The last thing I wanted to do in this blog was complain and whine. This isn’t that. I am worried because of my age….and because I know immunosuppressed people and people with co-morbidities. I am incensed that a lot of people have been designated as more or less expendable by the premier.
Kenney said: “We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population for potentially a year for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised and those with co-morbidities.” This is a quote and there was more. I understand the need to get the economy back into some kind of balance but only when it’s safe.
This is callous and the diseases is not an influenza, COVID-19 is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a novel virus meaning this is its first time in humans. We don’t know about its effects (if any, in survivors), how it affects children with MIS-C, multi-system inflammatory syndrome. (There have been 3 deaths in the US and it is linked to corona virus.) We do know that young people can die from COVID-19. This is a partial list to be aware of when we think of who is at risk of severe outcomes from the virus- about 1 in 20 diabetic Albertans, about 12% of Albertans are asthmatic, about 20,000 new cases of cancer may be diagnosed this year, anyone receiving chemotherapy, anyone with a transplanted organ, arthritics who have to take drugs which are immunosupressants, kids who get MIS-C.
I will not rant on. My point it that corona virus infections are not just dangerous to the elderly. Alberta has been cautious and there hasn’t been a lot of community spread. A great deal has been in the meat packing plants and in seniors’ care homes. The virus is still here, though, and if there is increased community spread, we will see people of all ages with severe outcomes. Sorry to be Debbie Downer on such a beautiful day. Stay home, stay safe, and keep others safe, just a little longer.
Gardening is not for the faint of heart or the weak, This morning (and I apologize to those who know me) my buttocks were stiff and sore. Yes, even though, according to my kids, my butt fell off about 20 years ago, the Gluteus Maximus (or is it Maximi) hurt. My saggy old arms are stiff and a little sore. And I have to be careful not to pull my back, a family weak spot. This litany of aches and pains is not to complain; it’s to report.
What garden activities have I taken part in? Let me count the ways-taking soil out of planters so I can put in fresh, loading bags of manure and potting soil into the truck, digging up a flower bed and working in some fertilizer, raking the garden, planting kale, beets, carrots, beans, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. I have bought and loaded my bedding plants (everything in one trip, I hope. The most dangerous place I’ve been? The greenhouse. Old gals like me get quite excited.) I have watered haskaps and a few perennials that I hope come back. And there are sweet peas along a fence that has never seen planting.
The containers are yet to be filled with soil and flowers but the weather in the next week doesn’t look nice. I have one more flower bed to dig up and fertilize and the window box under the front room window to get ready. Then there will be hoeing, weeding and watering. The garden and flowers suffer most summers when we go camping. A great neighbour waters, but we can hardly expect him to weed and fuss like we might ourselves. This year we’ve decided camping is out. There are a lot of restrictions and we can’t travel to Gary’s favourite spots in Saskatchewan.
Then there is the supply chain. Perhaps if, instead of being lazy, I can preserve more produce. It’s healthier and you know exactly where it came from. So not camping, canning? I sent a picture to my granddaughter of the little lake where we usually camp together.
“Ah,” she said, “It makes me sad. We can’t camp this year.”
I said, “We will visit eventually and we’ll camp next year.”
She said, “CURSE THE PANDEMIC!”
Gardening is something to occupy time outside and there is the reward of the produce. My garden this year should be “spectacular.” Still I’d rather be camping.
Echoing my granddaughter, I cry, “CURSE THE PANDEMIC.”
Empty Streets. Eerie Calm. No Celebrations. The 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, WW11, passed without the usual crowds and with very little ceremony. Newscasts recognized the day and there were comments from our dwindling number of veterans. As one reporter said, “This might be our last chance to hear from WW11 veterans.”
Twenty-five years ago, Mum took a tour that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. As the article shows, May 8th, 1945 was to have been her wedding day. It was postponed until July 11th. My Dad was with the Canadian Army for the six years of WW11.
Mum died 14 years ago when she was almost 85 years old. Like everyone of her generation, the war marked her and my Dad. She survived the Battle of Britain and he, serving in an artillery unit.
When Mum was alive, (she was widowed at 53), I used to like to make Mother’s Day special. Usually it would involve a home-cooked meal with even a dessert. One year when he was 18 years old (or so) my son did the whole schmear for us both. BBQ and the trimmings. If it was nice, we’d eat outside.
