My Doctor Fantasy (Spoiler Alert: Nothing to do with Dr. McDreamy)

Thinking about what my blog topic might be today as we near the end of Sjogren’s awareness month, I began to make notes about the guilt of being ill, missing out on events, letting others down and the self-loathing that may accompany chronic illness of any sort, both physical and mental.

Shortly after making my notes, my son arrived with the mail which contained a letter for me indicating a date for a follow-up appointment with a specialist in the city closest to where we live. Unfortunately, it is not close. The hospital that I go to for specialist appointments is three hours from our home. I have a Rheumatologist, Cardiologist, Dermatologist, Neurologist, and Heptologist / Gastroenterologist all at the same hospital.

The letter from this particular specialist had a triggering effect. Emotions I thought were long dispersed bubbled to the surface; lava out of a dormant volcano.

I saw her for the first time last July for a consult after I had been for an overnight emergency room stay at our local rural hospital. I’d previously been seen in this particular hospital out-patient clinic by a kind, compassionate Nurse Practitioner, in whom I had the utmost trust and confidence. I guess that is why when I went for the appointment with the specialist herself I was expecting the same type of person. I was wrong.

The specialist began by asking me questions, and then refused to let me answer. Next she sat up perfectly straight and leaned forward, telling me how things were going to proceed, stopping only to ask if I had questions about she had just told me, but once again not actually answering my questions or addressing my concerns. I became frustrated and started to cry momentarily. Because I’m polite, or felt guilty, or maybe just because I’m Canadian or some other bizarre reason, I apologised for crying.

I could tell she had no clue why I had come to tears. From her response it was obvious she assumed I was upset about the diagnosis and the incidents that had occurred at the rural hospital. Of course, I was also not pleased about that, however what briefly turned my water works on in her office was her arrogant demeanor and total disregard for anything I said or attempted to say in between her “telling me” what had happened, and how it would be going forward.

After only a matter of minutes in the exam room with her, I realized trying to say anything to her whatsoever was an exercise in futility. She had an agenda and she was going to just run it right over me, back it up and do it all over again. So, I decided to stop speaking to her. She looked pleased.

I’m sure she assumed I was now listening to her every word implicitly and that my silence indicted utmost agreement. What actually was happening was I was engaging in a fantasy. I was imagining grabbing her by her hair, throwing her out of her chair, slamming her head repeatedly onto the linoleum floor, saying “Shut up, and listen to me for five seconds, bitch!”

Okay, there goes any image anyone ever had of me being sweet, innocent, or polite. I don’t think in that moment I have ever been so frustrated in my entire life. As I then glanced down at the floor while she spoke, I examined her fabulous four inch stiletto heeled black pumps and envisioned her in the Three Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale story – a white-coated, black spike heeled / hoofed goat. Clip-clop. Clip- Clop across a foot bridge, intimidating everyone in her path, even the trolls.

Mr. Wanton was present at the appointment, but he was silent throughout. Soon enough she dismissed us. Stopping once we were a distance away down the hall, I turned to Mr. Wanton, asking what he thought of the appointment. He just shook his head. Asking why he had not said anything, he replied, “There was no point.” I was in agreement. I then told him what I had been fantasizing when I gave up trying to have a discussion with her. Mr. Wanton’s eyes widened. We’ve been married for quite some time, he has never heard me speak of anyone in that way. On the drive home I said, “I never want to see her again.”

Today as I read the letter I re-lived that appointment. My first reaction was that I was not going to see her again. Mr. Wanton reminded me I didn’t have to, I could get another doctor. But it is not that simple when the city you go to for specialized care is small. There are a limited number of specialists, especially those who specialize in a particular group of patients. Today for the first time, I had the thought perhaps something had happened in her life before we arrived at the appointment that day which was difficult for her. I have the urge to humanize her. I want to believe she just had a bad day, and took it out on me. I told Mr. Wanton I will give her one more chance. This time, I won’t be blindsided.

