AM I NUTS?

     I am grateful for my health. Three weeks ago, my head clogged up big time; you know that yellow yukky stuff that returns no matter how much you blow your nose, it won’t go away. The doctor said it wasn’t an infection because I didn’t have a headache, nor were my sinuses bothering me. I’m not sure I agree, but I’m not a doctor. Two weeks ago, a bladder infection hit with a vengeance. Yesterday a toothache, and I’m grateful for my health. Am I nuts?

   This morning at 8:30 a.m. I phoned my dentist. I was sitting in her chair at noon. She said, “You need to have a root canal. I will write you a prescription for antibiotics to fight the infection before doing the root canal.

    When I left the dentist’s office, I agreed to pay the $1,300 for the root canal and $68.00 for today’s exam and x-ray. I went to the grocery store to buy soft foods; yogurt, sushi, soup, stuff I didn’t have to chew. It hurt. I was walking back to my car parked in the disabled parking space when my grocery cart stopped dead; it wouldn’t push forward or backward. I pushed and pulled. No movement. I heard a voice behind me; a young man said, “Can I help?” He tried, but the grocery cart wouldn’t budge. I said, “No worries, I am just about to my car; I can carry my groceries.” He kindly asked if I could manage; I assured him I could.

     I felt a bit weak; I stopped at the food court and picked up a coffee. Elphie, my hearing dog, and I managed to get across the sidewalk to my car. I opened the back door and said, “Car” she jumped in. I put my groceries in the hatch-back, sat in the driver’s seat, and pushed it back as far as possible. Ohhhh, I need something to eat. I pulled out the egg salad sandwich from the grocery store, ate half of it, and washed it down with the coffee. Still a little shaky but convinced myself I could make it to the drug store and pick up the anti-biotics. The druggist said it would take 45 minutes. Ohhhh, my goodness. I can do it; I can, I can. I waited in my car.

     Home, with script in hand, groceries waiting on the floor to be put in the fridge; I popped the antibiotic and ate the other half of the egg salad sandwich. I’m beat; I’m going to lay down and sleep it off.

     I took my hearing aides out; it was quieter. My dry eye was hurting. I heated the eye mask in the microwave to apply to my eyes for 20 minutes, easing the pain. I grabbed my cozy blanket and took my socks off, my feet were cold, but under the blanket, my bare feet warm up. I called Elphie and said, “Here.” She jumped on the couch beside me; the warmth of her body comforted me. I couldn’t sleep.  I may as well get up.

     I am, drinking freshly squeezed lemon with Manuka honey, and hot water. I take an extra-strength ibuprofen liquid gel. The toothache is easing. “What’s it all about Elphie?”

      Yep, I am grateful for my health. I’m thankful for the universe cooperating with me, helping my body recoup, the lovely dentist, the young man helping me with the grocery cart, and the terrific druggist who said eating cold potatoes provides probiotics that help when taking strong anti-biotics.

     The hot lemon drink is now finished; I will make a potato salad for supper; it will provide probiotics, and I won’t have to chew.

     Thank you to the universe, my resilient body, medication, medical people, and the many kind people I encounter. Am I nuts, maybe not?

MUM MADE THE BEST CUP OF TEA!

Mum made the best cup of tea. I’m sure her British background. First, she’d ‘HOT the pot’…that meant running the hottest possible tap water into the, of course, china teapot while the tea kettle boiled. When the water just started to boil she’d empty the hot water from the teapot, add loose tea, then pour the boiling water over the tea.  She said the water always had to be at a full rolling boil (letting it boil hard at least one minute) before pouring it into the teapot with tea. She’d let it steep for about five minutes. Always using a bone china cup and saucer she would add milk first and then the tea. Not cream but milk.  When bubbles came to the top she’d say, “Quickly get the bubbles and you’ll receive some money”. We’d quickly spoon the bubbles into our mouths.  Then a fun time when she would read our teacups.  First, we’d turn the cup upside down in the saucer and turn it to the right three times.  With an intent, serious, expression on her face, she’d look at the tea leaf formation and tell us what she saw. She always saw good things in our future.

A LOVELY REVIEW

Thank you for your articulate, transparent review of “Laura Lamb Finds the Forest” I appreciate hearing how your feelings were evoked.

“I loved the book. The illustrations are wonderful and the story is so beautiful. I could feel Laura’s loneliness and her hesitation and excitement as she sets out on her new adventure to find friends. Her sense of belonging in the forest is one I know well, feeling awe and wonder and finding happiness and friends who are different from her but all part of this beautiful planet. And then when she is called home and summoned from her reverie, I love that she is unable to articulate the depth of her experience. It makes it almost like a secret, a treasure that is hers alone. It is a beautiful story.”

