I Shot Donald.

I shot Donald.

Last night I had a dream that I shot Donald. I shot the Donald, as in Donald Trump. The big T himself.*

And in this dream, we were together in some sort of hotel lobby - perhaps one of his creations? I am not sure. I am sitting in a purple armchair. The cushions are stiff, unaccommodating and I do not like them. To my immediate left stands the big T: he is laughing and I watch him schmooze. Here, the room holds a good smattering of similarly whitefleshed businessmen, none of them without their standard-issue red ties. Lock, stock and barrel, I think. I am the only woman.

I am close enough to see the D’s veneer-addled teeth, and the corresponding smile slathered across his face. (And here I can’t help but be reminded of the Cheshire Cat, with a grin able to float away on its own). This Trump, he speaks loudly. Forcefully, at - with -  these Men Of Commerce. And he talks, no - yuckles - at the younger ones too, those trusting enough to stand closer by.

This Man! This man. He stands at the edge of the crowd and spits out words and accusations and laughter. And they follow along. Oh their leader! With hands that fly about in front of him! Belly-upped geese hands, I muse. A president, whitened palms open and gesturing - flapping! - at the crowd. Do they not see? I wonder. Do his people not see? For aside from speeches and the big B Bravado, his gestures are those of supplication, a plea for the others to come along, to join in, to please whoop it up.  

And then - mid-oration - this Trump-Man, still entertaining (for who knew politics could be so funny?) takes one of his gooseloose hands and decides to slap it flat onto a younger man’s shoulder directly to his left. And this, as if by weight alone, traps the poor fellow to the D, whether wanted or not. (Perhaps this is done in goodwill? Yes. Perhaps it is done in goodwill. But I see it, I see a microsecond of fear on that young man’s face before he too behaves, chuckling along with the rest of them. Because everything is so funny. Yes, because everything is so funny here).

And it continues. The dream continues: the jokes, the laughter, me watching these men’s jolly and well-filled bellies, straining at suit buttons. And here, at what I presume to be the conclusion of the ‘show’, more heavy pats on the back: smiles and smiles floating about the room, glasses raised: everyone is doing such a damn good job!

I see all of this.

(But) I have no reason to shoot. No, not really. Not then. And yet I do. I reach, and out from under my seat and I pull out a gun. I am holding a gun! I am holding a gun. And then, I do it -

I shoot. And that's when he, well all of them really, stop. They stop mid-amusement. They see me. Oh, of course they do - now that I am firing a gun. Of course. And perhaps unsurprisingly, a weapon soon appears in the Trump’s hand too  - and here the both of us - the Donald and I - we shoot at each other. I aim for his face. Once. Twice. Three times over. Perhaps more. But I remember it disintegrating, sort of folding into itself. He - our Donald - not so lucky with the draw, or I perhaps more. His bullets? They miss, disappearing past my right shoulder. Perhaps he was not such a good shot after all.

And then things get dreamy-weird again, as nightsleep sometimes does: even though I aimed at, shot and watched as his smirky face folded in on itself, he did not die. Or, to be more exact, he did die. But he came back. He must have come back. He resurrected. And me, in a shock of understanding, and as I attempt to flee his new-to-me vengeance, know now that this will always happen - men like Mr. T will reappear. Those who spew hate, who use fear to make themselves appear more powerful, who want the world to think them as BIG - this! This has happened over and over and over. And this will continue. And I knew, sitting in my hotel room of unknown origins, behind a nightstand too small to hide me that no matter how many bullets are fired, some form of who he is will always make a return. It - he - will inevitably come back and fit into human flesh once again, business suit or not.

And then I wake up.

____

This was a dream. But it wasn't, really. For even if the Trumpster is impeached, shot in the face, decides to take a lifetime trip to the golf course in the sky, he would still exist. Well, not him. But a facsimile. Because it is not really a man who is the problem, you see. Not really. For a man, as all men do, will be born and then will die. No, I see now that a single person is never truly the problem. But ideas  - and those followers of his ideas - are. And until these beliefs are dismantled, re-educated, deemed unworthy of following - until there is a heart-change in the white, male and powerful, there will be arrogant souls with flappy hands making speeches. Oh, they will stand and make fun of the less fortunate, the less able-bodied, even those who have been sexually assaulted and brave enough to speak up about it. Because such things can only be funny to those in power. Anything else would be daunting.

Here is the clincher: they, and they alone, will decide of whom to be afraid. They will dictate that those of darker colour, the ones fleeing wars, the poor, those of a different faith are the risk. They will decide. and they will find excuse to spread these ideas of hate: they will try to rule this world and think it their right. No, the men who grasp for power are not the problem. Not really. But their ideas most assuredly are. For until their erroneous beliefs - these fears - can be stopped, can be shot down and disintegrated, there will continue to be men with floating smiles, wearing red ties and declaring themselves more deserving than others.

And there will be those who follow them.


_______

*now let me be quick to clarify: in my wakeful state, I have no intention of shooting anyone; I do not condone the use of violence. Further, I am not prone to carrying a firearm. In fact, I have never held such a beast, never mind seen one close up.** I am much more a “let’s talk about this, we can come to some sort of resolution over a nice cup of tea” sort of gal. I hope anyone reading this (re: the US border patrol if I ever decide to visit the land of Red Vines after I post this) understands that my intention is never to harm. I repeat: I have no intention of harming the president.

**yes, I am terribly Canadian. In fact, as I write this, I am wearing my long johns and sipping tea while curled up in my igloo. Don’t worry - I’ve left the polar bear outside tonight. He gets a little cranky when I don’t share my Tim’s with him.





Tainted: the Virus in me

The meds have worked.* I got the phone call this morning, toothbrush still in hand.

You're undetected, she says. Really? I retort, not completely sure of how to respond to this news. Yes, she laughs. Yes. Undetected! C-L-E-A-R She mentions again, slower this time. I spit and my saliva-covered toothpaste glob makes its way down towards the bottom of our sink.

Yes! She says. Your blood looks good. We’ll repeat some tests in three months of course, just to make sure, but all signs indicate that the medication has worked. The meds have worked! Congratulations! And have yourself a good weekend!

And she hangs up.  But I am unsure of what to do now, you see. I find myself waiting, stock-still in our bathroom, a toothbrush and phone still in hand. What do I do now? A fleeting desire: I would like to stay in here, unmovable like them - our toilet, the bathtub. Even our ceramic sink. Everything fixed to the ground and solid.

But eventually I must have put my toothbrush down and wiped my face on our grey hand towel because later I will find a paste stain on it.

I am undetected.

I am undetected now but my son comes through the bathroom doorway some time later and finds me still standing; I am still here. And he hesitates. Who was that Mommy? Who was that on the phone? I turn my head and (I can see that) he is still so little and holding onto one of his Fisher Price play-people, the one with blond hair and the widest smile painted across her face. To me, she looks like she has had eyelash extensions. Silly lady. But that’s not important now. No. I shake my head. Mommy? Mommy? Are you okay? What did they say? What did they want?

Oh, I need to bend down - to say: that was just the nurse, Sweetie. To reassure. Carolyn. It was just Carolyn. From clinic. You know the place that has all its walls painted orange? Yeah, that one. She just told me that the medicine that I took this summer worked. It worked! I no longer have that virus in my blood. I am undetected. I am undetected. Isn’t that great news?

Oh. He says. Okay. And gives me a sort-of half smile, a shrug. It is a five year old response to an explanation that seems foreign even to me. Gibberishly adult words, I think now in retrospect. I am not surprised when soon after I hear him once again in his room and back at play, whisper-talking to his other play people: this is my castle I am the king and you're not invited in! I will fight you! Argh!

The girl with the false eyelashes always loses, by the way.

From here, I can hear his battle. And it is the regular noise of the house - this play of my son - that hits me out of whatever trance medical words are able to inflict. I know that I have been in the bathroom for too long. I now see that my toothbrush is back on the counter, laying next to my moisturizer and the hairspray. My razor. I blink. I can share that now.*** What a strange thought.

And I return my phone to the back pocket of my jeans. Where it belongs. And I am able to move once again.

______

Here is the information. I’ve just been told that I am undetected. But I've carried knowledge of having this virus - a ‘tainting’, if you will -  for over twenty-one years. I may have been early in in my twenties when I found out. But now, looking back, I was just a child, really.

(I am) seated on our bed, my comforter and blanket from the night before, always tangled into each other. Why didn't I think it would happen? These antivirals have a 98% success rate. They can cure almost everyone they say; even old and complicated kidney patients like me! Why didn’t I think that it would work?

It’s the dawn of a new Hep C-free era, my one specialist said, prior to my even agreeing to treatment. He was assured, I remember this. And his smile looking at me half-puzzled as if why wouldn’t I take these new meds? Take the chance? But he has the notes, the degree, the medical statistic on a sheet in front of him. And I only have the virus.

But what about me now, Mr. Doctor of Such Assurances? Yes, the medicine worked, you were right: I am undetected, C-L-E-A-R as the nurse says. CLEAR from any potential liver disease that this Thing may have decided to one day inflict upon me. But I still know. I still know what it is like to walk around with it. I know what it is like to live feeling tainted. Contaminated. Othered. How do I get rid of that, my dear Sir?

And then, a mere second later, elation: but I no longer have Hep c. I no longer have Hep c!

It is in this mess that it then occurs to me: who am I without this? Who am I without such a virus? Without those black-lettered HEP C labels affixed to the outside on each of my medical binders? Will those be removed now? And who will do it? Will the underlying stickiness remain once the labels are gone?

