Stepping Back

There are times when I step back from the flow of life. Today is one of those times.

I have the opportunity to do this today, as I am here alone, and the time seems right.

Surgery, and any hospital visit, is very dangerous for me. My anaphylaxis is unusual, and most health care workers do not understand how serious it is, or how to deal with keeping me safe. Case in point, the last time I was in hospital for surgery Attila was with me, luckily. Groggy in recovery, Attila by my side, a nurse offered me a beverage without checking it for my allergen. I was not really conscious and would have accepted it from her, but Attila stopped me from drinking it. I wear medic alert with information, she did not check it, nor did she check the records to see if there were any issues with ingestion. Chances are it was safe, but if it wasn’t I probably would not have survived the beverage, after surviving the surgery. Standards in recovery are not rigorous. Scary.

With pandemic protocols, Attila will not be allowed to accompany me at the hospital for ths surgery, so I will have vulnerable moments. I have made the doctor, and the person from the operating room who called me, aware that I am not to be given anything by mouth after the surgery. But if someone is careless, it is possible I won’t be coming home again from this surgery. I face this possibility with every hospital visit. I have had many close calls, the errors made by staff always caught by me. Being put under for surgery is particularly scary as I cannot advocate for myself while unconscious or in an altered state of mind.

That is the context of my need for a day of processing, coming to terms with the risk, the possibility that the end of my story is looming.

So, here I sit in my easy chair, in the living room on a summer’s day, gazing out at the sky and the trees, listening to the birds singing. All the windows in the house are open. Classical music is playing softly.

As I look around the room, I am grateful for all the love I find here.

The Hoya sits high on a dresser, happy and thriving in its place. It was a gift from my dear friend Joannie, many, many ears ago. Cuttings have been taken from it and given to my Mom and sisters. Double love.

Along that same wall is my bodhran, given to me by a friend. It has provided countless hours of pleasure, and a few opportunities to blend with others in sound creation.

Also along that wall sits a framed needlework with the message “Kiss the Cook”. This was a gift to Attila from his mother, who did the needlework. Attila loves his Mom, and they share a love of gardening, food, and cooking. I love that Attila loves his Mom. I feel all humans who make it to adulthood should appreciate the woman crucial to achieving that status, perfectly or not so perfectly, it is a tough job.

Also along that wall is an old and cracked water pitcher, filled with an array of artificial lily of the valley and small red roses. The pitcher was found at a charity shop just as I was setting up house for myself and my children, after a very nasty divorce. It was a time of hope, not an easy time, but a very special time. The flowers are faded now, and a little dusty after more than thirty years, but the memories and feelings associated with this bouquet are vivid and wonderful.

On another wall sit two framed stamp sheets, which I purchased when I worked at the Canadian Post Office. Although that was a thoroughly negative experience, the sheets themselves are special. They are zodiac stamps, for the Year of the Rat (Attila), and the Year of the Tiger (me).

In the corner by the window sits a chair we found at the side of the road, when one of our neighbours was downsizing to move into an apartment after the death of her husband. She was very happy that we took it. Covering it is a blanket of bright teals and reds and yellows, from Mexico. It was a gift to Attila from one of the men who came from Mexico to Canada to work on the farm where Attila was manager. The men often brought Attila gifts from Mexico, which are displayed in our living room. They appreciated Attila, who went out of his way to make their stay here, away from their families, as positive as possible. He learned to speak a bit of Spanish from them, and often talked in his sleep, in Spanish. They would call him from Mexico just to chat.

The far wall displays a lot of our art collection. A framed picture of my Grandparent’s store, post office, and house, as well as the train station which has since disappeared. The picture was taken at least 70 years ago, the old fashioned gas pumps, and the ice house attest to that. An era gone by. When I was young I genuinely thought my Grandparent’s home was heaven, it was my favourite place on the planet, no other like it. How precious the memories.

A large painting created by Attila hangs along this wall. He gave this to me when we first met. It is a fractal image of a fish, and I love everything about it. When I met Attila he was living in a house shared with his brother-in-law, and he was an artist. He did odd jobs to keep body and soul together. He has not painted since we moved to the country house, due to the grueling nature of his employment. I hope that someday he can return to his calling.

