Twenty-two years ago, today, my Mother passed away on Saint Patrick’s Day. Her favorite color was green. She loved St. Patty, a patron saint of Ireland and shamrocks, although she never drank whiskey. She loved to do an Irish jig, look for four leaf clover and yes, she was superstitious.
She was the youngest child in a family of nine. A train they took from Saskatchewan to Vancouver, they forgot their youngest child. One of the kids said, “Ninky, Ninky is running behind trying to catch up.”
Auburn hair, hazel eyes, five-foot-two and always a smile. When I went downtown with her, I had to add an hour to my time. She stopped and talked to everyone.
That day in 1999 the Anglican church in Chilliwack was packed. Friends, acquaintances, neighbors, all came to say good bye. Good-bye Maggie, Margaret, Auntie Ninky, Mum, friend and neighbor.
You’re not forgotten Mum. Your happy dance and spirit lives on. Your courage and resilience give hope and trust to those of us who still remain.
Twenty-two years ago, we planted an Elizabeth Magnolia in our front yard on Emerson in memory of you. Its tall straight trunk, like yours reaches toward the sky. Every Spring the large ivory cup shaped blooms bring beauty to the neighborhood. The straight and sturdy tree trunk resembles you. Way up high in the sky, heaven received an angel in you.
It was most definitely a gift to stay at the beautiful St. Joseph Renewal Centre in Mabou, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The sisters were more than kind. I stayed there for three weeks and was treated like family. The day I left the nine sisters of Notre Dame got up early and waved me good-bye. I will never forget them or their gift of hospitality and welcome. After returning home after my three-month sojourn on the Maritimes the first Christmas card I sent was always to those dear sisters.
St. Joseph’s Renewal Centre closed Oct. 3, 2018 when the dwindling number of sisters were down to three from the nine when I was there in 2007. An article in the Cape Breton Post – “It’s a major loss to the community. They’ve done so many wonderful things – they’ve taught in our schools, and been a major part of our community…after 131 years (1887-2018)”
I’m writing “My Life Story” and today and I came across this poem I wrote in 2007 when I did my sojourn in the Maritime Provinces.
WAKE AND WATCH the universe shrugs itself into wakefulness, as night surrenders slowly to day and shadow relinquished itself to light. I watch this display and realize that the moon lives in the lining of my skin, the sun rises with my consciousness, and the earth thrums in the bottoms of my feet. Everywhere I go, I take that sense of wonder and mystery with me.
I’VE BEEN REFERRED to as odd before. Nowadays, I prefer to refer to myself as “awed.” I want awe to be the greatest ongoing relationship in my life. I want to move through my days floored by the magnificence and generosity of my Creator. The breaking of a day, the silence between words, the light emanating from a real conversation, and kindness, truth, love and the apparently random hand of grace: I want to remain gobsmacked by all of it. Rendered speechless by wonder, I wait the next unfolding. Peace, friends. Be awed today.
The above two paragraphs were quoted from p. 90 “EMBERS”- One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese
My awe and reflection. Jan 9, 2018 I wrote: The words that struck the deepest cord with me are; I await the next unfolding. Peace, friends. Be awed today. I await the next unfolding.
Patience I am told is a virtue, and I am short on patience. As I view the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea my patience if any, escape me. I viewed them as dip-sticks. Oh my, I am judging, condemning and anything but compassionate. Mother of God please lead me to be open and loving so peace on earth will be. When I view with awe the beauty of glistening white new fallen snow, the magic of a mountain in purple glow, the scent of pink wild roses, the innocence of a newborn child, it is then I believe. All is created in God’s image and likeness. Take me back to my innocence. I pray for patience to view with awe the prosperity we enjoy, the connectedness we bless and with which we are blessed. Beauty, love and kindness surround us. Goodness is God, and goodness will override power and dishonesty. Let go of my disbelief and trust in myself and the universe. The fault is in my disbelief. Believe in the awe of each new day as it dawns from darkness to twilight to light.
I chose a card from The Virtues Project and it is apropos for the first day of 2021:
Acceptance is embracing life on its own terms. We are open to what is, rather than wishing for something different. We face the truth in all circumstances with honesty and courage. Acceptance helps us to bend without breaking in the winds of tests, to gather the lessons and step forward with new wisdom and awareness. We affirm others and ourselves for the qualities we do have and avoid judgment and criticism for what we don’t have. Accepting myself allows me to give what I have to the world.
