For better

I knocked on the door, wondering if he’d heard me over the noise of the tv. He opened up, and smiled.”Oh it’s you Doctor. Come in, come in. The clinic called and I got worried something bad was in the bloodwork.” I rushed to reassure him.

“Oh no, nothing like that.I just wanted to make sure you knew the results. Mostly everything is fine.” He looked at me seriously.

“Nothing about the cancer then?” I shook my head.

“No, nothing like that. Your blood is fine- no sign of anemia or elevated were count or low platelets. Your kidneys are good too. Completely normal.” He sat at the small table they shared meals at, and I could see his shoulders relax down, leaving his slightly stooped shoulders rounded softly.

I could see him look over at the couch, at her, while she starred at the tv oblivious to his regard. He looked back at me, and confirmed what I already knew.

” I need to live long enough to take care of her. That’s all. I’m ready to die anytime, but I can’t leave her alone. She’s not right anymore, you know that.” He called her name and she looked over at us, at my big smile and smiled back blankly.

“Oh, hello.” She said with glazed eyes before absently turning back to look at the tv.

“How are you guys doing? Is the home care enough still? Or do you think you need more help, in any way?”

 I always tried to make sure he had enough help looking after her, with his cancer and her memory gone at least 2 years ago. And I stopped by for visits to save him the drive to the clinic now, and the worry. He didn’t like leaving her alone, and it was getting difficult to take her places, too much work and stress for them both.

” No, no, we’re fine, just fine. I have my kids if I need help, although my son has his own medical problems, and home care helps with her baths now. I’ll ask for more help, I promise.” I looked at him consideringly for awhile, but he met my gaze with clear, strong eyes that never wavered. He may be old, but he had his convictions. 

“As long as you ask, then.” I trailed off, knowing that things would have to get bad before he asked, but he had his pride.

 She was his responsibility, and had been since the day they said for better or worse. He came from a time when that meant forever, not until things got tough.

 I had watched them for years now. She had been brighter when we’d first met, able to hold a conversation and ask her own questions. She’d nagged him like the old wife that she was, and they had bickered in the office the way only couples long married can.

 But she had slowly drifted away from him over the last few years, going on ahead. He anchored her down, refusing to let her float away completely before her body was ready. He knew it too, and we rarely spoke of it.

They say dementia is an end stage disease. It steals away the soul in bits, sometimes letting it visit before taking another chunk, taking them further away from you. It causes family to grieve loss after loss long before a body dies.

 You see, everyone knows. It’s too painful to speak of, the howling grief that leaves you with an imposter, only a shell remaining of the one you love.

“Thanks for coming Doctor. I’m sure glad to hear that.” We talked a bit longer, and his eyes got bright when we talked about planning for the worst. He walked me to the door, and we shook hands.

“We’re doing good here, don’t worry. We’ll be just fine” 

I smiled and left, walking down the hall of the complex they lived in and hearing my footsteps echo down the hall. For better or worse, in sickness and health. I wonder if we can ever understand those words until we live through them. 

I wondered if I would be able to do it as I walked away into the bright cold January day, going home to my partner.

Lifestyle

We all have one, whether we accept it for what it is or not. Today’s word prompt is huge, and caused me to take a step back and think about what it really means. My lifestyle is comfortable in material terms, but bursting at the seams in so many ways.

 It’s full of kids with big emotions and ideas, curiosity that sometimes causes frustration when it’s been a day full of “Why? WHY? BUT WHHHHYYYYY?”  

But because of them, it’s also full of the smell of baby powder on soft curls, warm sticky hugs and kisses in the air.

 Tiny thumbs ups and fives and knuckles for no reason. 

 It’s full of tiny people learning how to be big people, and excitement with trying out new skills. 

It’s full of boo boos and kisses on scrapes, and bandages that weren’t needed in the first place but placed because it’s easier than saying no.

My life is bursting at the seams because I love the little people in my life, but also because of my partner in crime. 

 He is always there for me, and while sometimes the Dad jokes are insanely bad,  he is funny and caring and so sweet sometimes it makes me feel like a bad person for not even thinking about small things the way he does for those around him, even strangers.

My life is full because I have a family of people that I love and mostly get along with, although lately haven’t seen as much as I’d like due to responsibilities, and distance, and sheer laziness when it comes down to travel with three small children.

 (I just can’t even, sometimes)

 I promise again to myself that will change soon, once we catch our breath a little.

And friends. I’ve been blessed to meet some amazing people that I don’t see nearly enough. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by in my life, and I wish I could see you more.

