Written by Martha Valiquette A week after my precious son was born, I was in a straitjacket, face down on the floor of a rubber room. Helloooooo …Locked Up In D.C. A Postpartum Psychosis Story
Thinking of and praying for the folks who are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. May the destruction be swiftly repaired and order renewed.
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
And I know a father who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he had done
He came a long way just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and he headed home again
Slip slidin’ away
I was awake at 3:30 am when the sirens went by on Main Street down below our house. I had no idea to what sort of tragedy the sirens were responding.
Then I received a call at 6:30 am.
Come over right now! My closest girlfriend said.
What’s going on? I asked.
Just come over. Her voice urged.
On my way. I said.
I envisioned helping with a flood or some other household problem, like a lost dog.
I was up, dressed in the car and driven the snowy few blocks in six minutes. What’s going on? I called out in the direction up the steps from the entry. The air was thick with emotion and fear. I could almost see it hanging there.
He died. She said simply.
Who died? I screeched as I ran up the steps in my boots, snow falling off. I was glancing around for a body.
Calvin. She said.
A sound came out of me involuntarily. I grabbed her and hugged her small body fiercely. The sound was primordial. Painful. A deep keening. Her Ex, the Dad, appeared and enclosed us in his arms and we all cried together for a few seconds. In my mind’s eye I was still looking around for his body.
I asked… where is he?
He had been the first of three steps at age three, when we moved in next door. Our Leo was the second step at four and his older brother Kevin at five was the third step. Fast friends who ran all over the neighbourhood together, Calvin usually bringing up the rear, on his toes – he was a toe-walker then and so cute as he nimbly rushed to be included. Countless sleepovers, snacks, tumbling, trampolining. He would sometimes gather up his courage and ask me for a drink of water, almost like I might say no. I must have been scary to him?? In recent years, in their teens, Leo would visit and and he would later tell me how Calvin had offered him tea, or soup, or whatever was available. Leo told me how kind Calvin was.
I had watched Calvin grow into a six foot two, curly blond-haired, blue-eyed quiet young man. He loved the outdoors, experiments with pond-like aquariums, fishing. He was a fierce competitor in jujitsu and, sadly, had some other darker pastimes which I would guess were self-medicating. He struggled with anxiety, addiction and with social situations. For the past several months, he could not sleep, due to anti-depressant medication. This would be the straw that broke the camel’s back – the not sleeping. I had heard about many many attempts to get him into counselling and to a psychiatrist or even to get him to emerg. He just would not go. How does a parent force this? It’s next to impossible.
Daisy told me the whole story of the few days leading up to this disaster. We sat by the fire on her couch in the early morning hours. When the door opened and her eldest, stepped in, he collapsed against the wall crying and keening loudly in despair. I slipped unnoticed out the back door. My Blunstones leaving their distinctive print in the freshly fallen snow. Down the back deck steps and around the house to my car. I drove home in a daze. I walked in to find my husband Dean and my son Leo silent with despair. All I could manage to do was to make a pot of soup for my friend in her grief.
In the wee hours, Jonah had followed his son’s bootprints (and many obvious signs of his slipping and falling on the trail, like bad snow-angel attempts). He entered the park, slipping and cursing the hidden ice as he went. A few hundred meters in, he saw Calvin’s backpack at the base of a tree and looked up, his headlight finding the silhouette of his youngest son hanging in the tree. Jonah struggled to get him down. He was still warm. He did CPR for almost an hour, crying, praying and shouting at him to wake up but systematically counting in keeping with his advanced military training. The paramedics finally arrived having had a hard time locating them in the dark woods and slipping and falling many times due to the deceptively slick ice under the layer of snow.
Jonah called his ex-wife, The Mom, telling her not to come to the park. She went up there anyway. At the gates she was met by a cop who loved Calvin – knowing him through the dojo they shared. He avoided her eyes. Her heart sank to its deepest despair.
Where do you go when your child takes his own life? There is nothing worse than this.
