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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Here's your anaesthetic, what's your hurry? Well! Dad goes in for surgery tomorrow, which is the best possible Christmas present I could get. I don't even care that it makes me sound like I've got daughterly Munchausen's Syndrome. This is the best possible news out of all the crap news we've had since late October. Kudos to the doctors in BC who got Dad into the operation queue. So, by the time I get my luggage and find the BART terminal at SFO, Dad should be out of surgery. I know I'll be making a call as soon as I get into Modesto.
And with that, Happy Christmas to yez all. I'll be back in Calgary on Dec. 28th, and possibly out of the airport terminal before New Year's.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
M.M. update: So Dad didn't end up getting a PET scan, but was seen by an oncologist and surgeon. The oncologist said he had at least another Christmas in him, so fight fiercely, Mad Dad, fight fight fight! The surgeon was hampered by bureaucracy and insisted on consulting with the Nanaimo surgeon first. So: Dad's a candidate for wide local incision surgery, with meticulous checking of the sentinel lymph nodes and frequent post-surgical followup. Right now Dad's not sure when his surgery will be, but I hope he ditches every atom of Canadian politeness and gets into the operating room as soon as possible.
Speaking of ditching Canadian politeness, sort of, that really was me having a well-mannered tantrum at the local cellphone purveyors. "What is the sense of selling me technology that is outdated before my contract ends?" You see, I have a two-year-old phone and needed a new battery for it. After several phone calls to various outlets, the result was: Rotsa ruck, Janey. "Look, I know you're trying to help, and I don't want to yell at you people, but can you tell me who I can make a complaint to? Because this is just ridiculous." Upshot: my contract is renewed and I get a "free" phone [with charges for contract renewal and, oh yeah, my car charger doesn't fit the new cellphones, so I need a new one of those]. This new cellphone also takes shitty pictures, but what I want to know is, will it be out of date by tomorrow, let alone in three years?
Heads up, California. I leave for Christmas at beloved cousin Les's this Thursday morning at 6 a.m., which means I'll have to be at the airport by 2 a.m. to have a chance of making my flight. And when I get to San Francisco, I have to figure out how to get from the terminal to the BART station in order to catch a train to Dublin/Pleasanton, where Leslie will pick me up. It should be an adventure--but hell, I'll be in California.
Monday, December 18, 2006
That's one big picture of--well, nothing. So I had this idea for a Christmas picture to give to me loved ones, and yes, that translates into me being far too cheap to get them something from a store. It was going to be a picture of the redheads: me, Piper, Riven, and battered Abbie the mare. I enlisted a good pal to come out and act as Richard Avedon, but weather and health issues made this impossible. No matter, thought I, I'll take my own camera out there and ask my friend Shauna, the farm-owner, to snap a roll of pics.
Saturday morning I spent some time making myself presentable, if not photogenic. I left time on the way out to the farm to stop and pick up some film. I loaded it in the camera. When I got to the farm, I noticed that the camera's annoying, red "Nyah, nyah, your battery's dead" light was flashing. And the camera doesn't take just any battery, but one of those differently sized "you gotta' go to the camera store" ones. So much for that, but no matter! I have my digital camera with me as well! I hand the digital camera to Shauna, arrange the beasts in some favourable sunlight, smile and--
"Jane? Your battery's dead."
Shauna volunteers to use her own digital camera, and heads back to the house. She soon returns, and we spend a few seconds recollecting the dogs and making them sit nicely next to the horse. Okay! Picture time! Smil--
"Fuck, the battery's dead in this one, too."
Moral: At holiday picture-taking time / The friend asked first must do the crime.
What in the Hallelujah was THAT? After a cheery pancake brunch at Vinnie and Schmuke's on Sunday, Karyn and I headed to our second "Sing-along Messiah" of the week. Held this time at the big Knox United Church in downtown Calgary. Once again, like last year, the chorus was seated with the audience. Once again the sopranos (mean age: 57) outnumbered everyone. Once again the soloists were magnificent, and I especially liked hearing the younger singers. The group, VoiceScapes, is a great fostering force for young singers in town, and staunchly proud of them.
