I Ache

Wowsie, I tried a little bit of exercise this week and I am still hurting.  It wasn’t even anything big, just some stretching and some exercises based on Callanetics.  But apparently I have absolutely no muscles left.  I’ve come along way in the two and half years since Kevin died.  I was so dedicated to staying well during the time he was ill – I had to stay well and fit, he needed me.  We juiced everyday, we’d have smoothies with spinach, kefir, flaxseed oil, greens, banana, fresh fruit and veg, it tasted so good.   Kevin harped at me every day to be healthy and to make sure I ate right and did the right things.  He was trying all sorts of natural remedies too, so I had to eat them along with him.

Oh, and we also walked.  Kevin and I walked every day up until a couple of weeks before he died.  Remarkable really, through the ice and snow. I would strap some ice grabbers on his feet, we’d take the walker, and away we’d go.  It was only when the visiting nurse told him it was dangerous for him to walk anywhere that he stopped, not only walking but also trying.  Take away hope and you leave nothing.

Anyway, thinking back to how I physically felt at that time I’d have to say I felt very good.  Psychologically a mess, but physically in great shape.  So, I think it’s time to get back to what worked for me. I used two exercise routines, and I liked them. The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley, and Callanetics by Callan Pinckney. Nothing ached when I was following my own hybrid version of their routines.  But, to get back to that point I foresee a whole bunch of pain!

Full Circle

It appears that I am remarkably consistent in my thinking.  All through this journey I am on I have written, sporadically, but still capturing my thoughts on paper.  When I feel melancholy I seem to have a nasty habit of trying to make myself feel worse by revisiting some of my previous writing.  Not all of it was angst believe it or not.  I used these little recipe cards that I kept by my bed, in my purse, everywhere.  When the mood hit me, I captured my thoughts.

Some of my writings contained ideas about how to make life better for people who end up in the same circumstances as me – facing the death of their partner and not knowing what’s expected of one, what it means and what to do – financially, emotionally, and so on.  Kevin died and in that first year I literally had so many stupid problems to deal with – bees in the walls, broken appliances, a flood in the basement, stupidity with the banks, it just kept coming.  And I wrote and I wrote.

But I also wrote, and I found this card last week, about loneliness and what to do about it.  My loneliness is and was pretty much self inflicted and I recognize that.  It takes effort to reconnect with people, physical and emotional effort, and, so far, I haven’t put much into it.  But people, friends and family, are hugely important.  We can be surrounded by people and yet somehow manage to be completely alone.  So on this card I found, I had written about setting up a club for people like me – alone, partnerless, widowed, divorced, unattached, didn’t matter how you got there, just that you were. I had mulled over the name – either the Solitaire Club (Shine on you crazy diamond), or One (one is the loneliest number). I had wanted my club to meet once a month, for drinks and conversation.  I’d written this card just about two years ago.

For the last month I’ve been saying to my daughter I need to do something, to get involved again, find some interests.  And then I find the card.  Go figure.  I guess it is something that I need to do. Put a little effort into life , and pick up the pieces and make a new puzzle.

Monday, Monday

August is almost in the books and school here in Canada starts up shortly.  This time of year also brings with it the memories of birthdays past.  It would have been Kevin’s birthday tomorrow.  It was a week long event, at minimum.  His sister’s birthday follows two days later.  It was busy, and demanding, and absolutely exhausting, and I miss it so much.  His poor sister is left dealing with the hollowness of what was and now what is.  She’s actually talked about moving her birthday celebration to a different time.

Although Kevin’s birthday was a good thing, the impending return to work was not so good.  So while we celebrated birthdays, there was always the underlying awareness that soon structure would return to the house with Kevin going off to school.  He’d get his old 10 speed bicycle out and check the brakes, make sure his carrier basket was sturdy and well attached and that was about it.

As he himself would say, he was a man of extreme highs and lows.  Returning to work started the journey to low, and the first day of school when he met the kids in the classroom could either take him right to the bottom or level him out.  I remember one year he had a class with a couple of “identified” kids in it, not unusual, but it was the six or seven that should have been identified that were the problem.  When you have 28 kids in the class, having eight or nine identified kids  could result in chaos for everyone, a poor learning experience for others, and frustration for the teacher.

August this year started off poorly with the death of a very remarkable woman who was my daughter’s best friend’s mom.  She was also a former teaching colleague of my husband, a fun loving, kind and personable woman.  Her drive took her out of the classroom and into administration and her legacy is enormous as it was her incredible vision, passion and commitment that moved forward Indigenous awareness, education and opportunity within our province.  That was her day job, her full time job was as a mother, wife and friend to so very many.   She was only 52 years old.  Her loss is tremendous and will resonate for some time.  I can well imagine how the family is feeling.  Her death took me back to a place that can swallow you up in darkness instantly.

Today I heard a song by the Strumbellas and one line really  hit home.  “And I don’t want a never-ending life, I just want to be alive while I am here.”  That’s what is left for us to do, be alive while we are here.

