Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Across the divide of time

I thought I had a dentist appointment this afternoon but I got the day wrong, it's tomorrow. Which gave me a whole extra two hours this afternoon, better than a time change!

Yesterday was my grandson's birthday, and the family tradition is for me to Skype or Facetime in for the singing of Happy Birthday and the cutting of the cake. T, my grandson, had requested a cheesecake for the occasion. He is now 17 years old. What was remarkable from my perspective was that he initiated the Facetime call with me. While everyone else in his family was getting ready for the 'main event', T made conversation with me.

He asked, "So what are you working on today?"

This was so unexpected I didn't know how to answer. I sat there trying to remember what I had done that day, and since it was actually a busy day there was lots to remember. I finally came up with: "I made salsa."

He was impressed that I made salsa, he said he didn't know that you could make it yourself. I asked him what he worked on today and he said he was rehearsing Twelfth Night, for which he had scored a main role. Then he picked up a small child and showed him to me on camera. He told me that it was cousin with a name I can't remember or even pronounce if I could remember it. Told his cousin to say 'Hi' to me, which he did. Then swung the camera around to show me another cousin, a slightly older child, and finally his younger brother P.

What impressed me about the conversation is that he asked me what I was doing that day. Never in all the conversations I have had via phone, Skype, Facetime or even in person have any of my kids expressed any interest in knowing what I was doing. Occasionally I will mention something but it falls into the conversation like a rock into a black hole, never to reappear or be acknowledged.

Earlier that day at the dogpark I was chatting with a fellow old lady dog walker and mentioned a conversation with another older woman who had been quite ill this summer and whose husband is paralyzed and keeps her very busy looking after him. Her illness made the summer extremely stressful and she complained that none of her kids stepped up to help. When I repeated this story to my dog walking friend she chipped in with her own stories of offspring neglect. How the youngsters don't seem to appreciate the difficulties of older age (my friend is 85, the other woman I spoke of, 80) and blithely expect one to carry on unaided. So far my own experience is similar although not quite as extreme.

At the dogpark
I complained that my kids want me to listen to them talk about their lives but seem totally uniniterested in what might be going on in my life. My friend countered that she remembered having that same attitude towards her own parents. That they must be endlessly fascinated by the lives of their children and couldn't possibly have anything to say for themselves that might be of interest. I said I knew what she meant and that 'what goes around comes around'.

So when my grandson actually asked what I did today, I was struck speechless.

Towards the end of the call he suggested that I download a particular game that we could play over the internet, he thought it would be fun to have a 'gaming granny' that he could play with. After the call I looked up the game he suggested and it was a popular shoot-em-up last-man-standing-wins kind of game. Much as I would like to have the interaction with the grandson, I don't know if I can bring myself to play that particular game.

The difficulties of navigating intergenerational communication…

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A death in the family

I think I might be getting better. I am still sick, but not as sick as maybe a week ago. It's very gradual. I am hoping that in a couple more weeks I'll be out of the woods with this. A retired geneticist friend of mine thinks maybe I have a virus that hides in the body somewhere and every once in a while comes out and wreaks havoc. I think she's probably right.

Because my energy level is so low and I have to budget my activity, my social life has taken a back seat to things I need to get done around my place. Like harvesting the garden, stacking firewood, mowing the lawn, walking the dog. I always have a to do list, I can only cross off so much. But enough about me.

My son's dog died on Friday. The dog had tumours growing around his trachea, eventually he would asphyxiate. My son was trying to decide what to do. The vet had suggested surgery but my son didn't feel he could afford it, and anyway (as I pointed out), there was no guarantee they wouldn't just return again. He didn't know when he should pull the plug. Avoiding suffering was his main concern.

Some friends said, "Oh, you'll just know."

I said that wasn't always the case, it can be very difficult making that decision. We had a long phone call about it and at the end he thanked me for being able to have that conversation. I think he just needed a sounding board for all the conflicted feelings he had about it.

A couple days later he posted on Facebook about the dog's last day. The whole family took him out for a walk and then went to the vet's office. I think it was as good a way to handle it as possible.

I was fond of the dog, I feel sad that he died. He was a good family dog, he loved everyone in the household. He was always very happy to see me when I came to visit, but perhaps not so keen on my dog (who did not behave well when the two first met).

