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Posts Tagged ‘life’

After such a big absence, it probably isn’t a surprise that I was considering taking a bloggy hiatus. I’ve just been feeling overwhelmed with work and life and getting ready for Israel and all. But I kind of missed my ramblings here and am back. For now. We’ll see.

I’ve been trying to write more about my experiences in the hospital which, I have to confess, remain very much with me. It is hard to believe, in a way, that it was really only 2 months of my life, over a year ago. The loss of control and, well, everything else in my life, sticks with me and flashes into my head at the oddest times. Memories of helplessness are still strong. The writing part isn’t going so well, though. I have lots else to do and I’m a huge procrastinator.

I read a review of Wayson Choy’s Still Here, which is a memoir of his time in the ICU after a near fatal asthma attack, after which he was heavily sedated – but not quite at a coma – for a couple of weeks, and promptly bought it. It is a bizarre, bizarre experience to read about someone else’s experience with recovery and rehab. I discovered something new – the delusions I had in the ICU are actually called “ICU psychosis” and they are very common. I really wish a nurse or doctor had mentioned that to me. It would have made the whole experience less confusing.

In other news, we had a visitor for the weekend. When I was sick, friends took Jasper while I was in the hospital so he wouldn’t be alone all day, and they all developed a mutual admiration society. Jasper adores them and they still take him if we go away. They decided to get a dog and wanted one just like Jasper, only smaller. Remarkably, they got their wish:

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When he first arrived, the little guy looked much redder than Jasper, but as he got older, he lightened to exactly the same colour. They love each other. This is the first time we got to host the doggy sleep-over and were very reluctant to hand him back. He is such a great dog, and watching them play, with mad wrestling matches, is vastly entertaining. It’s often hard to tell which dog is which.

Let’s see, what else? I’m working outrageous hours, far more than I am paid for, but I actually don’t mind, most of the time. Stuff needs to get done, so I do it. And I really do like the job and the people, and how many people can say that? There’s a little guy in Boo’s class who is missing his four top teeth and has been for about 2 years now. He comes from Russia, so let’s call him Ivan. He is squishably cute. My office is just before the boy’s bathroom, and every single time Ivan goes to the bathroom, he pops into my office and says, “Boo’s mom?! Boo’s mom?! Boo’s mom!!!?” He sounds so urgent – Yes, Ivan? “Do you want me to say hi to Boo for you?” It drives Boo nuts, I know. She doesn’t find him nearly as cute as I do, but I always say yes anyway. He alone, makes the job worth it.

I also love being more in tune with what is going on in the school, particularly Asher’s class, which is just on the other side of the bathroom from my office. I see his teachers frequently, which allows me to keep up to date assignments, etc, because he sure isn’t going to tell me. Speaking of which, he went upstairs to have a bath this evening and when I came upstairs a bit later, I discovered this, only the faucet was still on. I have entitled this: ADD

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One Year

Yesterday, I was doing some work from home and  at one point called and my boss (the principal of the school). I asked her a question she couldn’t answer and told me she’d get the right person and have them call me right back. What’s your home phone number? she asked me. Here’s what I said, “Two, two, six …. um …. two, two, six …. I don’t remember my phone number.”

Six and a half years I’ve lived in this house – oh wait! We kept the number from the last place, so make that 7.5 years with the same number and I was lost. I kept wanting to use the last 4 digits from the number at the cottage and could not come up with any others. Fortunately, the person we needed wandered into the office and saved me further humiliation in front of my boss, who I do try to convince I am intelligent and with it.

I do forget a lot of stupid things – couldn’t remember whether I was 42 or 43 years old a couple of months ago, to my kids’ wild amusement. (It’s 42.) Words get lost more frequently than I remember happening before The Big Nap. And I’m running out of time on using my favourite excuse – ‘coma brain.’ People laugh when I say it, but I’m not totally kidding. I spent weeks stewing in some pretty wicked drugs and was warned that the effects could take some time to wear off. Someone, I don’t remember who, said a year. So that’s how long I decided to give it. One year, and that’s it with the coma brain.

That year is almost over. One year ago tonight was a Sunday night. My stomach was hurting and I was pretty sure I was in for a bad night. I have irritable bowel syndrome that results in random nights of cramps and pain, ending in raging diarrhea. It had been happening more frequently. Still, I had a ‘Girl’s Night Out’ scheduled with friends, and I was determined to have a good time. We do pot luck and the food was great, thankfully, as it was to be the last food to pass through my lips for 19 days.

