Easters past

Easter has become much like Christmas, a widely celebrated event marked with the gathering of family and friends, sumptuous meals, and of course, the much anticipated appearance of the Easter bunny. For most it’s also signaled the arrival of spring and an end to the long dreary days of winter.

I remember as a child waking up Easter Sunday to find a small basket on my bedside table and in it would be a few small chocolates, sometimes a fruit scented lip balm, nothing big of course, Easter is not a gift giving kind of holiday. My mother would roast a turkey and my grandparents would come bearing sweets. It was always the same, always fun, and it made me smile.

When my children were young I too would prepare each a basket of goodies and inspired by the whole idea of an egg hunt, I would make them work for their basket. I’d hide clues all over the house (and sometimes outside) that would have them searching for a good hour (this bought my husband and I another hour of much needed sleep – these kids were up at the crack of dawn!) Their last clue would inevitably lead them to a crossword puzzle I created for each, personalized to their specific interests. My sons focused on hockey, one daughters on soccer, and the other, who was a reader, on books. On each crossword there were select boxes of a different colour. The letters within these boxes then needed to be unscrambled to spell the location of their basket. It took us weeks to get this organized and a good hour for us to hide all the clues the night before but we so enjoyed the anticipation, and it made us smile.

That was many years ago. My children are all grown and gone and there’ve been no Easter hunts for some time. Recently I was going through some old boxes and came across a set of clues from an Easter past. I can’t imagine why I kept it but finding it brought back so many wonderful memories. If I closed my eyes I could hear the squeals of laughter and the sound of little feet running room to room, and I had to smile. Those were magical times and they passed too quickly.

The arrival of my grandchildren brings the hope of rekindling these old traditions, or maybe starting new ones. After a period of ‘no children’ over the holidays I now find myself longing for the childish delight that warms the Easter celebration. My granddaughters are still too young to manage an Easter hunt but they happily enjoy their little basket of treats and it’s only a matter of time before they grow into a more challenging tradition. Time to fashion new memories, I tell myself….and I smile.

Happy Easter

The Addled Mind

When I was growing up my parents were good friends with a family that had two daughters. Both were several years older than my sister and I so we had little in common from a ‘play’ perspective, at least as far as the elder sister was concerned. The younger of the two, Ruta, was older than me in years but because she had Downs Syndrome her mind was very much in tune to mine. In my own childish little world I saw nothing wrong with this child/woman. She wanted to play dolls with me, she thought like I did, and she was fun. That’s all an innocent kid wants.

As I aged I obviously came to see the situation more clearly and eventually when we’d visit the play would stop, not by Ruta’s choice. I simply outgrew ‘play’. Ruta however, did not, and never would. When we arrived she’d greet us at the door with the same childish enthusiasm, eager to bring me to her room full of toys but I no longer had interest in playing with dolls. I was kind and patient; she was a sweet gentle soul, but I somehow didn’t fit in to her world anymore.

The visits eventually stopped; I married and moved on in life and I never saw Ruta again. I heard recently that she passed away in her early fifties some years ago.  After her mother passed, her older sister took her in and cared for her lovingly. She’d had a good life. Maybe even better than I could’ve imagined.

Ruta’s condition reminded me of others in my life whose minds were somewhat addled, not by the same illness, but the end result was the same. I’ve written at length about my own mothers’ battle with Dementia. Her brain has been so ravaged by the disease, reducing her to a simple minded and fragile being. She is not unlike the child Ruta was all of her life. The only difference is that I remember my mother when she was lucid and of sound adult mind. I suppose that’s what makes dealing with her illness so difficult – it has changed her so much, but only we are aware of that. That’s the beauty of her addled mind – she is completely unaware of all she has lost. She too, plays with dolls, giggles like a toddler with her friends, and gazes with childlike wonder at a bird outside her window. As painful as it is too see, you have to acknowledge that she is not suffering at all. For that matter neither did Ruta. My mother lived a full and accomplished life. That her later years have to be spent in a childs fantasy world is a problem for me, not her. She could be in pain, but she’s not. In fact, physically she’s in excellent health.