Jarra Ford

The Connection Winter Edition 2021

Published in “Connection” winter 2021 edition

Acoustic Neuroma40 years Post-Op Excerpt from my Memoir “Walk”

 My husband Casey and I were out for an evening walk when I felt a sharp pain in my left ear. The next day I made an appointment with an ENT. He said, “You could have an acoustic neuroma. Come back in six months.” I went into denial. No way! Foolishly, I didn’t go back for more than a year and when I finally got there, he confirmed his earlier suspicion that it was indeed an acoustic neuroma.

He referred me to Dr. Griesdale, a neurosurgeon at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. (Dr. Griesdale passed away in 2010)

 I was thirty-nine years old, stood five feet four inches tall, weighed one hundred and twenty-five pounds, had blonde hair, and hazel eyes. Some people would say my smile was infectious and that my whole face lit up when I smiled. This, changed after surgery. Instead, people looked away, or down at the ground, pretending they didn’t see my crooked face. A few asked if I’d had a stroke.

 Dr. Griesdale greeted us at the door with a warm handshake and later said he too was thirty-nine years old. I had imagined a neurosurgeon as being old. Instead, his stature was youthful and sturdy, instead of grey or balding hair, it was brown, nicely cropped, and curly. He pointed with a pointer stick to the CT scan that hung on the screen behind his desk. There was a lighter image, in the shape of a golf ball, hovering above the brain. He said, “See it there? What you have is an Acoustic Neuroma. It’s about three and a half centimeters in diameter. It’s growing on the eighth cranial nerve and it touches the seventh nerve.”

 He explained there were two options: one was to leave it and let it grow, the other was to surgically remove it, then he quickly added, “YOU have no choice but to opt for the surgery because you have a two-year-old daughter at home. If you let it grow, you could become incapacitated.”

He said, “The surgery is lengthy and delicate, anywhere from twelve to twenty hours, and because they are so long I only do them on Mondays and Wednesdays. We WILL sever the eighth nerve and as a result, you will lose your hearing in the left ear. There is a fifty percent chance the seventh nerve will be damaged causing permanent facial paralysis.” I had no comprehension of the loss and change involved in having unilateral hearing and facial paralysis. He neglected to mention possible residual effects of cognitive, vestibular, and left eye damage. Unshaken and to my later embarrassment, I asked, “Will I have to have my head shaved?

He said, “Yes, your head will have to be shaved, but I’ll do it personally when you are under anesthetic.”

I replied, “Thanks, and I’d like to have it done on a Wednesday, just in case you have a weekend party.”

How cheeky of me!

Casey and I went down the elevator to the sidewalk, we silently walked to the car. I looked up through the tall buildings to the sky above. I felt like a tiny speck in a very big universe. We said nothing until midway home when I looked over to where he sat in the driver’s seat and with tears in my eyes, I said, “I guess it’s malignant.” I’d never heard the word tumour unless it referred to cancer. The color drained from Casey’s face, his chin quivered as he said, “I don’t think so. I will give Dr. Griesdale a call in the morning and ask.” It was benign.

The night before surgery, I was very nervous. Dr. Griesdale came into my room and sat at the end of my bed. He went over the procedure and reassured me he would shave my head in the morning after I was asleep. I bathed as instructed, and as I lay in bed I reached for the Bible in the bedside stand. I thumbed through the pages until I settled on a verse, Isaiah 40:31 – “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

The next morning a nurse came into my room and said, “It’s time.” She, transferred me from my bed onto a stretcher and wheeled me to the operating room door, and left me there. I lay alone and waiting. I tightly clutched a brown washcloth to my chest like my security blanket.

Soon they wheeled the stretcher under bright lights and transferred me onto the operating room table. People dressed in green were scurrying about. Someone said, “You’ll feel a prick as I start the anesthetic.” “Now, start counting from one to one hundred.” I think I got to eleven . . .

My childhood friend Lila came to visit me in intensive care, and as always, the essence of our friendship was laughter. My left eyelid hung wide open and didn’t blink. Without tear production, it was very dry and very painful. I held my hand over my eye. Lila grabbed a damp washcloth and plopped it on my eye. It kept falling off to the side, she wrapped it around my nose saying, “There, now that’s putting that big nose of yours to use.” We laughed.

It was October 7, 1981, I had a fifteen-and-one-half hour surgery. It was autumn, and the leaves were changing color. The landscape was changing and so was I. The lengthy surgery and long recovery left me with significant changes. It had a huge effect on me and my family. My children lost the mother as they knew her. My husband lost the wife he married. It was like a death that none of us were ready for. Grief never occurred because I was still alive.