Mum loved gardening and in particular, tried to coax tea roses to bloom in our harsh prairie environment. Sometimes she was successful but I never realized what she was trying to create until I saw their abundant tumble in English gardens. She had a green thumb and even once she had moved into an assisted living Lodge, she maintained hanging baskets and containers of flowers.
Each year, the local Flower Club organized a bench show (likely in conjunction with Stampede Association later on). I helped her with her exhibits in later years (and even entered a few categories myself). Mum won firsts and she, and a good friend, made a whole day of it.
This time of year, she and I would have gone to the local greenhouses and I could get both of our purchases in the car trunk. It was an afternoon of relaxed wandering through the potential of this year’s flowers. The year after she died, when I went myself, I was struck by nostalgia. Without Mum, the greenhouse lost some of its colour. This year, Mother’s Day, will be different for everyone but phone calls can help. I miss you, Mum.
Break bad habits, start new routines, evolve a new, improved you. For some reason, the turn of the calendar to a New Year inspires change; an inspiration which soon proves burdensome in its realization. I have made too many resolutions to count and I was determined to keep them but did I?
The answer is yes, I kept one. Forty-three years ago, I decided to give up smoking. Cigarettes and I had developed a strange relationship and an expensive one. I was married for a year and my husband didn’t smoke and never had. His brief experiments with tobacco were laughable; he didn’t even know how to hold a cigarette. I had been a smoker for about nine years, starting when I couldn’t even blame adolescent curiosity for trying it out. The thing was, I lit a lot of cigarettes, took a couple of puffs and then snubbed them out. Not all, of course, but there were enough barely started smokes sitting in ashtrays to let me know it was time. Time to quit.
I grew up with smokers. Mum and Dad both smoked in the house, the car, and for my Dad, on the tractor. It was normal and there were warnings about lung cancer seemed bogus. No one we knew was afflicted so the enjoyable habit continued. It was normal.
December 31st, 1974 arrived and when the clock struck midnight I was done with cigarettes. It wasn’t easy and my ‘withdrawal’ was exacerbated by the supportive husband strolling by, cigarette in hand, blowing smoke in my direction. He claims it was to make me angry enough to keep my resolution. I have my doubts.
I didn’t smoke again. At first, I not only missed the nicotine hit, but the social aspect of the habit. One girlfriend and I, in particular, shared cigarettes and smoked together. It was like a part of relationship was gone…how ridiculous.
In 1975, my daughter was born. She developed asthma and when we first consulted a specialist, his questions were, “Was she breast-fed and who in the house smokes?” When I answered, yes and no one, 50% of his treatment was gone. The doctor was almost dejected that he couldn’t deliver the rest of his speech which would have added guilt to the stress. How glad I was that I no longer smoked.
Years later the health effects of smoking were revealed. Big tobacco’s campaign of false science was debunked and independent research revealed the use of tobacco in its various forms was implicated not just in lung cancer but in a variety of illnesses. Heart disease and stroke, hypertension, bladder cancer, emphysema (now known as COPD), and more chronic conditions were linked to tobacco. Birth weights were lower in the babies of smokers and there could be further complications, after all, the nicotine and other components of tobacco smoke entered the blood stream and crossed into the placenta.
My brother, a type one diabetic, smoked. The tightening of blood vessels, in part caused by smoking, contributed to the peripheral artery disease that led to amputations of both his l9egs. A heavy price for cigarettes. He once said, “You’d think the choice, a leg or smokes would be easy.” It wasn’t and like millions of others, he couldn’t quit.
I am so glad I kept my one New Year’s Resolution and it did break a bad habit, start a different routine and did improve my health. For these reasons, I just might make resolutions, again this year. Maybe this will be the year I keep another one. Happy New Year.
I wrote this flash fiction a while ago and it appeared in The Fieldstone Review which is the University of Saskatoon publication.
Calvin Harrison turned down the dirt road and braked. He listened to the throb of the big diesel and sighed. He was going to miss his new truck. It made him feel like someone else—not the friendly neighbourhood pharmacist, not the hen-pecked husband and definitely not the doting father. Someone you saw in commercials—a little taller and straighter. Someone with flinty blue eyes, whose tight Wranglers bulged a little bigger.
