Saturday, January 31, 2009

Progress report: No progress.

It's been more than a year since my parents announced to me that they're splitting up, but the process is nowhere near being finished.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who's been through a divorce.  However, one would expect that by now my step-dad would have all his personal stuff moved out of my mom's house.  Clothes, papers, and the like.  

Those of you who were reading over the summer got to hear about my adventures with Ken and my mom as we worked together to pack some of my step-dad's stuff into boxes.  Or more accurately: Ken did most of the work, while I concentrated on distracting my mom, because she couldn't be witness to the process without getting emotionally triggered by every piece of his crap that came to light on its way into the boxes.

We cleared out the whole 2nd floor and half of the first floor by Hallowe'en.  It took a long time because Ken could only be in the house for 2 hours at a time, even with allergy medication, because he's allergic to cats.   Even though we worked on it every Sunday, progress was painfully slow.

Why, you might ask, were we packing for my step-dad?  Why wasn't he doing it himself?  Because if he doesn't want to do something, he doesn't do it.  Full stop, end of story.  He's good at two things: making money, and playing golf.  And if you have enough money that you're willing to throw at your problems, you can usually find someone to do the dirty work for you.  Lucky for him that he has cash to spare.

It kind of makes sense that he wants other people to do everything for him.  Outside of his line of work, his incompetence is frightening.  Even when he is motivated to do something, he screws it up in ways that defy imagining.  Sometimes he seems to verge on "idiot savant" territory.  Yes, it's that bad.

My mom is sick to death of my step-dad's habit of sloughing off responsibility.  For 27 years she did all the dirty work in the house, organized his life for him, and picked through the recycling bin every week to pull out the imortant mail he invariably threw in there due to sheer carelessness.

She decided that he should take some responsibility for shipping his crap to California.  When he was in town this past week she told him he should arrange for a courier to come by and pick up the boxes.  Not only that, but she was washing her hands of the whole problem.  It was his job to do everything, including sit around and wait for the courier to do the pickup.

When I heard that she was putting this all on him, I cringed inwardly.  I knew exactly what would happen.  And lo, it came to pass, just as I had predicted.

When the courier arrived, the boxes had not been brought up from the basement into the front hall.  Not only that, but none of them was labelled with an address, and several of them weren't even sealed.  He thought that all he had to do was make one phone call, and the courier would spirit all the boxes out of the basement, directly to California, without him lifting a finger.

My mom was there and told me what happened at the pick-up.  The driver got angry and said that he was on a schedule; he didn't have time to wait for my step-dad to prepare the boxes. My step-dad insisted that he could do it all quick-quick if the guy would just wait a minute.  Then he shoved a marker into my mom's hand and told her that she'd better go downstairs and start labelling boxes. Nice tactic, eh?  He's still sloughing stuff off onto her.

Meanwhile, the courier was standing with the front door open, and one of my mom's Never-Allowed-Outside cats escaped.  So of course my mom freaked out and went chasing after the cat in the snow.  The courier threw up his hands in disgust and left.  The boxes are still in the basement, innocent of all plans regarding their removal.

Even hearing my mom tell the story makes my stomach churn.  It's too much of a reminder of what it was like to live in the house with the two of them for 15 years.  Every simple thing became a fiasco.  The two of them always at odds with each other.  She was always pushing for him to do things which he would simply not do.  Her disappointment and anger were constant.  His lack of caring was equally consistent.

I'm having flashbacks to the misery of my childhood.   And the kicker is, the only way I'm going to get any closure on this situation is to go back and take care of things myself.  She won't do it on principle, and he won't do it because he doesn't want to.  So I'll end up doing it.  When that whole house is packed up and clean, maybe I'll get some peace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I love to walk.

I didn't realize how much I love my outside, fresh-air walks until I was stuck inside for 9 days, sick. I did venture out a couple of times over those days, but I didn't get far. My legs were wobbly as jelly. I shuffled to the end of the block and home again, exhausted.

