Back home

I’ve been home for two weeks now after spending the month of May in Kimberley visiting my daughter while Bob was working in the area, and I’ve been so busy I haven’t put time aside to post. Upon our return we were greeted with a lawn of very tall grass, and because it was already the end of May we had to get busy buying seeds and vegetable starts and flowers, getting the vegetable gardens planted, putting flower baskets together, mowing and weeding.

We did have a little parcel we discovered in our hedge while weeding, a nest of twelve quail eggs. The mother must’ve been out feeding when we saw the pale and brown speckled eggs nestled in the tall grass. When I checked them the next day I thought they were gone, that a raccoon had gotten to them, but then I looked again I could then notice the excellent camouflage of the male parent spread out over the nest.

I also needed to get up to see my Mom for some serious breakout time; I take her out about three times a week, taking her for lunch, drives, and walks down at the beach front. Although my sister got her out on the weekends while I was away, mom was getting a bit of cabin fever being cloistered during the weeks.

Yesterday Bob and I worked hard in pulling up a massive bamboo type ground cover that had gotten away on us and was encroaching on the veg garden area, and today- I’m beat! Coupled with staying up too late last night to try to watch Saturday Night Live and then waking at 6 this morning, I can never sleep in no matter how late I go to bed! I feel like a wet rag today~

So after doing a bit of raking I’ve surrendered to the remainder of the day to give it a rest. Find a comfy spot in the sun maybe and read. I do need a trip to the library, having finished Paradise by Toni Morrison while in Kimberley, I’ll see what I can re-read from my own library ~

All along the waterfront

I craved some sun so I went to town. My island neighborhood is so heavily treed that much of the road is shady this time of year. There are spots to sit in the sun but not so much for a long walk in the sun. For that I needed to go across the water to town where the entire waterfront bathes in light. And fortunately there is a splendid walkway that hugs the shoreline for about 2 miles. All totaled I clocked my 10,000 steps easily, and a sufficient dose of good ultra violet therapy. Skin damage be damned.

When I look at this view of my little island and Newcastle Park from town I know I must live in one of the best little corners of Canada by far.

In truth it has taken me some time to have real affection for my town even though I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my 59 years; went to college here, had my daughter here, met and married my husband here, built a home.

But there is nothing not to love about Nanaimo, although it took years of desperate struggle, it has blossomed over the years and it’s harbor front is its winning card hands down. It’s a bit urban, some quaintness, great concerts, and celebrations, and what city can boast an 800 acre island park right in its harbor accessible only by boat?

Oh, a note about the Photo of the pirate at the top. That is our late, great (hmmm.) pirate Mayor Frank Ney. Black Frank, immortalized in bronze. He held the office of Mayor for 21 years and was also a developer. He was the guy to subdivide my little island, shown behind him, and responsible, among other very important things, of naming many of the city’s streets; Dingle Bingle hill, Twiggly-wiggly Road, Buttertubs, and Berger-Op-Zoom. My island didn’t escape unique naming, we received his Piratey legacy with Captain Kids Terrace, Pirates Lane, Treasure Trail, Captain Morgans. It’s said he’d delegate the business of street naming to his young children. He had eleven, so.

Colorful man our Frank.

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The big Ice of 2017

Our little far western corner of North America has alway been mecca for vast populations of eastern Canadians ever since the West was settled and word got back that no one out here owns a snow shovel. True, there have been exceptions throughout the years that we get a surprise dump that shuts down the city of Vancouver, or over on the island may give the kids a few Snow Days.

Bob who was born in Ontario smirks at these times. We don’t know snow he says. Because our dumps, er, snowfalls might bring 4-5″ at most and even this will hobble us for a bit. We don’t have a big budget here for snow removal, sanding trucks, salt stockpiles. We also don’t drive in it very well in it.

This can be a tragic event. I’ve seen cars approach a stop sign like it was an afternoon in the middle of July. Oh yeah, palm-to-face, there’s white stuff under my tires; you can literally read the realization on their face as they pirouette through the intersection.

Busses don’t fare any better.

This year Vancouver got hit with a few good winter storms that brought a fair amount of snow for them. Then it would warm a bit and rain, then freeze again and snow. It got messy for the residents. No one could make it down the road without serious injury it seemed, people careening and slipping everywhere. The city used 5,000 of its 6,000 tons of its annual allotment of salt.