My son's youngest son has been hardest hit by this death, I don't think he has any memories of their previously dog-free home.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A lovely summer and a not so lovely fall

I had a good summer. Quiet summer. I stayed home, I grew a garden, I walked my dog at the Reservoir almost every day. Usually there are two houses full of fairly noisy students next door to me and across the street, but this summer one house was empty because it is up for sale and the other house was empty because the owner wanted to do some cleanup (students are hard on the houses they live in). So it really was quiet. I know this will probably not be the case next summer so I thought this was a chance to enjoy it. It was, I did.

The first week in September I and four friends kayak-camped in Kejimkujik Park. We had near perfect weather and a very good time. There was one cold and windy day, we hunkered down for most of that day but the rest was perfect sunny warm weather. We arrived back at Jake's Landing tired but happy around 5.00pm on the last day. After emptying our kayaks and packing everything into three cars we went to a nearby restaurant for supper before heading home. I had left Hapi with a dogsitter and while she was happy to see me she was not frantic; the dogsitter had clearly taken good care of her.

I expected to be tired afterwards, we've been doing this trip annually for many years and the older I get the more tired I am at the end of it. I had one full day to get everything dried out and packed away before a day of rain hit. That was okay, everything went according to plan. But on the third day, when I expected to be more or less recovered, I was completely felled. Spent most of the day in bed, had a frozen soup for supper, went back to bed. Pretty sure I had a fever but my thermometer was broken so I could only go by how I felt.

It's been two weeks since then. I am not better. The fever was shortlived but the fatigue and brain fog have settled in for a good long stay. I am pretty sure this is ME/CFS. I had it at least once before, in 2000/2001, so I know what if feels like. Of course it is one of those things that only get diagnosed by process of elimination (not this, not that, not the other thing) and most protocols state that you have to have it for at least 6 months before it's official (one website said because it's the only disease that causes symptoms to last that long, but they didn't say what other diseases cause those symptoms for less than 6 months).

The first time I had it, it did only last 6 months and I thought I was cured. My doctor was sceptical and urged me to be extremely careful about resuming a normal level of activity. I thought I was careful. Every time I came down with something that caused a fever (usually a 'flu) I'd panic, but was always relieved that it really was 'just the flu'.

I think I might have had a relapse in 2011, but I can't be sure, and I don't know how long it lasted. At the time I did not have a GP, I went to an after-hours clinic and the doctor on duty ordered blood tests. She gave me a copy of the results which were all normal so there was no follow-up. I still have that copy and that's all the evidence I have that anything happened then. I remember the doctor and the blood work but nothing else. My blog makes no mention of it.

I don't know if this is a relapse or a totally new instance. I tried looking up CFS relapse, but there's nothing out there to suggest a 10 or 18 year remission between episodes. The first episode did not last more than 6 months so technically, it was not ME/CFS (although my doctor was certain that it was). I have not seen a doctor this time around. My doctor now is a half hour drive on the highway away and I don't trust myself to drive that far. I don't know whether he is willing to believe that ME/CFS exists or not, whether he will take me seriously or not. It seems like a long way to go to find out he is not. Maybe times have changed, maybe it's no longer a question but it certainly was back in 2000.

In 2000 someone recommended that I see a homeopath, which I did. Since I had something that I could barely get a diagnosis for and there was certainly no treatment for, I wasn't going to quibble about whether homeopathy works or not. Anyway this guy prescribed a bunch of stuff, I saw him several times and on the last visit he pronounced me cured. At the time I certainly didn't feel cured but apparently he was right. Normal life resumed, at first gingerly but after a year or so I got used to being normal again. Slightly less energetic, a lot more cautious, but well within the range of normal.

So I was thinking about seeing a homeopath again, there's one in town who is recommended by those who have been to her. But I visited her website and there was a form she wants you to fill in before your first appointment and just reading the form was daunting. I don't think I have the energy or the brainpower to do it, any more than to drive on the highway to see the doctor.

In the morning I get out of bed and dressed so I can take Hapi for her walk. The rest of the day I force myself to not go back to bed. All I can think about though is how nice it would be to sleep. Then at night I finally go to bed and I'm still thinking how nice it would be to sleep. All night long. Sometimes I actually do sleep.

Crap crap crap.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tuesday September 15, 1998 - BC

New Westminster - sunny and warm.

