No one, no book, ever prepared me for the most magical love of all - my grandchildren, Morgan and Zachary. From the heaven-sent instant that I felt the miracle of their downy soft hair on my cheek, took in their baby powder sweetness and gazed into their innocent, dependent eyes, I was a goner - hopelessly smitten. The remaining vacant spaces in my heart filled to overflowing and this once bland female transformed into an intensely protective, ferocious "grand"mother tiger. From calm, measured real estate professional to emotional wreck and mental case, my love was unconditional and remains so today. If Morgan and Zachary would indulge me, I would hug them, holding them in my protective embrace, until eternity. That should elicit some strange glances in the future from their teenage friends!
Every illness, no matter how minor, sends me into a spin. And so it was on Tuesday I learned that my grandson was ill and vomiting. "Just the flu", my son calmly stated. My inner, unbalanced protective tiger wanted to scream, "Call an ambulance. Rush him to Sick Kids", but then Matt would know what I am sure he has long suspected, that his Mother is unhinged and totally certifiable. Day two dawned with Zachary still vomiting. "He's like a wet blanket, no energy", my daughter-in-law, Michelle, reported. My mind became a mass of short circuited brain waves. I bit my tongue until bloody restraining myself from blurting out, "Call all GTA pediatricians. Let's confer. How long does the flu last anyways?"
On my way home from a city appointment yesterday, I purchased a downy soft, toffee-coloured stuffed bunny. Zachary loves stuffed bunnies as is evidenced by his bunny collection that appears to reproduce as quickly as the real version. "I collect bunnies you know, Grammie" he lovingly states as his introduction of each and every one commences. I can plan on being occupied for a lengthy period of time as each bunny introduction is followed by a hug and personality breakdown.
I was greeted by my son, Matt, who remained home for the day. There lay Zachary in his sleeping bag, in the living room, sound asleep, totally inert. How can that little boy who just two days ago was screaming, "Look at me, Grammie" as he whizzed by at sound barrier speeds on his new scooter, now appear so small, so fragile, so vulnerable? My heart physically ached. Matt, in an effort not to awaken him, deftly placed the bunny in Zachary's arms. I departed to complete my journey home, my mood not lifted as usual by the sunny drive to Uxbridge on our gorgeous country roads. A mood of concern like a rain-heavy cloud hung over me to dull my day.
The call came early that evening. Matt, in his car, was on speaker phone when he was interrupted by music to my ears. "Grammie, the bunny came and I am better", chirped Zachary from the back of the car.
"I love you, Zachary. Thanks for calling, Hon", was about all my constricted throat would allow me to utter.
As I hung up, the tears began to flow. Of course, it was only the flu you silly old biddy! 'Nuff said.
Thursday, 6 June 2013
Early Saturday morning, friends and family sleep, entertained by summer weekend dreams. Not so for our rider who is southbound on the Don Valley Parkway. Birds have yet to sing their dawn chorus; sunrise has not yet spread its golden glow across the Toronto skyline. 5:00 a.m. registers in a glaring green flash on his car clock. Virtually alone on the road, alone in his car, faces of friends and family drift across his consciousness - Carol, John, Tony, Terry, Cornelia, Rollie, Brenton, Derek - only to blur and hauntingly evaporate. It is the looming vision of his two beloved grandfathers that causes his hands to tighten on the steering wheel, his jaw to set in determination and his resolve to lock in like the gears on his bike. Their presence is palpable. "Grampa? Grandad?" he whispers only to be answered by silence.
Pulling in to the CNE parking lot fractures his pensive solitude. The air is charged with the electrical buzz of excited voices. Like a swarming ant hill, thousands of riders, many sporting yellow shirts, prepare for their two day challenge and their appointment with pain and endurance. "Anyone searching for what is good in humanity," he muses, "need only witness this morning." This is the two hundred and twenty five kilometer long Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer.
"Every minute someone in Ontario is diagnosed with cancer", an official announces over the din. Passion and perseverance ripple through the riders who have taken up the challenge for everyone even touched by cancer. Eighty year old riders mingle with cancer survivors; children riding in honour of lost parents mingle with corporate teams riding for their preferred charity; oncology staff riders mingle with cycling club members. To a rider, they are united in their desire to free the world of the scourge that is cancer.
Ready, set, go! The mass of humanity moves forward as a phalanx of yellow shirted warriors. Iron Man-trained and tested, our rider jockeys his way forward, settling into his rhythm near the front of the pack. Leg muscles pumping, head and shoulders down, wheels gliding over the surface, he and his bike, as if one, begin to eat up the distance.
