I Live With A Toddler

I live with a toddler!

Oh joy, oh bliss.

He can be the sweetest or most obstreperous kid alive

Exasperating and at the same time totally lovable.

Contrary, cantankerous and stubborn then meek, sweetly obedient, loving and caring.

Most used words: “No”,” Why”, “I don’t want to”

Most used phrases; “I love you”; I miss you”; “Where were you?”

Most frequent activity: Sitting in ‘his’ chair, eating, sleeping,  going out for a drive, hugging me, always teasing.

His blue eyes fade when angry, anxious, fearful, hurting or lonely.

When all is well they become deep twin bluebirds of happiness

They shine that perfect Dutch Delft blue.

He chortles with glee at the simplest of pleasures,

He twinkles when he wins the battle,

He beams with love.

 

He cries in sadness and in happiness.  He is happy when I am happy and sad when I am sad.

 

But best of all he makes me laugh.

My toddler is uniquely mine

My toddler is 85 going on 5

My toddler is my husband

His eyes glisten when he speaks of love…our love!

The Meander: ‘Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.’ – Stephen Hawking.

 

Hugs

Family, friends and anyone receiving mail from me know that my usual signature is ‘Hugs’.  Sometimes it is ‘love and hugs’ or ‘lots of hugs’ but somewhere the word ‘hugs’ will appear. It was our younger son who turned me on to hugs and in whose memory my signature is delivered.  In fact, when I hear of something particularly happy or sad, or needing that little bit of extra, you not only get my hug but a ‘Damien hug’ also.  Close friends will call and tell me that they need a Damien hug when they encounter one of life’s more challenging moments.  Damien hugs are special.  He gave the best hugs.  They are happy hugs and also healing hugs.

Hugs are wonderful.  You cannot give one without getting one in return.  Talk about a win-win situation. I am so in love with giving hugs that I almost got myself in trouble because of that.  I give them freely, often and always with a smile.  When I cannot give them in person I send them in snail mail,  emails and messages. Even my voice mail ends with a suggestion to hug someone.  One unexpected and dear friend I have is a result of an email hug.

Here I was sweating over a letter asking for support for one of my community volunteer projects.  This was perhaps the tenth iteration of this most important missive.  I wanted it to be the best ask ever.  Outline the project, say why I believed this person was the most appropriate for the task, show a commonality of purpose, emphasize the positive, and predict a most favourable outcome and personal reward in helping to make the project a success. It also had to be grammatically correct, persuasive and not overly long. Phew.

I had been told that all I had to do was to put the request in writing and forward via email it to a particular address.  Once I decided on the final version,  I took a deep breath and clicked ‘send’.

Feeling good about a task accomplished and reasonably done well I decided to print the letter and put it in the relevant file. Yes, I keep hard copies.  I have no idea where that paperless society is.  Smiling complacently, I looked at the printed copy and gasped.  My wonderful painstakingly written, grammar perfect letter boasted ‘Hugs’ above my legible full signature.

After the moan, the groan and swear words in English and languages I did not know, I could only become philosophical.  I rationalized that I had aimed too high, that I would not have received a positive response in any case and so this mistake was from the philanthropic gods preparing me for  the let down.  I resigned myself and began to winnow my lists of contacts to select a second choice.  Well, I reasoned, I already have a letter that I can  edit, I would not have to start again from scratch. Faint consolation.

Surprise, surprise!  Almost one week later I received a call.

“Hello”

“May I speak with Paula de Ronde”

“This is Paula”

“Ahem, do you always close your letters of requests with hugs?”

Omigosh, here we go. Do I tell the truth? As I hesitated, I heard a laugh.

“It’s OK.  I really needed a hug that day and then came your letter and my day brightened immediately.”

A huge sigh, and in my relief, I gushed: “I wanted the letter to be perfect and was totally distraught.  I could hardly believe my eyes at what I had done. I thought this was it, a harbinger for me to prepare myself for a negative reply.”

“That’s interesting, as I thought this was an omen that I should say yes to your request.  It is yes, and by the way, you may send me hugs anytime you wish”.

We have been sharing hugs whenever and wherever we meet and our messages always end with ‘hugs’.