After I got home, the pain hit with the suddenness of a shot, a stab in the belly that dropped me to the floor. My standard method of dealing with belly pain is a hot bath, and so I dragged myself up and into the tub, into water as hot as possible. It didn’t help. For the first time ever, I could not get on top of the pain. I’ve had two children without any pain meds at all (and one where they only half worked) and I can clearly remember that pain. I have a physical memory of where and how it hurt. This pain, however, except that I remember thinking that it was the most severe I’d ever experienced, I can remember nothing else about.

Some time in the middle of the night, still in the tub, I asked J to call 911. He called a friend to come look after the kids and did just that. The ambulance attendants were horrible, cruel, heartless human beings, but I don’t feel like going into more detail than that because it still upsets me, one year later. At least they took me to the hospital, where I begged the nurse in triage to knock me out. I don’t remember this, but it is on my chart, “Patient making inappropriate comments. (“Knock me out.”) Of course, in retrospect, that comment was really the only reasonable response to the pain of one’s colon tearing open.

They told me I was constipated and forced me to try enemas, which were utterly ineffective except, one imagines, at squirting soapy water and fecal matter though the growing hole and into my abdominal cavity. Fainting after a couple tries put an end to that and sometime in the wee hours of the morning, a CT scan revealed the true problem. My memories of these hours are fuzzy. At one point, J left to get our kids ready for school and my mother took over. I remember moaning repeatedly, slowly and rhythmically, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts” and being aware that what I was doing must be hard on my mother, because I know that as a mother, watching your child in pain is just the worst thing, but still being unable to stop.

It was all pain, just pain. The surgeon showed up and told us I had a rupture and he would have to operate, and that there was the possibility of death but he had no choice. I didn’t care. All I cared about was that I would soon be unconscious. There was no fear at all.

I listened to a radio program recently about last words, famous and otherwise. If I hadn’t survived that surgery, my last words would have been, “It’s not working! I’m still awake.” The mask delivering the drugs couldn’t fit properly around the tube up my nose and it took longer to sedate me than normal, although it must have only been a moment or two. And then I was gone, for 18 days.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to wake up, run some errands, go into work, try and find a gift for Asher’s birthday on Saturday. The laundry is piling up. I have no idea what to feed everyone for dinner. We are in the depths of planning Maya’s bat mitzvah. I am scarred, deconditioned and forget things like my own phone number. But I am alive.

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J has been away for a little over 1.5 weeks and I’ve been going it alone. Since I can barely go it with him around, it has been a bit nuts. Not as nuts as when the kids were little, but enough. I bailed one skating lesson and one fiddle lesson, which actually doesn’t seem like a lot when you write it down.

But my crowning achievement was to utterly forget about the taping of the monthly TV show I do. It was a dreadful night for it – Maya at one place and Asher at another and me having to pick them both up before rushing off to the the show – but my guest couldn’t switch and I had no other guest. I tried to get it switched a couple of different ways and failed, but I’m sure the fact that I was up in the air about the time until the last minute didn’t help.

Ironically, it was probably the calmest night we’ve had, which should have tipped me off to a problem right there.

When I realized what had happened, thanks to the confused emails the next day, I apologized to my intended guest and to the woman considering being my replacement (which I have been looking for since realizing that adding the job to already over-full life just had to shove something off the plate, and since none of the kids were volunteering to go …), who had come to observe.

The replacement-to-be graciously accepted my apology and then, to my relief and delight, agreed to take on the job anyway. The guest was a snot about it. I briefly felt guiltier, but then realized that I didn’t anymore. I still feel somewhat guilty, because forgetting people who have come out to help is a bad, bad thing. But it wasn’t intentional, and even for a healthy person, which I’m not, I’ve had a lot on my plate, plus I did grovellingly apologize, so I actually cut myself some slack.

I’m either maturing, or becoming too tired to care what people I don’t know think of me.

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On an entirely different note, I thought I was being smart tonight when I buried the leftovers for dinner at the bottom of the dog’s pile of dinner kibble. I figure that he’d have to at least eat some of the kibble to get to the good stuff. I then went upstairs and when I went back down a few moments ago to get my laptop, I discovered kibble scattered all over the floor. As far as I can tell, he must have picked it up and then spit it out on the floor until he reached the leftovers. Outsmarted by the dog …

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I starting taking more regular walks again with Jasper. We both need it. I am pathetically deconditioned.