Dean and I organized meals and visits to Daisy so that she wouldn’t be alone, especially at night. The outpouring of support was incredible and humbling. Thousands of dollars were raised through a single email asking for support on her behalf. Daisy couldn’t work due to grief. No income, bills and life carrying on. A full day of yoga was organized by a group of women with lunch, live music and incredible local art in a silent auction. Daisy was given therapies like massage, osteopathy and reflexology. Two cords of wood were delivered, fully paid for. The guys from the dojo arrived and stacked it in fifteen minutes, based on a simple request to them that morning. We cleaned her house, her friend washed the floor with great care. Dean shoveled the driveway. Another friend swept the chimney. We walked the dog, picked up the mail, painted a room, helped her sort through the bills. A friend baked her a cake and brought flowers. A woman knitted a special scarf to encircle her in love and comfort.
The celebration of life was at a large hall downtown. Every aspect of the day was taken care of by volunteers: planning, decorating, food, drink, crafts for little ones, boughs of evergreen, writing implements for sharing snippets of memories. Hot drinks and marshmallows outside by the fire like Calvin would have wanted. A beautifully hand-crafted wooden box to store parchment pages of written memories — the blond wood the colour of his beautiful hair, his name etched in the sliding cover. The place was packed. One friend introduced the speeches and thanked all those who helped. The owner of the dojo gave a recounting of the fierce fighting competitor that Calvin was and also of the kind teacher with a huge heart for his young charges. The gym guys shoulder-to-shoulder, sniffling, their hands folded tightly. Eyes lowered. Cheeks wet with tears.
Jonah and Daisy talked about Calvin’s life. The kind of person he was, the kind of brother and son he was. His personality and some funny memories of him. Jonah finally said that he had decided to find solace in the joy of seventeen years that they had had with Calvin. At least they had had the honour and pleasure of him for seventeen years.
Extreme grief and mourning ensued for the loss of one of our boys – the first step of three.
Two years have passed since we lost this beautiful young man. I feel that he slipped through the cracks in our mental health system. He was so loved and so well taken care of, yet he still slipped through. Can you imagine the youth who do not have attentive parents? I feel sick that I personally couldn’t DO anything to help with this nor could I stop the loss of his life. I replay my last face-to-face with him when I dropped off a huge bag of dog food because our Lady-Jane had passed. Could I not have asked him if there was anything he wanted to talk about? Could I not have swallowed my pride and told him that I too suffer with mental illness? It’s so fucked up. I find that I am still quite angry about my lack of ability to help with this. To take action. To DO SOMETHING.
I know one thing for sure. The next time I detect a sadness in someone, I will ask them if they need help. I will simply ask them.
Rest In Peace dear dear boy.
By Sheree Fitch, Poet and Author of Nova Scotia, Canada after the tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia Apr 2020
Sometimes there is no sense to things my child
Sometimes there is no answer to the questions why
Sometimes things beyond all understanding
Sometimes, people die.
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared, suffering, confused
Even if we are not together
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Sometimes the sadness takes away your breath
Sometimes the pain seems endless, deep
Sometimes you cannot find the sun
Sometimes you wish you were asleep.
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Wish that I had answers, child
Wish all this wasn’t so
There are impossible things, child
I cannot bear for you to know .
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Copyright: Sheree Fitch, April 2020
Sheree Fitch recited her poem, above, on the CBC Special televised vigil on Friday April 24, 2020. I found myself weeping at these words which were so completely apt and heartfelt. Thank you Sheree. Rest in Peace to the fallen.
I do not try to disappoint
Or mean to disobey
There is no reason you’d suspect
I’d go another way
For we are born to what we are
With choices we must make
I see no point in taking sides
I see no sides to take
~John McCutcheon’s Bird Dog
‘Could I possibly meet Jack,’ I said. ‘We could come on Sunday, ‘ I said.
…Jack has been with us ever since that day. He was impossible not to love.
You see, our senior girl, Lady-Jane passed away about ten months ago and her passing was heart-breaking as she became quite ill with an awful infected lump on her haunch – after never being sick a day in her life….
Well, we now have a new pup and heading, head first into another decade and a half of fur-face lovin’. This guy’s name is ‘Jack’. He is hilarious and goofy and very loving and, yes, even chill, at times.
