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Remembering my brother…..

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Daughter Susan suggested I write about my childhood. She deserves that I do. Besides, it’s time for me to write about my brother Bob. He was the firstborn and only son in a family of five kids. As the youngest, I held him in awe. If he just noticed me, I was thrilled. However, I also remember him being very funny, kind, and at times wise.

I was about five and for some reason, he decided to take me to Belmont Park in Montreal. In those days, cotton dresses were

bluedress

It was a blue dress

washed, starched, and ironed. Mine was blue. It was also stiff and itchy, but I enjoyed the feeling of the clean fabric against my skin. I got onto a streetcar with my big brother, who was taking ONLY me somewhere. It was grand….

At the amusement park, Bob probably indulged me in too many treats, took me on too many rides, and I thanked him by — throwing up all over my clean dress. I don’t believe he took me out like that again, nor can I blame him.

Bob also pulled some pranks for which he got ‘what for’ from our dad. Once when I was too young to tie my own shoes, my mom was tying them for me on my sister’s bed. I saw movement under my own bed. An ogre? A monster? Yikes!

isthatanogre

An ogre? A monster? Yikes!

I screamed in terror. It was early morning, dad was still home. Bob was pulled out from under my bed and dealt with. I still couldn’t stop screaming. That wasn’t the only time Bob got into trouble for pulling stunts adults don’t appreciate.

Our parents would sometimes catch a matinee on Sunday mornings. On the way home, mom stopped at a deli to buy our lunch. Bob babysat us while they were away. Mom had made wine. It was ready — and accessible. Bob offered us a penny or two per glass we drank. I wanted those pennies. You could buy an ice cream then with three pennies!

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Happy but too drunk to stand up

I drank wine — it was sweet. I liked it — how much I downed I don’t know. I was unable to stand afterwards. We girls were all drunk! When dad entered, I was sitting on the kitchen floor leaning against a cabinet for support. Bob was in trouble again. I believe I never collected those pennies and enjoyed teasing Bob about that for years.

Another Sunday we must have been hungry. (Maybe the matinee was longer.) Bob placed a can of Campbell’s vegetable soup in a pot of Campbellsboiling water to heat. It exploded — all over. There were pieces of vegetables stuck here and there, as well as on the ceiling, Dad, as usual, arrived home first. This time he didn’t scold. He quickly helped us clean the mess up. It was impossible to remove the orange stain from the ceiling. Nobody, as far as I know ever mentioned it to mom. Maybe she never looked up — it remained our secret.

Last year, when I was hospitalized getting a new hip, Bob passed away. It has taken me all this time to be able to write about him. I think of him so often — but now always with pleasure.

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        Bob with my still beautiful sisters, L- Shirley, R- Pauline                           photo by Bob’s talented son Gary Rush

 

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I thought I invented it….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

That’s how things go folks. You think you’re particularly clever and have come up with a unique and brilliant idea that no one else has ever thought of before — and you learn it’s been used for centuries. Bummer!

For years I’ve seen myself through scary, painful or difficult times by singing — aloud. The older the song, the better because then I have to work harder at remembering the words. I’ve fought my way out of my apartment step-by-agonizing-step after devastating dizziness sieges by singing. At times I’d make it as far as the elevator, but later might make it as far as the front entrance. Sometimes guys, that can be a big accomplishment, especially for a dizzy dame.

I’ve survived driving my car home (right turns only) while experiencing severe

old lady nervous in car

terrified driving when vertigo begins

vertigo by singing encouragement to myself. Want the words? (Don’t worry about copyright, use them anytime.) ‘You’re fine because you’re fine, because you’re fine, because you’re fine….’ (Use any tune you like, it doesn’t matter, no one’s judging.) It obviously worked for me — I’m still alive!

After my hip surgery last year, while five fussing nurses gathered round my bed trying to figure out how to extricate the stubborn last staple (out of 18) which had somehow formed a ring in my flesh, I sang an old kids’ song as they dug in. When they finally succeeded, they gleefully gave each other high-fives and danced about. Were they just pleased with themselves for solving the problem, or delighted with the quality of my (ahem) beautiful voice? I never asked…..

