Friday, June 18, 2021

Gone Touring

 I'll be gone to all parts North for two weeks on a family trip of a life time. Visiting the following and lingering which is the benefit of taking time to savour the sights.

On the list is

Gros Morne

Red Bay (long on the bucket list)

Battle Harbour

St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula (again, we visited last September).

Wally the racing red wheelchair was purchased by Daughter to facilitate me on the hiking trails.

Doctor gave me the All-Clear on those brutal tests I underwent and the multiple biopsies.

So this is in way of celebration of precious lives and the trip of a lifetime in the company of those I love the most in the world. 

Here is a picture I took yesterday on my way to see my podiatrist.

I'll post when/if I can.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sunday Selections

I was a member of the East Coast Trail Association here in Newfoundland for many, many years. It has some of the most beautiful trail systems in Canada, if not in the world. The sights are breathtaking and often feature whales, moose and masses of edible wild berries on the routes.

When I had my B&B, tourists would arrive from France, UK, US, Australia and all parts of Europe and Asia just to hike this magnificent trail.

Grandgirl and her partner are now hiking different chunks of the trail every weekend, setting off early and then I go pick them up at their predestined spot. Yesterday was one such day. It was a 15km hike (10 miles) and I picked them up at Cape Spear at suppertime.

She agreed I could post some of her photos on my blog.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Tribute Part 4 (Final)

 One of the truly wonderful things Paulina did was draw terminally ill cancer patients together in groups of 4 to 8. All of this work she did without compensation, it was her way of paying back, she said, for all she had been given. And being a survivor of cancer herself, she had a greater understanding of what it was to face death.

She created a series of weekly gatherings in her home, arranging taxi service if needed. She had the participants write down on separate slips of paper the things they most valued in life. These were placed in envelopes, marked with the participant's name.

Each week, they would take one slip of paper out of their envelopes and talk about this valuable thing they had written down. At length. 

In the centre of her table was a large bowl and when they were finished they would set a match to this piece of paper and bid it goodbye. It was profoundly moving but it prepared them in sharing with others who were dying also, like nothing else ever could.

"How on earth do you find them Paulina," I asked her one time.

"You forget," she responded, "That I am very well connected." Word of mouth indeed.

Another wonderful thing was we shared the same clothes and shoe size and Paulina's wardrobe was incredible. I mean it was beyond the pale. Beyond reach of my much smaller purse. I favoured Sally Anne and Goodwill (still do). She had a whole room dedicated to her clothes.

She asked me if I would be insulted if she offered me her clothes and shoes. I didn't need asking twice.

So I became the beneficiary of this fabulous wardrobe of DKNY dresses and skirts, designer woolen coats, the most incredible coats and blouses and designer shoes, sandals and trainers, matching leisure pieces and tops, all in fabulous natural fabrics. 

Her generosity extended to when I semi-retired and moved to Newfoundland. In the mail I would receive all sorts of goodies and when I told her I was performing, she went a little crazy and sent me these fabulous "performance" clothes, drapey skirts and silky tops and demand photos of me doing my "schtick". She never stopped believing in me and praising me for my talents. 

She'd always sense when I was upset and call me out of the blue and said she had a vibe and we'd talk something through, or share old age challenges, some of hers were quite funny. We very rarely strolled memory lane which I appreciated, we were always in the moment, always in the now.

Daughter said to me when I told her the sad news of Paulina's passing: "What a friend, Mum! She stuffed your heart, your stomach, your wallet and your closet!"

A fitting tribute, Paulina dear. The world needs more like you.

I will never forget you.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here

Friday, June 11, 2021

A Tribute Part 3

 Other opportunities presented themselves for Paulina and I to stay together: weekends, workshops, but I managed to present believable reasons as to why I could not share residential spaces or hotel rooms with her. I do believe she appreciated my setting boundaries.

Another issue with her was, being 5 years older than me, musical tastes. She had missed the musical revolution. When sharing a dinner out, she couldn't abide any "loud" music. Our definitions of loud were 100 miles apart. The gentlest of Beatles songs would set her teeth on edge and many a time she'd summon our server and politely request the music be turned way down. Some would protest about the lack of ambience and managers instructing them otherwise. Some talked mood. But she was adamant. A few times I asked her if she would be more comfortable leaving. But she'd stick it out. Oddly enough it didn't irritate me. I felt enormous compassion, for in my heart I knew she felt noise and scents more keenly than I ever would. And I had far more ease navigating the world than she did.

We grew closer, she never stopped learning and became an expert on conflict resolution and very respected in that profession and it kept her very busy. I don't think in all the time I knew her, did she ever lose her temper. Or get angry. She worked very hard in different disciplines like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch and would go out of her way to help those in pain and distress. 

She didn't watch TV or indulge in newspapers or novels but read self-improvement books continually. These were  passed on to me with a note to read them too, and subsequently pitched aside by me when I got home as I defined them as "Self-Help Hell". I told her my escapism was into fiction and tossed some books her way but I knew she felt as I did about hers and these books never had her eyes fall on them. 

