Saturday, May 09, 2020


Shall I recall the final normal day? It dawned a Wednesday morning bright and clear. The day began with friends and bridge to play Some winning, loosing, chatting and good cheer. We stopped at Kingsway Garden Mall for lunch, The food court proffered Julius and fries. I bought a purse, the cheapest of the bunch I’d get another if I’d been unwise. Two friends and I crooned trios by the bed To comfort one whose death was close at hand, And then I packed a bag for days ahead To be with sisters on a visit planned. Free day to go and do whate’er we chose. I say! When will we next have one of those?


REFLECTING ON THE FOOD SUPPLY IN COWBOY POETRY He was sittin at the table chewin on a fine T-bone. There was steak sauce on his moustache. He was eatin all alone. He was ponderin the feedlots with their twenty thousand head; Of the workers touchin shoulders and the virus that they spread. He was thinkin bout the butcher shop his daddy used to run, Sides a-hangin in the cooler when the weekly kill was done. You had paper wrapping everything the labels writ by hand And you knew exactly who you fed and what they would demand. There was oxtail in the supper plans and soup bones on the bubble. The kidney, heart and liver sold without a moment’s trouble. It was shortribs for Elvira Jones and chuck for Elsie Gable. Verna Parker took a tender roast to serve on Sunday table. You could drive out to a farmer’s place and there conduct a meetin With the farmer who provided and the steer you’d soon be eatin. There are some who say they’re satisfied with tofu nuts and soy But it takes a juicy steak to feed a grateful good old boy.

Friday, April 24, 2020


Reading with children Facetime is the next best thing When snuggling is out. Walking with Kathy To be outside where life is So spectacular. People delighted By an unexpected call I happened to make. Call from a cousin Who lives in Ontario Remembering me. Grateful for wellness And grocery delivery A home that I love. Making up stories Wednesdays are the send-out days Getting letters back. Balcony pansies Pandemic insensitive Blooming like crazy Media searching For good news to give us hope And give them hope too. Choosing not to clean Because I know there will be Time for it later. Choosing to clean now Because I know I will be Glad I did later. Thinking of places I’m glad not to be in now And those I still love. Sweet whiff of supper Slow cooking tantalizing While I watch Frasier Counting on science Admiring the leadership Of our officials Dreaming a future When this time will be the past That made us all wiser.


Audacious hopers hope for things No practical person would dream of hoping for, Things we are certain can never happen Given the current circumstances. Audacious hopers drive us crazy Because they simply will not listen To our predictions about the future. Audacious hopers are in denial! There’s nothing quite so irritating As trying to protect audacious hopers From the disappointment we’re afraid they will face. Audacious hopers test our courage! BUT: Audacious hopers change the world And when they do we call them heroes. We buy magazines with articles about them And hire them to make motivational speeches. When audacious hopers tell their stories About the people they met on the journey, I’d rather be named as the one who supported Than mentioned as the barrier who had to be thwarted.


Some days I am hopeful, Others not so much. It’s the same world on any specific day Regardless of how hopeful I am, Only the possibilities for days ahead are different. Being hopeful is not wishing. Wishing is for Disneyland And birthday candles And the days when I buy a lottery ticket Just because I have money. Being hopeful is not goal setting. Goal setting is for sales teams And athletes And fund-raisers at the United Way. Hopeful is a way of feeling When I see the world, With certain possibilities, Of how good things could happen But not quite enough of the picture To lay out a detailed plan. On days when I am not hopeful There are still possibilities, Only I don’t see them So I think they are not there. And that is why, On any given day No matter what is happening It is better to be hopeful If I have a choice Which sometimes I do. And sometimes I don’t Which means I have to wait Until I do.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


The best burger I ever had was last Saturday. It sang to my heart Backed up by a chorus of fries Accompanied by a chocolate shake. The best burger I ever had was on Saturday. It tingled my tongue, Warmed through by the sun shining on the car window And the company of my friend Kathy. The best burger I ever had was on Saturday It dripped shamelessly down my chin, Spotted my t-shirt And called for a napkin. The best burger I ever had was a regular Mama cheese Unremarkable to those who have one every day And a delicacy rare as truffles After five weeks of staying at home.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