On my first day back at work, it was minus umpteen outside with a wind chill. I knew that if I attempted the 20-minute walk my energy would be completely spent by the time I stepped in the door. So I cabbed it. It felt so wrong to hire a car for such a short drive.

I hated being in that cab. It was stuffy. Inside my down parka, I started sweating as soon as I got buckled in. We idled, trapped in the morning traffic. My leg muscles itched to get moving.

I worked for seven hours that day, until the office started to spin. Then I figured I'd better take another cab home. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Even though I was officially back to normal life, I still felt crappy. Depressed. I didn't sleep well that night.

The next day I felt well enough to set out on foot. It was so fantastic to be on the move, breathing un-furnaced air, getting a little sun on my face. The more I walked, the better I felt. My mood expanded like a hot-air balloon filling up. My cramped muscles heaved a sigh of relief and began to un-knot themselves. That night, I slept like a baby.

Never before have I appreciated how essential walking is to my mental health. It's my me-time, my thinking time, my prayer time. It's my appreciating-nature time. I've read that walking is therapeutic in that it harmonizes the two hemispheres of one's brain.

I can't imagine living like some people apparently do. I've heard that some folks never walk anywhere. They'll take their car to go two blocks to pick up a loaf of bread. Or maybe they live in a subdivision where nothing is in walking distance of anything else and there aren't even any sidewalks. I've visited places like that. They feel as alien to me as the moon.

What place does walking have in your life?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Back to Life

Were you getting bored reading about my illness? Because I was getting bored of writing about it. And living it.

Fortunately, I'm back to my regular life, and with it, much more interesting blog fodder.

For example, there is a public washroom in my workplace which we share with our visitors. It's not horribly disgusting, but it is a public washroom. It can safely be assumed that no surface in there is truly clean. People fill urine sample bottles in there and then leave them standing on the counter by the sinks while they wash their hands, for example. Therefore, I always assume there are trace amounts of urine on those counters.

I touch everything in there through a layer of paper towel.

Today I went in and a woman had her stuff spread out everywhere. She had a very fuzzy, cozy blanket that I guess she wears like a cloak over her parka. It was drapped over the counter into the basin of a sink. A lovely, furry blanket, soaking up all the germy water from the sink basin. Yuck.

She had also left an open can of pop sitting out on the counter between the sinks, where anyone could drip water or soap into it.

Meanwhile, she was in one of the stalls, carrying on a LOUD conversation on her cell phone.

When she emerged, she started chatting with me. And I have to say, she had a very likeable personality. Friendly as can be, big smile, obviously not an anxious type. She was complaining in a good-natured way about how difficult it is to find a subway token in a handful of change. She then proceeded to pull all the contents of her pockets out and spread them across the counter.

Is it crazy that this type of behaviour gives me the heebie jeebies? I don't consider myself to be excessively germ-phobic. But it's a public bathroom, for crying out loud!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The healing process: it's proceeding in a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kind of way, but it's proceeding.

I ran out of patience with being sick and stuck in the house around two days ago.  Before that I was on my best behaviour, sighing only ever so slightly as I reclined on the couch with my tissues and lozenges.   Overall, I accepted my situation and kept my spirits up.

But this week, although I haven't been coughing and sneezing nearly as much, I am tired.  So tired at times that I can't sit up.  Tired in a way that drags at my eyeballs and drains my spirits.  Tired in a way that makes me as cranky as a baby who missed her nap.

My biggest challenge this week has been my inner Control Freak.  I know that there's work stacking up in my in-box; that there are concerns at work which I should be there to address.  I WANT to be there, helping my colleagues, leading my team, contributing to the smooth functioning of it all.  Knowing that my staff are struggling to cover my workload without me is very frustrating.  I want to be there to pull my own weight.

I've always been a super-organized over-achiever.  I actually created an in-box for myself at the age of seven.  It was the packaging from a Play-Doh activity kit.  I wrote "THINGS TO DO" on it in my wonky, little-kid handwriting.  I can't remember what I put in there, but at the time it seemed extremely important to keep on top of the work in that box.