I wish I could say this is the only time I have been disappointed by a physician, but it is not. It is heart-breaking to me that patients are all too often treated with so little respect. Being a physician is without a doubt stressful and difficult, but so too is being a patient. I’d like to believe we could meet each other halfway, with compassion and empathy. I’m not so sure.

Recently I began reading a new book by Danielle Ofri, M.D. called “What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear.” Dr. Ofri cites a research study showing, on average, doctors first interrupt patients within 12 seconds of the patient speaking. Equally disturbing, yet another study showed results indicating physicians “re-directed” the conversation from the patients primary concern in less than half a minute (again on average) into the visit. The fact a physician is bringing the topic of doctor-patient communication to the forefront is an encouraging sign. I can only hope better days are ahead, and I will never have doctor abuse fantasies again.

A mouth guard, Mr. Wanton, a pretzel & Me

Last week, I did actually have a dry mouth incident that left both Mr. Wanton and I in hysterical laughter. (If you are my mother, you should stop reading right here.) I had been to the dentist and on Friday afternoon (several hours after dental office had closed for the weekend) I put my night mouth guard on just because I was thinking about wearing it again (I hadn’t for quite awhile).

(No, Mr. Wanton did not say that to me. It would have been nice if he had though.)

Anyway, I popped it on my upper teeth. It was a bit snug but still comfortable enough. Then, I went to remove it but it wouldn’t budge. I recalled it always being a bit difficult, so I didn’t panic. Working at the edge again with my finger, I realized how dry my mouth was. I kept pulling at it, trying different locations along my upper gum line and teeth. My mouth and teeth were dry, so I started to panic a little thinking there was no lubrication between the teeth and the guard to help slide it off.

After trying to pry it off for over half an hour, I went to Mr. Wanton in the other room, and said through near tears: “I know this is ridiculous. F*** my life. What bloody next? I got my mouth guard stuck on my teeth and I cannot get it off, it’s Friday and I am going to be stuck like this until Monday when the dental office opens!”

He started to laugh, hard. I was furious at him for laughing at me, but I also realized the ridiculousness of my predicament and I started to laugh uncontrollably as well. Every time I started to say something, we’d both start laughing again. When we finally recovered, he said: “I can drive you to Dr. S’s house to get it off.” Our dentist is a “neighbour” about five miles down the country road. I said “No, I’m sure he doesn’t have dental tools at home.”

Then I saw a light bulb go on over Mr. Wanton’s head. He pulled a kitchen drawer open and took out a butter knife. Holding the knife in the air, he stepped toward me saying: “Here, I’ll do it”. Once again I burst into uncontrollable nervous laughter, but through it I managed to say: “No way, you might break my teeth! I’ll stay like this until Monday.”

(Even though I admit by then the mouth guard was feeling too tight, hurting my gums a bit, and I’m not sure if it was the stress, maniacal laughter, or the mouth guard, but I could feel a headache coming on. I knew there was no way I could possibly keep it on until Monday.)

So, Mr. Wanton said, “Fine then” and wandered off shaking his head. I went into our bedroom, sat on the bed and pried at that thing until finally I felt a glimmer of hope as over a gold crown covered tooth it finally budged enough for me to get a bit of leverage on it. Then with one desperate yank, it came off completely. Perhaps it was smoother there, or not quite as close a fit in that spot. Whew. I threw the mouth guard in the garbage.

The very next day, I took a bite of a pretzel chip, a new product I bought to try, biting it in two. The piece I bit off went to the roof of my mouth and got stuck on my palette, literally lodged there instantly. Like the previous day, I walked over to Mr. Wanton and said: “Would you believe I just got half a pretzel chip stuck on the roof of my mouth?” He started laughing, again. No matter how hard I pushed on it with my tongue it wouldn’t move. I tried water, nothing happened. He said: “Just pull it off!” I said: “Can’t you see I’m trying!” Finally after several attempts I managed to stick my finger on it, getting under an edge and dislodging it. I am now sworn off pretzels and mouth guards…for life.