And will the lab tech now take my blood without first choosing the heaviest latex gloves to do it?

_______

Later. That afternoon, as is my habit, I shower in basement bathroom. The kiddo plays outside the door and sounds happy. I take the time to stay under the water a bit longer and watch the drops on the glass door. They streak downwards. And I am not sure why but it is then that understand. I understand that yes, I am cured. Yes, I am undetected, no longer a carrier of the Hep C virus. My blood, no longer a threat. And this is good. This is good. I am thankful to have edged towards normal.

But I likewise understand that I a part of me will always feel othered. Yes, the medicine worked. I no longer carry the Hep C virus. But even the best medicine can’t easily take away years of shame.

And so, a second thought also while in the shower: I should celebrate. This is what normal people do. They celebrate things, good news and stuff like that. And at that point, I will not to go to the spa, will not to get my feet pedicured or drink any booze. No. Those are not my things. I will go to the store and I will buy myself a shirt. The one I have been wanting. It is warm and it is brilliantly yellow. Which somehow seems fitting.****


________

*for the past twelve weeks, I have been on Mayvret (or ‘Maivret’) to treat the Hep C I lovingly** received from our country’s tainted blood supply, circa 1986.

**not lovingly at all.

***while it is never a good idea to share a) razors b) toothbrushes c) bodily fluids in general, it is especially not a good idea when one is Hep C +. And while I have no desire to ever share my razor, it is freeing to know that I now could.

****one of the first signs of cirrhosis is fatigue. Another sign is skin and/or eyes turning yellow. (From bilirubin build up). Thankfully, my liver enzymes over the years bopped and jumped up and down but never got to this point.

________


This entry is dedicated to John To and all the others who did not live long enough to receive treatment. You were thought of often during these twelve weeks. May you rest in peace.


So Then, why do we Stay Alive

(Note: This was written in response to "This Post is About Suicide", dated June 10, 2018).

It only takes a morning of hanging around the hospital and its surrounding area to again wonder it.* The place has its fair share of poverty, you see. And the people, ailments. In fact, while waiting at one intersection, I count three - three! - mid-to-late aged and visibly Aboriginal men in wheelchairs, each one missing legs. Or that woman - the one over by the post- she’s often there, leaning against the side of the building. Yeah, her. She’s for hire, you know. And she is not the only one whom I have seen there this day.

And me. Me, I gave blood this morning. Twelve tubes. I came and I offered up my arm up here. Again. And all this while fasting, which I admit that I do not do well at the best of times.** Indeed, to quote the lab tech who read my requisition papers: “a dozen vials of blood is a ridiculous amount”. I agree.

Oh I agree. But we did it, she and I. Her, jabbing at a too-used vein and me, looking away and pretending that what she is doing doesn’t hurt. (It does). And while this lady is pleasant enough and I do like visiting with her, I do not like needles and I most definitely do not like fasting. I have other more pressing things to do. Breakfast to eat, for instance.

But I did it. I did what needed to be done. One more time I gave my arm; I relented. Because this -  this agreeing to do whatever needs to be done in order to continue living - well, it’s what we do.

Right?

___

I am forty-four this year. I am now forty-four and full of extra kidneys; I am scarred and I am complicated. And yet today, this morning, I have again left blood at the lab. This time, for doctors to decide if I am both sick enough and yet paradoxically healthy enough to withstand a new treatment being offered to those of us currently living with the Hep C virus. It’s another opportunity to be well, I suppose.

But I will confide in you this; I don’t actually want to do it. Not really. This treatment? It’s twelve weeks long. And can make you (well, me) ill for the duration. Perhaps even longer. Frankly, I am just not ready to be sick again. No. And of course, as with all things health-care related, there is no guarantee that that it will work. That at the end of these weeks that I will be virus-free. These drugs? They are yet another gamble.

And I am tired of gambles.

I am forty-four now, you see. I’ve been at this - attempting to extend natural life by means of medical intervention - for thirty-eight years. And I while I am grateful for the advances in technology and likewise all the doctors and specialists who have tended to my just staying alive I must acknowledge that there is a part of me that wonders when it will be time to stop.

I have wondered this before.

Bear with me. I do not have a death-wish. (If in doubt, see exhibit A, my medical file, beginning at age six. In it you will see a repeated need and then consent for medical help. This, I did, I do, in order to be the best ‘alive’ that I can be, all defunct kidneys aside). No. I have done my fair share of choosing to live, thank you very much. And for now - for now I will continue to do so.

But. But then why. Why do I do it. Why do we remain alive. For if we here are made uncomfortable by someone stopping their life - aka “committing suicide” - and in its wake perhaps so indignantly (and quite understandably) question ‘why would they do it?’, or ‘how could they?’ then shouldn’t the same scrutiny be applied to us yet living? I mean, how can we? How can we move and push and continue to persist in this life? Sometimes at any cost?****

Because I don’t know about you but some days I see men in wheelchairs and watch bandaged women sell themselves. And I - I find myself aged forty-four, tired but at the hospital giving blood. Again.

 


_________

*And here, I interject my apologies for being blunt. It is not my intent to offend. Such a question comes from a legitimate place.

**fasting while getting blood taken. Read: I was grumpy. I was not even permitted a sip of  morning tea. What kind of unholy madness is that? Lab-coated barbarians, I tell you.

****Now, I believe that life itself is intrinsically valuable, that just the fact of being alive - a sentient being - is cause enough to hold worth. In this, all human life has reason to be equally valued, regardless of ability, cognizance, or duration; the baby is on par with the aged. The poor, with the wealthy. I think you get my point.

There is something fragile and mysterious and wonderful about being alive; about being able to BE, to take up space - to make an impact - on this earth.

But here’s the conundrum. I am saying this as someone who exists. I have no direct experience of being dead, or of the afterlife for that matter (I presume that there is one). I am, by lack of direct understanding about anything past this life, necessarily biased towards being alive.

And so, for now, I continue to strive for this ‘aliveness’, accepting kidneys and machine-dependency and various interventions. And yes, sometimes agreeing to drug treatments that I do not particularly wish to do. I will do what needs to be done.

And here (dare say it) is also how those who group themselves into the sacrosanct, the ‘Right-to-Life’ camp can get into trouble. As people yet alive, they - we - can’t imagine not being. It’s impossible. Try it. See? Impossible. So despite praying and believing and yes, even singing about the glorious-afterlife-hallelujah-Jesus! that awaits, it seems that most just prefer to be here, and likewise keep others here, on earth, feet on the ground, alive and dirty, thank you very much.

It's similar to how the healthy can't imagine - truly - what it is to be sick. All the time. And out of that, where those who must accept medical intervention over and over might desire to at least have the power to end life if it should come to that.

___________

Might I go further? I think that on judgment day (or whatever happens) we - yes, us messy Jesus-mongers - will have to stand before an Almighty Being and explain why some of those amongst us chose to idolize LIFE itself rather than focusing on what He asked of us: feed the poor, take care of the widow, tend to the sick and those in prison. I don’t know about you, but I hope we’ve come up with a good excuse by that time. 

Because I can’t help but wonder if God sometimes calls us to stop. And  - perhaps - that he is less afraid of this than we are.

____

(Post-note: Please don’t get me wrong. If you are struggling to live right now, I implore you to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on, in any way possible. Even if it’s a little each day. This is not a post advocating ending one’s life. Not at all. It is, for me as someone who suffers with chronic disease and all its ongoing and rather tiresome effects - flipping over of the when to end life “question”). 

To add: I personally have yet to sense this God, my Creator, give assurance that it is time for me to be done. I understand however, that one day he will, and I, knowing his voice, will hear it: it's time to let go, now. It's time to be done, little one. And on that day, and on that day I must admit that there is a part of me that will rejoice, for I will be done. The struggle will be over. The threat of ever needing dialysis again? Over. The need for any more transplants? Surgeries? Living in a body that doesn’t work? This tiresome loneliness of just being? Done. Done. All done! I will move on. Thank God Almighty I will move on. On to bigger and better kidneys. Ones that work. Thank the Lord of All Body Bits, ones that work. And trust me, on that day I will be up there peeing everywhere, all over those heaven blue-skied clouds. Everywhere. 

I'd watch out for pee puddles, if I were you.

 

 

 

You Should be Angry About This.

 

Oh dear. Okay - hear me out. I don’t know how to write this. I don’t even if I want to write this. No, I don’t want to have to write this. Not again. It’s much safer to speak of other things, Small things. The sort of Sunday afternoon, chit-chat over dainties, smile smile and drink your church coffee things. Yes, that is much easier.

But I can’t.*

I can’t do it. I won’t; I don’t even like church coffee. And to me, fellowship halls always smell funny.

No. I won’t stay quiet because we know kids have been forcibly separated from their parents. And now we know some, some of these kids were discreetly sent to a detention centre - without their parent’s knowledge - out in Harlem, NYC. Leaving even the mayor of NYC himself desperate, asking the T administration for more information about these kids and what the plan is. If there is one.

(Here, I am not sure if I should be hoping that there is a plan or not. The current administration either having or not having a Master Plan for what they intend to do with these kids feels a tad too ominous for my liking. Too reminiscent of another time in history. But I do know this: may all heaven above help me if this was ever my child, and if someone tried to separate us. Oh. Wait. I guess that is what all the guns are for. Why ICE is armed. Ha ha. Silly me).