Among Damien’s personal effects was this laminated card.  It says: FREE HUG COUPON; Good for a minimum of one HUG; Redeemable from any cooperating HUMAN; A Hug improves anyone’s appearance; (and the small print reads) “Greet one another with a holy hug” Romans 16:16

 

The Meander:  The reverse of the card is an article entitled Hugs Called Good Medicine . The social scientist lists many benefits and says: “You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth.”   Here is a hug for you.  Now you only need 11 more. Oh heck, here are some more…

HUGS!

 

Now we are nine

It is a universal truth that we will die, but as a caregiver that reality takes on an immediacy that is incomprehensible to those who do not travel this journey.  Yet it is still shrouded in mystery.   It is a wallpaper always in the background of every new observance of slow deterioration. Yes, we will die and yes, we are caring for someone who is slowly dying.  There is a reason that Alzheimer’s disease is referred to as a ‘Slow death’.  Yet, like all of us we do not know when or how or even where.

Current statistics state that 80 percent of caregiver’s will suffer from depression. Not documented is the percentage of caregivers who die before the one with dementia.  That happens and I would hazard a guess it occurs more frequently than reported.  My Lifeline Group often voice the sentiment that they do not want to die before their spouses.  We all want to care for our loved ones until the end.  Yet we know we have no control over that.  This fear is just one of the rungs on the ladder of depression.

The fact is that Alzheimer’s disease leads to death.  We acknowledge that but when it happens it is no less traumatic than any other passing of a loved one. So we experienced a deep sadness when our Lifeline Group of five couples was reduced to nine. One in the family had died.  We mourned together.  We could not help but wonder who would be next.

When I got the news a year ago today, it hurt.  I had to mark the moment somehow so I sat and wrote:

Now we are 9                                                                                

We met by chance but perhaps not

We ten self-selected from a disparate group

United by the ever mutating forgetfulness

Of partners here but not here; changed yet unchanging

Living in two worlds; alternate realities.

We ten bonded deciding to share, to care, to laugh, to love, to live.

There is just one escape, we know it

It is the same for all – the ultimate equalizer.

We refused to speculate or predict

How could we?

Each day, learning, all effort focussed on doing, doing, doing.

Each day new, unexpected, mysterious, unknown, surprising,

Each day its own journey within the journey

Now the news – one is gone.

We contemplate the expected unexpected and wonder

We are sad for the death and sadder for the living.

We mourn the loss

We – the Ten that are now

The 9.

The Meander: It is good we do not know the future and it does no good to speculate.  One day at a time is the way we must live as each one is new, different and unique to each of us.  We carry on, we share and we continue to care for each other.  Today my heart sighs for the two who is now the one.

Gratitude art

Gratitude Art.

I cannot draw to save my life.  Even my stick figures look rather strange.   It is so bad that in high school when it was discovered that Latin was a particular challenge I was encouraged to take art as an alternative.  I was happy.  How difficult could that be? Also I liked art from a spectator’s point of view.  Three weeks into the artistic experiment I was back to Latin with a note which indicated that I cannot be as bad at Latin as I am at art.

I am glad I conquered Latin.  However, I still loved art enough to do some art appreciation courses later on.  Also, I know without a doubt that I am vital to art and artists.  My reasoning is as follows:  If everyone was an artist who would appreciate the art?  I am definitely in the art appreciation camp. I revere those who can and am first in line to show appreciation.

Fast forward many years and as a result of Alzheimer’s my art has been hung in an art gallery. I can claim to be a curated and hung artist. Will wonders never cease?

I do know my limitations but when it comes to my Bert there are no limits so off I went gallantly with him to art therapy.  It was interesting to attend as it was held in a historical home and museum.  After the usual tour and tea the project was to create a work that illustrated gratitude, or something for which we were  grateful. I decided I would help Bert with his idea and interpretation rather than show my ineptitude.  That was not to be.  I was told everyone had to produce something.

Bert did not need my help.  In no time he had drawn something that looked like a house with a figure in it.  He told our wonderful art therapist that it was me at home. He told her that meeting me was the best thing that ever happened to him.  Awhh.  That’s my Bert.