Fred came to live with me November 2015. My daughter, was visiting from Edmonton. It was her often Fall visit to Mother. Checking up on me, she found me still thinking, walking and alive.
We hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving together so we decided to make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for just the two of us. We’d combine a late Thanksgiving and an early Christmas.
We decorated my apartment for Christmas. I’ve not put up a real Christmas tree for years. I had a little fake guy who was already decorated. I’d bring it up from storage put it on my coffee table in the corner. I’d string red lights around the about 12-inch-high fake guy, plug the lights in, voila – done!
That is, until Christmas 2015 we decided for old time sake to buy a Norfolk Pine to decorate. Off we went to Home Depot. We picked out this full, green, alive Norfolk. We put him in a grocery cart and wheeled him to the cashier. He was about 4 feet tall. Good, when we got him to my car, we flipped up the back seat in my Honda Fit. He rode home safe and sound.
We carted him up the elevator and into my apartment, all the time admiring his beauty. We found the perfect spot for him, in front of the living room window. We decorated him with precious memorabilia, I am sure to others looked like crap but to us it brought back happy memories. We found Elvis Prestly`s Christmas CD. Just like old times, we cranked up Elvis and decorated the tree. Back then on Emerson we’d tie the Christmas tree up with string to the living room window so it wouldn’t fall over.
We fondly talked and laughed and reminisced as we decorated our Norfolk. We remembered the year when we finished decorating our Christmas tree. W had it all secure and strung up to the window. We sat down admiring how great the decorations were spaced, how the lights were even, and how straight we had it propped up when, Georgia came around the corner. She stopped dead in her tracks and then took one running leap and pounced into the middle of the tree. Crash, over it went. I`m not sure if she thought it was a big green mouse all lit up or what? Cats can be strange creatures in their thought pattern.
When we finished decorating our newly purchased Norfolk Pine, fully decked and decorated we sat down to admire him. Just like old times Elvis was singing, ‘I`ll be home for Christmas’. My daughter chimed up and said, “I`ve got a name for him, “Let`s call him ‘Fred’, he looks like a Fred.” Fred it was.
In January when I took the decorations off Fred, I moved him to the south wall to sit beside the couch. I watered him, talked to him, and misted him with warm water, but slowly his branches got dry and prickly. I`d clip them off, one by one. In March Fred looked very thin and spindly; finally, I decided Fred would have to go. I left him alone for a couple of weeks until I mustered up the courage to deliver him to the green recycle bin. I got down on my bum and pushed the pot with my feet to the door. I got a black garbage bag so I wouldn`t get potting soil on my white carpet. All went well until I pulled one branch out of the pot, it wouldn’t budge. I pulled, I tugged but he stood strong. He didn’t move. I tugged again, he looked pathetic and weak but nope he wasn’t leaving the pot. Third time, no luck, fine I thought you can live if you must. I pushed the unsightly one limb Norfolk back into the living room. I placed him in front of the patio doors, watered him once a week, never to mist him again. He lived. He had no branches at the bottom. Really, he looked like a palm tree with prickly needles but he thrived, strong and healthy.
I went back to Home Depot, bought a baby Norfolk Pine and potted it at the base of Fred. I had another plant that also looked sadly pathetic. It was an Alocasia plant with only one stem and one leaf. I was going to throw her away but instead just for the heck of it I planted her under Fred beside Baby Norfolk. That one stem and one leaf grew into the most beautiful deep jade green leaves with patterned white veins.
Fred and Alocasia became best friends and together with their little baby Norfolk they blossomed into a family of green delight.
Fast forward to 2020. Fred and family sit in front of my patio window, dressed for Christmas in the little wrapped Christmas gifts my son and daughter in law strung together some 30 years ago. The little glass angel given to me by Jessica a little girl I looked after at Apple Rose Infant Toddler Care, again so many years ago, sits at the top of Fred. White lights twinkle and brighten the dull, short days of Advent.
A few weeks ago, in my journal I wrote:
Fred didn’t die, instead he continued to thrive.
Five years later, he is happy with his friends.
They’re growing so big I don’t know what to do.
My living room is in their hands, they’re taking over.
What do I do?
Do I cut them back or put them outside?
They are beautiful, alive, they bring green into my life.
It looks like a nursery in here with Purple Violet and her child,
With Christmas Cactus in rosy red, not to mention Fred.