Cue the beleaguered store clerks as they brace themselves for a sudden frantic run on all the hardware stores and Home Depots for bags of salt and those elusive snow shovels. Sorry, they say, we’re out of stock we have more coming in on Friday. They tell you this on a Sunday with a lopsided shrug and a twitching eye.

Meanwhile across the pond here on the big island we didn’t have the full extent of that. For the most of any winter here we generally bask in greenery, but this year we did get damn cold though and things froze hard along with some snow. We had temperatures well below freezing for weeks at a time. The upside was all the dry, clear, crisp sunshiny days that came with the big chill.

It was so cold the sea around my tiny island and half way across the harbor froze.

Luckily for us we have an aluminum boat which makes it easy to break the ice, which we did around a good area of the anchorage and docks in an attempt to help others that have smaller boats and are under-powered to break away through the ice from their moorages. Also for those living on their sailboats in the harbor who become ice-locked and unable to use their dinghies to get to town. So we made our way around slowly and chewed up the bay a bit.

Protection Island 01/2017

While scooting around the sailboats anchored in the bay near Newcastle Island we noticed a woman who was in a kayak working her way from town, where there wasn’t ice and I don’t know if she knew how much ice there was out near the middle of the bay when she started out, she  gained enlightenment too late as she sat perched upon a massive ice sheet. Make way, us to the rescue. We freed her then crunched ahead of her breaking a chunky swath for her to paddle through to get home.

The crew for the wee ferry had to work hard to break ice, just as iced in as everyone else, they had to cancel the early runs. Once they could get under way the harbor Search and Rescue boat appeared and continued to break ice for them well into the middle of the bay where the ice ended before heading off to see where else they could be of service.

So that’s our big ice saga, created a small community burble around here. Today the weather warmed a bit, the sea is once again fluid and things are as they normally are in January: grey, drizzly, and cold. A few degrees above freezing. But I have to be honest, I loved the past few weeks of brilliant sun and piercingly clear days and nights, and secretly hope we get a bit more of it in the following months. January especially can be such a long dreary grey month otherwise. I’d rather have sparkle.

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Reflection

fullsizeoutput_1757So we soon close another year. It has been one hell of a time, and I wish that meant it had been so great, but this isn’t the case. There feels to be a shredded wake stretching out behind me.

Seeing 2016 close means leaving the year that I was last in the company of my brother, the year I was with him, talking to him, spending time with him, before dying of cancer. He won’t be in this new year.

It has been a year rife with friends passing in early mid-life from cancers, a co-worker who died in her sleep with what was thought to be a simple virus, another young chef co-worker suffering a coronary, spending a month in a coma and now re-learning how to make toast. His memory of his small children nearly wiped out. Another musician friend struck with the same type of attack while working in Edinburgh.

It was a year of watching and being with my mom in the hospital for three months go through some terrible heart wrenching episodes, of moving her out of her own place of independence, then moving her twice more and finally into a full care facility.

Then the seemingly endless string of beloved celebrities that left us.

I seem to recall a feeling of trepidation on the threshold of 2016, something ominous about to happen. It seems my premonitions were correct. As a final salty rub in the wound, the looming political horizon.

I am not a doomsday, pessimistic personality. I don’t look for tragedy or drama. Yet there is no mistake the reality of the last 12 months. These events happened and it was painful. And I have no desire to gloss over. To see the cheery side. It was a dark year.

So I am reflecting, which is what we do at this time, but not without also offering gratitude. And I do. But I can’t yet put into words what for.

For witnessing the strength of the spirit in all who were struck down and in those left standing whose hearts were pierced? For presence? Yes I think so, I think that comes close. Maybe sometimes presence is enough. Mind-full presence.

So I am embracing the hardship of 2016 as a mother tightly holds a fitful angry child until the fight leaves him. Then releasing with unconditional love and hope for a brilliant new sunrise.

 

 

 

Novembers last day, a stroll through the park

There is only a narrow watery gap that flows between my island home and an 800 acre island Provincial Park which come autumn is virtually uninhabited. The campers have all gone, the boaters have secured their vessels in the marinas for another year. The only access is by water and although our little ferry will bring you from town to the Park for a fee, few people take the time. It amazes me that few people even know about it,  local residents of Vancouver Island included.

