Apr 23, 2010

life pt. 2

I need to preface this post before continuing with the previous one. A lot has happened in the weeks since Feb 12, and so I thought that I would break it up a bit, not only to make it easier to read, but I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss a thing in the process of writing what would end up being a monstrous post. Updates to this story will follow over the next few days. As I write this, I am sitting on the ferry.

After my mom revealed that the issue was Dad’s heart, I got quite a bit more concerned. They had even stopped the ambulance on the way to Nanaimo and swapped Dad into an advanced life support ambulance, they were so concerned. I called Liz with an update, and then tried to raise Matthew again. Still nothing from him on his phone, text messages, or through Blackberry Messenger. Mom needed a lot of assistance – Dad’s incident occurred in the middle of dinner, and as a result, they had been drinking. That’s why Mom had arrived in a taxi cab. Once she made the announcement about Dad’s heart, she told me to go home and work on my schoolwork. “Your father would understand.” Well, for heaven’s sake, I was not going to abandon my mother at the hospital in the middle of the night with no car while my Dad was having a “cardiac incident” (I hate those words). I spent the next few hours waiting, working in a half-assed manner on the discussion questions I was supposed to be doing for a presentation two days later.

Around midnight, I made the command decision to remain. I emailed all of my professors for class the next day, saying that I wouldn’t be there. Cancelled work too. I don't think I have ever emailed that much on a Blackberry. Finally, I got through to Matthew. He was extremely concerned, which is odd for him. Of course, there was nothing he could do to help. I promised to keep everyone up to date.

I got in to see Dad once. He was barely awake. He was wrapped up so tight in the blankets that he could hardly move. He was very pale... I spoke to him for a minute...outlined that I was taking care of Mom, that we had arranged a local hotel for her for the night, and how it was no problem for me be there. He seemed very assured that I was around. After our minute of conversation, I could tell he was getting a bit weak, so I wished him a good night, repeated my promise to take care of Mom, and returned to the waiting room. There were several things that struck me in my brief visit to his bed, how pale he was chief among them. What scared me the most was Dad's assurances that he was ok: he couldn't see the monitors, the crash cart parked at the foot of his bed, and the external defibrilator, oddly labelled "Judy Sparky Sparks" parked up near his head. Clearly, there was cause for concern.

Around 2am, I made a run to Tim Horton's - I was starving. Brought my mother a tea, and just as we sat down in the waiting room, we finally got an update from the doctor. Dad's heart was stable, but they didn't know what had happened. They were keeping him for a couple of days. We had struck up a conversation with the only other occupant of the waiting room, who was by herself. I gave her my untouched coffee - she had expressed an interest in finding the Timmie's nearby, and as soon as the doctor said Dad was out of immediate danger, my adrenaline crashed - I had to get Mom to the hotel. It was an odd mixture of relief and exhaustion.

We rolled up to the Ramada here at 3am. I took the time to get Mom settled in, and then headed for home. I emailed Liz and Chris, and sent a text to Matthew. And then I crashed right asleep.

more to follow

Apr 13, 2010


These past few weeks have been quite full, for lack of a better word. I had planned to post more during the Olympics, but was unable due to the time constraints - the majority of the time I was working until midnight or later, and couldn't muster the energy on return. In short, the Olympics were amazing. While the job was unglamorous, being in that city for the duration was amazing. The energy, the camaraderie, the craziness... it was all good. Being over there also gave me a chance to see Lindsay more than once, which was grand. It was also great staying with Liz and Chris for so long. We used to live together a few years ago, and it was good to hit that vibe again. I'd missed it.

Speaking of Liz, she has launched a blog for her writing. She is wrapping up her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at UBC in a matter of weeks, and has started an internet presence. It's never too late. So please, go and check out her writing - it is far more insightful and funny than mine. Click here to be taken there.

So life. That is what has taken me back away from updating my blog. So as I sit here, listening to The New Pornographers with the sun setting outside my office window, I will endeavour to catch you up.

On March 10, my parents travelled to Parksville to celebrate their month-a-versary. They were married on November 10, 1976, and mark the tenth day of each month some way, even if it is just with a coffee or a walk. However, March 10 was their 400th month-a-versary, so they decided an overnight trip to Parksville was in order. They had called me earlier that afternoon to chat, and, being in the midst of papers, I had to hedge my bets and say maybe. We set a date to call at 9.30pm - I could have a chat with them before bed.

