Reflections on Writing 7 – The Research Phase

State Capital Library – Iowa

As a university student, I had the reputation for pulling all nighters.  The Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke from the local 7-11 and I had a close personal relationship.  This was particularly the case when writing papers for history and political science classes.  I would get lost in the research phase of the process.  One new piece of information led me into the investigation of a myriad of other possibilities.  I jumped down the rabbit holes of learning that served to show me how much I still didn’t know.  Inspiration came in the wee hours of the morn when commitment to one argument was an imminent necessity.  I started and stopped when I ran out of time. I was able to formulate an argument drawing from the many facts and positions I had researched and end up with something that was my own.  I find that I follow the same pattern of getting lost in the research in my personal writing.  

I love the research into the topic or characters that I am writing about.  Although my preference is for fiction, the careful attention to factual detail is what makes fiction believable.  Many of my own experiences and life lessons inspire my writing but when I start writing I quickly realize I need more.  I throw myself into the research phase to tease out the pertinent details of the topic or motivation of the characters.  As when I was in university, I still love this learning phase.  The more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know.  I love to read and can do it anywhere.  

The biggest problem is that I don’t have a deadline for completion of my personal writing therefore it is easy to be sidelined by the more pressing demands of life.  I can convince myself that Maria Kondo would want me to sort through my “myriad of collections” in order to “spark joy”.  That I need to get more exercise or binge watch multiple renditions of reread favourites  to tease out how the plot has been structured or characters developed. 

The only solution that I have discovered to date is to just start writing.  In school, I regularly wrote the mandatory outline of my papers after I had finished it.  The inspiration for the direction came through the process of writing not before.  This year my goal is to set up a routine for my daily writing.  The research time and the additional reading, will be “in addition to” rather than “instead of” the time actually spent writing.  

Another thing I plan to do more often is to develop my online and in person writing community.  Sharing my professional writing was initially a risk-taking venture.  This changed as I grew more confident, pushed my thinking, and received positive feedback and invitations to join stimulating on-line and in person conversations.  More recently I have taken the risk of sharing my personal writing or at least pieces with other writers.  It is a big risk-taking venture.  However, I have discovered that Twitter is equally as good for developing a supportive writing community as it is as developing an educational learning network.  It makes it clear who is paying attention and wants to collaborate.  It makes sense that people engaged in the same area of interest are most likely to support each other and provide informed feedback and the encouragement to keep at it.  And I am inspired that I can pull together many years of pieces into completed drafts in 2022 with that support.  

Cold and Frosty Days for the Lightweights

The family that skies and snowboards together, stays together!

Cold and frosty days that do not end.  We are a family who loves to spend time outdoors on adventures.  Biking the Kettle Valley in the Interior of British Columbia.  Skiing, snowboarding, biking, hiking, golfing, water skiing, walking, jogging, and swimming are all wrapped into our happiest family memories.  

Skiing and snowboarding up Whistler is one of our favourites.  My husband and I both learned to ski as teenagers and can get down anything – often without grace or style.  Our kids learned at 3 and 5 years.  They have a fluidity of movement that comes with only with long established muscle memory.  All of us expanded our repertoire to include snowboarding.  One test drive on shape skiis and I was back to skiing.  We have been lucky enough to get up to Whistler this year.  

My husband and I were heavily invested in ensuring our kids loved their early ski experiences.  Trips to the washroom, for hot chocolate, and to view the movie in the Grouse Mountain theatre were on demand.  We had listened to many a whiny ski child in the chair line ups as their parents pushed them well past the concept of fun.  Those children were guaranteed to hate skiing and those parents could do it without their kids and likely a lot less often.  

Certainly the COVID reality has provoked some new thinking on the cold.  This year we are required to make reservations to eat in the lodges at Whistler and Blackcomb.  It is very difficult to get last minute reservations to come into the lodge and out of the cold.  With all of the little huts like Raven’s Hut and Chick Pea closed due to COVID, there are also few options.  The extreme cold eliminates the option of eating outside in the snow.  Never has it been more important to consider that you have warm enough clothing and a plan to warm up if necessary.  

