Friday, May 17, 2013
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” --Joni Mitchell I awoke with the robins, flexed my ankle a bit, flexed it again to relieve the stiffness in my foot, and then the truth began to sink in. it was gone. That hulking, gray, plastic-and-Velcro-and-felt monstrosity with the airbags you pump up with a space-age rubber football-shaped balloon that has inflation/deflation tubes on either end was gone from my bed. It was gone from my foot. It hadn’t gone far. It was, after all, standing meekly beside the bed, waiting for to brace me for the trip to the bathroom. So it wasn’t really gone if you insist on seeing the big picture of gone, but in the little picture it was gone. And with it went a tiny sliver of my personal gloom. With that huge airboot standing on the floor, there was room in the bed under the blankets to flex my ankle. With a bit of that gloom out of the way, there was room for a little hope. “Gone from the bed today, gone to the storage closet for used aircasts in a month or so,” said the hope. “And what about me,” whined the gloom. “Will I even be missed?”
Friday, May 10, 2013
If David hadn’t asked me about my day, then I wouldn’t have mentioned the potholes I had encountered on the street. If I hadn’t mentioned the potholes to David, he wouldn’t have advised me not to walk on that street. If he hadn’t advised me not to walk on that street, then I might not have chosen to ignore that advice. If I hadn’t ignored that advice, then I wouldn’t have stepped in the pothole while rushing home the very next day. And I wouldn’t have been thrown forward. And I wouldn’t have broken the bones in my foot. And I wouldn’t be wearing this aircast. And I wouldn’t be spending my days with my feet up instead of walking. And I wouldn’t be spending my hard-earned money on taxis. And I wouldn’t be feeling so sorry for myself. But here I am, in the merry month of may, sitting in a chair and propping my foot and sleeping in an aircast and taking pain pills and riding in taxis and feeling sorry for myself. And who is to blame for all this suffering? It’s and open and shut case. I blame David.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Kitty: When the sun shines I just want to ambush my people, rush the door, make it out into the yard, sneak through the hole in the fence, race down the alley, catch mice, chase birds and scare all the neighbourhood cats. Too bad they won’t let me. Pirate: Gosh Kitty. All I want is to get my leash on and go for a walk. Kitty: Then why don’t you make them take you? Pirate: Well, David doesn’t have time. He’s too busy looking after Wendy, bringing her cups of coffee, getting her laptop, plugging in her iPhone, getting the ice for her foot, wondering if she should see a doctor and asking if there’s anything else he cando. Kitty: It’s spring! Why would anybody want ice? Pirate: I don’t exactly know. I imagine it has something to do with the 7-foot-deep pothole she stepped into on her way home from work. Kitty: 7-foot-deep pothole! Do you expect me to believe that? Pirate: Well I don’t know if anybody measured it. But I heard on the news that there are more than 500,000 potholes in Edmonton. Do you think anybody counted them? Kitty: Okay, okay. So she stepped into a pothole. Pirate: Yes, and she fell down and skinned her hands, and got a scab on her knee that would strike pride into the heart of any 8-year-old. Kitty: I suppose she’s moaning about the pain. Pirate: No, not really. She’s moaning about not being able to plant her pansies, or check out the primroses, or walk in the river valley on the first nice weekend we had. Kitty: Seven-foot pothole? Ice in April? Sounds like disordered thinking to me. the symptoms point to a serious case of Spring Fever. Pirate: Who knew it could spread so easily from animals to humans?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
LEAVING A LUSH GARDEN FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW There’s a story in YESTERDAY’S newspaper that caught my attention. Heather Miller writes about her mother-in-law Nellie, a railroad worker’s wife who was frequently FORCED TO CHANGE RESIDENCE without notice by her husband’s transfers to other towns. Come spring, she would plant a lush garden and then just when, or sometimes even before it began to produce the flowers and vegetables she had cultivated, she would have to leave it behind for a home where the previous worker’s wife had planted no garden. No garden is what anyone would expect to find. Why would anyone plant a garden knowing that it probably would only be used by someone else? One year, Nellie added a new element. Just before she moved, she left a note inviting the next person to use her garden. Redundant you say? Well, she was surprised, a few moves later, to find a note and a garden waiting for her. She had started a trend that continued for years, people investing their time in gardens that somebody else might use. Nellie was a generous woman, willing to garden for others if she couldn’t have the garden for herself. But why did her note start a gardening trend when her generous gardening had not? Could it be that the note helped the garden recipient see the gardening activity as an act of hope rather than an act of despair, an acvt of intentional contribution rather than an act of probable loss?