There was a little lake at the rest stop I had pulled off at the night before, I woke to see ducks there. Very peaceful and pretty. I stopped in the Osoyoos - Summerland area for groceries at one of the many well-stocked fruit stands. Then I stopped for lunch at the Hope Slide, a huge landslide just outside of Hope on the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. Then it was straight on to home, stopping only for gas in Abbotsford. On arriving in New Westminster I went uptown to arrange for a phone to be installed at my condo, then home to a nice clean empty apartment. Yohan plopped down in the entrance way and I don't think he moved for two hours. I on the other hand spent the rest of the day unpacking the truck. What a mess!

And so ended my four-month journey across the country and back. The only territory I failed to visit was Nunavut.

When I arrived home there was a letter from Laurene saying that I should call them right away as Ray had been diagnosed with lung cancer (again) and this time it was terminal. The breathing problems he'd been having in northern BC and the Yukon were the first signs of it, they had had to cut their trip short when Ray was airlifted back to Victoria. I managed to see him one last time at their home in Victoria.

Yohan was old (16 years) and not well, I knew before I set out on this trip that it would be his last. He died the following December. The vet thought he might have pancreatic cancer; that may have been why his liver was swollen when I took him to the Copper River clinic in Whitehorse. Josh eventually turned up. The police in Castlegar did track him down but they did not tell me his whereabouts, just simply that he was alive and well. Sam spent the full nine (eight?) months with Katimavik before returning home, he spent three months each in Quebec, Newfoundland and Ontario.

And that's the end of my travel tale.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Monday September 14, 1998 - BC

Grand Forks - sunny and warm.

I crossed Alberta and reached the mountains by early to mid-afternoon. I stopped in Castlegar around 7.00pm to try to locate Josh. I talked to a lady living in his old house, then tried to get a hold of the police. The Police Office was closed but there was a phone at the front door. After hours everything is routed through Nelson, which means long distance; and because of the new long distance plans, all circuits were busy. Some of the guys at the Fire Department next door were watching from their second floor lounge and offered to help. I went in and they called the Nelson police from their phone, I guess they had a better number to call. I made my report, they said they'd be in touch.

I got gas and made a quick supper—I was starving at this point—and continued on. I pulled off the road for the night at a rest stop somewhere past Grand Forks.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sunday September 13, 1998 - Saskatchewan

Gull Lake - sunny and warm.

I got on the road early again and drove through to a rest stop on the side of the road at Gull Lake. I've been there before so I was looking for it. It was mostly prairie driving. Once again the CD player was not working properly. If there is anywhere you want to listen to music it is driving across the prairies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Saturday September 12, 1998 - Manitoba

Falcon Lake, Manitoba
Falcon Lake - sunny and warm.

I left the campground early and made it to Falcon Lake, Manitoba by night. I passed through the infamous Wawa (where hitchhikers dread to be let off).

The Wawa Goose
Also passed through White River, the birthplace of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Postcard from White River
Lots of places to stop along the Lake Superior shore and the weather was beautiful.

Yohan being majestic. He can't hold his tail up anymore.
The shore of Lake Superior
More great scenery along the north shore of Lake Superior. I took a little side trip to see the Panorama amethyst mine. The mine itself was nothing special but the drive in was pretty nice, with a road up a cliffside and great views of Lake Superior. Panoramic.

On the road to Panorama
Panoramic view, Lake Superior in the distance

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Friday September 11, 1998 - Ontario

Lake Superior Park - sunny and warm.

I am finally on my way home! I stopped in the Muskoka area for lunch at a small town on Georgian Bay and then spent the night in a campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park, just south of Wawa. It was good driving and great scenery. It's an early fall, the colours are starting to come out.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Thursday September 10, 1998 - Ontario

Richmond Hill - sunny and warm.

In the morning Isaac and Gretel and I had coffee and bagels and then Gretel started going through her manual for the new job that she starts today at 11.00am. Isaac and I took Yohan for a walk in a nearby park and had a nice long talk about family matters. It was a bit of a touchy topic but Isaac seemed satisfied with what I said and I felt I'd pretty much covered it the way I wanted to. When we got back to the house Gretel was ready to leave for work. After she left I got ready to leave as well. I had talked to Beth on the phone the night before and had arranged to visit with her between 1.30 and 3.30 in the afternoon. Isaac helped me load the truck and then I drove him downtown to his job at Roy Thomson Hall. I then set out for Beth's place in Richmond Hill, just outside of Toronto.

