Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Pain, if it is not too overwhelming, is something you get used to after a while.  It travels with you, sleeps with you, makes rules about what can and cannot be done.  And then there comes an afternoon when, as you sit at your desk, reviewing the latest professional hope research literature, you are struck by an awareness that something is different.  At first you wonder what has been added, and then you realize that it is not that something has been added, but rather that something has unaccountably gone missing.  The missing thing is pain. 


There follows a moment of wonder, and then a moment of celebration, and finally, an appraisal.  For this arm, the one with the pain, is still falling short of her potential.  Not yet reached is the time when she will once again retrieve the second row of water glasses from the third kitchen shelf, or stretch back to fasten a bra hook, or hold the railing while stepping down from the city bus. 


So you pause in your reading to stretch, and extend, and hold for twenty seconds six times in each pose, the way the physiotherapist taught you to do.  And you keep this up until the old aching tug has taken up its position once again.   Then you go back to reading research articles from the hope literature.  But a part of you is now wondering if, albeit inadvertently, you might have discovered one internal difference between athletes and couch potatoes.  Could it be that a couch potato will rest until the pain goes away, while an athlete, noticing the absence of pain, will see the untapped potential and jump up to stretch some more?


 You want to be the athlete.  It seems the right thing to be.  but honestly, you have to admit that there is definitely a generous portion of  couch potato in you.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007


If we are still in winter coats, sporting our heavy gloves, toques ever at the ready, shoveling snow every second day, then what choice have we but to take comfort from the knowledge that we are now into the springy side of winter?


Nestled in their indoor pots, AT THE WARMEST POINT OF MID-DAY, the begonia bulbs are putting out tentative shoots while Pirate, stretched full length on the sunny hardwood, dreams of the bones and balls buried beneath the front yard drifts.  Halfway out of the valley, on our morning climb to work, a red and yellow sun pops boldly over the horizon, casting long-distance beams on the glass of the downtown high-rises. 


“This could be our last cold snap of the winter,” we say encouragingly as we zip the zippers of our warmest boots.  It is, after all, the springy side of winter. 

Friday, February 23, 2007


Maggie Hodgson definitely gets my vote for The Hope Lady Award.  She talks about aboriginal people in a manner that can only make them proud of themselves, only make them want to be more like the people she has noticed.  Some information from her bio is quoted below.  At the end is the address of the website where you can hear her interview aired Feb. 23 2007 on CBC Radio’s The Current.  You cannot help but believe things could change when you hear her speak. 


The Honourable Dr. Maggie Hodgson, Health Services

Maggie Hodgson is the Founder and Executive Director of the Nechi Institute on Alcohol and Drug Education, an adult addictions counselor training and research

centre.  She has worked in the area of addictions for twenty years, and on suicide prevention, sexual abuse, residential schools, family violence, communications,

gambling addictions, Aboriginal inmate aftercare, and mental health.  Dr. Hodgson is responsible for the creation of the Angus Campbell Detoxification

Centre; the Community Action Society that advocates on behalf of welfare recipients; the 1320 Car Club; the Moose Jaw Friendship Centre; and Moose Jaw

Transition House for battered women.  She was the driving force behind the National Addictions Awareness Week, which now boasts 700,000 participants annually;

the First World Addictions Conference in 1992 that drew 3,200 Aboriginal people from around the world.  When Ovid Mercredi went to Davis Inlet during the

1993 crisis, he chose Dr. Hodgson to accompany him due to her expertise. She sits on many boards and committees including:  The Royal Commission on Aboriginal

Issues; the Edmonton Social Planning Council; the Canada Drug Strategy; the Minister of Health’s Committee on Native Suicide; and Corrections Canada’s

Substance Abuse Task Force.  Dr. Hodgson graduated with a Grade 12 education, received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Alberta, and

has taken numerous courses over the years to become one of the Aboriginal community’s leading health care workers, trainers, organizers and advocates. 

She is married with three children, and lives in Edmonton.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Reason #1

This is Family Day, invented 17 years ago by Don Getty, an unpopular Alberta Premier who wanted to please us.  And what could have pleased us more than a day off in the long darkness of February, placed smack in the middle between Christmas and Easter?  People said it would ruin the economy.  But the economy appears to be doing just fine.  The air is frosty.  The sun is shining.  


