Monday, October 31, 2011

Googly Eyes

Is it twisted that I brought eyeballs to Acacia's class Halloween party?

The irony of it was lost on me until I looked at them, they stared back at me, and I thought, "Oops!" But Nick thought they were great. I didn't know what I was going to make for the party until I walked into City Market and saw the biggest green grapes ever. I dipped them in white chocolate, inserted chocolate chip pupils and added some veins. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out! They were a mouthful and popped when your teeth clamped down, just like a real eye would.

The funny thing is Nick's eye doctor was at Acacia's party. ha!

If you're going to be That Mom who brings fruit to a Halloween party, you have to make it fun, right? Acacia said the kids loved them and ate everything off the plate.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Live in a Zoo

When I married a vegetarian I assumed he was an unconditional animal lover, but seeing Nick last night sicking Satcho onto half a dozen raccoons in the garden while whacking the apple trees with a shovel reminded me you should never assume. Clearly, my Nicolas does not love raccoons.

The girls had picked most of the apples and pears when we thought it was going to freeze one night, and these critters were headed to the bags of fruit by the back door when they got freaked out and ran up the trees. We've tried to teach them before to stay away from the plums by having Satcho scare the poop out of them, but either they have short memories or they will do anything for a snack. Like Cayenne.

The sacks of fruit were already pretty wrecked however, by the bear who had visited the previous afternoon, gotten himself comfortable on the stoop and proceeded to eat himself silly with all our future tarts and apple sauce.

Isn't he gorgeous?

He hung out for two hours so our new friend and neighbour Petra had plenty of time to come over and get a front seat view of Colorado life. They may have cockroaches this size in Miami, but not too many bears.

The bear seemed to understand the protection glass offers because Satcho sounded ferocious, but it didn't at all bother the bear's feast - until Satcho ended up in the garden (you can safely assume here that Nick was home at this point, and I was not) and that bear shot right out of there. You can barely see out of our glass doors through all the dried slobber now. I wonder who's going to get to clean those?

So last night when I heard loud crunching of leaves lumbering through the garden I assumed the bear was back, and I was ready with the good camera this time (batteries were dead the first time) and waited. I couldn't figure out how the bear had gotten past me and into the courtyard without my spotting him from the balcony, until I saw the family of six raccoons tip-toeing to the fruit bags.

And that would be when they got to meet Satcho.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving (Canadians harvest sooner)!

Thursday was a bad day. My Mom never raised her eyes, never focused, never reacted. She was gone. The nurses said on days when the barometric pressure drops, there's often an eerie calm hanging over the home - and indeed, it was unusually quiet inside and pouring rain outside. But I wasn't convinced until I visited for breakfast on Friday, having watched the sun's first rays greet Cochrane's hills, glowing with golden leaves. This was going to be a better day.

My mother looked up into my face and I got a huge smile and an "Ooooh!" which I like to believe was recognition, but was probably Mom being her happy self enjoying the company of someone who looked familiar. Whose voice made her feel at home, but she didn't know why. Or maybe she knows "This is someone I love," or even "Kim's here. About stinkin' time!" But because I can't be sure, I speak to her as though she's getting everything I say but can't respond, imprisoned inside her head - although that would be an even worse situation, and one I can't bear considering.

At first I thought my timing of this trip during Thanksgiving was ironic. But as the days passed and I got to spend time with my wonderful mother (and sister Diane, who drives nearly two hours return to visit her every Tuesday, and my brother Terence, who visits on Sundays), I was acutely aware of being thankful for every smile she shared, and every time she laughed out loud. I was thankful for the privilege of feeding her, after all the meals she has fed me. I was even thankful for being present on a bad day, so I could truly appreciate the good ones.

So by the time my brother Jarrett and his family arrived from Vancouver Island, I was ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, which we did at Diane's with a great meal. Dad and I arrived early so he could enjoy some of the festivities as well, but he didn't stay for dinner. He has a standing date with his wife. And for that I'm very, very thankful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


"Anything. I'd rather die from anything else."

My mother was the personal caregiver of a lady with Alzheimer's when she told me this twenty years ago, while walking away from her patient's unit after having spent hours with her. Mrs. Koreman was an intelligent woman who at one time had been fluent in seven languages, but the disease had robbed her of all of them except her mother tongue. My Mom often sang to her in Dutch and for a long time, this was one of the only things that got a response from her.

My mother watched Mrs. Koreman go through all the horrid stages of Alzheimer's including the violence, the theft of her personality, the not recognising loved ones. So when she herself eventually got the same diagnosis - for the one and only illness she truly despised -  she knew exactly what her family, especially my father, was going to go through.

"I never thought I'd say this, but I really wish I had cancer right now," she said to me. That has to be one of the crueler things about it all: Being told you have it when you're still aware enough to see the future.

I'm in Cochrane (outside Calgary) now, visiting my parents. My Mom, who can no longer walk or talk, lives in a home staffed with loving nurses, as my mother was to those in her care. My Dad lives very nearby and spends every afternoon until bedtime with her, without fail. When she first moved there two years ago, he spent twelve hours a day there, but he was finally convinced that was not sustainable.

"She's the number one priority in my life, and that's just the way it is," he told me the other evening, and I'd expect no less from him.

So when I heard through the grapevine that Pat Robertson had told a caller to his radio talk show that he should divorce his wife in order to move on because she had Alzheimer's, he sliced to the core of my being. I Googled it to find out the context in which it was said and I realise that Pat was put on the spot, because the caller already had a girlfriend and Pat had to figure out a way to sanction that relationship. The church forbids adultery, and your marriage vows are "till death do you part." So Pat suggested that Alzheimer's is a form of death, and it was understandable to seek companionship elsewhere, but to make it okay in the eyes of the church, he'd have to divorce his wife first.

Huh? And if I'm not mistaken, many interpretations of the bible don't even allow for divorcing, so that would be adultery anyway.

The caller's question had Pat wading in murky waters for sure. Not known for the brilliant things that usually exit his mouth, he could be forgiven this time for the no-win situation he was in.

I'm just glad it's not one we Jellemas have to deal with. For my Dad, his vows were clear. And as for us kids, we reap the benefits of having a father who loves our mother unequivocally, unconditionally, to the end. Just as she would have done for him.

June 25, 1959 - Forever

(PS: Alzheimer's SUCKS!)