So this time of year, it’s all mine to wander.

This park is rich in history with the Coast Salish or Snuneymuxw First Nation, being a place where they came to mend the heart when in mourning, collect medicinal herbs and fish herring.

A good life, before us. Before it was ripped apart for coal and stone, and before CPR ships brought floods of elites to dance in the pavilion.

The park has, since a few years ago, been returned to the First Nation, under their rightful stewardship.

It’s mending its heart.

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A Ferry Tale

Since our island passenger ferry started up here about 28 years ago a lot of people have chosen to make this little rock their home. It means that they could now live in this park like neighborhood without having to own and run their own boat.

They wouldn’t have to encase themselves in rain gear over their nice clothes during the wet winter months. It means they wouldn’t have to wear gum boots while carrying their “good” shoes in a knapsack to change into later. It means their hair would look the same as when they left their house.

It is convenient and reliable. Although if it it’s really bad weather it may sit out a few runs.

But installing some kind of shuttle to the island was always inevitable. More and more people moved on permanently, it was close to town, it was affordable where renting or real estate was concerned, it would certainly develop and grow.

The first attempt for a passenger ferry was 35 years ago by a property owner named Don. But it was hit and miss.

The story went something like this:

A group of residents would be waiting at the dock to return back to the island from town. Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting.

Al: Where is Don? Its been half hour.

Mike: Bet he’s in the pub, I’ll go check.

20 minutes go by…

Larry: I’ll go get Mike and Don

20 minutes go by…

You get the drift. Eventually they all end up at the pub until Don decided he was ready to go.

During the 50’s there was a much smaller seasonal population here, summer vacationers. They came in canoes, row boats or power boats of their own, staying in tiny cabins along the Lee Shore of the island just across the gap from the huge provincial park of Newcastle Island.

It was a rustic place then. A far cry from that now since opting out of the Island Trust and becoming part of the city and hooking into sewer and water, forgoing our wells and septic fields.

And especially after Bob and Hilda moved over and built the pub and Bistro here 28 years ago along with its ferry service to carry their customers over, benefitting the residents in the process. The boats they brought in, 3 of them, are retired B.C. Ferry life boats. They’ve had a few augmentations done and carry up to 29 people safely and comfortably warm and dry.

When my kids were school age they took the ferry each day at designated “School Run” times which meant the kids rode free of charge. The ferry was given a subsidy by the school board to bring all the island kids in to town where a school bus would be waiting to pick them up, so that worked well.

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There are occasions during peak times of the day all year through that this little boat is full to capacity; in the mornings with residents going to work, and after work around 5:00. In the summer sometimes folks might have to wait for the next boat if the pub is really busy, which it is all summer long. But they are quick to send a second boat, so everybody eventually gets to where they need to get to. The key is to relax and not be in such a hurry.

I used to ride the ferry more often than I do now, back when I had an open boat and opted for warm and dry instead of cold and drenched. I used to know the ferry drivers well. I had worked at the pub for a couple of seasons as a line cook, bracing for those “double boat runs” full of customers that would pack the bistro for another busy summer night.

Now when I do ride there are more residents I don’t know that have moved onto the island.

Once not long ago when I took the ferry home and I had a few bags of groceries one of the passengers offered me a ride in his golf car. We introduced ourselves. He said he lived next door to James. I said “Oh yeah, just around the corner from my house”.

He said, “so you know James?” An infamous resident who has lived here for 37 years.

I said, “yeah, I’ve known him for 25 years.”

“You’ve been here 25 years?! Part time?” He was surprised that he’d never seen me before.

“No”, I said, “Year round. My husband has been here 38 . How long have you’ve been here?”

“Five,” he says.

The island is 1-1/2 miles long and 1 mile wide. And yet it hides people well. That’s also the beauty of this place. You can keep to yourself – be a hermit, or jump into the community and engage.

Yet while having my own boat is part of the allure of living here, part of that self-reliant and independent nature belonging to many individuals who take on the task of living a slightly distinctive lifestyle here, there may come a day when I’m really old and not capable of using my boat any longer.  Then I’ll buy my monthly ferry pass and look forward to communing with my neighbors both new and long known while plying the waters that set this “moated suburb” apart from the rest.

