Sunday, June 20, 2021

pep talk to self

Not much to tell you except that I'm not well yet. My old friend Lynn, not the French Lynn, the Toronto Lynn, came over and told me I have to advocate more aggressively for my health care, and if I can't do it, she will. And believe me, once she is on the case, you're going to move mountains. So tomorrow I'm going to make a call to see if we can speed things along. My concern is that I'll be back in hospital before anything is resolved. 

You know I'm sick because I was supposed to go across town to celebrate Father's Day with Anna and Thomas and the boys, and I cancelled. 

So let's hope something changes soon. As Jannette who came yesterday to help in the garden said, "You are not yourself." And I like being myself. I worked for a long time to find out who she is and become her. No energy, no appetite, no interest in food which all tastes terrible, not able to drink rosé, losing weight - SO NOT ME!

I can drink beer, though. Thank God for beer.

Lynn also is dealing with a big health issue, both of us fit healthy eaters, she far more than I, and yet whammo, there it is. The big whack. 

In the meantime, I've missed several Dose 2 Covid appointments because of timing - either just out of hospital or an invitation for a day that I teach. So, stymied on two important health fronts right now. Plus - I should just turn the page - reading in the NYT about the terrifying rise of the fanatical far-right around the world, violent gangs plotting for society as we know it to end violently. No, should not think about that right now, on this beautiful hot Sunday afternoon. The garden is flourishing. Every year, from being buried underground, it returns to strength and beauty. 

There's hope for you yet, old girl. Hang in there.  

Friday, June 18, 2021

Paul McCartney turns 79 and I care

 Nothing much to say on this wet Friday except HAPPY 79th BIRTHDAY MACCA!

I will put on CDs or records and celebrate you, while I also celebrate the return of my poor body that's struggling to regain strength. This morning I did Gina's line-dancing class on Zoom, had to keep sitting down, but I was there, moving for the first time in two weeks. 

So later I will dance to Macca, a good man, a good citizen, a loving father and husband, a brilliant, indefatigable, hardworking musician. At 79, may we all look so good and accomplish a tenth of what he does. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

"Cheese: a love story"

Weather still utter perfection, we're so lucky. I'm on the deck as the trees rustle, should be launching my second class of the day right now, the fourth of the week, but the home class writers kindly decided it was a small class and we should cancel. For my sake. I'm grateful, just do not have much in me right now. We'll resume in September; the U of T class and the seniors group continue till mid-July. Again, what a blessing I love the work that supports me and can do it on Zoom even when I'm not perky. But it'll be good for us all to have a break. Maybe I can soon start my own writing work again. 

Wanted to tell you about "Cheese: A Love Story," the marvellous documentary I'm now addicted to, along with its subject. A keen young cheesemonger with the unlikely name Afrim Pristine runs the family cheese business in Toronto and has taken a film crew to explore cheesemaking in Switzerland, France, and, I see, other countries to come, including ours. Last night was France, and I sat there moaning and drooling. No country on earth, he said, devours cheese the way the French do - 50 pounds per person per year of the thousand different varieties. He showed a cheese school in Paris and the cut-throat annual cheese competition and how the best soufflé in Paris is made. He explored the vast underground Napoleonic fortress where thousands of wheels of comté cheese mature, he ate steak frites with a chunk of melting roquefort on top, and cooked a divine dish called tartiflette which was mostly reblochon and potatoes and cream. 

I wanted to get on an airplane. 

No, I didn't, travel is the furthest thing from my mind right now, but I did want someone to deliver these things to my home and my mouth as soon as possible. Tartiflette NOW! Because of the antibiotics, food has tasted vile for more than a week, and alcohol impossible. But that's gradually improving. I may actually have to cook something, instead of raiding my freezer and making do. I may have to make a pilgrimage to Pristine's shop. 

Nice book words: Rick, one of the actors at Patsy's memorial, is listening to the audiobook I taped of "Loose Woman." So far I’m finding it very engaging, even suspenseful, moving along at the perfect clip in all senses of the word. I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished.

Seiji Ozawa the famous conductor has Alzheimer's, and his colleague Zubin Mehta brought him on stage to help conduct a concert. Tears guaranteed. Oh, the power of music.

At my doctor's office yesterday, I saw this on the wall and read it for the first time, an obit for Dr. Mimi Divinsky. She was our beloved family doctor when we first got to Toronto, a wonderful woman, a social activist with a big conscience and heart who died far too young. Still missed, Mimi. Thank you for everything. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

out and about and celebrating a son

Great excitement today - a trip across town! It feels like I haven't been out in months, so an Uber to my doctor's office on the west side was thrilling. The city looks battered but hopeful; so many businesses shuttered forever, but still, many open, life stirring again. Long line-ups outside Winners — the urge to consume has not been quelled. But I understand. Maybe new clothes are needed for the pandemic body.

