Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Recording the journey (Part 2) in Our World

The previous post described Bill's stint in hospital, just the beginning of a journey to good health that will take us through at least the next ten months.  As I write, we've been dealing with some setbacks that, in the end, I think will seem minor.  The bigger picture that I'm holding firmly in my view is one of optimism.  
I am retracing steps, going back to May 6th, the day Bill was discharged from hospital.   Black Jack confirmed that she was happy to be watching over him from her clearly much appreciated position in the sun.
She looked quite regal, I thought, in the picture above, but shortly afterwards, came up with a comical pose after a little dip in the ocean.
Our walks at first were around the block and at quite a slow pace, all the better for..
enjoying the colourful Point Grey gardens.
This lady didn't object when Bill sat beside her..
and her dog even offered us a gift.
The bears ignored us (which was a good thing) and continued to frolic nearby.
There is a beautiful garden just a block and a half up the street from us, and the kind lady who designs and tends it came out when she saw us stop.  She gave me permission to take pictures, and a day or two later, when I stopped again, told me she was undergoing chemo treatments.  I haven't seen her since, but know..
her flowers bring peace and probably a boost along the way to health.  I think of her often.
On May 12th, we enjoyed our first return to Jazz Vespers concerts at St. Andrew's Wesley.  It appears they had no objection to Black Jack's presence in the front row.  The minister smiled at her often, as did several members of the congregation.
Karin Plato was performing with her ensemble.  I took pictures of each member of her group, but will just offer you two, this one of her drummer deep in concentration..
and this one of Karin giving her all in a burst of joyful song.
Black Jack seems to like St. Andrew's and made herself at home on Bill's lap,
even taking a moment to "smile" for the camera.
Smiles are always most appreciated, but especially during this bit of a rough patch in our lives, so Black Jack's rather toothy one seems the perfect place to conclude Part 2 of the journey.  Part 3 to follow when time permits, but in the mean time, Bill and I both thank you for the many good wishes.  He is on the wait list to begin chemo treatments this Thursday.  I will keep you posted as to how he fares with that.  In the mean time, keep smiling along with us, and if you have the time, don't forget to stop by Our World Tuesday for a glimpse into the lives of people from all over the world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Changes in Bill's and therefore in my World

It's been a while.  About three weeks before Bill's surgery on April 24th for Colon Cancer, it became impossible to blog.  I was just too scared, at first, and then, too busy.  We're not out of the woods yet.  There will be six months of chemo treatments and then, a couple of months after that, one more surgery to put Bill's digestive system back in order.  There have been complications along the way, but much to celebrate as well.  When this beautiful package from friend, Ann, arrived in the mail, I had the most wonderful time watching Bill's pleasure as he checked out the different items.
We both loved the puzzle that was not too hard and not too easy.  Perfect to wile away
a rainy afternoon a couple of days later.  Bill put most of the pieces together but I had fun doing the border while he filled in the story of Brendan the Navigator's perilous voyage to find paradise.  As you can see, Black Jack was happy to supervise, and I believe.. 
she approved of the final result that now lies proudly displayed on the coffee table.  Thank you, Ann!  Your sweet thoughtfulness really meant a lot to both of us.
I began this post on June 12th, Bill's birthday, hoping it would be a way of expressing how much I love him.  Here I am on Tuesday, the 17th, a week past my goal. So, you ask, what did I give Bill for his birthday?   I'd show you the date-cherry squares, but they are consumed.  I adapted the recipe from this one found at KB's site.   She describes herself as an "inspirational artist, writer, yogini, musician and dog lover" but so far, I've just explored the date square recipe, one that I've used and enjoyed many times over.  Here are approximate proportions in my adaptation for a 9" square pan: 1 c. coconut, 1 c. almonds, 1/3 c. dates for the crust/topping and about 1.3 C. dates/dried cherries with 1/2 cup water for the filling. Everything unsweetened, raw, organic, mixed in the food processor and pressed into a 9" square pan.  But, I digress.  What did I give Bill that you can actually see?  Well, here are the pictures taken on the afternoon of the 12th. 
Nobody was more surprised than Bill when we had lift off!
and higher..
and higher..
and still higher it went on this..
magnificent day when the rain stopped, the wind died and the sun found pathways between cotton ball clouds.  Whoops, that little helicopter moved a bit more quickly than anticipated.
Then, in an instant, it dove, 
tried to recover, and finally.. crash landed.  Undaunted, Bill feels sure a minor repair will have "us" flying again soon, and in the mean time, we are happy to admire..  
the vivid red of "our" gutsy little Litehawk.
Black Jack, once again, supervised with vivacious enthusiasm.  
I am driven to document our voyage over these past seven weeks, and realize that will mean another way-too-long post.  For those of you with limited time, this might be a good spot to stop reading.  That I love Bill is probably quite evident, and that is the most important message of this post.  I am inspired by his courage in dealing with the challenges of an illness that took both of us by surprise and joining him to celebrate the many good moments seems the best strategy to give us strength to cope with whatever lies ahead.  Together, and with the help of "salt of the earth" people around us, we aim to live a long, healthy life together, but in the mean time, an "in the moment" philosophy will make sure that we don't miss the good stuff along the way to that goal.  
The Voyage
A few days before the surgery, we climbed Mount Thom.  Both of us, for some reason, saw Thom as Thorn, and to this day, we refer to it as such, though we did discover our error somewhere along the trail.  It was a challenging but very satisfying hike, and Bill did what I thought was an especially cool "tree hugger" impersonation.
We spent some time talking with this young hiker, and though we have forgotten her name, we remember her friendliness, discipline (she was training to do the West Coast Trail with her brother and some friends) and quiet appreciation for the beauty around us.
One of the most spectacular events of the day was a raven dance involving a gathering of perhaps 25 or more ravens.  Neither of us had ever witnessed anything like it before.  Here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of their wild frolicking.
This one threw the clump of earth, flipped upside down..
and caught it in a spectacular feat of acrobatic skill.  We noticed them as we climbed, but the ultimate show was from the lookout at the top.  That kept us entertained for at least an hour.  
I love this photo of Bill and Black Jack taken a day or two later in David Lam Park.

