Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tea with the Queen (sort of), Kitty Adventures and Peaceful Moments

The weather is beautiful - all things are growing nicely on the verandah, my living room has a new look - peace reigns - well most of the time. Maggie Muggins, at a little over one year old, is a high energy kitty. Annie, at almost twelve, is not. I never know when Maggie's feist will kick in, and neither does Annie.

Annie loves to curl up on a chair near the verandah door and snooze. Or lie in the sun, soft many-coloured belly up, loving the warmth and peace. Maggie sits, sleeps, plots new adventures. 

This looks like my old Zekey. However, it is a pose Maggie often assumes in relation to Annie
Maggie Muggins' other name is Trouble. 

Last night, 10ish, I realized Annie wasn't about. I searched high (not low, as I still can't bend) and in all corners several times. No sign of her, so I decided I'd better get my jeans on and check outside - just in case. Sure enough, I'd just opened the downstairs door when a scared kitty meowed pitifully and slipped past me and up the stairs.

I'm making an assumption here, and of course we should never (well seldom) make assumptions - but I believe Maggie chased Annie on the verandah last night, that Annie leaped onto either the railing or the bedroom window ledge and slipped. Tales of a flying cat, and further proof that cats have nine lives.

This morning, I can see the squished peonies down below - evidence - and I can be glad she went off the garden end and not the driveway end. Maggie continues to look innocent, but ... we know better, don't we?

This rest time for healing from the surgery is a mixture ... I probably haven't spent time in peace like this since retreat times in convent days - wind whispers, sunfall and rainlight - puddles to splash in - watching things grow - breathing softly. Of course, there is also sometimes a restlessness - or a hunger for rhubard pie or a gingerbread cookie. Sadness about a tragic situation at the Mission that I can't do anything about - and perhaps no one can. 

I feel a little like I'm in a cocoon. Held in space and time. Life flowing around me, sometimes unreal. Protected. Alone - though I do, of course, have helpful friends. And alone is often a good thing. Time to ponder or simply be.

And there is tea with the Queen. Well, lunch. Well, not with the Queen. But whenever I have tomato and cucumber sandwiches, I imagine I'm royalty having tea with the Queen. I expect hers would be much daintier, but my sandwich was very tasty.

And now, as my friend Holly told me, I must put my bum on the chair since that is the main exercise if one wishes to write. I'm onto "Grandpa Didn't Die in Uruguay."  :-) 

And for a bit of extra fun!!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Enforced Rest : Wandering the neighbourhood, smelling the flowers ...

Pied Beauty - Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

a rose


Wispy clouds. Light evening breezes dance in sun-speckled leaves ... 

OK. So I'm not Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I feel inspired by this enforced rest to be more aware of the details around me. Twice a day I'm out for walks - short, cautious walks around our little neighbourhood. Slow - careful not to trip or slip in dips of the sidewalk. Time to feel. Aware of ghosts of summers past - children playing softball after supper on our spare lot, the boulder near Salette's being first base. Laughter. Crack of bat. Run!!!  In summer, the field was full of pink, white and mauve phlox and we ran betweenst them. 

Glass jars in hand, we traipsed to Victoria's just past Benjamin Constant where there still    existed a tiny stream - enough of a trickle to support tadpoles. We carried the wee brown/black legless polliwogs home in muddy water and to watch them develop into frogs.  We had more room on our property for frogs to be happy. Somehow they always disappeared from our chipped pink enamel baby bath part-way through their transformaton process . I wonder - did birds get them? Did they hop out? 

Two ash trees grew at either side of the stone wall in front of our house and are still there, now bordering the driveway into the large apartment building parking lot. Every few years, a section approximating the outline of our home at 427 has to be repaved, as the ground beneath continues to settle.  Even after 25 years. Our basement had a small window at the right back as a coal chute. I am wondering if I'm making this up - but must be Dad had to shovel coal to keep us warm in winter. Vague memory of him doing so at night before bedtime. 

Do you see wisdom and memory?