I was the same way with schoolwork.  When I was eight years old I procrastinated on a project,  rushing to complete it the night before it was due.  I promised myself I'd never do that again, and I didn't.  I became the anticrastinator, doing everything as early as possible.  My mom never had to remind me to do my homework, or help me with it at all.

I was going to be the kid that learned from other peoples' mistakes, not my own.  I was going to be rich and successful by getting good grades and working hard.  The stupid kids who goofed off and didn't get their assignments done were going to work for me someday.  They might bully me today, but the future belonged to me, with my A+ average.

Well, it didn't work out quite as simply as I'd hoped, not by a long shot.  I'm not rich by First World standards, nor wildly successful in the way I'd envisioned.  I still pride myself on my work ethic and for living up to my responsibilities.  However, I'm not sure how wise it is to hang on to the high standards that demand so much from me and give little in return.  

In fact, my one resolution for 2009 is to be less willful, and more surrendered to the will of God.  On a macro level I'm pretty good at taking cues regarding my life's direction, but at the level of day-to-day to-do lists, I'm fiercely controlling.  That still, small voice within whispers lovingly in my ear, and I ignore it.  I follow my agenda instead of my intuition.  This despite the fact that sticking to my own agenda tends not to work out to my best advantage.  

I have the feeling that my days would unfurl much more smoothly and meaningfully if I could find the courage to let go.

I've been praying to God to teach me how to be more surrendered to His will.  Although I was always a good student, this is my weakest subject.  What's the best way to learn?  By doing.  And here I am, forced to surrender, because I don't have the strength to fight.  Be careful what you pray for.

So, you'll have to excuse me.  I'm off to do my homework.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reports of my good health...

... on Twitter may have been somewhat exaggerated.

I'm no longer sneezing my way through ten trees' worth of tissues every day, nor running a fever, but I'm totally WEAK, dudes.  I feel great - when I'm lying down.

Yesterday I got really excited because I felt so much better than I had in a week.  In a burst of enthusiasm, I bundled up and took a trip to the grocery store, which is a ten-minute walk from my front door.  I got myself back, and even cooked myself a nice dinner, but by the time I'd been up and active for 90 minutes, I was beat.  I barely had the strength to sit up at the table and eat.  

It's not that my muscles are weak.  It's like, I don't know, I feel like my heart is actually labouring.  I feel drained and my heart starts to beat faster, which makes me feel anxious and cranky.  The bad feeling goes away if I lie down and stay still.  So.  Obviously I'm not ready to back to work just yet.  I could probably manage to walk myself there, but then I'd curl up under my desk and whimper piteously until I fell asleep with my head pillowed on my spare pair of shoes.

I finally caved and got a prescription for antibiotics.  I took the first dose this afternoon.  Totally terrifying.  I have a bad track record for side effects: if there's one to be had, I'll have it.  I usually avoid taking pills at all costs.  I can't even take ibuprofen anymore - the stuff burns holes in my gut.  Any cold remedy with ephedrine or pseudo-ephedrine is not an option because of what it does to my heart rate.  In my experience, the cures are usually worse than the disease.

I read all the possible side effects: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, etc.  Please God, I prayed, please just let these little pills help me.  I can't take barfing and the runs after the week I've just been through. 

Then I ate a granola bar, and tossed in two little Barbie-pink pills on top of that.  So far it's been over an hour, and no dreaded side effects, so I think I'm in the clear.  It's a small miracle to me anytime my body manages to tolerate a pharmaceutical product.

The bonus part of being home sick today was getting to watch live coverage of Obama's inauguration.  I'll just say that I loved his speech, and I feel he's a breath of fresh air that will benefit the entire continent.  I was happy to be a witness to this historic day.

Now I'm a little bummed because my cable cut out at 2:30 pm and hasn't been back since.  The cable provider's service line is playing a message claiming system-wide problems.  Look, any other time I wouldn't care, but TV is an essential component of my recuperation right now.  I need my opiate of the masses!  Give it back!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Yes, I'm STILL sick.  It's a full week since my first day of feeling ill.  I did go to work Wednesday through Friday, but that was too much too soon.  I got worse.  I'm a mucusoid mess.

