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Riding on Transit

A young woman picks at her split ends
with such a look
of disgust
you might think
there was
hunger or injustice
hanging from every golden thread.
We had had a good night and morning. She ate dinner: baked apple with raisons and pancakes as requested. I decided I had to have a reasonable amount of sleep so instead of sleeping in the next room, or next to her in her bed, I slept in my own bed downstairs and woke up after a good solid six hour sleep feeling almost human for the first time in a month.

I gave her the puffer, the steroid one the doctor prescribed and helped her up. She had taken off her bottoms in the night and I suggested we try a shower, a procedure which involved helping her to a seat in the tub and washing one area at a time and rinsing with the hand held shower attachment, while patting dry her very frail body and tissue like skin, throwing a towel over her finished parts so she wouldn’t feel chilled and then applying Oil of Olay body lotion, her favorite.

But that morning she said she was tired; her breathing was much better. I told her I'd bring her breakfast at 9:00. I did my Zen sitting and took her peppermint tea and bakery bread with some homemade jam. She ate it all, said it was good and that she had no stomach ache. She didn't want to shower or wash yet She wanted to nap,so I told her she could sleep and I'd check on her before 11:00. That was at 9:30 or so.

I was just down the hall. I decided I would bake cookies. I would not be getting out much, looking after her, and cookies in tins would make good gifts in case anyone dropped by. They are shortbread and I make them really small so they fit in small tins. I have some miniature cookie cutters...

I talked to my brother on the phone. On the whole I had started to feel a bit optimistic that she would be well enough that we could enjoy a family Xmas with my children and maybe with her new great grandson or daughter.

When I checked she looked like she was sleeping. I went to pull up her blanket her legs were bare. In the last few days, when her kidney backed up and she was delirious from the toxicants she would suddenly have the urge to remove all her clothes, insisting she had to dress from some important event. Often it would be in the middle of the night. She would yell and insist I was a bitch, ruining everything. When she finally would relent and take a drink of water and a bite to eat I would show her the time and that it was dark out, the middle of the night, remind her that she was sick. “So I guess I AM just crazy!” she’d say. Exhausted I would shrug or agree, it made no difference really, not to either of us.

I wasn’t surprised to see her bare legs and the blanket pushed away. From my journal a few days before:

Night before last was bad. She was up wandering around naked in the middle of the night. She wanted to have a shower but got too tired. She had turned the space heater up high and her room was hot and dry. At least she didn't get a chill.

She barely eats anything and so I made pancakes, a favorite of hers and she sat up at the table and ate almost one whole pancake. She doesn't remember one day to the next at times and how she fills in the blanks depends on how she feels in the moment. Mostly she feels crappy. When she doesn't eat or drink or walk around her kidneys don't work and she gets toxic and altered.

"Please just leave me alone! No I don't want to sit up and I don't want to eat anything!" on being asked to eat anything at all after a day of refusing food.
“I had gotten so much done and you came and shattered it all!" after helping her out of bed after she spent most of the day there.
"She's just as bad as the nurses!" to her friend who dropped by in reference to me.

The doctor is coming at 4:00pm to check her cough.

I bruised (cracked?) a rib climbing under the bed to get her slippers. I have a cough now too.

Yesterday I got out the photo albums. After she ate a bit and drank some water she got into looking at them and telling stories about the pictures, most of them correct as far as I know. I moved my S.A.D. lamp to the front room and turned it on. I think it helped too. I think I will have a shower and tune out everything for a while.

…None of us are prepared for this stuff in our culture. I have come to appreciate rituals concerning death as a way of buoying up the ragged heart but how to convey that in a way to anyone conversation that isn't just sound like bullshit? I just try not to talk too much. Try to listen. It's hard.

That morning when I touched her I knew. I just knew. But I didn’t know. It was like I had been running down a long road without turns, with only a horizon and then found a sudden drop into nothing. The abyss.

It was surreal. Everything that followed that day was both fast and slow. Calling 911. The EMS, the cops, a fire truck? I don’t think so. I was babbling. Eating cookies like I was gulping air, drowning.

We had to wait for the Coroner. At one point it was thought her doctor could come. Instead the Coroner was a young woman who came. She just looked too young to be a Coroner. People would tell me what was happening and I would nod appreciatively but not really hearing them.