9:35pm rolls around, and my phone rings. It's my mother, and I prepare to be all conversation with her. I have my cup of tea, and my feet up in my cozy slippers. We do the polite "How are you?" and my mother replies "Oh, we're ok, but..."

"Your father has had an incident at dinner, and is on his way to Nanaimo hospital in an ambulance."

My heart immediately leapt into my throat. It lasted only a second - I immediately decided that he had an allergic reaction, which has happened before. My mother asked if I can go and meet him at the emergency room. Of course, I agreed. However, I was working against the clock. Having just taken my amitriptyline, my focus and awareness was about to be severely dulled. So I hop into better clothes, and anticipating a long wait in the ER, pack up a couple of textbooks, and head for the hospital. I call my sister as I pack up, and tell her not to worry, and I will update them. I can't raise Matthew.

It is only as I drive to the hospital that I realize I only know vaguely where it is. I drive up and down the street in the rain and darkness, and can't find the turn. I finally ask a pedestrian on the other side of the street, but they know just as much as I do. I finally find the turn (which is only indicated for east-bound traffic, not west as I was travelling), and get to the hospital. I can't find the ER. I go around the block and find it. Found the ER. Now I have to pay for parking. I was getting a bit worked up by the delay of it all.

I checked in the triage nurse, and I have beat my father there. The ambulance rolls up, and my father is brought in on his stretcher. His eyes are closed, but he is yawning. I relaxed - a yawning man is not a dying man. I called my mom and updated her that he seemed fine. The nurses told me I could go in and see him in a few minutes. In the intervening time, my mom rolls up in a taxi, so I go out to meet her. It is only after I get her inside and settled into the waiting area that my mom tells me that it was his heart. They had been eating dinner when my dad said "I need an ambulance." When the ambulance picked him up, his heart was beating at 32 beats per minute... not enough.

more to come

Feb 14, 2010

olympics are here!

It is now Day 3 of the Olympics. I have been busy, but enjoying myself. I got here on Friday morning, the day of the opening ceremonies. I didn't get to watch them myself, as I was busy working, but they looked fantastic. I have downloaded them from iTunes, and will be watching them in little bits and snatches.

My volunteer task has been interesting. I am a Load Zone Attendant at the Main Media Centre. For those of us who don't know what that is, I load the media (13,000 of them are here) on and off of the buses that take them to and from venues and their accommodations. It is not a glamorous job, but I am meeting a lot of interesting people on my volunteer shifts.

We are treated exceptionally well as volunteers, I must say. They clothe us (warmly), feed us well, and give us lots of breaks and rotations. And the food... well, I thought I would be eating McDonald's (as they are a sponsor), but we are actually fed well. Lunch was soup and a roll, a choice of sandwich (I had curry chicken salad on pumpkin bread), a piece of fruit, a double-packed Nature Valle granola bar, and a Coke-branded beverage. We can get Coke, Dasani, Five Alive, OJ, etc. It is pretty good. When we get sent off site to work (sometimes we are stationed at hotels rather than downtown) we are given a $15 per diem for lunch and another for dinner. I feel pretty well taken care of.

However, we are exposed to a fair amount of anti-Olympic sentiment. I was stationed on Denman outside the Coast Plaza Hotel, defending a poorly-signed Olympic bus zone. of the 10 vehicles I had to ask to move along, only one was polite. I had a lady yell at me (twice), another lady was poking me in the chest, asking "Do you work for the city? Then you can't tell me what to do!" This was among other incidents. The last one was when a driver was seriously half an inch from running over my toes (he peeled out midway through my "Sorry, this is a VANOC bus zone speech"). I decided at that point I had had enough, called my supervisor, and just said "I'm a volunteer, I'm not getting paid to step into traffic" and returned to the main depot at the Media Centre. They were fine with it. Unfortunately, there have been other problems as well. One of our volunteers was spit on, we've been called "VANOC Scumbags" among other things as well.

I am not surprised by these incidents. There are a great number of people that have been affected by bringing the Olympics here. However, it is not fair to take it out on the volunteers. We are here giving our time and energy to make this the best games they can be. Millions/billions of dollars have been spent - so let's show the world what BC can do, and not sour that investment. The money was misspent, but we need to make BC look amazing. Spitting on volunteers, throwing marbles at police, and smashing windows accomplishes nothing.

