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Monday, November 28, 2005

'TIS THE SEASON

'Tis the Season to get jolly....Fa la la la la lala la la....

It's that time of year again...almost December and the Christmas parties and get-togethers are starting up. This week is the beginning of a month of festive activities.

Lunch tomorrow with the grad class ladies; lunch on Thurs. with the Memoir ladies; dinner Thursday night with a little group of writers who meet only this time of year; and on Friday night...The Annual Kozak Christmas Blues Bash at the Cottage Bistro.

My son Steve, his wife Sue and me have been hosting this grand affair for the last five years, entertained by my son's band the Westcoast Blues. As we all live in apartments it seemed a good idea to have a party where we could have live music and dancing, so we chose the Cottage as a venue as that's where Steve hosts the Saturday afternoon jam sessions.

It's always an event to look forward to. We invite as many people as we liked and there's a lot of musicians drop in to jam with the band. So it's a highlight of the Christmas season.

I must go shopping this week for my Christmas costume. Have my eye on a nice red Indian cotton top to wear with my black velvet pants and some red spangly slippers so that's my first choice. MJ gave me a sequined jacket but that's a bit to dressy for the Cottage and I'll save it to wear at our Scribbler's party next week.

I've started my Christmas shopping. I've only a short list this year and have some ideas what to get on my limited budget. And in a week or two I'll lug the box of decorations down from the closet and start decorating the apartment. I already have the lights up on the windows cause I leave those up all year round.

It's a season of happiness and good will and I'm trying, each day, to get out from under the cloud of despair that I was in after A's death. It's getting easier, though I am still thinking of him constantly. I'm sure the Christmas spirit will help me get over the broken heart. I love this time of year!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

GREY CUP WEEKEND

SATURDAY, Nov.26
It's the Grey Cup weekend for football fans here in sunny Vancouver (yes, sun - not rain or fog!)
This dredges up a lot of old memories, going back to the days when we used to live up in Edmonton and were ardent Edmonton Eskimo fans. These days I rarely take an interest in football, prefer other kinds of sports and I'm not so much of a spectator anyway.

The two teams: Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes, are kicking off tomorrow. Of course there was major disappointment for the local fans when our B.C.Lions failed to make it to the final but that's the way it's gone for them this season.

The Grey Cup playoff is always the biggest excuse ever for major drunken debauchery and disorderliness and starting last night in our town the parties were off to a good start. I wouldn't want to be downtown this weekend, not even to see the parade. I don't really care whether Pamela Anderson is parade marshal or who is. Football is just not my thing. And anyway, I saw the Santa Claus parade last Sunday. Guess I'm just a kid at heart!

This weekend brought back a lot of past memories -- all the Grey Cup weekends we celebrated in Edmonton, parties that lasted for days, cases of booze, trays of snacks, wild days and nights. It seems to me that the Eskis were usually the ones who were playing the finals and usually the ones who won. (So of course I'll be cheering them from afar this weekend!) We'd usually gather at our place -- I had the reputation of given the best parties -- and would start very early on the morning of the Game. Generally everyone was pretty well soused before the game even started (and judging from the antics downtown last night -- two days before -- the same thing happens everywhere.) Of course, if your team won you'd really be off celebrating high-style.
And the party generally lasted the entire weekend. I think that somehow the party was the main event and the game was just the excuse to get wild and crazy (wilder and crazier than usual!)

Knowing the way the young toughs in this town misbehave I'd be surprised if this weekend there isn't a call for extra cops (lots of them) and even the riot squad. The roving bands of drunken louts have had a reptutation in the past of tearing up the town and vandalising everything in sight. All the name of sports? Fun? What??

I found it more fun when I've been in Greece during major soccer playoffs and the merriment was usually cars full of fans driving around waving banners, shouting and honking horns. Of course a lot of wine is imbibed there too, but it always seemed a lot more 'civilized' to me...unless of course you happen to be in a place where a British team is playing and the rowdy beer-swilling Brits
(Manchester fans, etc) have to live up to their reputation of creating havoc and mayhem.

