Monthly Archives: September 2014

Food

It appears that I have too much time on my hands…so…today I will recount my thoughts on the all-encompassing subject of FOOD.

Yes, FOOD!

While growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, food was used for survival.  You only came in the house briefly to stuff down what mom presented for supper, and then back out you went to run through the neighbourhood playing hide and seek or tag.

You didn’t plan what you were going to eat for the week or even the day.

You didn’t break food down into carbs, fats and proteins.

You didn’t know what a “calorie” was.

You didn’t weigh yourself or measure yourself.

It was simple – if you were hungry you ate something.  Of course, in those days there were no McDonald’s restaurants, fancy granola bars, or a Tim Horton’s donut on every corner.

Dessert was a staple only on Sunday along with a beautiful, big meat dinner – you know – mashed potatoes with its accompanying meat gravy, dressing and two veggie servings covered in melted butter – YUMMMM!

Now, food appears to be a big chemistry lesson.  The component parts of food become its glory or its downfall.  Forget about the memory of the good old days.  Forget about the taste of all of those veggies smothered in butter and gravy.  Forget about the camaraderie that existed in those days when the table was a regular gathering place for friends, family and lively conversations.

Family dinners were something  you could depend on every day no matter what was going wrong out there in the world. To me, they were part of my security, my social foundation, my sense of who I was in my little nuclear nest. Food became the centre of those gracious, loving times.  The centre, but not the focus.

I certainly enjoyed food but I was not fat .  All of those dinners were eaten and  enjoyed  without any thought given to calories, nutrients or portion size.  Second servings and sweet desserts every day just didn’t happen.  Families in those days couldn’t afford to do that in post war Canada. Even so, I don’t remember being hungry after dinner or craving a donut.

Now the dinner table has become a place of challenges, requirements, guilt, and raw calculation.  Parents are MAKING their kids eat food – even if they gag.  Heaven forbid if they don’t eat all their carrots – off you go to your room without dessert.  What does that teach our kids?  Food is to be “managed” not enjoyed? Food is to be avoided if it is not chemically correct? Too much sugar? Ban it from our house.  Taste good?  Well that certainly could not be good for you!

As an adult, my pounds are adding up a little too quickly and in all  the wrong places.  I don’t play hide and seek anymore.  I also find myself at Tim Horton’s too much – a convenient indulgence.

Let’s get back to eating because we are hungry – not because we are bored or lonely.  Let’s eat with our family without dividing our plate into allowable amounts of carbs, fats and proteins.

Let’s play tag.

Old Love Letters

Why do we keep those things?  Those old purses, shoes, cards and notes.  What is it that tells us that someday we will be glad we did not toss those things away.

Who knows how we reason these things through.

Are old love letters just a collection of junk?  Have I kept my late husband’s notes for 45 years for nothing?  I have never looked at them – until…

Yesterday, while packing to move to another home, I found three letters that were written to me during final exams at our respective universities – two hours away from each another.

He told me how much he missed me and he called me beautiful.  He told me that he loved talking to me and that he could not wait to get married so that we could be together all the time.

I was happy to read his words and see his beautiful handwriting.  I was glad to be shown in a different way that he sincerely felt the same way I did.

I think these love letters mean more to me now than they did when they were written.

Thank you love letters.

Thank you my husband.

A Fish Story

Our lives run in a parallel fashion to nature.  We are, after all, part of the nature of this our world.  We are, after all, animals inhabiting our place on the food chain.   We experience survival on a daily basis – it may not be that we hunt our food or gather our fruits on a daily basis – but we certainly have to do our part every day so that we remain healthy and alive.

The great blue heron that invaded the sanctity of my backyard pond three days ago is proof that nature can strike a chord of realism in us,  sending our senses into that old familiar dark place called grief.  It also let me understand myself and my grief better. This has been a painful experience – once yet again – for me.

I know that a 14 inch blue koi may not mean much to you – actually, I never really thought much about him myself until a blue heron sucked him out of the water dropping him as he escaped from me – the yelling, screaming, nutty lady of the house.

I got my blue fish friend back into the water and he immediately fell to his side – unable to move  anything, except his first set of fins.   He had blood near his gill and a huge scale was missing.

He has now been floating – helplessly on his side , for three days and my heart breaks as I watch his once sleek body lay there helpless and deteriorating.  He watches the world with those ever-moving eyes. The other fish go to him and nuzzle him – but he can’t do anything but breathe.  He floats helplessly toward the skimmer and I gently take him back to the deep end of our pond where the water falls and the aerator is going.  He is nestled in the water lilies  –  their twining stems keeping him, for the most part, from being drawn into the skimmer again.  He is dying.

I crushed some koi pellets yesterday and held him upright so that he could attempt to eat and he did.  My thinking is that he would be able to restore his body if I could keep it nourished just a little longer.

This morning I feel that keeping him alive in this vegetative state is almost a cruel exercise on my part.  Is the quality of his existence not an issue or is simple survival enough.  This is difficult to watch for me – what about him.