No, no, no. I will not be silent. I will not drink church coffee and smile. There is a time and place for that, but it is not now: they took children away, and put them in camps. The U.S Customs and Border Protection is now employing checkpoints, stopping people in their cars, to “verify place of birth and citizenship status”. Recently - oh my god - recently,  the first lady herself wore a jacket to one of these detention centres with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” printed on the back. This - this is who is in power right now.

And yes, thanks to an executive order reversing The Big T’s initial command, any immigrant families caught crossing illegally into the U.S from Mexico will now remain together, as long as it is safe. But oh dear oh dear, the T himself has also pushed for the ability to keep these families in these detention centres for an indefinite amount of time.

Yes, an indefinite amount of time.

Oh, but you’ve heard this all before. This is not new.

And here is what I am afraid of: when I talk about other things, few people try to squish me (and all these extra kidneys) under any church pew, when I speak of other things, rarely does anyone admonish me to be quiet (hou je mond kinder!), or attempt to shove those over-sized White peppermints into my mouth. The ones used during church services to “help kids behave”.

No, no one does then. So my question then is: who is profiting from the system currently being as it is?

It’s just not the time for coffee, folks. It’s not the time to be polite, subdued, chit-chatty. It’s not the time when men and women are rising to power who seemingly do not care for ‘the least of these’.**

No, I will not relent in this. The fellowship halls needs to be empty for awhile. There is work to be done. Oh, they’ll be time again to meet for the after-service dainties and admire how tall each other’s kids have grown. But not now.

Because oh my dear church. Oh my dear church, I feel a warning. I feel a warning and it does not bode well for us: 

How dare we say that we don’t have enough? How dare we say that we don’t have enough when our store houses are full and our bellies are fat?

How dare we say that we don’t have enough when families - unimaginably desperate- and yes, some of them lawbreakers***-are risking whatever they have left, even their children’s lives! to make it up to the border and then to try cross - all with hopes of Better.

These people - these humans- are coming to this land with hope of Better. The land of Better that through some sort of Cosmic lottery, of which we had no control, landed us - you and me - in it at birth?

How dare we say that we don’t have enough?

I fear for us. I fear that we have become arrogant. I fear this because only the arrogant would not imagine that they, too, could one day be displaced. That their “spot” in this world is so secure that they could never be the ones asking to be let in. That they have forgotten that the suffering of one is the suffering of all.

No, I won’t stay stuffed under this pew. There is too much work to do. There are things that need changing.

 

____

*I’ve never been terribly adept at chit-chat. And especially on Sundays. To me, Sundays are for napping.

**"the least of these" - a Biblical description. Seems like the Big and Almighty Yahweh was (and is) pretty darned concerned about the poor, those down-trodden, the widow, the oppressed. those with making due with less. Hmmmm. Wait a minute here....

***lawbreakers. Yes, some will come as lawbreakers. And that is sad. And complex. Because again, if we can move ourselves outside of Affluence****, we too, might understand more fully why some resort to crime. I am not condoning breaking the law. But I will say that sometimes - in some countries - the law itself is not just and does not protect the citizens. And it most definitely does not feed them.

****the People of Affluence = us. You, me, even the student drowning in loans. We still have more than most. We here are rich. We are rich we are rich we are rich.

Making America Great (Again).

 

I have been silent in the issue of the U.S removing immigrant children from their families.* I have been silent because I really do not know what to say.

For what’s to be said?

Of course I want to yell, scream, blast out:  THIS IS WRONG! THIS IS ABHORRENT! THIS IS LUNACY! But then I don't because well, it - the wrongness of removing children from families - it just seems obvious, doesn't it?

Taking kids from parent(s)** - even IF those parents entered a country illegally - seems like it fits quite nicely into the "do not do this", "this is a bad idea" and "this will be frowned upon" sort of category, no?

Not to be simple-minded but why are we even facing this?

What brings such things about?

Oh yes. The orange guy. The one with the flappy hair. The one who previously stated that he "grabbed pussy" and freely used the word “cunt” to describe women whom he did not like. Oh but the people elected him anyway. Oh silly you. Yes, that’s the guy. Funny that he actually is showing himself to be the deranged and entitled T.V prince that he appeared to be throughout his campaign, eh?

Ha ha! This is all so funny - to think that he ran on a "family values" platform! Ha. Him. bringing in the Christian right (white) vote on words, threats of late term abortion if he were not elected, of those poor children being scraped away from their mother’s (womb)...do you hear their cries? Oh do you hear their cries?

And don’t forget that his then opponent, Hillary Clinton was evil and even dangerous to such family values because well, if elected, she “would uphold abortion rights”.

Oh dear, oh dear. We are in quite a pickle now, aren’t we?

Because guess who is treating the already born and yes, alive (oh but brown) kids poorly now? The ones - those minors - whose parents are risking everything to make it to this “land of the free”? Oh silly us. What? You heard them screaming? The kids? When they were separated, ripped away from their parents? Grandparents? No - no no no. You must be imagining that. Oh you did hear it? For real? Well, yes, okay it’s all very sad to watch kids be pulled away from loved ones and sent to the Child Internment Camps, but  don’t worry: “they have TV's” there, you know. They have TVs there.***

I mean, who needs a primary caregiver- a mom, dad, sibling, grandparent, if TV is available?

(Having a TV worked great for me when I was sick in the hospital for long periods as a kid. Why, I'd watch my daily dose of Scooby Doo in the morning and be set to go for the day. Didn't even care if my parents came at visiting hours or not).

Oh my GOOD GOD. This is all so wrong.

And if you believe the rhetoric and lean to the right and voted for him - fine. Weird, not entirely understandable, but fine. Alright. But answer me this: what moral compass must be so askew to think that this in anyway will "help make America great again"? What in God's name can be used as justification for such a heinous crime against humanity?

Because yes, I will call it that. I will call this a crime. And in this I am intentional.

There are people on the ground, armed with guns, doing the separating. Guarding the kids. And these - these workers - are "just following orders". Befehl ist Befehl, ja?****The Americans who work at a job separating immigrant families and then after a day’s work, return home to be reunited with their own kids. A few hugs all around. A game of hide-and-seek. Perhaps eat a supper of pork chops and scalloped potatoes. Beans on the side. Haven’t we heard this before?

Haven't we heard this before?

My God help us.

Oh, I am not old enough to have experienced the second world war and what was to become known as "The Holocaust".***** But I've had my education. And I've been to the affected cities and walked on their cobblestone streets.

And I have a parent - just a young lad then - whose coastal village was bombed and flooded by the allies, to prevent the Germans from getting a foothold. Over and over. Who grew up eating eels caught from ditches along canals. And his neighbours, tulip bulbs. Because, well, that's what there is to eat when a war is going on.

And I have another parent whose family - only recently revealed- who were a part of the Resistance, who did what they could to move those endangered along. To prevent some people, some families from being forcibly separated. And this side of my family, they too suffered. And upon occasion, they hid. In their house, in the ground, a secret compartment covered by the dining room rug. Because everyone suffers when division is afoot.

I have been there. We have been there. And I thought we’d decided not to do this again.

Yes, I have been quiet on this issue, as my mind cannot quite make sense of it. And I want to scream, I do. For I can see no reason to divide families - some of them even with mentally disabled children, my God help us - the most vulnerable of people. Or now, since yesterday's “appeasement”, to keep the incoming immigrant families together, but still incarcerated for an infinite amount of time. In case you think this change is an improvement, let me just state that again: for an infinite amount of time. 

Truly, this standard of “making America great again", whatever that means, comes at too great a price. And we  - all us humans, I fear - will have to pay. 

_____

*families. US separating families: as of today (June 20), the U.S has changed the law and will no longer be removing the kids from families who enter illegally. Instead, U.S will now have the ability to hold these families in detention centres for an “indefinite length of time”.  I wish that I were making this stuff up. I’m not.

**parent(s), guardians, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents. Unless the adult can provide documentation to the contrary (that the child is under their care / a relative), the child and adult are separated. And while this makes sense - to curtail human trafficking, it also lacks understanding of the circumstances that people find themselves in prior to deciding to illegally enter any country. Because poverty and/or long term crisis often remove the ability to have “proper” documentation. But maybe the current U.S administration already knows this.

***”they have TVs” - Dept of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, press conference, June 19, 2018.

****befehl ist befehl = "an order is an order". A defense most commonly used by the accused during the 1945 - 1946 Nuremberg trials. Post-war Germany.

*****The Holocaust - a slight misnomer. Not to take away from the horrendous plight of the Jews leading up to and during WWII, but there have been numerous “holocausts” or “mass destruction of a people group” throughout past and current history. Again, may God help us. 

This Post is About Suicide.

The first thing that I remember feeling after a family member tried to commit* suicide was betrayal.

The second was confusion.

Likewise, the first man whom I knew that I could love - he too, tried suicide. But he was successful. Whatever that means. And upon hearing the news (for I had moved provinces by this time), I again felt confusion. And loss.

And this - this is the wake that is left behind by those too in pain to live any longer.

I don’t have answers. I do have depression, sometimes, in myself. And likewise in those with whom I have lived. In both family and friends. And because of this I know: it’s never easy, this trying to live as if the Great Sadness** didn’t exist. Because it does, some days. Some years.

It’s exhausting. Comparable, I believe, to having a large chunk of concrete unwillingly strapped to your back.

And while it has been years, I still miss my friend. He, thankfully  - once and awhile - shows up, in and out of my dreams.*** And then I get to say hello again.