Our bonding was based on trust. She trusted me implicitly and gave me more and more of her business to take care of including a large downtown store with a board of directors sometimes at odds with each other. We confided in each other at a deep level. Including our issues with our adult children and our infatuation with our adored grandgirls.  

One major issue I had was with my adult daughter that became completely out of hand for a while. I challenged Paulina to solve it, to find some resolution to our ongoing battling.

Oh, I wish all conflicts were as easy as that! She responded, laughing.

As I see it, she said, your daughter rents an apartment from you, your daughter is also an employee, you're also, basically, co-parenting your grandchild, and you're also mother to your daughter. So now you have 4 hats. Landlord, employer, child carer and mother. So every time you deal with your daughter you tell her what hat you're wearing.

And Reader, it worked. There was no longer this muddling, every-angry-issue-ever-raised with Daughter and me. Peace reigned.

We shared intimate personal stuff we shared with very few in the world. We understood each other and had huge respect for one another.  And could do that wonderful thing: laugh at ourselves and each other's foibles and quirks without fear of offence.

For instance she couldn't abide coffee. But, oh boy, herbal tea and lemon water to start her day were de rigeur. Richard, her partner, loved his morning coffee, dark beans, fresh ground, strong. If he was home, he would make it for me, if he was going to be out, she would instruct him to put it into a thermos for me. She just about gagged at the smell, but wore a lovely, bemused tolerance on her face and a slight eye roll :" "You Two!"

She met Richard in New York at a conference. She put her eye on him at a workshop and as the group of thirty were crossing the street to go to the theatre that night on Broadway she linked her arm to his and said "I believe you and I are together from now on." He was ten years younger, tall, handsome, very British. And they were together for over 40 years when she died. And incredibly content in each other's company: supportive of each other and the most important quality to me: respectful. Always respectful. I truly envied the way they looked at each other.

To be continued

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Tribute Part 2

Paulina, though a generous and gracious woman was not an easy woman. She expected a very high quality of work. One of her demands from me was that I encapsulate the status of my work for her verbally. This is how she understood the complexity of her financial status. I positively hate oral presentations of this nature. Pausing to clarify her questions and formulating answers wasn't easy for me. I am much better at written reports. 

She was very sensitive to this, she was sensitive to everything. I would come to her house at least once a month and perform the work and give her my verbal updates, she would question, I would stumble and falter and refer to my notes and try to grasp what she was attempting to understand which to me was so obvious. I was fed lunch, I was told no perfumes in her house, I was told not to use scented detergent or soaps, I was told she and her partner only used organic products. For everything. I viewed her as quite persnickety until she shared that she had beaten cancer which had brought her to her knees.

She began to really like me and this was reflected in much laughter over child raising, first marriages, career women balancing everything, in our now more frequent meetings. She then told me there were other businesses she was involved in, would I be interested in working for them and for friends of hers who owned businesses?

So thus we began on this long journey of business and friendship. She hauled me along to lectures and clubs, I met her friends, I was invited to her dinner parties. I was invited for a week long stay to her cabin (while her partner was in England) in the Laurentians in Quebec which turned out to be a disaster.

It started when I arrived and parked my car. She came out to greet me and then apologized and said I hadn't parked my car properly and I needed to do so. I was confused. It seemed, in this vast area in front of her house that I needed it to be "straight."  It turned out to be in alignment with the side of the house not at an angle. "Aesthetics," she explained. This did not bode well. And it got worse.

I wasn't aware that black fly season in the Laurentians had just begun. And sitting out later on the deck, I was eaten alive and I had a severe allergic reaction in that my body blew up. She gave me some organic salve which didn't work and I spent a miserable night, made even worse in that were was no bedside lamp to read by and distract me from my sore and bloated body.

The following morning I told her I was going to find a drugstore and get some medication for my condition and she was appalled I would think of using chemicals. I wouldn't be bitten again if I wore this type of beekeeper suit she had in her shed for guests who might develop this reaction in black fly season.

Conflict. Big.

I stood my ground, marched off to my perfectly aligned car and headed into the local town, reviewing mentally my poor French in order to confront a chemist and request some efficacious treatment for my grotesque appearance. 

My French worked, my appearance alone horrifying the chemist, and I found a bathroom to slather myself with her recommended product. The immediate relief had me just about crying.

I returned to the cabin, defiant, parked "properly" and found her in the kitchen surrounded by the aroma of her marvelous cooking.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked me gently, her kindness as always showing in her eyes, in the way she reached out to touch my arm.

And it struck me then, as it strikes me frequently, the best of friendships aren't formulated on our similarities but on our differences and how we tolerate them in others.

She never complained about the chemicals on my body, I sucked up the fact there was no bedside lamp and I just stayed up a little later in the living room reading until it was time for bed.

See Part 1 here

To be continued.....

