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Praises and Pet Peeves

Muriel2017

photo by my dear Chandra

Goodness me! Where did the days go? Seems like I spend more time at ordinary tasks these days — necessary and unnecessary. My San Francisco loved ones visited over the New Year and as always, treated me with more consideration than I deserve. Only after they left did I realize I hadn’t washed dishes while they were here!

The accrued laundry is still awaiting my attention and I let it wait because I had other priorities once they were gone. (Happy Birthday Joseph!) Then my exercise and Tai Chi classes started again and let’s face it, nothing seems more important than keeping this old body of mine moving. Time passed quickly and I’m only now sitting down at my computer to talk to you.

chair-fitness

Keeping this old body of mine moving

I was going to write about pet peeves, but let’s face it, what in the world do I have to complain about? Someone as lucky as I am must, therefore, include praises as well.

busdriver,jpg

Bless our bus drivers

Since I no longer drive, I use our transit service. I also use a walker, I’m slow, (I was never fast.) and must praise our bus drivers who are patient, thoughtful, and caring. They wait patiently until I am safely on-board and seated before they restart the bus. They tell me to take my time when I disembark. We are certainly fortunate to have such wonderful people at the wheel.

lady walker

Bless helpful strangers

I also find strangers extremely kind. When I want to enter a store or cafe, someone will most often come forward to open doors for me. Am I deserving of such attention and kindness? They don’t ask. They don’t care. They just DO. I’m grateful. It isn’t always easy to push a walker through a doorway.

Talking about praises, I also must praise and am mighty grateful to my children who take time out of their own busy lives to not only visit and cheerfully put up with me when I visit them, but help me with whatever my needs are, especially my tenuous relationship with this computer. Seems to me, as soon as I get comfortable with a program, they (whoever ‘they’ are) ‘update’ the darn thing and get me all confused again. How do the younger people manage???

Which brings me to pet peeves. That’s one of them. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to

Mother child feet

Feet off the seats please

keep me humble. ‘They’ want me feeling stupid and they’re definitely succeeding. I don’t know what to make of this computer most of the time. Grrrrrrr.

Pet peeves? On the bus, in movies and restaurants, some people will put their feet on the seats. Look guys, you walk on the sidewalk. People walk their dogs on the sidewalk. Dogs urinate on the sidewalk, they also sometimes defecate on those surfaces. Yuk! Please don’t put your shoes up where others have to sit.

 

dogs

Yes, I love them, but please keep them leashed on streets.

And, talking about dogs, I implore dog owners to walk their dogs on-leash on city streets. Yes, I love dogs but I’m uncomfortable with them prancing around my feet. My balance is lousy and I worry about falling — again. Most of us deal with balance deterioration as we age, so this is not only a problem for me. Besides, I have friends who are terrified of dogs, either having been bitten or taught to fear them.

 

I don’t know what else to complain about, but I’ll bet you do. What pleases or irks YOU?

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‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe’

Muriel Hip surgery in hospital, 2017

After surgery, in my lovely springtime robe

My oh-so-clever friend Sandy once said: ‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.’ I like it. I know it by heart. However, if I have any talent, it is my great ability to worry — a lot. Worry is what I do best of all!

So, told I would have to go home just three days after hip-replacement surgery, I panicked — what else? — and worried! How would I manage? My leg muscles, after months of severe pain, were in miserable shape, more like wet noodles than muscles. How could I NOT worry?

I’m 80. My children live in the U.S. They care. They came. Susan was here for my surgery. She was terrific. Rafi came after I got home to help. He cooks such scrumptious food, I gained two pounds while he was here. Still, they need to go back to their own lives.

Another worry? I have a vestibular disorder, which causes imbalance and unpredictable dizziness, often brought on by stress. Surgery IS stressful and I had a terrible siege of dizziness after my knee surgery in 2011. It was a disaster.

Whadaya know. As Sandy’s wise saying indicates, my worrying WAS a waste of time and energy. After surgery at UBC Hospital, I learned about the Transitional Care Unit (TCU)  right at the Koerner Pavilion, and was able to go there for rehab and care until I was ready to go home.