 The transformation pushed me to face the truth of an unhappy marriage. Eleven months after surgery, my twenty-plus-year marriage came to an end. My recovery took two years after which I took up the challenge of going to university and getting myself into the workforce as a pre-school teacher. I’d been an at-home mother for over twenty years. I could have gone back to work in the hospital where I worked before having children. The personnel officer said there was work for me, but I knew my cognitive ability was not what it was before surgery. I chose not to accept her honourable offer.

Now, forty years later I still struggle with the severe dry left eye, and visual memory loss. Frequently forgetting words and where I’ve left things. Keeping a writing pad near at hand, and writing things down helps. Leaving visual markers here and there is helpful. Often when I would be madly searching for an item my daughter would giggle and say, “I guess the cat took it.”

When I worked with children, one day a little boy was sitting on my knee, he looked up at me and said, “Why do you wear an ear-ring in that ear when it’s broken?” I immediately took that earring out. The children henceforth came to the side with the earring, the side that in children’s terms, the ear that worked, my hearing ear.

A favorite quote from a favorite person of mine – M.K. Gandhi: “I do not believe India to be helpless…I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature…Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Yes, I had an indomitable will.

My eldest son’s wise words to me were, “Mum, your willfulness needs to become willingness”. Thank you, son, thus I learned to let go, let go, and let go of my willfulness, and became willing to accept my limitations along with my strengths.

If I were to offer words of inspiration they would be: Believe in yourself and the universe and keep putting one foot in front of the other even if you wobble when you walk.

 If I were to choose a word to share it would be – ‘remember’. Remember our life lessons, remember gratitude, and remember love.

“Life is our teacher. Love is the answer.”

R.F.C. © February 2021

 

CLEO – excerpt from my memoir “Walk” – Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. A story of resilience and hope.

I was sitting at my dining room table watching out the window. I saw the trainer leading her down our long-treed driveway. Stepping with quick proud steps, head held high, black button nose pointing straight ahead, and a fluffy apricot tail swooped up over her back. I wondered how she could be smart and at the same time be so beautiful. The doorbell rang. Trudy introduced herself and said, “This is Cleo, she is a backyard poodle and weighs eleven pounds.” Trudy asked me to show her around my house and then said she was leaving to let Cleo and I become acquainted. She said, “I’ll be back in the morning for our first full of the next five. It’ll be like boot-camp training teaching you how to work with Cleo.”

     Nine a.m. with Cleo at my side We answered the door. Trudy wide-eyed and surprised looked down at Cleo and said, “She looks different, relaxed, and happy. I can see she bonded with you overnight”

     Cleo was trained to respond to four signals: the doorbell, the telephone, the smoke alarm, and the alarm clock. Sometimes I heard those things, but sometimes I missed them because I’m hearing impaired, not deaf. Therefore, I had to pretend to be deaf at all times to those four sounds so Cleo could do her job of alerting me. I remember Trudy telling me, I had to trust Cleo. She constantly stayed by my side, and when she heard the telephone ring she’d stand up on her hind legs and put her paw on my knee. That was her signal to me that attention was needed. My response was, “Good girl, what is it?” She’d walk to the telephone or the doorbell, and I’d trust and follow her. I’d say good girl, and give her a doggy treat. When she heard the smoke alarm, her response was to tap me on the knee and then go into a down position. She’d lay there on her tummy with her front paws straight out in front. When I saw that behaviour, it signaled to me the fire alarm was ringing. I’d say, “Good Girl” and give her a treat, then we’d escape. When the alarm clock sounded in the morning she’d come bounding out of her kennel and jump up on the bed and onto my chest – I was awake! For the first time since my surgery, and becoming hearing impaired I was able to sleep soundly and not fear I’d be late for work. Signal dogs are small breeds, it wouldn’t be fun to have a German Shephard wake me by walking on my chest.

     Life for me changed in one fell swoop because of a brain tumour surgery leaving me hearing impaired, with slight cognitive damage, balance, and eye issues. Eleven months later, my twenty-plus-year marriage ended. It left me feeling scared, insecure, and lonely. When Cleo came to live with me, I was able to do life again, I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and trusted her.

     I stopped calling the kids in the middle of the night and asking them what it was they heard, I’d hear the sound, but had no idea if it was coming from in front of me, behind me, or beside me. Unilateral hearing is flat. At times, I’d wonder if I’d think I was running away from a break-and-enter when in fact I’d be so disoriented I would run smack dab into them.