They Bless my life and Elphie girl, my service dog, she lays here at my feet.
I applied to Pacific Assistance Dogs for another dog. It took three years of waiting. Probably a good thing. It gave me time to accept reality. After three years of waiting, I’d obsess and think, I’m not going to be placed with a dog. I got the call in June. They had a dog for placement and would I like to meet her? I wrote in my journal:
– July 26, 2018 – Yesterday I was weepy all day long in regard to getting a dog. I watched a video about hearing dogs who live with children. I cried lots as I watched and related – so sad – kids with hearing loss, one had a brain tumor. They were both afraid of the night because of the sounds in the dark. I was reminded of how when I first lost my hearing and had no direction of sound, I too was afraid in the night. Our eyes work double time. Now the apartment I live in has a light from the hallway that comes under my door and the parking lot outside my bedroom window has a large solar light that comes on at night and lights-up the parking lot. The kids in the video were so tired but when they had a hearing dog they relaxed. I was reminded of my fatigue, anxiety and why. I cried and I cried as I watched the video.
This transition is really hard for me. It has been seventeen years since Cleo died. I have a picture of her and I sitting on my buffet in my dining room. I have her ashes in a planter on my deck. When I first got her I asked the trainer, “If I have this dog with me 24/7 and she is my ear, what will I do when I lose her?” “You will deal with that when the time comes.” It wasn’t easy when that time came. I went to bed and covered my head for two weeks.
It took me fourteen years to apply for another hearing dog. It has taken three-and-a-half years from when I applied to when I got the call., Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. a call from PADS. It was Ron, “I have a dog ready for placement she is a small Lab…would you like to meet her…?” I went over to PADS in Burnaby Thursday, July 5, 2018 and met Elphie.
I was told when I applied, I would get a small hypoallergenic dog something like Cleo. I had expressed an interest in a Golden Retriever that is part of their breeding program but was told that dog would be too big for me and could knock me over. I was expecting maybe a small Havanese or Poodle mix. Elphie is a 50-pound dog. She has a beautiful auburn double coat of hair and soft brown eyes. She has been trained to use a gentle nose bump alert instead of a stronger paw alert. Ron asked, “What do you think?” I responded, “She’s a red head like my grand- daughter. I want her.” I had another two short bonding visits with her. Elphie and I became a team Sept. 10, 2018.
I always said Cleo and I were a match made in heaven. We connected overnight. I never once had to give Cleo a correction. She worked and loved to work. Elphie has been another story. My daughter said when I complained about something Elphie had done. “Yes, Mum you and Cleo were a match made in heaven but heaven made this match”. I wasn’t sure?
The first day home after Elphie was placed with me and we went to the dog park. I was totally naive looking forward to putting her in a sit and removing her jacket and letting her release to play. None of that happened. As soon as she saw the dogs playing, she yanked herself out of my hand and ran to the dogs in the center of the field dragging her leash behind and with her working jacket still on. I wondered if she had dislocated my left shoulder. She had not, but I had a raging head ache for two days because she jerked my neck extremely hard when she pulled the leash out of my hand. That was my first sudden and surprising awakening with her. On our first walk it was apparent we could not walk by people OR DOGS without her needing a leash correction. She wanted to visit them.
A walk in the forest with Elphie. As we walked up hills, she was so excited she kept pulling on her leash. I thought I might trip and fall with her tugs so I released her and let her go. Big mistake. She took off like lightening. I hadn’t taken her working dog insignia jacket off. I kept calling her. Nothing. Finally, she came running back toward me like the speed of light. Who is this?? She was unrecognizable. Green algae from head to tail. I soon discovered a pond a little further into the forest. It was filled with green algae so much so you couldn’t see any water. Back home. I hosed her off. I let her swim in the ocean, I took her to the pet store and bathed her. I washed her again but the algae got to her. She started scratching. Her tummy got all red with a rash. A trip to the vet. I was scared. The news was announcing how dogs were dying after a jump into poisonous algae. Three hundred dollars later. Elphie was alive and well.
The saga went on and on with Elphie. Not to mention that when I told my land lords, I was getting a service dog they were of the persuasion they did not have to abide by the laws of the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Legislation. They continually challenged my every move, telling me I had to use the car park exit and entrance and could not use the front door or be in any common part of the building with my dog. I tried to appease them but their abuse continued and escalated until I finally called the Solicitor General Dept. and reported their behavior. My landlords received a visit from an officer. The harassment stopped. However, they look the other way when they see Elphie and I approaching and they refuse to speak to me.