I’ve little knowledge of Downs Syndrome and I know it is only one of many brain related illnesses but in my experience it is not debilitating, at least not like tumors or neurological disorders. The children born with Downs can go on to live relatively normal lives within their scope of abilities, and they can live functioning lives. They have ‘jobs’, belong to groups and communities, and they can be happy with their lives. There is a blissful innocence in their world that, on one hand, makes you grateful for their addled state, and on the other almost makes you envious. They are happy because they don’t know anger, or violence, or poverty, or corruption, or stress, or worry.

I spent many years feeling sorry for those who suffer some form of brain deficiency because I didn’t see things from their perspective. Maybe an addled state of mind isn’t so horrible – they certainly don’t seem to think so. They’re happy in their own little world. They appreciate everything and everyone. They don’t judge, they simply accept, and they love unconditionally. Maybe there’s a message here for the rest of us. Life in whatever form it comes to us is precious and any perceived limitations can be overcome with a change of perspective.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

I love stuff!

Is that a crime?  Is that a female thing? I love to shop (it just feels good!) and I always manage to find something new to bring home, whether I need it or not. I wasn’t consciously aware of this habit until the last few years, as I got older, when I felt the need to minimize on the clutter (and yes, I do see the irony here)

If I see a nice throw pillow that inspires me I’m tempted to buy it, then redecorate a room to match it. Now that’s not a bad thing to do every decade or so because every house needs a refresh periodically. My problem is that I could do it every season (I think I need a hobby that doesn’t involve shopping)

Since retiring I have grudgingly started to filter through my clothes to eliminate what is ‘business attire’ because I don’t need it anymore. The problem for me is I have a hard time letting go of my ‘stuff’. I really like it, and the fact that it is no longer useful to me is irrelevant. I like it and I want it, and this wouldn’t be a problem if I had unlimited space in which to store it, but I don’t.  I already forced my husband out of our walk in closet and had another storage closet built in my basement for ‘off season’ clothing, mine. And when my children moved out, I slowly started seeping into their rooms with my stuff until finally I had to buy more hangers because I had none left in the house (is that a bad thing?)

And it doesn’t stop with clothes. I also collect shoes and handbags because I can never have enough. (walking into a shoe store is like returning to my mother ship) I love them, all of them – they are my ‘thing’ and while I will eventually force myself to start to relinquish clothing and household items, I will never give up my shoes and purses. I just can’t.

I have countless placemats, napkins, table cloths and candle holders because I love to set a nice table and merchants keep producing new and interesting things I can’t resist. When I run out of room to store them all I find a dresser or closet (not mine of course) to empty out to accommodate my ‘stuff’.

When my vacuum needed more bags I bought another vacuum cleaner that didn’t need bags citing we’d never need to buy bags again. (practical, yes?) Then I realized, this bagless vacuum is upright and doesn’t easily do stairs so I still needed my old vacuum after all….oh, and some new bags…..until…..I found a handheld portable vacuum perfect for stairs AND it can do the car, so I bought it. (Surely three vacuums is enough?)  It turns out the portable vacuum runs on a charge that doesn’t last long enough to get the stairs done. (buyer beware) It’s in a closet somewhere.

I have countless throws and ornamental pillows stored in my basement closet because over the years I’ve redecorated and they no longer match but they’re too good to throw out. I have rice makers and ricers, blenders, mulchers, juicers, two mix masters, and a variety of food processors but I still cook rice in a pot, mash potatoes by hand, and dice my vegetables with a knife. You’d think then I could part with my gadgets, but no. I rearrange them every so often, test to make sure they work, and make countless resolutions to put them to good use. Then I put them back on the shelf and ignore them for another season.

I realize all these things could be of use to someone and would be better served elsewhere, yet I can’t bring myself to let go. Everything I have was acquired for a reason, and it wasn’t just ‘want’. The shoes I wore at my sons’ wedding. I’ll likely never wear them again, but how can I give them away? (isn’t there a museum they should be in?) I guess as long as we deem something to be useful or sentimental we are reluctant to release it, until we’re forced to because we have placed a value on it that renders it priceless.