     I lost my sense of connection to nature. I couldn’t hear the wind in the trees or the lap of the ocean on the shore, but with Cleo by my side, I relaxed my shoulders, felt my connection to her, took a big inhale, then an exhale, and trusted that all was well.

     Cleo was proud of herself when she was at work helping me. She traveled with me on trains, planes, and automobiles. When in public places, she always wore the yellow jacket that identified her as a working dog. She had legal access to all public places. However, much of the time I had to explain and often insist she was a professionally trained working dog. She, a poodle, didn’t look like an assistance dog nor did I, as a young attractive woman, didn’t look like I had a disability. Hearing loss is an invisible disability and poodles aren’t the run-of-the-mill working dogs.

     The photographer who came to the infant/toddler center in June to take photos of the children, for some unknown reason, was taken up with Cleo. He’d seen her many times over the years but had never had he been so mesmerized with her. He asked if he could take pictures of her. Yes, of course. Surprisingly, when I viewed the pictures, I could see a lump the size of a golf ball above her left eye. How ironic that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor on the left side of her head. I too had had a three-and-a-half-centimeter brain tumor on the left side of my head, taking the neurosurgeon fifteen and a half hours to remove it. Sadly, Cleo’s brain tumour was inoperable.  

     Christmas, my youngest son Johnny came home. Cleo loved him and would just about wiggle out of her skin when she saw him walking off the ferry. Instead of walking by my side as usual I carried her in my arms. She recognized him and smiled hello. No wiggles that time.

     Boxing Day, Christmas was over, my son had gone home. I woke in the morning, to find Cleo standing in a corner of the kitchen with her pretty little curly head hung low, she was ashamed. On the floor – stool with blood. I called the veterinarian and through my sobs, I whimpered, “I think it’s time to have Cleo put to sleep, but maybe it’s just a convenient time for me because I’m off work now.”

     He remembered what I’d said, and replied, “You, said when she lost her sense of dignity you would have her put down. It’s time.”

     I called a good friend and asked her if she would drive us to the vet and then to the doggy crematorium. I wrapped Cleo in her favorite grey and white weave blanket which my eldest son Brad had brought back for me as a gift from Mexico. Cleo would when she could, snuggle, and wrap herself into the blanket.

      I held her on her back close to my heart. When the needle went into her leg, she didn’t flinch. We looked deep into each other’s eyes. Her eyes told me she trusted me and my eyes told her I loved her. I will always miss her and remember her with heartfelt gratitude and love. Cleo was my best friend, companion, helper, restorer of confidence and trust for twelve years. We were a match made in heaven.

     I remember when ‘boot camp training week’ was over I asked Trudy a difficult question. I said, “I cannot imagine when she is with me twenty-four seven how I will deal with her death?”

     Her response was, “You’ll deal with that when it happens”.  When it happened, I went to bed and covered my head for days. My head ached in need of a cup of coffee and for my best friend and companion, my pal Cleo.

     When I got out of bed, I phoned my daughter and said, “Could you please take me to the S.P.C.A.? I want a cat.” I’d said during Cleo’s last months that when she was gone, I was going to get a cat.

     Friends would say, “You don’t want a cat, you love dogs”. True, but I couldn’t look at a dog for years after Cleo’s death, you would have thought I hated dogs, but I loved her so much I just couldn’t bear the memory. I wanted a cat, not a dog. Cleo could not be replaced.

      My daughter and I walked down the aisle of cat cages. I took a grey tabby out, “No not this one, I put him back. Next, a pretty black fluffy girl resisted me stroking her back. Nope, not her. Then, a white cat huddled and hid in the back corner of her cage. I dragged her out and she cuddled into my arms, and then I read her name tag. It said, “My name is Angel. I’m an inside cat. My owner is sick, and had to give me up.” She did not go back into her cage, home we went.

       A strange coincidence, or perhaps not a coincidence at all, but rather the mysterious working of the universe. Cleo’s name was Angel before she was given to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society. They thought Angel didn’t suit a working dog so they changed her name to Cleo, saying a working dog’s name should start with a consonant and end with a vowel. The vowel at the end of a name allows it to be drawn out, like O, O, O, O.

     My heart was pounding as I carried ‘Angel Cat’ in my arms to the counter and signed her adoption papers. I was crying and shaking with emotion.

      Never before had I been a cat person, we always had cats in our home because my son Doug and my husband loved cats. I was a dog lover, and always had a dog, but I loved my ‘Angel Cat’, a white fluffy loving girl who every day together we’d have our afternoon nap on the couch. She’d laid on my chest, nuzzled into my neck, and purred my grief away.