Jack was listed on Kijiji, the same way we adopted Lady-Jane, actually. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had been perusing the Kijiji re-homing ads for several months. This time I wanted a goof-ball dog. No more of this big pointy ears and pointy wolfish snout. Lady was a fabulous girl, (as were Delta and Grizzly before her) but, almost daily she scared the bejeezus out of people and other dogs. She was just so ‘ON’ it protection wise.
Jack, on the other hand, has had Acadia U. students at my door to just pet him for a minute. Folks have said things like, ‘Thanks, I needed that!’ after running their hands through his puppy fur and, burying their face in his fur and smelling his puppy smell. Other friends have received the exuberance of a four foot high jump, so excited was Jack to meet them!
Jack is a black standard golden-doodle who was being trained to be a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) service dog. Unfortunately for the PTSD folks, he failed his trials. ‘Too bouncy’ was the verdict. So after being with the breeder in Montreal for four months, he then went to the trainer for two months in Halifax. Now he is with us in Wolfville.
We have loved him since the moment we met him. He comes to my office with me and is settling in very nicely. Here’s a picture of him on the couch (no other dogs have been allowed on the couch), splayed out in the reverse flying frog posture – letting it all hang out – throwing caution to the wind. Just so chill. I felt very pleased to see this. He is AT HOME and he knows it. He is with us for his fur-ever.
It is wonderful to have a fur-head again. He has brought much joy. One young student, while petting Jack at my office door said, ‘Dog’s are here to love us, you know’. Wow. Isn’t that the truth.
He has gone for the snip. He thought he was going to the ‘tutor’. Turns out, he was going for the ‘neuter’! He was very very tired afterward and then it was ‘the cone of shame’ for a few days. All went well and now he is back to being his goofy self, lying beside my chair awaiting his next soft hand, or treat or walk.
By the way, Jack has his own Instagram account. He’s pretty funny: @jackthewolfvilledoodle check him out!
(All photos are mine).
We’re here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day…
This is a concept I just heard on CBC radio. The Reverse Bucket List is a list of times in your life that you would love to return to or that you are happy about or proud of or that taught a great lesson that you carry forward through your life. So, looking back on your life for the best, most profound or impactful moments instead of always projecting that those moments need to happen in your future. It is a method of making yourself happy for the accomplishments of your life thus far. I realized, while writing my list below, that that is mostly what I am doing by writing this blog. I’m writing my reverse bucket list!
Here’s my list (with links to the stories that correspond). No particular order except the first two are the top for a reason.
- Eloped to marry my best-friend and we are celebrating 28 years this year (2020);
- Had a son and stayed home to raise him for his first five years;
- Trekked for a month in Nepal in the Himalayas;
- Traveled by VW Van all over Canada, including the North West Territories and Yukon and into Alaska, visiting one national park in each province, territory and in Alaska;
- Hiked the 3-day Chilkoot Trail from Bennett, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska;
- Traveled and worked on a farm in Australia;
- Visited the Taj Mahal; and witnessed pilgrims bathing in the Ganges in India at dawn;
- Backpacked with our 4-year old throughout Mexico’s West Coast and Central America;
- Moved to a small Nova Scotian town without jobs and made our lives from scratch with our four-year old because we wanted him to be able to walk to school safely;
- Founded and incorporated a small education-services business for 15 years and employed three others besides myself;
- Posted a listing on AirBnb and hosted folks from all over the world;
- Started a school garden with a friend and taught children how to sow, germinate, water, grow, harvest and save seeds from scratch;
- Lived and worked in Germany for three years and visiting most countries near there;
- Lived in Virginia, USA for two years then packed a large U-Haul and drove home to Canada and we were glad to be home (sorry American friends, no offence);
- Took a gondola ride in Venice and then got somewhat lost in its ancient twisty turny laneways;
- Drove from Germany into Czechoslovakia just after the 1989 removal of the Berlin wall and witnessed a country coming alive;
- Had four big dogs (not all at once) and a cat who were cherished as part of our family, And currently have a doodle who is just too darn cute and funny!
- Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef in Australia;
- Completed the scuba dive licence which was very difficult for me due to my claustrophobic tendencies. (I no longer dive but I love to snorkel);
- Rappelled down a cliff on basic training in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C. (9 PLATOON DOGS OF WAR!);
- Rappelled out of a helicopter on a special training day;
- Joined a group seven-day biking trip through France and gained a very sore bottom;
- Marched in the International Nijemgen Marches in Holland in 1989. 160 km over four days;
- Skied in the Swiss and the Austrian Alps;
- Own a house out-right with my husband;
- While living in the Arctic hand-built several high-fired, clay pots and still have some of them over 25 years later;
- Taught my son to sign American sign-language before he could speak;
- Was sporty and a scholar at school, for the most part;
- Completed Advanced Yoga Teacher Training at an ashram in the Bahamas;
- Taught yoga;
- Joined a book club and read daily;
- Took several horse-archery ground training lessons and loved it;
- Mastered a hand-stand with no wall;
- Made yogurt from raw farm-fresh milk for years;
- Joined the Army and stayed in for several years, leaving honourably as a Captain*;
- Completed Recruit Term at Military College outside Victoria, B.C. and it was tough;
- Completed Off-Road driver training in the Army;
- Shot a fire-arm with fairly good accuracy, and cleaned it, stripped it and reassembled it blindfolded;
- Completed the Officer Challenge twice (only woman): 75 km trek over 24 hours with 18 mini-competitions, in combat gear, in France￼;
- Was awarded the Sword of achievement for Junior Officer of the Year while in the army;
- Besides my first language of English, I can communicate somewhat in French, German, Spanish and American Sign-language;
- Studied dance for several years as a girl and still love to dance;
- Was a gymnast in elementary school and won a silver medal in a competition for the county;
- Have traveled by jet, helicopter, ferry, ship, sail boat, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddle board, car, truck, bus (both inside and on top of!) and train, including a train across most of Canada for days and into the heart of Australia on the Gahn and in Northern India;
- Hitch-hiked successfully in Canada and Australia;
- Witnessed flying foxes by the thousands in Australia;
- Have driven back and forth across Canada (several times) including solo enroute to Logistics training in the Army in 1988;
- Have been to all Provinces of Canada and two of the territories;
- Have lived and worked north of the 66th parallel, two hours North of the Arctic Circle;
- Was ‘Screeched In’ in Newfoundland where my husband is from;
- Hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and met curious Elk while on top of its tablelands;
- Sewed some clothing and curtains with a sewing machine, self-taught then decided I wouldn’t be doing that again;
- Learned how to cut a basic haircut from my sister;
- Met a harem of Bison in a National Park in Alberta;
- Miscarried my second son, late, which was heart-breaking but which helps me to cherish given life;
- Learned how to read music and play piano and the flute a bit of guitar and banjo;
- Met, hugged and kissed Deepak Chopra before he was very famous; and
- Love nature and simple times and love to laugh and be silly;
- Have read a friend’s manuscript and helped with some edits;
- Am currently living in the 2020 / 2021 COVID-19 world pandemic 😷
These are comments from the best leader I encountered while in the Canadian Army. Colonel (retired) Gordon Grant Says:
“I have read the entire blog and will use this opportunity to make some summary comments. First, unlike your readers, I was with you for a small part of your journey. You and Dean were lieutenants under my command in Germany. I watched your personal relationship grow as well as your professional development. This gave me a reference point on which to gauge your stories. I found myself constantly comparing the lives of M and Dean as I understood them, against the reality check provided in your stories. Your blog confirmed (and reinforced) my good opinion of you both. But I had no idea that you were in constant crisis. And I am gobsmacked at the challenges you faced and overcame. You and Dean are strong, compassionate and committed partners, parents and citizens. Your travels have armed you with a mature appreciation of other cultures. You showed tremendous courage in writing this blog. You presented a frank and transparent presentation of your life. It is well written and takes us to euphoric heights and the depth of your despair. Your willingness to address the most intimate details will help others with their struggles. You are a talented writer. You combine humour with a no-holds-bared approach to describing your journey. You need to keep writing for two reasons: a. Writing is your cathartic release. It is an important coping tool in your tool box; and b. There are countless people who face similar challenges and would benefit from your shared experiences. It provides a desperately needed hope. Well done, M, well done, indeed.
(picture of view from top of Gros Morne Mountain is from google images…thank you)
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me…
Sticks and Stones Break only Skin while Words are Ghosts that Haunt Me. Pain from Words has Left Its Scar on Mind and Heart that’s Tender. Cuts and Bruises now have healed, it’s words that I Remember.