I know that one of these days we are going to move from this old house and that will prompt a major purging (one I’m not looking forward to!) Or, I could just stay here until I die and let my kids deal with it? (this brings about visions of a trail of dumpsters filled with my treasures parading down the street) Somehow I don’t think they’ll be as attached as I, to my ‘stuff’.

Now as I scan my overflowing cupboards and closets I feel overwhelmed at the task before me. Where do I begin, and how do I steel myself to do the unthinkable? I need a plan, I determine. I need to think this through, strategically,,,,, and nothing clears my head like a little retail therapy…so I call my friends (rally the troops) and arrange a shopping day because I need to buy some hangers, or pillows, or something……

cluttered room

We are family

I was reading an article recently about a mother who decided to ‘return’ her 7 year old adopted daughter because she was unable to cope with her behaviour. This surprised me for two reasons; 1) because I wasn’t aware that one could ‘return’ a person, and 2) I could never imagine why one would want to. The process of getting an adopted child is so expensive and so cumbersome, and not everyone looking to adopt gets a child. You’d think then, that those who were lucky enough to get one would be so grateful they’d never consider ‘returning’ them. And yet it happens, I would later read, for a number of reasons.

The circumstances that bring a child into foster care or an orphanage are often unpleasant. There may have been abuse, neglect, or simply no family able to care for them. In many cases the young minds are permanently scarred from early childhood trauma. Suffice it to say that many adoptive children have a lot of baggage – what a rough and unjust way to start life.

I knew of a couple who adopted siblings, a boy and a girl. They were approximately 10 and 13 years old (the exact numbers escape me) and they didn’t want two children but were pressured by the adoption agency to keep the siblings together. Not long after moving them in to their home the trouble began, lying, stealing, verbal abuse, issues at school – none of these issues had been disclosed by the agency. The couple went to therapy with the children to try to sort through things and discovered the siblings had endured much in the hands of foster care, where they’d spent a good five years of their lives. After two years of effort and intensive therapy the couple simply couldn’t cope. Their once happy home had become a battle ground and their marriage was now at risk. At the end of their rope, they petitioned to return both children to foster care. It was a difficult decision for them, one for which they were heavily criticized by friends and family, but for them there was simply no other choice.

I’d like to think that this was an unusual situation but it isn’t unique. People seek to adopt for all the right reasons. They want to share their lives with a child – they have the means and the desire. And I’d bet most children want nothing more than a happy loving home in which to thrive. This should be a match made in heaven but too often the children are so scarred by the experiences that brought them into an orphaned situation that they cannot trust. Many suffer from low self-worth and they feel they are not deserving of familial happiness. In some cases it’s simply a lack of bonding.

You would think that adopting an infant is probably the best way to avoid the past life scarring many older orphans suffer but there are no guarantees because you don’t always know the circumstances of the pregnancy or their genetics, and the availability of newborn babies for adoption is not as high as those for older children. Nothing is easy.

I know of any number of families where the natural children and parents do not get along and never have, so adoptive families aren’t the only ones with issues. In fact all families have issues (and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying) The big difference here is that the natural families had no choice of what child they get nor did they expect to have a choice. They were blessed with the ease of having a child naturally, lucky them.  In some cases it was an unwanted child (teen pregnancy) later put up for adoption to a home where a childless couple benefited, lucky them.

That there’s so many children without a loving home is heartbreaking – the hardest part to fathom here is that this doesn’t just apply to those without a ‘natural’ family. The children who are adopted are lucky because they were ‘chosen’ to a home which implies they were wanted. Not all children ‘born’ into a home are necessarily wanted and therein lies the injustice. Shouldn’t early life be easier for all children? Heaven knows they’ll have to face enough challenges throughout their adult lives.

Every child deserves a safe and loving environment in which to start life. God bless those generous souls who open up their hearts and their home to help a young life start out, and heaven protect those not chosen because the path is longer and more difficult for them. I can’t imagine that we could ever regret sharing our life with a child, after all, we are all family.

Family

Don’t spit in the wind

My mother always used the expression, “Don’t spit in the wind, it might change direction”, or “Don’t dirty the water, you might find yourself needing a drink” and aside from the mess you’d encounter on your face, or the polluting of your own waters, the general message is one of warning, and the basic gist is what you do will come back to you.