 

 

The Twins

This past weekend I paid a visit to my son and his family.  They live around five hours away when travelling by car.  Two weeks ago his wife gave birth to twins –  boy and girl.  How his father would have talked up that!  No history of twins on either side of the family.  A completely unplanned pregnancy – especially since they already had three little boys, 6, 4 and almost two years of age.  Now they have 5 little ones.  Such a crazy chaotic life stretches before them!

It was awesome to meet the two newest babies – and they are perfect in every way.  Hard too, since it was the one thing that Kevin would go on about – how after he retired he planned on taking the grandchildren, the boys, there were no girls at that point, and have them come and stay with us for the summer.  He loved those kids and had great plans for them, plans he would never get to see through- so it was hard.  I have six grandchildren now, three of which never met him, that will only hear stories about their larger-than-life granddad.

When Kevin was close to the end, my son’s wife found out she was pregnant with her third child.  I couldn’t tell Kevin about the pregnancy, it would have broken him even more.  It was a hard thing to do, I know my son wanted his father to know.  But I couldn’t tell his dad, a man that family was everything to.  To know he wouldn’t be there for the birth of a child would have caused him so much pain. Right or wrong, I made the decision, Kevin had suffered so much, and he had anguished over everything, I couldn’t add to his burden.

As he got sicker, Kevin would tell me over and over that I got a bum deal when I married him.  How sorry he was that he got sick, for letting me down. He told me that I had to be there for the kids because he wouldn’t be able to.  His family was everything to him, and I like to believe that it still is.  Somewhere, somehow he carries a light to guide us forward.  That when I cradled those little ones on the weekend their grandfather was right there with me.  I believe his love certainly was.

What a crazy thing emotion is, that so much joy and so much sorrow can be in one’s heart at the same time.  But that’s how it was when I heard about the babies, so happy and so sad at the same time.  I say this often, because it’s true, I miss you so much Kevin.

 

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A woman of age

When did aging get associated with stupidity or loss of intellect? Here in Ontario it seems that for women who age, especially women on their own, a general assumption is made that they can no longer make decisions for themselves.  I’m not talking about women on their 50’s or 60’s, it’s more women who are in their 70’s and on up.  And it’s typically their own kids that start to treat them like they are mentally deficient.

We are in a  society where age is not valued.  For years the mandatory retirement age suggested that at 65 years of age you ceased to be a productive, valued member of society.  Mandatory retirement at 65 was lifted in Canada in 2012; however, the stigma about older employees in the workplace is still entact.  The younger generation have been raised to believe that an older employee is an impediment to progress and productivity.  That older employees are stuck in the past and offer no real value to the future – the legacy of mandatory retirement. Thankfully the mandatory age has been lifted.  It actually forced a large part of society into poverty.

Our messaging in the workplace translated to outside of the workplace, and more especially so for women.  Years of ingrained stereotyping about menopausal women and post menopausal women suggested that there was a mental instability resulting from loss of fertility, ‘mood swings’. Heck up until the 1960s in some civilized countries  menopause was still viewed as an insanity that women were afflicted with.  Perhaps this factored into the wage inequity, the belief that women were born flawed and consequently had limits to their capacity for intellectual development.  Regardless of why, the wage disparity exists, the perceptions of menopause as a physical deficiency still exist.

Put them together:  mandatory retirement (you’re old and have no value) + you are a woman 65+ (been to the crazy land of menopause and back) + as a woman you likely earned far less than a man = somebody better look after you, because you can’t do it yourself, emotionally or financially.  We are moving away from this view, but it takes time, patience and persistence in looking for the systemic imbalances related to long held notions.

Then, individually, we have a responsibility, as we age a lot is tied to the actions we ourselves take. Sure it’s easier at some point, especially when you are on your own, to say to friends or family, ‘I can’t think about it’, or ‘I don’t know what to do, tell me what to do’, or the ultimate transfer of power: ‘you decide for me’. It’s when it gets said perpetually that the dynamics can change. Much depends on how you allow your relationships to evolve. Know your motivations, if you play the ‘poor me’ then you will be treated like the ‘poor me’.  But in some instances it’s the mature children who come in and steamroller the parent into submission. There’s no choice involved. Whether it’s a lack of time, patience or concern, the child makes the decisions, the parent allows it to happen and, consequently, the parent becomes the child in all aspects of decision-making.  It’s why does the parent allow it to happen that’s important.

Is it fear of being alone?  Is it because it’s easier?  When do the dynamics in the relationship start to shift?  Is this a financially-driven decision to cede over one’s autonomy to another?  Is it because there aren’t enough supports in the community to ensure continued independence?  I have to look for studies in this regard, to see what’s out there.  But for those of us who are getting older I suggest watching this video about a man who retired to start a whole new adventure, and didn’t miss a step in his enjoyment of life.