Chop Chop

What a day yesterday was. Filled with every emotion and the physical reactions to go with. And it ended with a dream that summed everything up. I’m going to start from the beginning….

One of our retirement dreams was to become snowbirds. This is our third year and covid has thrown a major monkey wrench into the mix. We drive. With both cars. And a pile of stuff. And our dog Molly. But the driving borders are closed; which in our mind makes zero sense since a plane load of people seems far more risky than a private vehicle. Anyway, a month or so ago a friend shared an article about a helicopter pilot who was determined to get his parents and their dog across the border. The article explained how he arranged their car to be shipped to Buffalo NY and he flew them on his chopper to Buffalo airport where they met their car and drove off to Florida. We were working on a bunch of schemes but this one seemed foolproof. So Rudy made the arrangements.

Our winter home rental (yes, we will be living in a private home … not a commune with hundreds of others!!) starts on Dec 15 so we wanted to leave a few days beforehand to allow for the drive. We take a bit longer so we don’t have to drive at night and accommodate Molly’s walking schedule. As it happens, the chopper people were booking up fast. All of November and the first week of December was booked solid. We managed a spot for December 10. Yesterday. Unfortunately the chopper has a strict weight restriction and we were over the limit (Molly is 55.5 kg) so Rudy reserved two flights on Dec 10 (they have a bigger chopper but it was not available).

We breathed a small sigh of relief knowing we were booked. But the stress around travelling during these times is a bit daunting. Even though we know people who have travelled by air internationally without incident it’s still a concern with all the hype. So much that most of our snowbird friends are staying put in the snow. We rent our home out to skiers and they were panicking that we couldn’t leave. So many folks are staying home there’s very few winter chalet rentals available. We have the same family as last year. They were contacting the rental agency weekly to see if we were changing our minds. They even went so far as to offer to drive our car and Molly across (the husband is American) and we could fly to meet them. The hoops were aplenty.

A new development: Rudy’s golf partner (who’s brother lives in Alabama) was turned away from the land border when he attempted to cross by car. So he would chopper with Rudy and ship his car too. The more the merrier.

So we had a month to get organized. Sort. Pack. Leave. It sounds easy enough. We’ve done it a few times and each time we do we marvel at how much s**t we have. Seriously. The stuff is crazy. But there’s also the other tidbits: wrapping and getting pjs to my folks (I ordered pjs for the family so we could take a cute photo … everyone can deliver on time except Canada Post! But that’s another story), parcel for Rudy’s daughter, small gift for our neighbour, gift for friends in Alabama who we are visiting en route (another story), vaccination for Molly (hers expire while we are away), car license stickers (also expire while we are away), mail hold … the list is literally huge.

I made a bunch of medical appointments for my dad for Dec 9 so he was up to date on everything before we left. All he wants to do when we visit is play cards and gab so we have to work the schedule perfectly in order to tick all the boxes.

A week before leaving we get the cars tuned up and checked out. We organize our documents. We pare down our food supplies. Arrange the cleaners to do a full sanitization for the winter renters. Rudy organizes the finances. It’s starting to come together.

Dec 8. We are in full on packing mode. The personal things we are leaving at home get locked into two closets which are off limits to the renters. When we get back in the spring it’s going to be scene from a cartoon when I open the closet… bam! Avalanche of pillows and towels.

Dec 9. It’s happening. Rudy loads the cars (and our bikes on his car) while I pack the remnants and get our travelling provisions in order: coffee to go, waters, granola bars. Plus documentation (there’s tons to export a vehicle) and travel ID. All this before 8 am since we have to be in Stratford by 10:30 for my dads first appointment and Molly also needs a walk (and poop). As we drive away from our house it sinks in that we won’t be back for some time. I will miss the cozy hangout and the endless waters. When we hit the Beaver Valley, the snow increases and on top of the escarpment it’s really snowy and icy. It’s a slow drive which adds to the stress. Timing is everything.

I call my dad just as we enter town so he can meet me at the back entrance. He’s waiting at the door when I pull in. I bring in only Molly’s gear and my toiletries. It’s 10:30 am so we have a few minutes to settle and review the schedule (again). New wrinkle: mom has a wicked bruise, rash, welt on her forearm. When I ask about it I get a riddle. Dad says he tried to call the doctor but they changed their number and he couldn’t understand the message with the new number. Ugh. Moving on. I leave molly with mom knowing that Rudy will arrive any minute. His drive was slowed by the bikes. Dad and I get going in our mission. First stop the pharmacy to pick up his hormones. Then the eye doctor for a full check up. Dad has mentioned his vision is “slimy” on the “Good eye” where he had cataracts removed followed by laser surgery. As it turns out he has macular degeneration. Luckily his vision is still really good so he can drive. Unfortunately his vision isn’t perfect and for an old German, perfection is key. Next stop is the urologist where he gets a biannual hormone for prostate cancer. The doctor tells us that the hormone therapy is no longer effective and the psa levels are rising. He tells us next time we need to also go to the cancer clinic for more aggressive treatment options. When we get back in the car dad wants me translate everything. I realize how imperative it is for him to have an advocate. I explain everything until he understands and suggest he not share the cancer part with mom. She’s too confused and nervous to deal with it and her reaction (countless questions and worrying out loud) will frustrate and anger dad. Dad holds my hand and through tears says thank you. I feel like my heart is going to pop out of my chest as I bravely tell him everything will be fine.