(I do realize the meme says “pretzel’s” and it SHOULD be “pretzels”….either way you spell it, right or wrong, the pretzels did make me grumpy…..AND anxious.)

If sleeping becomes an Olympic event, I’m going to win!

Should the subject of sleep and insomnia come up when Mr. Wanton and I are at a social event, he is sure to say: “My wife is the best sleeper I know. No one looks happier when sleeping than she does.” I never contradict him, nor will I ever argue it is not true. Instead, I have been known to reply: “Yes, if sleeping were an Olympic event, I would be the gold medal winner!”


(What Mr. Wanton thinks I look like when sleeping….yes, smiling.)

80% of Sjogren’s patients have persistent fatigue as a symptom, according to a recent Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation study (2016), making it the third most prevalent symptom after dry eyes and dry mouth. It is such a common complaint, fatigue is now considered a “hallmark symptom” of the disease.

As I mentioned in my last post, it was indeed the first symptom I noticed, the one that lead to my repeated visits to the doctor as I sought to discover what was going on with my body. In hindsight, I had dry eyes and dry mouth at that time as well, but the progression was so slow I did not notice. Overwhelming fatigue and soreness throughout my body were much more difficult to live with, and ignore.

After a day of “dragging my carcass around”, as both Mr. Wanton and I like to refer to it, nothing brings me more pleasure than crawling into my bed. Admittedly, I am a creature of comfort come the end of the day. And I have a definite routine for how I get my tired and sore body comfortable at bedtime.

Before I use bathroom for the last time, and put my “eye goop” in, I heat a couple of “magic bags” in the microwave, then I crawl in to my bed which has the softest finest thread count flannelette sheets on top of a quilted faux down mattress cover. I just noticed I called it “my bed”; I do so frequently without intention, regardless of the fact I share it with Mr. Wanton because I guess it is just that important to me.

So, I climb into the king size bed, and roll on my right side (I have a phobia of going to sleep on my left side and feeling my heartbeat, since having some severe atrial fibrillation episodes at bedtime), putting a body pillow between my knees and against my torso, then I put the heated bags on across my low back + hip area. Then I put my head on my pillow which is the most incredibly soft pillow I could find, took years to get the right one but it was so worth it. I might love that pillow more than Mr. Wanton.

A few months ago at book club we read a dystopian novel. At one point during the discussion, the facilitator asked us: “if you had time to take only one item from your home, what would it be?” Without hesitation, I answered “my pillow”. Everyone looked at me, disbelieving, speechless. All I said was “I love my pillow”. That was my answer because I know if I could have my all-time favourite pillow and get sleep, perhaps I could survive the apocalypse. I’m surviving Sjogren’s, so why the hell not aim even higher?

For the most part if I have a “regular day”, meaning no extra or out of the ordinary activities, I can fall asleep relatively easily, the aches and pains of the day relieved by heat on my back and hips, the softness of my bed, comfortable bedding, and exhaustion leading to quick sleep for eight –nine hours without waking for more than seconds at a time to shift positions or add eye drops because I feel my cornea getting stuck to my eyelid, then boom, back to sleep immediately. I would like to report feeling refreshed and pain free when getting my full night’s sleep, but it would be a lie. I never feel rested no matter how long I sleep, or how soundly. Never. I begin every single day feeling tired, and sore.

I am one of the fortunate patients who is able to sleep. Many, many Sjogren’s patients report difficulty with falling and staying asleep for various reasons such as joint pain, dry mouth, headaches, restless leg syndrome, neuropathic pain, etc.

If I have a day with even one slightly non-routine activity that has added more soreness to my joints and muscles, I can have difficulty, and be awake for hours trying to get comfortable enough to ignore the pain and fall asleep. Sometimes, that involves using topical pain relief products or OTC pain meds (though because I also have autoimmune hepatitis I try to avoid them).