     I walked on one step at a time.     Resilience is a gene I inherited from my mother.   

ELPHIE’S SIXTH BIRTHDAY

This article published by P.A.D.S. http://pads.ca/meet-Rose-and-elphie

WHY I CHOSE TO APPLY FOR A DOG FROM AN ADI ACCREDITED PROGRAM 

My first dog came to live with me in 1989. My hearing loss occurred in 1981 because of a fifteen-and-a-half-hour surgery to remove a brain tumour. My life changed overnight. When Cleo, the love of my life, was placed with me by Pacific Assistance Dog Society, it felt like I came back. Cleo gave me a sense of safety and confidence, helping me to believe that I could do life again. Twelve years later I held her in my arms when the veterinarian gave her the injection; she looked up at me with trust in her eyes as I cradled her in my arms. Our eyes locked in love. She died because of a brain tumour. We were a match made in heaven.

Seventeen years passed; I couldn’t talk about Cleo, I missed her so much that I couldn’t even look at other dogs. Finally, the time came after I had two bouts of an ear infection I applied to PADS for my second dog.

Elphie was placed with me in 2018. I had moved into an apartment with an owner/manager who didn’t think it was necessary to abide by the law regarding certified and accredited dogs. This led to letters being pushed under my door, stating that I had to enter the building from the underground parking lot. I could not drive onto the property without a note from my doctor. I could not go into any common areas in the building. I attempted to educate and appease them; however, this led nowhere.

The harassment and discrimination escalated until I was yelled at, with finger-pointing and waving, and told, “You go back out that front door and come back in the door you were told to use.” I replied, “These dogs have legal access.” His screaming continued. I refused to go back out the front door. He finally said, “Fine, if you are not going to leave, get in the elevator and get out of here, and I’m going to report you.” I replied, “Fine, because I’m going to report you.” Although calm on the outside, I was shaking inside. I got on the elevator, went straight up to my apartment, threw my coat on the floor, and started to cry. In the midst of my tears, I called PADS.

The Executive Director answered. Laura calmed me, and with her help, we filed a report. The Solicitor General’s office made a visit, a warning was issued. The harassment stopped. The excellent support and high quality of professionalism shown at PADS is due to the accreditation with ADI. I know without a doubt the outcome of my tenancy would have been irreparable if I had not had the high standards of PADS and ADI to rely on.

It pleases me when I’m asked by restaurants or other public places if they can see Elphie’s certificate of accreditation. I always say, “Thank you for asking.” It’s an opportunity to educate them that this is not just an emotional support dog claiming to be certified.

Elpie

Thank you for the opportunity to share the pure gift of my hearing dogs that “Change lives, one dog at a time.”

Cleo and I were a match made in heaven; Elphie and I are a match made by heaven. She is my companion, helper, and love, especially over the past 18 months with COVID isolation and aloneness.

Rose 

PADS Hearing Dog Client

MY MEMIOR – first page

     Her long auburn curls are sweaty after thirty-six hours of hard labor. She raises her head from the stretcher and says, “She is beautiful.” Dr. Wilson laughs, and replies, “Newborn babies aren’t beautiful.” Mother disagrees.  Love, is beautiful.

     Mother’s mother died when she was nine years old. A family of seven children. Martha, the eldest, is twenty-one, and engaged to be married, instead, she stays home to help her father raise his children.

     A middle-of-the-night phone call, “Come to the back alley and pick up your daughter. She bled to death on my table.” An abortion in 1927. The family now, six children, four boys, and two girls. Mother the youngest.

     A family of loss, sadness, and struggle. The depression in 1929 adds yet more difficulty. Her father is a hard worker. He owns a butcher shop in Vancouver. With my quirky sense of humour; I laugh and say, “He worked his fingers to the bone”. He cut his thumb off with a meat cutter. Mother’s words describe their life, “We always had food, but underwear – not always.”

     Father arrives to pick us up at the hospital; he waits at the front door. We’ve been in hospital for ten days, the usual obstetric stay in 1942. The elevator door opens.  He sees his wife, sitting in a wheelchair holding a pink bundle, her long auburn hair is wound into a bun, her hazel eyes dance lighting up her freckled face. A nurse pushes the wheelchair to the car, a black 1937 Ford coupe. 

     Father is handsome, six feet tall with proud broad shoulders, wavy brown hair, a tanned muscular face, with a squished boxer’s nose. He walks around the car to the driver’s seat; his eyes pierce in charming, dominant blue.