Next stop KFC for lunch. One of dad’s favourites. I’ve texted Rudy to let him know our timing and to help mom set the table. When we get back they are ready and the two Rudys are ravenous. Dads hearing aids need a tuneup and due to covid he won’t be going in the office. We just have to drop them off for a few minutes. Dad is happy to relax at home and let me do the hearing aids since the eye drops from the first appointment of the day are still activated making his vision horrible. Rudy joins me so we can tick off a few more things. Mailing Sarah’s parcel. Getting better tie downs for the bikes.

When we return back, dad is ready for cards. And mom can wash the sheets we stripped from our bed at home that morning when we left. Everyone slips happily into routine. We have a snack and continue cards until well past sundown (at 5:30 ha ha). It’s been a long and busy day so we call it quits around 9:30 pm and hit the hay.

Dec 10. We are all up early (again). Rudy takes Molly for a morning trek while I fumble around with our stuff. We have breakfast with mom and dad and then get ready to go. Rudy leaves first so I can say bye to mom. She’s confused so it’s easier on everyone; she’s not comprehending that I’m going for a few months instead of a few days. Dad wants to walk us down and Rudy’s already in his car. I let molly jump in and turn to hug my dad. He’s crying. It’s gut wrenching to see him like this. I reassure him that we will be fine. I know his biggest fear is our safety (I silently curse CNN and the other evil media for scaring the daylights out of everyone!) I hug him tightly and say I love you. As I get into my car I hold back my tears and wave. I’m so grateful for my sister and that she will be there the next day. I drive away sobbing. Ugly cry. Which makes Molly whine.

The drive to St Catharines, where the helicopter is and we drop our cars for transport, is nice. Clear roads and the odd sunny break. We arrive at the tiny airport as the choppers are loading and taking off with passengers before us. All snowbirds with pets and vehicles. We enter the terminal building which is a neat and tidy 2 storey building with a back wall of all glass. A huge expansive view of the runway (singular) and tarmac for the choppers. We sit in the waiting area where there are groupings of seats and a coffee station. I’m impressed. And more so when I use the facilities. We meet Rudy’s golf partner there and the three of us sit in our grouping of seats. There are three other groupings there in their areas with their pets. After a few minutes some of the others start to wander around and we chat exchanging destination and other information. Everyone with similar stories of wanting to go south with their pets and their cars. Molly of course is the biggest dog by a mile. And then some!

The car transport guy comes in and collects keys and paperwork. He loads the vehicles (about 8) onto his truck and leaves.

We watch others go ahead of us. There are 4 choppers in action and all are within a few minutes of each other. When our turn to leave comes we head out to the chopper where they have set up a ramp for Molly to walk up to the aircraft. No way. She sees me in the chopper and wants to get in. They remove the ramp and Rudy and the attendant lift her in. She sits in the tight seat next to me. When our pilot gets in he pets her and explains the deal. He starts the rotor and we lift off. What a feeling!! Molly is fine. I’m trying to absorb the experience and take photos. It’s a quick 20 minute flight over the Welland Canal and Niagara Falls. We touch down gently in Buffalo and wait for the customs agent. He walks to the chopper and clears us in 40 seconds. Didn’t even ask for Molly’s documents. We walk with the pilot into the small terminal building.

We are told that the vehicles will be there in 5 minutes. Wham bam. We are in the USA in one piece and hop in our cars. First stop Erie PA where we will spend the night.

We order Italian delivery to our room and enjoy a celebration drink and food. Molly is on the bed passed out from exhaustion. I call mom and dad and send the pictures to them. The relief in their voices is a healing balm.

Whew. The hard part is over. Cincinnati here we come.

Let it Blow

Most of the time lakeside living is ideal. The sound of gentle waves lapping the shore is tranquil and soothing. In fact it can be mesmerizing like looking into the flames of a fire. You’re captivated as though in a trance.

Sometimes when people come to visit we forget how much pull the water has. Guests are immediately drawn to the water and we are reminded how fortunate we are. It’s true that the water view never fails to amaze. There’s nothing more zen than a good cup of coffee while watching the sun rise over the bay. Since we are in a shallow bay near Northwinds Beach there is little motorized water activity. Except for the d-bag who got a new seadoo and likes to parade along the shore like a peacock. Would that make him a sea-cock?? A fitting handle.

However the waters can turn quickly with the wind. One minute paddlers are peacefully gliding by on glass-like water and the next thing there’s a few ripples. The bay stallion (our neighbours weather vane… I will digress in a post script) starts to swing slowly announcing a weather change. Then the water starts to churn. White caps appear and the tempest arrives. Fasten your seatbelts.

In warm weather watching a storm roll in is a natural wonder. The sky changes colour. The sounds signal a frenzy as waves roll and crash. The wind arouses the scent of precipitation. It’s a sensory overload if you dare to face it.