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The other day I sat down at a table, spread out my papers, and prepared to make a cell phone call. And then it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I had not seen it coming, even though I was at Hope House, where I go now on Tuesdays, to run our final hope and strengths groups for people with chronic pain. In need of a quiet space for calling, I had ventured into the office that was mine for so long, sat down at the table where I worked through the hopes and fears of thousands of people. Even though that office is no longer mine, I did it without expecting it to hurt. I thought I was over that. I wasn’t over that. I believe that in future I will look upon the winter of 2012-2013 as a winter of losses. It was the winter when my job as a hope cousnellor came to an end, the winter when I spent a lot of time visiting Mum Edey in hospital. It was the winter in which I put on the last pair of soft woolen slippers my mother-in-law made for me. In the past 35 years she had made dozens of pairs, a perfect fit, the ultimate pattern to thrill my feet. I had worn them every day, worn holes in their heels, holes in their toes, and then surrendered them at the point when there was more hole than slipper, surrendered them in favour of a fresh new pair. I still had one slightly-worn pair left when it became clear that Mum Edey would not likely be well enough to knit another. Small holes were showing on the left foot by the time she breathed one last gentle breath and skipped into a forever quiet. “Should I keep this one last pair?” I wondered. But Mum was never one to keep things, and neither am I. The best tribute was declared in the wearing. The other day I held up the remains of two tattered slippers. The bare floor came through to my foot whenever I wore them. “I’ll send them on their way now,” I said to myself. And then, as I tossed them into the garbage, it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I thought I was ready to let them go. I wasn’t ready. I picked up the slippers and put them back on the slipper shelf, just as I had picked up the chronic pain groups for one last wonderful go at intensive hope work. And thus it seems to me that if the winter of 2012-2013 will be remembered as a winter of losses, then the spring and summer of 2013 might later be recalled as the period of trial, practice and preparation for the difficult task of letting go of beloved things and people.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Ron MacLean: “I sometimes feel that without children to sort of rein me in and give me responsibility, I’ve never really grown up. I’ve been able to play hockey, go out with my buddies and be obsessive about work. I’m selfish in a way that children don’t allow you to be.” (Cornered, P102) I came across this quote when I was flying home from my most recent Granny visit to baby Ben. I smiled because I had, only that day, posed the question: “Why do we want kids anyway?” At the time when I asked that question, I was smelling a lot like Ben, a nose-wrinkling kind of smell that reminds you of last week’s milk. That same smell was on every blouse in my suitcase, except for one last shirt buried under the pile, waiting for me to put it on after the last kiss good-bye. Ben’s mother came running at the sound of the question. Perhaps she was wondering if I really doubt the worth of children. She was clearly ready to defend Ben against any suggestion of an emotion less extreme than delight. She need not have worried. This was not the first time I smelled that way. Baby Ben is remarkably like his mother was at that age. First we eat, then we spit up. “It all changes,” I promise her. “Look how well you turned out in the end!” Ron MacLean had intended to be a father, but fate had other things in mind. He was sad. Still, he embraced a grand career worthy of an autobiography. He basks now in the late-night freedom of a forever teen-ager. It’s possible that he never smelled like baby Ben. Smelling better now that I am back home in Edmonton, too far away to simply reach over to pick Ben up at the first possible opportunity, I say: “Poor Ron! Poor, poor Ron!”
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Want to hear something spectacular? Well then, go down into an underground station of the LRT in Edmonton. Make sure to be in a station with concrete walls and a high ceiling that echoes like the Swiss Alps. Wait for a quieter moment. Then pull out a white cane, take a few quick steps forward and propel a WET FLOOR sign into space. (Note: I suspect you don’t have to look for a station that has a wet floor. Pretty much any station will do.) Wait for the sign to clatter back on the ceramic floor, hit it a second time if it lands in a straight path just in front of you, and you’ve got a hubbub worthy to remove the ear buds and turn the head of even the most obtuse teen-ager. Is it just my imagination, or are WET FLOOR signs more popular these days? Admittedly, my memory isn’t what it used to be. I check three times to make sure I turned the oven on, four times to be sure I turned it off. Still, you’d think that a person with the capacity to spontaneously recall half the lyrics to half the songs on the pop charts of 1966 would not have forgotten the WET FLOOR signs from the good old days of her youth. Surely she would have noticed them if they had been as popular as smokers in Ladies’ washrooms. Or is it just that, in these smoke-free times, a lot of things have become more clear? Anyway, until somebody proves me wrong, I am going to stick with the theory that there are more WET FLOOR signs than there used to be. I’d say they border on the ubiquitous. You find them in places both private and public—taking up 90% of the available floor space in the washrooms at Tim Horton’s, cluttering the vast expanse in the tiled lobby of the dentist’s office, not to mention the place where I encounter most of them—centred boldly in the narrow pathways that lead from the street to the trains of the LRT. Why, just last week—on a single trip to work--I took out four of them—sent them flying, spinning end over end, clattering on their sides, sliding like hockey players on their way to the boards. . Each encounter in its turn was surprising, noisy, a moment of high drama. Four encounters in the early morning rush of sleepy commuters. A record to be sure, and still I’ll never know how many possible others I missed. There is a difference between being noticed and being stared at. I am not, and have never been, the kind of woman who likes to be stared at. Give me a joke, and I’ll try to make you laugh. Give me a stage with a mic and I’ll tell you a story, might even sing you a song. But send me out to work on a sleepy commuter morning, and I would prefer to be unnoticed or at least to imagine that I am unnoticed. I would prefer to have digital WET FLOOR signs flashing high on the walls rather than littering the floors in the most obvious paths of travel. I would prefer to be able to see these blasted items of clutter and not hit them at all. At the very least, I would choose to have WET FLOOR signs present only when floors are wet, rather than hanging about for hours on floors that probably dried yesterday. But if I can’t have any of these things, then please endow me with the delusion that the WET FLOOR sign launching event is one of the funniest entertainments of the day, if not for the startled on-lookers, then at least for me. Let me hear the applause when a perfect hit is made! Let me bow in humble gratitude for the twisted fate that presented the opportunity to entertain! It’s not such a big stretch of the imagination, is it?