In Vancouver, British Columbia, the extreme cold is a novelty initially.  We are use to a temperate climate.  The snow on the mountains and the crispy air is a thrilling diversion initially.  However, the cold that seeps in our homes and chills our bones is unfamiliar.  Somewhat surprising.  It is tough to venture outdoors if you haven’t really warmed up.   

Today I am curled up with a blanket and good book.  I look at Gurpreet Pandher, dancing in the Yukon with a new appreciation.  He has embraced the cold and dances for joy in sub zero temperatures.  How we embrace the outdoors is clearly all about perspective.  It almost compels me to go for a walk.   But not quite.  It’s SO cold.  As a die hard Vancouverite, the rain doesn’t stop me.  If it did I would spend a good portion of life inside.  Clearly I need to just get up and out whatever the weather.  Tomorrow.

Another Wild About Vancouver Wednesday post  

@WildAboutVan 

Wildaboutvancouver.com

Reflections on Writing 6:  The Hope in New Year’s Resolutions

Lesson from Gurdeep Pandher of the Yukon – Dance and joy are related!

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of my favourite books.  My daughter, at the ripe old age of 7, ascertained that I was a lover of the “fat, sad book” and her drawing of her family portrayed her stick mother sitting on a tall pile of books appropriately labelled, with tears spouting out of both sides of her head.  I grew up with the dichotomy of the belief in a God who never gives you more than you can handle while witnessing mental health duress that rendered that untrue.  My study of history in university, stories from my father growing up in wartime Germany, and his mother’s haunting reminiscences during that time, gave me a perplexed view of the things human beings will do to survive and the extent of human cruelty.  Reading and writing helped me to grapple with the notions of hope and despair.  The thing I love about A Fine Balance is that although the despair was palpable, hope wins.

Writing New Year’s Resolutions is all about swinging the balance from despair to hope in adversity.  My sister went to live permanently with my Dad and my California family when she was in Grade 10 and I was in Grade 7.  I maintained my resolve to stay with my Mum and my extended family in Vancouver.  The weight of the choice and the loss of my older sister was compounded when my mother’s closest sister died.   Despair prevailed.  The arrangements my aunt had made for her daughter, were not as perfect as she had hoped.  My cousin spent more and more time at our house until the most obvious solution was for her to live with us.  The three of us lived on our own personal tetter totters.  Yet, there was no shortage of laughter and joy.  There was lots of popcorn, fudge, and family time.  The tradition of New Year’s Resolutions became ritual.  The coming year held the promise of fresh beginnings.

My Mom always led the charge to self- improvement.  She was going to start yoga.  She was going to be healthy, happy and strong.  She was going to learn French.  My cousin was two years older and I adored her so I followed her lead.  We were going to get in shape.  Jog.  Lose weight.  Take modeling classes.  Become models.  Use a different word every week to improve our vocabularies.  Be able to get into a moving car while my cousin was driving the old, white Maverick even made it on to the list.  James Bond had significant influence in our lives apparently.  

We always started strong and with resolve in the new year.  My mother would sign up for classes at the local community centre or night school.  Modelling with Blanche Macdonald was too expensive, but my Mum used her credit card to sign us up for “Charm School” at The Bay in downtown Vancouver.  Although it was a huge disappointment when I was presented with clear lip gloss and my cousin got a real make-up kit when we “graduated, I can still walk across the room with a book on my head, do a turn, and sit and slide back in my chair without losing the book – a feat that has evoked gales of laughter from my family and my students over the years.  Or was it the Stepford wives face that I assumed while performing this feat?  The promise of the new year.  I still like a party.  I still want to dance.  I still write resolutions.

I have continued to work through many personal goals and feats over the years.   On the Facebook questionnaires of how many of these things have you done?  I’ve done all of them except sky diving, scuba diving, and being charged with anything beyond speeding and parking infractions.  I’m often game to try something new so my Bucket List is relatively short.  However, this year my priority for my new year’s resolutions has changed.

