Friday, August 29, 2008

What's my first line?

I had a dream last night. An annoying, recurring dream. Different characters, same plot.

I'm in a play - last night it was The Sound of Music - and I'm woefully ill-prepared. I know none of my lines and the curtain is about to rise. My fellow actors think I'm joking or that it's just a spectacular case of stage fright, but they don't understand that I truly don't know a single word. In most of these dreams I'm pretty sure I haven't even seen the script, let alone read it.

They carry on completely unaware of the true nature of my panic, and I desperately ransack the backstage area looking for a script that I can somehow tuck into my costume and read from while I'm on stage. Allegedly acting.

I never actually get to the stage. I wake up searching for a script and worrying that I don't have single clue what I'm doing. That I'm going to ruin everything for everyone and look like a collosal fool in the process.

I would like to think that these dreams that see me ill-prepared for a scripted performance mean that I'm living my life day by day, not obsessing about the future, not trying to orchestrate things that are simply beyond my control.

But from my state of panic in these stress-ridden dreams, I know this is not the case.

I think instead they're reflecting my anxiety at feeling like I'm the only one who doesn't seem to know what the hell is going on. Kind of ever.

I'm watching other organized lives around me as they follow the plans they made and somehow managed to stick to, fate and happenstance aside. And there's no way I can keep up with them. There's no way I can be as prepared or as calm or as sure as they are.

I've lost my script.

Goddamn it, I've lost my script.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And who were they?

My Great-grandfather died in Toronto during the flu outbreak of 1918. He left his wife and 5 children behind, the youngest just a baby. Because his family never accepted my Great-grandmother after they discovered that she conceived their first child out of wedlock, they snatched him back and buried him in a cemetery filled with his ancestors - away from her.

When she died just five years later (of a broken heart, my Grandma always said), she was buried with her parents. In a different cemetery altogether. Eternally separated from the man she adored, much to the satisfaction of his remaining family, I'm sure. There was space to bury her with her husband, but she wasn't.

There's no one left to confirm why this happened, although it's pretty easy to speculate that the simple reason was because she wasn't welcome there.

Years ago my parents and I paid a visit to the cemetery where he was buried. It's tucked away in an old residential area of the city, sun dappled and quiet. We hunted for his stone, anxious to find the resting place of the man we knew so little about. A man who had become somewhat mythic over the years, mostly because he was willing to forsake the support and affection of his family to marry the woman he loved.

We found the little pocket of ancestors all bearing my Grandmother's maiden name. Dozens of them scattered along the sloping hills of the cemetery where they'd been laid to rest generations earlier.

But we couldn't find him.

A visit to the cemetery office confirmed that he was indeed buried there, and they gave us the reference points so we could return to the specified row to check again.

When we did, all we found was an empty space. No marker. No stone. Nothing to indicate that he was buried there at all.

For whatever reason, his family saw fit to reclaim him but not to mark his resting spot. Presumably his window, left to care for their five young children, didn't have money to spend on a stone for her beloved. His grave was indistinguishable from the lawn around it. Unless you were looking for him, like we were, you'd never have known he was there at all.

I happened to pass by the cemetery after a meeting last week, and the story of the missing marker popped back into my head.

I was talking to my parents about it yesterday. It has probably been 15 years since we discovered the missing marker, and I couldn't remember if it had been taken care of or not.

As it turns out, his grave still remains unmarked. Life got in the way and no one got around to getting a marker.

"Oh", I said, feeling sad for the man who remains invisible in death.

"But you know what?", My Dad said, "It doesn't matter at all now, does it? It just doesn't matter at all."

I think he meant that in the grand scheme of things, an unmarked grave isn't a big deal, especially when it has been unmarked for 90 years. He's in heaven. He's been reunited with his beloved. We know where he is, body and soul, even if the world at large doesn't.

All's well that ends well.

But of course, my mind wandered to where it was lingering last night.

It doesn't matter because it's possible that soon there will be no one left to care. After we die, the simple fact is that there's just no one left to care. No one to remember him, or the love story that was so sweetly passed down through the years.

And this is what eats at me.

It's not that I think the story of my family is more interesting than anyone else's, and I realize that that it doesn't hold great historical importance to anyone but me. But it's just heartbreaking to think that it's conceivable that those stories may one day simply disappear. That all those people who lived and loved and died will truly vanish when I close my eyes for the last time.

I never imagined that this would be something I'd find myself absorbed in, this fear of being one of a forgotten people. When I was actively researching my family tree back in my early twenties, the farthest thing from my mind was the notion that there might be no one for whom my hours of research would one day be a cherished gift.