Now that’s not a bad thing if you do a good turn,,,who wouldn’t want a little of that back? Unfortunately this is a two way street so the rules apply to any action you might take. In fact, it’s interesting to note the events and/or people who seem to come full circle in our lives because there are many,,,,, and they do.

My husband grew up literally within yards of his cousins but aside from family occasions rarely saw them. Over the next twenty plus years all married and moved to various parts of the world never giving the other any thought, after all, they had little contact when living just down the street from each other all of their young lives. Interestingly enough the eldest of his cousins moved to eastern Canada and three years later we were relocated to the same place reacquainting a kinship long forgotten and launching a long term friendship. This isn’t coincidence; these cousins were meant to reconnect. It just wasn’t time until then, and it’s a good thing they never quarreled as kids cause that would’ve made it akward.

I have a friend from high school (many years ago) from whom I drifted. There was no reason, we simply went in different directions in life, losing our common ground, which at the time was high school. We both married, had children and lived in separate parts of the country, and in the thirty years we’ve been apart we’ve only seen each other once but we correspond every year over the holidays to catch the other up and when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart. We have little in common so it seems an unlikely friendship and yet it endures. It’s hard to know why some people are in our lives or for how long they’ll stay. It only matters that they are there when they are there, because that is the right time and it is of mutual benefit.

That childhood playmate who reappears in your adult life in an unlikely place or situation, rekindling an old friendship, or that old sweetheart you bump surprisingly into after you’d both gone separate ways. Maybe you find you are both again available and the relationship makes more sense at this point in your life. These chance encounters aren’t chance at all. People come and go in your life, some returning repeatedly, and too often you find yourself forging meaningful relationships with the unlikeliest of friends because you’ve evolved and changed, as have they. This is the point when you’re grateful you didn’t ‘burn any bridges’ in your impetuous youth! (especially if one of these people from your past returns as your boss!) 

I suppose you could spin this warning any way but the end result is the same; you reap what you sow, good or bad. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and accept that those who come into your life are there for a reason. Don’t try to rationalize it, just glean what you can from the encounter and be grateful for the lesson.

Dont spit in the wind

The Colonoscopy

My husbands family history includes numerous colon issues so as a precaution each family member is required to undergo testing every five years as a preventive measure via a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon. (aka, they shove a hose up your arse and blast your innards with air)

In preparation for this procedure the patient must scale back their food intake for several days before to ensure the bowel and colon are cleared for testing. Three weeks ago my husband received a letter advising of his testing scheduled for this week and he took it like a man. (actually he sobbed all the way back from the mailbox)

Four days ago the fasting started, no fruit or vegetables, no nuts or seeds. Three days ago he had to cut out alcohol and any foods with a red pigment. Two days ago he had to revert to a ‘light’ diet’ i.e., no beef, no dairy. The day before the procedure he had to fast completely. He took to his bed, weak from hunger. At one point a friend called and I heard my husband decline their lunch invitation because he was afraid he might be anorexic.

That evening he had to drink a prescribed liquid that would further ‘clear out any solids’ in his system (it would, as we discovered, blow the crap out of him, literally!) His procedure was scheduled for early the next morning but we both spent a sleepless night; I, afraid we’d miss our alarm, and he having to dash to the washroom every 5 minutes.

Finally the big day came. I had a lovely breakfast of bacon, eggs, coffee and a fresh fruit salad (not my arse they’re blasting, why should I starve?) My husband dressed grudgingly, his mood morose. We got in to the car for the half hour drive to the hospital and more than once I could swear I heard whimpering. (that’s my he-man, I proudly thought!) Now I’m not completely without sympathy….such internal ‘exploration’ is humbling, and I did feel for his nervousness. On the other hand last week when I asked him to vacuum he didn’t do it, so maybe this is God’s way of evening things up for me. Either way, I’m ok with it!