I have come to terms with the fact that I am no longer “middle aged”.  My paternal Grandmother lived to 100 years of age.  Not beyond.  As my good friend Judy frames it, we are entering the final third of life.  Despite challenges, the first third of my life was all about joy, freedom and developing resilience.  The number of people injecting positivity into my life far exceeded the valleys of negativity.  I woke up smiling and was footloose and fancy free to define my path.  I had good friends, great opportunities, career aspirations, and fell passionately in love with my soul mate at a mere 21 years f age.  My confidence grew and so did my quest to try new things.  The second third of my life was filled with the joys and busyness of children and friends, professional success, opportunities to travel, skiing, boarding, biking, running, lots of love and laughter. This third of my life is still being defined but there is a space and freedom that comes with this trimester.  I don’t feel the need to try so hard for the approval of others.  I can identify when I am not like but I just don’t care that much. I have the expectation of reciprocity in relationships.  I know where I belong.  I am free to act according to my own terms.  

In 2022, my New Year’s Resolutions are not about doing more.  For the first time ever, quality of life is the focus rather than the quantity of what I can fit in.  The days of hosting big parties with over 100 people marching in and out throughout the door are a thing of the past.  I still care about extending the hand of friendship and caring but I want to slow down and take time to enjoy relationships.  It turns out it is extremely easy to identify the people who value you.  They are the people who readily celebrate your successes.  They are the people who have your back in the face of adversity.  They are the people who don’t feel the need to keep a running list of your faults.  The people who invest their time and energy into putting you in a poor light with others, and care little about your feelings or perceptions, are the people who will always judge you as “less than”.  You belong where you are embraced.  The choice to walk towards something means leaving something behind.   

Taking early retirement has been a godsend for me, partially thanks to that gold plated pension and partially due our early adherence to saving for the future.  I am free to choose the work I want to do to make a positive contribution in the world.  I can ski, golf, and go to art galleries and yoga mid-week.  I can make time for my writing outside of the wee hours of the morn and ponder big questions about life and spirituality out in nature.  I can be grateful for the memories that go beyond the pain of death, dementia, and illness.  I can walk away from ugliness and disrespect.  I can walk towards the love and opportunities for relationship and learning that are ever present.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that COVID has dashed the big New Year’s party with dancing, but a celebration is still on the agenda.  Yes, hope still wins in my 2022 New Year’s Resolutions.  I hope it does in yours too! 

Happy 2022!

Bridging Photography and Art

Yeah, I am hanging around Vancouver, BC.

As with many people during Covid, my childhood friend @JStCPatrick has become not only a bird watcher, but a bird photographer. Bird watching has been a past time for centuries. It not only gets us out into nature, but it causes us to slow down and pay attention to the beauty of the nature surrounding us. In the words of 2021 – to be mindful – to slow down and smell the flowers!

As a Covid principal in an elementary school, I developed a multi-age bird unit to support teachers with online instruction way back when the pandemic first started.  John and I have no end of fun talking about bird antics and sharing pictures with the Wild About Vancouver Community and beyond.  Making discoveries about the birds that have lived under our noses for our entire lives.  A few weeks back, John posted this picture of a Spotted Towhee who perched on a lichen covered, cherry branch close to his balcony in The University of British Columbia Endowment Lands.  

Spotted Towhee of Twitter Fame

This picture quickly climbed to almost 500 likes.  It has stimulated a lot of conversation about why.  John is also an artist and I am a lover of art.  We’ve spent much of our lives looking at art and discussing it.  This photo seems to have jumped across the chasm from “picture of this cool bird I saw” to art.  

What is it about this subject that has piqued interest and garnered appreciation?

Is it the angle that allows us to see the beak, the round, black pupil in the little brown eye, the white spots on the wing feathers, the red breast, the white peaking out of the tail feathers, and the ominous claws on the legs?

Is it the contrast of the green lichen and the red breast?

Is it the blurred background that creates the clarity of the foreground?

John and I would love to hear your opinion – photograph or art?

What makes you say that?

