Tuesday, 26 January 2016

January lessons

A couple of days ago I went for a short walk and felt like I was coming out of hibernation. I've been inside a lot this month. My cough/cold somehow developed into back/leg pain. All I can guess is that the coughing may have triggered the back into action. I am now on the mend and visiting my physio regularly. During my last visit, in the middle of a manoeuvre where he seemed to be putting all his weight into drilling my hip with his elbow, he asked if I was okay. I told him it was all fine, as long as we didn't post a photo on the internet. I walked out feeling a whole lot better.

I'm pretty lucky that I don't get sick all that often, so this has been a humbling experience. I've been reminded that our circumstances don't really matter; we are all just  bodies, some luckier than others. This month's deaths, of some well-known singers and actors show that fame and money don't protect you either.

My relatively easy encounter with the sickbed should serve to make me more sympathetic to others when they are under the weather. Basic caring gestures like phone calls, texts, visits and food are so much appreciated when you just don't feel like doing anything.

If it was May and everything was blooming and the days were longer, then it would have been a pain to be stuck inside. However, with its cold, short days, January is the perfect time to cocoon on the couch. I have taken time to watch a few movies, my favourite being Silver Linings Playbook.

Our home is about to burst with stuff so I've spent some time sorting, organizing and discarding. I come from a family of savers so discarding does not come naturally to me. For example, when the kids were born, we put all the baby cards into shoeboxes. Those boxes, have sat untouched for 30, 33 and 35 years. Last week I went through baby Brendan's cards. I must confess that I saved a few, but the majority of his cards are now gone.

Gone also is the art that he produced at age 3. It's been on a shelf in his closet all these years. A friend told me this week that if you really want to remember your kid's art, take a photo of it, instead of keeping the actual paper. Of course these creations weren't just paper. A lot of these masterpieces had sand, wool, popsicle sticks and material glued to them...very cumbersome indeed.

This week we have been trying to organize all our music books. If we were organized folks then we would have done some of this when we got married, forty years ago. There are piano books and sheet music from Pat's childhood and teen years. There is all my music. Our kids also took music lessons. (How many copies of the Royal Conservatory Grade 4 book does a family need?) Pat and I both led school and church choirs for years so there is a ton of both liturgical and school music.

On top of that, Pat inherited his aunt's music. Those gems, from the 20's to 50's are really coming in handy as Pat plays weekly at a nearby long term care facility. As we have sorted through the piles this week, he has been constantly running to the piano, to try many of them out. That's the advantage of sorting. You re-discover treasures you had forgotten.

When his Aunt Mary was alive and we would sit in her living room listening to her funny stories, I would sometimes look at her antique furniture and wonder who would get it? Instead of furniture, Pat was given all her music. That old sheet music means so much more to him, that any antique ever could. It's so satisfying for him to remember her, as he plays her music and shares it with others.

Perhaps my most important lesson this month came in a conversation with a family member who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. I asked her how she was coping with radiation. When we spoke, she was just about finished her three week session. In the cheeriest of voices she told me that she was feeling fine except for a puffy face from steroids. She laughed that she was so puffed out, all her wrinkles had disappeared. She and her husband drive for an hour, every day, to the hospital in Kingston. Many of us would be complaining about having to get in the car, every cold day in January to go to radiation but not this lovely, feisty person. " You know, Mary Ellen, that drive along the lake is just so beautiful!" She also invited us to visit them again, for some time on their sailboat this summer. If she's so cheerful, I'd better not even think of complaining. Here's hoping that she enjoys that drive, the lake and her family for many years to come.

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