I haven't left my house in 2 days.   Although my sinuses are clearing up, the sickness hasn't gone.  It moved down.  I woke up in the night feeling like an overweight cat was sitting on my chest, a feeling I'm familiar with from much past experience - not from illness, but from my actual overweight cat who used to sneak onto me while I was sleeping.

Last night there was no cat.  Just a batch of horrible gunk that I had the pleasure of couging up in the morning.  Yucko.

On and off, I'm running a low fever.  My "normal" body temperature is around one degree below the average of 98.6 F.   When the thermometer says 98.7, that's more than one degree above my normal, therefore, fever.  

So what have I been doing with my bleary, sniffly, hacking, alternating-between-sweats-and-shivers self?  Watching the idiot box, of course.  This week I learned that weekday daytime TV is much more interesting than weekend daytime TV.  On Saturday all there was on was basically news, infomercials, and a couple of boring movies.  

I watched Thirteen Days, a drama about the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.  Running time: three hours.  The whole first hour was a bunch of guys in grey suits and skinny ties yelling at each other: We have to send in air strikes!  No, musn't!  Yes, we must!  Etc.  Finally things got moving into the second hour.  If you rent that movie, save yourself some time.  Watch the first ten minutes to get the characters' names, then fastforward to 2:00:00.  You won't miss anything.

I also watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which has its charming moments, but what the heck kind of a plot arc is that?  I'll tell you right now: it isn't.  I lost interest shortly after they landed in Bolivia.  

Coincidentally, there was a passing mention of Bolivia in the third movie of the day, which was The Score, with Robert De Niro and Edward Norton.  That was the best movie of the three.  

Running out of steam now.  *sigh*  Better go get horizontal again...  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Cold Post

It's cold out, and I have a cold. Welcome to winter!

I fought the cold, and the cold won. On Monday and Tuesday of this week I did nothing but recline on my couch, feet up, remote control in hand, semi-conscious and re-discovering the gems of daytime TV. There's nothing like a low-grade fever to lay a shiny gloss of fascination over programs like American Justice and Dr. Phil.

Normally I get bored after two consecutive hours of TV. It was pretty cool to just relax and veg out for two whole days.

By Tuesday night I wasn't feeling a whole lot better, but in my mind's eye I could see the work stacking up on my desk, so I thought I'd better go in. The cold (illness) waited until I was back at work to morph from a general feeling of achiness and fatigue into typical, slow-torture cold symptoms. The delicate tickle at the back of my throat that cuts me off in mid-sentence, or wakes me up at five-to-ten-minute intervals all night. Epic sneezes. My face looks like an unmade bed.

I would love, LOVE to crawl back under my duvet and channel-surf my way through to the end of the week. But I'm not quite sick enough to justify hiding out at home. Blick. At least those crunchy sounds I was hearing in my right ear didn't come to anything. (Watch - now that I've written that I'll have a raging ear infection by this time tomorrow. )

There are some good things. I always like to remember the good things.

I bought new boots on sale: knee-high and lined with lambswooly stuff that makes them very cozy. I tested them out yesterday and today, taking 20-minute walks in the deep freeze, and my feet were toasty. Huzzah! I'm incredibly well-equipped for winter this year. I have layers like you wouldn't believe. Fleeces, hats, mitts, scarves, long-johns, over-the-knee-socks... in fact, I have to be careful not to overdress. I even have snowpants, which I haven't resorted to yet this year. If I wear them in anything warmer than -25 C, I broil.

I'm not letting the cold (weather) or the cold (illness) bully me out of having some social fun. I went out for a Japanese dinner last night with my super-awesome little sister, which was great. And I have a plan to go dancing with a girlfriend of mine for her birthday this Saturday. I have to get well by then! I can't think of a way of working Epic Sneezing into my Flashdance routine.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I should've had a tuna sandwich

The Domino Effect; A Case Study

First domino:  
Lunchtime, Friday.  I decide to get a cabbage roll.