My life is also full of work.  

I love my work, and feel that my patients are MY patients. I feel for them, I struggle with them, and I do my very best to help them. 

 But I struggle also with the fact that I’m not the one who makes the decisions in the end. 

 They choose the life they live, and something bigger than both of us determines the chance, 

and the fate that befalls them.

 Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s so heartbreaking that we cry together. 

 And it’s all life, this I understand.

And now, finally, as my head starts to rise above the waters surrounding me, I am starting to have a life full of creativity again.

 Writing, and enjoying the world around me, trying to understand and make sense of it all. I have no doubt that I won’t ever figure it out, but I love that I am here to even attempt the endeavour. 

So what is lifestyle? It’s how you life your life. Sometimes it’s plush and rich, other times it’s in a box on the side walk.

 I’m somewhere in the middle of the material side, but right up at the top of when it comes to the stuff that makes it worth living.

Fresh 

Just landed in Toronto for the weekend again,  number four of fivefold my geriatrics diploma course. Getting very close to being finished, and more excited this weekend than I was last month. 

Last month was painful making it though the weekend, and I felt like I had to force myself through the whole thing. And it wasn’t the information- that was great! 

 Maybe it’s the whole hump thing, but the third of five anything just seems kind of awful.

But four out of five feels different- fresh, like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Except of course when I land and find that the rain is pouring and it’s twenty degrees colder.

Now, I am fully aware that he weather does not revolve around trying to be miserable specifically for me, but sometimes I wonder. 

Like the time it snowed on me in the Middle East and they were shocked, as it hadn’t snowed there in a hundred years. 

Or when I got frost bite on my cheeks in Australia. In May. (Granted, it may have been from the heater in the hot air balloon. I was as close as one can be without catching on fire. It was freezing!)

Or today, after it finally warms up to a balmy 26 and sunny and then I catch a plane to 7 and rain. In a place that is usually warmer than where I live. 

So yeah, sometimes the weather feels personal. 

But I am feeling excited to be here this time. I was extremely motivated on the plane and may have some tendinitis in my wrist tomorrow, as I managed to write over 4000 words. 

I’m at that stage of motivation where I wonder if I could maybe finish this book by the end of the week.

Then I slap my self (mentally) and say stop it, crazy girl!  

I wrote my first love scene, in as PG a way as I could, as the book is technically geared toward young adult. 

( Plus, I’m a little grossed out when I read super graphic things myself so I didn’t want to be yucky.)

It was fun, writing something I’ve never done before, and challenged me differently than  I was expecting.

So maybe it’s the break from work, or the kids, or heck, maybe even the rain, but I feel that something fresh and new is brewing and I can’t wait to see where the week takes me!

I’m feeling so motivated to write at the moment I’m hoping I can make myself go to bed at a decent hour.

(But the little bad girl says shhh keep going. You don’t need to sleep ūüėČ

We shall see who wins today- the shoulda-do-it-adult, or the live-a-little wildchild. 

Heads or tails! 

Shower time

My morning routine is pretty set now. I get up, coffee until awake, play on my phone with Facebook/email/etc, exercise, then shower and get ready for the day.

Morning showers have become the most fun part of my day since having my little dude. He’s always been a little more attached than the girls, and a bad sleeper in comparison. That means he is awake when I want to shower and that he is not willing to let me leave while I’m home. 

So around the time he was 18 months he started to join me in the shower. Initially it was a bit of a gong show, but once he became less afraid, he took to it like a duck to water, complete with quaking some days. It’s true what they say- just add water to take away the cranky from a kid.

So while I have always seen the shower as something to do to keep clean and feel warm when cold, it has slowly turned into play time with a funny little boy. 

He spends his time pouring water between containers, or watching the prism in the shower when he puts his hand in the flow and it splits in the light. His laughter echoes in the shower stall, and never fails to make me smile as well.

I know someday soon he won’t want to have a shower with his mommy, and as he gets old this will fade away into that memory vault. 

But for today, I’m laughing as he beeps my nose after growling and dumping water on himself. 

My funny little boy

Long road home

Today has been tiring. Nothing overly difficult or unusual, but draining none the less.

It’s like the floodgates had opened up, 

and people and problems continued to pour in.

I felt like a river bed, gouged down by the persistence of water, wearing me down over time. By the last set of troubles I felt my eyes burning with exhaustion.

I’ve never thought of myself as an introvert or an empathy but the last few months

 full of loss after loss 

have made me feel older, 

sadder but none the wiser. 