We checked in at the hospital and were escorted to a small waiting room where a few other patients sat all looking as uncomfortable as my husband, except of course those of us who were their drivers. It was easy to spot us, we were smiling. I noted the patients kept shifting uncomfortably in their seats, as though anticipating what was to come. (I couldn’t help but smile) After a brief wait (and several more trips to the washroom) my husband was taken in for the procedure. He was as pale as a ghost and turned pleadingly to me as the nurse ushered him away. Poor guy….anyway,  I got myself a coffee, pulled out a good book and settled in for a nice relaxing break.

Two hours later a nurse called me in. The procedure was complete and they were happy to advise they found little of consequence. He would not need another colonoscopy for five years. They sent us off with a list of instructions; he was to ‘take it easy’ for the next few days. (are you kidding? that’s his whole life) They also advised that his system would need to ‘expel’ the excess air in order to return to normal function. (makes sense, what goes in must come out) We headed to the parking lot, my husband with a notable spring in his step, serenading me with a symphony of ‘sounds’.

By the time we got home he was ravenous. He had two grilled cheese sandwiches, a pile of french fries, a cup of coffee and two cookies (apparently this particular form of ‘anorexia’ was fleeting) He then went up to lay down because the hospital did advise he should ‘take it easy’ for a few days. (ok, are we pushing it here?)

I had a number of household chores to complete (I had fallen behind when I had to care for my convalescing spouse just in his anticipation of illness) and a little help would be nice. It was a lovely spring like day and I suggested he wash the car. It was heavily soiled from the winter weather and the task was light enough to avoid strain while giving him much needed fresh air. He grumbled and moaned a little and as he mustered up his speech of refusal I said, “Hey, I just realized, we don’t need to go to the hospital for this procedure next time. I think I can figure out how to do it right in the comfort of our home”, as I lovingly unraveled the garden hose.

Boy, did he clean that car!

man with toilet paper

 

I’m still standing

I attended a party last night for a golfing buddy of my husbands. It was a birthday party and his chosen theme for the party was “I’m still standing”, (Elton John’s popular hit song) but this was by no means a typical birthday party. In fact, the celebration really was about his ‘still standing’.

This fellow is in his mid-fifties. He has a successful business, is happily married to a lovely woman and has no children. He has a gregarious personality and a natural warmth that invites a broad circle of friends. By all accounts he has it all.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, a glioblastoma, the very same that took the life of popular musician Gord Downey. He has endured several surgical attempts to thwart the progression of this aggressive cancer but to no avail. It is quite simply, terminal.

Now a terminal diagnosis such as this is devastating news to anyone and we could accept any reaction, anger, fear, depression. What is so remarkable in this case is the stoic and dignified way this fellow has chosen to deal with it. He is nothing short of inspirational.

His birthday party was exactly what it should be, a celebration of life. He happily held court in a circle of friends, laughing and telling jokes. If you didn’t know how seriously ill he was you’d never guess – he was animated and quite literally living in the moment and you had to keep reminding yourself that this may well be the last birthday celebration. A sobering thought for anyone, and yet he was smiling. Hard to fathom.

He could’ve shut himself away from the world and awaited the inevitable but instead he has taken control of his remaining time and made the most of it. He made a sizeable donation to a local hospital and has rallied for public awareness in relation to brain tumor research. He has traveled with his wife, maintains an active social life and still plays a respectable game of golf. In short he is still living. He recently sold his business and is now planning his funeral – he wants to leave no burden for his loved ones.

There’s something very special about this man. The humble acceptance of his diagnosis fueled his determination to fight the illness until it was obvious he was losing the battle, and then he simply channeled that same energy into making the most of his remaining time. You can’t help but admire that kind of courage and this gathering has served to remind us all that life is truly fleeting. We’ve no idea how long we’ll be here so it’s important to make every moment count. This man certainly has, most admirably.

Happy birthday dear friend, and thank you for reminding us of how to live with grace and die with dignity. We will only ever see you as ‘still standing’.

Tree of life

Those I admire

Maybe it’s just age but I find myself ‘seeing’ people more clearly these days and with that ‘seeing’ comes a new appreciation for the traits they possess. The traits I admire. The traits I took for granted in my youth. The very traits that now invite me,,,no compel me to want to spend more time with them.