He didn’t mind the doting father image. He and Natalie had had one of those perfect relationships where they laughed at each other’s jokes and knew what the other was thinking. He’d spoiled her and if he had it to do again, he’d spoil her worse. No regrets.
Pale light fingered the horizon and touched the clouds that had gathered to greet the sun with pink gold. Mim would have a name for the colour, something from the new palette of paints at Home Depot. Pink Desire, Reef Rose, Peach Parfait, Pink Abalone. Mim—so tied in to things that didn’t matter. She’d be happy choosing the new colour for the walls and happy while she squabbled with the painters. Almost before the paint dried, she’d start getting restless again. It was the same with her hair. Cal had loved her shiny blonde mane. She could have modeled for l’Oreal or Clairol. God knows she used enough of their products over the years. He never knew what the tint of the week would be. Wild Irish Red, Mahogany Fire, Ebony Ice. Then there was the chunking and streaking. Mim said no one had a natural hair colour any more. When Cal tried to summon up the shade her hair had been when he met her, he couldn’t. He was living with a stranger. Sometimes he watched her when she wasn’t looking and by narrowing his eyes and squinting tried to conjure the image of the girl he had married. Occasionally, he thought he caught a fleeting resemblance.
The horizon burned gold fire now where the sun began its shallow ascent into the fall sky. The clouds radiated gilt light. The air was still.
It was as good a day as any, Calvin thought.
He would have liked to take Mollie for a last walk but it wouldn’t have been fair to the little mongrel. He couldn’t leave her in the truck even though someone would find her…just like they were going to find him.
Light raced across the hilltops, casting the hollows into shadow and outlining the dark limbs of aspen trees with tinsel trim. Time was getting short. His father used to say, no time like the present. Already the siren of lethargy threatened to mire him in inaction
He lifted the shotgun from the truck seat. Its double barrel glinted in the early light and the handle felt cold. The acrid scent of gun oil hung in the air and there was a sharp snap as Cal broke the gun to load it. He slid two magnum shells into place and there was a quiet snick as he closed the breech. Magnums…he would only need the first one but he didn’t want any mistakes.
He tried not to think about Jim Craddock who botched the job and actually needed the second shell. He must have lost his nerve at the last minute and only his jaw had been blown away. He’d staggered around his game room splattering blood and howling in outrage. Then he finished what he had started.
Cal killed the truck’s engine. He wasn’t about to destroy the interior. Maybe Mim would get a decent price for it after…even with its unfortunate history. He climbed out and closed the door quietly. No need to slam it; the truck wasn’t yet a year old. A breeze sprang up and carried the spicy fall air up the hill to Cal. When he looked out across the valley, he saw a doe standing next to a stand of willows. She had seen him and was testing the air cautiously but it was another month until hunting season opened and she was more curious than scared. He watched her for a minute. A yearling stepped into the clearing and Cal could see it was sleek and healthy.
When he started down the slope the white-tails turned to step delicately into the bushes. Cal headed west. There was a small lake…the locals called it Schubert’s after an early settler—and at this time of the morning, the bright yellow leaves of the poplars would reflect perfectly from its cobalt depths. Those same poplars protected it from errant puffs of air and it made a picture perfect enough for a calendar.
Cal stood for a couple of minutes. Maybe if things were different between him and his wife…… but they weren’t. Maybe if Tallie…but he couldn’t think of her; he just couldn’t.
Minutes later the shot gun blast sent the doe and yearling deeper into the bush, their white flags flashing once as they disappeared. On the hilltop, Cal’s Dodge waited in splendor, silhouetted against a cerulean sky that promised early snow.
The silence was absolute. Then the breeze brushed dried grass blades against each other. Aspen leaves like gold foil coins rattled in the bushes. A crow flew up and landed at the top of a tree, cawing raucously.
Cal emerged from the western woods. He was a dark shadow against their colour and it was him the crow was scolding. He held the shotgun gingerly and broke it to remove the remaining shell.
“Damn it, shut up,” he muttered. The crow cocked its head as though listening. “It’s just not a good day to die.”
Sexting is something that people, young and old, rich and poor, celebrity or not, do. I don’t understand why.
Selfies, they’re everywhere. At my advanced age, I’ve even taken a couple holding my dog. They show every wrinkle, every line, and blotch on my old face. Maybe that’s why I don’t do it often.