While we waited I offered the police and EMS cookies. I had made a lot of cookies.


I got hugged by a woman EMS. Every few minutes I would have this impulse which had propelled me constantly for the previous two weeks to go and check on my mother. She just looked like she was sleeping, so tiny in her big bed.

When they were taking her out of the house on the stretcher in the closed black bag, I hung on to one of the cops in a sort of grabby-hugging way, really he kept me standing up. My sense was that the floor had dropped away. I apologized to him. He said it was okay.

In the last few years as she grew more frail and more dependant and angry I wished her to see past feeling out of control, to see the care and attention and effort on her behalf, from a lot of people, not just me, as NOT just examples of her own loss of power. Care is good. Lots of people don’t get much care shown to them in their lives. But mostly I wanted her to say she loved me and not in a barbed, accusatory or manipulative way as it was so often said.

I lived away from her for twenty years and mostly felt I had escaped the worst of our mother/daughter relationship. Part of that was learning to sit zazen, to watch the stories that came up lose their power over me, evaporate in the fresh air and sunshine of awareness. I haven’t always done well. In the years that my kids and I lived with her I had a sense of what we shared and how we could manage, without ever being really happy, to be happy enough.

The last days the small shows of approval that came, when she took a few bites of a meal, when she sighed with pleasure at a warm wash cloth and a soft towel, a smile for a cup of tea, I would be overjoyed.

I did get the chance to tell her how much I wanted her to love me and how much I felt my heart would break at times for want of it. I broke down and cried like a baby in front of her. And she soften to me after that and two days after that she died.

That was a year ago today.


sometime i just bake cookies

I have been imagining all the things that I could do now that I am no longer responsible for anyone else.

I still have my crossing guard job and within the three hours a day I am occasionally responsible for getting people (I wish more children walked to school) safely across the street.

Some adults think it is hilarious that I am crossing them. "I feel like a kid again!" Some think it's annoying. I scold them when they are too impatient for the light to change and head out ahead of me on the red. I don't tell them I have years of looking after people who were either looking forward to being independent, or looking back on the loss of it and so no stink eye of the type one might expect from a teenage is going to thwart me...

I didn't look after kids or my mother for the approval I would gain. That was good too because being a caregiver is really hard and often criticized by those who have never been one but know a lot about it from watching television. Although it was nice when appreciation was expressed, it came, less often than it would in a television sitcom but more often than I probably remember. (And I am sorry for this, truly.)

I just like knowing what needs to be done and then doing it. It feels good. There, I said it. I am not a self sacrificing saint or anything like it. I am just a person lacking in imagination. Maybe. Maybe that is it.

So while I would like to sell everything and go and stand on the front lines of some injustice, other than getting hurt I don't think I can contribute much; Or finish the two books I started to write when I was younger and smarter and able to drink more than one cup of coffee a day without a gastro-disaster; or finally finish that enormous painting I started (what was I thinking?) that is facing the wall as if the painting was ashamed and not me, it kills my back to stand and paint; Or try to learn to speak French again, something that I found easier when I was still drinking wine, *sigh*. None of these things will likely happen.

The anniversary of my mother's death is rapidly approaching and I promised myself I would give myself a year before making any major decisions.

I am no longer responsible for anyone else. I come home exhausted and eat one of the frozen meals I made on the weekend and then do some hand sewing while some really violent Netflix show plays. It is the only way I can watch some of these programs. If I actually look at the screen to often, OMG, PTSD.

So I bake cookies when I am unsure, maybe manage a trip to see my Old Teacher over the holidays, bounce my grandson on my knee.

And follow my favourite blogs, those that make the world still seem a place full hope and adventure, and good will for all.
I just learned a few days ago that Jenlev died.

I never met her, spoke to her on the phone only once but through the years she took up a place in my awareness as a friend.

I am not a great person to have as a friend because I can go for years without contact and yet on some level I always feel I am still at that "restaurant at the end of time" still enjoying cosmic conversation swimming in the sounds of voices and the beautiful faces illuminated by the stillness and timelessness of vast and perfect knowing. So perhaps it is irksome when someone sees me after a lot of water under a bridge of events I have not connected to them because, as I said, I am not a great person to have as a friend... Thing is, some people are living their lives while I hold on to whatever connection I recognize regardless of their progressive and reasonable opinion.