Another painting by Attila also hangs on this wall. It depicts wild geese bringing balance to an industrial wasteland. This picture was framed with intention of gifting it to his brother on his second marriage. We were unable to attend that wedding (in the US), and so the picture hangs here. His brother has since divorced and married a third time. I have not met this brother, and have only met his other brother once. They are not a close family, although all the sons keep in contact with their mother.

A framed picture of flowers sits on the buffet along this wall. It was a gift from my dear friend Helga, who passed away some years ago. The artwork was created by her friend, who was working through the death of her young child. It is a haunting piece. Helga was a good friend, very eccentric. She came to Canada from Germany, after finishing her PhD, to work in research at the University of Toronto. I met her through friends. She was quirky, alternative, generous, intelligent, kind, open minded, and tolerant.

A photograph I took at The Pinery Provincial Park, during a visit with Attila, sits beside the floral piece. It depicts a wooden stair from the beach to a path above. It reminds me of the pleasant days Attila and I spend on his one-day-a-week off, when we lived in the little city. He was always so tired that he usually napped for hours in the great outdoors during those visits.

Some older pieces of art are displayed on the buffet as well. One is an original painting by James Bessy, entitled The Narrows. The image is a landscape, the scene overlooking the narrows on an Ontario lake. It is snowing, evergreens line the shores. This painting was purchased in Ottawa at an art gallery, during a holiday visit with my oldest daughter, during my first marriage. It was chosen because of its striking resemblance to the bay where we had built our cottage in Haliburton, in Ontario, Canada. We built the log cottage together, on a foundation we contracted out. My fondest memory of that property was a Thanksgiving get together I hosted for my maternal family. My Mom, brothers and sisters and their partners, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and my grandparents were there. I prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and baked a half a dozen pies for the event. Tables made from sheets of plywood seated us.

On that Thanksgiving visit my Grandpa brought his axe and chainsaw, and felled forty foot hemlocks that grew about a foot from the edge of the cottage roof. He took those trees down flawlessly, felling them parallel to the roof. It was an amazing feat. My Grandpa was an amazing man, skilled at so many things.

Beside the James Bessey painting sits a carved wall plaque of a Killer Whale, created by Dennis Matilpi of the Kwakkiutl Tribe, carved in 1979. It was purchased at a museum in Vancouver, British Columbia. My first husband, my oldest daughter, and myself visited Vancouver when my brother Carl lived there with his girlfriend Caroline. They were such a great couple, funny, loving, intelligent. We stayed with them for a week while they showed us the sights. One of the places we visited with them was the Queen Elizabeth Gardens. It was very memorable because my daughter, then four years of age, was in the habit of “taking off”. If you looked away for one second, she would be gone. She did this with great regularity and stealth. She ran ahead of us while we were walking along, and got around a corner before I could catch up with her. When I reached the corner, but she was gone. My brother Carl was beside himself. We all searched for her, but he was tireless, and fierce in his search for his niece. I went back to our vehicle to get something, and there she was, completely out of sight, sitting beside the front tire on the driver’s side. I alerted the rest of the family that she had been found. My brother had almost exhausted himself looking for her. Only the passing of years cured her of this behaviour. My brother Carl passed away in 2016.

Looking down from the art pieces to the glass door of the buffet, I see the dishes Attila and I purchased in 2001. It was an eventful year, as Luna married that year. We did not know Janus’s parents, invited them to dinner, and bought the set of dishes to use for the occasion. They are seldom used, but cherished. On the shelves with them are four child’s china cups and saucers. These were purchased when the biggles (older grandbabies) were little, in anticipation of having a tea party with them. However, they never did visit us again, but the cups and saucers remind me of how much I love them. The littles might enjoy them, they haven’t visited for over four years, that is most of their short lives, so that window is closing. It is wonder to think that these little humans could not have existed had I not raised these two daughters of mine!