Not for me. I'll enjoy the sunshine and peace of my neighbourhood today and all weekend, except tomorrow when we are invited to a friend's downtown and will no doubt get caught up in the pre and post game rioting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A GOOD START TO THE NEW WEEK

TUESDAY, Nov. 22
I'm feeling much better this week, though still not 100%. Today I went to watefit for the first time in months. It felt so good to exercise and swim again. Afterwards I spent some time in the whirl-pool tub and also the steam room. When I got home my friends MJ and B. came over to visit and B. helped me with some techie stuff on my computer. So now I'm all set to do some more writing. So far yesterday I started adding literary content to my Searching for Alexander story and also editing stories for my classes. Today I've edited some stories and then I'll try to get something done on the novel, or at least finish the revisions on the Alexander story. At least I feel on the right track once again.

It's been easier too, dealing with the grief. Now when I pass by A's empty apartment I don't feel so sad as I no longer feel his spirit is there. It's empty. Everyone is gone. Of course I will always have memories of those last three weeks, and will I ever pass by the bedroom window without remembering that he died in that room? But yesterday I didn't burst into tears once, though there was the occasional lump in my throat. And I haven't today, either. That's a good sign.

I have lots of activities and invitations for the rest of the week including lunch with his family tomorrow as well as day browsing around the Drive with my dear friend Cheryl. Thursday I have a lunch date with M. and maybe Rosie is coming to town this weekend. Social events galore. I think I'm even going to get my hair done. Planning a new cut and maybe even some copper highlights in the blonde. Have to consult with my stylist about that.

It's time for the Festive Season and a new beginning. I want to feel happy again!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

SUNDAY, November 20
It's that time of year again...the funny fat guy in the red flannel suit is here already!
I was invited to join my friend Anne's family today for the annual Santa Claus breakfast at the grand old Fairmont Vancouver Hotel. This meant getting up super early -- even before my bird had roused himself. Off we went with the two little fellows, Charming,MisterYusuf (5)and Omar the Magnificent (7), two of my favorite boyfriends.

It was a lavish buffet breakfast served in the hotel's posh upstairs banquet room with crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs, and beautiful Christmas decorations all around. The food was excellent, though with my upset tummy I was really not able to enjoy it as I should have. The young lads thoroughly enjoyed themselves, occupied happily with the various toys and colouring books and pipe cleaner projects provided to keep children happy until Santa should arrive. They even wrote their Santa letters. Omar said he wanted a dog and a wand (he's a Harry Potter fan) and as an after thought to go with the wand: a cat. Yusuf wanted a remote racing car and another 'big huge truck'. They both had their photos taken with Santa and then we all trooped out to the street where their dad had set up chairs for us curbside to watch the parade.

A foggy, chill November day today, but no rain! We had to wait quite awhile for the parade to start and it was rather cold but the kids were amazingly patient. The streets were jam--packed with people, lots of children of course, but the adults seem to enjoy these events just as much. I know the parade and Santa Claus always brings back a lot of happy childhood memories to me. I was remember as I sat there, how when I was about 9 or 10 we all went by train from Stratford to Toronto to see the Santa Claus parade. I've never forgotten it because I was sick with the flu that day and didn't really enjoy any of it, including sitting on Santa's knee. I still have the photo of me, looking terribly miserable.

My favorite part of the parade is always the pipe bands, those kilted bag-pipers and the tall band Major twirling his long baton. Of course the final float is always jolly old Santa and that reminds me of the famous Santa Claus suit story. When we first came to the Coast after the war, my father, the Pastor of a Baptist Church, organized a wonderful Christmas program for the Sunday School. Santa was due to make a visit, but it seemed there was no Santa suit. So my creative Mom, the expert seamstress, made one out of the big Nazi flag Dad had brought home from overseas. I've written about this in a memoir: "How the Nazi's Helped Santa Claus". That Santa suit lasted years and clothed the annual Santa to entertain the Sunday School kids until I think eventually the moths had a feed on it.

So, this was the first of the festive entertainment and party season. It seems a little early still, but time creeps up quickly. My son, his wife and I always organize a family Christmas party at the bistro where he hosts the Blues jams on Saturdays. We have the invitation to our annual do ready to send out, happening on Dec.2, just a few weeks away. It's always a blast although this year he's had to ask a cover charge in order to pay the band, and we've decided not to provide appetizers for the tables like we usually do. Neither of us are financially able to do anything more than to provide a great place to party and dance and hear some excellent Blues.