However, December 1 means colder climes. Last weekend we sat outside on a calm evening enjoying quiet water, libations and music beside the outdoor fireplace. What a difference a week can make! The storm rolled in as predicted last night. Fierce bitter cold winds turned driving rain into frozen lashes that sprayed frosty flurries. The water whipped into a thundering blasting cannon against the shore. The roaring surf and wind letting us know that Mother Nature is on a Rampage. She’s the boss. Take shelter. I wonder what our homeless are doing and where they are taking shelter. Even our dog Molly is frightened by the onslaught.

Rudy braves the elements to tape down some flapping noisy deck thing. When he opens the door I realize how much noisier it actually is without the barrier of windows and doors. It’s howling and snarling like a pack of wild dogs on the hunt. I’m grateful for the cozy warmth of the family room snuggled under a heap of blankets. With the tv playing festive movies. Cue the holiday music and hot cocoa. Sigh.

When we head upstairs to bed on a stormy night the sounds are amplified (and there’s no buffering tv noise). Normally we would open the bedroom window for fresh lake breezes and meditative water melodies. But when the lake is angry and pounding it does not evoke relaxation. It is by its very nature agitated and mean.

Like the line from a famous tv series: winter is coming.

Good. Bring it. We are leaving.

Post script: when we were setting up our internet last year a wifi network popped up as “Bay Stallion” … immediately my thoughts swayed to the lowest common denominator as I assumed the name was for someone who had a Napoleon complex (sea-cock dude??) … I didn’t dwell on it too much at the time. But while at our neighbours house last summer the conversation turned to weather (Canadian predisposed condition) and he mentioned the weather vane fastened to his deck railing. It’s a galloping horse. The Bay Stallion. Apparently it’s an iron work of a famous race horse which my neighbour rescued from atop a chalet being torn down. He rescued the vane not the actual horse from the chalet in case you wondered. So my dirty thoughts were stymied. The stallion is in fact a horse. The end.

Last weeks sunrise.
Hello December.

All that Glitters

The holiday season is in full swing. Things really take on the festive vibe when the temperatures drop and we get a sugary coating of snow. And since it gets dark so early (feels like midnight at 5pm!) we are mesmerized by twinkling lights and candles. Funny how in July you would never consider curling up under cozy blankets with Christmas movies at supper time. Our internal clocks play tricks on us and we succumb to a form of hibernation.

It’s hard to (especially these days with no social activities) motivate yourself you leave the cocoon of comfort. It’s very appealing to snuggle into a comfortable position on the couch and get swept away by Hallmark on demand. However, as I marinate in candlelight and coziness, my mind wants to race with a blurring flurry of to do lists. As the ticker tape reel of chores and details whirs I suddenly stop in mid buzz: I’m not going to be with my family this Christmas for the first time in my life!

This year we are heading south before Christmas. We will be in Florida on December 24. I’m not sure how I really feel about that. Of course in the scheme of pure logic it makes perfect sense: better driving conditions, less packing and unpacking, longer rental periods, more outdoor activities sooner … there’s a lot on the positive side. The negatives are glaring. And that’s the overwhelming impact that jars me out of holiday bliss.

I remind myself that people spend holidays apart from family all the time. My brothers been doing it for years. My husband too. I think men are far more likely to make the concessions in these matters. As well, it’s just a date on the calendar (I tell myself) and we can improvise. Which we plan to do on the weekend. American Thanksgiving is the new Christmas for our small family unit.

In order to keep some traditional semblance, my sister is executing her annual cookie baking extravaganza. This includes putting up a tree and decorating, baking holiday cookies in German style and firing up the mulled wine.

So this year we are crashing that tradition and turning it into full blown Christmas dinner. And we make our exit dash to Florida on December 10. Rudy tries to inject a bit of comic relief into the emotional mix. He watches Christmas movies with his Santa hat on and every time they show (fake) snowy scenes he reminds me that the actors are really sweating. He’s convinced that all holiday movies are filmed in Celebration Florida.

When we were there before Christmas a few years ago (checking out our first winter rental as newbie snowbirds) we walked through the town of Celebration and marvelled at skating and snow in our shorts. It was exhilarating in a weird way. It occurs to me that no matter where you are, Christmasy thoughts include snow.

So for this year we will be channeling thoughts of snow and ice as we lounge poolside with our eggnog. The only icy cold in sight is the cube in our drinks. I’m making lists of holiday sights to see and do in Florida. Rudy has no idea. I can’t wait to see some of the light installations! I’m a total sucker for magical Christmas decorations. Each year we bundle up and make a “special” drink then take a drive around neighbourhoods to see the lights. We’ve been mostly Ho hum about the efforts but I have a feeling that people have more time at home this year and so putting in the time will result in Wow!

Lesson from the dog: be grateful for everyday and the people in it. Spread joy and kindness. Never miss the opportunity for a good nap.

BTW … your tag is showing

There’s lots of anxiety around these days. But along with the stress of current events is a glimmer of reality. If we are to believe all that we see and hear in media then we are doomed. But I tend to lean towards things being a bit contrived.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a truther or a dooms day prepper. However, there’s so many things I would like to question. If only there were truthful and reliable answers. Alas. I will continue to skip the “news” and most social media.