I’ve many stories I could tell you about times when my singing saved the day for me, but I won’t bore you with all the grizzly details. Suffice it to say, it has worked.

lady with earphones

Really, it works

Why do I risk making a fool of myself in front of others who are sometimes strangers? Because it works. It seems my brain, unable to double-task well, has to concentrate on the (preferably) old song I don’t remember too well. I actually believed I was the one who figured this out all by myself — that nobody else ever thought about it before. Ha.

 

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Music Therapy by Louis Gallait, Belgian artist, (1810-87)

 

Recently CBC Radio had a program about Music Therapy. I had to find out more so called on Mrs. Google. Waddaya know? It’s been used for years for relaxation, reminiscence for the elderly, physical rehab for stroke victims, plus more other physical and mental conditions than I have the space to list here. Interesting, no?

Go ahead. Give it a try. Why not?

 

1,2,3,4 long days without my computer….

Muriel2017

My

In spite of my admiration for Catherine the Great and Empress

knight in shining armor

My knight in shining armor

Wu, right now my friend/neighbor Wayne is my new hero. My computer collapsed. Poor thing had to be hospitalized and have surgery. Wayne carried it gently down to his car and drove it to the Apple hospital, where they deemed it too old to bother with. (Apple must be hard up for cash and needs us to purchase new ones. Make a donation if you can.)

better sick comp

My ailing old computer

Undaunted, gallant Wayne found somewhere else to take my ailing computer, drove it there and after a few harrowing days, brought it back to me. I was more than willing to shell out the $392 required for a new video processor chip, whatever that is.

Meanwhile, I had fretted and lost sleep over the possibility of losing everything on it. Worrying, as you know, is something I excel in. However, I also learned how much time I spend on this electronic contraption. I now must admit I’m addicted and I missed it terribly.

red brook and duster

Without my computer I had no excuses

This monster takes up so much of my time, there are dozens of obvious tasks-to-do I pass by each day and think I must take care of ‘one of these days’. Well, these four days ended up being those days. I couldn’t produce any other delaying tactics not to do them.

Instead of checking my email and seeing how many visited my blog first thing in the day, I made my often neglected bed every morning. Then, although I attend Tai Chi every Monday, plus exercise classes on Wednesdays and Fridays, I managed — in addition to get on my Exercycle Ladyonbikeand Stepper three times during the four days without electronic distractions. (The last time I’d managed time for that was March 8th!) I also managed to daily do the physio-recommended arm exercises for my torn tendons.

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My desk is now neater…

I have oodles of paper left over from my old printer which require detaching before I can use them in my new one. I now have a respectable stack ready and prepared. My desk is also somewhat neater. I filed many papers which had sat there for months. Papers and documents awaiting shredding got shredded and properly recycled. At last, my 2016 phone book/calendar got disposed of, with all your names and phone numbers safely shredded as well. Long neglected, shocked loved ones and friends received phone calls out of the blue. I feel so noble!

My kitchen received attention as well. I neatened up my ‘plastic bag’ drawer, piling various bags high on my counter, after which I diligently separated them by size. I carefully weighed the separated stacks down in the drawer with paperweights. (I did this in spite of son Rafi’s warning that this madness would indicate to visitors that I’m neat, thus making them uncomfortable in my home.) After that, I attacked my wealth of plastic containers, matching tops and bottoms, and discarding all those I couldn’t fix up with anyone. Then, because I;d rather not go out when it snows, I’d accumulated extra ‘just in case’ food supplies during winter, I pulled everything down from those crowded cabinets and put things in order. Can you imagine?

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I cleaned up the winter debris

Nor did my balcony get overlooked in this frenzy. On a rain-less day, I got out there and cleared up the debris left over from winter. My outdoor pots are now ‘almost’ pristine and ready for spring planting. You’ve got to be impressed!