Mr. Wanton claims I “run around all day”, until I am “ready to drop”, then “jump into bed”. What he actually means is I move at a snail’s pace, followed by some sloth like hours prior to bedtime, then yes, I do drop into bed. His perception of me moving all day is not because of me running anywhere, but because I find being in ANY one position for any amount of time uncomfortable. I get stiff and sore. His scientific test for my amount of movement being abnormal is that I cannot sit still without moving, and if a TV program is more than half an hour I need to get up and move around, or do something to distract myself from the pain.

Often I have been asked if I nap during the day. The answer is no. I have attempted the art of napping, but never mastered it. I think my difficulty is falling into deep sleep rapidly, so upon waking from a daytime nap I am groggy to the point of feeling unwell. A friend in California told me her naturopathic doctor says if you are unable to sleep during the day, a period of even twenty minutes rest in a horizontal position is restorative for the adrenal glands. I have not researched to discover the truth of this information, but certainly rest periods are healthy and essential for me, and all other Sjogren’s patients I know.

Sleep may be what I love doing more than any other activity. I realize life is short, and hate to think I’m sleeping so much of mine away, but my body and mind crave it. Sleep is my escape from the fatigue and pain that plagues my every waking moment.

Coming soon: The best advice a Rheumatologist ever gave me; plus how do fatigue, joint pain, and muscle soreness limit my daily activities; how I cope with sunny outdoor activities; how my life has changed; and more.

P.S. I originally intended to blog daily for Sjogren’s Awareness Month but yesterday I was too tired, and too sore – my fingers especially were not happy, so I took a day off.

the two “P” words….

Can you think of two words that start with “p” and fit together perfectly?

And no, all you innately sexual creatures, once again, I am not thinking of “that”. Remember, I told you before, this is not the place for sexually wanton writing, yet somehow ever since I said that, innuendo continues to appear.

The two seldom verbalized or admitted, but often practiced words, are the reason I have been away from my blog the last seventeen days. Of course I’m referring to procrastination and perfectionism. Usually when I am away from my blog for awhile it is because of one or the other, or both.

Recently I wrote a 2500 word short story for a timed international writing contest, NYC Midnight. One of my Underground Writing Cohort friends had tempted me to give it a whirl. I had a week to complete and submit the story after being assigned a genre, character, and a specific subject to be included.

Thanks to doing the story for the contest I became more self-aware. I discovered I can procrastinate perfectly. I never considered myself a perfectionist before. I now realized I was obviously wrong.

To be fair, the first three days I did have a migraine headache. Apparently people who have Sjogren’s are also prone to migraines at a more frequent rate than other migraine sufferers; hooray for us. Mine start by feeling like a vague sinus headache then build up to full frontal facial pain for three days. Needless to say pain encompassing my entire face is not conducive to my creative pursuits. So, right off the get go I was down to four days.

While I wasn’t sitting at my computer typing out my story I WAS doing what I do best – writing the story in my head. I told Mr. Wanton it would be extremely helpful to me if he, of technological expertise and mechanical invention, could possibly come up with something that could transcribe my thoughts automatically into a word document on my computer. You know, like verbal word transcription, but for my thoughts. He said “that is a bad, bad, idea.” What does he know? Oh yah, I usually tell him what I am thinking. Perhaps his opinion is of value in this instance.

Upon the end of the headache I should have been ready to type up my story, right? Wrong. For the next few days I proceeded to attack my long lost to-do list with a vengeance – the one that sits permanently on my desk, with items dating back to 1999, not all of which are crossed off yet.

Wow – more self-awareness – if I wanted to finally accomplish my least appealing tasks, the long overdue “leftovers” on my to-do list, all I had to do is commit myself to something I wanted to do even less, in this case the short story.