However, remember I cannot draw period, so I could not return the compliment. I went the modernist route to create a ‘thought’.  Yes!

We had paints, canvas, dowels, string, shiny buttons, sequins.  My creation was a wall hanging using mixed media.  I used a pretty crystal studded button and if you look carefully the squiggly thingie in the middle is embellished with sequins.  Yes, even I have trouble with an adequate description of this masterpiece.

So here it is followed by the ‘artist’s note’.

My Gratitude Hanger.

This represents a positive attitude and sunny disposition.  The colours are bright, happy, and sunny with sparkly embellishments to represent certain intense moments of happiness.

Friends and family have spoken of my happy outlook.  Many have told me that when they are feeling down they call me and know that they will have a brighter outlook afterwards.

Look and you will and see the tears, but they are dominated even overwhelmed by HAPPY and reach upwards to become the streamer of a kite? A bird? Wings?

It was in middle age that I finally realized that this quality so obvious to the people I meet was a wonderful gift.  Now I recognize that as a fact and I am immensely GRATEFUL!

Come on stop laughing!  It’s not that awful.  Maybe it is. When I proudly presented it together with the catalogue, which also featured my work and photographs of the exhibit to our son, he looked at it made a noise that sounded like “Huh!” and said: “Mom, you are a better writer than artist”.

OK, I’ll take that! “Huh!” Everybody is a critic. “Huh!”

The Meander: Look at my big grin and the proud stance of my Bert. Priceless!

Chinese to me or a good read.

In Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, the 2016 Giller Prize winner there is a paragraph about the Chinese dictionary explaining how words are formed and get their meanings.  It says that in Chinese there is a ‘root’ word or ‘radical’ that becomes the building block for other words. As example, a certain character means gate but it is also a building block. Place the character that is ‘sun’ or ‘light’ to shine through the gate and the new combined character becomes ‘space’.  If the character for horse is placed inside the gate, then it changes to ‘ambush’.  I paused as I looked at the drawn character and my mind immediately segued into the Trojan horse story perhaps the greatest ambush in literature.

The stream of thought did not stop there as I then remembered the great Canadian scholar Northrup Frye who taught English Literature at the University of Toronto. His classes in criticism were always full and his book The Educated Imagination was a standard text. I remembered listening to him and forgetting to take notes. He posits that literature encompasses or has its roots in the ancient myths and legends, the Bible and the hopes and dreams of all humanity.

Sitting in awe of erudition had happened before.  Professor Love, whose passion for English Literature was displayed in every class made me know I had been right in choosing to follow my own love of literature as my chosen field of study in preparation for my career in Librarianship.  When I took his class, there were another five more years yawning until I finished graduate school but with enthusiastic anticipation the light towards that end shone big, bold and bright.

Then there was Professor Allen who introduced Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities in the first class of the semester. He began the lecture by analyzing the very first paragraph.  The entire class was spellbound as he laid out the whole story, including the historical context, the social impact, the record of an entire era by just analyzing that one paragraph.  When he said: “Now next week…” we all came out of a collective trance, looked at the clock and realized that the class was over.  Two hours had sped by.  My friend Kay looked at me and in unison we exclaimed: “My God”! It was both in awe and in the fervent hope that he would not expect such erudition from us come exam time. It was the beginning of what for us could be the best of times or the worst of times.

In Thien’s novel it was the worst of times and the best of times held together by what I consider a very important character: Music.  Music was the ultimate communicator, historian, reporter and refrain.  It raged, it soared and was the glue cementing lives and generations. It was both conqueror and the vanquished yet always providing solace within the chaos.

The Meander: I knew I would enjoy reading the book.  Reading literature brings all the world to you.  It not only entertains but will send you to places of stored memories, to the past, to joy, to sorrow, to now, to the future and to think.

Perpetual Calendar

Today I updated my special occasions calendar.

You know the one,

The months and days are listed

But not a year.

You note your special events, birthdays, anniversaries.

Some call it a perpetual calendar

But it is not.

As I added six new birthdays, two new anniversaries

I also deleted ten names

They had died this year, too many.

Yes, they are gone I thought

But only from the perpetual calendar

They remain in my heart.