My Dad's right. It really doesn't matter. There are greater worries in life. Far, far greater tragedies. I know this to be true.

But it's another sorrow to add to the list. A small one, true. But yet another sorrow just the same.

And it's not fair. It's just. Not. Fair.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What was her name?

We were out for a walk tonight, My Beloved and I, when we passed by a house from which the most delicious smells were emanating. Dinner. Dinner done right, as far as I'm concerned. Smells that have people passing by on the sidewalk trying to figure out a way to wrangle an invite means clearly you're doing something right as far as meal prep goes.

My Beloved thought it smelled like some sort of a casserole - a conglomeration of delicious scents indistinguishable from one another lead to his conclusion. And that's exactly what it smelled like to me too.

And so, naturally, my mind drifted back to the 1970s. The time of innocence, safety and casseroles.

You know that scent memory thing that happens when you smell something that takes you back? It's more than just a "hey, I remember that smell" experience. Your body floods with images, feelings, memories and emotions all triggered by that one brief hit of familiar scent.

So I'm walking through the casserole scented air and feeling my childhood.

Feeling it.

I stayed outside skating in the backyard for so long that night would fall and my fingers and toes would be numb. I'd come in through the back door and find myself bathed in the warmth of the kitchen's glow while I sat on the stairs to unlace my skates. I'd smell dinner on the stove. I'd watch my Mom busy herself with the last rushed tasks before serving while I took off my coat and mittens. I was warm. Safe. Spent. Happy.

It all rushed through me in an instant. And while I tried to hang onto its sweetness, a sadness crept into my heart.

I don't have a child who will remember coming into the warmth of my kitchen when it's cold outside.

This thought - this reality - makes me unbearably sad. For me, for Thomas, for all the babies who almost were.

I have it to give, and no one to give it to. The simple, tiny pleasures I'm not sure some people are even aware of - they are lost to me. My kitchen still hums with activity, but there's no one to remember any of it. There is no one for whom my cookies hot from the oven will one day be a comforting memory they cling to for a moment's respite from the cruel world.

And...if there is never a child, one day I'll be forgotten too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Was that YOU?

My Beloved and I went to the Canadian National Exhibition on Wednesday evening. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a fair. A big, big, big fair right in the heart of Toronto. Carnival rides, midway games, amazing deals on really shitty merchandise, weird exhibits like "The History of the Toilet", people hawking Ginsu knives, unhealthy food on sticks - it's all there, God love it.

While wandering through the midway, I spotted a game booth strung with Rudolph and Abominable Snowman stuffed toys - prizes for the lucky winners able to catch bright orange balls in tiny nets as they drifted over a fast running waterfall. The balls, not the players.

Kind of weird, but whatever. Rudolph was the prize and I neeeeeeeded to win him.

It was all a little confusing, and even now I'm not sure I fully understand the rules (or why we paid one price and both got to play, or how we ended up with a medium size prize when all we caught were balls marked with an "s" for small), but it doesn't matter. I won a Rudolph.

He was a little wet - a casualty of the leaky waterfall, I suppose - and his neck was sewn too tightly on one side giving him a permanently cocked head, but he was mine.

Rudolph is the physical embodiment of my happy place. He and Snoopy never fail to calm my inner beast when it's raging against the cruel world or merciless fate.

And yes, I know full well that this makes me a simpleton, and I don't particularly care. You take your happy place triggers where you can find them. Just because mine are cartoon characters doesn't make them any less valid, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, in addition to the ill-sewn neck, my new Rudolph's mouth - an inverted V meant to sit just below his big red nose - was stitched sideways. A sideways stitched V, in case you've never seen one, looks a lot like a smirk.

So there he was, a slightly wet, smirking reindeer with a cocked head and ears flattened back against his head from being squished in a box with 9 billion other Rudolphs.

He is, of course, the Rudolph I would win. Misshapen, weird looking and wet. He looked like he'd just been told something really offensive, or possibly just smelled a very, very bad fart.

Smells a Fart Rudolph. Yup, totally the one I'd win.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sweating with the oldies

Men just don't understand why sometimes it's okay to hate.

With a renewed sense of determination to battle the bulge (for the 4 billionth time in my life) I went for a walk this morning. It's supposed to be sticky hot today with storms in the afternoon, so I thought an early morning jaunt would be prudent.