Perfect. I could put off the short story writing, not feeling guilty whatsoever, because I was getting lots of other stuff done. You know, important stuff – like organize my panties and socks, look up random symptoms via Google, watch Adele and Bruno Mars “Careoke” videos on YouTube repeatedly (okay, admittedly that wasn’t on my to-do list but in hindsight it should have been). I accidentally discovered the most seriously underrated motivational technique for overcoming procrastination ever.

So that brings me to this moment. How did I get over my procrastination to write a blog post today? Easy answer, the alternative was the now top priority item on my to-do list – personal income tax. Uh-huh, I definitely found what I can do perfectly every time.

fullsizerender-10

P.S. In case you are curious, I did complete the short story in eight hours on the seventh day, well before the midnight deadline.

I came out of the closet at book club. #BellLetsTalk

I belong to the book club at the public library, a welcoming and eclectic group of women aged from twenty-something to seventy plus. The group consists of stay at home moms, retired teachers, a retired therapist, a hairdresser, small business owners, office administrators, a power engineer, a librarian, school counsellor, and a candlestick maker. Ok, not really, no candlestick maker, but people from all walks of life. We welcome men to our group, however only one has ever shown up, mostly he ate cake and then fell soundly asleep (thankfully he did not snore). To show you how polite we all are, not a single person snapped a photo while he dozed under the brim of his cowboy hat.

Being open to members of the public, most of the people are strangers to each other upon joining the group, save for the few who came together in the safety of a pair. Books are selected by the members in rotation throughout the year. As you can imagine the selections are as diverse as the members. Over the last couple of years we have at times made comment that we hadn’t ever read humorous books. I made it my mission to find one as my selection to kick off our new season in September. I chose Jenny Lawson’s memoir: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”. All I knew about it prior to selecting it was that it was supposed to be hilarious (I love funny) and her Dad had been a taxidermist (I love animals both alive and dead, but mostly alive). I did not know she suffered from a mental illness.

It would have been nice if someone had tipped me off to the number of f-bombs Lawson drops, since we have some “church going women”, well-mannered ladies who I was sure would not be amused by the profanity. But as I said, we meet at a public library, so in keeping with my own no-censorship and “freedom to read” ideals I didn’t skip out on the gathering to discuss the book even though I knew there would be people who would not appreciate my selection. I was not too concerned, as only once in our many year history was there a difference of opinion so profound I thought perhaps two people might succumb to fistacuffs. (Yes, that’s real word – consult the urban dictionary.) The book being discussed was “Eat, Pray, Love”. While two ladies went at it over whether Ms. Gilbert was selfish or not, the rest of us ate, prayed no bloodshed when ensue and loved the short-lived bit of drama unfolding before our very eyes that had never occurred before (or since).

The night of my selection I was nervous about how people would respond to the book (and tragically I admit, of course what they’d think of me being the one who had chosen it), but with the exception of two people out of about fourteen they thought it was funny, claiming to enjoy it. I suspect those who hated it the most, or were repulsed by the language decided to stay home watching re-runs or reading Jodi Picoult. (Story for another day: “How I trashed Jodi Picoult at book club in 2013”. Something I realize I should never do until I write and sell as many millions of books as she has.)

Anyway, as the discussion went round and around the circle I found myself bristling inside. It seemed, and maybe it was just my perception, that some people did not understand the reality of living with anxiety and the obsessions and compulsions that can happen as a result. They didn’t get that sometimes a person has to laugh at themselves and their eccentricities so they don’t cry. How Ms. Lawson described anxiety was accurate.