The conversation continues…

A Wild About Vancouver Wednesday post.  @WildAboutVan

The Mystique of Winter Solstice

By John Patrick in Vancouver, British Columbia

Winter Solstice.  Images of Druids at Stonehenge flick through the mind.   Women dancing under the moon.  Is the Winter Solstice a pagan ritual?  A celebration of New Age tribes?  Is it just the longest night of the year?  Simply a happy return to longer days for farmers and domesticated animals?  Or is it a day of darkness steeped with mystical significance or at very least opportunity?  Happy Solstice doesn’t seem to fit the occasion.  It is more a day of quiet contemplation.  

Today the northern half of the planet is tilted at its furthest point away from the Sun.  The north pole pointing to the star, Polaris.  The sun will not rise north of the Arctic Circle and it will not set south of the Antarctic Circle.  It is our shortest day in the northern hemisphere.  Our longest night.  

The English word “solstice’ comes from the Latin word ‘solstitium’ meaning ‘sun stands still’.  The circular earthwork enclosure of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BCE. It was used as a cremation cemetery for several hundred years.  Clearly the story of what was unfolding was monumental in significance.  Indigenous people have observed this seasonal event for tens of thousands of years.   Clearly the story emerged and changed according to the people living their lives and how they made sense of their lives. 

In our life and times, the darkness that we have experienced in the past year depends not only on our experiences but on our perceptions of those experiences.  Our own stories may reflect challenges related to physical health, mental health, relationships, or work.  Certainly, our stories reflect the impact that Covid and climate change has made in terms of how we view our lives, how we plan to live in the future and the people we embrace. 

Looking to the past, some historians report that the Druids valued peace, nature, and harmony.  Others convey them as dangerous rebels willing to do anything to resist the spread of Christianity.  Who really knows?  My preference is to look to our Indigenous people in helping us to chart our way forward.  The survival of Indigenous People for tens of thousands of years has been a result of looking for ways to express respect toward nature and chart a path of sustainable co-existence within our natural world. 

Today is the time to contemplate who are the people that genuinely care about us and that we can depend on to lift us up rather than shame or silence us.  It is the time to reflect on the actions we can take, both personally and collectively to re-establish a way of living respectfully in the natural world so far beyond our ability to control.  Tomorrow is the time to celebrate as we move towards a path filled with light and promise.  

Also see: Stonehenge, the Winter Solstice, and the Druids by Susan Fourtane  Interestingengineering.com 

Teaching that “Feminist” is NOT a Bad Word – Inquire2Empower Consulting

Madonna recently accepted an award as Woman of the Year at the Billboard Awards .  I don’t express myself in the same blatantly sexualized way as Madonna, but I do understand her quest to represent all aspects of what it is to be female.  Madonna was part of my empowerment as a young woman.  In…
— Read on inquire2empower.ca/2016/12/21/teaching-that-feminist-is-not-a-bad-word/

Backpacking for Kids!

Giving Kids the tools to take a closer look!

There are many social, emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits for students to go play outside.  As research has been done around how the brain reacts to stress and ways to improve short- and long-term learning, the outdoor classroom has taken on renewed significance.  Curiosity is not taught.  It is allowed to flourish by encouraging questions and plans to figure out answers.  Children have real reasons for using science, mathematics, and literacy skills.  Communication skills are required for sharing predictions, hypotheses, observations, measurements and conclusions.  The skills are not learned for a later date but to get the job right now.  

As the holiday season is arriving quickly, you may want to consider purchasing some of the tools listed below that can be used in outdoor learning.  A favourite snack can be added and kids will be ready to go.

I am a long-time advocate for the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits of learning outdoors.  Part of it is based on observational research.  You take kids outdoors and you tap into joyful learning.    

The connections to learning across the curriculum sometimes emerge from personal inquiry but can easily be scaffolded.  As many educators before me, I put together outdoor learning backpack packs to structure some of these connections.  Outdoor learning backpacks filled with goodies could also be a gift idea during the holiday season.

Each backpack had some basic materials:

  • Binoculars
  • Compass
  • Ruler
  • String to help measure round things
  • Magnifying glass
  • Waterproof notebook
  • Pencil
  • Ziploc bag
  • Large sized rope to practice tying knots
  • A dollar store silver blanket to sit on when it’s damp
  • Large plastic tweezers
  • Plastic guide to the birds of BC from the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Your child will enjoy customizing their backpack with other essential items such as their favourite water bottle and snack.  Or this could be on a list for Santa. 