Who knew two years after Elphie was placed with me, we would have a world pandemic? Who knew with COVID-19 I would have to self-isolate? Who knew two years later I’d have to give up line-dancing, working out at the gym, volunteering at a senior home and give up doing my shifts at the hospital gift shop? Who knew? Who knew the lonely days and nights would be spent alone with only Elphie?
Elphie has grown wings in the last few months. No more does she pull out of my arms and run away or insist on visiting other dogs. She follows me from room to room. She is constantly by my side. She wakes me to the alarm when it goes off at six a.m. I get up and feed her and then I crawl back under the warm blankets. When she finishes her breakfast, she comes to my bedroom door and sits there until I invite her up on the bed with me. She takes a running leap, up and over me to my other side. Every time she does the leap up and over, I have to laugh out loud. She smiles and wiggles and I laugh again. She spoons with me and we snooze and cuddle for another hour.
Elphie knows the words, “night, night”. When she hears me say that she’ll head for our bedroom. I say, “Time to clean your teeth” and she will sit at the kitchen sink and let me clean her teeth. She makes me laugh. When she does her running leap from my bedroom door, up and over my body and lands beside me and sneezes in my face, I giggle and she wiggles. Oh, I almost forgot – she is a working dog and she alerts me to the smoke alarm, the telephone, the door-bell and the alarm clock. Who is Elphie? She is patience, laughter and my companion.
Professionally trained service dogs are more than pets. The bond is more than attachment. The relationship becomes a oneness. A team. I watched W5 the other night and the Toronto Canine Unit of the police department was interviewed. Constable Derek when asked who his police dog Major was to him? He said, “He’s a dog but not a dog. He is my friend and my partner”. Dogs who are professionally trained help Vets with PTST live normal lives. There are assistance dogs who are legs and arms for those in wheel chairs. As Derek said, they are dogs but not a dog…” When people would call Cleo a dog. I would say, “don’t call her a dog, she isn’t a dog.”
Cleo was love. Elphie is patience and laughter. Patience, laughter and love all needed big time with COVID threatening our lives. My daughter was right. “Heaven made this match”.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my Fur Angels. As a friend said, “Dog is God spelled backwards.
Eighteen years ago today,
Your Daddy called to say,
Some pains in Mummy’s tummy,
He thought the baby was on its way.
At the hospital,
A nurse in witch’s costume
Came in the room with play.
Now, several hours later,
In mid afternoon,
Down the tube and into the room,
Came Belly Button Boo!
Daddy cut your umbilical cord.
Mummy sat up and smiled.
Gram was happy to see you.
The doctors and nurses
All gave a cheer and said,
“Hello Little Pumpkin,”
“We’re glad you are here.”
“Happy Halloween, WHAT… A…TREAT!!”
Five days later, Mummy and Daddy and you,
Came to Grama’s house for dinner,
Mummy was singing a song.
It went like this:
“Emily Rose, Emily Rose,
Chubby little fuzzy little,
Stuffed with fluff,
Oh…Emily Rose, Emily Rose,
Chubby little fuzzy little girl”
I ask myself, what is the mystery? My answer is Life, it’s all pure mystery. It’s how I got here, how I’ve lived all these years. I’m seventy-four years old. Just about three quarters of century on this earth, that’s a long time. I started out totally dependent on my mother to nurse me and my father to provide security. Mother always fed me but not so much the nourishment of emotional food. Father gave me security when I was very young but that security became less and less and by the time I was fourteen – gone. He was gone, my security was gone. He literally drove away. We watched the tail lights of his car go down the hill and disappear around the corner. Emotional abuse followed. He disowned me when I was fifteen. I disowned him when I was a young mother in my early twenties. What a mystery!
I had three boys and one daughter, happy years. I had a brain tumor and a marital break-up, tough times. I went to college, a means to an end to get back into the work force, an Interesting time. I made a big move from small rural living to city life. Full time employed as a single parent, a busy time. There was growth, challenge and change. Empty nest was an adjustment, retirement was an adjustment, kids gone, job gone, house gone but I’m still here. It’s a mystery.
Believe I must. Believe all is well. The baby was born, the young girl grows up. The young woman marries and has children. The middle aged woman discovers her strength. The old woman accepts the mystery of life and believes all is well. There were mistakes, events, life, and mystery.