Therefore I value the connection I make with the humans in my “bubble”. That is to say we are mostly hermits if you eliminate our three times a week pickleball games and the weekly trip to Stratford. There’s one more thing to add to my gratitude in this vein: daily morning walks in the provincial park (now closed for the season) with my pal Cathie and our dogs. It’s a motley crew to say the least.

My friend Cathie is an enigma. Since we met some 30 years ago she has been an inspiration, confidant, co conspirator and, more of what we need these days, comedian. Over the years she has made me laugh to tears with her stories and just being her.

She is ultra bright and well educated. She is determined and driven. She is loving and kind. But she is also, and arguably her most endearing quality, she is content just to “be”. Today on our walk she told me how great it was to be on her summer house island. No input and interference from the real world. Just canoeing and painting (she’s an artist) and relaxing and contemplating. From my perspective she lives in the moment. She’s real.

We have interesting chats while our dogs frolic and poop. No topic is off limits. A lot of reminiscing takes place too. I remember the first time we met. We were introduced by a mutual business colleague who thought we could benefit each other. When we met for lunch (like a blind date) we talked about our families and the synergy was palpable. Like we’d known each other for ever. Then our husbands met and it was a match, too. We spent many summer vacations together on our boats; we were all novices and had many adventures on the high seas of Lake Ontario. And winter cruises on the Caribbean. To this day Cathie’s husband laughs about our shenanigans poolside as we judge other passengers and give them nicknames and develop stories about their life. We can do this for hours and giggle until we cry. Or pee.

My all time favourite Cathie story. Is her road trip to the woods with her dogs. She takes her husbands pick up truck (he’s a big guy and always drives a huge rig) – an Avalanche I think – and parks in the designated area at the park. She takes her hike and then gets in her truck to leave. When she backs out she feels like she’s hit a fence post or other enclosure. After checking the mirror she pulls out of the lot. The truck seems sluggish at first so she taps the gas. There’s a bit of resistance but in her unfamiliarity she plows on. Until she hears someone yelling and then she sees a man waving frantically behind her. She stops the truck. The man approaches and says: you’re dragging my vehicle behind you; you locked on to my bumper when you backed up.

Maybe my favourite is her doing an impression of her dad; Russell Redmond was a character!! Maybe it’s her tales from the behavioural therapy days? Or her recollections of life at Guelph University. There are too many to count.

We were gathered with a group of lady friends a few years ago and Cathie shared her experience at the mall earlier in the day. She was shopping alone and noticed that people were staring and doing a double take as she walked by. Her confidence was boosted! I must look good, she thought to herself. Then she passed a mirrored storefront and took a glance at her reflection. She realized immediately what was gathering attention: her top was on inside out and backwards. The tag was showing. Classic Cathie!

Today after our walk we hugged. I know: illegal … so sue me. As we disengaged I noticed Cathie’s top. It was on inside out and backwards. She’s blissfully unaware. And it’s so refreshing.

I hope she never changes. My beautiful friend. Thanks for the laughs.

I hear you

Seriously. I can hear. Loud and clear!

I knew I had an impairment but I didn’t realize to what extent until:

1. Rudy started to leave junk mail on the counter … but only the hearing aids junk.

2. I was startled by a biker on the trail and shouted “how about a warning!” And he turned around and shouted: I signalled! open your ears!

3. The patient registration clerk at the hospital asks me a question (as the “caregiver” for my dad) and he answers.

So I knew long before the frying pan had to hit me in the head. But I was in denial. Hearing aids are for old folks. That was my mentality until I met Stephan. He’s the deaf audiologist at Costco who performed my assessment and recommendation. That’s right. He is a graduate of Western U and he’s deaf. His service dog Brooke is my witness.

Our neighbour is going blind. He’s around 60 years old. He was born with vision … and eyesight. As an engineer, he was a professional married man. Then his eyes betrayed him. A genetic malfunction. Good bye career. Marriage. Drivers license. Independence. Hello new colourless world.

These guys are heros. I don’t doubt that they battle with “why me”. We all have those thoughts on occasion…. but they don’t (or shouldn’t) run our life. Fate is our destiny and we play the hand we are dealt. Sometimes we covet our neighbour. I think it’s a natural phenomenon that we look at the world around us and compare. Sometimes we imagine ourselves in that reality; the one we think is perfect and harmonious. All the cliches pop up here: the grass is always greener… Rose coloured glasses…

I’ve realized that my reality is perfect for me. In fact, there are several times a day that I’m reminded how lucky I am. For example:

1. I can buy hearing aids and have great hearing! I’m not deaf at all.

2. I wear contact lenses that allow me to have great vision.

3. I’m healthy.

4. I have a wonderful husband who is a partner in life.

5. My family is whole. Every night when I call my folks I am grateful.

I could create a list a mile long.

And we could discuss the list. I can hear now.

The Torso and Other Parts

What happens when you mix up a random euchre night with parental concern? Good question. I have the answer.

So my tooth is gone. Replaced by weird sensations and stitches I can tease with my tongue (until today). Trying to make me feel better my dad launches into a stranger than fiction tale about his father (another Rudi). There’s a birthday. Someone from the factory. After work a group is getting together to celebrate. My grandfather is invited and he decides to go. It’s at a local pub. The names of the establishments are hilarious (Stamm am Lamm; Oxen … as an example). In any event he goes. The celebration includes a few shots; everyone included. Apparently my grandfather is a light weight and can’t handle hard liquor. Oops.