Second domino: 
On the walk back to the office, I don't pay close attention to how I'm holding the styrofoam clamshell.  It's very full of sauce.  I manage to tip it enough to pour sauce all down the front of my winter coat.  Gah! :-p

Third domino:
When I get home, I read the washing instructions for my coat.  It says "machine wash in a front-loading washer".  Well, I have a top-loading washer, but I washed my last down parka in there without any trouble...

Fourth domino:
It's a big coat, so I leave the washer setting on "large load".

Fifth domino:
The coat floats on top of the water instead of sinking in.  That, combined with a full tub of water, overloads the machine.  Instead of starting the spin cycle, it makes a horrible whining noise and pours water all over the floor.

Sixth domino:
I don't live in a house.  I don't have a laundry room.  My washer and dryer are in a little closet just off my dining room.  The dining room and actually the whole condo is floored in wooden laminate.  Very lovely wooden laminate, which I have always enjoyed.

Seventh domino:
Water pours to the edge of the floor and under the floorboards.  The only other thing under there is a foam pad and a flat concrete surface.  No drain.

Eighth domino:
We throw every towel in the house onto the floor but it's too late.  Ken pries up several of the laminate strips, and the area underneath is awash.  

Ninth domino:
Overnight, water seeps throughout the floor by the washer, and the top layer of the laminate bubbles up at the seams.

So, let us review.  Because I chose to have a cabbage roll for lunch instead of, say, the falafel dinner special, my beautiful floor is now ruined.  How's that for the butterfly effect?
Double :-ppppppp

On the bright side:
  • I washed my coat in the bathtub.   It's clean and doing its coat thing just fine now.
  • We're in the middle of a cold snap, so our furnace is running overtime and consequently drying out the house.  The damage could have been worse.
  • We have some extra flooring left behind by the people who sold us the condo.  Ken can probably fill in the missing boards and some of the damaged spots.  In fact, it's possible that Ikea might still sell this exact same flooring.  It's only 4 years old.
  • The worst of the bubbling is in an area that's usually hidden under an area rug.
  • We already had plans to visit a friend on Saturday who just happens to have a specialized tool to lay laminate flooring.  He loaned it to us.  Saved: $25.
  • The washing machine suffered no lasting damage.
  • The stupid cabbage roll didn't give me food poisoning (although it wouldn't have surprised me).  
All in all it could've been worse.  I still resent the damage to my pretty floor.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

OK, I'm not in a crisis anymore - and I forget how to write about normal life.  How does this work again?  It's so much easier to pick a topic when there is a giant worry on my mind.

I saw my step-dad again.  Last time we spoke, I told him that I was ready to get to know his new* girlfriend.  They've been together for a year now.  It's time to face up to reality and stop pretending like she doesn't exist.  For reasons both practical and moral, I need to build a relationship with her.  But we can start with babysteps.

Like this: he brought in some photos of her.  He doesn't have any current ones.  She's around 70 years old now.  But he did have some ancient snaps of back in the day, when they were young lovers in Scotland.  This was in the early 1960's, when they were in their early 20's.  My first thought when I saw the photo he held out to me was:

"Hey, that's Bjork!"

There was more than just a passing resemblance.  She was a beauty alright, and she could have been Bjork's identical twin.  My step-dad had no idea who Bjork was, aside from the mention she recently got in the news for offering to help out Iceland's economy.  I went online and found some photos.  He was also impressed by the similarity.

I wonder what she looks like now.  Apparently she dyes her hair blond.  I can't picture it.

*By new I mean: they dated in their 20's, split up, and then got back together almost 50 years later, at the expense of my parents marriage. (for the benefit of my newer readers)

Monday, January 5, 2009


I think I'm back to "normal" now. Yaaaaaaaaaay!

All that cathartic purge-writing, followed by large doses of support from all y'all were better than any medicine a doctor could have prescribed.

