on their game, by policing them.
He was known by many, and photographed plenty.
We are going to miss you Gary, you beautiful, handsome goose! I hope that your end was natural, and painless.

PS When Shawn was asked if he had seen the body, he said he had and it was a natural death.
When asked if he buried it so Garyfans could bring flowers and mementos, he said no. He left it there for the bald headed eagles to feast on in the cycle of wildfowl life.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Sunday Smatterings

Thank you France!

It was a shock finding this package of Brioches Au Lait. Actually baked in France. Probably shipped (literally) to our island frozen and then tossed on the bakery shelf. Delicious. I make cheese and tomato rolls with them. I remember trying this particular delicacy on the Channels Islands way back in the mist of time when "Hey Mister Tambourine Man" was a big hit and what happened in Jersey stayed in Jersey.

Web hunting looking for an attractive device to hold my hair (none found anywhere here) I found this. Made in France yet again. And in true La Belle France elegance it came in its own organza bag with a wee satin ribbon. And my dears everyone likes it on my head with my hair piled happily beneath it. I look organized and librarian like. My look. Deceptive.
I've had two excellent days in a row. Where walking has been less painful and I got all my mountain of laundry done. That sense of overwhelm was absent. I treasure these days more than I can say.
As the Lodge Lurches
In the "what we don't know about people" department.
Grace's son, all 70 years of him, supervised his "muscles" (his word) - his two grandsons - today as they removed the big furniture from her apartment. A huge amount of it. Eight bookcases. Full of classics and great women writers like Margaret Atwood. This made me sad. If only I had known I would have enjoyed a cuppa with her and a good discussion on our reading habits. She was never one for newsbagging (marvellous Newfoundland word) around the halls. Like myself.

And how has your week been?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Out with the Old

I don't know about you but I am always reluctant to throw out objects that can still be "useful" even if I have a brand new replacement object sitting in the wings, waiting for an opportunity to serve me. I struggled with this old keyboard, even to the point with all the letters gone I meticulously glued little cut out letters to the blank keys.

These pasted letters were wearing out too and I was contemplating making new ones when my head exploded.

For two years I've stored a brand new keyboard, just in case. I do this with mice mouses too. They are not expensive here, maybe $10. But you know, throwing something out which is still fixable, even badly fixable, is alien to my nature. Why not suffer on with a terrible keyboard. struggling with taxes, writing, etc.

So I did it - I threw it in the rubbish bin. Far less typos and repeated efforts to peck at wayward keys now on this spanking new keyboard.

So I'm making this grand announcement of what I have done here. As I struggle with tossing cranky old wastebaskets and holy-hell-lady laundry baskets while brand new replacements sit ready and waiting patiently in closets.

As the Lodge Lurches 2

Grace's 5 elderly daughters were in the hallway yesterday carrying out boxes and bags of her belongings. So I stopped and spoke with them. Commiseration. Sympathy. She died in her sleep. Silently, peacefully. They were happy with her lovely ending. The five are all grandmothers themselves. Grace was a different era, a different generation. Never wore slacks, always skirts and blouses and cardies with her silver hair permed regularly. Classy slippers. Panty hose. I thought of the line from a book I'd read recnetly: "Things are so useless when they no longer belong to someone" as I briefly surveyed what they were carting out. I didn't share it with them. Just told them how lovely and quiet she was and that she will be missed. How lucky these almost 70 year-olds are to have had their mother for so long. Grace grew orchids outside her front door.
Books Read and Rated Update - see sidebar for 2020.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sunday Smatterings

A typical lodge of the 18th century in Ireland. Many of these still existed when I was growing up over 70 years ago.

I live in a place which has the title "Lodge" in it. This is either a glamorous or depressing word depending on your history with it. If at all. I was raised in Ireland where there were many lodges, most notably those small houses holding a gatekeeper at the end of a long curving driveway leading to a mansion of the landed gentry. The lodge keeper would come out, tip the forelock if you were recognised, or run you off if you weren't. Then there were hunting lodges for the mad fox persecutors with their baying hounds and horns. But I digress.

Daughter lives in a Cove and keeps a journal of "As the Cove Turns" which provides weekly entertainment for us both, so I started my own particular journal.

I decided to do occasional little updates on where I live, in my lodge with 48 other apartments. Yes, I am "lodged" here but am not a "lodger" which implies dismal cabbage-smelling boarding houses in Bournemouth. Amazing how one word opens up so many other interpretations and riffs.