     We head for the country, seven miles East, a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill, a steep incline for about a half a mile up, then a sharp right; he parks in front of the narrow brown, plank siding, dirt floor, doorless, garage. It has two glass windows on each side.

     Holding me in her arms, Mother opens the car door; she cautiously steps onto the running board. Father takes both her arms, steadies her as she plants her feet on the ground. She wears a just above the ankle-length green and white cotton dress.  She stands five feet two, shoulders up, and back, head up, soft hazel eyes; she looks straight ahead.  She is one-hundred-and-fifty pounds, small, buxom, and beautiful.

     They walk around the car, and along the sidewalk that extends close to the two-inch whitewashed, clapboard siding of their home. It’s a hot July afternoon.

     Father steps up onto the four-by-four slab of cement and opens the door. Mother follows. A baby bassinette sits on a rough homemade wooden stand beside two rocking chairs. Father sits on the large rocking chair and rocks his baby. Mother sits in her rocking chair. She looks over at his exuding affection as he gazes down upon at his baby.

      It’s too hot to light the wood and coal cookstove to make tea. They drink cold water piped into the house from the creek across the dirt road.

A METIS CEMETARY TOUR

Creator of all,

Black, White, Brown.

Soul connects to soul,

Colour becomes colourless,

Transparent, clear, pure,

Creator of creation,

White roses, purple camas, hyacinth,

Fragrant scent.

Flowers, people, one.

© R.F.C. July 22, 2021

P.S. Alberta is the only province in Canada with a recognized Metis Nation.  There are eight Metis settlements – population 5,000 people, 1.25 million acres.

Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Elizabeth, Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikno, Paddle Prairie, Peavine.

EYE SURGERY

     It’s Thursday morning, I’m in the shower. My service dog, Elphie, a fifty-pound ginger lab pokes her head around the pulled shower curtain. She alerts me the phone is ringing. I run, but they’ve hung up. I climb back into the shower, again Elphie pokes her head around the corner, dripping wet, I answer the phone.

     “Is that Rose? This is Dr. Mac, I just got the report from Dr. Tass, and he suggests we do glaucoma surgery on Monday along with the cataract surgery. There is added risk, but the benefit outweighs the risk. The only thing is, are you willing to have no movement for seven days after surgery?   Aghast, I look over at Elphie who is lying beside me, and I say, “As you know, I have a service dog.  Does that mean I cannot walk her?”  He repeats, “Correct, no movement, no walking for a week.”

     I move to sit in my rocking chair. I stare numbly out the living room window.  I’m in a daze. I’ve been stalling cataract surgery for six years because of my severe dry eye. Now, a phone call saying it’s not only cataract surgery, as well, it’s going to be glaucoma surgery. I rock back and forth, and recall my brain surgery forty years ago; the residual effect leaving my left eye tearless and painful. The glaucoma drop is drying my already dry eye. Dr. Mac’s words repeat themselves in my head, the benefit outweighs the risk.    O.K, then, let’s do it.  I take a deep breath and call my friend. 

     I ask if she will look after Elphie for a week?  She asks, “Who’s going to look after you?” I fall dead silent thinking what a silly question, and think, well of course, I’m going look after myself, but I say nothing.  She says, “I will come and stay with you, and I’ll look after you both.”

     Monday, four days later, 7:55 a.m., I arrive at Clinic 6. A pleasant woman with a hair net covering her hair, and a face mask sits behind a plexiglass barrier.  She asks, and records my address, emergency contact, and birthday.

     A soft spoken, rotund, senior appearing nurse leads me to a locker where I place my purse and scarf. She comments, “Beautiful scarf”, and clicks the lock closed.  She leads me to a room where six other people sit in push-back, feet-up, head-rest, comfy chairs. I tell her I’m deaf in my left ear.  She points to her ear, and says, “I had a small tumor and lost the hearing in one ear.” I ask her how she lost her hearing? She responds, “I had an acoustic neuroma.” I tell her, “Me too, I had a fifteen-and-a-half-hour surgery to remove a three-and-a-half-centimeter tumor. How long was your surgery?” She says she didn’t have surgery, just radiation. I ask, “So you had Gamma Knife?”  She doesn’t know. I ask when she had the procedure done, she can’t remember.  I ask her name? She responds, “I’m sorry, I thought I told you, my name is Sue”.

     “Ouch, ohhh, ouch, ohhh, ouch, that is really hurting.” Nurse Sue takes the needle out, and tries another vein. “Ouch, ohhh, ouch, ohhh, ouch, that is still hurting.” She says, “I can’t keep hurting you. I’m going to ask someone else to do it.”  A young nurse, with a pep in her step and in her voice says, “O.K. let’s try again to get the I.V. set up for the anesthetic”. She feels for another vein in my right arm, zip it’s in, no pain, just a tiny prick. All done! She then explains, Dr. Mac will not be putting a needle in my eye, the O.R. is booked for twenty minutes, you will not feel any pain, only water spraying in your eye. She tells me, if I breath deep, and relax my head and shoulders, the surgery will go better.