Whenever I wrote Jenlev I always, in my head said, "Jen Love". I have to sound out words when I write and when I read. It think it helps me deal with my dyslexia but at times I let my dyslexia win and inform the sound the words take. After all, I am not a literary person nor am I afraid of being made fun of due to my ignorance... As I get old I even do it on purpose to get people laughing...

Changing her name toJen Love is an instance when my dyslexia better informed my understanding than any actual pronunciation because she was so generous in this regard. I hope we can continue to meet for lunch at the Restaurant at the End of Time. She is someone who would not fail to show up.

The last few nights

     The dreams

I have had a few dreams about G.D. I suppose because the weather is much like it was this time of year last year when she first start to really fall apart physically and mentally. I remember her birthday party for which she rallied and dressed herself, after leaving the hospital, on no one's advice.  November 25.
I have a bladder infection.  It is hanging on and last night I had to get up to make cranberry tea and use the washroom every two hours or so. my dreams fit between.  The last few dreams I was even sick in the dream.  But while I was waiting to call the doctor, in both the waking world and the dreaming, the offfice didn't open til 9am, my mother was picking up the phone but in her confused and annoyed state unable to dial or tell me who she wanted.
I held the receiver (it was the old style of wall phone and the receiver felt heavy and cold) I could hear my father's voice and I wanted to talk to him but it was clear he was speaking to someone else and the only words I caught were "child pornography" so I slammed down the phone...
She looked as she had when I was a kid, with slightly orange hair in a helmet and rimmed glasses, ...
When I told her I was sick she said, quite honestly it seemed to me, "I'm sick too, I just feel terrible..." and suddenly I remembered and told her, "No mom, you died on Dec. 4th."  She slid down against the wall and started to weep in her hands.  Suddenly the location changed and I was in the home of a mothersI see every morning when I am a crossing guard and the house is hot and uncomfortable and full of workmen and I am trying to get through to Constable B to tell him I can't work because I have to see a doctor about my infection...There is the sense of impending danger pressing in on me and suddenly I am swimming trying to gain access to a hotel that has rooms opening to the canal i am swiming in.  I am walking naked down the hall and people in exaggerated costumes from 50's haute couture are shuffling by, seeming to ignore me and I think:  I am dead.  This is why they can't see me.
The grim resignation of the dream hung on me all day.

My First Week as a Crossing Guard

I realize that it "ain't rocket science" as the woman who trained me said but it can be demanding, especially at rush hour at a four way intersection in a busy downtown area.

There are many lovely things about it, not the least of which are seeing all the everyday human interactions that are for the most part lovely.

-a woman tells me after I ask if she would like me to cross her that she went to the school as a child and crossed this very intersection with a crossing guard, and "here I am feeling eleven years old again!"
-an elderly lady says she doesn't live around here anymore; Her friend and roommate died and so she came back to the old neighbourhood, because "you can't be all alone feeling sad, you have to get out." She had just been to visit the owner of the convenience store who she told me was "the nicest man on the planet."
-people with walkers and canes and wheelchairs smiling and saying thank you and you can see that they are, despite pain and difficulty, grateful just to be out and pushing themselves to remain a part of the fabric of the neighbourhood, and people with issues with reality, with their minds, doing the same
-numerous and sundry people thanking me for being there, their hope that I would be placed there as a permanent crossing guard, (some introduced themselves and their children and asked my name)
-I see people parting for the day with kisses, I see people enjoying the sudden warm Autumn weather at the coffee shop patio reading their papers sitting in the Muskoka chairs that are lined along the wall. The gaggles of pre-teenage girls plotting and pruning and laughing, the boys perpetually uncomfortable and posturing, the dog walkers, the harried parents and bubbling babies and bouncing and fidgeting children, the late ones, the ones who keep their heads down, the ones who smile like other worldly beings, wise and gentle...

There is also a pretty awesome graffic on the the wall across from me. Can't post a pic here but I will take one anyway.