Happy outdoor adventures!

A Wild About Vancouver Wednesday post🤗

Human Rights Day 2021

Stand Up for Human Rights

The Declaration of Human Right and Freedoms was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 and enshrined the rights and freedoms of all human beings. It was to be the gold standard of social justice that countries of the world would acknowledge, sign and function accordingingly. Subsequent human and civil rights law have codified many of these basic rights. We have had 73 years for full implementation. And yet, #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #IndigenousLivesMatter echo the cries of people waiting for even basic rights to be extended to them in their wealthy countries with developed economies and ability to make it happen.

The premise behind Amnesty International is to “shine a light on human rights” and reveal the facts of imprisonment, abuse, miscarriage of justice, and extrajudicial killings to a wider audience.  Yet, the issue is no longer one of awareness. We know many of the stories of travesty. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hearts were broken listening to traumatic stories of residential school survivors  and family breakdown of our Indigenous people in Canada.  It brought a part of Canadian history, omitted in textbooks, to the forefront of our collective consciousness as a country.  Anyone involved in the process had the opportunity for a greater level of empathy and understanding of the complexity and importance of the path to reconciliation with our Indigenous people. And yet, we still have Indigenous communities that do not have access to clean water and many promises going out of the Truth and Reconciliation process have been unmet.

Amnesty International research is known for using triangulation to document facts. Information is checked with three reliable sources before it is published.  Often truth is buried in a myriad of fake news sensationalism to feed social media chatter or to sell news. We need to educate ourselves so we are reading and relying on reputable sources for our information. We need to expect governments to believe in the currency of truth. Politicians who garner votes by fueling people’s fears to intensify biases and racism in society need to clearly understand will not be tolerated. Systemic racism in trials or daily life will not be ignored. Secrecy and a skewing of facts will be unearthed and discredit unscrupulous leaders. We need to remain vigilant and take action until basic rights and freedoms are part of the lived experience of all people and we don’t even have to ask – Do you feel valued?  It will be a given.

 

Nature Inspiring Art

Like many others, my cell phone is my constant companion on a walk, a hike, a ski trip, or a bike ride.  Like many others, I pause to snap a picture of all things amazing or novel en route.  And like many others, I share that post on Facebook or Instagram.  

The best thing about this habit is hitting the pause button.  For a moment, we stop.  We breathe in the beauty of the moment, or perhaps the inspiration that comes from it.  A cell pic can be fun or a reminder of places to go or people to see.  However, a realistic replication of life in not enough to capture a feeling.  To be fair, more skilled photographers are able to use light and composition to evoke feeling but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.  

Evoking a feeling is something reserved for the most talented of artists.  

by Christian Bergeron

They do not just provide a factual depiction of something but evoke the whole range of feelings associated with the subject.  I recently purchased a Christian Bergeron painting.  This Quebec artist is well known for his traditional Quebec landscapes, marine paintings, and most recently his more contemporary, abstract works.  I chose one of his classic Quebec landscapes because it reflect him as an artist born and raised in Quebec.  His many experiences out in nature have allowed him, along with his acrylics, palette knife and creativity, to evoke many of the feelings I have from time spent in Quebec.  The bold strokes of brilliant red, oranges, golds, and greens of deciduous forests, contrasted with the rise of bright blue mountains, and turquoise skies, and iconic French Canadian white building, take your breath away.  

Close up of palette knife strokes

In Vancouver, we are surrounded by nature, even if we live in the city centre.  The pause to appreciate a moment in nature is important for our mental health.  For those of you so inclined, I encourage you to pick up your tools to create the art inspired by the nature around you.  Many of Christian Bergeron’s marine pictures are inspired by trips to to Vancouver beaches and Steveston in Richmond. You can feel the wind in the sails and recognize the docked boats. Engaging in art is a process that causes you to pause longer to truly appreciate the subject, much like writing. It may evoke the feelings of a passing a breeze.  A moment of complete contentment.  The feeling of falling in love.  A sense of home.  That’s what nature inspired can do.