How come I’d never known about this possibility? I wrote about things like this as a columnist, yet had no idea the unit existed. It was a perfect fit. True, my first night there I had a roommate with dementia who cried out all night in a language I didn’t recognize. The very next night, however, I was blessed with a well-read, clever and interesting roommate, Howard Greaves, who, thankfully, also has a great sense of humor. (A necessary trait to survive the couple of weeks he spent with me).

Howard Greaves.

With Howard Greaves, who survived two weeks as my roommate. Howard deserves a special award for putting up with me.

Another blessing with having my surgery and staying  at UBC was that my dear ‘daughter’ Amy works there.

IMG_0231

My beautiful Chinese ‘daughter’ Amy

Amy visited and checked on me whenever she arrived to work, at her lunch break, and on her way home. Bless her, she also helped me survive the hospital food by cooking my favorite Chinese dish and bringing it in for me. She also would buy and bring me tastier food from outside. Hospital food, after all, is hospital food.

At the TCU, I had much needed, supervised physio five days a week, was helped with my ability to walk, and taught how to get my operated leg up onto my bed — no small feat. The nurses and I were given clear instructions about what I could or could not do so my vestibular disorder wouldn’t cause a fall and create a disaster.

There was a reasonable fee, (I understand it can be discussed if it is a problem). Dr. Reinhold Bernat, in charge of my case, was present and accessible when I needed to talk to him, patient with my concerns, and obviously caring — I know I was lucky.

Yes, the TCU was a good match for me, but, you ask, was there anything I felt was not up to par? Yes! We were allowed only one shower a week. I wasn’t thrilled with that, but survived.

Should you or loved ones live in the area and require it one day, I want you to know about the UBC Transitional Care Unit. Or, if there is such a service where you live, try to inquire about it. I am truly grateful it was there for me. And yes, I’m doing well.

The Kindness of Strangers

stranger-in-red-coat

Stranger in a red coat

A stranger in a bright red raincoat came up from behind me as I plodded across the busy intersection as fast as I could, but not fast enough — the light had already changed to red. ‘I’ll walk beside you’ she said, ‘They won’t want to hit both of us.’

My knee is mad at me so I use a walker. It helps, not only with my angry old-lady-with-walkerknee, but also with my old balance disorder, which has caused many falls through the years. (That’s why my knee is so upset.) The woman realized I was having a difficult time and decided to help a stranger. Why?

In my neighborhood, many shops have handicapped door operators which you push to open the door. Still, passersby who don’t realize that often stop on their way to pull a door open for me. My favorite morning breakfast stop has one, which occasionally isn’t operative yet if I arrive early. (The activator is above the door — I think the staff can’t reach it.) A favorite, tall fellow patron, Greg, will get up and switch it on if he sees me coming. Nice….but why?

door-operator

Handicapped Door operator

The other morning, Greg noticed my walker wheels were caked with what he thought was dog poop. He warned me about it, but I continued reading. I’m such a passionate reader, I didn’t even notice when he and his pal Garth wheeled my walker out the door, cleaned it so I wouldn’t have to deal with it later, and brought it back in. (I’m hoping they were wrong, that what they cleaned was actually ground up wet brown leaves which gather at the sidewalk cuts I have to use.) Why did they bother?

bus-driver

Bus drivers deal with some abusive riders

I regularly attend exercise classes at a community centre. I no longer drive. I use transit. How do bus drivers in this busy city who deal with mentally ill and abusive riders plus crazy traffic manage to stay so considerate? They wait until I’m seated before starting the bus. They patiently wait again for me to painfully rise and slowly back off the vehicle with my walker. (It was a bus driver who taught me that it’s the safest way to leave.)

This week I told a driver I wish I could sit on my walker on the bus. It’s higher and less painful to rise from. At my stop, she urged me to take the time to place it in a particular spot, set the brakes, and see if it would work. Not wanting to make her late, (they are on schedules) I told her I’d try it next time I rode a bus. Hey, it works. I hope I see her again so I can thank her. I’ve since used her idea twice. Why did an absolute stranger do this?