I find each hour shift is intense. The drivers are in such a rush it is exhausting to keep an eye out all the time but I am getting better at it. It's funny how some A.Hats will give me a WTF because I am walking as bright as an orange with my sign and vest to the curb as they are trying to WHAT? PUSH ME OUT OF THEIR WAY WITH THERE BIG STUPID HIGHLANDER TRUCK? because they Have to Make a Right TURN NOW...? in a school zone when kids could run out at any time in front of their impatience and then change a whole bunch of lives for the worse? So I shrug my shoulders and make each step count as I step to the curb and lower the sign and smile.

Humans. Humans in large fast moving vehicles, trying to get to their next big mistake EVEN FASTER. :)

Getting to know a neighbourhood is like getting to know a person.

I hope I do go back next week.

That's a lot of walking and listening.

My new job as a crossing guard, training and then on my own. Lots of walking. Yup. By the end of Friday my legs felt like overcooked spaghetti. I was a quarter mile from a mall so I walked there between shifts and then of course I walked around the mall to return to the cross walk to walk kids back and forth.

On the plus side I have a whistle which I blow. I get a real kick out of that. And they tell me that walking is good for you.

I downloaded an audio book from the library to my phone and listened to it while I walked, not while working ofcourse. It was called: Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet who is a savant. I enjoyed it, though I probably looked a bit crazy listening to it, smiling and laughing wandering around the mall.

I also downloaded A Tale for the Time Being to my tablet to listen to while sewing. I would highly recommend this book. It is beautiful and often heart wrenching and read by the author, Ruth Ozeki. I won't say much about it but it rang so true I could feel a resonance in my chest. It is a book that, while painful in parts and viciously funny, knit some of the open wounds I have in my heart and mind, at least for the time being...

Metaphors, sheesh

I am at a cross roads in the my life so what do I do? I get a job as a crossing guard. WHAT?!!!

Thursday I go to get on the payroll with the Metro Police, get my I.D. badge etc. I am confident and have the a.o.k. from the neurologist. No migraine in three months (a first in my lifetime). I really need the income too and the city needs crossing guards. It will mean covering a whole division but it is in my daughters area so if I need a pit stop I won't have to come all the way home. It's a better area than where I live. I live in the place where there is largely inadequate transit, and really long distances between libraries, coffee shops and places where one can hang out between shifts.

I am actually looking forward to it. I can bring my hand sewing with me in between morning, noon and afterschool shifts. I am doing a lot of applique stuff right now. I hope to sell it all on etsy soon as I have enough cash to chance getting an account there without knowing if it will pay for itself, never mind grant me an income...

stuff about my brainCollapse )
I started reading hard copy or frankly books for at least twenty minutes a night just before bed. I can't remember where I read this, probably off a blinking screen (it blinks so fast you can perceive it but it is blinking) that to sleep well you need at least a half hour reading from a stationary surface that does not emit it's own illumination.

I was also told that with a concussion I should avoid looking at computer screens, and smart phones, tablets etc. all together.

As cash poor as I was, once I even bought a Samsung e-reader; it broke after a year and would have cost the same to repair as to buy a new one, so much for cutting down on environmental waste. So I decided that even if I did end up with overdue fines I would start using the library again. Now I can even renew my subscriptions AND order books to pick up at my local library and get this: I HAVE DOWN-LOADED AUDIO BOOKS to my tablet and even a book, The Goldfinch, to my smart phone, really great for a long bus ride to cottage country, although I found the book lyrical but too painfully long.

I love the library. I love Toronto libraries. Yes I got kicked out of one with a friend for laughing too much in one of the tubes for private study with a friend this winter, but we both had events kick us really hard recently and it was one of those laughs that would please The Ghost of Christmas Past, you know, the kind: You could as easily be crying except that life is holding you to this side of the equation and so you laugh. It is an acknowledgement of the fickleness of life that can not be tamed by words or thoughtfulness, that sort of laughter.

So I would decree if I were the Supreme Decree-er that all persons should READ FROM A BOOK FOR TWENTY MINUTES A NIGHT BEFORE SLEEPING.

I will take the drug for another month.

It seems this dizziness is a side effect of the medication that I am trying for the migraine.

I have read that they will dissipate after "several" weeks. My next appointment with the neurologist is in August.

The tai chi continues to help.



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