He was a good man, delightful and quick on his feet. Oh those feet! He was one to wear pants that were too short - floods, in fact -  and then those white athletic socks peeking out from underneath. Ha! Those dang white socks. Always. This man, smarter than most, he could have been an academic, having come from such a high-achieving family. But as we now know, even accomplished families have mental health issues. So instead he worked at a group home, and taking care of a handful disabled men.

He was kind.

He was so kind.

And here I must tell you that he was also gay.**** Oh I only suspect this now, years later; I was not so aware then. And so, despite my willingness to love him and even, even! entertain my first-ever desire for matrimony - well.

Well. This shows me again and again and again with all these emotions that the only things we - I - can offer to people working so hard to just live is grace. Compassion. Perhaps my own tears.

But I never went to his funeral.*****

To those dear among us who have tried and those who have succeeded, I do not have understanding.  And this is for no other reason than I don’t understand it. I didn’t understand it when I was twelve and dealing with a sibling’s attempt. And I don’t understand it now.

As someone who has fought difficulty to live, with surgeries and decisions and years on dialysis. With all those dang transplants - I don’t get taking one’s life. I don’t. But hear me out: I do get the desire. It was not enough years ago that I - being unable to walk after a failed lymphocele surgery and a neph tube sticking out of me and a recent third oh-my-good-god-how-many-kidneys-can-they-stick-in-me transplant that just wouldn’t do its job that I too, did not want to continue. I was done.

And on one night in particular, after another round of heavy medical news that week, I recall it: me on the edge of our unmade bed, in underwear and a t-shirt, and a head of pillow-matted hair. Our then two year old son asleep in the room across the hall. Our two-year-old son, barely out of toddler hood. And God help me but with a neph tube dangling down to the floor, hospital bandages criss-crossing my abdomen and such an exhaustion - then, a deep grief, I believe - I thought of it. There, I cried out begging my Other Half to book us a flight to Switzerland,****** so that I could just stop trying to live.

Of myself, I was done. And that night, with him on the bed next to me, I wailed and weeped and pleaded. I am ashamed to admit now that I begged. But I did. It - trying to remain alive - had all just become too much.

Oh, yes, I get the desire.

I get the desire. But I don’t get the action.

And that’s okay. It’s okay for me not to get it. To not understand; to be confused about all of this;  it is not mine to have answers. Answers rarely work, anyway. They are often, in fact, dogmatic and hard and well, unsympathetic; at best, a catechism, a well-poured chunk of cement offered onto the back of the already tired.

So may you rest in peace Ms. Kate Spade. And you too, Mr. Anthony Bourdain. Rest in peace, my friend from so many years ago. Whom I loved. May you find your bearing, up there. May you (finally) find pants that fit.   

______________________



*Surely we can think of a better word to use rather than “commit” suicide, as if it were a crime. A less punitive-sounding phrase perhaps?  

**in the debate regarding what depression is, many have come to state (and clarify) that it is not “just” a sadness. I would disagree. Like any sorrow, there are varying levels to be felt, carried. And some are longer in duration, more deeply felt. So no, depression is not “just” a sadness. But it can be.

***I’m not sure how or why he shows up, but he does. Upon occasion. And there, he is a man with a smile once more.

****this is not confirmed. It’s just a suspicion, now later on, of which I wonder. For while he did struggle with mental health issues, he likewise came from a family and participated in a church community where, at the time, any admittance of being outside of the traditional heterosexual box would have meant banishment. I can’t help but wonder if this too - this threat of being pushed out - was likewise a catalyst for his seeing death as a better option than life.

*****I never went to his funeral. Why? I am not sure. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I can give reasonable excuses, such as it would’ve cost too much to fly there and back, that I had not been in touch with him for years, that at the time I was on dialysis and would’ve needed to arrange and order supplies to be delivered to the destination, for which an advance of three weeks is required. All of these are good excuses. And valid. But still, I wish that I had gone.

******Switzerland: a country where the law on euthanasia is more tolerant.

I Fell (Otherwise Known as the Long Fall).

I fell.

It could’ve been my fault, I suppose. I was, after all, wearing terribly fashionable but not at all snow-ready boots. You know, those leather kind artfully created in Spain, with a cut just-so at the ankle. Trendy, some would tsk. Trendy. Yes, I could say that it was partly my fault, falling that day, but that wouldn’t be the whole story.

You see, I needed to get to the building. I had been called - nay summoned - that morning:  there’s been a water leak. There’s been a water leak! And so my time that day -  my time that day was already thinned. So I hustled. And there I was, moving foolish and quick over one of those still ice-crusted Wolseley walkways when  I fell.

Well, dropped, really. To say it was anything other than a rather uncoordinated flop onto a snow-crusted sidewalk would be glamorizing it. (It was not glamorous). No, I dropped.

I dropped flat and round and soon found myself spread out on that pavement, at which for all to gawk. And oh! It happened all so sudden. Here now, me - and now, down here! On the ground - But only moments before, upright! Moving with a purpose! A reason. Intention!

But the back of my head now, on this cement; I hear cars and then people passing by on the other side. But further down here it is quiet. My eyes? I think my eyes - they are watery. And I blink. And I blink and know that there are trees lined up against this boulevard. Around me, giants. Giants! Ha ha! I laugh, by myself. And then also further up: I see right there, caught in between them? A blue. Indeed, this sky, painted way up over my head. It is beautiful. It is beautiful.

 

Ah, but.

But my head also hurts. The back of my head now stings and I hear a car honking close by. And then, predictably, another. And another. Their bleating reminds me of sheep; a conversation about who is right and who (incorrectly) ran that four-way stop. The one near the church. The one so many slide through. And then, as it happens, a dog joins in too, his bark at half-howl; perhaps a protest to be let out of its penned-in yard. (Be it safe or not). And I understand. This I understand.

And if I did not think it before, now I do: the sense of injustice. Indignancy, even. And so I too - I join in. How dare this sidewalk trip me? Me!  And yes, misplaced wrongness or not I do not find such a detail important at this time. No, not now. These things, such unfairness! - added onto the flop of falling itself. Well. Well! This all seems enough! I say, nay declare! Up towards those same sickenly sweet blue son-of-god heavens that moments ago seemed so beautiful: enough! Enough I say!

You are not beautiful! I declare. You are not beautiful!


 

But even it - this dog -  has given up and stopped it’s barking; it knows that it is not getting out of that yard. Not today. And of course, more traffic passes. A few more honks. There always is. There always is. So I too, stop. Of course. Of course.

And there, then, my ears pick up the distinctive thud thud thudding of my son’s too-big winter boots running back this way. He (probably) wants to check on me. I think. Thud thud thud. And when does he arrive, he folds down to my level and I see his face. His face: cheeks red and a winter-breath fog hanging around his mouth. AreyouokayMommy? One breath and this hand, his everyday gentle on my arm. More concern but slower paced this time: Are you okay Mommy? A face, worryfull. It is time to get up. I will be okay. It is time to get up.

That was a big fall heh kiddo? Yeah, he smiles and agrees but also: I thought you were dead. It is real, for him. But we laugh at this. No, not yet, my son. Not yet. I ruffle the hair on the top of his head. As I always do, and soon we are okay. This time, hand-in-hand, we slide  - skate - our way over to where we belong.

And it is here, at the front of the building, as I reach for the master key that I first see it: blood. Blood. It is confusing at first. A surprise. And soon I know: it is coming red and deep from my left finger. I realize: I must have cut it, there on the sidewalk. When I fell. It’s an expanding mark now and wet. Some of it - me - has dripped onto my pant leg; a stain, now. A stain. Dang, I will have to do more laundry once home. I lament this and cautiously, with my other hand, reach over into my coat pocket and fish for a tissue. It will have to do. But yes, I understand the circumstances. I my finger. Tightly.

Thankfully, the kiddo does not notice. Oh, perhaps he sees but is distracted. Here,

at the front door to the building, even just in the entranceway, it is swimming with residents, both the curious and bored. And a few of the lonely, I suppose. Amongst them there is also a (thank the heavens above) the usual young and amiable plumber eager to fix the problem. And, of course, the two less young and remarkably less amiable FireTech personnel, here also to deal with the fire alarm.The water leak has activated the building’s hardwired fire alarm system. Nine-one-one! Call nine-one-one! Again. It’s for their safely but - But I am here now.

I am here now and I see: the crowd before me is eager for both answers and reassurance. So with my finger wrapped I dole out what I can but  - but I am half- aware that the Kleenex on my finger is slipping, growing blood and I wonder despite these fire alarms and plumbing breaks if these folks know the real danger they are in?

What is going on? they push towards - what is happening? They want to know. They want to know. And still hear the fire alarm reminder ping ping pinging calling out from the upstairs hallway. I can’t answer them. Are we safe?

Are we safe? I sort out another tissue from my coat pocket because it is needed and there before them, feeling like Moses as I stand on this top stair, I re-wrap my finger. I re-wrap my finger and place the soiled one into my other coat pocket, which I will not use anymore today. Because it is not safe. It never is, silly people. But I only think it myself. And likewise in my head, I add coat to the list of things that must later be laundered. I sigh.

And I position this newly-wrapped finger into the air, above my heart. I point upwards. If anyone thinks it odd, they do not mention it. And then, and then, I take action: I call down both those reassurances and instructions that everyone seems to need.