The grief monster got me again this morning, caught me unaware and gave me the old one-two punch in the gut. “Get out!” I shouted. But I didn’t hear the words I’d said. The noise sounded more like a wolf howl to me, a wolf howl, or a moan of abject pain. Perhaps I should have expected it, the sudden appearance of this sleeping giant. A pessimist might have observed some warnings that a storm might be brewing underground. There had been, for example, a considerable reduction of crying over the past couple of months. But I am not a pessimist. This drying up might have been caused by the passage of time, time spent in the warm Mexican sand, the gradual thawing of chilly relationships, the sprouting of new healthy relationships, the shedding of some failed experiments, the formation of new habits, the revival of my storytelling hobby, new volunteer opportunities, better eating, long daily walks outdoors, daily internet contact with people I love. Even in a time of pandemic, any of these might have boosted my mental health. Or it might simply have been that the focus required to thrive during a COVID 19 pandemic can distract you from just about everything you are used to. So perhaps I can be forgiven for failing to expect the monster. It was just after 7:30 AM when the monster struck. I was sitting on the edge of my bed celebrating the sunshine snaking along the wall from the closet door to the place beside the mirror. I was thinking that my neighbour and I might get a hamburger and fries from a drive-through window today, the first restaurant food we’ve had in five weeks of obeying the call to “Stay Home!” The people on the radio were telling me about a star-studded concert that would be playing on all the TV networks all over the world. Among the other stars, John Legend would be singing. “Let’s go out on this song,” said the radio people. “John Legend: All Of Me.: What’s that they said? Let’s go out? I went out all right. In one brief second I went all the way back to the winter of 2014. It was Saturday morning, every Saturday morning. We were at the west End Seniors Association, David and I, attending dance classes sponsored by the Parkinson Association. We were seated, doing the warm-up exercises. The nurse, Sharleen Heavener was leading us. John Legend was singing All of Me. Beside David I was stretching. I was singing to the gentle rhythm. I was pretending that everything would be all right. John sang: The world is beating you down, I'm around through every mood. You're my downfall, you're my muse My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues I can't stop singing, it's ringing, in my head for you [Pre-Chorus:] My head's under water But I'm breathing fine You're crazy and I'm out of my mind [Chorus:] 'Cause all of me Loves all of you Love your curves and all your edges All your perfect imperfections Give your all to me I'll give my all to you You're my end and my beginning Even when I lose I'm winning David could still walk back then. He could still drive. We could still learn new dance steps together. But his voice had slowed, and his signature had changed so much that people started checking to confirm its authenticity. Somehow he had forgotten how to shift his weight gracefully from one foot to the other. It was plain to both of us that everything would definitely not be all right. Still, we concentrated on burying the future by making everything all right at that moment, the moment before she asked us to stand, the final seconds of sitting down. So what if the task of burying the future required an avalanche of pretending? We were up for it. We were listening to popular songs. It might be the end of the world as we knew it, but we were learning to dance.

Sunday, April 12, 2020


A couple of days ago I turned the channel to Detroit Public TV. I planned to watch the late night news for five or ten minutes. It’s something I’ve started doing recently—watching a bit of American television each day to broaden my perspective on how things are with other people. Imagine the humour of it! Usually I am complaining that too much of our local news is American, with a splash of Canadian thrown in there. But now we don’t hear so much about the States. There’s little room for it by the time they finish giving us the latest COVID 19 numbers, predicting future financial disaster and presenting the arguments for and against the wearing of masks in public. But I digress. Near the top of the Detroit news was the following revelation “Local greenhouses say they will be dumping their pansies now that the governor has declared them to be a non-essential service.” What was this? Dumping pansies? My heart stopped beating for a moment. There it was! My reckoning with the truth had arrived. In the comfort of abundance, the idea of scarcity holds the power to unhinge us. Fear is the enemy of hope. Sure I was afraid, but I figured I’d done pretty well over the past month at absorbing our new reality in a hopeful manner. When the first toilet paper buying panic began, I checked my cupboard, found enough there, and promised myself that I’d find a reasonable facsimile of the old Eaton’s catalogue somewhere if I couldn’t get anymore by the time it was needed. When my friend bought the only can of corn on a grocery store shelf, I assured myself that if no more corn appeared in desperate times there would surely be canned peas to buy. I wouldn’t particularly want them, but still they would be there. Nobody in their right mind buys canned peas. When someone dear to me bemoaned the shortage of frozen broccoli I smirked generously and offered to freeze for her some fresh broccoli from my well-stocked refrigerator. But now this. The governor of Michigan was declaring pansies to be non-essential. How could it be? Spring is coming late to Alberta this year, later than to Detroit. It’s already April 12 and we’ve hardly had a day when snow didn’t fall. The average daily temperature hovers about twelve Celsius degrees below normal. Migratory birds check the weather forecast and book an extra week or two in the trees of warmer locations. It’s been too cold to put plants outside. When we finally break through, be it late this week or late in the next, there will be pansies to buy. Or will there? “Pansies,” I shouted at the TV while reaching for the remote control to switch to the Movie Channel. “You can’t dump healthy pansies! If you don’t need them, send them to me. I need them.” That night I dreamed of the pansies on my balcony, cheerily blooming in fragrant profusion. But when I awoke, the air was moist with the hint of snow. First thing in the morning I called the local home improvement store. “Garden centre,” I said to the electronic voice that wanted to know what department I needed. To my surprise, a living, breathing human picked up the phone, a young woman by the sound of her. “Is your garden centre open?” I asked breathlessly. “No,” she said with the hint of a smirk. “There’s too much ice and snow out there right now.” This might have placated me, but it didn’t. I was looking to the future. “Do you think it will open?” I squeaked. Now she was in full-on deal-with-the-crazies-out-there mode. “I am pretty sure the snow will eventually melt,” she said soothingly. It is snowing a little today. So far I haven’t called any garden centres in Detroit. Nor have I sought any more news from that suffering city. Deep in my heart, I continue to hope for pansies.