Well, now I have my computer back and this ain’t gonna happen again for (hopefully) a very long time. I’m back. Thank goodness for small favors! I was even driving myself crazy…..

2017 in review

Carla

Front: Carol, Judy, me, Donna. Back: Carla, Peter

2017 brought losses — friends Peter and Carla, and I’m afraid Georgina too. Two others no longer remember me. I’ll miss them also. However, I met Grace and Howard this year, and look forward to getting to know them better. Linda, too, came into my life and she’s a treasure. I’ve met Marion in our new Tai Chi class and since Val’s in it too, I’ll get to see more of them both.

Didn’t go anywhere in 2016. Couldn’t even walk! Wasted dollars on travel health insurance I never used. 2017, too, began dismally. Something had to be done. Bless Judy, she came with me to see Dr. Gredanis and filled out forms for me to get a new hip. Friends and neighbors like Amy and David, Wayne and Mairona, Linda, Vinson, Judy, Marlene, and others kept cabinets and fridge stocked and got me wherever I needed to go.

2017 also brought some accomplishments. Our book club’s list of ‘Books Read’ is now over 200! We’re pleased with ourselves. I organized a new Tai Chi class with help from Jean, our kind new instructor. She’s absolutely the right person to lead us. Some of the old gang had nagged about missing the class, Jean happened along and viola. We have a class! I then realized my own balance needs a lot of work, so it’s all good.

My new hip happened on March 17, with Susan at my side. Rafi came afterwards. They didn’t want me home alone between hospital discharge and Rafi’s visit, so dear Trudy came to stay. Samantha dropped in on a Sunday morning for the real biggie. I wanted to see if I could manage a real bath. (I love baths.) I made it! Talk about joy….

Hamming it up

Having fun in Nevada

I traveled in 2017. July found me in Nevada, visiting daughter Susan and her Michael. Why not make it a birthday celebration? The San Francisco contingent joined us and spent the week, and dear Joe, all the way from L.A. made it a birthday I’ll never forget. He ordered bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese for our breakfast, plus a huge birthday balloon, all delivered from Reno up to us in the mountains! He hand painted a lovely coffee mug, which waited for me in a package with coffee and cookies for added pleasure. What a guy!

Joe had called regularly while I was in hospital and was the one who realized my nausea was due to the morphine. (I’d assumed I was having a vestibular reaction to the stress of surgery.) He was right! Joe’s often right.

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Joe, me, Rebecca

The next trip was to my kids in San Francisco, where I

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Joe’s Susan and me in their gift, a RED wrap

was spoiled rotten again. I got to see my Chandra climb the scaffolding most days while the outside of their home was being painted. (Rafi, like me, is uncomfortable with heights.) Then, I took the train to L.A., and stayed with my kind-of (but no less beloved) kids Rebecca and Brian, who spoiled me rotten yet again, and so if you notice how spoiled I am, you know why. Joe’s Susan invited us to a lovely family dinner, where Joe and I ‘entertained’ with a short skit he wrote. We exchanged gifts and hugs — it just doesn’t get better.

LadyonbikeThese are not all the 2017 happenings. I quickly returned to Keno’s exercise classes and worked really hard at trying to regain my leg muscle strength, Wayne lent me (then told me I could keep) a ‘stepper’ which I’ve been using to help me get stronger, and after two years being unable to use it, I’m finally back on my Exercycle.
It was a very good year…..

 

Henry is having his way….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Henry is resentful. He’s upset. I didn’t take him along on my recent trip to visit my children in California. He wanted to go, but I had decided it would be best to leave him behind this time. He did accompany me on my trip to Nevada in July, but he was kept behind at airport security for further interrogation, and I was at the gate before I realized he wasn’t with me. Well, what do you expect? My memory isn’t what it was when I was 20!

Flying is no longer the pleasure it used to be, so I wasn’t thrilled to have to go back to security to find him. And, security wasn’t quite sure where he’d gone. It was a real nuisance. It seemed more practical to have less to deal with this time.