Just as I arrived at Beth's I realized that I did not have my fanny pack which I was using as a purse. No money, no cards, no camera. I freaked. It was hard to visit with Beth because I was so focussed on the loss of the fanny pack and contents. Beth suggested that I call the Film Festival office to try to track down Isaac or Gretel, and after several phone calls I found someone who knew who Gretel was and agreed to page her. But Gretel was not at her designated theatre and it was a while before she called back. Finally I heard from her and Isaac was with her. He confirmed that my fanny pack was still in their apartment. We made arrangements for me to pick it up from him at Roy Thomson. I arranged to spend the night at Beth's as I did not want to drive into Toronto again.

I took the subway to Roy Thomson and exchanged Isaac's YPT hat which he had left in Wolfville for my fanny pack, and then had supper and took some photos of Roy Thomson Hall before heading back to Beth's. In the evening Beth and I walked Yohan in a nearby ravine. I slept in the spare bed in an alcove off Laurel's room in the basement.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Wednesday September 9, 1998 - Ontario

Toronto - sunny and warm.

I had a small breakfast and said good bye to Sam, I was on the road by 8.30am. It was a nice drive from La Malbaie to Quebec City along the north shore of the St. Laurence River, through hilly farmland and forest and many small towns. I crossed the river at Quebec City and got onto the TransCanada highway toward Montreal.

Shortly after crossing the river I was adjusting the CD player (and not looking at the road) and I veered off the highway at speed. I zoomed across the grassy verge at 100 kph, knocking down a small reflector post and narrowly missing two larger signposts. By the time I got my foot off the gas pedal I had slid into a swamp by the side of the highway. The truck was at an almost 45 degree angle in the swamp, the 2 wheels on the driver side still on the grass but the other two wheels well into the swamp. I climbed out thoroughly shaken up. There was smoke or steam billowing out from under the truck.

Amazingly, the car immediately behind me on the highway followed me off the road. I guess they thought something was terribly wrong and wanted to help. So by the time I managed to get out of the truck (pushing the door open was hard because it was almost above me) that car was parked beside me and the three men in it were already out and asking me questions in French. Did I fall asleep? What happened? Did I have a rope or chain? I told them that I did have some rope but it wasn't very strong. I tried to dig it out but it was on the passenger side of the cab and I couldn't get at it. The men started talking about what they could do, that they really needed a chain to get my truck out of the swamp.

Just then a cube van also pulled off the highway, it drove a little ahead of us before stopping. We all stared at it: there was a chain wrapped around its rear bumper. The van driver got out and the three men ran to meet him. There was some discussion about whether to try to pull my truck out forwards or backwards and then they wrapped the chain around my truck's front bumper and the car pulled my truck out of the swamp surprisingly easily. They got me to start the truck and drive it forward a few feet to see if it was driveable. On seeing that it was they all left. From start to finish that episode took maybe 20 minutes! But I was still pretty shaken up by it all so spent another 10 minutes or so cleaning mud off the windows and straightening things out inside the truck. It was a good thing I had screwed down my sleeping platform when I was in Whitehorse, the back of the truck was relatively undisturbed by the trip into the swamp.

After that I pulled off the road when I wnated to fiddle with the CD player. The rest of the drive to Toronto was uneventful and as boring as only the highway from Quebec City to Toronto can be. On the outskirts of Toronto I phoned Isaac and Gretel for directions to their place and arrived there around 9.30pm. I told them about the swamp episode and showed them the mud along the passenger side of the truck, which I had not yet cleaned up. Isaac thought it looked kind of artistic, you could see the marks of the bulrushes sweeping along the truck side.

I said I'd really like a beer so Isaac got a sixpack of Corona from their downstairs neighbours. They live in an attic apartment in a three storey house in the Annex part of Toronto. They showed me their theatre in the stairwell between their apartment and the one below. They come into their apartment via an outside fire escape stairwell so the inside stairwell is blocked off at the bottom. It has a landing half way down which is their theatre stage, and the steps from their apartment down to the landing is audience seating area. They have lights on the railing above that shine down onto the stage, and at intermission their kitchen is the theatre bar. Their theatre can hold a grand total of six audience members. We also discussed their plans for the Film Festival opening the next day, which they are participating in. I slept on a futon on the floor of the living room.