That being said, I can’t imagine why someone, say a man with a public position, power, and a wife and family, would be motivated to take out his phone and snap a couple of genital candids. Newsflash, genitals are designed for function not fetching form. Perhaps said man has trouble seeing his little member.
Then he texts the picture of his personal genitalia to a woman (maybe) that he doesn’t even know. He hasn’t met her and when the sexting goes bad and the “woman” threatens to expose him (I thought he’d already done it, himself), he confesses to the media, the whole country because of threatened blackmail.
Total humiliation for him and there’s no way to make it right. Tony Clement should know better. How did he think the exchange was going to end. I make things up sometimes, attempt to write stories, and I can’t imagine this ending well.
Mister Clement isn’t the first public figure or even member of a government to get caught up in this kind of thing. The unfortunately named Congressman Wiener of the US comes to mind. The question remains. What would make someone want to send pictures of their genitals to anyone? Kids are told to call their bits privates. There’s a reason; they’re supposed to be private.
This is an old gal trying to understand the motivation for sexting. It just seems pointless and shows a total lack of judgement. Once an image is in cyberspace, it’s there to share. Still trying to understand.
This is a piece I wrote sometime ago. It was published by Transition Magazine.
Coma: the patient is in a state of prolonged deep unconsciousness
Jennifer listens intently to the doctor. One thing stands out in her mind. David is awake.
She thinks, “He’s not in a coma. That’s good news.” She looks at him on the hospital bed and her husband is suddenly diminished; his strength lost. His eyes are open and the doctors say he doesn’t see her. She knows he does, maybe not really clearly or maybe not totally understanding what he sees but he does see her.
Vegetative State: the patient is awake but is not aware.
“It’s me, David. I’ve brought you some flowers.” She thinks she sees awareness in his smile. More than she has seen before. A feeling of great hope floods her being. Jennifer calls the nurse but by the time the nurse arrives, he is blinking and nodding at something in the farthest corner of the room. The nurse is irritated.
“I have patients with real needs,” she says. When she sees the look on Jennifer’s face her own expression softens.
Jennifer hates the discreet pity of the professional caregiver. David was almost lucid.
Persistent Vegetative State: the patient has been awake but unaware for a month.
Jennifer comes every day at the same time. She always says, “It’s me, David.” And then she tells him about her day and about the kids. She is careful to explain how busy they are and why they can’t come to see him as often as she does. David, Jr. is on the hockey all-star team and Kelly is going to a gymnastics tournament. They both miss him, really, really miss him.
She never cries. That is, she never cries when she is visiting him. She refuses to give up and she is sure that David can feel her determination. As long as she believes there is hope. She has strong faith in positive energy.
Permanent Vegetative State: the patient has been awake but unaware for a full year.
Jennifer is very upset with David’s doctors. They want her to let them remove his feeding tube. “But, he’ll starve,” she protests.
“He has no quality of life.”
David Jr. and Kelly stand looking on. David, Jr. shifts uncomfortably and then he says, “The doctor is right, Mom. Dad wouldn’t want to live like this. You’re not being fair to him.”
Even Kelly agrees. “This isn’t Dad.” She cries silently, tears streaking her cheeks.
Jennifer looks at David, Jr. and she wipes her tears away angrily. She does not cry when she is with David. The doctor leaves. David, Jr. and Kelly leave.
She wants to scream. She wants to shout that it isn’t fair. She wants to punish her disloyal children. She wants David to wake up and come home.
David is smiling and he is drooling. His eyes are blinking but he does not see. His hands make spastic grasping motions at the edge of his blankets.
“Oh, David,” she says. “What should I do?”
“Hmmmmph, huhhhh,” says David. His right hand paws at the air.
“It’s beautiful outside today,” she says. “The birds are singing and the sun is melting the snow. Spring is here at last.” She sits with David a long time, longer than usual. She holds his hand and strokes it. When she kisses him good-bye, she looks deep into his faded blue eyes. She looks for David and can not find him.
‘It is a beautiful day,” she thinks. She knows she will have to give the doctors’ permission soon but not today. Sometime soon.
the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”
We will remember them.
Remembrance Day 2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Great War, the war to end all wars. and yet in 1939, Germany invaded Poland, plunging the world back into conflict. By this time, my grandfather had immigrated to Canada, a choice in family legend that meant living under the British flag.