Suddenly I found myself blurting out “I have anxiety – medical anxiety – and this book made me feel better – it made me feel kind of normal.” I think I saw recognition and empathy in a woman’s eyes. I pretended not to notice. I was conscious of not drawing attention to her. I wanted her to say: “You know what? I do too”. I wanted anyone to say “me too”. No one did. I understand. I had not intended to tell anyone that night I suffer from anxiety. I think Jenny Lawson’s honesty, courage, and humour inspired me to finally come out of the closet when I least expected to. But you know what? I am glad I did; it felt good to let the secret out.

fullsizerender-8

I decided to write this story in honor of #BellLetsTalk day January 25th, the day when Bell donates five cents to mental health initiatives every time the hashtag #BellLetsTalk is used on social media. Over the years the campaign has generated nearly 80 million dollars while encouraging those with mental health challenges to come forward to tell their stories, and to educate those who don’t have such struggles so they may understand and be supportive to those who do.

For more information on Bell Let’s Talk go to: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/bell-lets-talk-day

Visit Jenny Lawson’s blog at: http://www.thebloggess.com

An older post I wrote just about the book club I belong to:https://wantonwordflirt.com/2013/11/19/book-club-tonight-2/

Queen of Cliche’s Friday the 13th

img_2818

I have a confession to make – Mr. Wanton affectionately calls me the “Queen of Clichés”. Being a blogger, a writer, a sometimes poet, this is not a title I should be proud of in any way.

He crowned me the Queen after decades of daily use of such phrases as: I look like the wreck of the Hesperus and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Admittedly, I do overuse clichés. I know it, I own it. When I write for public consumption I consciously attempt to avoid them. However, after the day I had yesterday I realize sometimes what happens in a day warrants the use of clichés; sometimes a brain just needs to rely on old stand-bys to get the job done.

Depending on your level of belief in superstition and how your day went yesterday you may understand what I am talking about. Yesterday was Friday the 13th, a supposed bad luck day. Since my eldest son was born on the 13th day, I personally consider it a lucky number, a lucky day.

As a child I avoided stepping on sidewalk cracks so my mother wouldn’t break her back, but I have never been one to avoid walking under ladders or feared black cats crossing my path. Moral of that story: I feared my mother much more than black cats or ladders.

So knowing full well the date, I went about my day yesterday filled with optimism and a sense of good fortune. Perhaps I was a little too smug in my outlook from the outset, you know what they say – Karma is a bitch. See? Sometimes clichés are really the best for what you want to say. Cut to the chase, everyone knows exactly what I am talking about.

So, my day away from home officially started with a haircut with a stylist who delivers a beyond relaxing shampoo and sensual scalp massage. Once confessing I nearly moaned out loud in the chair while she was running her fabulous nails along my scalp, she said I would not have been the first. (Notice how ever since I said this blog was not sexual in nature sexual innuendo has been popping up? It’s like that old childhood game when someone would say: “I will say a word and do not think of the word I say.” They say “blue”, and hence it is all you could think about.)

After my hair appointment, I ran a few errands in record time in the suddenly increasingly warm winter weather. I mailed a small parcel that fit into the letter size slot and was low enough in weight to be mailed as a letter instead of parcel saving me about ten dollars. The postal clerk said “It’s your lucky day!” It did indeed feel like it was, so next I went and bought a lottery ticket. Then I met a friend for tea downtown, later running into my son’s girlfriend and a book club friend to have a visit with as well. The sun was shining; I was on a roll having the most relaxing day.

Then I went home. That’s when the you know what hit the fan, the wheels fell off the bus, and the day from Hell began. I knew I shouldn’t have counted my chickens before they hatched. It was all too good to be true, the cliché is correct: all good things must come to an end.

And, do you think I won the lottery? Not a snowball’s chance in Hell.

Big money, little glamour!

Opening up the white business envelope to see my first paycheque nestled inside was a thrill not to be forgotten quickly. Though minimum wage, it was still three times what I was paid for babysitting kids in our neighbourhood, which was one dollar per hour.

I thought the salary was glamorous, but the work was not. I was one of six students hired to do janitorial work after school each day at my high school.