Then, the volunteer who sells coffee once a week at the center carries my coffee to a nearby table for me. It’s difficult for me to manage that and the walker — multitasking was never my thing. He says he’s not allowed to accept tips, I never ask him to do it, but he does it anyway. Why?

What makes so many strangers so kind? For one, I believe most people are inherently good. I also know that when I am kind to others, it gives ME a warm fuzzy. So it goes…..we give, we get. I am ever grateful to my wonderful caring family, to my friends, and especially those many strangers who are there for me. Warm hugs to you all!

chandra

My son’s beautiful wife Chandra who worked so very hard to plan a special 80th birthday party for me. She succeeded.

Doctor-assisted suicide for Canada

Muriel black and white Kudos to Canada’s Supreme Court, which this week voted unanimously for doctor-assisted suicide. It seems they’ve given a reluctant Conservative government a year to put it in place. This is something I have wanted for myself for years and I heartily approve. Hurrah for Canada, the country that made Gay marriage legal, and now has passed another important act of compassion.

Normal people don’t move mountains, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian, crazy as he may have been, was a hero in my eyes. He assisted 120 people to die. To my friend who is writing about serial killers, that is what he considers Kevorkian was — a killer. Interesting….

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

People have strong feelings on this issue, and I will not argue. I just know how I feel, and lately, it has been front and center in my own life because a friend asked me to help him end his suffering. (And, this was not the first time I have been approached in this way — I don’t know why.)

“C” was a member of the organization I started 15 years ago for people with balance and dizziness disorders. When I first met him, I was sure the guy would kill himself at work, which sometimes required climbing ladders. He had Ataxia, which compromised his nervous system and his balance was severely affected even then. Fate sometimes plays cruel jokes on us, he had been a Tango dancing devotee.

His co-workers thought he drank. He let them think so. They would chuckle, and he would smile with them. But it was a charade — he didn’t drink — though if you saw him walking, you would certainly think so. He was determined to keep working until he was 65 so he could collect his pension. I was sure he wouldn’t make it….

No one fought harder than “C” to continue functioning, he attended Tai Chi classes, and regularly worked out at a gym. His arm muscles looked strong and powerful, but his illness was even more powerful. However, every step I thought he should take, he delayed. He drove longer than I thought he should. He walked without a cane longer than I thought he should — and he fell, again and again. When I felt he needed a walker, he finally gave in and bought a cane — and kept falling. When I thought he needed a wheelchair, he purchased a walker.

They must have known him well at the emergency department of his local hospital. Once, it was nine stitches to his scalp, another time it was twelve. Too often he sported ugly scrapes and bruises. I worried. He drove me nuts. It became too dangerous for him to live on his own. Long after I thought he should give up his apartment, he finally gave in. The falls, however, never stopped.

When things became more than he could bear, he asked me to help him end his life. I contacted “The Farewell Foundation”, an organization which helps people in his position as much as they are legally permitted to. They cannot provide anything for you, but they will stay with you when YOU, yourself, obtain or do whatever you decide on, until you are dead. I understood their position.

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Things became more and more unbearable. He could no longer write. He could no longer speak clearly. He could no longer hear much. I met with him and the kind people from the organization. They warned me to be careful and told me of possible dire consequences. A woman who had helped someone spent over $100,000 in court, lost her passport and could no longer leave the country. My children live out of the country. I love them. I want to be able to visit them. I was scared.

We visited his doctor together. He was sympathetic, but not willing to help — too frightened to I assume. Again, we understood. I bought the most recent copy of “Final Exit”. I read it cover to cover. I marked and underlined everything I felt could be helpful, brought it to “C” and read those parts for him. We talked about the various options. However, as usual, everything he decided to do, he decided on too late.

