Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Long Goodbye AUTUMN 2014

Folks in Ontario are talking about “The summer that never came”.  On the heals of an extended winter, complete with mountains of snow and multiple ice storms, a hot and hazy summer was in demand.   The summer we received with plenty of sunshine and no humidity was perfect for us.   It was great weather for hiking and biking and gardeners and farmers boasted bumper crops too.  For creatures that live in climate- controlled environments most of the time,we sure are obsessed with the weather!   We had some great bar b ques and lunches with friends and spent one holiday weekend at Sibbald Point, Lake Simcoe and two at the beautiful Inn on the Moraine; escaping Albion during their craziest long weekends.  When we camp in one place for a long period, we take ownership and resent visitors who abuse the natural resources and ignore the park rules.  I suppose it is similar to protecting your apartment or home in any neighbourhood.

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When we returned from Australia, I had a couple of minor surgeries, one to slice open my feet and grind down excess calcium that was causing pain.  I endured six weeks of swelling and tenderness and six months later, I am pain free, although stiff at times.   I have two gorgeous 1 1/2 inch scars to brag about.   My torn cartilage in my left wrist was repaired with a bone being shortened and a small plate inserted.  I am still struggling to get my wrist strength back; anything heavier than a clementine orange hurts.  It was truly disappointing when my metal plate beneath my three inch scar did not set off  any airport security alarms on my recent trip to Boston.  I do however, get to play with Play-Doh every day in my home-physio sessions.  And yes, it is still fun to squeeze and it smells the same!!!! 

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I spent many of my healing hours working on a new series called “Family Trees”.  I painted some of the broken branches fallen in the ice storm and decorated each to create nine conceptual trees representing different aspects of family roots and visions.  To represent the secrets that are in every family history, I added small dots of fluorescent paint to glow in the dark.  The pots were collaged with images and words related to heritage, pride, ancestry and love and topped with glass marbles, pearls, bisque clay pieces and mini mirrors. Two trees had working clocks on them.   My favourites were Keys to the Future Family Tree, Geology-Geneology Family Tree and Threads of Time Family Tree.

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I completed a series of  Vintage Trailer Clocks inspired by the “Cozy Cruiser” 1951.  I also enhanced some of my Little PINS and constructed new displays for them.  I was finally ready for the Uxbridge Studio Tour where I was guest artist at the studio of my Photographer/Painter/Printmaker/Friend, Carmel Brennan.

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When I packed up after the show, I realized that it would be my last.  I donated fifty Little PINS, ten necklaces and a dozen clay “Good-Eggs” to a Uxbridge Hospital to sell in their gift shop.  I tossed out the trees, as they were not worth storing.

After spending summers for over thirty years creating objects from my lists of ideas to give away or show and sell in galleries, craft shows or studio tours, it is time to change gears.  I will never understand why I felt driven to  make work for others and was not satisfied with the creative process in itself.  Part of moving in to our motorhome full-time, forced me to purge the many collections of objects and art supplies that I had stored for years.  With IPhones allowing anyone to “borrow”  artist’s ideas, DIY sites and craft stores packed with idiot-proof projects, there is little room to sell original crafts in the marketplace.  I hope to create my art from now on in a more spontaneous way and I will focus more on writing.

I am ready to take flight in a new direction; I think.

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This was my first summer without a  home garden in many years.  I was able to tend a few planters but they do not nurture the soul in the same way as a large plot.  Tangled weeds screaming to be pulled, rock-hard soil needing tilling, and wilted petals asking for deadheading were absent from my life this summer.  There is something so relaxing in the act of directing a fine, rainbow spray from the hose onto thirsty vegetables, preparing a dish of beer for the slugs or hand pollinating pumpkin and squash blossoms.  I vow be more imaginative with my container gardens next year.

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Chris has been busy with the usual maintenance and cleaning of our motorhome.   The stairs have been playing games with us again, staying in when we want them out or coming in without invitation in the middle of the night or grinding angrily while we relax around a camp fire nearby.   Time for a new motor, which Chris will install when we get to our first campsite on our trip.  We are so lucky that Chris is a gifted mechanic as he is able to repair many things where other RV’ers need to hire and pay for help.   Although our time home this year was mainly consumed with caregiving and healing my surgeries, we did enjoy Albion, its trails and its wildlife.

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In July, Danielle and Al visited from Australia.  As mentioned in the previous post, they were engaged to be married in July 2015.  Family and friends feasted in celebration.

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In September, I spent a few days visiting Liz, Curt, Dot and Parker in Boston.  Highlights included lobster sandwiches in Cambridge, trekking around Brownstone neighbourhoods and outdoor Markets, clam chowder beside Boston Harbour, outstanding breakfast at Tatte Bakery & Cafe and the Jamie Wyeth show at the Boston Art Museum.  The visit was spiked with the energy of the newly announced nuptials and Dot and I were contemplating, with enthusiasm, the idea of being Mothers-of the Bride and Groom.

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We spent many hours at Albion dancing around a long good bye to one Mom and thinking about another…..

My Mother, Helen, suffered with Alzheimer's for over seven years.  It was a long battle where in the beginning forgetfulness was something she was aware of , frustrated with and it hurt to hear her calling herself stupid when she mixed things up or could not remember.  As her powers of recall slipped further, her awareness of self dwindled so at least she was not angry any more.  She was the youngest of five siblings and one of my favourite comments from home was that her Mother often addressed her using the names of her sister Jean,and three brothers Bill,Ted, Tom and even the dog, Blaze before she conjured up the name Helen.