It’s all good in the hood.

I love my little community ~ 🙂

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Placement

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Leaving for the interior of BC for 2 weeks with Bob on one of his work related trips so I can visit my daughter in Kimberly meant leaving my mom in the hospital where she has spent the last 8 weeks. It meant that as she was being assessed for Extended Care and put “On the List” that there could be changes happening while I was away, that when I returned possibly she will have been moved into a Facility, and will need to brace for that emotional impact.

Mom had gone into the hospital 8 weeks ago because her pulse was racing and erratic and blood pressure was very high (we keep a BP device at her place) so my sister had called the ambulance. They got these under control after a few days and then the plan was to get her back home after she gets her strength back.

She was doing well, moving from the “Hospital” ward down to “Transitions,” a place in the hospital where they prepare you to go home, or to a “Home” if your condition changes. All was proceeding well towards mom returning to her apartment we had just moved her into in March.

Then things began to change.

The last three weeks or so she had been weaving stories about her life, a new thing she had begun to do, all pleasant but we knew them to be fantasies, like being a teacher for two years or planting the whole garden that graced the hospital courtyard we spent the sunny afternoons in. She lately began to say she was hired to look after the hospital floor she was staying on. We would tell her that she’s retired now and doesn’t have to work anymore, but she felt under obligation somehow, and we knew better than try and convince her otherwise. She would come back to “reality” and then chuckle over what she had just fantasied.

Regardless of what narrative she was outlining for herself over the previous weeks she was always cheery,  laughed, and could easily be humored. She always went with the flow.

But because of this new fantasy behavior they felt she needed to be reassessed for Complex Care and give up her Assisted Living apartment. We had to agree, so she was put on The List. Because Private Complex care is financially out of reach for her, upwards of $6,000  a month, we would have to wait for an available subsidized bed in a facility- hopefully in our town.

I should clarify that what having subsidized extended care means in Canada is that the government withdraws 80% of ones monthly income, whatever amount that may be, for the Care Facility and its amenities and that you are also bound to accepting the first bed offered – no matter where it is in a 40 kilometer radius. If the found bed is not accepted the elder is put back at the bottom of the wait list and must be re accessed again, the whole procedure taking many weeks to months. But once in a subsidized bed we do have a choice then, but only after two months in the found facility and if one is unhappy with it, to then pick another bed in the desired facility and wait until it comes available.

But that first found bed must be taken to qualify.

While I’m in Kimberley my sister was notified that a 4 bed ward room had been found in our town for mom, and my sister went to see it. Her heart sank when she saw the conditions, and asked if there could at least be a two bed room for her instead, they got back to her a few days later and said they had one.

This was better news and my sister prepared to move mom in, having 48 hours to do this-as per regulation, but sudden behavioral changes that seemed to possess my mom have been nothing short of Jekyll and Hyde. So dark, so fast. Two weeks ago Bob and I visited her the day before our departure and we walked (strolled) around the grounds had some ice cream and left her after a few hours smiling and calm.

 

And because of this new change in mom we had to forfeit the chosen bed as they have now decided she now needs to be re-evaluated, re-assessed for a placement for Aggressive Residents. I know dementia can progress alarmingly, but this was so sudden.  3 weeks ago she was pleasant, co-operative, and social. Her usual self.

I remain suspect of perhaps medications that were conflicting or wanting to blame the other two women who are fully in Alzheimer condition that shared moms room who were always devious and manipulative and at times aggressive, or even an UTI ( urinary tract infection). I still have a difficult time hearing about and accepting my moms condition.

Thinking that not much would transpire in a 2 week absence, that we would still just be waiting for a bed, turns out I had left town during the most emotionally trying time. My sister keeping me informed via texts and phone calls and shouldering the weight of the turmoil, my brothers helping her where they could, and me fretting on the other end. Mom has now been moved into a private room and will stay in the hospital until they can stabilize her behavior and until another placement can be found.

Bob and I will be home in a few days, and although I have tried to stay focused and enjoy the time with my daughter and all the activities we’ve done, I’ve been mentally preparing myself for a return to a changed parent, and the following stages of a long goodbye~