The woman who tirelessly cared for her children and aging parents, all while holding down full time employment and acting as matriarch because she had the strength to do so. People naturally trust her advice, seek her opinion and take comfort in her guidance because she is level headed and sees both sides of every situation. She must be weary, yet she never turns away a friend in need even when it takes away another piece of her. From you I learned commitment and endurance and generosity of spirit.

The man who adores his family, all of them. He sees no flaws, reveling in the joy each brings into his life. He is of simple means and humble desires, satisfied with whatever life gives him. There’s no greed, no jealousy; he is just grateful for all that he has and considers himself among the ‘rich’ in life. I have never heard this man say an unkind word about another and that’s what I find most remarkable because I’ve never known anyone so forgiving, so accepting. Few of us in society bite our tongue when we probably should – this man actually does and it’s likely why so many gravitate to him because in his company they know they will never be judged. From you I learned acceptance and tolerance and gratitude.

The woman who leans heavily on her faith oblivious to the reactions of others. She is steadfast in her beliefs and incorporates them in every aspect of her life without imposing her mantra on others. She is the victim of gentle ribbing, even criticism, as a result, but she manages to deflect any negativity gently and with love. Her motto is not ‘do as I say’ rather it’s, ‘this is what I think and I respect your right to your beliefs’. From you I learned courage and what it is to follow our hearts.

The young woman who keenly feels the pain or suffering of others. She cries too easily, yet manages to muster up courage in the face of adversity. She loves wholly and unselfishly, wearing her heart on her sleeve. She bears a wisdom that can only come from a loving and generous heart and yet her obvious naiveté makes her vulnerable to the unkindness of others. She has a gift for working with children and animals, on any level, and they in turn, adore her. Her soul is pure and gentle and kind and your first instinct is to offer her protection from the harshness of life. She is nothing short of an angel in earth and she has taught me unconditional love and innocence, in its’ truest form.

If any of these descriptions ring true, perhaps you are seeing snippets of yourself because it is my circle of friends and family I based this on. (if you do not see anything familiar here you’re likely one of those negative types I try to avoid – life is too short) These people, you and many others, have taught me some very valuable life lessons; lessons I should’ve learned long ago but I was not open to their message. I was not receptive to this type of learning, not then. Maturity has given me focus and an understanding of what really matters in life.

Interestingly enough these individuals are also those I consider the most fun. They have fresh and spontaneous personalities and they are among the few who can still make me laugh out loud. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that? They are my inspiration and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks that they are in my life.

So I guess I admire you for all the wonderful qualities I want to emulate because those are the traits the world needs more of; commitment, endurance, generosity of spirit, acceptance, tolerance, gratitude, courage, unconditional love, and innocence. Throw in a boisterous sense of humour and you have the stuff life long relationships are made of….what a gift!

Man, I really am turning into a mushy old lady!

the people in my life    old lady with hanky

The Doctor’s Appointment

My elderly father recently had cataract surgery on one eye and the experience of that appointment and those before and after it were a sobering confirmation of the sad state of health care and our treatment of the elderly.

My father lives in Ontario in a seniors residence that allows him some independence while still under the watchful eye of fellow residents who look out for each other. I live in another province halfway across the country so it falls on my sister to attend to any needs my father has outside his home, and it’s a lucky thing she’s there because the medical system makes no allowances for the elderly. In fact, it seems they go out of their way to make it difficult for them. Maybe it’s an attempt to confuse and frustrate them to the extent that they simply forgo any medical treatment because it’s too hard.

The days leading up to this minor laser surgery were riddled with various appointments; one to ‘measure his eye’, another to test his heart, a third to do routine blood work, not to mention the routine eye exams performed in the weeks leading up to the day by countless staff, (each billing the medical system for their share ) just to make sure everyone was ‘on the same page’. No single appointment was conveniently located; rather each was to be held at various departments within a couple of downtown hospitals, where parking is at a premium, if you can find it at all, and the appointments offered were at peak rush hour, 7am or 5pm (for seniors, really?). My father was lucky (my sister not so much) because he had my sister to drive him. Other seniors were forced to take public transit or taxi’s, if they could afford them. And no appointment was less than 2-4 hours late so you had to plan to spend the day.