How was it? Soloists: great. Audience singing: smelly. The "Hallelujah" chorus was so rotten, with the sopranos a half-beat behind everyone else, that after it was over, the conductor motioned for silence and said, "Okay, once more from the top, and this time-- [brandishes his baton]-- everybody watch the stick." The second set of Hallelujahs at least sounded Handel-ish. I was standing next to a loud alto who frequently lost the notes and who was also so buoyed up that she practically jigged along with the music. At this point I was thinking, oh, poor Karyn, forced to listen to the accidental destruction of one of her favourite pieces of music. Yet Karyn said she had fun, and stuck to it. Just like last year, I promised to learn the alto parts by heart before the next sing-along. But this year I also ordered a "Learn Handel's Messiah--Alto Voice" CD. Okay, so I didn't order it until way too late, but once it gets here, watch the hell out.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Lunchtime transmission:
MOUTH: This is Mouth to Stomach, do you copy?
Stomach: Copy that.
MOUTH: Stand by to receive shipment of bread, Cajun chicken and jalapeno peppers.
Stomach: Uh, negative, Mouth. Not authorized for jalapenos.
MOUTH: Cut the bull hockey, Stomach. We're the Jalapeno special forces up here. Repeat: Bread and Cajun chicken. Check. Jalapenos. Check.
Stomach: Belay that command! Belay that command! INCOMING!
[Several seconds of static, then:]
Stomach: Eject! Hit Eject!
MOUTH: Goddammit! Prepare for digestive re-entry! Engage full salivary support. Clear the decks!

Resume the wait: Mad Melvin goes in for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan in Vancouver this morning. He's been pretty down this week. I wrote and told him that I think he's going to surprise us--something I feel quite strongly about. That doesn't stop me from worrying about him, though.
Another week of unexpected occurrences, from a calming and poetic dream about what I think was an angel, to a meteor bursting blue and green during my pre-dawn dog walk yesterday, to surprise gifts at work. I'd be most happy to add a metastasis-free dad to that list.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Let's see. What's making me happy or not these days?
  • Finding out that You Don't Know Jack is not only back, but online! [happy]
  • Playing "Dis or Dat" games on YDKJ and doing really, really badly in the "Beanie Baby Name/Term for Masturbation" category. [silly happy]
  • Riven meets up with a porcupine at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. [not so happy]
  • Riven holds still while I pull out the 5 quills from his muzzle. [relieved happy]
  • Getting taken to "The Messiah" last Thursday night by darlink chum Karyn [ecstatic happy]
  • Going to the first of two "Sing-Along Messiahs" on Saturday afternoon, again with darlink Karyn, and getting score signed by Georg Frederic Handel [CPO Conductor Ivor Taurins in disguise] [ridiculously happy]
  • Driving to the country on the prettiest day so far in winter [yep, happy]
  • Going for ride in cart behind Chester the mini horse, with dogs galumphing alongside [damned happy]
  • Exchanging Christmas gifts with Jean and getting a handknit sweater and toque (the latter with earflaps) [man oh man, happy happy happy and only slightly guilty that my presents to Jean weren't nearly as nice]
  • Hearing that my battered mare Abbie is recovering from her fence entanglement trauma, slowly but surely [relieved happiness again]
  • Wondering why it is that the naughtiest of my three animals, the varmint Piper, is the only one unscathed so far [Puzzled happy]
  • Falling asleep on the floor after a short yoga session at home, then waking up with cranked vertebrae [not happy, but resigned to ingrained stupidity]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Bad: Abby the Wonderhorse gets a hind leg tangled in barbed wire at some point yesterday, probably from shooting out a hoof at a herdmate who got a half-inch too close to her pile of hay. Good: In her struggles to get free she managed to give herself some impressive looking lacerations, but didn't sever any tendons or ligaments. Bad:She flipped herself as well, breaking a fence post as well as clubbing herself in the eye. Good: Her actual eye is okay, although she does have a swollen shiner. Bad: She pulled out a lot of her mane. Good: Her mane was pretty scraggly anyway. Bad:She's going to be out of riding commission for a few months. Good: It's winter, the snow and cooler weather will help keep down any swelling, and best of all, there are no flies to worry her wounds.