He leaves the party early knowing he’s had his limit and then some …. on the way home he’s walking from the pub to his house. He arrives to his home later than expected and his wife questions him. Where have you been? What happened? My grandfather tries to answer. He’s blotto. My grandmother gasps: where are your teeth???? Between pub and hone his teeth are missing. My grandmother presses for facts. It is clear he’s drunk and now also clear he list his teeth while barfing on the way home.

Grandfather hits the bed. Grandmother and son (my dad) retrace the way home in search of barf containing teeth. Crazily they find the barf and the teeth. Retrieval is a success; disaster averted.

My tooth cannot be found. Ever.

So the other night … completely unrelated…. we are invited to play socially distant euchre with another couple. We know them from pickleball. We arrive with our appetizers and enjoy a pre game cocktail outside on the deck. Our hostess and her boyfriend are very social and talkative. After some benign small talk somehow the conversation turns to his (our hosts boyfriends) wardrobe. Apparently he has somewhat eclectic taste in apparel.

She has tried to sway his preferences for Hawaiian shirts and bought him a brightly coloured linen shirt. He’s definitely able to wear bright hues as his olive toned skin and full head of salt and pepper hair suit pizzazz. However he was cautioned to wash the new shirt gently and hand dry.


He bundled it with other stuff and let the Maytag go crazy. The result? A shrunken wrinkly mess. Dry cleaner to the rescue. He’s lucky to find a business who understands his plight and offers a solution. Enter the torso.

The shrunken mess of a shirt is dampened and then placed on the torso. The torso is slowly inflated to stretch the shirt to the desired size. Are you kidding me??

For the rest of the evening I giggled about the torso. What a concept. No face. No brain. No voice. Just a torso that grows to the right size and fixes the problem.

I might not need an implant tooth. Just a torso.

The Tooth Fairy

As a kid, losing a tooth is a sign of something good. Actually there’s a few good things about losing a tooth: you have the dramatic build up as the tooth wiggles and hangs at odd angles, you know your big teeth are coming in and you get a visit from the tooth fairy. I’m not sure what the going rate is, but back in the day you could get a great haul for ten cents.

As an adult losing a tooth is nothing short of traumatic. Sure, there’s ten million way worse things if you really consider the spectrum. But yesterday I couldn’t think of one worse thing.

It started on Friday. A typical beautiful summer day by all accounts. We have our regular pickleball routine as we practise for the upcoming tournament. We head home and I make pasta sauce and Italian sausage. It’s one of Rudy’s favourites (he even likened to one of his favourite Italian restaurants!!). I made the pasta sauce in a large skillet with a lid. It’s an awkward size and weight and as I was pouring the sauce onto the noodles a rogue sausage plopped out with boiling sauce and landed on my foot. I had socks on but the stunned momentary hesitation on my part caused a lovely burn with three really huge blisters. It stung like a bitch!

Later that evening we are ready to settle on the couch with wine and popcorn. We’ve started a new series “How to get away with Murder”. So far we really like it. Viola Davis is amazing. As I get things organized in the kitchen Rudy creates a ruckus by smashing a wine glass. Shards and splinters are all over the tile floor. We tidy that up and settle on the couch.

I make great popcorn with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese. It’s excellent with wine! We munch away watching the show. Bliss.

Then suddenly I bite an unpopped kernel and POW 💥 an intense burst of pain Sears through my head like an explosion. I’m stunned for a minute. I swallow. Sip wine. The liquid on my tooth is a reverberating pulse of pain. What have I done?!? I look at Rudy and seeing the look on my face he immediately knows somethings wrong. I think I’ve cracked a tooth I tell him. He groans in commiseration. Rudy’s teeth are chronically lousy. He’s all too familiar with the notion of broken teeth. I, on the other hand, am not. I have strong nearly perfect teeth.

When you have anything out of sorts in your mouth your tongue wants to linger and explore. Each time my tongue rolled over my molar it struck a nerve and sent pulsations of pain to my brain. The next morning (Saturday) while laying in bed and doing the tongue test I knew there was trouble. I couldn’t feel any cracks but the sensitivity was excruciating. I called our dentist Dr T. At first he declined the call. I realize we have new mobile numbers from Florida so he would think I’m a pranked. I wish I was. I call back. He answers in a tone that suggests he is ready to rumble. Hi Dr T, I say. Who is this? Terse reply. it’s me, Susanne. I have a new cell number. Oh, he replies. Better tone. What can I do for you? I tell him the popcorn story. He tells me he’s on vacation at his cottage but will see me in two days. Ok. That’s that.

For the next two days I chew on the left side of my mouth sparingly and take pain killers. My mind conjures up grotesque scenarios that logic casts aside. The brain ping pong between rational thoughts and crazed pain driven hell is ongoing. Each sip, bite, tongue adventure starts another round. I self medicate as much as I think reasonable.