I’m fighting a losing battle right now and I know it. The inevitable happens, no matter how much we try to close the door on it.

Mortality.

It’s beautiful and tragic.

I’ve started to feel anxious for no reason in the middle of a normal day, where nothing has been stressful. Then suddenly that feeling will disappear, as swiftly and randomly as it arose.

I find out the next day or the day after that someone else I know has passed,

 expectedly or not it doesn’t seem to matter.

We are all joined, we come from somewhere and when we die we return back, to energy of one sort or another. 

Is it this energy I feel when I am restless and uncertain?  

Is that why I have trouble distancing myself? Is this why the struggles of those I see weigh so heavy on my shoulders?

It’s the end of the day and I have walked out into the bright sunshine, happy with my family surrounding me,

 and I ponder the meaning of life.

I think in order to truly value these moments, 

where I watch my kids play together in the golden evening light with wonder at their innocence,

We must suffer through loss and feel the darkness.

Because only then can we shine with the radiance of life

Illusion

Control is something many of us strive for,
Fight for,
Die for

A word that describes a theory, the meaning elusive and fleeting
Depending on circumstances and others,

Never fully within our grasp.
We struggle,
Anxious and wanting,
Striving to have the sense of mastery inherent within its meaning,
Never able to reach the heights it promises

Surrender to the abscence and feel peace,
At least and finally in possession of oneself

Tapestry

Each life touches us in some way,

Everyone we meet.

Some people stay for a lifetime, others pass by.

Some make us happy,

 bringing love and joy,

 a deeper sense of belonging. 

Others cause only heartache and pain

Many more touch us so briefly we recognize them as fleetingly as the wings of a moth in the lamplight,

There and gone

Each person I treat and assess becomes part of my experience, and the more I get to know them the closer I feel.

Each life lost is one mourned, for the person that is and was

For the family that has lost someone important

For the potential there but now gone

I sit on the sidelines,

Merely a coach or referee,

 watching the game of life,

Not responsible for life choices, but here for advice and hopefully to keep them on the “right path”, 

whatever that is.

Another person lost, someone patient and kind, with family and friends

Unexpected, but not 

I feel multiple small holes in the cloak of soul that I wear,

Places where the cold wind blows, where only days before there was warmth.

Where does the fabric of personhood go when it leaves us?

A beautiful patchwork quilt of intertwined uniqueness.

Tapestry of life, 

each missing loved one together in beauty, 

safe and warm in the end

My cloak shines with the light of their loss, but I know someday I, 

too, 

will join them in the fabric of the ever after,

Together once more.

Monday, the devils apprentice 

I slept great last night, which is such a nice change. It almost makes a person feel like shouting from the rooftops “Hey, I slept great! None of the warm bodies in my house destroyed my night! Yay!!”  I’m pretty sure a lot of people out there can identify with this sentiment. Such a great start to a work week at least.

But as I’m drinking my coffee and enjoying my alone time, I’m going through my list of stuff to do today. Out the blue, I was punched in the stomach with some very unpleasant memories. 

Stop reading now if you have triggers to illness/injury/etc.

You see, today is work (no biggie) and then I take my almost 6 year old, funny little child, thinks they are a boy but wants to be a mommy when she’s (he’s?) grown up, full of big ideas and loves to play outside and sing me love songs, my first born, to have a checkup with the ENT.

Also, no big deal. She’s fine, feels well, and has a tendency to shout. So basically, just like her mommy. But while this check up is completely safe and ordinary it takes me back to last year, which was the most horrifying experience  I’ve had in my life. 

She had her tonsils and adenoids out just after her fifth birthday. Routine, awful healing for the first few days (felt like I had a newborn for three nights) I ran the Calgary half marathon in under 2:30 with zero sleep, which I thought was awesome even though it was one of my slowest times.  Things went back to normal within a week, I kept working, she went back to school and her regular activities. 

Then June the 6th came. It was just a normal day at work (except the subpoena. Ugh.) Until my husband called and said she was vomiting blood. 

I’m not sure I’ve processed this completely yet, as I had shoved it as far down into the no-no box as I could. Too raw, too painful. It has bubbled up a few times, demanding to be dealt with but I’ve brushed it aside- I don’t have time, she’s fine, it’s all ok now.

But I’m still seeing it. 