In spite of the heat and humidity setting in for the day, spectators abandoning the comfort of air conditioned homes and cars, line the route displaying banners and cheering the riders on. "Our Mother is a breast cancer survivor." "We lost our Father to Cancer. Thank you for honouring his memory." "Thank you for your efforts." "Ride On!" Cheers of "bravo" resound. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots her - a fragile young girl with pasty complexion and hairless head. Despite the intensity of the heat, she is wrapped in a blanket and seated in a lawn chair, clapping and radiating an angelic smile. Heat induced sweat pouring into our rider's eyes now mingles with salty tears. He cries for the blessing of his healthy children and for his physical ability to ride today. He cries in gratitude for the cheering section along the way. He cries for family and friends taken by the disease. He cries for lost time with his grandfathers. He cries for the bravery and beauty of that young girl. And he cries in frustration that this monster disease still stalks the earth randomly choosing victims and devastating families.
Pain invades his neck and grows in severity as it radiates into his shoulders. His leg muscles burn with an excruciating heat. Now is the critical moment when he must reach into himself to find his resolve and toughness. His trained mind will not allow him to hurt; it demands that he realize his pain is temporary and requires that he connect it to a positive affirmation. "This is nothing compared to the pain of diagnosis and the pain of battling cancer", he reasons with himself. Each subsequent and agonizing kilometer is dedicated to those fighting the battle and to those who have triumphed - Wendy, Meredith, Jackie, Linda, Dick, the courageous little girl at the end of her driveway......
Ride complete, he catches a moment to stand alone and reflect. And then he feels it - the rustle of air like a caress on his cheek and the feather weight of two light touches on his shoulders. He senses their presence. "Grampa? Grandad?" he whispers.
"Well done, son. Well done!"
This blog is dedicated to our son, Matthew, and his team of riders, who over the past seven years, through thunderstorms, torrential rains and blistering heat, have raised over $250,000 for the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer. They ride again this Saturday. TRTCC has chosen you to wear their Ambassador's shirt, Hon! You have earned it; wear it with honour. You are our hero. May your efforts ultimately help us realize an end to this deadly disease.
Monday, 3 June 2013
"You should take that course." Marion indicated 'Pen In Hand, Ink on Page' on the events' board in our charming little, award winning Uxbridge bookshop, The Blue Heron. "You really should," she emphatically pressed her point.
"Ooops! I'm thinking she means this!"
"Just take it, Mom" , Christopher, reiterated at Christmastime in his inimitable "and-why-wouldn't-you-want-to-write' professorial tone.
"I'll get right on that, Doc!"
And then I was gifted with the look and the word. Sternly peering over his glasses, Jim queried, "Well, why haven't you signed up yet?"
"Fine", I muttered. Having promised to leave myself open to new experiences in my retirement, I enrolled.
With no writing experience aside from an amateurish travel blog penned for family and friends, with no requirement to take any English courses as I earned my university degree, with absolutely zero ambition to ever write a novel, and armed only with nudging encouragement from Marion, Chris, and Jim, I arrived in January for my first session. Joined by five other participants ranging in experience from published writers to an editor, I discovered the true meaning of intimidation. I felt like the melting Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, growing smaller, smaller..... How I wished, like her, I could scream, "Goodbye, my lovelies" and flee that room. "Why am I here?" I whined at myself. Evil images of a blunt instrument and what I might do to Marion, Chris and Jim darkened my thoughts.
When Sue Reynolds, our facilitator, provided us with a prompt and directed us to write for fifteen minutes, sheer panic invaded my body and mind. "You want me to do what?" I thought in horror. "Don't edit my writing?" In shock I wondered, "What kind of instructor are you anyway?" "Oh, and you want me to read my work out loud to the class?" Where were those smelling salts when I needed them? "Can't I just write real estate clauses for you", I desperately wanted to offer. Those, however, were to be the last negative and fearful thoughts I was to entertain.
With sage advice and gentle encouragement, Sue guided us in so many aspects of the craft of writing - not to tell the reader what to think (I know- almost an impossibility for me!), the use of imagery, how to move a story along with dialogue, to hold my editing instincts at bay until my ideas were on paper and most importantly, the inherent intelligence of my pen and to "just write". Sue, a treasure, bubbles over with love of her craft. Her enthusiasm is contagious. Through her nurturing, my outlook on my world changed in that I now view it from the perspective of "how can I paint that in words?" An avid reader, I find myself no longer merely immersed in the plot. I take as much pleasure in the author's mastery with words. One course and my world has slightly shifted. I still have absolutely no desire to write a novel. That should elicit a relieved applause! I do intend, however, to continue my travel blogs for family and friends and to occasionally put my thoughts and observations in words.
Class has now finished until October when I will be ready, pen in hand. No drama queen scenes next time, just an eager anticipation of picking up where I left off with burgeoning friendships and of inspiring sessions.
Thank you Marion, Christopher, Jim and Sue! You have encouraged me to continue to learn!