On the third day we venture into the city. It’s been a while and I’d much rather be going to a ball game or show. Rudy drops me at Dr Ts office. He’s a one man operation with an assistant and his wife as receptionist. His office is in a converted house on the main floor and two apartments above. You used to be able to see Bloor Street from his place but there was a small lot between him and Bloor but now it’s two huge condo towers. He actually owns one unit; it was a trade off for some right of way they needed in his lot.

He gets me in his chair. He taps on a few teeth as I stutter out the scenario. He takes an ex ray; nothing apparent. He’s going to do exploratory drilling. Best case it’s a crack. Worst case it’s broken and has to be removed. I got the short straw. Clean and thorough break he announces after jabbing me umpteen times with the freezing needle. I’m too shell shocked to take it in. He tells me he’s going to start the surgery. More freezing. He and his assistant work in tandem. Suction. Water. Drill.

You’re going to hear some cracking. Don’t panic. My mind is racing. I’m having a tooth pulled. OMG. Ok he says. I’m going to stitch you up. Great. All done. You did really well he says. I want to throat punch him. He gives me a prescription and I pay his wife the $500 fee. That was some popcorn!! I might never eat popcorn again. Ever.

I get out to the car where Rudy’s waiting. He says: it can’t be good; you were in there an hour. I mumble through the freezing and gauze that they pulled the tooth. Rudy cringes and groans in sympathy. He knows the feeling. I think given the choice he would choose a hard kick in the balls over a dental procedure. Neither of us really thought that I would be losing a tooth that day. It was surreal. My tentative tongue exploration reveals a gaping hole and the pointy ends of stitches. Gross. I replace the bloody gauze and Rudy cringes again. His empathy is lovely.

Rudy asks which tooth was pulled and I tell him the very back right molar. Dr T says I can decide on an implant next year as it takes a good six moths to fully heal. Rudy tells me I won’t miss it and don’t need a replacement as he proudly shares that his gaping hole is on the top at the very back. He says no one will even know; it’s not visible. All I can think of is people we know who’s otherwise bright smiles are ruined by gaping holes. Ugh.

So there’s a week of antibiotics and shortly thereafter the stitches will dissolve or get swallowed. In the mean time, life goes on. It’s only a tooth. In this day and age it’s minor.

Bummer. I should have kept at least part of it for the tooth fairy. Worth a lot more than a dime!

Broken, but still in my head.

The Thief

I used to read articles about dementia and count my blessings that I wasn’t affected by the devastating effects on a family member. Even though my father in law developed a form of dementia, he was well into his late 90’s and it seemed like a natural progression. When my mom declared that she had mini strokes and felt like her mind was going we thought it might be wine related. Her daily consumption was steadily increasing and the lines blurred in unison. It was a slow progression into the dark deep hole of cognitive decline. Vascular dementia is evil.

Today I took my dad to an appointment at the hospital. We can’t really leave mom at home for too long on her own. She panics and does strange things. Like deciding to cook and then forgetting she started to cook and walking away from the kitchen. Oddly she’s lost her sense of smell (and no, it’s not covid) so if something burns in the kitchen she is unaware. So Rudy came with me and stayed with mom. They took Molly for a walk and then mom made Rudy breakfast. Dad and I went to his laser surgery appointment.

Luckily the appointment was quick. We missed the crowds at the hospital. Now that things are rolling again everyone is eager to get their procedures underway. We were in and out in under an hour. Miraculous. I was expecting so much more delay. After the appointment we dropped off the prescription and drove home. Mom and Rudy were hanging out and were (pleasantly?) surprised to see us. We chatted and detailed the events at the hospital.

A while later we left to run our errands. Dad and I left mom and Rudy and Molly at home again. Our first put stop was dads weekly bread pick up. He has an addiction to the local bakery walnut raisin sourdough. Then we picked up his prescription. While we drove around he said that he felt like he was forgetting our childhood memories. I felt a lump in my throat. Was he confessing to memory loss too?? Then he continued to say he was always trying to conjure up memories of ya as kids. He feels like he missed out on so much. I told him that he was the family provider and thanks to him we had a stay home mom. Best gift ever. He said it was funny that I said that; mom says the same thing.

We looked at each other and he saw something in my expression. I know he says; your mom is really confused. But there are many days when we can still talk like old times. I couldn’t look over at him again. I thought I might cry. Dementia has robbed my parents of a truly wonderful golden era. My dad has been given a great responsibility of caregiver for my mom. I think it’s a reality that he’s accepted like so many other challenges in his life. He deals in facts and logic; it is what it is. My mom is afloat between her brains deep caverns. Sometimes she’s completely lucid and others she’s in a dense fog. Her short term memory is worst. But the saddest part is her resentment of dads normal self. She’s frustrated and angry and she lets it out on dad.

Mom has sleeping problems. She can’t fall asleep and when she does she’s restless. She wakes many mornings (according to dad) and says she thinks she’s had more mini strokes in the night; her vision is worse and her brain isn’t working. It must be frightening and disturbing to feel yourself slipping away. She reverts back to her familiar routines: busy work in the kitchen or offering hospitality to everyone (more coffee? How about a sandwich? Drinks anyone?) hoping for takers. Poor Rudy often agrees to things he doesn’t really want just to give her purpose. Dad only wants to play cards. I comply with card playing since a) I enjoy it b) he enjoys it c) it’s a distraction from the mundane.