Behind the glass door there is also a large mug from the Toronto Zoo. This was purchased for my youngest daughter on an outing we took with my dear friend Paul Simpson-Housley. Paul was funny, brilliant, had a photographic memory, and was full of wonderful surprises. He called my youngest daughter Tigger, and he called me Ælfgifu. He passed away in 2002.

Beside my easy chair I keep a wooden stool. I love wooden stools. My Granny always had one in her kitchen, and as children we vied for the joy of sitting up to the table on that stool. On the rungs I have a flat basket sitting, to keep things like pen and paper handy. Also there is a neck pillow, a genuine purple, artificial velvet neck pillow. Naps on the easy chair are comfortable with this pillow behind me. It was a gift from my dear friend Steve Paul, years ago, I think when we still lived in the little city, when he visited us.

When I look up to the top of the bookcase, I see three trophies. These Tenderflake Cups for Adult/Child Team for Apple Cake, were won three consecutive years in the early eighties, at Black Creek Pioneer Village, in Toronto, Canada. I developed the recipe myself. My oldest daughter, who was under ten at the time, helped me to bake the cakes. I loved spending time with my girls in the kitchen. Later I would win a Conservation award from Black Creek Pioneer Village, for my research into loss of prime farmland in Ontario, Canada. That award came as a surprise, as my academic supervisor, Dr. Gerald Walker, had submitted my work for consideration without my knowledge. He was a wonderful mentor, and a human being! Gerald Walker was the first good man I met in my life, other than my brothers and my Grandpa. He passed away in 2014.

I have been extremely lucky in my life. I have been deeply loved by two wonderful men. The first is Patrick Logier, who passed away in 1996 at the age of 39. He was a talented singer/songwriter who opened doors and windows in my life, and who mirrored what he saw in me, the warts and wonders. The second is Attila, with whom I have lived since the early 1990s, and to whom I am married. He is an artist, a collector of details, a wide open mind, a steady heart, and one of those rare people who learns and evolves in adulthood. The thread of the love I have received from these two individuals is the warp on my loom.

There are more, so many more memories living here in this space with me. I am surrounded by love, given and received, even when I am alone.

I love the space I live in. I love the person I live with. I love my Mom and my siblings. I love my daughters and grandchildren. I love my friends. My online friend Renee’s last words in her last post before she passed, was LOVE. Well said Renee, and thank you for that. It connects us, with ourselves, with others, with the past, with life itself. So even though I’ve seen no one but Attila and grumpy health care workers for the last two and a half years, I feel the richness of love, it doesn’t disappear, and it travels through the networks of life with the speed of light.



Updated on Thu, Jun 30, 1:45 PM
24 °C
Partly cloudy
Wind 16 SE km/h
Humidity 48 %
Visibility 28 km
Sunrise 5:27 AM
Wind gust 24 km/h
Pressure 101.9 kPa
Ceiling 9100 m
Sunset 8:55 PM


“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined… to strengthen each other… to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”
George Eliot
1819 – 1880

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A lovely look at your treasures! I pray all goes smoothly during your surgery and that no mishaps occur. (Our hospital allows one companion, so long as they are masked.) Maybe they will make an exception for you? <3 <3

Steve-Paul (SP) Simms

What a beautiful reminiscence. Bless your heart, and here’s to a successful operation and easy recovery. Much love, SP (can’t remember the cushion!)


You sound like me when I had surgery some years ago, I was sure I wouldn’t survive. Can I suggest being proactive? Write “Allergic To XXXXX” on your arm in a “permanent” ink, on the arm that will hold your IV. *hugs*


They might remove any tape you put on your body, as they would something like a necklace – but you could have Attila put it on you when he comes in as you’re waking up?


Have them put WATER ONLY for after aurgery on your chart.


This is an amazing post! Is there any chance they could use local anesthesia instead of full anesthesia? Then you could stay alert to anything they try to give you by mouth. If not, the idea of putting a warning on your arm with Magic Marker or a Sharpie sounds good. I think I met you through Renee. I still think of her bravery as she faced her health problems. I’m praying that all goes well with the operation and that you get clear answers.