Every day immediately at dismissal bell we headed over to the janitorial room to pick up our heavy industrial vacuums and rolling carts of cleaning products to get busy vacuuming classrooms, emptying wastebaskets, dusting, cleaning blackboards, and worst of all scouring the washrooms.

The only real perk was the privilege of reading the graffiti on the walls of the boys’ washrooms before we had to wash it off, always hoping never to see our own names.

*****************************************************************************

This was yet again another morsel of “Bite-Size Memoir” initiated by blogger Lisa Reiter.

Each week a prompt is given for a 150 word ( no more, no less) piece of  memoir to be written.

Check out more here: http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/bite-size-memoir-no-6-first-jobs/

“Red Ribbons + Mullets”

Legs moving as fast as possible, like pistons in a luxury sports car, arms pumping alongside. Chest straight and head tall until the very last second lean forward to anticipate the finish. Every boy hoping to be first in the sprints, the senior high elite events.

“GO! GO! GO!” All the girls encouraging their favorites on the sidelines. Important to cheer on your hometown guys during the county track and field meet, but who could resist checking out the boys from all the neighboring towns who came to compete too.

It was the seventies. Short shorts and mullets were everywhere. It was just a matter of deciding who you thought was the cutest guy of all. There were stars, easy to pick out by red first place, and blue second place ribbons pinned on the front of their t-shirts. The losers sat sunning themselves bare-chested, they were definitely noticed too.

**************************************************************************

 

This was yet another piece of “Bite-size Memoir” initiated by blogger Lisa Reiter. Check out her project / more memoir based on her weekly prompts at:

http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bite-size-memoir-no-4-sports-day/#comments

 

Bite-size Memoir Yum, yum!

A fellow blogger, Lisa Reiter, started a project called “Bite-sized Memoir”. The challenge is to write a 150 word piece of memoir on the topic she provides each week. Thought I’d give it a go. If you’d like to learn more, or participate (even if you are not a blogger you may do the challenge and post in the comments section of her blog on the page for each week’s particular topic). Here is the link for more information / guidelines:

http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/bite-size-memoir-no-1-school-at-seven/comment-page-2/#comment-239

This week’s topic was “School at Seven”. I missed her deadline for compilation but decided to do it anyway to warm-up for next week’s topic which she will publish tomorrow.

I am curious to see if I will find this writing just as delicious as those bite-size muffins I was woofing down from the market all summer!

 

School at Seven

I entered the grade two class of Miss Dari at St. Paul Elementary School in 1968. Her classroom was on the east side of the “old grey school”, the single story wing attached to a brand new two story wing for the older kids. The “older kids” were grade four and five. My Mom was up there too, teaching grade five.
I have few memories of particular activities and lessons in the classroom. However, strangely enough, I have a very vivid recollection of the very first word list lesson in the little hardcover Macmillan spelling text book. The first words we had to know how to spell that year were: the, is, not, cat, cow, car. And they were in that exact order. I would challenge any psychotherapist or neuro-psychologist to explain to me why that spelling list remains embedded in my memory to this very day.

On a pot hole & a prayer!

030

Being an only child, my mother tended to be rather protective of me.

I grew up in an era when people did not wear seatbelts because most vehicles did not even have them. My mother’s rule to keep me safe in a vehicle was that I must always sit in the backseat, even if there was only the driver and myself in the vehicle. I respected the rule. Even if I was going two blocks down the dusty main street with my Grandpa in his Volkswagen Beetle to the Co-op grocery store in our small prairie town, I still had to sit in the backseat as though I had my own personal taxi driver or chauffeur.

So, it came as no surprise to me that the night before, and again on the morning of my departure on an out of town car trip with my piano teacher, my Mom reminded me: “Don’t forget to sit in the backseat.” I assured her I would, as my Dad pulled our car up to the side door of the convent to drop me off at 8:30 a.m.

