Monday, December 4, 1995

Christmas 1995

If doing something for three years constitutes a tradition I believe my Christmas letter fits that category, and I’m pleased to include you on my list once again.

What is it that George Burns says about the simple pleasure of waking up? I can relate! Here we are into another festive season – actually I’ve been dabbling in it since last August – and I am filled to overflowing with gratitude for having lived with manageable health to see it come once again. I’d say this is a pretty good starting point as I bring season’s greetings and reflect on 1995 in its twilight.

As I write this I am three weeks past having completed a seminar “At A Journal Workshop – Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability” based on the work of one Ira Progoff, Ph.D. Sounds like “History of the World – Part One”, I know, but it was very inspiring and grounding and I am so glad that circumstances were such that I could participate. While I’m reluctant to sum it up too tightly it’s clear that my creative embers were stirred beneath some dry kindling. Poof! I have a painting to do - I even know where it has to hang - a play to write and a journal that needs fleshing out.

It’s been a year of celebrations – Claude’s exquisite party for my brother Craig’s fortieth birthday on Mother’s Day weekend, Pride Day, Joy’s birthday at the beginning of September, Mom’s sixty-fifth birthday gathering later that month, William’s fiftieth, my Uncle George’s engagement announcement (he’s twice widowed), and the elegant weekend that was pulled together for my birthday in October. These occasions have each served to underline the importance of celebrating togetherness while we can. I feed off such wonderful memories. It’s too bad memories don’t have calories as I could use the weight! I’m feeling a little discouraged that I can’t put on a few kilos.

A letter of tribute to Mom and Dad, which I submitted to the United Church Observer late last summer, has taken on a life of its own and is being expanded to a feature-length story. Rather than surprise them with the letter at Christmas, which was my original intention, the editors thought it was appropriate to interview Mom and Dad in their home and I am proud to say that they have consented. Hopefully the finished product will be out by Easter. (I’d say our family knows a little about resurrection, n’est-ce pas?) Now if only I could convince them how selfless it is to share their experiences of the last few years. They just don’t seem to get how special they are, as if the love and faith they’ve shown isn’t outstanding. Anyway, it’s out of my hands now.

Emma and Blue continue to give me great joy, notwithstanding the fact that Blue – right now – insists on placing her heat-seeking self between me and this word processor. We’re managing. This will be Emma’s first Christmas with me and, as usual, I’m leaving home on Christmas Day. They’ll be well looked after I trust. This is also the first Christmas without the human inspiration, if you could call her that, for Emma’s name – Mrs. Lapointe’s housekeeper, my parents’ next door neighbour.

My Emma’s name is short for Emerald, the colour of the eyes which glare from her black and gold face. It’s interesting how both she and Blue are named for their eye colour, yet Blue came to me already named. Emma moved in last winter when her pet human died upstairs. Imagine me talking about people as pets! There’d be none of that nonsense if I had a dog, but I’m happy not to have to adhere to a schedule of walks.

My rug hooking kit hasn’t seen much action since I started banging out my holiday letters. To think I worried that I would have it done in no time at all. I now have no such worries! It’s a great diversion but it takes alot of stamina for sustained work.

My energy has shifted steadily inward, if not completely indoors, these past few months paralleling the take-it-or-leave-it attitude I’ve developed towards walking – at least on cold and windy days like we’re experiencing as I write this. A few days ago I had a good walk, refilling my jug of cat-litter at the pet store, picking up some prescription renewals at the hospital pharmacy, dropping off a photo to be restored at Black’s and shopping for poster frames. Yesterday I was content to watch television and listen to some CDs (once in awhile at the same time!) Today, while walking home from church, I saw a picture that just had to be taken at Riverdale Farm so I continued home, grabbed my camera, and trudged back across the slush and snow. I ended up shooting an entire roll of film at the farm and in Cabbagetown, which I hope to share by next Christmas! Wow! I can’t remember when I last dared to think there could be a “next Christmas”. This reminds me of a semi-resolution, I made early this year, to try to live as though I might make it through 1995 relatively well. A fortune cookie I ate in Chinatown East last March said, “Good health will be yours for a long time”. That, I thought, was worth taping to the refrigerator door!

I bought a “bundle-buggy” a few days ago. I had one that Jim had given me but I didn’t like it because it didn’t have front wheels and I was forever tripping on it as it hit various things on the sidewalk. This new one has four wheels and would double as a walker with a little engineering. Not that I need a walker yet. The neuropathy in my feet, while disconcerting, has felt better since I traded my Doc Marten boots for walking shoes this summer.

Last week I saw a nutritionist at the Toronto Hospital’s Immunodeficiency Clinic. There are signs in my routine blood-work of too much sugar intake and/or retention. I had an ultrasound on my gut a month or two ago and the cryptosporidium I’ve been treating for over a year now has – not unexpectedly – spread further inwards and is inflaming the plumbing to and from my liver. So far I haven’t turned yellow so I guess we’re on top of things! As I said earlier I’m pleasantly surprised to have done as well as I have for as long as I have. It’s a full-time job – feeling well – but it’s not always intense.

My mood has been quite good this year, at least since the low ebb last January. It surprised me how the one year anniversary of Jim’s death hit me so hard. Like I haven’t done enough grief work to know that nothing should surprise me! I’ll have my guard up this January but I know the pain has changed – for the better - over time. I’m in no rush to follow him, as seemed to be the case in early 1995.

A really valuable new friendship this fall has been with my “buddy” Stephen. He’s a volunteer with the AIDSCare program at MCC Toronto, a real life-line let me tell you. Stephen and I spend every Saturday together chatting, going to movies, just “hangin’ out”. I’m fond of both he and his partner, Byron. They’re both originally from Cape Breton (which, you may know, people from there talk about like an eleventh province!). While circles of friends have died over the years – I stopped counting at about thirty-five a couple of years ago when I wailed about it on television – there is new life. And the folks that have been here for the long haul take on special importance.

My holiday itinerary has been every bit as full as in years past – singing in the choir Sunday mornings, for last weekend’s beautiful candlelight service and at the always special Christmas Eve service at Roy Thomson Hall, with a Sing-along Messiah at Massey Hall thrown in for good measure. What a season!

My sister Janice is coming in from Hamilton for the Roy Thomson Hall service. Then we’ll take the train to Smiths Falls together on Christmas morning. Although Lynn won’t make it up from New Brunswick for Christmas it was a bonus to see her twice – in May and September - this year.

Well, that just about sums up my year, and my state of heart and mind. In a nutshell I’m feeling a whole lot better than I was last year, even if I’ve slid a little physically (Hallelujah anyway!)

I look forward to a wonderful holiday season, full of new and old memories, and some “r & r” while I pig out in Perth!