Reason #2

Big progress for me!  Standing flat on my feet, heels pressed against the floor, I can retrieve a water glass from the third shelf with my gimpy right arm.  Some have read my accounts of gradual recovery and thought that I was writing about baby steps.  But I thought I was writing about giant steps.  How often in life to we have the privilege of noticing measurable changes almost every day? 


Reason #3

Something is changing in Saskatchewan.  Seventeen years after Family day was declared in Alberta, Saskatchewan’s Premier became unpopular and decided to give Saskatchewan a Family Day holiday.  Eight other provinces and three territories are still suffering the long haul between Christmas and Easter, wondering if it is true that all things come to those who are willing to wait.  People are saying this day of leisure could harm Saskatchewan’s economy.  Only time will tell. 

Thursday, February 15, 2007




My watch stopped running.

My talking book player stopped playing.

The furnace unilaterally decided to keep the house cool.

The dog’s bowels refused to wait for a good time.

My shoulder declined the instant recovery option.

The front door knob adopted the practice of keeping everyone on the outside.


Progress On The Remedies


Bought a new watch

Manufacturer replaced the talking book player

Furnace repair man is willing to keep on trying.  Thank goodness for the fire place!

Dog will be taken to see the vet.  So far all messes have been cleaned up before I unwittingly stepped in them.

Physio for the shoulder with pullies and sticks

Front door abandoned.  Using the back door instead. 

There is, after all,  a limit to the number of things that can be addressed in any given week.


Every problem requires its own special solution.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


“I will be getting around on my own in just a few days,” I said on the day after my shoulder broke.


“Too early to talk about that now,” said David.  “You can’t go out alone.  You can’t even stand up for more than a couple of minutes.”


He had a point.  I gave him that.


“I’ll soon be going out on my own,” I said when a week had gone by.  T

Here was no particular place I needed to go, but the thought that I could not do it was driving me to Cabin Fever.


“You can’t go out alone,” said David.  “What if somebody knocks against your shoulder?  “You won’t be able to stand the pain.”


He had a point.  I gave him that and grudgingly took a taxi when I went back to the office.


“I’m almost ready to go out on my own,” I said, after I had been back at work for a few days.  Sure it was below minus twenty out there with blowing snow and huge slippery drifts, bracing wind chill on top, conditions that would have sorely tempted me to take a taxi at any other time.  But Cabin Fever goes straight to the brain.


“You cannot go out alone,” said David.  “Think how terrible it would be if you fell!  You might be in a cast for weeks.  You might miss your trip to New York!”


He had a point.  I gave him that.  But then a temptation was placed in my path.  I was getting my teeth cleaned, and I had not ordered a cab or arranged a ride, not knowing exactly when the job would be finished.  The dental building had an indoor connection to the LRT platform.  The LRT exit was only a block and a half from my office, and I knew the university would have that path cleared and sanded.  I might have run the idea past David, but he simply wasn’t there. 


As a compromise to his objections, expressed in absentia, I promised to take no risks.  I walked very slowly.  I stopped at each door, carefully considering which hand to reach out, which hand to put in charge of holding the door.  And then, in a highly commendable display of self-discipline, I walked slowly down the stairs, even though the train was on the platform, even though I could have caught it.  I waved it a cheerful good-bye and stepped carefully on to the platform just as it began to pull away.  While I waited for the next train, I practised the speech I would give to David.  I would be humble, grateful for his loving protection.  I would explain that it is essential to move on, to push yourself, to achieve more than others think you can achieve. 


I was on the next train.  I got off at the right spot.  The university had cleared the path.  I walked slowly, slower than you ought to walk when it is minus twenty.  And when I had covered the first block, I became aware that my white cane seemed to be gaining weight.  Compact and light-weight at the journey’s beginning, it now hung heavy in my hand, heavier after each step, pulling hard on an upper arm muscle that had never announced itself on any past journey that I could remember.   