Some of you may remember Tupper, the only seagull I have ever seen with a tail that points up.  Get it?  Tail up equals Tupper :)  That day, Tupper gave us a flying demonstration that absolutely reassured me that s/he is getting along just fine in his/her modified flying form.  
Two days before the surgery, we walked at Jericho Park and Bill spotted this turtle.
He tried to encourage a crow to sit in his hand, and almost succeeded.  In the end, the crow waited him out, and accepted a treat thrown to what it considered a safer distance.  No matter.  I love the picture of the attempt and Black Jack's expressions as she ponders the waste of throwing her treats out of reach.
This was moments after being wheeled out of the recovery room.  Bless his heart for finding a way to make me laugh.   
It was a rocky time for the next 13 days, especially when the epidural wore off and reality set in.  Throughout, Bill and I walked the halls of St. Paul's Hospital as much as possible, and enjoyed the architectural details..
of a structure first built in 1894 by the Sisters of Providence.  
You can read some of the hospital's history here.
Each day, we caught new details of the balconies and pathways viewed from our 10th floor perspective.  
Often, I imagined Rapunzel letting down her hair from the various windows.
From my downtown apartment, it was only a 15 minute walk to the hospital, and along the way, I often enjoyed the gardens, some in front of private dwellings and others in community gardens.  This flower, on one of our difficult days, gave me much comfort.
In each wing, photos of the staff members were posted.  I name only  a few of many hardworking and dedicated people: Ali because he not only offered lots of positive and helpful advice but he loved to talk photography, Gordon because he was super efficient and always found time for a little play with Black Jack, Marianne who was never actually Bill's nurse but was always willing to talk when we had questions, and finally, the overworked cleaning lady who brightened whenever she found a moment to tell me about her dogs.  
One day, Bill pointed out the golden light on this tree and I knew his keen eye was returning to active duty.

The views from Bill's room and from the hallways were often spectacular, but the walls..
also had much of interest.  This was Bill's favourite painting.  If you look closely, you can see his reflection in it.
There was also an aquarium with some colourful species of fish that were new to us.

We were both fascinated with this baby feeding from its mother.
I also deeply appreciated that well-behaved dogs were permitted to visit.  Bill was too ill to gain much pleasure from Black Jack's presence but just knowing that she didn't have to spend such long hours at home, and that I could cuddle her from time to time was so very comforting.  She even stayed with me one entire night when Bill's condition became especially worrying.  She was unusually quiet, sitting in this chair, sometimes checking out the view and sometimes watching over Bill.  She accompanied us for our walks in the hallways and loved it when nurse Gordon stopped to play with her or give her a little massage.  She loved entering and leaving the hospital, partly because there was a resident skunk living under a bush near the front door and she also spied rats late one night chasing each other around the garbage bin on the front sidewalk.  We didn't see them again, but for Black Jack, the potential for a repeat performance was most enticing.
This is Finnegan, another very sweet dog, willing to accept a treat from me, but mostly absorbed with the job of watching over his mistress who spent several days in the bed across from Bill's.  Black Jack and Finnegan took a moment to exchange greetings, but seemed to understand that the focus was on their respective charges and not on each other.
Bill was discharged on May 6th, a happy (and slightly scary) day for both of us. Black Jack and I are now settled in his Point Grey home, and doing our best to take care of him.
"Hey, Cousin!"
We saw this flower on one of our first walks.
Black Jack loved visiting Jericho beach on a day when the sun came out.
We also have had some lovely walks in Pacific Spirit Park.  Bill especially enjoyed this gnome watching over the forest.
We sat for a while on this park bench contemplating the inscription, "Great spot to see both the forest and the trees."
Bill and I summoned the energy to vote in Elections BC, with just a little help in the form of a suggestion (command) from his sister, Phyllis :)
From Bill's back yard, I have the great pleasure of watching birds in the neighbouring gardens.  On each side of us are avid gardeners who also happen to be very friendly and generous human beings.  I've been given free reign to enter their gardens to take pictures to my heart's content.  This hummingbird was in Marie's garden,   
We also enjoy walking along the lane behind the house and Bill was the first to notice this weather vane..