I choose a pair of knee-length yoga pants and a baseball style top I haven't worn in a few years that's easily two sizes too big now. Which sounds good and all, but I myself am still way more than too sizes too big. And bigger than I was just a few months ago when I gave up on Weight Watchers and began the summer of comfort food. And inactivity.

But I digress...

I covered my bedhead with one of my Beloved's Baseball hats, put on a pair of sunglasses and headed out.

I should comment on the hat. I have a giant head. Sometimes My Beloved jokes that I could capture my own moon. He's sooooooo funny like that.

Hats rarely fit me. Baseball hats are the worst. They perch awkwardly on my head unless I squeeze them down into place. This leaves me lightheaded. And, worse than that, it's totally obvious that I've squeezed my humongous melon inside with absolutely no room to spare. Flapping ears, and all that.

Today I didn't care. My new haircut made the hat look slightly less ridiculous on me and, if the Superman comics are to be believed, the glasses completely disguised me.

I confidently strode down to the pond near our house, feeling empowered and motivated. There's a path around the pond that's about a half a kilometer in length, and I figured that early in the morning I'd likely have it all to myself.

I decided to do three laps before heading home.

Almost halfway through my last lap I spotted her. A runner. She burst onto the track across the pond in a little racing bra and short shorts.

I had wanted the solitude, but was admittedly a little grateful to see another person on the track. There are some isolated bits that make me a little nervous. There's a lot of paranoia in my gigantic head.

I continued to walk, undaunted by the runner.

Until she passed me.

She looked different close up. Better. Tiny. Perfect.

She was roughly the size of my left leg and every inch of her was evenly tanned (I could tell because there was just so very much skin to see). The word "FLIRT" was printed across her firm, peach-shaped butt and her long, silky ponytail swished with every step she took.

The "phhhst phhst phhhst phhst" of those steps was in stark contrast to the lumbering "thwunk thwunk thwunk thwunk" of my own (which, until she passed, had been music to my ears).

I took stock of the figure I cut plodding along the track. Too big shirt. Ruthlessly unforgiving yoga pants. Giant head mashed into a baseball cap. Tomato red face dripping with sweat. Hair frizzed up and poking out from under the cap like a 1970s baseball player.

And yeah, I hated her a bit.

I realize this is unfair. It would make much more sense to hate myself instead (although there's certainly some of that at play here. Clearly), but I chose to loathe her instead. Her and her flirty butt and itty bitty little waist flitting around the track like a wispy, perfect little butterfly.

My Beloved laughed when I told him my sweaty tale of woe, and asked why I would think to hate the perfect little jogger.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

And now for something completely different...

A little change of pace, if you will.

I just found out today that old friend's husband composed an entry for CBC's new Hockey Night in Canada anthem search, and I honestly think it's fabulous. Really, it kind of gave me chills.

And I swear it's not just because he's married to my friend. Nor am I touting its brilliance because she paid me to post this endorsement. In fact, I'm not even sure she knows this blog exists.

Anyway, the contest. It's a voting thing. You register, choose the song you like and vote for it.

So, you know, if you're so inclined, have a listen to Tim Foley's entry (oh look, there it is now!!).

And maybe vote for him here . You know, if you feel like it 'n stuff.

The end.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It shouldn't be THIS hard to get a decent haircut...

You know what happens when you don't get your hair cut for 5 months? Your salon closes up shop. And no one tells you.

For the love of crap.

I spent two years trying to find a salon I liked - one where I wasn't asked a billion questions by a prying stylist, who would then forget my story and make me tell it all over again the next time I was in. I tried three different salons and at least as many stylists before finding a place and a stylist I felt comfortable with.

Yeah, she was a bit of a wing nut, my stylist, but she was nice. We only had to have the Thomas/infertility conversation once, she did a good job with my hair, and if I got her talking about herself (particularly her husband's ex) I could sit back and barely have to say a word.

She was so good, in fact, my last cut lasted five months.

But she's gone.

For the love of crap.

The prospect of finding a new salon (even though they're a dime a dozen around these parts for some reason) and breaking in a new stylist (having the "soooooo, do you have any kids? chat for the umpteenth time) just left me cold. Been there, done that. Four times.

My solution? I'm going back to the salon from whence I came. My old stylist, pre-marriage. More than a half hour away in my old neighbourhood, but worth the effort. Well worth not having to decide if I'm going to be the dead baby mama or the thirty-something woman with, curiously, no children.

Rosa already knows my story because my sister still goes to her. Granted I haven't seen her since my wedding day so it's possible there may be a deer-in-headlights waiting for me when I walk into the salon, but at least she already knows.