Chinese Airbus, 1992

Flying is no longer a pleasure

She always liked you better than me

Henry’s chagrined

So Henry is chagrined. He’s hurt and not behaving as he should. He’s generally undermining my efforts to know how far I’ve managed to walk each day even though I always remember to invite him along whenever I go out. Come on Henry. Cut it out. I get it. I know you’re angry with me. How long will this go on?

Henry can be temperamental. This isn’t the first time he’s chosen to ignore me. During the heat of the summer, he found my capri pants too disconcerting to concentrate on how far we’d gone. Like me, he isn’t good at double-tasking, and I believe he was endeavoring to romance a nearby resident. Would you call that a double-cross?

Henry is the name I chose to give my pedometer. It was difficult enough to figure out how to use the darn thing — well, okay, I still have problems now and then. However, after having received a new hip, I’m trying to gradually increase the number of steps I take each day. I need Henry’s cooperation to accomplish this. He’s definitely falling down on the job.

pedometer

Henry is my pedometer

I don’t know why I chose the name Henry. It just came out of the blue. My friend Joe said it means ‘Runs the household’. I checked that with Mr. Google who says Joe is right. Henry obviously already knows this and is throwing his weight around.

Cool it Henry, or I’ll get angry too and toss you out!

 

 

 

 

Persistence brings progress…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

I’ve been working hard at recovery since I had my hip replaced in late March. Am I neurotic? Perhaps. I’m probably also one of those ‘A’ personalities who is driven.

I’m not the type to buy an Exercycle and then just use it to hang laundry on. Nor will I enroll in an exercise class and lose interest. So, I used my bike regularly about five days a week and attended both Tai Chi and ‘Joint Works’ exercise classes and never missed if at all possible until — I was in so much pain I could hardly walk (prior to this surgery).

After I got my new hip, I did my assigned exercises diligently, returned to my exercise classes before I was able to do all the moves the rest of the class did, and got back on my Exercycle before I could lift that right leg over the centre. I had to walk around the bike and get up on the left, and began with very few rotations, which I slowly built up. With time I was able to lift that right leg over the centre — barely, but it was progress. Bravo!

I love baths. My whirlpool jets are set to hit directly at my arthritic joints. The warm

drawing of woman in tub

I love baths

water is wonderfully soothing. After three months, my surgeon said I may bathe again. A dear friend came over (just in case I needed help) and I made it! If I were a drinking person, I’d have celebrated with champagne! That was a real biggie….

I hadn’t been able to travel for well over a year. Gleefully, I

Susan& Michael

Michael and Susan at their front door

planned a visit to see the new home my daughter and son-in-law had built the year before. It required two airline flights each way, but I made it! I also climbed 17 stairs (Susan counted them) to see their upper floor. Since it was my birthday while I was there, my San Francisco contingent joined us. We celebrated. It was fantastic.

SM, Spa Day

Being spoiled rotten — facial and foot massage

Everyone spoiled me. My Chandra and grandson Remy gave me a facial and foot massage. Chandra noticed I hadn’t trimmed the last three toes on my right foot. True. I couldn’t yet reach them and wasn’t happy with having them done at the pedicure shop. (They’re into esthetics and that’s not what I need.) My loved ones took care of that too.

Hamming it up

Hamming it up

After my return home, now and then I begin to feel, in spite of my continued hard work, I haven’t made any new progress. Then something happens. One day I discovered I WAS able to reach and trim those three toenails on my right foot by myself. It was so exciting, I sent an email to my kids to give them the news. This too was a biggie.

Little by little, I keep increasing my exercises, and now and then I get a new or unexpected reward. I’m now up to 4:20 miles per seating on my bike, and am doing 70 steps each time on my stepper. I continue attending exercise classes, and my loyal pedometre counts my steps when I walk each day. I’m building them up too.

I’m not done with little miracles yet. When I bathed yesterday, I was able to get into my higher-than-average tub without using my arm to pull my right leg up and over. Yeah! Another step forward….

Why am I telling you all this? So you won’t ever give up.

‘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.

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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.