I stood one evening and rested my hand on the right-hand tree, breathing quietly, listening for the life in it and wondering if it holds the memory of us all. It whispered to my heart the joys and sorrows it had seen. Lorne a blonde, blue-eyed, smiley baby - first grandchild - first child of Mum and Dad's generation. Everybody loved him and he belonged to everyone. Lorne's death when he was 8 and the horror and grief that wound within and around our home. Foster babies, one of whom - Johnny - died a crib death in his pram in the shade of those trees. Big brother Jim with his impish grin and straight brown hair, so like Dad's picture as a baby.  Jim standing in his crib, a year and a half, rocking and humming in tune, "Bell bottom trousers." He WAS a war-baby after all and had the gift of music born in him as well. Music flowing from Granda in early days when he bought the piano, and then Jim later on - both playing by ear. 

Auntie Joyce, Uncle Mel and Peter arrived back from Australia in 1949 - staying with us until they were settled. Peter and I became inseparable. Jack, the airedale, in Mum's day; cats always with Gram and then me. Gram's garden - her great gift - and on it goes. If the huge old willow tree were still there in the back yard, it would have the same and other stories to tell. Jim caught his knee on a huge nail while building the platform between the two massive arms of it. Peter and I decided that Gram's rough cement fish pond in the back corner was dirty. We added soap flakes to clean it, to the detriment of the goldfish and the distress of Gram. We were 2 and 3 at the time, so it seemed a good idea to help out. What can I say? The animal cemetery of several generations of pets - fish, rabbit, cats, dogs... Daisy, Lorne's dog who was killed by a car late one night shortly after Lorne's death. 

The irises are blooming now - the scent so sweet. Well, some are past their best now, but the scent lingers. Gram always had irises - yellow and purple mixes, along the stone wall. And the peonies waft their fragance on the evening air - though many are weighted and broken down by size and rain.

Remnant of our lilac bushes - or should I say descendant? Still there. Left side of what was the driveway.
Almost every time I have walked past our old home that is no longer this last week on one of my build-my-strength-back-up constitutionals, I've smelled marijuana and I can't see where it's coming from. Do you suppose Gram's ghost is floating about smoking pot? I never did know all of what she grew in her garden. :-) and how, you may wonder, does Ros know the sweet scent of pot? It's amazing what I learned in a psych hospital way back at breakdown/breakthrough time in 1975,. :-)

Moving around the neighbourhood ....

Heavysege's house - Mr and Mrs Heavysege's 50th wedding anniversary party was a big do.  They lived upstairs. I'm wondering who lived downstairs. Miss Heavysege was tall and angular, and sewed beautifully and for a living, I think. She must have had a first name, but we certainly didn't call her so. She took us through our Girl Guide sewing badge. If I were going to make up her name, I'd call her Violet. Or maybe Dorothy. 

Well - on Ancestry.ca I found a "Dominion Franchise Act List of Electors, 1935." Miss Heavysege was Winnifred - Winnie. Of course! Now I remember. Well, maybe her Mum was Violet or Dorothy - since she's just listed as Mrs. Fred. :-)

Heavysege home, upstairs, 2013

The little evangelical church on Lafayette warns us "Que sert à l'homme de gagner le monde s'il perd son âme?" "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" urrrrgghh... never mind the exclusive language - it wouldn't draw me in. I know we need an aspect of this theology, but I try not to do fear stuff anymore. How 'bout love, justice, compassion and inclusiveness? 

The church is an A-frame built on the overgrown lot behind Rilstone's old home. Figaro, the white and tiger-splotched kitty once caught his foot in a rat trap hidden amongst the weeds. Mittens, his sister, eventually led the family to him. He always stuck his right hind foot out at an angle when he wanted a little sympahy. This is the cat that leapt out the second floor window after a fly. Cats like Figaro prove the theory that cats have nine lives. :-)
Rilstone's as it was yesterday. This morning all trees in front were cut down.

Ruby and Hughie Oakley's house
brother and sister
Ruby and Hughie always had kittens, it seemed, in their back shed. We used to dress them up in doll clothes. I guess our own cats wouldn't stand for it, but then they were adults. Now and then we went into the kitchen at the back of the house. It was dim and I was a little afraid. To the left of their house (right if coming through from our place) was a wooded lot that backed onto our spare lot. Great fun!

Somebody's playing "O Canada" - in Longueuil! NOW! It may be travellin' over from Ile-Ste-Hélène - but still... surprise! Or do we have a closet federalist in the neigbourhood? :-) Well, playing that loudly, not much of a closet. (It was for the F1. At the end, there was the German national anthem, so someone from Germany must have won.)