For once I don't have to explain.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prayers. And, of course, guilt.

My Dad has a solid 24 years of experience with heart disease. Prior to 1984 he was merely being treated for elevated cholesterol. When he had a heart attack in February of that year, things got much more serious.

In 1998, a year before I met My Beloved, my Dad went into cardiac arrest while I was on the phone with my Mom discussing car insurance. A month later he came home from the hospital with an implanted defibrillator.

And I've walked on eggshells around him ever since. That's a whole post unto itself, my inability to enjoy the time I have with him because of the ever-present fear that it'll be the last time I ever see him.

A whole series of posts, that topic could fill, as a matter of fact.

But this post is about something else.

Yesterday when I dropped off some yarn I'd ordered online for my Mom, my Dad came bouncing through the kitchen with the announcement that his heart had reverted back to normal sinus rhythm.

The cardiac arrest happened because it was abnormal - had been for a year. The defibrillator wasn't a cure for his irregular rhythm, merely a protection against another serious case of arrhythmia and, or course, cardiac arrest. Except for a brief period of about 6 months sometime during the middle of my pregnancy with Thomas, my Dad's heart has been beating abnormally for more than 10 years.

So, for the first time since late 2004, his heart is beating perfectly normally. He climbed the stairs without gasping for breath. He sounded wonderful. Gleeful.

I stood there, my mouth gaping, and asked how, HOW this could have magically happened. How, after so long, had his heart just decided to correct itself and beat properly?

There is no answer. It just happens. It likely won't last, but the reprieve is a huge blessing because it spares his heart the additional wear and tear of an irregular rhythm.

We sat down in the living room, and again I asked, mostly rhetorically, "HOW?"

With the innocence of a child, he said, "I don't know. But of course I pray a lot", and looked at me earnestly as if to say, "So clearly that's why. God has made it so."

And I wanted to cry. Because it's such wonderful news. Because his happiness and relief were palpable. Because it'll lengthen his life. Because he believes in miracles. Because he believes that if you pray hard enough and long enough God will answer those prayers.

And because I don't know if I do, even when someone's beautiful heart is miraculously fixed with no other logical explanation other than, "it happens".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The road less traveled

Does everyone need permission to feel the way they feel, or is it just me?

That familiar, slightly dull, knicker-binding sense of doom and gloom was bugging me last week. I couldn't shake it. It sat on my shoulders with its hands over my mouth trying to smother me for days.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out where it came from and how it snuck up on me so quickly and quietly.

On Friday, Therapist Lady pointed out that there is anxiety in reaching decisions. Silly me. All this time I thought indecision was my issue. But apparently I have the ability to stay freaked out even when decisions are actually made.


She said that our decision not to have the surgery, even though it's still classified as a tentative one, means that we have decided to move in another direction. Which isn't a bad thing, but when you're not sure what that direction is - or what lies along the road you'll eventually end up choosing - it can be anxiety producing.

And I can attest to that.

The interesting thing is that as soon as she made this proclamation, the doom and gloom started to lift. Being given permission to feel anxious made a huge chunk of the anxiety simply vanish.

Because it's okay to feel unsure. It's okay to feel scared. It's okay to be confused. It's okay to need to think about the possibility that it's time to start mourning the loss of future biological children who may never come. Who will probably never come.

It looks like a lot of work ahead. Good God. When I see it laid out before me in print, it looks like a fucking shit-load of work.

But I'll get there. Eventually. With constant reminders that it really is okay to be overwhelmed by a life I never in a million years expected would be mine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shadow Mother

I always aim for the 9:00am Mass (shhh - don't tell God that it's partly to get it over with. I'm pretty certain he doesn't think that's a particularly good reason to choose a Mass time). But I don't necessarily always make it up and out that early on a Sunday morning, particularly if I've fallen asleep on the couch watching an old movie the night before.

As a result I'm a bit of a wanderer, and so I see "regulars" from all three Sunday Masses, depending upon which one I manage to make it to.

This past Sunday I saw a women who, last time I saw her, was pregnant. Yesterday she had a baby carrier in her hands. Her third little girl was nestled in the carrier.

The odd thing is that my first thought was, "Oh - oh, so the baby came home". Or something along those lines.

My FIRST reaction. Good God.

My second was to marvel at how fast time flies when you're spinning away on your little hamster wheel going absolutely nowhere. But with great determination and fortitude. Blah ha.