as well as this drawing on a boarded up garage.  Both were brand new to us, though we were pretty sure they had been there for quite some time, possibly even years. 
Black Jack has adjusted to the changes in her life in typical fashion.  As long as she has her loved ones nearby, food to eat, a soft place to sleep and a bit of vim and vigour in her life, she's happy.  She also loves to seek out a sunny spot in Bill's yard.  As you can see, she's suffering quite a bit, but dealing bravely with the hardships.

A visit from Paul (Bill's nephew-in-law), with his two dear little sons, was great fun.  We walked to Trimble Park where Bill and Paul caught up on the latest news..

and Paul's five-year-old overcame his fear of dogs.  It did my heart good to see how much fun he had with Black Jack.

I admire Paul for many reasons (amazing violinist, chef, husband, father) but the one that stands out most in my mind is his ability to let the inner kid in him come to the surface.  He and his youngest son made me laugh..

and smile.. 
"Hm.  Where did my hat go?"

and just plain enjoy the day.
"What do you think?  Is it me?"  

Bill's sister, Phyllis, is one of those salt-of-the-earth" people I mentioned.  More about that in a moment, but here, her delight in her beautiful grandchild, and her encouragement of what I believe will be a lifelong respect and love for nature, just warms my heart.  

Black Jack fell asleep about three seconds after returning home from the park.

These roses are in Jane's garden on our west side.  I love to watch both Jane and Marie work in their gardens.  Contentment, appreciation, anticipation and sheer joy come through in their voices and in the way they lovingly handle the each new bloom.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't admire and want to photograph a flower.  

More pictures of happy Black Jack.  She loves that Bill is once more able to play..

her favourite run-between-Carol-and-Bill game.

I was happy to catch just the tiniest bit of red in this hummingbird in Marie's garden, but then..

it stuck its tongue out!  Wow!  A first for me to see such a sight.

It's impossible to catch up all we have done or thought about over the past few weeks, so I bow to the inevitable and make this a to-be-continued post.  Before I go, though, I need to tell you about two people.  Raven, Bill's ex-wife is one of them.  She cooked (I'm guessing for days) to prepare soups that have slowly been disappearing from our freezer.  Raven is a cook extraordinaire.  One day, she spent several hours teaching me how to make soup, though I haven't yet taken advantage of my lesson, since she has kept us stocked.  My biggest regret is that I didn't take pictures of her that day, so I will have to make do with a very nice one of her that I took when we visited Salt Spring two summers ago.
Another person I must tell you about is Phyllis, Bill's sister.  When Bill and I went through a particularly difficult time, Phyllis arrived within hours of learning about it.  She flew (!) from Victoria and stayed for several days, during which time the meds kicked in and things began to look up again.  She did most of the cooking while she was here, and helped me with ideas for cooking salmon and chicken.  (I've been vegetarian for 40+ years and vegan for the last two, but know it is important to give Bill the foods that he enjoys.)  Well, Phyllis, you will be thrilled to know that I found a great recipe for salmon that Bill absolutely loves.  Here it is, just in case anyone else could use a recipe idea. The only change I made is substituting mustard seeds (ground) for the dijon.  She came again the following week, this time just for the afternoon, and we enjoyed a lovely walk together.
I tried to take a picture with Black Jack but she was having so much fun rolling in the grass, we couldn't get her to pose.
The day before she left from the first visit, she brought us these flowers.  

The memory of her kindness is forever wrapped up in these last two photographs.  Thank you so much, Phyllis!

Hopefully, more to follow soon but in the meantime, I apologize for not getting to your blogs.  I'm hoping to return to that enjoyable past time in the future, but for now, my beautiful Bill remains top priority.  And, don't forget!  You can read about people from around the world by checking out the Our World Tuesday web site.  Thank you so much for taking time to stop by!