And soon - placated and informed - they leave. And once everyone is dispersed, (and the kiddo off to find the Lego toy that someone promised him), that I am able to put down this arm, fold in my legs and sit down for a bit. For a bit, at least. And there, on these one-hundred and twenty year old entrance way steps, the ones worn down in the middle from each foot that has climbed them, I unwrap. I unwrap this little finger, the one protected with one yellow Kleenex and then the next. As I get further down to the wound, I am relieved that it is unmarked. Dry. I have finished. I am (no longer) bleeding. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.

 

______

Things are different when you know that you are Hep C+.

You see, I am dangerous to you. If I am bleeding, I am dangerous to you. If I have dried blood on me, I am still dangerous to you. Slightly lesser, but still. But still. For three weeks past this date (the virus can be active up to three weeks past it’s wet stage) my blood - me - be it dried or not - I will be dangerous to you.

Likewise, If I accidently use your razor or toothbrush or have an open sore in my mouth and use your drinking straw, or maybe if we even have sex (we are not going to, sorry) then - then I am dangerous to you.

I am dangerous to you. And it’s an awful way to live.

____

But the good news: I received a phone call earlier this week informing me that I have qualified on compassionate grounds to be treated for Hep C using MAVYRET, a drug not yet readily available in Manitoba. A drug treatment that usually skims the forty-thousand dollar mark. And by this news, I have to say that I am shocked, elated and scared. I think if I must make a top-three list of emotions, those would be them.

I start June 11.

Dear Church.

Dear Church.

We have a problem.                                                 

We have a problem and it seems - as a Former* - that no one wants to talk about it. O.k, correct that. No one really wants to talk about the Awkward, do they? Church or otherwise. For that I am not blaming you.

But seriously. I expect more. You Lovers-of-Christ, those “blessed with abundance”! From a church, from a ‘body of believers,’ Those who Know Christ, I expect more. I must expect more. Otherwise, the Church itself is just a social club, and an elitist one at that.

So tell me the truth, Church. Do you like the gays** or not? Do you endorse abortion? Premarital sex, polyamorous relationships? The bi-curious within your walls? The token asexual? Do you? Do you? I guess the point that I am getting at is this: do you love?

Oh Church! Oh my church.

Do you love? And if so, how?

And if not, how?

These are troublesome questions, aren’t they? And I do not mean to be troublesome. But. But they are the ones - I dare say -  that sit up on the shelf, those high and visible, sometimes dusty and - well, often out of reach. But they are there.

I used to have a Hungry Hungry Hippos game.*** My parents bought it for me, I think, when I was about eight years old. I remember this because it was the year of my first surgery. And time missed from school. And what I am not saying but perhaps ought, is that it was the first year that I lived away from my parents. Away from my pets, the yard and my brother, my playmate. It was the year that I knew loneliness.

And that Hungry Hungry Hippo game? I am sure that my parents bought it for me out of love and generosity and an attempt to make things better for me, even minutely. 

But it didn’t work. Because it was not the right game for me. Because I was a quiet child. And one already, despite not being able to articulate it then, in grief.

My parents meant well, for that I am grateful. But I never played that game. At least not the way it was intended. Instead, I took the marbles and I fed them one by one to those dang plastic hippos. I recall doing this often, unassumingly and by myself on my bedroom carpet floor. An act of love, one might say. No, I did not play the game correctly.

Oh Church, we need room for those ‘not playing the game correctly’. We need caring and not loud. We need listening. Oh, please do not get me wrong - there is a place for loud. There always is. But sometimes - sometimes these questions - those impossible or otherwise that we pull down from the upper shelf need quiet. They need quiet. And a deep 'unassumingness', if I be allowed to make up a word. 

Because at the end of each question, each perceived “issue” is a person.

We have gotten it wrong, my dear Church. We have gotten it wrong and once we wake to this - once we admit that we are forcing some of those amongst us to play a game that they do not want or even know how to play is wrong. It is wrong.

And we - oh dear Church - need forgiveness.

 

__

*a Former. someone who still believes in the function and call of the Church. But for personal reasons, has made a choice  - for now - to not attend.

**I am using the phrase “the gays” on purpose. Yes, it is offensive and yes, it is still used.

***Hungry Hungry Hippos: a plastic game involving marbles and hippos, and loved by '80's kids near and far. Brought to you by the one and only Hasbro. 

 

Colten Boushie.

Today I peed in a cup. Today I peed in a cup because that is what you do when your belly is full of kidneys and for the past two weeks one of them has intermittently put out urine of a rather unsettling colour.*

I tried to ignore it, you see. I tried. All week I flushed and flushed, and (now in retrospect I am embarrassed to mention) that each time I that I saw that my urine was not the correct colour, the unruly optimist in me soothed: tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better! Tomorrow will be better! Just you wait and see! And willingly, I believed.

Well, I didn’t but I wanted to. So I did. You see, the difference?** I wanted to be convinced. I wanted to be convinced that all would be okay. That calling clinic, loading up the kiddo, driving for an unduly amount of time, parking the car and climbing upstairs to pee in a cup were all an unnecessary effort: I didn’t need to do them! That if I just kept flushing and hoping, that all would be alright. Eventually. But, if you are reading this, you are likely of the age that can and does know differently: all will not be okay. Without tactical intervention, all will not be okay.

I will need antibiotics. That much is clear. I will need another round of antibiotics and thorough medical help. This kidney and me - we need help. Oh, without it, we may continue as is for a short while - murky pee and all - but eventually. Eventually there will be a spreading, the bacteria quickening to this grafted kidney and possibly a deep infection. Perhaps sepsis. Perhaps sepsis.***

(I do not intend to be melodramatic; this is the eventual course of untreated infection).

And so today as I drove up from the hospital’s underground parking and back into the daylight once again, I had two crossing thoughts in my mind: how I might have another infection. And that, for me, is not an easy thing to solve. I have proceeded through all oral antibiotics at this point. Whatever bug it is that is feasting in my bladder, it is going to require a novel form of treatment to resolve. If it can be.

Second, as I drive into the daylight again and as I sit at this crosswalk waiting for my fellow Winnipeggers to cross, and as I chat cheerfully to my kiddo in the back seat of our car, I think of Colten.

Colten Boushie. A man, a boy, a son a boyfriend perhaps. Someone. Someone.

He has been walking on my heart lately, I admit. He has been walking on my heart as someone wearing heavy shoes: stomp stomp stomp. And oh, my heart! I grieve because this -  this unjust treatment of certain people in our 'progressive' culture is not okay. It is not okay it is not okay it is not okay I wish to scream but instead I find myself today at the hospital, sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom, catching my urine in this teensy cup and telling the kiddo while he stands next to me fascinated by the whole procedure that no, he’s not allowed to pee in the cup for me and no he can’t help me wipe and no he definitely cannot see my private bits and -

I think. I think that if we think that we can flush away the stink of any injustice in this our Canadian culture then by God we are fooling ourselves. There is murky water in the toilet, my friends. There needs to be an inquest. There needs to be a full review of whatever (God help all involved) happened that day, that night. That the truth would stand and stand alone, without the bias of skin colour, educational standing or occupation (or lack thereof). May I add that Colten Boushie is not on trial. Let me say it again: Colten Boushie is not on trial. Colten Boushie is dead.

(And then I am deep in these thoughts - a bereavement march, I dare say - when the kiddo pipes up from the back seat. Mommy, what are you thinking about? You are being so quiet, Mommy. Can we go to Tim Horton’s for lunch today? Could we? Mommy? To which I shake (for now) these angers, griefs  puzzlements aside and look at my son in the rear view mirror. I respond, yes, my son - my loving and loved son my Cree-Metis son on whom at least a part of this country’s future rests, let’s go to Tim Horton’s today. And you can have a un-toasted plain bagel with cream cheese and I will have the same. I will have the same.

 

*when I say ‘one of them’ is it a bit misleading, as yes, they are all still there but no, only one works. Sort of.

**my Psych textbook tells me that 'cognitive dissonance is a happy place but not a particularly healthy one'. I concur.

***sepsis: most often the culprit is an original infection that we all recognize: skin infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections. We all perceive these signs that something is not well.

**I am quiet. But I will not remain so. There is something afoot in this country and it has existed unchecked for too long. I do not have much strength or bravery but I have words. And I have this:  If someone can kill a man and be upheld as 'not guilty' in the name of 'protecting his property', then we have truly become a materialistic society. And God help us all.

 



 

Our Horses Stood Still.

Tonight I’m driving to IKEA and I have the radio on, tuned to 89.3, of course. I have the radio tuned into 89.3 because I like the CBC. And the kiddo is not in the car to catch any of the intermittent news-telling that he shouldn’t be hearing. Right now they are playing a band called The Young Pixels*, from Brandon.  It’s a song called Wild Horses,** about living with the “wild horses” of depression, and mental illness in general. And I get it. I like the comparison and the song itself too, is not bad. Not bad, I think as I turn onto the Kenaston exit. Not bad.

(Oh, the traffic is thick tonight - it’s always thick on this road! Where are people going, I wonder. Snow flies sideways seemingly in anger against my windshield and I am reminded that I did not clear it properly before leaving tonight. It will have to do. It will have to do).

I peer out. The song comes again: And voices in my head / choices in my head / horses / wild horses in my head / horses watch them run away watch the run away -

I grew up next to horses, you see. The area at the time was known for two things: horses and strawberries. And while my family indulged in the strawberries and likewise the picking of such fruit,*** we only politely acknowledged that horses even existed. We are not horse-people, I remember my mom insisting at one point, as if such people were a species unto themselves.