I guess in a week or two it'll be time to bring down the boxes of decorations too!
'Tis the Season to be jolly!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

SOMETIMES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU'RE DOWN

THURSDAY, Nov. 17

I have felt so sick the last couple of days and horribly depressed. The antibiotics really didn't do anything for me except give me a terrible stomach ache and the runs. Perhaps today my ears are tiny bit unblocked, but certainly not completely. And on top of it, that flu shot I had Monday has made me terribly ill. I don't know how I got through the day yesterday. Had a class at night and coming home waited for ages on the street for buses in the freezing cold.

Today I dragged myself to my last Memoir group as it was our pot-luck-lunch. Afterwards, I didn't enjoy my usual nice walk up Robson browsing in the shops. I was almost doubled over with stomach pain. Came home and went to bed with my birdie nesting in my hair and cooing sweet things to me between kisses. "Pretty bird, pretty bird!"

There was also a welcome phone call from A's daughter inviting me to join her , her sister and mom for lunch next week. They had moved everything from his apartment Monday, a kind of closure for everyone, but still very sad.

I stayed in bed all afternoon and then my friend's daughter phoned and said she had something for me.
She arrived at the door with two laundry baskets full of canned and packaged goods collected for a food drive by the Ishmali scouts which she is involved with. She said she thought I could use them. And I sure could! There was far too much there for little old me though, so I sorted some out and put a few things in the lobby for other tenants, and when my friend George called I invited him over tomorrow to help himself. He's worse off than me, as he hasn't even a job!

Then a nice email from another friend who wants to come and have tea with me tomorrow cause she knows I need a friendly hug.

I'm fortunate to have this network of caring people around me, phone calls and emails from all sorts of friends saying comforting things. Tonight, I dreaded going out to my travel writing class though. I felt so sick. There were only two people there but we had a a good class anyway and afterwards I was offered a ride home. I was so grateful for that!

People really do care and come through for you when you're down and I appreciate this so much. Hopefully I'll start feeling better soon, and get back to my usual perky self.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

S.A.D. ON A FULL MOON NIGHT

TUESDAY, Nov. 15
The weather has been so gloomy lately with only a few breaks of sunshine. I am not feeling myself, generally sad and maybe it's partly S.A.D. (Seasonal affective disorder) although it's probably just the state of things. I'm still overwhelmed by grief and often at unexpected moments. And for two weeks now my ears have been blocked and aching as a result of sleeping in my windowless bedroom for three nights during those cold rainy nights.
Yesterday I went to the doctor and insisted on some antibiotics. I'm hoping they will cure the problem as I'm tired of feeling like I'm under water and can't hear a thing.

It's been hard to concentrate on my writing. At most I just made a few notes. Last night I workshopped part of the new chapter and today I tried to start the revisions but didn't get much done. The afternoon was made pleasant by a visit from my friend Rosie and her sister and another friend. So we spent a few hours sipping wine and talking about travel, mainly a trip to Wales they plan to make (a destination I love as that's where my Dad was from.)

On my way from the bank today (my only excursion out -- and another reason for feeling depressed: the fact that I'm completely broke again!) I passed by A's apartment and it looks like it is empty now. When I was there Sunday afternoon they were hoping to get it all cleaned out and leave. I hope they remember to keep their promise to stay in touch. It's hard going by there, remembering those last three weeks. And I suppose the memory will stay with me for some time to come.

So, with more rain on the forecast, lots of new snow on the mountain, and cold weather I don't feel much like going out, but have to teach classes the next two evenings. This is the last week for my Memoirs and Prompting the Muse class. One more week and Travel Writing ends.
Then I'm unemployed til the end of January. I'll really have to try and get out of this slump and focus on my writing now I'll have lots of time and little excuse.

Friday, November 11, 2005

REMEMBERING

FRIDAY, Nov 11 REMEMBRANCE DAY
This is the day we remember the veterans of the wars, and pray for peace. On this day I also have a vivid memory of Remembrance day last year. I'd had a call from A. and he wanted to come over to discuss things, mainly the recent death of Yasser Arafat. Then the talk turned to Veterans and the Remembrance Day services that had been held that day. He made some disparaging remarks about this and as I was already in a bad mood due to a head cold and stewing over some grievances I'd had with him in recent weeks, I jumped on him and challenged what he'd said. How dare he put down the veterans! After all, my father was one, he'd been a chaplain at a field hospital in WW2 and was awarded the MBE for his compassionate service. That was probably the first time I challenged A. I was very cross at him and let him know. The evening wasn't going too well, not our usual fascinating conversations. He could be so controlling and critical and I wasn't about to let him get away with it.