I was going to the music festival in Lac la Biche, with my piano teacher, a Catholic nun, as well as another nun from the convent and three other girls. We were all from the same school, all in within a grade of each other, and we all took piano lessons once a week from Sister Komery, or Sister Canary as I called her behind her back.

I think as long as I assured my Mom I would sit in the back seat, she had no other worries, being that we were travelling in a bulky, four-door dark blue Buick sedan with a nun at the wheel. How much safer could one possibly be?

All four of us girls, the two German Michelles – Meirer and Schmitt, and the French farm girl Agnes Flaubert, and I were wearing summer dresses, and white knee socks for our debut playing piano solos on the music festival stage. Neither of the nuns wore habits anymore. They were dressed in conservative wool skirts, blazers, polyester blouses with plain, but prominent crosses on chains around their necks. Both Sisters wore wigs on their heads, necessary my mom had told me, after wearing habits for so many years and not having good hair anymore.

Being experts in efficiency, the sisters quickly had us getting in to the car. Immediately I said I was willing to sit in the middle of the backseat, no one disagreed, so in I climbed to my spot. Being a large backseat of a sedan, with just three eleven year old girls in it there was plenty of room for each of us.

The back seat fabric was irritating; scratchy on the back of my legs and knees. I had a sudden longing for the soft fuzzy grey seat covers in my Dad’s car. I guess the nuns felt no need for seat protection since they rarely had children in their vehicle. They did not need to worry about some kid dropping popcorn or pop on it at the drive-in as my Dad seemed to be obsessed with.

The smallest girl, my best friend Michelle M. had been directed to sit in the front between the Sisters. She was short enough that I still had a view out the windshield over the top of her blonde head.
I could also see a small metal statue of Saint Christopher stuck on to the dashboard of the car. Saint Christopher is the saint to keep travellers safe on their journey. Dangling from the rear-view mirror was a blue-grey rosary.

Sister Komery started the motor of the car, but she did not put it in gear.

Before I could even begin to wonder what was possibly wrong, she said: “I will say a prayer for a safe trip.” Quickly but quietly, she mumbled out about a three sentence prayer in ten seconds, the only words I really caught being “Jesus. Please. Safe. Trip. Amen.”

No sooner was the “Amen” out of her mouth, Sister Komery slapped the car into gear, jammed her foot on the gas, the tires spun briefly on the gravel, then as they grabbed hold sent us flying forward in our seats and down the convent driveway towards the highway.

With the car set so quickly into motion, then the thump of it off the driveway curb onto the highway below, the rosary on the rear-view mirror was set swinging. There went the crucified Christ back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Sister Komery was a very fast aggressive driver, with no apparent reason for being so. We were in no danger of being late, leaving in plenty of time for the hour and half drive on the highway, which started out on pavement then turned to gravel for over half of the trip.

Once we hit the gravel road she steered back and forth attempting to dodge deep pot holes, keeping the same speed up as on the paved road.

Even though all the windows were up in the car, the vents must have been open as the dry smell of dust penetrated the interior of the car, overpowering the scent of the lavender talcum powder I had smelled on the nuns as we got in the car. I could taste dirt on my tongue, my throat was parched.
The lack of fresh air along with the constant rattle and pelt of large stones hitting the undercarriage of the car beneath me were slightly sedating.

When we would hit a pot hole directly I was jolted back to the moment. The crucified Christ dangling in front of me jumped up and down, and then He went back to swinging back and forth until the next unavoidable pot hole.

I sneaked a quick look through the rear window behind me. All I could see was dust. No road, no sky, no scenery whatsoever, just thick brown dust.

This was not how I expected a nun to drive.

In what was probably record time, we arrived at our destination. The ride back home began exactly as we began that morning, and again I watched Jesus bounce and swing all the way.

I never knew a nun could drive like a bat out of Hell. I realized I now knew where my uncle got the expression “Jumpin’ Jesus”. He must have taken piano lessons at the convent too. Amen.