Today, I decided I would march around the path at the dog park, as I used to a year ago. I was going to barrel along, working up a sweat and raising my heart-rate. It didn’t go as I expected. Do you ever have dreams where you are trying to run and you just can’t get your legs moving? I used to get those a lot, although ironically not since the Big Nap. Trying to stride along quickly was like that. My legs just wouldn’t go fast. It was weird and annoying. I couldn’t work up a sweat. I did get a back ache, though.

I ran into another doodle mommy. Her guy, Oscar, is about a year younger than Jasper and they had a lovely time running wide circles around us. As we walked, kinda slowly, several other people all caught up with us and there were suddenly a great pile of dogs all chasing each other around.

Caught up in the mix were two young boxers. Oscar who, like Jasper, clearly doesn’t know his own size, was chasing one the boxer pups and bowled her over. She yipped like she was being murdered, but then popped up and was right back at him. This happened a couple of times. Now, when Jasper does this, I try to call him off, but if I really only worry about it if the other dog appears to be distressed, and a dog that throws itself back into the fray is clearly just a drama queen.

Suddenly, a large man turned to my walking partner and said quite aggressively, “You need to leash your dog now.” She asked why and he said that obviously her dog was hurting his dog and so she needed to leash him. She pointed out that his dog kept going back to hers and so it seemed unlikely that she was being injured. He announced that he did not see it that way and she had to leash him. She announced that she wouldn’t, and he was welcome to leash his if he were concerned.

We walked a bit ahead (still not fast enough to break a sweat, sadly) to get Oscar away from the boxers and were continuing our talk when we heard the man say behind us, “Wow, you really are a cunt.” Isn’t that sweet?

We wheeled on him and both told him that he had gone beyond the pale of even an uncivil discussion. He said he could use any words he wanted and we said not if he wanted to be taken seriously by anyone. And so on. At one point, it occurred to me that we were in the woods, an old, fat woman and a young skinny one, in a heated argument with a large young man. Maybe not so smart. But, really, who the fuck did he think he was?

Fortunately, who he was was someone who found himself actually cowed by two women who did not let him get away with using that language, and when my friend once again suggested that if he had a problem he could leash his dogs, he said something like, “Well, maybe I just will!” as though he’d won the argument, and went off to get his dogs.

We might stand up for ourselves, but we aren’t stupid, and when we reached the parking lot, we just hung out for a while until he had gotten in his car and driven completely away, before getting in ours.

I’d forgotten how much action there is at the dog park!

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Oy

I’m tired.

It’s a lot of fun and really interesting being in the school so much but I really am tired.

One of the big problems with working, I’ve discovered, is that you are required to dress like a civilized human being. Like many journalists I know, and even some stay-at-home moms, I dress like a student – jeans, oversized shirt,15-year-old sweatshirts. I like being comfortable. It drives J a little bit crazy and for a while he waged a campaign to get me to just tuck in my shirts. He failed.

I do realize that adults do not dress this way, so I’ve been trying to find clothing that is work-appropriate and yet not miserably uncomfortable. This is made extra fun by the fact that not only am I regular old fat, but my belly bulges way out, thanks to the colostomy, the hernia and the severed stomach muscles. I have found enough to cope, fortunately.

Funny, that the thing that bothers me most about my job is the requirement to dress like a grown-up. When I think about it, that makes me pretty happy. I mean, it isn’t even a requirement to dress in business clothing – just lose the sweatshirts and jeans. And if that is the worst thing I can come up with for my job, I probably have it pretty good. Which I do. My boss(es) are great, the office is staffed by two of the nicest women you could want to deal with. I see my kids throughout the work day and even the eldest greets me. And I’m learning all the ins and outs of the school.

So, besides the wrenching exhaustion, all is good in the world of employment.

I think I’ll go take a nap.

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It was one of those perfect winter days today, where the snow fell in big, slow flakes and made everything look beautiful. There was no wind and it was mild. I took Jasper for a long walk, then got the kids and when we got home, Asher and Boo played outside for a long time with the dog. It was idyllic and fun and helped me breath properly again. Here are pictures. Lots of pictures.

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He loves to smush his whole face in the snow.

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I don’t want to go on about it, but the reason it was so nice to watch everyone romp around was that my cat, Theo, died yesterday at the age of four, very suddenly. He developed crystals in his urine, his bladder got blocked and his kidneys were damaged beyond help by the time I got him to the vet. He died in my arms shortly thereafter.