Also, I had a chance to get some stuff off my chest with respect to my step-dad. He's back in town for a few days. Ken and I met him on Sunday, in the freezing cold, at 4:45 pm when the sun was beginning to set, in the middle of a vast industrial park in Markham. He's shipping his car to Florida, where he'll be spending most of the next few months. It's kind of weird to put a car on top of a train to move it from point A to point B, but even at $800 I guess it's cheaper than renting wheels all winter. He dropped off his car at the rail depot and we drove him back into town.

It's almost exactly one year since I got the news that my parents were splitting up. During that year, I listened to a lot of bitterness (mostly justified) from my mom. But for whatever subconcious reason, maybe my need to provide balance and the desire to keep both of my parents close to my heart, I didn't allow myself to agree with her. I saw her side; I saw his side. I tried to remain calm.

But since my mom finally announced that she was starting to feel like herself again, in early November, starting to feel happy and optimistic about the future, something shifted in me. It wasn't necessary for me to hold the centre, so I finally let down my defenses and started feeling my real feelings. I got sad, and angry.

By Sunday I decided that I had to talk to my step-dad about my feelings, because it got so that I anytime I talked with him I'd get all crabby and then snap at Ken or some other innocent 3rd party.

I broached the subject over dinner. I told him that I would love him no matter what, and he would always be my dad, but I was really angry with him. He made a selfish decision that hurt a lot of people. He wasn't miserable with my mother. In fact he was quite content. But after 27 years of marriage he saw something he liked more, and so he went after it because he "didn't want to have regrets" on his deathbed.

How about regretting how much he hurt my mother? And me, and the rest of the family?

I told him that to me, marriage vows are for real. I left my first marriage, but not easily. I was literally going crazy in that relationship. If I had stayed, I would have had to be medicated in order to function. Talking it out wasn't working. We had been going round in the same negative circles for years. He wasn't open to the idea of going to a counsellor. I stayed until I lost all hope for happiness in that marriage, then left for the sake of survival. And I hated that I had to leave.

He says it was a tough decision for him. In the end, he turned to his guiding philosophy: a channelled entity by the name of Seth. According to Seth, the most important thing is self-actualization. There is no mention of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's all about doing what feels good and right for you. Other people have to look out for themselves. So much for love. I hate Seth a lot right now.

Be that as it may, my step-dad is not planning to reconsider his beliefs. I have to accept that if I want to have him in my life. Also, I'd better be ready for him to make more decisions in the future that may hurt me. That sucks. However, he doesn't go out of his way to be mean. Mostly he's very generous, and he tries to be kind, if it doesn't interfere with his convenience too much.

That'll have to be good enough.

The good part is that he's so self-confident and unworried about what other people think of him that he was able to hear me out without getting upset. He listened, and he said that he understands my feelings. He even told me that he feels guilty, although he tries to push the feeling away. When the anniversary of the split came around, he started having guilt-nightmares that were keeping him up at night. Good. I think it's only fair that he feel some consequence from the decision that he made.

So maybe I'm not ready to fully forgive him yet, but I feel a thousand pounds lighter after telling him what was on my mind. And I'll always love him because... how could I stop?

The bottom line is that the process of going to pieces that started in mid-November and carried on throughout the holidays has finally reversed itself. I feel like I've put myself back together again. It's not exactly the same configuration as before, but I'm here, and feeling good.

I made it through the mess. Now, on to better things.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This has to come out.  I have to write, or this spell of winter blues will turn into a deeper darkness.

The signs are there.  I find myself thinking thoughts such as this:  "Sadness floats in me like marrow bones in an old soup pot."  I'm having trouble focusing at work.  I'm starting to get anti-social.  I have the urge to journal.  This is serious.

Let me tell this publicly, so at least I'll be held accountable.  (For what, I don't know.)  I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details, because I picked them up in bits and pieces over the years, but this story is not about the details.