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She graduated University of  Toronto majoring in History and would have made a fine teacher if she’d not been stopped in her tracks by her lack of self confidence in handling a class bully during practice teaching.  As a stay-at-home-Mom, she embraced the art of cooking and served up unique and creative meals long before Madame Benoit came on the scene.  Mom had artistic talent galore and created flower arrangements, made fancy sandwiches and baked and decorated cakes for all occasions which make today’s “Cake Boss” look like a wimp.  She sold them at cost as well as devoted hours to creating Christmas decorations and donating hours to the church bazaars.  That is what so many women did back then but Mom was particularly talented and of course that was just one reason my Dad Ernie, married her.

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Helen was a great Mom and loving wife and our family nature walks, camping, cottage adventures and travel across Canada and the USA were outstanding.  Christmas was the ultimate celebration in our home and in the later stages of her Alzheimer's she was not even aware that it was December 25.  The memory of Mom’s faithful friends and neighbours, her gardens, her knowledge of every species of Ontario wildflower,weed, bird, tree, insect and mammal were all forgotten.  The Sumac below honour’s Mom’s favourite colour.

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Mom did always remember Dad who died five years before she did; my brother Mark and wife Dina, myself and husband Chris and my daughter Danielle.  In the last months of her life she slipped forever back into her childhood and luckily it was a happy one.  Her physical health was good but she became weak and frail for lack of exercise and motivation.  Pneumonia eventually took her away.  This reminiscence is all too common a story for the baby-boomer generation.  If we do not have any of our own aging family members confused with dementia, we know friends who do.  Medicines keep bodies living on while minds wither away.  It  is a 21st century dilemma.  I’ve been reflecting on Mom’s plight as Chris and I witness his Mother in a similar place.

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Chris’s Mom, Clare, has been on a similar path for three years.  Last year, still living in her condo, she needed to have Public Service Workers come in twice daily to help with her medications, meals and grooming.  Chris and sister Kim have been sharing the caretaking and management of Clare’s affairs as she has quickly lost her  powers of reasoning and ability to care for herself.  The long good bye had begun.

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Last year, Clare was still involved in social activities like going to the movies, playing bridge and attending the theatre.  At the same time, simple tasks such as how to boil water had been lost.  Clare also has a fine friend in gentleman-Jim, also a talented trombone player in the Mississauga Big Band, who dined with her often and chauffeured her to appointments.

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Kim and husband Ed had a trying winter with her Mom who seemed to be mentally slipping away at an outrageous pace.  No two cases of this disease are the same.

Since the spring, Chris has been visiting Clare many times per week, attending her doctor’s visits, working out strategies to increase her care, shopping and troubleshooting situations as they arose.  Unlike my Mom who was appreciative of our help, Clare has a deep pride and has resented the many tools that have been implemented to help her stay in her condo. Using a cane, wearing glasses and hearing aids and welcoming psw’s, was a constant struggle for Clare.  No one can blame a disease but the stress and heartbreak it brings pays a high toll.  Clare was lucky that her grandson Ryan, a social worker, accepted the position as full time caregiver and lived at the condo assisting her for five days a week in August and September.

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As care and necessities fell into place, Clare’s Alzheimer's rapidly deteriorated.  She suffered from nightmares, extreme confusion and hallucinations.  By chance, it was Thanksgiving Weekend when Clare had what might be labeled as an Alzheimer’s mental breakdown and was hospitalized.  We gave thanks that Clare is now in a place where she is at peace, is happy and calm in her “own world”.  She will move into a nursing home when she is ready to leave hospital.  Clare does recognize her children and grandchildren and that is a comfort to the family.

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ADVENTURE NUMBER FOUR began on a frosty October 27 morning.  Dixie was happy to stay in Ontario and wait for her beloved snow to arrive but gave in to her second favourite thing; food, and jumped aboard CC and we headed for the border.

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Our journey was smooth and Captain Chris was happy to be back in the driver’s seat again.  I always feel somewhat spacey for the first few days of our trips, excited about out new destinations but unsettled from daily routines at home.

 

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We headed directly to West Virginia’s Stonewall Park where we have camped other years.  It’s lake meanders through the grounds; great bike paths and challenging hiking is available.   A Resort and Golf Course offer year round accommodations and we will indulge in a meal at the Inn before we leave.  We are decompressing, enjoying the gorgeous views.   Our first couple of warm days were whisked away by heavy rain and despicable numbing winds.  On Halloween, we eked out a few hours huddling by the fire listening to “The Inner Sanctum” We shivered from the cold, not from fear, as we looked across at the cemetery that we’d camped beside.  It was obvious that the weather was too miserable, even for the spirits to come out and play!

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The moist weather has encouraged the growth of numerous fascinating mushrooms!   We have located our hats and gloves and realized that four layers are necessary for comfort on our walks.  We’ll enjoy the park for another four days when we’ll drive to South Carolina for our annual oil change.  “They” say things will warm up and if they do, we will rent a canoe to take in the shores of Stonewall Jackson Lake.

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                                                                         _MG_3624 Gotta run…

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