He was a marvelous cat. He was utterly-unfeline-like in his friendliness and love of everything. He purred at his vet appointments. At one, he had to take a medication that had the side effect of calming them down and when the vet walked in, he was lounging on her counter, purring happily. She said, “Wow, that stuff really mellows them out sometimes.” I told her, “He hasn’t taken it yet. This is just his personality.” Even my mother liked him, and my mother hates cats.

I miss him so much.

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When I first met J, getting to know his family was a bit overwhelming. He has a much larger family than I do, and many of them are loud and assertive. Scary. Fortunately, a lot of them are very nice people. I felt instantly comfortable with his aunt, Edna, his mother’s sister. Edna made me feel like she thought I was the most marvelous person J could have brought through the door. Her house was a warm, chaotic place and she made the best matzah balls ever.

Three years into our relationship, I decided to convert to Judaism. I made J’s parents promise not to tell Edna and didn’t phone her either, as I wanted to see the look on her face myself. I knew she was going to be delighted.

I never did get a chance to tell her. One morning at the school where she taught, Edna went to the office to ask them to call her husband, as she had a bad headache. Then she collapsed of a brain aneurysm. We got the call to drive in, as Edna was in the hospital and “it doesn’t look good.” We drove straight in, not saying much on the two-hour trip. I was still firmly convincing myself she would be fine.

She was on total life support. Her children were there, one from far away, and her sisters and their spouses. We all waited all night for the doctors to do one final test. They would take her off the breathing machine. They didn’t think she’d start breathing in her own, but if she did, there was some hope. She didn’t.

I loved Edna. We all loved Edna. I discovered at the funeral and shiva that it wasn’t just me she made feel so special, it was everyone she met. It wasn’t that she was shallow. She really cared about people and had a gift of showing it. I knew Edna for three years and she’s been dead 13 years and I still miss her, which is a pretty good example of her impact.

When J and I were expecting our first child, we came up with a boy’s name and a girl’s name, both after Edna (Maya isn’t Maya’s real name). A month later, my nephew was born and he too was named for Edna. A few months after that, J’s cousin had her second child and another baby was named for Edna.

The three cousins are very close, despite living in different cities. Not only are they close in age, but they hold pride at being Edna’s namesakes.

The fact that they don’t know Edna is weird to me, give her huge impact on this family. I was thinking about this a couple of days ago, as we reached the 13 anniversary of her death. I was thinking about how, when I grew up, the missing family member was my mother’s father. He died when I was three. I don’t remember him. I remember my mother being gone for a long time, as she spent several weeks in England during his final illness. I remember her returning with my grandmother and a big scary dog (or at least, so it seemed at the time). But nothing about him. I realize now that I don’t even know what I called him – Grandpa? Grandad?

I feel I know a lot about him, though. My mother kept many of his books, and he had a lot. I used to like to poke through them and read quite a few as I got older. My mother told me stories about him and things he used to say (one of my favourite is – and I hope I get this right – “Skinny women are for hanging clothes on and plump women are for taking clothes off.”) I have seen lots of pictures, too. My mother looks like him. He has a face that suggests a great sense of humour. I think he would have been interesting to talk to. I think I might have ended up arguing with him a lot, but I always felt they would have been respectful arguments, intellectual arguments. I think we would have understood each other.

Of course, I don’t know any of this for sure, because he’s dead. That pisses me off. It has pissed me off for a long, long time. When I was younger, going through his books, I’d feel cheated out of not being able to know this man. I had to rely on others memories because I didn’t have a single one of my own, and that really annoyed me. I missed him.

So I was thinking of Edna, and I was thinking that, as painful as it is, I wished that Maya felt the same way about Edna as I feel about my grandfather. I wanted her to have enough of a sense of the person Edna was to miss her. I’m not sure why. What has missing my grandfather gotten me? I guess it is just that my mother managed to communicate to me not only how much he meant to her, but what kind of person he was. Missing my grandfather keeps him real that much longer. I want Edna to be real to the generation of children who never met her.

Ironically, just last night, Maya and I were chatting before bed and she brought Edna up, asking what it was like when she died. Then she asked me what was so special about her, and I tried to describe her, give Maya a greater sense of who she was. At one point I paused and Maya blurted out, “Oh, it just makes me so mad that I didn’t know her! It isn’t fair!”

I told her I knew exactly how she felt, and that she was right, it isn’t fair that she didn’t know Edna. But I’m glad she feels that anger, because now I know we successfully passed on who Edna was.

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