The last fall I was aware of cost him an eye. They had to remove it. After that, he was permanently hospitalized. Things were now truly out of his hands. He again begged me to help. I was told if he chose not to eat in hospital, they wouldn’t be allowed to force him, and they are required to keep him comfortable. Did he understand? Was the information I was given correct? I’ll never know.

He then asked me to take him to Switzerland. He could no longer walk at all. I would not be physically capable of helping him make it. It was too late. In desperation, he asked me to get him a gun. He was no longer able to hold one or to shoot it. It broke my heart to watch his suffering. Can a caring person be relieved and glad when a friend dies? I was….

For “C” and the other person I knew who would have opted to end his life on his own terms had he been able to, I hope this new law will be enacted and be there for all who wish it. You need not agree…..

Oh dear! A Concussion?

Mom Scared SM I have a vestibular disorder. I have dealt with balance and dizziness issues for years. I have fallen many times. I listen to the news — I am interested in what happens when athletes suffer concussions. I know about these things. There are members of the organization I co-founded 15 years ago who deal with vestibular conditions because they’ve had concussions. You would think I’d know better….
I fell again recently. I went down like timber in the middle of the night and hit my forehead against a dresser with metal drawer pulls. Ouch! I was visiting friends. I didn’t want to disturb them so I said nothing — and did all the wrong things!

I fell down like timber in the middle of the night

I fell down like timber in the middle of the night


I dragged my aching body back into bed. The next morning, by pulling my hair down over it, I hid the large bump on my forehead which had blossomed into lovely shades of purple and blue. Clothing hid the bruises on my body and I claimed exhaustion and blamed the heat wave (it was 110 F. there) as an excuse to lay low. These are especially good friends and they let me call the shots. They spoil me and take care of all my needs/desires and I felt okay for the rest of my visit with them and noticed nothing.
After arriving back home, I felt unusually exhausted and unable to function. I’m organized — I made a list. It overwhelmed me — I’m not ordinarily easily overwhelmed. Friends called, but I was too weary to call them back (which was weird — I’m talkative) and sent out an email to a few at once saying I would call after I rested for a few days. A friend called back to ask if I had forgotten our book club meeting (at my place) the very next day. I had seen it on my calendar — it just hadn’t registered.
I had a concussion

I had a concussion

This friend knows about concussions. She recently had one herself. She suggested I see my doctor and I listened. My doctor confirmed that I did, indeed have a concussion and told me which steps to take, and especially to take it seriously.
“Muriel, I am interested in prevention,” she told me. “I want you to carefully think about it. Tell me exactly how it happened, why it happened, and what you can do to avoid it in the future.”
The brain, before and after a concussion

The brain, before and after a concussion


We discussed it together and I subsequently thought about it further after I got home and this is what I came up with.
#1 I was over-tired. I had risen at 4 a.m. the day before, then taken an all-day train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, arriving at about 9:00 p.m. Excited to see each other, my friends and I chatted awhile before I turned in. I awoke, as usual, sometime during the night to go to the bathroom, but was too tired to get up. If I ignore it, I hoped, perhaps I would fall back to sleep. It worked, but when I awoke the next time, it was a more urgent call for action. I moved too quickly.
#2 The bed I slept in is a sofa-bed. I’ve slept in it many times and it is lower than my own. Usually, I support myself with my hands when I get out of bed at home. I could not do that on the sofa bed. I needed to raise myself slowly and be sure of my footing before getting up. I was in a real hurry. I didn’t.
#3 The carpeting is plush and thick and soft — my own at home is not. I should have taken more time in turning towards where I was heading. I didn’t.
#4 In any case, I could have used my walking stick for support, no matter what. I didn’t. I jumped up, turned and keeled over.
“After the horse ran away, I locked the barn.” From that night on:
I did not put off the middle of the night trip to the washroom, so it would not feel so urgent.
I took my walking stick up to my bedroom each night and diligently used it for stability each time I got out of the low sofa bed and walked to the nearby washroom.
I turned slowly — as I should have in the first place.
It was too late to prevent the concussion this time, but I shall remember these steps in the future. And, I was extremely lucky. I’m okay now.