The day of surgery my father was instructed to be at the hospital by 6:00 in the morning and it’s a good thing he was on time because he only had to wait 41/2 hours to be seen. In the interim he was herded from waiting room to waiting room where seemingly busy administrative staff assured him the ‘doctor would be in to see him shortly’. The hospital is large, like a city unto itself, and each new waiting area they were ushered to was a good walk. My father is 88 years old and in frail health so by late afternoon he was exhausted and limping, but he was not alone because each waiting room was full of seniors like himself (who else needs cataract surgery if not seniors?) and many had no one to advocate for them. They made their way in walkers and with canes; some got confused and went to the wrong waiting areas. Several were booked for the same appointment time with the same doctor (ok, how does that work?) At the end of the day, my fathers surgery was complete and he was released into my sisters care, a mere 13 hours after they arrived. At least by then his limp was so visible he was offered a wheel chair to take him to the front door where he was unceremoniously deposited with a bag of medication and a list of follow up appointments.

One of the three follow up appointments was last week and I planned to attend while visiting. We picked my father up at noon for his 1:00 appointment – it was just up the road but he is unable to walk any distance so we drove. We arrived at 12:20. The waiting area had dozens of chairs and there was only a handful of people waiting. As I approached the reception area to check in a young woman looked up and asked if we were there for an afternoon appointment (no hello, just a hasty question) I said yes and before I could continue she replied, “We’re closed for lunch until 1:00. You’ll have to go somewhere” and she literally ushered us out into the hallway and closed the door behind us. (so I guess letting an old man sit while he waited was too much to ask)

Remembering I’d seen a sign in the lobby for a restaurant we decided to take my father there for tea and a snack to kill some time. At ten minutes to one we went back up and when the elevator opened we were greeted with a line up of seniors, all waiting for the office to open, all standing, not easily. Conversation started up and we discovered there was at least two other people with the same appointment time as us – so much for getting in and out in under four hours.

By five minutes after one and seeing some of these elderly were having trouble standing for long periods my sister pounded on the door. It was opened by the same jolly greeter I had previously encountered, and she said nothing, simply opened the door and stepped aside. While my sister waited to register my father I saw a middle aged man rapidly approach the receptionist. He said, “I’ll be back in a while”. She smiled, nodded, and returned to registering the patients at the counter. Now this minor encounter would be of no significance were it not for the fact this same middle aged man was in fact the doctor. It was 1:05. He had a waiting room full of very elderly patients, many with the same 1:00 appointment booking, and he was leaving. He returned 45 minutes later with a Starbucks coffee and a healthy glow that suggested fresh air.

In that 45 minute period we were herded from room to room and attended to by a variety of support staff. One checked the spelling of my fathers name and birthdate to confirm it was really him. (yeah, cause I bet there’s a host of seniors lining up to impersonate him) Another directed him into a semi dark room where he quickly tested the pressure in his eye, then ushered him hastily back out to another waiting area. A third, a young woman, led him into a cubicle where she instructed him to sit in an awkward chair, then turned her back to him for several minutes while she typed away on a computer. She then spun around, looked into his eye with some sort of lens, declared him healing nicely, and asked him to return to the waiting room to await the doctor (the one with the healthy glow and fresh coffee) This really was a meat market.

After another 30 minutes, we were finally ushered into a room where the doctor eventually showed up. (yes, we had to wait, again, cause nothing spells inconsiderate like a tardy doctor) He looked into my fathers eye, without any equipment, just a look, asked if he’d been administering the drops prescribed, to which my father replied in the affirmative, then said,  Good, I’ll see you in three weeks”, then rose to leave, dismissing us with a wave of his hand. (Now there are those who might forgive the arrogance of this kind of delicate genius citing they are a cut above the rest of us because they possess a higher education that entitles them to look down at others; after all an arrogant person is only smart around those who are made to feel stupid. Some might even label these insensitive louts as justified for their shoddy treatment of others. I prefer to label them ‘arseholes’.) 