Mrs. Bertha Carleton's home on Mercier
Don't you love this little home? Anne of Green Gables could live here. Mrs Carleton was a friend of Gram's, and was one of the little old ladies that Jim used to pick up and drive to St. Mark's of a Sunday morning. Along with Mrs. Coates ... and I forget who else... They loved Jim. 

The windows of Bradbury's house on Ste-Hélène are gone and it's being taken down by new owners to build something new. When our little gang left on our bikes each morning (1959-1963) from the gathering point at William White to high school at Lemoyne d'Iberville, little Mrs. Bradbury would wait on her front verandah and wave to us.

Bradbury's house

In the field where Montreal South United Church stood the outline of the building is like a sunken grave full of buttercups - the church, the hall where we attended Girl Guides on Wednesday nights, and the back room where Auntie Eileen went to school for Grade 3 in 1924 were all dismantled about ten years ago. Queen Anne's lace graces the rest of the  field and the original trees still stand at the sides. Mrs Campbell used to produce a musical each year ... and we sang our hearts out. I was once dressed in yellow crepe paper as one of the flowers. Were there boys in it? I only remember all the neighbourhood girls, down in age from the big girls like Dawn Gascoigne to little ones.

Formerly Montreal South United Church

Home sweet home, upstairs.
If you look very closely, you will see the ripe strawberry in the hanging basket!
Mr and Mrs Kipps used to live here.

All photos mine ... except the tadpoles

To be continued ...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Let all things now living - alternative text (inclusive language)

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
 To God the Creator triumphantly raise,
 Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
 Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
 Love’s  banners are o’er us,  God’s light goes before us,
 A pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
 ‘Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished,
 as forward we travel from light into Light.

 God’s law still enforces the stars in their courses,
 and causes the sun in its splendour to shine;
 The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
 The deeps of the ocean in praises combine.
 We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
 With glad adoration a song let us raise,
 ‘Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving
 To God in the highest, hosanna and praise.

Text: Katherine K. Evans, alt.
(from Common Praise - the Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada)

Let all things now living ... a song of thanksgiving ... and learning out of necessity

Hoping this works. One of my favourite hymns - and how I'm feeling at the moment.


I'm learning all sorts of things, not expressed herein in any particular order of importance or on a neat timeline. 

Firstly, the staff on every level at the Montreal Neurological Insititute is kind, compassionate, and there is ample evidence that many have a sense of humour. The number of beds at the Neuro is smallish - maybe 40 - and there's a sense of family.

I have many wonderful friends and a wonderful family, with the distinction between them being less than clear. :-) Knowing an amazing network of people all 'round the world is (Sorry, Mrs. Tudor, I had put 'are praying' - but it's one network, right?) praying for you, thinking about you (or however they would define their activity), is awf'ly comforting.

Mary Klinck offered to take me in and Stella met me there. Sandy Miller called me at 4:30 so I could call Mary at 4:30 to make sure she was gettin' ready to pick me up at 5:30 to be in by 6:15. I was relieved to be first on the list for surgery, and didn't have to wait around to stay calm til the second shift in the OR around 11:30.

By the time we get to my age, most of us have had some kind of surgery, so this may sound familiar. One minute I was in the hall with my anaesthetist, a med student and a couple of other people. Next minute, zip down another hall, around corners and into the operating room. Some friendly, masked faces came up, introduced themselves by first names, and each told me what his/her role was. Others had their backs to me on the left, arranging instruments, I'm guessing.

The orderly showed me the strangest looking contraption imaginable (see picture below) where I was to be placed, after being knocked out for the surgery. I can't for the life of me figure out how I got from prone on the stretcher to this position, but apparently they knew how to do it. Funny navy-blue contraptions were also to be put on my legs over the white elastic stockings to pulse and help prevent clots. I only saw one, so asked if they went on both legs. Everyone laughed. Had my sense of humour til the last! :-)

Dr. Maleki arrived, stood masked and solemn at the foot of my bed and announced what the surgery was. "L4-5 bilateral laminectomy and right discectomy." The student had tried unsuccessfully to insert the IV line; the anaesthetist took over while explaining the procedure. Someone was holding the black mask just above my face while they chatted softly and reassuringly. Breathe deeply, they said. I remember saying my nose was itchy and scratching it. They said that often happens. ?? 

Next thing I'm in the ICU, Stella's holding my hand, and I'm squeezing her fingers. I remember asking her if she has arthritis - in case I was squeezing too hard. Grounding. 