Friday, April 10, 2020


A pair of friendly strangers showed up at my door with a grocery order this morning. My groceries were already unpacked by 8:00 AM. Everything I had ordered was there. They brought an Easter lily, a beautiful hydrangea, Easter eggs, a huge pineapple, tiny mandarins, and grapes almost as big as the oranges. Did I forget to mention the rutabaga, onions, milk, cheese, yoghurt and a few other ordinary things? What a way to start the day! All I had to do was click some links on the computer and provide my credit card information. Nobody was more delighted than I when grocery stores started offering on-line shopping with delivery. It all happened just at the time when David was finding it increasingly difficult to buy food for us. We could have asked family and friends to help, but we didn’t have to. For the first time in my life I was able to take on the responsibility of ensuring that our cupboards would contain the things we wanted. It was a welcome consolation against the sadness of witnessing the relentless disabling progression of David’s illness. It may seem to us that ordering groceries for delivery is a recent innovation. But I can tell you that my mother was doing it years ago. We lived on a farm 9 miles from the village of Lougheed. Sometimes she would drive into town to shop. Other times she would notice that Dad was on his way to pick up a belt for the swather or a shovel for the cultivator. “Stop in at the grocery store,” she would command. “Phone it in,” he would reply. Mom was in no hurry. She’d pick a few peas, maybe roll out a piecrust. All the while she’d be making a mental list of the things she needed. By and by Mom would check the phone sheet (you didn’t need a whole book to list the numbers on the Lougheed exchange). She would dial the number of the store. “Hello,” she’d say. “Who’s this?” I never knew why it mattered, but it did. “Donald will be coming in to pick up an order,” she’d say. “Oh, he’s already been in? Is he still there? Well, he’ll be back soon. Do you have a pen there?” “Okay now. I need beans. Are there any on sale? Well why is the bigger can cheaper than two small cans. I don’t really need a big can. But oh well. And some lettuce. Your lettuce isn’t going brown, is it? I don’t want the ones with the brown leaves. Get me the freshest one you have. And what have you got for fruit? How ripe are those bananas?” Then a pause. “Oh really? You don’t say! Why I just saw her at the ACW tea last week. Was it the cancer? She didn’t look too well.” “Oh that’s good. Patricia was always her favourite so it’s good that she could make it home in time. Do you have any tomatoes? You want me to take Hot cross buns? You’ve still got those? Are you sure they’re still good?” Another pause. “Really? I thought there was a lot of money there. Where does it all go?” “Oh yes, I forgot that I put on Easter dinner and bought all the supplies for the ACW tea. No wonder you are out of money for my groceries. Tell Donald when he comes back that you need him to put more money in the account.” “Eh? What’s that? You told him? He said he didn’t have a cheque. Could you just give him the groceries anyway and send the bill. I’ll top up the account the next time I’m in town.” (This, in fact, was true. Mom and Dad always paid their bills.) Still, it was important that this oversight not be blamed on her. “I don’t know why he carries a couple of cheques in his wallet instead of taking a cheque book,” she would say in the voice of exasperation. I have friends who had never ordered groceries for delivery until we started staying home to keep ourselves safe from COVID 19. They marvel at how easily I make an order. “Oh,” I tell them modestly, “I’ve had a lot of experience with this."

Wednesday, April 08, 2020


It’s Wednesday. I like Wednesdays, always have. In school days and work days, Wednesday was the point of departure. A week that started out well was going better by Wednesday. In a week that started poorly, the arrival of Wednesday heralded the promise of hope for the weekend. Even in retirement, Wednesday has held a bit of magic. I think of Wednesday March 11 as the most recent normal day of my life. It contained a bit of everything: the happy routine of bridge club, the pleasure of lunch with a friend, the satisfaction of successfully shopping for a new purse, the excitement of packing for a couple of nights stay at my sister’s house, and the wonder of gently singing a dying woman into a deep and peaceful sleep. Today is Wednesday. It is almost 10:00 and I am still in my housecoat. Later today my son will drive by, roll down his car window and hand me an envelope while giving a cheery greeting and telling me he loves me. Who knew He’d start shouting those words in public? I will take a walk with my neighbour. Several weeks ago we decided to form a bubble around ourselves and protect each other from the possible dangers of spreading a virus through close physical contact with others. I will call one neighbour I haven’t spoken to in a month of isolation. I will talk to a relative who has tested positive for COVID 19. I will answer whoever phones me—possibly being rude if the call is a junk call. Being rude can be fun. I will join a storytellers’ meeting on Zoom. I will cook myself a balanced supper and eat it slowly while watching back-to-back episodes of Frasier. I will record a story on the iPhone and send it to friends, because I have decided that every Wednesday will be Story Wednesday until life gets back to normal. There are many things I will not do. I will not play bridge with my buddies, or dine at a restaurant, or enter a store, or pass through the door of a long-term care centre, or plan a trip. Even with all the things you cannot do, it is surprising how much you can get done on a Wednesday!