So I don’t think I will go out alone for a few more days, and I will grudgingly admit that David was right.  But he was wrong about the reason why I couldn’t.  He isn’t perfect, after all.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Just as there are pansies for those who love the colour purple, and lilacs for those who crave a fragrant experience, so too is there a plant for those impatient souls who must see a change taking place in order to believe that it is happening.  Their plant is the Amaryllis.  There is no turning back once Amaryllis has shown the tip of her stock, declaring her intention to bloom.  Every day the stock is noticeably taller than the day before.  Every day it points its tip toward the light, then gradually switching to vertical then changing the angle if you turn the pot to point the stock away from the light.  Up, up it goes until the magic day when it bursts open to unpack the buds of the glorious red flowers to come.  A short celebration of beauty will command the attention of all who see it.  Then, in a couple of weeks the casual observer will see no noticeable sign that there ever was a flower stock. 


A recovering shoulder is a study for us impatient souls who must see a change in order to believe that it is taking place.  One day you can touch the kitchen counter top, then the toaster top, then the coffee maker top, then the plate shelf, then the juice glass shelf.  One day an index finger can trail the edge of the third shelf up, the next it can extend an inch over the surface.  And the arm will turn in the direction in which it is pointed, so it must be pointed in another direction, the hurting direction to turn it there as well. 


And you just can’t help but wonder, does the Amaryllis feel the tug when you turn the pot?



Tuesday, February 06, 2007


At first they called it a broken shoulder, an idea that seemed simple enough until people started to raise questions.  And so, even though I generally like things to be simple, I studied a bit of anatomy and began referring to it as a humerus broken at the tuberosity.  That is when the real questions revealed themselves.  For example, what, exactly is humorous about the humerus?  It is only an ordinary bone that connects the elbow to the group of bones that are collectively known as the shoulder.  Nothing funny about that, especially when it breaks.  In my opinion, it ought to be called the upper arm bone.  But then, I missed the meeting where they named the bones, so what right have I to speak up after the work has all been done?


And then there is the tuberosity.  What in the world is a tuberosity anyway?  From what I understand, and I use the term ‘understand’ loosely, tuberosity is to tubercles what herd is to cows, and flock is to geese.  Tubercles, it seems, are knobs that attach a small army of shoulder muscles to the humerus.  Maybe they are like the tightening screws on guitar strings, the ones that keep the strings connected to the guitar body.  Anyway, when you gather a few of them together they form a tuberosity. 


With anatomy questions jauntily set aside, I made myself available to address issues of daily living.  Like, how will I eat with my right arm in a sling, how will I brush my teeth?  These simple questions seemed to resolve themselves.  Left Hand, known affectionately as Lefty, took her new responsibilities very seriously, making impressive progress at skill development.  So commendable was her devotion that I am rewarding her initiative by letting her eat and brush half the time even though Righty is now able to take on some of these duties.  I even intend to let her do some of the eating and brushing when Righty is able to do it without hurting. 


So, as you can see, things are coming along nicely.  But some questions still remain.  One that currently gets a lot of my attention is, when will I be able to walk alone?  It is not that I need Righty to punch out would-be attackers, though I confess that the job would probably fall to her if push came to shove.  But I really do need two hands to walk, one to hold the white cane, and the other to carry things, open doors, and find stair rails.  And these hands have to be somewhat interchangeable, which means that Righty will have to give up some of this hurting every time she is asked to do something. 


And there was one last troubling question, though I seem to have that one figured out.  How will I get sympathy now that Righty is out of the sling?  I still need sympathy after all, am likely to need it for a while.  For now, I have discovered a workable answer.  I simply wear a long-sleeved sweater over a short-sleeved sweater.  If I notice I am not getting the sympathy I deserve, I carefully remove the outer sweater to reveal a sight that makes them draw in a quick breath and offer to serve me chocolate or anything else I might want.  When I ask them what they see, they describe the scene as an ugly display of black, blue and yellow with no visible sign of an identifiable elbow.  They understand this to be a barometer to measure pain.  Proof positive that, when it comes to measuring pain, seeing is believing.  

Monday, February 05, 2007


When Linda was planning Jane’s surprise birthday party, she saw one major hurdle.  How would she get Jane to come to the party?