Perhaps she didn't see but we were hedged in with horses, there. Our neighbours had them. Our other neighbours had them. In fact, if I were able to give you a tour of our (then) two-and-a-half acre yard, each corner (save one) would be marked by fences  - both wooden and electric - with those unspoken-of beasts standing beyond each one.

And they watched me grow up, those four-legged mares and stallions! In fact, it was my duty, every weekday morning throughout many years of schooling, to walk to the farthest corner of our yard. There, I would be greeted by a wooden fence. A grey one. My backpack, catapulted over. Oh, it would (inevitably) land with a thud on the other side, and I, silently and religiously pleaded with the Master of the Heavens for it not to land in any horse plop that day. And usually it didn't. Then I would climb. One, two, three tiers. I would climb up and once there, survey that horse-filled coast as only the eyes of a trespasser could. And then, swing my legs over, jump down. Immediately upon hitting that beast-trodden grassmud floor, snatch my book bag and run.

Oh I ran. I ran! I ran like a kid with stories of horses back in Holland who had kicked and pushed and broken my dad’s bones. They were to be feared! I'd listen about needing his nose bone removed - sans anesthetic - and his then broken leg in a cast for months following. My dad, with one leg shorter now, always.

(And though he told this story to us kids with a smile on his face and a chuckle over his words. We knew: horses were not to be trusted. We are not horse-people).

But here’s the thing. I ran through that field twice every weekday, for nearly five years. And nothing ever happened. Oh, the horses lifted their too-big heads and maybe looked over at me. But our horses stood still. Perhaps, if I recall a memory or two, one of them may have snorted at me. But from a distance. But from a distance. Nothing ever happened. And I yet was scared every time.

In my family, we were surrounded by these horses but also by the horses of mental (ill) health. We were hedged in, so to speak. But unlike that lovely song by the young band from Brandon, Manitoba, our horses were not wild and definitely did not run. There was and is no romanticizing; those - our - horses simply stood and stared. They just were. And are.

And I am tired of being afraid of them.****

 

*either a career-limiting name (how long can one be named ‘Young’?) or a wonderfully ironic one, and growing in irony every (age-filled) day. In that case, kudos, my fellow Manitoban friends. Well done. Well done.

**Ok, I was sure that the announcer said that the song was titled “Wild Horses”. But now, upon reflection and a good o'l fashioned google search, it doesn’t seem like that band even has a song called that. So I am mystified. Here are the possible logical conclusions: either I heard incorrectly (plausible, considering that my right ear is currently plugged and devoid of much use), or that I imagined the entire song. Also plausible.

***my first job, age thirteen. Earned $2.65 per flat of strawberries. On average, it would take about an hour to fill a flat. And while I did not earn much money that summer, I did eat a couple belly-fulls of those still sun-warmed berries.

****written in response to #BellLet’sTalk, a day focused on mental health, with a desire to end the stigma attached to it.

The Uncomfortable Truth of Needing a nap.

Once those doors open, the kiddo will surge out: and he will have no mittens. A toque barely half on. One boot mismatched - two sizes too big and that black tightening tab left undone. Again! Again. A part of a blue scarf trailing behind him. But he runs. He runs to me, and (there is) excitement. There is excitement covering that face! I see - I see it!

Mommy! Mommy! Guess what? Before me now, and I notice the small puffs of winter smoke rising from his mouth. I bend to greet him. Oh, I bend to greet him. 

Mommy, did you know Did you know that some parents don’t take naps every day? They don’t! It’s true! I learned it today in class! 

And oh - I don't know what to say. Between us a burst of things that ought to be explained they come down into mind but (seem) disorganized, storm-like and some, too big to explain. Too big to explain to a kid! And so I open my mouth I open my mouth but - I am crouched in a snow-covered parking lot, you see, with a mouth gaping like a fish and only winter breath to offer. My fingers are cold. 

But grace. Before I can say whatever ought to be said, he - my son! -- has turned and quite jauntily bounces farther into the school field. Perhaps unaffected? (He is) heading toward home, I suppose. I hope. Oh, but I am left bended. I will admit this. I am left bended, And I will stay here awhile.

(It is through these fogged up glasses that I am able to watch him move through the field - our field! - and it is only now that I notice how that too-large Star Wars backpack slaps against his legs as he runs.)*

___

*It is in this snow-and-ice-covered parking lot, that the grief will come. Oh, I will try to hide it from the other routinized gather-the-kids-after-school parents and grandparents, the onlookers. And I will not cry. But it will come. Inside, it will come. It's always at unexpected times, isn't it?  And while there is no blame in the kiddo's discovery of what a healthy ("normal") parent can do, I can’t help but rage at how much my kidney disease, and this (perhaps) ill-timed transplant has affected him. Continues to affect him, really. Yes - he is right - I do usually require a nap by the afternoon. Still. Still! But by now, growing up quickly, he no longer does. And so - him and me - we are left with a standard post-lunch routine of my lying down and his agreeing to play (sometimes) quietly by himself. And he thinks this is normal. And he thinks this is normal. This! - this -  is what I will mourn today. 

I Found out Today That I Will not be Getting Hep C Treatment.

I found out today that I will not be getting Hep C treatment. Not for now, anyway. And I have to say that my liver and I are disappointed.

I had it all planned out, you see. For the past ten years my hepatologist (a doctor who is in love with the ins and outs of livers, gallbladders, and a few good ol’ fat-digesting pancreases), has ever-so-gently put forward this idea: now that it is possible, I should think about undergoing therapy to eradicate this Hep C virus from my body.* And for those same ten years I have smiled and said thanks but no thanks. Until now. Until this past October. Because something had changed.

It is during this latest biannual meet with Dr. Hepatologist that he once again reminds me - although my liver is doing remarkably well (considering that I have carried this virus most likely since the mid-to-late 1980’s,** and have been on long-term immunosuppressants to boot) - that I might want to consider getting treatment. You’re kidney (transplant) is stable now, right? Yeah, it’s doing well, I admit. Still working away at thirty-three percent? he asks. Yeah about that, I agree. Your creatinine level is good? Yeah, it’s about 125 now. That’s not bad! No, not bad for a one-third functioning kidney, eh? We both laugh a little. He has seen me through a lot. But I know where this is leading.

So you might want to consider treatment, then.

Oh, he is never pushy about it. But he is steadily factual: the therapy is better now, he puts forward. It’s less invasive - there would be no injections, no coming into clinic every other day, no seeing me on a regular basis! And less time. And less time? I perk up. Yes, he says: it now only takes three months. Only three months! I think. Wow. That is not bad. Seeing my pause, he is prompt to offer: and the side effects are less extreme. No nausea? I question. No fainting or the possibility of resulting blood disorders? No bone aches? Muscle spasms? Rashes or bruises? No severe fevers? Diarrhea? Depression?

No, no, no and he smiles. No more Interferon.*** It has really improved, he states. It really has.

And then I get up and begin pulling on my coat. Oh, as I do we chat about my one kiddo and his many (offsprings).**** Together we chuckle: parenting is challenge, eh? Yes, yes it is. I miss sleep, I bemoan. He does too, he admits. By then I’ve done the buttons up and my wool scarf nearly twirled around my neck and I am about to leave when he looks up from my open medical binder on his desk and states, seemingly as an afterthought:  Oh, and I should mention that you meet the criteria for receiving the latest treatment. You’d most likely qualify. I would? I do? Standing there, I am dumbfounded and curious, a strange mix. I turn back: Yes. You’re female and within child-bearing years.

And even as he says it I can see that he has put two and two together and quickly we both burst out laughing. Does the government know that my kiddo is adopted? And that I am nearly forty-four? And that I have a belly full of kidneys?

No, he chuckles. But you are female, and you are between the ages of 18 - 46. And you do have one child already. That’s all that they need to know.

That’s all they need to know. I smile. I like this doctor.

---

So this is the first time that I have ever considered getting treatment. Up to this point, it has both felt like the incorrect timing and/or the process itself has presented as too invasive. But now. But now something has changed. First, technically-speaking, the therapy has improved. Additionally. nearly three-years-post-kidney-transplant-number-three, I find myself in (relatively) good health.

Second, my gut says that it is time. It feels right.

Third, and possibly the most compelling and yet likewise troublesome reason: I want an excuse to rest. I am ashamed to write that, but I do. While the current treatment options for clearing the Hep C virus are nowhere near as drastic as they once were, there still will be a need to take it easy. And honestly, three months of slacking off sounds pretty gosh darn nice right about now. Even if it does come at a cost of sixty-thousand dollars (thank you Pharmacare) and the need to pop a few pills. I’ll take it.

 

*treatment for Hep C was not always an option. And especially for those of us with organ transplants. (Which, I will just add, is slightly ironic, as many of us got our Hep C from those very same transplants. Oh, the confounding medical system in which we find ourselves!) 

**I've carried this virus since the mid to late 1980’s. Thank you blood transfusions.

***the standard treatment for Hep C formerly was a combination of Interferon and other drugs, usually Ribavirin. Both drugs are not pleasant.

****he is Catholic and has many children. I am Protestant and do not. 

*****Ok, this is not entirely true. We - my liver and I -- will still get treatment eventually. But just not this winter. Because of all my in and outs with the medical system and all those kidneys that have been dropped in me throughout the years, they say that my blood is "extra-special" and had to be sent to a federal lab to be examined. And this takes time. So treatment is (indefinitely) delayed. And while I'm ok being labeled extra special, I'd hope it'd be for things other than having bits and pieces and antibodies floating around in my blood stream. Ah, a girl can wish. 