There was a window on my right. A nurse came to my side and I asked in Creole if she was of Haitian origin. She was - and we chatted away in probably my best ever Creole as I didn't have the wits to try too hard to get it 'right.' Marie-Medelline asked questions, I answered, and explained my connection to one of my heart lands. I could feel myself rising gently, out of the mists into reality. She was so delighted (not to say shocked), she called two other nurses over to tell them I was speaking to her in Creole. :-) It's an actual visual, misty sensation - concentrating on seeing this person, trying not to sink back, and communicating ... 

Sandra (my friend) told me yesterday that the anaesthetist is actually the most important person in the operating room, because effectively, we're dead on the table. OK. I'm kind of glad I hadn't known that beforehand.

Bladders are finicky. If it doesn't function after surgery ... well, I learned other new things that I am also not going to dsecribe on my blog. My bladder chose not to work on its own steam until Friday afternoon, so I had to stay until Saturday.  

I had a day shift and a night shift from Thursday to Saturday. Stella was the day shift; Lori the night shift. When Doris found out that Lori was staying on Thursday night, she arranged for Kathryn to come stay over with Kayla, and arrived in my space at midnight. The staff moved a folding chair/beddy thing, a pillow and blanket and they each got a little sleep. Not much.

There is always something to laugh at. Lori, Stella, Doris, and I laughed like fiends at various and sundry - not all of which I will put on a blog. Humanity. It hurts to laugh, but it's also healing! 

After my first surgery for breast cancer, apparently I came out of the anaesthetic anxious and asking repeatedly if I was going to die. I don't remember it, and Nolande and Stella won't tell me any more than that. This time, Stella says I kept asking if the cats were ok. ? :-) And then I remember saying a fair number of times "I feel like I'm in a dream." And, "This doesn't feel real." 

Back surgery leads to bans on bending, twisting, and lifting . Therefore, out of necessity, you devise new stuff:

If you ever want to pick up a small piece of paper from the floor without doing any of the above, if you're right-handed/footed - lean against something solid, lick your left index finger, carefully lift your right foot and wet your big toe, place said toe on paper, lift foot, remove paper and put in recycling. Of course, if you are younger and more flexible than I am, you might be able to skip step one and go directly to licking your big toe. Urrgghhh. I doubt mine would taste as good as it did when I was a baby.

For banana peels and other objects that fall to the floor that you don't want to leave until someone comes to visit, you can get a squeezy picker-upper at Jean-Coutu or some other pharmacy. Your friend can get it when s/he buys the toilet seat riser and has the prescriptions filled. 

Home with my kitties. I had a short walk this morning, and about to take another. For two weeks, I can go as far as I can safely walk and RETURN. Then short distances in the car - with someone else driving leading to ... 

Last night, to add a little excitement, we had a thunderstorm. Cousin Steve had called and we were chatting when there was a blast and flash of blue-white-yellow light right across the street in front of Rilstones' old home. The phone, internet and cable (modems were blown out) went where lightning sends Videotron's whatever. All was restored this afternoon. (Well - update as of June 3rd, the TV was actually fried as well, but it had a few last gasps first, so it wasn't immediately obvious).

I get absolutely no sympathy that when I didn't die on the operating table, I may now die of boredom. :-) Can't sit for too long at a time. Lying down isn't high on my normal agenda. People having lovely meals at their homes when I can't get there to share them isn't fair. ;-)

In fact I go back to Sister Marjorie Raphael's wise counsel when I retired, that now I may get back to the contemplative spirit that is mine - and that in some ways I gave up when I got so BUSY at the mission and in the parish. So, the advice from all quarters is relax. Breathe. Take it easy. Give it time. And while I am complaining in fun - in fact, I'm relieved at the opportunity. I sat on the swing on the porch. Annie jumped up and purred beside me to her heart's content. It takes no energy to swiff the laser pointer around on the back bed for Maggie to get her fun and exercise. (on the bed so she's not gallumphing on the floor and disturbing the neighbours.) The breezes are heavenly. Flowers are growing as well as lettuce, parsley, mint, and tomatoes in pots on the front verandah. 

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. And it's time for supper.

Maggie Muggins in the top of the kitchen window.
Don't ask how she gets up there. I don't know. She can, however, get down.

ASSO Operating table - FYI if you're interested
Assume there's no pun intended in the name ;-)
It actually wasn't quite like this -  the front was a bit different, and face was down, I think.