I had never actually invited my brothers to read my stories because I didn’t think they would be interested in the least. Their reaction to the news that I was blogging about my life, including when I was a child and also including very honest descriptions of our father’s behaviour during and after the divorce, was emphatically bitter. To clarify, they were upset toward me, not toward Dad. Toward me. Wait, I was the one who was abused, actually we ALL were.
No one was there to protect me. No one. My little brother Luke was there, but he is almost three and a half years younger than me.
I am doing my best to therapeutically write about this part of my past.
Lately, I was on the phone with my best friend from childhood, Kelly. Ever honest, she reminded me that she was there too. She said, ‘Marn, I remember arriving at your house to find your dad walking around in his boxer shorts with the no-button fly wide open. And, the thing is,’ she said, ‘He didn’t then go and put on his robe. He just stayed walking around in his open-fly boxers. It was disgusting.’
She continued with, ‘When Mark was manic (bipolar) he dry-humped me on the bed while I screamed for him to stop.’ Kelly would have been 16 and my brother Mark would have been 21 at the time. Unfortunately, I think I was pounding on his back to stop. I had no idea how to react to this behaviour. It was outrageous.
Last night, over our supper, I was again drawn back into the memories of the past. I told my husband of twenty-five years, Dean, about times when I would witness my dad being truly mean and abusive to my siblings. Telling them these hurtful messages:
‘You’ll never amount to anything.’
‘Be a man.’
‘Get some backbone.’
‘It’s a good thing you’re beautiful.’
I clearly recall a time when I was in the army and had a month off over Christmas. I went to visit Dad, my step-mother, Wen, and Luke who were living in a small border city then. At that time, Dad and Wen were the owner / operators of a 9-room motel. (The same motel that was the excuse for him not helping me with my University fees when I was at Waterloo and then consequently decided to join the army.)
At the time, 17-year old Luke was working as a server, trying to figure out what he would be doing for school and for the future. He could have used some gentle, fatherly guidance. He did not get that there. What he received was verbal and emotional abuse and aloofness. When I saw him on that visit, he seemed to be in a bit of a slump. He talked little. At meals he slouched over his plate with a rounded back, barely lifting his face from his food. It was heartbreaking. Where was my witty, intelligent little brother who could make me laugh at any moment? Dad was so mean to him and Dad wouldn’t stop. He just wouldn’t stop. Every word was a put down. An insult.
I remember Dad taking us to a tacky, cheap diner for a very inexpensive meal. I was into my new army career and doing well. I was on top of the world. I had passed all the difficult training, won a great posting to Germany and had my own platoon. I was best friends with Dean and looking forward to romance with him. I knew he would be mine soon. ‘Just a matter of time,’ I would tell myself. At this diner, I was dressed in nice clothes: my new suede skirt, leather pumps and freshly pressed blouse, earrings and soft makeup…all dolled up, because it was important to be all dolled up around Dad. He had a sharp, critical eye and an acid tongue.
So, we’re sitting in a booth having a nice little chat about my service in the army. In the back of my mind I suspected that there would be a dig coming soon. And so it did. Dad says, ‘Martha, that mole under your nose, why don’t you get it removed?’
WTF Dad. That mole under my nose??? So, this is what you’re going to talk about at this time? The mole under my nose??? My face turned dark red. I was furious with him. I should have known though. I should have known. There was always a dig. And I ask myself, what must have been done to him, for him to behave that way?
I remember this one Christmas when Dad gave my brother Jobe a second-hand dictionary. He actually wrapped up a used dictionary, but, before he did, he inscribed it:
Read this daily and you just might make something of yourself.
How was that supposed to make a ten-year-old feel?
I have striven my whole adult life as a wife, parent, sister and friend, to watch the words that come out of my mouth…that they should not hurt, scrape or strike but that my words should make others feel fine, helped, free or loved, happy or better. I have made mistakes in my youth, before I understood that insulting was not the best way to behave, as well, and in the heat of the moment, that I know. But, at least I am aware of the effect my words can have. We all have that power.
Amazing power to do harm or good with our words.