When I left today, like most times, my mom gets melancholy and sad. She asks when I’m coming back. Next Wednesday I tell her. I phone when I get home (it’s about 2 hours) dad answers. He’s glad we had a safe trip. When I call tomorrow to check in mom will ask when I’m coming back. I will tell her next Wednesday. It will be a daily routine until next Wednesday.

Dementia sucks. It’s a thief.

You Can Do this Lizzie

My uncle, dads only sibling, passed away in February 2020. He left behind his wife of over 60 years; my aunt Elizabeth. We always called her Tante Else. Tante is aunt in German. And Else (pronounced L-say) is a German short form for Elizabeth. English speakers however often pronounce it like Elsie the cow. She rolls with it and answers to all. But now that she’s alone in her marital home , which they built from scratch, she finds that she talks to herself. She calls herself Lizzie.

She told me that she’s fallen a few times and she scolds herself. Ok Lizzie! She will chide herself. Get up now! You can do this! Her life partner, before he took ill and needed her help, was her caregiver. Now she’s alone.

At least once a week she receives help from a psw to get washed and tidied. But that was a daily service she got from my uncle. Her mobility is impaired due to prior accidents (one being hit by car while walking on her country road) and she has very poor range of motion in her right arm. It makes even eating a challenge. But Lizzie pushes through.

Her grand daughter took her for a pedicure last week. Else was sporting bright red toenails and said how she enjoyed the experience. She liked getting out and talking to different people.

I asked my parents if we could include Else on our weekly visit this week. We could pick her up and visit the cemetery then go for a patio lunch. So that’s what we did. But organizing it was a bit challenging. I called my aunt and she answers the phone. But she couldn’t hear me. She asked if I was calling from Germany and told me her Heinzy had died speaking entirely in German. I tried to explain who I was but it was fruitless. I ended the call and texted my cousin. Could he please ask about a lunch date for me. He arranged the pick up date and time. When we pulled in to her place she was outside waiting. Lizzie is punctual!

She was nicely dressed in a black and white floral top matched with white slacks. With her white mane of hair and her sparkly red toes she looked dapper! I helped her into the car and the four of us drove off.

Driving with the ac on as it was a hot day made it more difficult to converse in the car. I became the conversation translator. At times all three elders were talking simultaneously and carrying on three separate conversations. It was funny and a touch sad at the same time. They all had so much to say apparently. My dad is really hilarious since he talks the loudest. The two ladies were speaking in such soft voices and he completely drowned them out. I laughed to myself.

We arrived at the cemetery and dad immediately checked the soil for dryness. Yes. He needed to water. My mom stood under a nearby tree in the shade. My aunt and I stood in front of my uncles resting place and she said: oh Heintzy; why did you leave me behind? I was supposed to go first. I put myself in her shoes and wanted to cry. Outside of family, I realized, the elders had very few friends. And none had outside of the home activities (my moms exercise classes long cancelled due to covid). They were, essentially, isolated at home. They were lonely.

After our cemetery visit which included a short walk with ladies while dad watered, we piled back into the car for a drive downtown for lunch. We enjoy the patio at Fosters; it’s a mostly shady spot with great food. Dad already had the order in mind. He and mom would split the steak frites and a salad. Caesar of course. and don’t forget the ketchup. With a beer and glass of wine. My aunt was reading the menu when the waiter appeared to take the order. Dad ordered for him and mom. My aunt was undecided. Dad tried to convince her that the steak was best. She tried to explain that her teeth needed soft foods. Dad either didn’t hear or ignored and barrelled on about the steak. I tapped his leg and shook my head. The waiter (clearly experienced in these matters) jumped in and recommended the eggs Benedict. Sold. With a ginger ale; dad protested and my aunt explained that she takes strong pain medication and can’t tolerate alcohol. My dad was not impressed but acquiesced.

The service at Fosters is great. They are friendly and get that they have to adjust accordingly when speaking to seniors through a face mask. I really appreciate their efforts and their patience. Seniors are a funny bunch in that they have tons of world and life experiences but find themselves confused and at a loss for words at times. Switching gears mid thought (or sentence) is the norm. They know what they want and need but can’t articulate. It must be the height of frustration.

Everyone cleared their plate. My mom had a piece of the steak and her piece had a small bit of gristle. She of course blamed my dad as though he cut that piece off on purpose. I chuckled as my dad missed her point; mom took a long and winding verbal road to pin the gristle in my dad. He lost his patience part way through her muddled lecture and started talking about their former acquaintance who passed away days before. We walked back to the car me helping my mom and dad helping my aunt. My mom whispers to me in German: can we take her home now? Yes, I say, we are dropping her off after a short drive around the park. My mom is happy.

We drive around the park and I marvel at how different the scene is. Instead of thousands of tourists and street vendors and art sales there’s couples and families picnicking or just relaxing on folding chairs. The weirdest part is: there’s tons of parking. The theatre (Stratford’s big tourist attraction) is closed for the season. Gasp. Not ever since the day it started in the mid 1950s has the theatre been dark for so long. It’s tragic in a way. Fodder for a play I would say!