Unfortunately for me, I am once again experiencing the pain of caregiving for an impossible future.   This scene runs parallel to watching my husband deteriorate and die.  I know what is going to happen and I keep hoping that it won’t.  The fish won’t give up either.  He keeps breathing.

I repeat the mantra: “Where there is life there is hope.”

I have been here before and I can’t believe how much this fish has returned me to the grief world –  how those feelings of dread and helplessness have returned.

Goodbye blue fish.  Thank you for your swirling swims and your energy as you swooped from one end of the pond to the other.  Thank you for the enthusiasm you put into eating all that fish food and thank you for being so beautiful.  You enriched  my life.

Goodbye blue fish.

Caregiver PTS

OK, it is 2:36 A.M. and, as usual, I am laying awake, unable to turn off my brain.  Since there wasn’t much else to do in the middle of the night, I started to reason through why I, a fairly intelligent individual, could not escape this overwhelming self-pitying, all encompassing feeling of loss.  Why did I feel like I had a huge hole in my gut.  I have continually experienced that overwhelming sense of – “I have forgotten something” – since Jim died.

Reflecting on what I have written in this journal, I sound like a wimp.  “Get off your ass and get on with your life, you self-absorbed pansy!

I am aware that losing my life partner is a serious change for me, as it would be for anyone.  I am also aware that for the last two years of his four year struggle to live, he was becoming sicker, debilitated, weak, afraid and more dependent  on me for all of his physical needs.  Along with this, I had to be his cheerleader.  I would always come up with the positive side of every situation.  Sometimes, I was hard on him – getting him to exercise,  walk to the kitchen, empty the dishwasher, get on his exercise bike.  These were things that were good for him. They helped him maintain his core strength and I admit that being firm with him allowed me to treat him as a regular guy and not an invalid.   I knew, and he did too, that he was dying. I was already missing him.

In those two years of  “CAREGIVING” I got to know my husband in ways that go beyond what you would consider as you enter that agreement – in sickness and in health.  I not only continued to do those things all spouses do, but I also made sure the ice packs were cold and  the hot packs were ready if needed for pain.  I scheduled his meds like his life depended on it ( and sometimes it did).  I created ‘Donna’s Diner” on the second floor of our house  in my brightly lit sewing room  so he could sit at a table to eat and not have to go downstairs or eat in bed – which is awkward in the best of circumstances.

I eventually learned how to steady my big man on his feet, how to lift him, how to slide him to a wheelchair, how  to change a catheter , how to inject meds, and how  to move him up on the bed when his feet touched the footboard.  I learned how to disassemble pieces of equipment so they better fit his large frame,  how to construct  a wheelchair , how to load and drive a wheelchair van,  and how to build a ramp. I became the  smoothest driver ever on the 401.

Finally, I learned how to sit quietly with my daughter and listen to those last breaths come slower and slower and then stop.

It might surprise you to know that during all of this, I only loved him more – in a way that I cannot fully explain.  I was able to see his intelligence, his humanity, his enthusiasm for life, his love.   In all of our struggles during that last chapter of our life together,  his increasing dependence on me only served to add to my sense of love and loyalty.  We were a team and we tackled this last challenge like we did everything – together.

As a caregiver. let me reach out to other caregivers out there.  This is not an easy task and it does not end with that last breath.  It is a nightmare you live through continually as you try to go on. I recently shared with a colleague that sometimes I envy my husband for escaping the pain of this experience –  I must live with it the rest of my life

Maybe now that I have recognized this as a problem for me, I can deal with it and really get on with some fun stuff again.

To all those caregivers out there – take care of you too!

It’s About a Dog

Who knew? Who cared? Really – I don’t think I ever thought about it before.

I have a year-old dog – she is yellow and looks a little like a lab – but she has this triangular nose instead of that majestic lab snout and she barks – at everything -all the time.  She is getting better at this thanks to lots of distractions with treats and ‘canned noise’.

I think she is pretty smart too.  I say this because, after she got sprayed at close range by a skunk, she had a BATH.  Now every time I say the “B” word, she heads for the hills with her head down and her tail between her legs.

This dog follows me everywhere.  She is present on the couch, on the bed, by my chair and she is even waiting outside the bathroom door when I emerge from a shower.  She is always there.

Mikki chases my kittens.  Mel loves her and will tolerate letting her lay on top of him or pull him around by his head.  Louie on the other hand hisses quite loudly and can be seen clouting Mik on the head when it is needed.

One night Mik jumped off the bed and ran downstairs. This was not a usual thing.  Worried that she had to go out, I ran after her.  To my surprise, she emerged from the basement with a mouthful of yarn – both cats in pursuit.  She was actually teasing the cats in the middle of the night!  What a pup!

Mik is a great watch dog.  Her barking may be annoying, but she is learning to trust me and she will stop barking now, sometimes, when I tell her that it is OK. I feel safe with her here.

Mikki’s loving confidence in me is what I need every minute of every day.  Her need for friendship rivals my own.  Her requirement for family and routine are obvious and truly something I also need.

Mikki has grounded me in life – my life.  She has entered a vacuum and made it breath.  She is my friend, my confidant, my child.

Yes, my friends, I know – it’s about a dog!

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