As I was marveling at the speed with which time seems to be passing, I noticed another family that I used to see regularly when I was pregnant with Thomas. I sat in the same section they did back then - a section I hardly ever go to now. It's where people with children tend to congregate. There's something about the space that seems to lend itself to carriers and strollers and toddlers. But not to me, now.

Anyway, this family have two girls and a boy. Their last child, a girl, was born around the same time as Thomas. Maybe a little after. I can't remember anymore.

When I saw them yesterday, I was stunned. I don't see them very often, but I know I've seen them during the past three years. I'm sure of it. But there they were - not the same family at all. The oldest is now a proper young lady, the toddler is a great big boy and the baby? A real little girl.

This beautiful family, sprouting up before my eyes. And mine hasn't changed a bit. Not one single bit, at least not that anyone looking at me would ever know.

It was odd, the feeling I had seeing that family; like time has forgotten me. Forgotten both My Beloved and me.

It's a strange, strange thing to be surrounded by friends and family - and strangers - with growing children. It's painful in some ways, of course, but it's also oddly frightening. Like I want to run along beside them screaming, "Don't forget me!" or juggle pythons and broken glass so they'll notice me.

I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes now I forget that I was a mother. That I am a mother.

I never forget my children. Ever. But I have trouble remembering that I'm a mother. I see them with their growing families and baby carriers and big round tummies.

And that's just not who I am.

I'm a shadow.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Questionable viewing habits

Watching the last (and goriest) half of War of the Worlds the evening after you had a vividly violent dream about being a WWI soldier makes total sense, right?

Can someone pass me a night light? And check for zombies, aliens and the enemy under my bed? Please?


Thursday, August 07, 2008


It's interesting what you can find in the produce department. Today it was a nose-picking yahoo in a Leaf jersey on a cell phone. He was wandering around like he owned the place, digging for gold with both his thumb and index finger.

I heard him before I saw him, and as I turned towards the noise, I happened to lock eyes with him while he was knuckle deep in a nasal hole.

Gross. So very, very gross. All I could think was that he was going to wander about willy nilly, touching fruit and vegetables with his snotty little fingers.

He stopped his tunneling when he saw that he had an audience and with the bravado that only this kind of jackass can muster, he wiped his hand all over the Maple Leafs and strutted about like a peacock, telling whoever he was talking to about "the fucking hottest chick" he'd ever seen.

It was almost worse than the nose picking.

I plan my route at the grocery store. Fruit and veg, meat then bread. Sometimes bread then meat, depending on the flow of traffic. This guy, so enchanted with himself and the memory of the fucking hot chick, wove in and out of the entire area like a silverback gorilla with ADHD.

And, somehow, despite my methodical route-taking and his random strutting, it appeared as though I was trailing him. Everywhere I went, there he was.

The horror.

The very last thing I wanted was for him to think that any part of me was even remotely enchanted with any part of him.

If they ever wanted to make a remake of Saturday Night Fever with a main character who wore hockey jerseys and picked his nose in public, this guy would be a shoe-in for the lead.

The last thing I heard him say as he wandered by the meat counter grabbing packages of chicken and beef, was that he was heading to the gym.

Poor gym. But lucky, lucky grocery store.

Sometimes people, just by being, annoy the crap out of me.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It was groovy

Are...are those AGE spots on my hands???

The gray hair wasn't enough of a giveaway, I suppose.


Yesterday I spent a few hours in the neglected back garden and got a sunburn on my back.

Despite the age spot issue (and the annoying kink in my lower back), today I feel like I'm 7. Back in the day I'd run around all summer in my bathing suit at the cottage and go back to school looking like a gingerbread cookie. Minus the icing.

It was the 70s. No such thing as sunblock. I got burned, then tanned deeply and spent the rest of the summer with a golden hue that people these days would pay good money for at a tanning salon.

I miss the 70s. Not because of the carefree tans, but because of the carefree ME. It would be years before my Dad would have his first heart attack and grind my childhood to a screceching halt. It would be decades before I would start losing babies.

It was golden.


Friday night we went to the neighbours' for beer and snacks. I had a lot of both and stumbled my way home giggling with my similarly soused spouse.

But apparently a good beer buzz (the best I've had since long before Thomas was born) isn't what it used to be. Or perhaps I'm not.

My Beloved fell asleep instantly. While I lay in bed curled up beside him, my mind drifted quickly and unexpectedly to Thomas and I found myself quietly whispering endless apologies to My Beloved while he slept.

I really thought I'd moved past that raw, bleeding guilt. I swear did.

But beer, it seems, brings it out in me.

Good to know.


See? SEE why I miss the 70s?