I just know my horse-owning friends are all shrugging and thinking, well, part of the joy of horse ownership. I know it's true. But I'll head out to see her tonight anyway, just for some paddock-side comfort.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Sat through another high school production last Friday night. My niece Marilla was appearing in "Oliver!", as indeed were most of her schoolmates. The show has two complete casts that perform on alternate nights. Marilla has a part in both casts, but we watched the show where she has actual lines, playing the Widow Corney. The one thing I can easily say about the show: the director doesn't lack ambition. Other than that, well, it was a high school production in a smallish Albertan city. Detailing its flaws would be akin to critiquing a paint-by-numbers version of the Sistine Chapel. And anyway, the point of going was to see my niece onstage, and she was just fine.
Seeing Dad this past weekend was a most welcome interlude. He gave me a big bearhug when we met, and was quite relaxed for most of the time he was in my company. Sunday morning we met in private and were able to discuss quite a few important things in a relaxed and low-key conversation. And I was able to force another slice of homemade raisin pie down Dad's throat.
It's just so weird to be discussing not seeing anymore the person with whom you are talking, who is also one of the central pillars of your consciousness. It is daytime, therefore I have a Dad. It is Tuesday, and my Dad is there. That kind of thing.
The only off-key part of the weekend leads to a delicate matter for me. I'm quite worried that I won't be much of a support for Dad's wife, L., since I was nearly driven to exasperation this past weekend by her "Competitive Illness." L. is a hypochondriac, though would vehemently deny being one. But she's always sick sick sick when she visits Dad's family members. And apparently she caught a terrible cold as soon as the plane touched down in Alberta. [Now, that's not true, that's just me being sarcastic, the very behaviour I'm worried about controlling.] It's sad, it's annoying, it's also deeply funny in a very human way. I don't think L. even notices that she always has to be the sickest one around. Back when my beloved sister-in-law Alayne was battling lymphoma and trying to survive the experimental chemo, L. was visiting her with Dad and was, of course, sick sick sick with asthma. In a conversation with Alayne, L. said that "no one understood how hard it was to live with a chronic condition." I mean, how do you answer something like that? And on Saturday night, when I had made dinner for Dad and L. and the kids who were at home, L. insisted that Dad take her back to the hotel immediately after dinner. Because she was sick. Let's get this straight, yes? Your husband has cancer. You have a cough. But you come first? Dad admits that there might be something "a bit psychosomatic" in L. these days (more like these years), but he's used to it and doesn't say anything.
So would it kill me to shut up? I've almost written to an advice columnist about this, since I'm not sure how I can behave around someone who, although I know she loves my Dad, still has to be the center of medical attention. Maybe I can just concentrate on how weirdly funny it is. Maybe I can have some pity for her. Empathy, no...but maybe pity.
What I'll remember forever about this past weekend was Dad and Lawrence and Bob (Lawrence's university roommate) yapping about politics and industry while sitting at the kitchen table and guzzling coffee. Three great guys just shooting the breeze.
Another thing I won't forget is that when Dad and I said our goodbyes on Sunday, I had to bolt back into the house and have a good wail--thank God I was alone. Except that I wasn't. Within a minute, all three dogs, Carbon, Piper and Riven, were clustered around me, trying to get my attention. Sure, it may have been because I sounded weird. Maybe they just wanted food. But they stayed right around me until I towelled off my face, and kept right by my side until the family came home from church. Weird little Reader's Digest moment it was.