Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg - October Afternoon

An update from Tom...

Here's a letter Tom sent a few weeks ago to the staff members at his school, during their United Way campaign.  Some of you might want to be updated with regards to Tom's health.

Cancer Update
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September of 2011. I guess this means that I now have had cancer for three years. My cancer did not stay in my prostate. It metastasized to my right hip. I had no cartilage there. On April 4 of that year I could not get out of bed. Obviously I was not going to work. I was off work for one year and 3 months. I walked with a cane. I took a lot of pain killers. On November 21, 2011, I received a titanium hip. Cost-$50,000.00. It works great.

I live a life with cancer. I have stage four cancer. I will not be cured. I will just be able to maintain my cancer at the level it is now. Yesterday, my daughter Nicole asked me; “Dad, when will you be cured from cancer?” For her, everything is black and white without any subtleties. The answer for her is that I won’t be cured.

The Cancer Care building is the nicest, brightest, sunniest building that you would never want to enter.

I am there twice a week, sometimes three times a week.
I went there for chemotherapy, which I was dreading. They put you in a big blue lazyboy chair and drip chemicals into your arm. This is two and a half hours of my life I will never get back. I did this 10 times, every 21 days, since last May.
There is always a twenty minute wait for a chair. The chairs never get cold, as there is someone else waiting. They only shut down on Christmas day. They do not have enough chairs to handle all the cancer patients.
Once a month I go to the hematology lab for a blood test. It is on the main floor. You take a number. The previous time I was there, the nurse couldn’t find a vein, and just stuck the needle in and swung it around until he could find something. Really painful. I will not have him again. On Monday, I was there again. There was a small boy ahead of me. He cried and cried when they stuck the needle in. This was tough to take.
I am on prednisone. I have gained thirty pounds. I have a “moon face.” Please don’t call me moon boy when you see me.
My feet are swollen and my joints hurt. I can’t fit my winter boots. I can’t fit my clothes.
I can’t grow a mustache to save my life-no pun intended.
It costs $50,000.00 a year to treat one cancer patient.
One in seven people will get cancer.
Please donate to the United Way Campaign.
Thanks for reading.
Tom Roberts

The Kindness of Strangers

Recently I had an experience in the poplar bush of one of our local dog parks.  I went with daughter Nicole and our dog Kallista to the Parkerlands for a Saturday afternoon walk.  Nicole DID NOT want to join me on the walk and insisted I was forcing her into a bad experience equal only to other forced marches in the history and wastelands of the world.  I dramatize our moment, but we were not happy with each other, and she trudged along unwillingly behind me as Kallista bounded and danced in front of us.  A woman and her dog walked by and Nicole muttered that the person had given her a dirty look.  "What?", I said, thinking I hadn't heard correctly.  The woman had heard, but she ignored the comment.  "People always look at me like I'm weird", said my unhappy daughter. [As if the grumpy face and attitude wasn't a give-away...]  I think you can tell by now that I wasn't that happy with my daughter either.

I turned around to talk this out ... it's always my "go to" solution to talk things out, even though now I realize that sometimes my daughter just wants to feel mad.  Mad at me, mad at the world, and mad at whatever is making her mad.  "Nicole"... I said through my own gritted teeth: "You don't have to think that everyone is looking at you."  [And isn't that what most teenagers feel at some point? -- everyone IS looking at them...]  Obviously the mother of the mother/daughter pair wasn't that happy either...  

Another woman, who had walked by at this point, turned around, and with a loving smile commented that her name was Nicole as well, and wasn't it a beautiful name.  Didn't (my) Nicole love her name too?  That simple act of stopping and commenting on some obvious unhappiness stopped us both in our tracks.  She told us how she loved her name, and continued to engage directly with (my daughter) Nicole, commenting on the weather, the dogs who were sniffing each other, and on the qualities of the name they shared.  This compassionate act was thoughtful, and directed to engage with my teenager who struggles with social connection. It forced her out of the state of misery and made her connect to the empathy and love that flowed to her.  

I wondered then, and still think about why and how that happened.  Is she empathic somehow?  Is she trained to notice when people cannot engage directly with the world?  Others had gone by, ignoring the gloominess.  The two Nicoles focused on each other, and it was as if a healing touch had been given -- the bad mood of the day lightened, and the stagnant attitude that trapped us was blown away.  This simple act of compassion and direct contact made all the difference.  There was no need to stop and talk, and yet she did.  She saw and felt something and connected to it with meaning.  It reminded me that there are caring people who feel the weight that sometimes drags around with us.  We get used to that feeling, and don't want to change.  The kindness of a stranger took away that heavy attitude.  I offer my thanks to the kindness of a stranger who turned a grudging moment into one of reconnection.

A Eulogy for Summer

The dark days of late autumn (early winter) are now upon us.  All I want to do in the mornings is curl back into the warm nest of my bed, away from the cold Winnipeg mornings.  And did I say the mornings are dark?  A few weeks back, son Kai wrote this eulogy for his English class.

A Eulogy for Summer

When the snow melted away, and the remains of winter disappeared, summer grew. She grew slowly and carefully until she took over the world. How she did it? Cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. 

Summer always sparked creativity in everyone she met. She encouraged everyone to get out on the street and meet new people. We had forgotten about them, as we shivered out the winter months. She got friends together, and then, people in groups. Summer made sure we got stuff done. She doused the earth with rain to wash away dirt and gravel. She made trees and food grow. Summer gave us warmth and light to build new houses and repair old roads. 

She took most of the world by storm. People fell in love with her. They left school, jobs, and the darkness of their homes. She encouraged them to travel far and wide and to explore places they’d never been. Families bonded and spent time on beaches. They camped and lived rough for awhile. Summer helped families stay up late and get more active. She made them get wet, muddy, she made them laugh and cry. 

Summer made the world happy for the couple months she was around. She warmed the earth and everyone she touched. I know that she warmed everyone’s souls.

I remember when summer came, racing to the cottage with my family to soak up the sun. Summer was always right there beside me. Even though summer was not one of my own, everyone in my family loved her. We loved living with her and she loved living with us. 

She was always the same; I would sit on the deck, and watch her wake up. She was still always half asleep and it took her awhile. She would sit with me until she was warm and ready for the day. We would pack a lunch, and go for a hike. Summer always came with us. She loved moving around, and when it got too hot, she provided us with shade. We would head to the beach in the cooler part of the evening. I know this was summer’s favourite part of the day, because she loved painting with light. She created lots of beautiful works of art across the sky. Dark blue here, purple and red there, she always left us amazed. 

Summer was taken from this world too soon. She had so much ahead of her in life. I always had a dream that summer would settle down. That she would find someone she loved to enjoy her life with. Summer leaves behind, friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues, all of whom loved her.    

I feel sad when I look ahead and see the bleak darkness of winter. But even though she is gone, I know she will live on in the memories of all of us. I will remember her warm touch and the light she gave the world and I know that she will never be forgotten.