My doctor is a lovely woman who really can't help; nothing to be done until after the colonoscopy in a month, when we can make a plan. I just hope it doesn't erupt again before then, no guarantees; there's pain, so it's still infected. She told me my low blood pressure puts me at very low risk for a heart attack: 6%. Which means there's no worry about what I call my "mayonnaise-based diet." But the risk of cancer, unfortunately, with a long family history, is not so low. 

I told her how freaked out I was by the woman with osteoporosis in my room at Mt. Sinai, who smashed both legs falling in her living room. Nothing to be done for those of us with osteoporosis except weight-bearing exercise and lots of cheese. Exercise is not on my list these days, though I'm sure my legs are turning to noodles. No energy. But it will return. Soon, please! Longing to bear some weight again. 

The weather continues glorious, perfect, in fact, summery with a cool breeze. Long may it last. 

Yesterday, to give his sister a break, my son took his two nephews for an overnight stay in his tiny apartment. They play video games and eat pizza and chase each other, two small puppies and one big dog. Despite the stress of last year, mostly unemployed and at loose ends, Sam has emerged stronger than ever. He told me yesterday he was at his local grocery store when the checkout clerk put aside some of his pile and said, You're not paying for that. 

It turned out that in the winter a Parkdale man in need, in line buying groceries ahead of Sam, was $15 short. Sam paid the difference. The clerk said, We get all kinds in here, and we need to celebrate kindness more often. Thank you for what you did.

The woman in line behind Sam said, in her Italian accent, You tell your parents they did a good job. 

Thank you! That means a lot.

He was happy to be back at work last week. This was just before, as they got the patio ready:

And this is last night, outside his place: 

Have taught two classes so far this week with two tomorrow. Once more, I say fervently, thank god for Zoom. Tonight, it's another episode of "Cheese: a love story," last week in Switzerland, tonight in France. It will help my osteoporosis just to watch that much cheese.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Under the Gaze of Angels, and The Observer

In the swim again, sort of. Yesterday, I realize, was the first day since my book launch in September that a group of people were over at the house - this house, which is gathering central. What a hard year it has been, even for someone accustomed to solitude like myself. How thrilling to hear a bunch of people talk and laugh in my kitchen again.

Today, taught a Zoom class - those poor students, I missed a class last term because of the appendix and now this term too! - and actually went outside to return library books, an eight minute walk that took me twenty, my first excursion outside the front door since return from hospital. Doubletake, my fave second-hand store, opens tomorrow! The world dawns again. Sam has had an exhausting two days at work, and Anna has been in the Sunnyside swimming pool at least five times with the boys. Life.

A book report on "Loose Woman" from old friend Terry Poulton: Love your book! A great read, entertaining, educational, unflinchingly honest, with welcome historic reminders of a certain time and certain attitudes for people of our vintage. I hope you feel as proud of it as you deserve to be. 

Thanks to TP, who's a fine author in her own right. 

Today, I'm happy to give you a report on two books by other writers. "Under the Gaze of Angels," by Said Habib, was edited by my dear friend Isabel Huggan, who gave it to me. Habib, originally from Palestine, has lived in Toronto for many years. He recreates his childhood in Nazareth, its locals, his family, portraying a people with immense dignity and powerful spiritual and familial traditions. His immigration to Canada at the end, triggered by the creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent disenfranchisement and sometimes brutalization of his people, shows how difficult it is to be caught between two ways of being: on the one hand, his love of his people and homeland and the engrained traditions of the past, and on the other, his happiness to be free of tradition, to reinvent himself. He quietly, with clarity and grace and without rancour, points out how biased - pro-Israelis, anti-Palestinians - news reports in the west are and how his people have suffered. Gradually you come to love the writer, his enormous humanity. A beautifully written book which shows us the other side of a conflict we read about every day: a lost civilization. 

"The Observer" was sent to me by former student Pearl Richard; she used her pandemic lockdown well. It's the kind of book - speculative or science fiction - I'd never choose myself, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this slim novel, about an alien civilization that has sent one of its members - Aren - to observe and report on human beings. While he's there, the pandemic strikes, and by the end of the book we know why. Aren's fellows have obliterated and do not feel messy human emotions, and he is sent to earth to find out if it would be advantageous to develop some. He begins to discover love, and anger, and protective feelings, and we discover them again with him. It's a thoughtful and imaginative tale. Well done, Pearl! 

It's been a strange day, hot sun, then thunderstorm, then sun, then gloom. It's 5, but no rosé for me; I had a sip yesterday but it tasted terrible. How I miss my own traditions. Another day of antibiotics, and soon perhaps my taste buds will return. I'm still weak and shaky, but, I hope, moving in the right direction. And now, to pick some lettuce for dinner and pick out the next book.