 

It's Sunday Tomorrow.

(Editor's note: this was originally written last night. Posted today. Because parenting. And naps, you see. My nap, not the kiddo's).

It’s Sunday tomorrow. The last day of this year, a slight breather before new days get marked off the calendar once again. The 2018 calendar. The year of of our Lord, two-thousand and eighteen. Gosh. I am getting old.

I am old. I have the wrinkles, you see. I have so many wrinkles, now. These lines and droops and squiggles are running amok on this nearly forty-four year old face and I confess that I don’t know how to stop them. Despite the sunscreen and creams and meticulous pat-dry-only face washing, they just won’t obey. And I likewise admit that I no longer choose to wear makeup; I need makeup. And so in this dim-light of a concluding two-thousand-and-seventeen (the year of our Lord),  I’ve come to a conclusion. I will need a plastic surgery intervention*. Soon.

Oh, no no, not the I-look-like-I’ve been-in-a-wind-tunnel-for-the-past-twenty-five-years-cut-me-open-and-stitch-me-tight extremity. No. Rather, I’m aiming for a less noticeable kind: a needle here, a freezing there. A peel. A removing of the years. A wow you look great. Have you been on vacation recently? sort. Nothing too much - I don’t want to look fake, you see. Just well, alert. Alive. Less tired, you know?

I’ve been tired.

Yeah, yeah. I know. They told me that becoming a parent on the cusp of age forty might be difficult. And yes, I do realize that I’ve had a fair share of medical stress over the years. Okay, okay, nearly eleven years of dialysis. Then a transplant, you say? And a super-annoying-I’m-only-going-to-work-at-thirty-three-percent one at that? Ha. Yeah, that’ll take away any remaining idealistic sunbeam of youth right there. Oh, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I mean, that transplant did get me off of dialysis...and for that I am thankful but - Oh yes - wait - what? Now you're telling me that the immunosuppressant meds that I must take in order to keep this new-to-me kidney will expedite my aging process? Ha - that’s funny: kidney disease AND wrinkles to boot. Hardee har har. What a life!

Some people get all the luck, you know. Can you imagine working kidneys AND wrinkle-free skin? Or no bags under the eyes? Oh Lord! What I wouldn’t do for no more bags under these eyes. You made these eyes? You did Lord? Well, thank you - thank you very much. I mean, I used to get a lot of compliments on them. Oh, nothing to raunchy, don’t you worry about that. It's just that, well, people used to notice them. They used to notice me. And now?

And now they don’t. Not really.

I miss it, you see. Oh I hate to say this but  - I miss it. God. Oh, that is embarrassing to admit. I know it’s shallow and conceited and well, vainglorious (good word, hey Goddo?), and yes I know that there are missing kids and those starving ones and really - a whole world of disorder for you to worry about but really, I just need to talk with you about what I would like. Okay? Just for a minute, before this year closes in and another starts.

(Oh, and not that you need my advice, but maybe you can send some manna to those starving kids for the minute that I will take up your time, okay? Good idea? Good idea. Thanks for making me so smart, God). 

Alright. Here it goes. Here it goes. God of all Gods. Mighty King. Miracle worker! Here’s what I would like:

I would like wrinkle-free skin. No bags, no blemishes no sag. No more jowls, No stray and odd hairs poking from my chin. I'd like knees that worked and a hip that is happy. That's it. That what I'd like. I'd like to look awake again. Approachable. Refreshed. Young(ish).

Not to much to ask, I'd say. Here’s the clincher, though (and I think you can handle this, you know, being G-o-d and all): 

I want the lines to be gone, the sags to vanish and those darn chin hairs to miraculously disappear, but yet I want to hold all the wisdom, experience and grounding those years have likewise given. I want it all. I want these saggy eyes to be lifted, but for them to still see, really see -- and oh! to yet have compassion for those less fortunate. I want to cry, still. I want to be able to cry because things in this world are not fair. Not yet. Not yet. 

 

*just to clarify: while I may be pinning for plastic-surgery (lite), my budget has not been and will not be (able to). Unless I live on Kraft Dinner for the next twelve months. And honestly, that is not something that I am willing to do. I don’t even like Kraft Dinner. And I shudder when I feed it to my son.

But I Will Take the Space I Need.

I don’t want to write this.*

I don’t want to write this because it’s my story and truthfully, there are those who state that I ought to be comfortable with the story - my story - but I am not. I am not comfortable. And frankly, I don't think anyone should be.

I am twelve, you see.                                                                                                               I am twelve, shocked by a recent transplant and giving signs of distress. My doc tells me to be quiet, to not be a girl and to stop crying. I need to stop crying all the time. But I do. And I can’t. My mom - my poor, overwhelmed and distraught mom. She tries to help - here, have a calendar. We will put it on your wall, next to the bed. Everyday you can draw a line on it, stating your emotional state. Maybe that way you won’t cry so much?

Please don’t cry so much. You are scaring the other kids.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Later. Please don’t move, miss. There. That’s better. This ultrasound? It  won’t take a minute. He smiles. He smiles at me and already I do not feel comfortable. But what do I do? I am on this table, in a hospital gown, with my belly -- my belly! - exposed. I am on the table. There is an assistant. Phew. There is an assistant.

But she too, looks uncomfortable. What is with this guy? Why do I not like him? I need to get over myself. I need to have this ultrasound. There is an assistant.

She looks away. And him, sitting close next to me, looks at me and pulls a rubber sheath over the ultrasound wand. He rolls it open, covering the device. He looks at me. I do not feel comfortable. I am laying on a table. He tells me that it looks like a big condom, doesn’t it? He looks at me. I am uncomfortable. My belly exposed. I am forty-one.

He too, looks at me. I am at Food Fare. I have a loaf of bread in my hands. I want to make grilled cheese for supper. He looks at me up and down and now I am naked I guess. I just wanted to buy bread for supper. I wanted to make grilled cheese. I am forty-three.

 

*this has been written in response to the “me too” movement currently happening on Facebook. I have wanted to write “me too” for a few days now, but have hesitated. I have hesitated because, like many social media movements, a simple “me too”  - while perhaps effective in displaying the (gross)** magnitude of the problem - does not (for me) relay enough of the complexity of the issue. Yes, I have been assaulted. And yes, it was a one time incident many years ago. And while this does not discount its long-lasting impact, at least the actions were concrete in nature. This happened, then this and then this.

But there is another type of assault, the kind that isn’t so concrete, that defies the ability to have proof; that too easily can be moved into the realm of “oh, you’re just being oversensitive”. I am speaking of the looks, smiles, the underhand comments, the dismissing.

This is the kind of daily, ongoing "assaults" that I wish to put my "me too" towards. In the church, the hospital, while at the local grocery store, purchasing a damn loaf of bread to make my family grilled cheese sandwiches for supper.

**word chosen with intention.

Cleaning Day.

The last thing to be moved out of our house is the piano.

And it is the thought of this - this! that finally bends me; today I will cry. Today I will cry as I stand in this kitchen, empty, with only a red mop handle to hold for comfort. I will cry because I know that things end and the piano is not coming with us.

We didn't ask for her, you see. Truthfully she was barely even wanted. But we - us - are still poor at this time and yet new to this house. We needed furniture. A gift, the giver said. A gift.

And so she arrived one day. A Saturday.

She arrived big, rope-tied and under two men's sweat. Heavy, one muttered as he left our house that morning. Heavy. And true enough her keys were chipped, broken and somehow raw but yet - yet -  they still had sound. They had sound! They existed. They took up space. Those notes would fill our dining room corner for the next ten years. Those keys. They were our's.

And true enough, she would end up perched against that dining room wall, bearing witness to us: to the supper table being built and to the social worker arriving the following day. To the paperwork. To the adoption. To the loss of one adoption and the unexpected surprise of another. To the baby clothes that were folded in sight of her.

To the fights. And the silence, with food left uneaten. Oh, she saw tears of course here but also guitars and laughter. Company. A baby's rattle. The harmonica! Oh, that dang harmonica. And a four-year-old kid who sings along now. A four-year-old kid who sings along.

The piano is the last to go, you see. She is waiting for the movers. I catch a glance of her every time I clean near the corridor between the kitchen and the dining room. The last thing left. I wonder. I wonder if she is confused. I wonder if she knows.

I move away and I notice that my mop makes a rhythmic swoosh swoosh swoosh as I clean the last of the kitchen tiles.

____

*I did not feel much when the boxes were loaded with our things, when the house - our house -  was signed away and soon became empty. No, I did not cry then. Unbeknownst to me, I saved it. I saved the tears for that dang piano. If there is anything that I have found to be predictable about grief is that it is not.

My old piano. You were absolutely a gift. Thank you. May you rest well. 

I AM A Frequent Flyer.

Yes, this summer I have become a frequent flyer.* But no, I am not doing it for the attention.

About a year and a half ago, I landed at the local Emergency ward. It was the Saturday afternoon of a long weekend. It’s always a long weekend when these things happen; my (now ex) neph tube** had decided not to cooperate. I needed help.

Upon my arrival through those automatic doors, I am promptly registered, triaged,*** and sent to settle in the waiting area, directly under an over-sized (and muted) TV. There, my travel mug of tea and I, we bear witness to a young Darryl Hannah swimming around on-screen and, of course, eventually falling in love with the good ol’ Tom Hanks (who wouldn’t?). But then both the movie and my cup of tea end. And I am left alone.