Nurse Sue is sitting on a stool beside the counter.  She comes over and asks if I would like an Ativan. “Yes please, I’ve never had one, but I’ll have ten” We laugh.  She says, “Don’t worry God is good, it will be O.K., and I will hold your hand.”  I respond, “Oh, you’re a believer, me too, we’re a team. An acoustic neuroma and we believe God is good”.

   It is 9:10 a.m. Dr. Mac stands before me in his face mask, large black rimmed glasses, and green cap. His baggy ‘greens’ make him look even younger than he is, and thinner. He says, “Are you willing to do this?” I nod and say, “Yes.”  He looks over at nurse Sue sitting on her stool.  She doesn’t move.  Then he looks at me and says, “O.K. follow me”.

     Dr. Mac, usually a man of few words, surprises me by telling me absolutely everything. I feel Sue’s warm hand holding mine. I remember what the young nurse said.  I breath deep, and relax my neck and head.  Dr. Mac says, “I’m going to start with the glaucoma surgery. I’m taping a mask on your face, look straight at the bright lights, you are going to feel cold water.  Good, you are doing really good, great, perfect.  We’re finished.  Now, I’m going to do the cataract surgery, I want you to look to your right.  Great, nicely done, you’re doing a good job.”  I could feel massive amounts of cold water running down my cheeks and dripping into my left ear.  My worry about the water damaging my hearing aid is a good distraction that he is slicing into my eye.

     Dr. Mac says, “All done, you did great, I’m going to remove your mask now.”  I say, “I think it was you who did a great job.”  Sue is still holding my hand until I reach for my hearing aid and say, “I’m worried about my hearing aide.”  Dr. Mac in utter surprise says, “You have hearing aids in, they should be removed before the surgery”.  Oooops, nurse Sue is mortified and grabs some gauze and tells me to wrap my hearing aide in the gauze to dry it out.  She says, “Take my arm”, and leads me back to the outer room.  She dries me off with many blue wash clothes.  Another nurse walks by laughing and says, “You had a spa.”

     Nurse Sue gives me a print out with directions of when to apply the surgery eye drops. It says discontinue the Monoprost in my left eye, and to use it only in my right eye. Yahoo! Monoprost is the drops that dries my already dry left eye. I’m given three bottles of drops, with my other drops for dry eye, I count the amount of drop applications – fourteen a day.  I’m wearing a see-through clear eye shield that I can remove when I get home from the hospital, but I must wear it at night. As Sue removes the anesthetic I.V. needle, she looks at me and says, “I didn’t run the anesthetic, you were doing so well, I didn’t need to.” What? I didn’t even have any anesthetic; I only had freezing in my eye?  Wow, how good is that! Another nurse comes, and says my ride is here.

     Nurse Sue insists I take her arm as we walk to the hallway where Karey waits to drive me home.  Nurse Sue emphases, “Make sure she takes your arm.”

     I’m home by noon. Karey insists on walking me up to my apartment. My friend Lorry and Elphie are waiting. I leave Lorry and Karey chatting at the door; I go and sit in my rocking chair and pet Elphie. Karey leaves, Lorry comes in, and sits on the couch, she says, “Karey said you were running down the hall and to the car.  You’re hyper”.  I don’t think I’m hyper, but maybe, I just feel so happy and so relieved.  The long-awaited fearful surgery is over and behind me.

     I eat a bowl of soup for lunch, then I cozy up in my bed with the stacked pillows at forty-five-degree angle.  Ooops – I find Sue’s forgotten blue wash cloth in my blouse. I wake at 2:30 p.m., my left eye is hurting. I take a Tylenol; the pain is gone within fifteen minutes. Supper time, my energy is depleted, I feel like a wet rag, food is unappealing.  I pick at the stew that I took it out of the freezer in the morning.  I push it aside. I go back to bed.  To my surprise, I sleep well sitting up at the forty-five-degree angle. 

     I wake at 5:00 a.m. Karey is at my door at 7:30 a.m., my appointment with Dr. Mass is at 8:10 a.m. A technician tests my eyesight and says, “It is the same today as it was before with your glasses on.” My pressure, is eleven. Three weeks ago, it was sixteen.  It’s lower than ever. Dr. Mac comes in and examines my eye and says, “It looks really, really, good.” I say, “What does that mean?” He tells me he will talk to me later. When he finishes the exam, he stands up, washes his hands and leaves.  As he walks out the door, he turns and says, “No movement, and I will see you in a week.” A man of few words.