A Wild About Vancouver Wednesday Post.

Note: A selection of Christian Bergeron’s Art is available for purchase at Bellatudo Beauty Salon in Richmond, B.C. by his favourite Vancouver distributor and daughter – Nancy Bergeron.

Reflections of a Writer 5: Owning My Story

Cheers to my father, Peter Dyck, and our happy memories together. Special glass from my Dad.

As a writing teacher, I always told my students to write about what they know. Their experiences equal their stories. Yet, as a little girl with blonde ringlets, my story was not polite to talk about. My reality made people uncomfortable. However I realize this has been a construct manufactured by people wanting to create a more palatable, albeit false, reality for themselves. My story is what I know and not a secret to be swept into dark corners. My story is mine to explore and my truth to tell.

***

The COVID world is not a kind and gentle place.  Distrust feeds uncertainty.  Fear and anxiety have transitioned to anger.  Domestic abuse is up.  The mental health industry is booming.  Unscrupulous spouses have started divorce proceedings to ensure the greatest financial advantage to themselves.  The nasty are freed to be nasty with impunity.    In order to proceed into the festive season with joy and good will, it is necessary to be quite deliberate in the pursuit of it.  Memories need to be culled.  A focus established.  You either hold precious memories close to your heart and feel grateful or let the toxic memories and toxic people in your life allow bitterness to fester.  

I have freedom and space to focus my attention to creating a season of joy and good will this year.  On Sunday, I hosted my first Christmas Tea with people near and dear to my heart.  I made my favourite Betty Crocker chocolate walnut fudge of my childhood, The Empress recipe for cranberry scones, thumbprint jam cookies that would have made Mrs. Patrick smile and platters of finger sandwiches worthy of Claridge’s in London.  The Royal Doulton china was set with the polished silver.  My guests of honour picked out china teacups to take home. There was a choice of five teas to choose from Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Kenya and England.  There was only one disconnect.

Tea was a big part of my growing up.  You walked in a door and put on the kettle and picked out the china tea cup you wanted to use.  Special tea parties with party dresses were for engagements, wedding showers and baby showers.  Finger sandwiches always included ham and cheese, egg, cucumber, as well as cheese whiz and canned asparagus.  There is the disconnect.  I dutifully went to the grocery store and despite the run-on groceries due to the floods and mudslides in British Columbia, cheese whiz and canned asparagus stock was plentiful.  I picked up my special ordered horizontally cut bread.  I cringed as I opened the canned asparagus.  I marvelled at the intensity of the orange of the cheese whiz and questioned whether it should be considered a food product.  I considered all of the happy tea time traditions I carry forward and decided that they would not be compromised by saying goodbye to this ritually prepared sandwich reminiscent of living on the poverty line.  So those of us who dared, had one last sandwich to commemorate the moment. And said goodbye.

That has been somewhat of a theme for me this year.  This year would also be the year I said goodbye to my father. The best times with my father were always those times when he had no need to grand-stand with outrageousness, prove his superiority or do my step-mothers bidding.  It included hiking and fishing at the cabin, his trip to see me when I was attending York University,  or his solo trips to the Ventura beach house when he was on the outs with my step-mother. It was also talking on the phone when my step-mother was at her secret beach house where my father, my older sister and I were not allowed entry.  At these times, the facade was stripped away and conversations were filled with truth, honesty, and stories of what I like to consider was the real Peter Dyck. 

Communication with my father has been extremely difficult since he was first diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia many years ago.  One summer, we drove the 2,000 km trek and my step-mother allotted a two house visit before she directed us to the door so they could go out for dinner with her friends.  My dad was was put in a home this Spring after he fell down the stairs. Carole was sleeping in her wing of the house and failed to notice.   He has very few visitors in the home. A phone was not installed in his room so calls with his siblings and his daughters from his first marriage are almost non-existent. On occasion my younger sister would let me call her phone while she was there and let my dad talk to me. A few times the nurses at the Care Home let him use the phone from the nursing station.  Of course, these were the best calls because everything he said was not scrutinized.  Some postcards I sent were received. Others were returned to sender. So this fall I got in the car and used my American passport for the first time ever and drive across the border. My husband flew into Portland and I picked him up en route. We drove the 2,000 kilometers to go visit my father’s treasured cabin that was turned over to his daughters, and then to Los Angeles to visit my Dad for the first time since before COVID.