Later on, he was using my computer to check his e-mails as I stewed in the living room. There was no way he was going to leave my apartment that night without me confronting him on the issues I was upset by -- his criticism of me, rude behavior and the many times he'd hurt my feelings.

Afterwards we were watching late TV and then before he got up to leave I confronted him. He was shocked. What? Him hurt my feelings? How? When? He'd NEVER do that, he said. After all, he considered me like a member of his family!

How petty things sound when you try to describe them. I felt like an immature school-girl, yet I knew I had to explain what it was (and how often) he had said or done things that really cut me to the core. I chose to bring up an incident that had happened a few weeks before and of course got a full explanation of why it had happened (if he'd explained these things at the time I might have understood -- still the evening in question he really was being thoughtless and rude to me!) He asked me to call to his attention any time there-after that he was rude or critical of me. Did I? Yes. Did it ever change things? No. It was all part of the man's nature, and when I observed his interaction with others, in cluding family members, and got to know them better during his hospital stay, I realized that was the way he was. Yes, he DID treat me like a member of his family. And I see now that perhaps the reason why he felt free to criticize me was because he trusted me and I was his peer.

In the end of course, before he died, he had made amends. But what a shame that he had not done so long before. Yes, I'm sure he had many regrets, just as I do.
And today, remembering that evening a year ago I wish I'd spoken up sooner, said more to him. But we had parted on friendlier terms that evening though there were things that still hung heavy with me and for the next couple of months I was often upset with him. One thing I realize now was this: He was likely ill even back then. For sure from January of 2005.
And that dark cloud he seemed to have enshrouding him so often was perhaps not his own melancholy and negative spirit, but the fatal doom of the cancer that was secretly eating away inside of him.

It's good to write these thoughts down. One must remember not only the happy times, the loving times, but also the difficult times. There are many regrets. He said, that week before he died, that he'd had a feeling for me from the first time he'd seen me, and that he really truly did love me. So why wasn't he able to make more time for me, to spend more of those lovely, rich evenings we used to have, talking and philosophizing?

But...it's time to let go now. A time to remember the man for what he was and what he gave me. There was so much I learned from him. And now he is gone, I feel such a terrible loss.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A MUSICAL TRIBUTE

MONDAY, November 7.

Yesterday a pena was held for Anibal at a small Chilean restaurant. Luckily my friends has reserved a table as it didn't take long before the place was jam-packed, wall-to-wall with people, mostly from the Chilean community, who had come to pay their respects to A. and his family.

His friend H. had arranged a beautiful musical tribute for him, so there was a variety of Chilean musicians providing a wonderful afternoon/evening of song and instrumental music.
It was a happy event, although there was an aura of sadness at the loss of our dear friend. At one moment, when they were playing one of his favorite songs, I broke down and hid my face on Suzaki's shoulder. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop crying and tried hard not to make a drama so perhaps nobody noticed. I know it will be hard for quite some time, when I go to the LQ and hear those songs. One bolero in particular always gets to me because I have a memory of dancing it with him while he translated the words to the song. I loved to dance with him although it didn't happen that often. I always felt as if we 'fit' somehow. He loved to sing and recite poetry and he was an exceptional dancer. Usually he was just playing the music (percussion) and singing with the band so he didn't always get chance to dance. But I recall a party at my house when he was showing a friend's daughter how to dance the proper steps and it was quite remarkable how good he was at it. I also know he was a musician for all his life, played the guitar and percussion instruments. I have a clear memory of the day he told me he'd lost his guitar at the pawn shop as he didn't have the money to collect it. He was heartbroken as it was part of his life, but he was too proud to ask friends for money to get it, even his best friend H. If I had been able to for sure I'd have helped out, but he knew that I was usually as 'poor' as he was.