Falling in love, literally

If at all possible, I go out for breakfast in the morning. There are a few others in the neighborhood who do likewise. We’ve gotten to know each other and chat over coffee or tea. It can make for a stimulating, interesting, or amusing start to the day. Last week, Nancy and I, who talk about everything and anything, were sharing some of our embarrassing moments. Isn’t it amazing how years later we can laugh about things that seemed so awful at the time they happened?

Here’s one I shared: When I first met my husband, I thought him handsome and charming and mysterious. The ‘r’s’ rolled off his tongue and his accent was irresistible. He seemed to hang on to my every word as his hazel eyes gazed into mine. After meeting, our first date was on New Year’s Eve. He gave me only the obligatory kiss at midnight which was okay for a first real date. When he said goodnight, he invited me to go with him the next afternoon to the Arboretum. (A beautiful, large garden in Arcadia, California, where I had never been.) After that, he said, we would go out for dinner.

I was pleased. I accepted. That year on January 1st the sun shone brilliantly in Southern California. It was a perfect day for an outing. We strolled under the sunshine along an all-but deserted pebble path between colourful, blooming camellia trees. It was lovely. Great. Magical.

He kissed me, right there...

He kissed me, right there…

Suddenly, with no one else around, he took me in his arms and kissed me — right there. This was our first rrreeeaaalll kiss. I’m cool. I wanted to impress; to seem sophisticated; to act as if it were no big deal for me to be kissed like that right out there under the sky and the sun and the flowering trees in front of the whole wide, beautiful world. So, pretending to be absolutely collected and unfazed, with what I believed was proper dignity and decorum, I calmly turned from him to continue walking ahead along the pebble path and —– fell flat on my face.

He helped a somewhat shaken and very embarrassed, humiliated me to my feet. What would you have done in my place???? I could do nothing more than draw on what was left of my sense of humour to survive the devastating moment.

`”See what happens when you kiss me?” I laughed, though I didn’t at all think it was funny. I wanted to die at that very moment. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole, so I could disappear forever and ever and never have to face him again. And, surely, I had blown it anyway and would never hear from this man after that clumsy fiasco.

We were going out to dinner together, remember? Those were somewhat more formal days in my life. I was wearing a dress, pantyhose and high heels, appropriate restaurant wear, but frankly, not that great an idea for an afternoon in the park, but I had wanted to look my best.

My knees were dirt and pebble-encrusted and altogether a bloody mess. My pantyhose were shredded at the knees, hanging loosely with long decorative runs going in all directions interwoven with dripping blood running downwards as we walked, making matters worse.

In vain, I tried to wash my knees at the first public bathroom I saw, which had no soap, only cold water, and those dreadful, hard, brown paper towels they sometimes have in such places. There was no choice but to discard what was left of my damaged hose, and to continue on my way stocking-less in my high-heeled shoes. (I always did, and still hate to be barefoot in shoes. I don’t understand how anyone can do it. )

Nonetheless, he gallantly took a somewhat disheveled me, sans stockings — scraped, bleeding knees and all, out to dinner to a very romantic French restaurant up in the hills. We walked through the lovely garden grounds in the cool of the evening, and when he later dared kiss me again (miracle of miracles) I hardly felt the pain in those knees. (Later, they became infected and I had to go see my doctor.)

To me, he seemed a thoughtful, soft-spoken and good-looking Continental who recited French poetry with passion.

I could not resist....

How could I resist….

Ribbons and hearts(Not that I always understood it all, but it certainly sounded good.) Besides, he would tuck charming little notes under my front door, and buy me daisies because, he said, they are very French. How could I resist?

What happened next? I fell two more times in his company. (High-heels, I realize, were always a problem for me.) The third time, he announced that he’d just have to marry me because I needed someone to hold me up. And, after all, we did marry.

Some tips from a lady who has been there:  After marrying the person you choose, continue doing some of the lovely things you charmed him/her with in the first place. And, try to keep your promises.