(Pictures come from google images. Thank you.)
Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door
The hours of the day ticked by and the pains grew worse and worse. I called my doctor who was to go away on holidays but she luckily was able to arrange for an ultrasound for me immediately. It looked normal. I was told that this might just be Braxton Hicks — or practice contractions that prepare the womb to deliver in the future. I had had experienced them with Leo’s pregnancy. I knew that this was NOT that.
I soaked in the tub and tried to find comfort laying on my side. It was a hard night, with little sleep, the pain coming in waves. At one point, my sister Amy called from three provinces to the west and her sweet voice took my mind off my troubles.
The next day, I found blood on my underwear.
“DEAN!’ I screamed.
“WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL !!”
The pains became worse and worse. We had Leo taken care of by Everet and Tina, friends whom we had known for years. Everet, Dean and I had been in the army together. We knew each other very well.
I did not want our little Leo to see me in this kind of pain.
Then the nurses said that the Radiologist would give me an ultrasound, himself. Unusual. I lay down on the bed and he put the goop on my belly. When the picture came up, it looked different. Dane was alive and there was a heart beat but there was no water in my uterus. There was no amniotic fluid. How could Dane be alive? I had been in so much pain, my brain was messed up.
It would not conclude that which it should be concluding.
Nor did the Radiologist then tell me that which he should have told me. Thinking back to the exhausted state I was in with very little sleep over the past two days, I remember that I glanced at his face and he just looked at me, then away. He didn’t explain anything. (Later, he apologized for that).
I was wheeled back to another room off the emergency room. On my way past the waiting room, I saw Wally, Everet and Dean with heads together, whispering. Wally’s arrival made four of us that had been in the army together a decade earlier. Through the haze of pain and exhaustion, I was touched that they were here for this. Here for us.
I would get through this and we would all be fine and well. Dane would be okay. All these people were here to support us.
Dane would be fine. Right?
The pain continued. The nurses were good to me. One nurse kept getting warm towels and swabbing down my back, as my johnny coat was open and allowed it. It felt like heaven. At some point, in a tortured voice I told them I felt like I had to poop. They helped me to squat up on the bed and they put a metal pan under my bottom. I pushed. I pushed again. One more time…
there were tubes or something hanging out of my vagina.
“What’s that?” I asked, perplexed. My red, sweaty face a question.
A nurse rushed over and gently tugged on the tubes as she attempted to soothe me with, ‘It’s going to be okay dear. It’s going to be okay.”
Something of size came out.
It was not tubes.
It was Dane.
It was not tubes.
It was my perfectly formed tiny dead baby, Dane.
I held him in my hand. He fit the length of it perfectly.
Little eyes never to open.
Tiny hands never to hold.
I stroked his little bluish body and wished him well in heaven while tears blurred my vision streaming down my face.
I cried, “My heart is breaking. Ohhhh No No No. My heart is breaking.”
I laid back on the bed and hands on my heart, wept bitterly, for the loss of my little Angel Dane. And having lost him, I knew for sure that I couldn’t try to do this again. Upon telling Dean this, we both readily decided that Leo would be our only and we would count ourselves lucky and blessed to have him.
What I felt later was this overwhelming sense of failure. I had failed to give his little body a fertile place to grow. I had failed to be a good woman. A good mom. I was a failure at making a baby (which was stupid since my body had already made Leo).
But, thankfully, time heals and now, over a decade later, I have a different view of this. I feel that my body was doing what it needed to do. There must have been a good reason that my body did not allow Dane to thrive, or that Dane’s body didn’t allow him to thrive. Especially in these last years, I have learned and concluded that my body is an amazing organism that should be trusted, revered and respected.
It is doing it’s best to keep me alive, comfortable and well.
I think of Dane often and wonder what our lives would have looked like with him in it, growing up as Leo’s little brother, as our youngest son.
I wonder about the lesson in this loss.
Why did it happen? What is it meant to teach us? The value of life? Gratitude for our blessings? I’m not sure, really. But, I am sure of this:
I love that little soul
that was in that little body
that I held in my womb
and then in my hand.
I wish for him to be forever at peace.
(Thanks Google images and creative commons licence for the pics).