Music was his life, as was literature (writing and poetry). So it seemed fitting that H. would have arranged this musical tribute. I think we could all feel his presence there, see his dazzling smile and although there was no room to dance in that little cafe, surely he was dancing and singing as he watched us celebrate his life.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

MUSIC ON A RAINY AFTERNOON

THURSDAY, Nov 3

It's been a rough week what with the window-smashing incident (no, it's not fixed yet!) and the funeral on Tuesday which I managed to get through quite well. The rain has been pelting down (like the sky is crying along with me) and it's cold. Somehow the plastic and blanket over the window has kept the draught out but so far these incompetent landlords haven't fixed it. I'm preparing to take action!

Today I had a Memoir class downtown. Patrick met me and we joined a couple of the women for coffee and sandwiches afterwards. Then Bee suggested we go back to her place so that Patrick could play the piano for us. She lives in a luxury apartment near the Park and there is a large lobby room with a grand piano that nobody ever plays. So MJ, Bee, Patrick and I went there and while he gave us an impromptu piano recital we lounged on the posh setees and enjoyed! Meanwhile the rain was pouring down outside while we listened to the beautiful improvised concert that Patrick performed. He 's amazing.

Then we trooped up to Bee's posh 11th floor apartment and sat around drinking wine and talking for awhile longer. Afterwards Patrick and I walked through the park and along the seawall back to get our bus. It was wet and cold but rather mystical, with a thick haze over the Bay so the ships anchored out there were barely visible, like ghost ships, as was the skyline across the Bay, and the water was so still it appeared as though we were looking down on clouds.

I was half drenched by the time I got home, but it was a pleasant afternoon, and something I needed. I'm feeling so broken-hearted, trying not to dwell on the great loss I feel, and diverting myself whenever I can. Unfortunately, I'm coming down with a chest cold, likely because I've been 'down' myself. So I must try to doctor myself a bit as I don't want to be sick. There's still more events happening this weekend, including the pena for Anibal at the Chilean restaurant.
I wouldn't want to miss that. And the lady phoned from the tropical bird sanctuary saying they have a bird for me so I hope that soon I will have another little feathered companion to keep me company.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

AN EMOTIONALLY SHATTERING TIME

TUESDAY, November 1

Yesterday was one of the hardest days yet -- a day when the full realization came that A. is gone and I'll never see him again (except in my dreams and memories). We went to the viewing and that was a little easier than I'd thought because really, it wasn't him there -- it was a thin shell of a stranger, not the vibrant, smiling A. that we all knew. But on an off all day and later during the night I felt devastated.

Friends came over for the evening -- a pot-luck Hallowe'en party and video night (that great movie "Ed Wood", so appropriate for the night.) Fun and having good friends with me helped distract me from my grief. Then, something absolutely shattering happened.

It was 2.30 a.m. I was just checking my email before going to bed. Suddenly a loud BANG! which sounded to me like a gunshot, and my whole bedroom window shattered into hundreds of pieces of sharp glass shards scattering everywhere. I jumped up immediately and dialed
911 for the police, then went to look outside. I'd heard a woman's voice shouting and footsteps running at the time the window broke, but no cars. When the police came, they asked if I'd noticed anything. Til then I'd been convinced it was a gunshot. But when we looked there was a brick, right behind my computer chair, and the whole bedroom was full of shattered glass.
How that brick didn't hit me on the head, I don't know. And if I'd been in my bed I would have been covered with glass shards. Somebody was watching over me, that's for sure!

We believe it was people from across the street. And today I found where the brick came from, broken off the ornamental walkway in front of my building. Whether or not it was a case of mistaken identity of my apartment I don't know. I only know I was darn lucky to have escaped injury.

So all through the night I kept waking, and every time I woke I was in tears. I cried the whole night through, couldn't sleep properly, not only because I was thinking of A. but because of the scary incident of the shattered window.

Today we attended the funeral. I was scared I wouldn't be able to emotionally stand it. But I surprised myself. No tears. (Maybe I cried them all out last night?) The funeral was tasteful and comforting. Then we all went to his apartment for a little wake with lots of food and music. So this day went well for everyone, just the way he would have wanted it.
And tonight Patrick and I are going to the theatre to see a play directed by a friend. A good way to relax and end these emotionally shattering times.