    Today is day six post-surgery. I’m finally eating again, taking my vitamins, and drinking six glasses of water a day.  All week, friends have walked Elphie. Yesterday I felt like myself again, not as tired, and started writing again and answering emails. 

    Day eight, it feels so good to be behind the wheel.  I’m excited, and looking forward to getting the green light from Dr. Mac, giving me the good news that the pressure is good, and my eye is looking really great. Elphie is in the back seat, it like freedom for us to be out and about again. I give myself lots of time, but a municipal workman appears holding up a sign that says, “stop, road construction”.  Oh, no, I’m going to be late. I could kick and scream, but what good would that do?  I wait.

     I walk into Dr. Mac’s office at 8:00 a.m. on the dot. Elphie sits under my chair. The tech checks my vision and my pressure.  I ask her what the pressure is? She says, “It’s a bit high, but Dr. Mac will talk to you about it.”

     Dr. Mac examines my eye, then says he is going to write some notes. A man of few words. He turns to his computer and, with a clickity-click, he types away. Then he turns to me and says, “The pressure is nineteen, a bit high, and your eye is very dry.  The ongoing problem!  The after-surgery drops can dry your eye, so we’ll taper them. I want to see you in two weeks”. I ask if he will know if the surgery worked in two weeks.  He says, “No, we won’t know for six weeks.”

     I’m back in my car, it’s 8:30 a.m., I could kick and scream, but what good would that do? I wait.

      I put the car in reverse and head for the country where strawberries are ripe and ready, a summer treat.                                       

© R.f.c. June 23, 2021

THE CREEK

I’m writing my memoir:

     She said take a deep breath and remember a person, an incident, a thing; let your mind free float.

 I saw my life as drips of an icicle as it thawed. 

    I saw the creek across from our house.  I saw myself sitting on a rock with my knees tucked up under my chin.  Minnows swimming around, darting here and there.

      My best friend Sammy, six years old at the time, is catching little trout only a few inches long; I insist he put his catch in a bucket of water.   Sammy, continues to fish.   I listen to the water trickle and babble as it rolls over the rocks. It runs confidently and quickly downstream.  To the sides of the stream, pockets of still water pool where more minnows gather and play.

     My mother appears carrying old milk bottles filled with tea.  She bends down to the water and picks up rocks placing them in a circle to make a little corral so the bottles won’t wash down stream.  The cool water, on a hot summer afternoon, does the work of a modern-day refrigerator.  She stands up, straightens her dress around her legs.  The blue cotton garment gives accent to her beautiful auburn hair.  Before she leaves, she slips off her shoes, and just for a moment, she walks ankle deep into the cool refreshing water.

     Autumn arrives and the reservoir my father made to damn up the water so it could run through lengths of pipe to our house gets plugged with leaves and debris.  He hoists himself up onto the edge of the reservoir’s cement wall.  He reaches way down.  The water is up to his shoulders as he blindly searches with his hands for the plug.  He pulls out the plug, removes the debris, replaces the plug.   Once again, the water from the creek runs through the pipes to our house; we can make tea!

     “Leave the water running a little in the kitchen sink when you go to bed”.  Words of my parents.  In the cold of winter if we let the water trickle, it would prevent the water pipes from freezing.  Against all precaution, sometimes the water still froze and my mother and father would walk, in the bitter cold, one quarter of a mile up the hill to the reservoir where they would dig down through the frozen ground.  They’d use a blow torch to thaw the pipes.

      I was nine years old, and very sick with rheumatic fever.  In the middle of the night, a big boulder came crashing through our back door. Water rushed in the back door, through my bedroom, through the kitchen and with another loud crash out through the wall at the other end of the house.

     Father and his friends worked through the night to stop the raging flood waters.  The morning after, there was a hush, all was quiet and calm.

  Father lifted me from my bed, and carried me outside to where a bulldozer waited.

     It wangled, swerved, and turned, down the hill to where a car was waiting to take me to the hospital.  The road was completely washed away, there were huge crevasses in the ground.  Our home was destroyed.  A new house was built and a new road was made.  The creek ran a new course.

     I’m a grandmother now and decades have passed.  There has been sickness, separation, and loss.  There has been birth, blessings and growth.       The movement of the creek with its lifegiving water, the calm after the ravage of flood, gives reassurance and resilience.  All is well.   Where there is life there is hope.