As The Lodge Lurches

My next door neighbour, Grace, 91, just died. I didn't know her well, just to chat with in passing. The Lodge is a small village. Like high school, little cliques, chronic complainers, recluses (me, selective), drunks, flirts, it is a microcosm of the human race. Little battles break out about usage of the two fine and beautiful common rooms, bingo and cards and darts versus piano practice, workshops, scrabble games. I hear about them in passing and don't participate except to ask the most wounded and hurt "And why do you listen to gossip about yourself?" Because they do. Gossip is the currency. I had warned a friend who moved in here to be truly selective as to who she hangs with and she made the mistake of befriending every lost soul and their troubles and now they bang on her door at 9 at night and because she's nosy she opens the door to them and is going mental so comes up here the odd time and pours out her distress at being the target of so many strays and being unable to stop. So now she gets drunk with a few of them every Saturday night. Old age is complex and almost child-like at times. I keep my distance and am happy that way. My boundaries are clear and I am not afraid to enforce them.

I sign off with this:

Wednesday, February 05, 2020


So it turns out my lung didn't heal so that explains the massive exhaustion and feeling like death on a platter. It's a relief to know this. Seriously. I can never shake off the feeling of being a boring old crank given to organ recitals and a long list of her medical staff and appointments. So back on diuretics and doc spots a suspicion bump on my face so will burn that off in a couple of weeks once I'n feeling better. Blood readings improved slightly and his gut feeling is I am not bleeding internally but will have me see the internist to confirm that. And oh yes PVD in legs has not worsened so no stents in my future.

But the best part of this? And a big item on the gratitude list, was that a friend texted me and said meet me for coffee after the doc visit and when I arrived at our local cafe there was a little gang of friends waiting for me to share the latest on the medical front. I was incredibly moved. It meant more than I can say.

Niece was over today to share lunch and writing. Butter chicken, rice, Greek salad, cheese and fruit platter, sweet potato crackers. It was a marvelous 4 hours as we had ourselves a bit of a knit too. And made suggestions to each other on our writing.

My doc had never heard the Irish phrase "I lost the run of meself" which I really had in the last few weeks with the awful breathing and palpitations. He absolutely loved it for its accuracy in describing a down slide in health. In Newfoundland, many Irish phrases have crossed the Atlantic but not that particular one. I sure had lost the run of meself. And how frightening that is. Wilderness indeed.

I am very well taken care of by doc. And I told him this as we parted and he responded that my words and the words of patients like me, sustain him through the mountains of paperwork he has to complete late at night.

I only plan one item (social, activity) a day at the moment to save my energy and try and get well again. I am paying attention.

And here's a song by The Once - their voices are haunting and I think of my grandparents and their kitchen when I hear it.

Sunday, February 02, 2020


Thank you all for the comforting words on my last post. They meant more than I can say.

A mixed bag of items here.

To start with the weather outside as I hit the keyboard:

It is hard to believe that this continual assault of terrible weather has not lessened as we brace ourselves for more. That is our building manager outside, struggling with the snow blower. The snow goes upward and horizontally in the driving wind, a blizzard.

Gratitude # 1
I live in this building, protected from the elements, knowing the snow is going to be taken care of.

My niece let me know about this Geist competition - a postcard story, and asked me to look at her two entries which blew me out of the water they were so fantastic. It fired up my own story brain and I hauled down this card sent by an Ontario friend last year which reminded me of a crow story I wrote about in my blog and I didn't check the blog entry out as I thought I would delve into memory and see what I recollected and maybe enhance it or dramatize it. So that's what I did.

Gratitude #2
My creativity hasn't abandoned me.

Daughter can't seem to do enough for me. It truly overwhelms me at times. A lot of small stuff but it is the small stuff that is always the most important. I had briefly mentioned that my Amazon order was delayed as ferries weren't running and it had my annual load of TP on it. I laughed as I was going to borrow a roll from a friend to - ahem - tide me over. And Daughter shows up yesterday with a cartload of TP and stocked me up along with 2 lbs of my favourite dark roast coffee beans and took me out for a fabulous brunch (Croque Monsieur, fresh fruit, home made hashbrowns) at Baystar. We forgot to take pics as we fell on the food so fast.

Gratitude #3

The tiny gifts in life are by far the most important of all. And nothing is as precious as the care and attention of a loved one.

I could write loads more (I have had two trips to the hospital for more tests with the support of a friend) but this is enough for today.

I am in a place of gratitude and I want to savour it.