I rushed home on autopilot, not sure what I was walking into. What I saw was every bit as bad or worse than I’d feared. She was so white, almost limp. Her Dad had rinsed her and put pjs back on to get rid of some of the blood. I picked her up, her head fell back, so tired. He called 911 as I took her to the car, pushing my youngest back from the door while he howled for me to pick him up. I couldn’t stop to give him a hug and I still feel so, so guilty about that. 

I got her in the car, debating whether or not to strap her into the car seat, deciding to for keeping her airway open. I STRAPPED HER IN FOR HER AIRWAY. What mother thinks like that? 

I drove faster than I’ve ever driven to the nearest hospital, which wasn’t childrens because I didn’t want to wait for the ambulance. When the 911 dispatch told me to pull over, I said no, I’m doing as little CPR as possible. They went quiet, and I kept driving.

The ambulance met me five minutes from the hospital, and I could finally  be with my baby. I unlatched her, carried her over to them and they placed her gently on the stretcher. They were so kind, even when trying to put the IV in. She screamed weakly, but after me hitting her legs to keep her awake in the car  I was happy to hear it. It sounded like life.

Things went fast from there. I gave an AMPLE history in the ER, robotic again.  She was so white her teeth and lips were the same colour. Staff afterwards told me that I kept them calm, but I felt like some bizarre awful person, reciting allergies, meds, past history last meal and etc when my kid was so bone white on a gurney.

They got IVs in and she perked up so fast I felt foolish for being worried, until the blood level came back and she was down to 30% of normal. 

She turned into her normal happy chatty self, blaming it on her goldfish crackers and how she wasn’t going to eat them again.

She got a blood transfusion, and repeat surgery, and we had a fun ambulance ride to children’s. She throughly enjoyed everything except puking up blood, which she still talks about sometimes. I watched her like a hawk for the next month, worried every second for it to happen again. I couldn’t let myself cry then, because it could happen again, and I had to be able to cope. And then afterwards, it seemed silly to cry. It was done and past, she’s fine. 

But now I find it hits me at random times. I look at her and the grief wells up. She has an appointment and I feel a pit in my stomach. I walk into the children’s and remember pacing while she was in surgery, having the bleeding arteries cauterized. Someone comes in with their child to clinic, wanting to have their troublesome tonsils removed, and I warn them why they don’t just routinely do it anymore. My child is why.

That was the moment I almost lost my first child. I love her in a way I didn’t think I would ever love someone, from the moment I saw her and said “hello there”, followed immediately by “look, no vernix” (I told them I was overdue and they said I wasn’t)

The grief and sadness I still experience about this event makes it easier and harder to do my work. When people have a sick child or family member I find myself on the verge of tears, relating, knowing how awful and scary it is. Feeling helpless to protect someone you love that much.

I will continue to try to process, to deal, and most of all, pray. I don’t want to ever go through anything like this again. But life is unpredictable, so I will continue to do my best not to think about the awful events that could happen, and try to focus on the moments, the beautiful, as they happen.

Carpe diem. Even if it’s a Monday.

Yarn

IMG_5527.JPGI used to sit and listen as she spun her life story,

wide eyed and curious, amazed by everything that was said

older and wiser by scores of years,

She always seemed to know everything

We would walk uptown, black button boots in my mind the way a “lady” wore her shoes

Up the tall stairs to get the mail and back home again.

When you’re small, everything is so grand,

larger than anything you think could possibly exist until you see it for yourself,

A world around you to explore, overwhelming and exciting

Stories of her childhood, when horses were common transportation still, and only a few people travelled more than a hundred miles away from where they were born

Living and dying around those you’d known since birth

Stories of a childhood unfettered by the same rules as mine,

ice cream for a nickel,  the creamery just down the road

running through grass to play down the long gravel road with neighbours, once the days chores were done

Little house on the prairie was real life, not a story that people read.

life has changed from those times, not better or worse,

but I still think of her stories, listening while she spoke and knit calmly in her chair, cat sleeping at her feet.

Glad I was able to enter another time,

if only for brief moments.

 

Miasma

the smell of her perfume lingered in the air

once present, she had vanished into a memory from the past

She’d been vibrant and glorious, full of life and ideas, feelings and interests

all of the things that make one alive

but time had changed her, she’d grown old and frail

until finally one day she just faded away

she left behind so many days

ones where she’d taught the young girl how to think, play cards, be kind

others where she’d impressed upon her how to accept life and ¬†be yourself, always a bulwark in sometimes stormy seas

although long since past, these memories forged a sense of self in her young friend,

and every now and then she still smells  lavender and rose,

and feels close to her again