For my first visit,  I asked my husband to stay in the car so I could visit with my Dad or perhaps just sit with him. It turned out that there was a recently hired care nurse, Martha, who stayed the whole visit.  It also turned out that my dad wanted to talk. I was that little blonde girl with ringlets of days gone by again when he told Martha how proud he was of me and the stories that connect us.  I stayed a little over an hour and gave him a hug and said I’d be back tomorrow.  The floor supervisor gave me a very nervous look but scurried away when she saw me leaving the deck area after our visit.  My husband and I went off to the Santa Monica Pier. I was relieved to see my dad doing well but a little sad that the mighty Peter Dyck was resigned to personal care, never returning to the house he loved, and the suggestion of Stockholm Syndrome.

When my husband and I arrived the next day to check in, the woman at the desk nervously reported my visiting privileges had been revoked. Clearly this was not something that happened very often. Again, the little girl with blonde ringlets was back and trembling uncontrollably.  I requested to see the woman giving this directive. The women refused to talk to me in person.  I understood that she had been given a directive. Even in her old age, my step-mother is scary woman powered by vitriole. I was handed a phone number and dismissed. I retreated into the response well learned from my mother in times of stress. I put on my sunglasses, held up my chin and focused on walking in a straight line.  I left a message for the nurse to call me in my very controlled principal voice and texted my younger sister.

She texts back:

“He was upset by the visit yesterday and stated to the staff that he didn’t want to have anymore visits from you.  It’s important that he have agency and that his voice/ choices are honoured.  He is doing very well there and I’m glad you were able to see him.” 

I texts back:

“I understand that is the story.”

She shoots back:

“It is the true story”.

End of communication.  

Cruelty wrapped in false piety that I have come to expect on my journeys south to see my California family.  I’ve just never mastered girding my loins.

The floor supervisor finally answered my calls.  The kindness and wisdom that I have experienced from people who work with dementia patients and their families was absent. In this institution with the pretty decorations and the shrimp cocktails at lunch, that is a service reserved for paying customers.  

My father’s response in dementia was turned against him and the rest of my visits blocked. Or perhaps I walked in looking like a spitting image of my mother, talking about life in Canada, and it did put him off balance. He certainly has cause for regret in his life. Or maybe his routine was put off balance because his Canadian daughter, the first Carole Dyck, had arrived for the first time in years. What can’t be taken away was that my father told me he was happy that I came and I felt loved and so did he. I’m glad it was a good visit because it was the last time I will consent to be treated with that degree of disrespect.

I got in the car with my husband and stalward supporter.  And I sobbed.  Then he indulged me in my quest to say goodbye.  We drove to my favourite house with lots of happy memories on Green Oak Drive.  We checked out the beginning of the path to where I would go hiking in the Hollywood Hills.  We drove down the very steep hill that I hated to ride up on my bike. I loved those days before my stepmother had her own kids and would speed down the hill with the top of the convertible down, hand me a fist full of coins for the plastic horse outside the grocery store and leave me to ride with coins to ride while she got groceries.  Good fun. We went to Griffith Park and I told Brad all about the zoo trips and the perverts.  We got caught in narrow streets clogged with traffic with the access to the Griffith Observatory blocked.  I took pictures of amazing, twisty trees and Art Deco houses.  

The hotel graciously let us check out early without a penalty, smelling catastrophe. And then we headed north.  We stopped to recalibrate with a dose of unconditional love from my adopted family in Santa Cruz.  And then we headed home with me struggling to keep my happy memories in sight.  That was bolstered by the stop at the Levis Store and the Nike Store in Oregon Outlet Mall. Rampant consumerism has always been part of my happy memories with my California family. The closer we came to the 49th parallel, the more the suffocating weigh lifted from my chest.  We crossed the border and a wave of euphoria swept over me. Safety. I could breathe.

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