When war broke out my Dad was working on a Dairy Farm near Edmonton. I like to imagine him as a strapping, handsome Canadian farm boy. I think he had ridden the rails near the end of the Great Depression but his experiences would have been limited. I imagine that these are considerations he had when he joined the Army. The picture accompanying this blog shows him in uniform with his family before he shipped out. This is the kind of remembrance, families all over Canada have tucked away in albums or maybe proudly displayed and framed.
Dad was one of the lucky ones; he came home six years later. That is not to say he came out of the experience unscathed. I know that it changed him and he could be morose and quiet. At times he drank a lot. I think it was a self-medication to dull the horrors he had seen and experienced.
Dad gave the handkerchief in the picture to his cousin, Nancy Trefiak, who is the second young woman from the left in the top photo. They were close and could use the same biting sarcasm in their humour. When Dad died, Boxing Day, 1976, she gave the handkerchief to me; she had kept it all those years.
I did not hear war stories from my father. He wouldn’t talk about what had happened. When my (then young husband asked), all he would do was recommend a book detailing the Battle of Monte Cassino.
“If you want to know what it was like, read this,” was the most he would say, other than a couple of memories that demonstrated his luck at surviving.
One of them he told, described how he had wandered across a field (perhaps in Italy) after a hard night of drinking. When he woke, the next day, a team of engineers was clearing the field of mines. His staggering steps had woven through them without incident. One other thing he related was a shell dropping right beside him as he slept in a haystack. It didn’t detonate.
Dad was through North Africa, into Italy, Belgium. On his leaves to Britain, he met my mother, the sister of a friend back home. My mother was a British war bride.
After the war, my father became a farmer. I don’t think he had any desire to travel or seek new adventures. He’d had more than a lifetime’s worth packed into six years overseas. What he focused on was keeping his family safe. In the fifties, he earned a private pilot’s license and although he loved flying, one of his motivations was to provide an avenue of escape if war ever threatened close to home.
The Second World War was a part of me growing up safe on the farm in Eastern Alberta. Mom remembered the Battle of Britain and hiding under a make-shift table-like protection when the bombs fell.
The war was never far away for my parents and now on November 11th, I do remember.
Educated is Tara Westover`s memoir of family control and ignorance and an awakening as she seeks answers and knowledge. This was a book recommended to me by a friend and neither the title or the recommendation suggested the kind of horror and abuse that Tara Westover and her family suffered.
The Westovers are a Mormon family whose fanatic father has re-tooled the religion into his private cult. He selects snippets from the Bible or the Book of Mormon and dictates to his family how they will act and what contact with the outside world they can make. His twisted beliefs come from feelings of deep paranoia. He is sure that the government, educational institutions, and health care are in a conspiracy to harm him and his family.
In her memoir, Tara Westover, tries to patch together a childhood of fear and abuse and fierce love. Her memories are confused and like all of us, some recollections might have planted themselves as memories because other family members have recounted them so often. Nonetheless, her life story is compelling and appalling.
The rules her father makes have no logic. Dairy products are taboo, a year`s supply of food they preserve themselves, must be stockpiled so when some government Armageddon descends, they can hide in the Idaho hills and survive until the crisis passes. To this end, Tara`s father insists his wife become a midwife and healer. It makes them more self-reliant. Tara is her mother`s assistant when she isn`t helping with the family scrap business. Her father and brothers work at this except when they are trucking. The work is dangerous, hard, and performed without concern for even minimal safety standards.
Horrific injuries have to be endured and her mother struggles to provide healing. Burns, brain injuries, deep wounds seldom receive medical attention and if they do, the patient is taken home long before a proper recovery is realized.
From this chaotic, illogical environment, Tara Westover, a young woman with no formal schooling, no birth certificate, and a strange mixture of fears and beliefs, studies for and gets the marks on the ACT exam which assesses students on high school curriculum and their readiness for college. Tara is admitted to Brigham Young University of the strength of her results; she has never heard of the Holocaust, of the American Civil Rights Movement, yet somehow her hard work and quick brain make up for these omissions. She is invited to Harvard and to Cambridge in England.
Tara Westover`s story makes compelling reading. You are drawn along with the kind of urgency that a thriller or horror novel might demand. The best part of this memoir, is that there is a resolution of sorts and that against all odds, Tara has prevailed.