And uncomfortable. During the mermaid show my land-locked and lymphatically-challenged leg (being the lowest to the ground) of course, swells. I unfold myself - pins and needles - and hobble around for a bit. Soon an elderly woman asks to lean on me while we - together - wobble into the washroom facilities, like two ill-dressed and rather drunk grannies out for a jolly Saturday afternoon stroll. Afterwards, I follow another’s lead, helping to hit and curse the room’s vending machine. It never does release her bottle of overpriced water. This one takes loonies but doesn’t give change, she says, close to me. A conspiracy, she says. I notice her eyes are wet and askew.

I return to my seat. I take a sip of tea. But the cup is empty. I am bored but still - still! -  sit there, with traces of hope that my name will be called shortly.

I end up in that waiting area for over six hours.

It is only when my leg and I, we stumble over to the info desk and insist on speaking to a nurse that I find out that I have been forgotten. Forgotten! The precise words are “you were so quiet and patient! Thank you for being so patient! But the ultrasound tech has gone home for the night, so we can’t do anything for you now....would you be able to come back tomorrow for 7:30am?”

Of course. Of course I can.****

I go to my Spot Under the Big TV and pick up the travel mug. I wave goodbye to my comrades, those yet waiting for their names to be called. I shrug my shoulders and turn to go home. I will return the following day.

Here’s the lesson: there are times to be patient and quiet and obedient and hope for the best. Then then there are the times not to be. I do not like visiting hospitals or doctor’s offices or emergency rooms. I do not like getting my blood drawn. I do not like x-rays, ultrasounds, biopsies or pokes in places I’d rather not be poked. I do not like sharing my history with someone just because they wear a white lab coat and are standing in the same room in which I am sitting. I do not like paying eight dollars to park my car underground. I do not like walking these halls and coming in contact with the chairs, the elevator buttons, the counters and whatever things and surfaces other potentially contagious people have touched. I do not like using the washrooms. I do not like the way those wet toilet paper bits are always marking the floor. Who does that? Oh, and I do not like the alarming lack of hand washing ingredients in those same washrooms. I do not like that. I do not like it.

But I do it. I do it because I have a desire to feel better. I want to feel better.

The past two months have been rough. I had a good patch (thank you March, April and May). But June 4 came with a sinus Thing of No Return that camped out with it’s own cup of tea right in these facial cavities. Hell - I think it put some posters up. And then it invited it’s friends in for a movie or two. It became an infection party in this head, let me tell you.*****

Since this fourth of June arrival, I have found myself at three separate walk-in clinics. I have frequented my GP’s office, and later, my GP’s office again. I visited the hospital for a chest x-ray. And blood work. And then blood work again. I have asked for and taken full rounds of Amoxicillin, Amoxiclav and Erythomicin (not all at once. That would kill my kidneys. Oh. Wait.). This, on top of the usual keep-the-kidney-working-and-maybe-even-the-liver-too clinic visits unrelated to this onslaught of the sinus infectionitis.******

Frankly, the irony is that I am exhausted from just trying to feel better.

 

*frequent flyer: a term given to patients who show up at hospitals, clinics, etc a lot, usually complaining of the same ailment or cluster of issues. This is not a complimentary term. And definitely no Air Miles will be given.

**neph tube: short for nephrostomy tube, a tube of the highest fashion. Seriously. A pee-hose for your kidney? What fun. Just look at it jutting out the side of your body. So fun. So sexy. You know you want one.

***best way to be quickly triaged at the ER: mention that you are a lifelong kidney patient, and that you are currently on transplant numero three. Or vomit. Both work.

****because that is what you do when you are sick and desperate to feel better. You agree.

*****as an introvert, I dislike parties at the best of times.

******my word.

Postnote: since this writing, I have had one of my immunosuppressant dosages decreased slightly. This, alongside much rest, has resulted in the sinus infectionitis finally vacating the premises. Thank you, God. Thank you drug reduction. Thank you modern science. 

Warted.

I have warts on my hand. Three, in fact. Well, one on the palm and the remaining two on my index finger, to be technical. And further to the exacting point, I am not even sure that they are warts. But these little bumps have been there for awhile and they are bothersome so I slapped on some Compound W last night, and again this morning.

My finger and hand now have the stain of white on them, a reminder of what I am doing: removing things that should not be there. To an outsider view, these three dots may appear as leftover paint splashes, ones not yet washed off. I mean, it happens: I admit to spending an inordinate amount of time here on earth smearing clean coats of colour onto various interior walls in this house. And trims and baseboards, of course. Okay, and sometimes the chairs as well, I'll admit. But I really wish that I could paint myself, you see: I want things looks better than they are. 

And while some might be fooled into thinking that these marks on my hand and finger are just flecks of left-over house improvement, I know that they are not. I know what they are. I know who I am: I am warted.

 

Recovery.

(Note: this was written last week. I confess that it - along with many other tidbits of life - got shuffled under the rug during this recent 'let's-sell-the-house!' chaos. And even thought it was a lumpy rug the house sold anyway. Thank goodness).

Today is a recovery day.* So far, the kiddo and I have used a large amount of packing tape and have fastened together at least fourteen cardboard paper towel rolls. We have therefore officially developed the world’s longest (and fastest) down-the-stairs-around-the-corner racing tunnel for his Hot Wheel cars.*** The orange one with the white flames on the side won. It always does, says the kiddo. I agree, but we play again just to be sure.

We are in our pajamas. Our teeth remain unbrushed. And I am ignoring the brown and sticky glob of porridge attached to the kiddo’s left cheek.

It is a day, you see, for putting milk chocolate chips in our oatmeal. And maybe a little extra butter. Indeed, it is one of those slow mornings at this well-loved breakfast table where we slurp tea and swim our spoons through bowls of still steaming cereal. We make circles out of the melting chocolate. Swirls, he says. Brown chocolate swirls, Mommy. Like poo.

Like poo. Of course. I half-smile. Excrement, I am learning, is the conversational lifeblood of a four-year-old. Indeed, with his mouth yet full, he begins to share about a kid from daycare who “always poops her pants mom”. To which I ask: why? Blankly, he responds, eyes wide and with a shrug of those pale young-kid shoulders: I dunno, Mom. (Pause). She just does.

Then, as easy as that and with the conversation still soft between us, he slips off his chair and disappears into another room. Behind him I sort of hear something about "needing to find a guitar, Mommy".

So I sit here alone now, quiet. Instinctively, I sigh. And while my hands fold around a large (and durable) white ceramic tea mug, I admittedly do not feel durable today. In fact, I know that I am brittle, both lacking good sleep and a sinus infection yet lingering. But before I can stir these thoughts too much, the kiddo returns, eyes wild, guitar in hand (a Gibson Flying V, I am told), and belts out: Poo poo poo/Poo poo poooooo/Everybody! Yeah!/Everybody yeah!/Everybody pooooos!

Oh this song - this silly (and factual, I might add) song repeats about four times before I cannot help but join in: his tiny booty shaking and the gusto at which he sings is commendable. I laugh, we laugh together. And sing about poo. Of course we do.

He is a ridiculous and entertaining goofball. And I am so thankful.

___

*Today is a recovery day: it has taken me years to admit this, but after a particularly difficult medical test, I need time to recuperate.** I need a day of mental nothingness, of playing cars with my son and not caring if the day passes without a brushed tooth in the house.

You see, yesterday I took a drive out to the Concordia Hospital to undergo a pelvic ultrasound****. The intention of those ordering such a test was to see if the lumps (unintentionally) located this past April had grown. And, of course, whether they were an indication of ovarian cancer.

And so last night I found myself sitting alone in a row of five padded and well-used blue chairs lined up at the end of an otherwise beige hallway. And here, I waited. Above my head a hand-written sign read: for ultrasound patients only. Other than this, there were no other indications that I was where I ought to be. Or that I was expected.

Again, I unfolded my appointment paper. And again it read “exam scheduled for 9:15 pm”. Nothing else. Once more I returned it to my bag.

As I sit, I let my legs bounce. They move. They know that I do not want to be here. This dimmed hallway and after hours hush, they are a part of me that I do not wish to be around. While I know that it is impossible, I am sure that in the hallway above mine I can hear evening meds being dispensed, a night-snack eaten. Applesauce. Three crackers and pre-packaged cheese perhaps. And then, a round of hospital bed rails going up for the night, locking us into place: a click click click up and down the lowly-lit hallway. Each room was attended to. And then it was night. A time to suck thumbs, grasp stuffies and wait out the dark before falling asleep.

 

**a particularly difficult medical test = either a test that makes my body hurt (I'm looking at you, bone marrow aspiration) or my heart ache. Or both.

***not really the longest and fastest down-the-stairs-around-the-corner racing tunnel for toy cars. But it is fun to pretend.

****not the most pleasant test. And not recommended for anyone who doesn't like showing their bits and pieces to strangers. And if you do? Well, I don't even know what to say to that.

*****I am happy to announce that they are not. They are most likely benign cystic formations. Benign. A good word.

Happy Anniversary

Happy two-year anniversary, little ol' kidney!* Thanks for yet another year of successfully filtering my toxins. And peeing them out, of course. Thanks for that too.

*not so little, especially considering he is sharing a belly with two other (formerly) transplanted kidneys. It may seem a bit crowded, but he has graciously passed on that he is now both comfortable and settled into his new (to him) surroundings. Why, the last I heard, he had even joined the local bowling club. It's a party in there, I tell you.