"That’s simple,” I said without a pause.  "I will ask Jane to drive me to some fictitious event at the place where the party is being held."  And it was that simple.  I asked Jane to drive me to a speaking engagement.  She said she would. 


Knowing we are both alone this afternoon, Jane has arrived at my house twenty minutes early.  She has brought us a Tim Horton’s English Toffee coffee to drink while we wait.  She has brought two blouses that will fit me well.  She hardly wears them any more.  Jane and I talk as we kill time in my kitchen.  Over the years we have developed a shared love for lilies in the yard and geraniums nurtured in sunny pots while we wait for spring to come.  She has stood in front of my kitchen sink on hundreds of Sundays, rinsing off greasy pots and scraping away the residue of scalloped potatoes.  When the last pan was scoured she would go quietly outside and smoke with my boys.  I never wanted my boys to smoke, and she would not have wanted that either.  But I was happy that they could smoke with Aunty Jane.  It gave them a chance to have quiet time with her, to be buddies away from the big crowd.  Only good could come from that. 


Jane and I both joined the Edey family as young adults.  I was inducted when I married David.  She came in as an informally adopted daughter because she was Linda’s roommate and best friend.  She is one with us, and with her family of origin as well.  She is the eldest among seven siblings in a family that also fostered others while she was growing up.  And later, when the mom in the other half of their duplex died, leaving a husband and baby, Jane and Linda gave their hearts and their resources so that little Nicole could grow up in two attached loving homes with three active parents. 


It takes many kinds of people to make the world special.  Some make great discoveries.  Some win Nobel prizes.  Some take on the role of president, or chairman.  Many others live quiet lives, going to work every day, doing more than their share without expecting praise or special recognition.  Jane is one of the quiet ones. 


I tell her it is time to leave for my speaking engagement.  She helps me gather my things together.  She locks the door with my key because my arm is sore.  “The parking lot is pretty full,” she says as we approach the hall where her birthday party is being held.   I will let you out at the door and take you in then I will park the car.”  But there is no need for this.  To her surprise, there is a vacant spot right at the door. 


I take a deep breath.  We have made it this far.  It seems impossible that she would not know.  A thousand lies have been woven together while Linda summoned Jane’s family from across the country, her workmates, her pool pals.  At least a dozen lies were told so that she might arrive, all dressed up on a Saturday afternoon in this unlikely place at this precise moment.  But Jane is a gracious woman.  If she thought you had a surprise going, she would not ruin it. 


We pause in the foyer to hang our coats on the rack.  Behind the closed door, balloons are floating.  People have gathered at circular tables.  Seventy voices are waiting to sing the Happy Birthday song.  Later Jane will say, "When the door opened I was looking toward the back for the place where I could drop out of sight as soon as I got Wendy settled.  Then I saw my brother."  And who could have said it better?  It is a statement of vintage Jane, through and through. 


There is a mountain of delicious food, a short tribute given by her brother and a slide show.  There is no speech from Jane.  She just walks around the room, talking to dozens of people who love her.  Finally, she permits others to whisk her away, leaving the clean-up chores for somebody else.  This is a special day, after all. 

Saturday, February 03, 2007


What better time can there be to wonder things than in the middle of the night?  The house is relatively quiet, except for the clicking and whir of the fridge, the pop-popbang of the vinyl siding as it adjusts to temperature changes and the little whoops that Pirate makes as he dreams his doggy dreams.  I wonder, for example, why it is that we have our babies at the time in life when we have no aches and pains to keep us awake at night.  Most nights, at this stage in life, a baby crying for a 3:00 feeding would find me wide awake, wondering why it stayed asleep for so long.  No sign of the mumbling,m stumbling half-awake creature who groggily changed their diapers and gave them the breast.  And on those rare nights when Mom was, by some miracle, sleeping through, Dad would surely be alert, despite the fact that he leaves for work in only a few hours.


Dad says he knows the answer to this question.  We don’t have the babies at this stage because, due to our indigestion, accompanied by various aches and pains,  we don’t get enough sleep to enable us to be competent parents during the day.