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. ~Dalai Lama
After exiting the Arctic , where we lived for three years, give or take, I applied for a job from an ad in the Globe & Mail Newspaper. A recruiting firm was looking to hire a House Manager for a wealthy family; let’s call them The Roses in Toronto’s Rosedale. Eagerly, I applied for the position thinking that I had the attributes mentioned in the ad.
I made the cut.
At the end of the first interview with Braun the hiring manager, I asked him why they picked me out of the three hundred applicants. He said they liked both my creative leaf-art at the bottom of my resume as well as my military experience. Both sides of the brain.
Braun had spent the better part of a dozen years working for the Beaten Family and he knew the kind of person that would do well in this job. Detail-oriented, strong work ethic, well-spoken, able to foresee disasters and their solutions, appreciative of wealth but not themselves wealthy and, let’s not forget, approval-seeking. Yep. I had all of those qualities.
After the second interview with the agency, I was told I would next be going to the offices of Mr Rose to be interviewed by him. I made sure to have a sturdy note pad, and a good pen. I donned my navy blazer, blouse and skirt. For the first time I was missing my military uniform which made wardrobe decisions so easy. In my mind, I was a Captain heading to a meeting with a General. Just putting it into perspective.
It went well. I could tell Mr Rose was happy with my confident eye-contact, my note-taking and my questions. My seriousness but also my quick smile. I even managed to negotiate my salary up to the next notch, which I could tell both amused and impressed him.
He told me that the next step would be to visit with his family. Meet them, tour the houses and property. Get an idea of the scope of the job.
I had been told they were a Jewish family. Knowing nothing about the Jewish faith, I sought the opinion of a Jewish acquaintance. He said my visit would be during one of the Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah. I was nervous about being the House Manager for a family with a completely unfamiliar faith to the one I had known growing up. I was bound to make mistakes, even subtle ones, just because I had no idea.
At the time, I was reading a book by Deepak Chopra. In this book, he advised to always show up with a small gift when going to someone’s house. Wise advise, I thought. I picked up a small box of chocolates and made sure they were kosher. I donned my conservative atire and grabbed my sturdy note pad and reliable pen.
I drove into their estate in my 3-cylinder shit box I called ‘Puny’. The same one I had bought before leaving Comox in 1988.
The house was modern and grand. I knocked on the door and smiled gently as I was met by Mrs Rose. I passed her the little box of chocolates and made nicey-nice while she showed me the huge kitchen and writing nook where she wrote her cookbooks. Then Mr Rose took me to the other house which backed onto theirs.
His 4000 square foot Man Cave.
The door opened to a dining room with a chandelier bigger than me and a table which sat twenty-two. Enough said. The place was perfect. A lot of brown and beige tones with the odd hint of deep burgundy. Very mannish. He told me, and this was important, ‘I want this place to always be absolutely sublime‘.
K, I didn’t even know what sublime meant back then.
The first thing I did upon getting back to Scarberia (North Beaches really but, whatever) was look it up.
Sublime: Perfect, without blemish.
I was sweating.
I knew I could do this job, but, did I WANT to? It sounded like a lot of bullshit to me. My mind imagined my days on that property. Worried about every little thing. I was completely stressed just thinking about it. When Dean and I had traveled to Australia, we had seen the movie: The Remains of The Day. Was I meant to be a glorified Butler / House Keeper; a combination of both Anthony Hopkins’ and Emma Tompsins’ characters? Was I to walk around with a feather duster and white gloves?
Then, the call came. Braun the Hiring Manager was dressing me down for bringing a box of chocolates to the interview at their home. He told me it was inappropriate. Mr Rose had mentioned it and said it was like I was trying to ‘butter’ them up to hire me. Geez. This guy was a freak. I wasn’t even hired and he was already disappointed in me.
I remained silent when Braun stopped speaking. I was in a phone booth in the village of Maggie River on Eight Mile Lake, near The Camp in Cottage Country of Ontario. It was a gorgeous early summer day. I looked at the shiny water near the locks. I looked at the nodding heads of the wild flowers growing in every possible crack or fissure.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
I took a deep breath and told Braun that I was no longer interested in the position. I said, ‘If Mr Rose is that worried about a proffered tiny box of chocolates, I don’t think I can work for him. I don’t want to work for people like that. Sorry.’