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

A Tribute Part 1

 In that way of life yesterday, I was looking through an old photo album (remember those?) And came across this, an afghan I had designed and knit while ensconced on the island of Sherkin for the month of August, maybe 20 odd years ago. I only knit these for those I love and value greatly.

So my immediate thought was Paulina* hadn't responded to my last email which was completely unlike her. So I went to the web and threw on her name and found to my utter disbelief that she had died. The only notice of such death posted by one of the many business groups she had belonged to. No obit. No articles or memorials about this remarkable woman.

When I first met Paulina, some 30 odd years ago it was at her home office in a gorgeous house on the Beaches (a very expensive residential area) in Toronto. 

She had some messy accounting work for me to clean up which necessitated absolute confidentiality. She was a referral from another client (as nearly all of my business was) so the preludes were dispensed with as she trusted him implicitly.

 She told me the situation briefly, handed me ledgers and agreements and told me I was free to set it up anyway I wished as long as she could make sense of it when the job was completed. In those days her hair was an expensive vibrant red and she had this aura of confidence I envied. Her clothes were linens, rich cottons, cashmeres and comfortable and co-ordinated in soft pastels, and whispered money. I drooled internally at her clothes.

I noticed there were many women working around the place. One outside in the back garden, landscaping, one doing measurements of walls and windows around where I worked on her huge dining room table and one upstairs who popped down now and again to consult quietly with Pauline, reading quietly in the living room, showing her designs. Another was obviously the cleaner who moved around quietly. Nobody was intrusive in anyway.

Paulina asked me how things were going, I asked her some brief questions from my notebook and then she left.

There were kitchen sounds and aromas, and at just before noon Paulina asked me to move my work from the table to the sideboard as she was about to serve lunch for everyone. All the women working for her gathered around the table which was loaded with platters of roasted vegetables, breads, salads, fruits and a tureen of Incredible homemade soup. Paulina was a vegetarian.

She introduced us all to each other as she served us, telling what each one did.

When she reached her cleaning lady, Anna, she said:

"Sorry, but Anna is the most valued one of all of you, for she cleans my toilets."

And those gathered over this marvelous meal, shared life stories and business ideas and backgrounds with Pauline encouraging us every minute of the way, quietly observant, making sure no one dominated the conversation. I've never seen, before or since, anyone who could draw others out like Paulina could.

And this was my first introduction to Paulina, Swiss born entrepreneur, one of the first female vice-presidents of IBM among many such notes of distinction, who became such an important part of my life in so many ways.

I lit a candle for her yesterday as I grieved and remembered, startled at the depth of our long association.

To be continued...... 

*not her real name

See Part 2 here

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Well, blow me down!

Darby and Joan from an old English painting, artist unknown.

At my stage in life it's really, really hard to surprise me with how people behave and act.

We are veering into normalcy here with regard to Covid. Most are lined up for our second jab if we don't already have it and visits and drop-ins by friends are re-starting. 

A friend dropped in yesterday for coffee. She followed me into the building about a year after I moved in.

She's more social than I am, much to her grief now, as she has been taken advantage of and is really angry with herself. I had said to her to be careful when she moved in. A dear friend of mine who had lived in the building for yonks and who had introduced me to the possibility of my getting  on the waiting list here had put a word in my ear about getting close to anyone here when I eventually moved in. 

I don't need much warning of such things as I am a gregarious loner by nature and have different criteria for selecting friends which usually don't involve the coincidence of geographical proximity. I am useless at small talk and it abounds in this building. So I have kept my polite distance.

So I mentioned to Terry (not her real name) that I had noticed a remarkable thinning of the ranks when I traversed the community rooms and the halls with some apartments absent their usual festoons of art and d├ęcor around their entrances.

"Oh, there's quite a few have moved out," she said, "I suppose you don't know."

"Know what?" I responded, concerned as to possible infestations of rats or plumbing outbursts.

"Silver Seniors."

"Holy Mother of God, what?"

"Covid has sent so many here on the online hunt for a partner - and many have been successful, they're leaving in hordes with the new fellahs!"

I'm still flabbergasted, still laughing. Still amazed at all these white haired older women suddenly partnering up and leaving their independence. 

Carpe diem indeed.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Small Things

 I seek them out, both the moments and the noticing of small accomplishments. I've had to adjust mightily to the restrictions of my life now. And none too happily.

So here goes with the small things.

I finished the afghan/sofa blanket for one of my nieces and here it is: Stone and Sand and Sea and Sky.

I also finished one of those picky dishcloths (every row a different pattern) and started another to teach me to slow down and just enjoy the process, reciting the pattern aloud to myself as I move along the row. Like a dirge, or a mantra, or a song of praise. Very therapeutic.

I make notes for this memoir I'm writing, it flowed well for a while and now I'm running into mental obstacles. But I persist as ideas strike me. Reshaping, remembering.

I found this quote on reading. I'm so grateful my parents were avid readers, my dad got me my first library card when I was four. Daughter, Niece and Grandgirl are all voracious readers. I must have read thousands of books in my life.