The drop off of my aunt is complete. I help get her inside the house. It seems quiet and empty. She hugs and kisses me. Thank you for a really nice time; Lizzie is going to take a nap now. Sweet dreams.

The Neighbours: Part III

Alex’s eyes snapped open and she groped for her phone in the bedside table. Had she slept at all? She felt groggy and tried to recount the number of glasses of wine she’d had before bed. No. It wasn’t that. She’d slept fitfully as her mind blurred the days events into a jumble of bloody clothes and frantic apprentices. She groaned as she let her feet hit the floor. It was earlier than her usual alarm but she was (apparently) not getting more sleep.

She trudged to the kitchen with Toby at her heels. It was early for him too and he was confused. In a dogs mind changing the routine could mean many things. Not all of them good. Alex knew Toby was sensitive to her temperament so she bent down to scratch his soft ears. He tilted his head in appreciation. Alex quickly turned the coffee maker on and grabbed Toby’s leash. Toby was already twirling at the door in anticipation.

Walking the dog was therapeutic. Alex took the time to visualize her day at work; she found that walking through the scenarios in her head like a home movie was helpful. Of course the “movie” script could be rewritten to accommodate several outcomes so Alex was careful to detail her script to mitigate damage. Both personally and professionally. As they rounded the corner back on to her street she noticed a couple of kids gathered in a small group on the sidewalk; looked like the road hockey guys. Getting closer she could tell one of them was crying and wiping his face. Was that blood?? Concerned she approached. Two of the boys ran off but two remained; the crying kid and one other who was using a rag to stop the bleeding. It was a gusher nosebleed and it was wasn’t a rag it was a T-shirt.

Alex stood next to the bleeding kid and asked if she could call his parents. Shoulders heaving and still sobbing he shook his head no. The other kid jumped in and confessed that if the parents knew they’d be mad. Mad? Alex thought to herself. What’s your name? The supporting friend says: I’m Nathan and that’s Quinn. Quinn was clutching the tshirt and looking to see if he was still bleeding. Alex offered to take them home but they declined. They’d be ok they assured her the bleeding only lasted so long. It happens a lot. Alex wanted to linger and do more but her time was now running short even though she had an early start. Reluctantly she carried on to her house a few doors away.

When she drove off a short while later, after completing the rest of her morning routine, the kids were gone. All that remained where they were was a crumpled bloody tshirt. Her mind immediately drew the connection between the shirt she found the day before and the incident that played out before her earlier. Alex felt there was definitely something related. But she’d have to wait until later to process her thoughts. Her immediate attention was on her office and the day that lay ahead.

She thought she had formulated a decent plan in her head. Firstly she would gather her assistant and run through the complaint. Her assistant would reference the company employee manual sections that applied as well as the employment standards laws. While laws and protocols weren’t always applicable they would certainly provide a framework. Meanwhile she would meet with Luke first and then Carrie. Getting full disclosure and a statement from both would set the tone of what would come next. In her experience there were two common outcomes: complete denial or admission of guilt. Getting to the truth however was often a winding road. Clearly her day would be chewed up by this so she hoped no other catastrophes were on the horizon. In any event, if Carrie was at fault (or that’s where things were leaning) she’d have to recuse herself due to conflict as her opinions and decisions could be construed as biased. Friends and colleagues at work was not always a good thing.

The office was a buzz and she could sense a bit of a tense vibe as she walked through the reception area. The office layout was typical: reception at the front, flanked by board rooms and small meeting rooms (think tanks), bullpen (myriad of cubicles and work stations) in the middle and the perimeter made up of executive offices including hers. There was another section for lunch room and bathrooms. But most people ate at their desk or ventured to the building lobby where a coffee shop did a brisk business. Making her way to her office Alex noticed a few people not making eye contact when they said good morning. Groan. The office grapevine/rumour mill was clearly in full force. Alex knew from experience that it was inevitable that the cat was out of the bag. So much for confidentiality.

Her assistant was waiting at her cubicle and when she saw Alex she popped up and they met at Alex’s office door. The look on her face was telltale. Alex has a sinking feeling that things were not going to be routine at all. Her script would soon be out the window she feared. It wasn’t even 9 am and it was going to be a long day.

Alex was adamant that any verbal discussions about staff between herself and others was conducted behind closed doors. Her assistant waited for Alex to unlock her door and followed her inside. Other than good morning no other words were spoken. Until the door closed behind them.

As soon as door closed, Alex’s assistant says: you better sit. Alex’s mind is racing with vignettes if possible scenarios. But nothing prepared her for the reality as her assistant handed her a tablet with a You Tube video cued up. Alex tapped the play icon and a grainy image appeared. It was apparent that a slight film or coating was prohibiting a clear visual. Nonetheless what was playing out was obvious. It was a hotel room and it was a sex tape. Carrie and Luke were the stars of the show. This changed Alex’s entire world.

The “show” lasted about 15 minutes before it was abruptly cut off. But there was no mistaking that Carrie and Luke had engaged in an intimate relationship. Questions started to formulate as Alex’s brain shifted into hyper overdrive. She looked at her assistant who added another bombshell to the mix: Carrie had resigned from the firm and Luke was pressing criminal charges.

In 24 hours Alex’s world was turned upside down. She had to reach Carrie. As a friend.