Braun was speechless. He had invested a lot of time in me. He would have to start over.
‘You mean, you don’t want to work for The Rose Family? At that salary? Maybe I can get you more money, M.’
‘Sorry, Braun. I can’t do it. It’s not for me.’
I walked away from that phone booth feeling a massive weight lift off my shoulders. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. Next, I went for a swim in the shiny waters of Eight Mile Lake.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
(All pictures come from Google Images. Thank you!)
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste.
I’ve been around for a long, long year,
Stole many a man’s soul and faith.
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ,
Had his moment of doubt and pain.
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate…
~Rolling Stones – Sympathy for The Devil
I remember the days of girlhood when I could run forever, jump high, skip rope, swim the lake and turn cartwheels. I was this little girl with black curly hair, green eyes, a few freckles and a quick smile. I was full of energy, giggles and good ideas. I knew the rules and I almost always followed them. I went to church on Sundays and sang all the hymns, firmly clasping hands with my neighbours at the peace of Christ. I was the good girl.
So, when my new parish priest made an announcement inviting girls to be altar servers, I was so happy. I really wanted to be an altar server. I wanted to ring the bell, on the altar, during mass with the whole congregation watching, like I had watched some of my brothers do so many times.
Training ensued with Father 0’Malley. There were ten of us and we needed to be taught what was what. How to wear the robe. How to prepare the altar. When to ring the bell. He was very strict and he taught us to be exact. Serious. Precise.
Then the day came for my debut as an altar server. It went well. I had been to hundreds of masses. I kinda had a sense of how it all worked, by then. I was on the schedule and looked forward to being the sole server during a week of early morning masses. I would ride my bike the mile to church, leaving home after breakfast at 7 am, making sure my school bag had my basketball uniform and shoes for practice after school. At 7 am the world wouldn’t even be awake yet. It was a fresh perspective. Funnily enough, it made me feel a little homesick. I shook it off an almost foreboding feeling and soldiered on.
Arriving at the church, I took a moment to notice the beautifully groomed grounds leading to the large polished oak door to the sacristy. The church was ultra modern, brick and wood with a non-steeple. Curved walk ways and parking lot surrounded by green, groomed lawns, shaded by tall mature hardwoods. I parked my bike. I didn’t need to lock it because my brother who regularly helped himself to my bike wouldn’t be in the vicinity so it was safe. I had tucked my pant leg into my socks to safeguard it from the chain. I righted this and as I did so, felt butterflies a flutter in my belly.
Opening the door I sniffed the familiar church scent of burning candles mixed with a slight residue of incense. On my left was a wall of smooth oak paneling. Or so it seemed. I found the hidden handle and pulled. Reluctantly, and with a sucking sound, the massive closet door opened and into it I put my school bag and jacket. As I closed the door, Father O’Malley appeared and somewhat startled me. He wore a big creepy smile as he approached, saying, ‘Good morning, Martha!’ He wrapped his large arm around my small shoulders, his hairy man hand landing on my budding chest. In slow motion and with an out-of-body awareness, I witnessed and felt his large hand squeeze my young breast. Then both hands took my shoulders and he propelled me to the next cupboard which held my gown and hastened me to prepare for mass, perhaps not wanting me to dwell on what had just happened.
Later that day, as soon as I could get Mom alone, which wasn’t easy with so many siblings, I told her about it, not wanting to go back the next morning. She said, ‘Oh Mart, you must be mistaken. Father O’Malley is a priest. A priest would never do that.’ Then she encouraged me to be a good girl and go back the next day.
Every morning was a repeat performance by Father O’Malley: the smiley greeting, the hairy man-hand grope, the hastening and physical propelling of my shoulders to mass. Years later, I began to wonder if he had orchestrated girl altar servers – the first in the history of the parish – so that he would have his pick of girls to fondle.
As soon as I could get away with it, I quit altar serving and eventually, I quit Catholicism. Any organization with forced celibacy is going to be a problem for someone.
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
I have always loved these simple statements.
What do you think of them? Perhaps, leave a comment below…
(Photo taken at top of Cape Blomidon, Nova Scotia by MMV)