I can appreciate that doctors, nurses, and technicians are highly skilled. They are in demand, perhaps too much, I get that. We are a growing population, the elderly in particular comprise a larger number of those requiring health care because we are living longer, but that does not give anyone, not even Doctor Specialist  the right to treat people this way. Society has a need, these people have the skills. Too bad they don’t have any compassion. I realize we can’t paint every medical professional with the same brush but the experience above is not unique. Twenty years ago when I needed minor surgery I recall this process of herding people like cattle. I remember endless wait times, double bookings, and disinterested support staff. What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath? In addition to the stipulation of upholding specific ethical standards, there is the provision for Duty of Care (defined simply as a legal obligation to always act in the best interest of others) Surely that includes compassion, if nothing else, how about common courtesy? Oh, and here’s a thought, how about respecting our elders?

There are wonderful caring and compassionate professionals in the medical industry, of that I’ve no doubt. My own family doctor is amazing, sincere and dedicated. Unfortunately there’s also too many arrogant, self-serving, egotistical arseholes (for lack of a more fitting description) out there, who have lost sight of what it truly means to uphold the office of a medical professional. They overbook, double bill, and sadly overlook how their callous treatment of people affects society. In short, they do not respect others.

If you truly went into this profession for the healing of mankind, good for you. If you went into it for the money and prestige it brings, shame on you.  I can only hope you are one day on the receiving end of the heartless treatment you’ve subjected these elderly to. Get over yourself.

Super Doctor

Do we learn from past mistakes?

My 88 year old father was one of many who ran from, and survived, World War II, and for the past several months I’ve been working with him to document his family’s flight from Lithuania. This required me to do some research on the generalities of this war; dates, places, etc, to ensure my father’s recollection coincided with historical facts, and I must say, it was an eye opener.

As students growing up we all studied history as it related to our country and our people but somehow, at least for me, they were just words on a page, a story. Until I could relate it to someone I knew I didn’t fully comprehend what they actually went through. It was sobering and sad, often painful, and always unsettling.

Once I completed his memoirs, I decided I needed a break from the tragedy of war time stories so I went to the library and took out a book to lighten my mood. I tend to choose books by their cover and I’ve only rarely been disappointed so this method of selection was one I used again this time. Much to my surprise when I started reading I discovered the book was about a 93 year old woman recounting her experience in this same war. She was of similar age and her story rang so familiar. I debated returning it because I’d had enough of painful war stories but once I started to read I found I couldn’t put it down. It reinforced again, the suffering endured by too many during war time, and the impact it had on their whole life.

It was beautifully written and once I finished it I found myself wondering how something like war, any war, can happen, again, and again, and again. Did World War 1 teach us nothing? For that matter, did we learn anything from any war? Throughout the ages we’ve encountered countless dictators and ruthless leaders, many of whose patterns of destruction were repeated.

For example, in the year 247 BC Qin Shi Huang ruled as the first emperor of the China. He was a ruthless and single minded ruler who commissioned the construction of a wall to protect his dynasty. (Granted he didn’t hold his own people in financial ‘hostage’ to enlist their cooperation – he just forced them into labour and worked them to death)  Sound like anybody we know today? (what  is it with these power hungry leaders and their walls?)

Wars of religion, or trade, or acquisition have replayed since the beginning of time. From the early days of Viking invasions to modern day revolutions the pattern repeats itself. Power hungry rulers brainwash or overpower citizens, forcing them to ‘cleanse’ their world of those they want to dominate or deem unworthy of existence, and they succeed only long enough to severely cripple humanity for decades to come.

We’ve evolved as a society in so many ways with advancement in industry, technology, and philosophy. We have fine-tuned our brain capacity to act in an intelligent, conscious, and moral fashion, but when it comes to conflict in the masses we resort to school yard bullying behaviours. How can we call ourselves the intelligent species when we don’t learn from past mistakes?

I realize this is simply my naïve struggle with something I fear will never change. As long as there is man, there is conflict, and it seems we will never learn that no resolution ever comes from conflict. It appears we are destined to repeat destructive patterns. We acknowledge our mistakes, after the fact, and we might even ‘learn’ from them, but if we don’t put into practice that which we ‘learn’ how can we say that we have, as a civilized society, progressed? I  will never, ever, understand the wisdom of war. Peace be with us all.

 

world peace