However, I will not let that spoil the good time that I am having. One of the chartered bus drivers, who is on contract from Chicago, said to me that he has NEVER seen the level of excitement in a city that he is seeing here, and he has worked world's fairs, superbowls, etc. I think that is amazing.

The Olympics are here. I am here, helping, and having a good time.

Go Canada GO!

Feb 13, 2010

celebration - friday photo challenge

Once again, I am late. But here is my contribution:

This my friend Ella and I in a cafe in Paris in 2008. Ella was studying there, and I had saved up to go and visit her there. Ella was studying at Sciences Po, so this was my third day there, and the first time she and I really had a chance to hang out. So for me, this picture is a celebration of two friends enjoying each others company in a new and exciting setting.

It is something that none of us do often enough.

Feb 6, 2010

friday photo challenge

So I am late, I realize that. But I have been in Vancouver getting set up as an Olympic volunteer, so here is my late submission.

I took this picture when I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed, and then two weeks later, having some surgery near the base of my spine, which meant I couldn't sit down for two weeks.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time wandering around. This picture was taken in Sierra Park, near my parents place in Victoria.

I think that the leave represent variety in such a big way for me. There can be thousands on a tree, none the same, but when we pick up a fallen leaf, we say "Oh, a leaf."

Jan 31, 2010

musings on strength

As I mentioned in my previous post, my friend Lindsay has started her Friday Photo Challenge over on her blog, Destined to be an old woman with no regrets. Part of the challenge, beyond posting a photo that works with the theme, is to comment on the other contributors as well. So on this grey, Sunday morning in Nanaimo, I grabbed my coffee cup and started perusing the other contributors pages.

There are so many definitions of strength, so many different ways it can be interpreted. The photo submissions were all excellent, as were the explanations and comments that ran along with them. But it was in reading A Garden for Butterflies that I was particularly struck.

This individual has suffered an unimaginable loss, that would destroy so many people. She writes in her post:

"Friends have called me "strong"; my psychiatrist called me "resilient". Instead of feeling complimented, I feel offended. I don't feel strong, I am not exhibiting behaviors of a strong person. By saying "strong" and "resilient" it feels like people are telling me "you're doing great, keep up the good work."

That comment struck home for me. We all struggle through life. The author of those words lost a child, the Steadfast Warrior lost two children before they were born, and I struggled with my homosexuality for years. While I can't even begin to calculate the loss of a child, I can empathize with those words. People can tell you that you are strong, and perhaps, on some level those words help just a tiny little bit. But I don't think that they offer the level of support that the speaker intends.

We live in a world that is obsessed with our privacy. We seldom share the 'reality' that occupies our souls and hearts and minds. People are always saying how lucky I am, how I am so good natured and easy going. While coming to terms with the fact that I was gay, I kept reading about what a liberating experience it is, to express ones freedom, etc etc yadda yadda yadda. But the fact is, I am not as happy as I appear all the time, and never was. It is an act, a facade. During my struggle, I went home every night, at one level ashamed of who I was, and wanting to crawl out of my skin, just to end the internal conflict. I was even entertaining suicidal thoughts at one point. And while that part of my life is over, and I have settled into being comfortable with who I am, the fact that I was so unhappy to the point of being suicidal remains with me. The fright of being capable of those thoughts will be with me for the rest of my life. Which is why, when people are constantly calling me happy, it can feel hollow, just like telling a grieving mother how strong they were must be. Small words said with kind intent, but with small effect.

Strength is not physical, and it is not endurance. Strength is the power to change, the power to adapt and emerge new. It is a process. Life throws all of us obstacles, some more than others. Just because someone has overcome an obstacle once, twice, or three times does not mean that they can get over each and every one for the rest of their lives.

I am not advocating that we should stop saying these things. Rather, I have a different proposal. I also fully acknowledge that the words I am about to write here are words I need to take to heart myself:

The next time you are compelled to say to someone "Look how strong you are," stop and think. Are you saying it because you are not sure what to say? Or what help or assistance or love you can offer? If you are, use those words instead. Tell the person that you want to help, and need to know how. I expect that those words will carry far more weight than "You're so strong."

We need to think before we speak.

And I'm out.

Jan 29, 2010

friday photo challenge

My friend Lindsay, the Steadfast Warrior, has started a Friday photo challenge. You can see the details over on her blog, but here are my contribution(s).

This is the side of Le Sainte Chappelle in Paris. It is renowned for being gothic but so light at the same time. Look at the size of the windows.

The Eiffel Tower

This is the roof of Market Square.

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