A long time ago, 14 months before I was born, my mother gave birth to a baby girl.  Or, almost did.   There was a prolapsed umbilical cord.  The doctors didn't catch it in time.  The baby girl who would have been my older sister (assuming I would even have been born) did not survive the journey into this world.  She went straight on to the next one.

Legally, she never had a given name.  Her paperwork said simply: "Baby Girl Lastname".  All I know of what happened next is that the Salvation Army "took care of things".  I suppose my parents were grief-stricken and bewildered.  They didn't know where to turn, and the Sally Ann offered their kind assistance in making burial arrangements.  

I don't know what the Jewish tradition would have been in such a case.  It's a measure of how wrong things were in their world that Christians stepped in to offer help, and my family accepted.  I don't know about my father, but it's not something that my mother would have consented to under lesser circumstances.

My mother makes a special donation to the Salvation Army every year, in memory of their kindness, and their generous help at such a wrenching time.  I also drop a few coins in, or more,  whenever I pass one of their kettles.

I have not asked for more details than were offered to me, because it is such a painful subject and I haven't wanted to re-open old wounds.  To my father who will certainly read this, I thought about calling you for fact-checking, but decided I'd rather lay out the pictures I've been carrying in my head all these years, and then let you correct me later.  The pictures I have, right or wrong, and definitely incomplete, are what I've been working from.

So far as I know, there was no memorial service.  There was no one from her family in attendance at her funeral.  Her body lies in a cemetary somewhere in Ottawa, where I've never been.  I'm told that "the family" didn't want to talk about it, and so everyone tried to carry on as though she'd never existed, just looking to the future.  Trying to forget.

I've always felt sad for that little baby, my elder sister.  I know my parents will never forget her, but she should have had more than just that.  And my parents should have had more support at such a time of enormous loss.  It was a tragic situation made worse by silence and confusion.

I think of her sometimes.  How I grew in the same womb-space, only months after she had been there.  How I travelled down that same tunnel to the light, passing through the place where she died on my way to life.  Wondering if these shared spaces link us somehow.

I also think of how it might have been for my mother, although I'll never really know.  In my life, on the balance (so far), there has been more sadness than joy.  Even before my birth.  I think of my fetal self as a teabag in the cup of my mother's belly, brewing in reverse, being flavoured by the sadness that flowed through her body.

I think of my elder sister every now and then, with a passing wistfulness.  I never knew her, have never visited her grave, so she always seemed a bit unreal.  But...

When I went to Tak's funeral, it was the first time I was present at an interment in which the deceased had been cremated.   When the funeral car arrived, Tak's remains were brought out, enclosed within a wee wooden box.  A tiny coffin.  Almost big enough to hold an infant.

I watched Ken kneel to place the little box in the ground.  Watched as earth was shoveled on top.  Felt numb.  Went and ate lunch.  Carried on an otherwise normal day.

But that night, I fell apart.  It all came crashing in.  It was 1971, the Salvation Army people in their uniforms, saying prayers by the graveside, and that lonely little box going down into the earth.  My heart broke for my mother, and my father; for the baby; for my family.  I cried until my face hurt, my back cramped, my jaw ached.  I cried until I couldn't cry anymore that night, but it didn't feel finished.

And since then it has all been swimming around just under my consciousness.  It's all in a big, jumbly mess,  getting confused with grief at not having my own children, and sorrow for all the recent deaths in my circle.  My sadness for my mother for that old loss is all mixed up with my sadness for her present divorce.  

It's like everything in my family that ever hurt us and pulled us apart swelled up inside my heart, even as the holidays brought some of us together.  Being close and loving my family (even as it is broken into pieces) makes the (re)open(ed) wounds ache, because I care.

I used to feel that there was no end to the losses in my life.  By the time I'd almost recovered from one, another would come crashing in.  I lived in traumatic environments for so long that I felt I would never catch up, never be done with all the grieving so that I could actually have a chance to heal.

I'm in a safe place now.  And I know I need to get through these griefs if I want to move forward.  So I'm not going to fight them when they come up, or hide them, or try to soldier on through.   I am healing, and this is how I do it.