Sunday, January 29, 2012

The next time I see you

The 2012 new year brought with it hope and opportunities.  It also delivered an unexpected sorrow.

I was wondering why I could not reach a dear older lady friend by telephone before and during the Christmas holidays.  I knew she would leave her tiny downtown apartment during the day to get in some exercise, fresh air and visit a local women's centre.  Due to family, work and volunteer obligations, I forgot to call during the times when I knew she would, she should be home.  

Communication options were limited.  She did not have email or an Internet service.  My friend was from a different time.  She did not have a cell phone (as far as I know) nor did she have an answering service on her home land line.  When I remembered to call her during the Christmas holidays, the phone would just ring and ring…  Maybe she was out, I thought.  Maybe she was visiting family.  Various obligations pulled at my attention once again.

It was through a shared friend's Facebook direct message weeks ago that I learned she had recently passed away.  A wave of sadness washed over me.  I could not concentrate. I paused during the day to recall our first encounter through a volunteer organization
almost 25 years ago, how we would meet on a weekly basis.  She was a hard working immigrant who needed help with reading and writing. I also helped her study for her citizenship test - mostly by illustrations and memorization.  She was successful.  

We lost touch during the years I was married, helping to raise a young family and working full time.

The last time we got in a visit was when I took my sweet lady friend out for a birthday dinner in the heat of last summer.  I remember her sitting in the cool restaurant, wearing a lovely hat and smiling as she squinted to read the card I gave her.  I also gifted her with a printed copy of my novel and hoped secretly that she would be able to read it.  I refrained from asking if she had continued with her literacy tutoring.   It just didn't seem like the time or place to ask.
I remember her giggles when the Restaurant Joy staff brought out a small serving of deep-fried banana with a single birthday candle planted in it.  She sat in gracious silence while we sang Happy Birthday in her honour. She was still coy about revealing her age. 

Similar to our outing last December but at an opposite weather extreme, our walks were slow.  I carried her tote bag.  I paced my steps to hers as she shuffled down the middle of the sidewalk, avoiding the risk of falling off the curb.  I paused when she paused to say hello to acquaintances on the street.  We visited Tim Horton's to enjoy their air conditioned setting, to chat over a refreshing drink.

The last time we connected on the phone was in the autumn, around Thanksgiving.  During our last telephone conversation, I suggested she think of a place where she would like to go for lunch or dinner for our next outing.  Planning for these outings was a chore because I had to perform research, to call places ahead of time confirming if they were accessible.  Aside:  I wish more art galleries, community centres and restaurants would post this very important requirement on their web sites!  During our last conversation and as usual, I asked how she was feeling.  I knew she had some health concerns and difficulty getting around but I did not know she was concealing the fact that her aging body was being consumed by Cancer. 

Last weekend, I took two busses downtown to attend one of the visitations at the funeral home.  I delivered my card of condolences.  I obtained a memorial card with her photograph on the cover and a prayer inside. There was no shortage of attendees from her women's centre and the various churches she frequented. 

I found a seat near the front of the room, close enough to the open casket containing my friend's mortal body.  I could not bring myself to approach the front.  This was not how I wanted to remember her.  The floodgates opened.  I cried and cried.  I retreated to the ladies room.  My energy was sapped.  I pulled myself together long enough to talk with her family members and a pastor then ... made a quiet exit.

Recalling again our last phone conversation during which we exchanged our interest in each other's lives and learning what was new.  She acknowledged my busy schedule and was understanding of the challenges of taking public transit downtown on weekends from my family's new home.  She extended her greetings for my children, to give them a hug and to "Tell them I love them."  

My friend is traveling back to her country of origin to a final burial place.  I will never see her again except for the photographs in my albums and the lovely photograph on her memorial card. 

I will miss her sweet voice, her smiling face and positive outlook on life.  

I miss my friend. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What do Cats Think About?

So… I'm taking a break from some serious reading and mundane domestic matters.  

One of my children asked the other day as we observed the resident felines, "Do you think cats think and know that we know that they are thinking."  Or something along that line… It was early.

My groggy response was, "I don't know."

I won't get too deep into wasting time and pixels on my own research but I suspect that our cats plan and scheme. Snuggles often wanders around the apartment, back and forth between rooms and gives out a pathetic whine until he settles on a place to nap.  We have documented, video proof that Geneva isn't all that bright at times.  That was shortly after I documented her ability to plan.  One could say that I was projecting >^..^<  and creatively distracted. 

Other humans have asked the question if cats think so I'm going to save time by linking to their blog postings here and here.  Whether they are truly scientific, I don't know.  It's fun to read comments from their followers.   Then there are copious books on the subject.   One of my cat writer lady friends partnered with her furry business partner from many years ago on a publication cleverly titled "Mewsings/Musings".

What was interesting that curious morning was that they were just sitting quietly, as if they were waiting... Either that or they were meditating.  I suspect they were waiting for me to leave for my afternoon meeting.  

When I returned home in the early evening and flicked on the light in my room, I noticed some furry lumps on my bed.  

Ah, yes.  The loveable, annoying male had also made himself a nest right near my pillows.  It's kind of cute how he does that.  Good thing I'm not allergic to cat fur.  

Too bad I had to relocate him when I finally prepared myself for bed and curled up for a winter's night sleep.  Since I had forgotten to secure the door shut, he was back in the early hours, prodding me to get up and serve breakfast.  

Mornings could start in a much worse way.  I give my thanks for these >^..^<  small annoyances.

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Thank you for reading this far.  If you like my writing style, you may enjoy reading The Year of the Rabbit, a novel about fate, family and forgiveness.  Sample some excerpts and enjoy feedback from people who read the earlier print version.  Download a free sample of the ebook from Smashwords.  No trees were harmed ;o)