Friday, March 21, 2008

Two Deaths, A Wedding and A Pregnancy In 60 Days

Max was conceived on a Wednesday between flying in from Prince George on Tuesday, and flying out to Toronto on Thursday to spend time with my Gramma in her last days. My father knew I was pregnant; this brought him some joy and great sadness; as it did me. He died 40 days after Max was concieved.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2 Funerals and A Wedding in 60 Days

Kelly and I got married on October 8th 2005. We could not have known then, that what most couples experience in years of marriage, would hit us like a bag of sand falling from the sky within 60 days of our wedding. We could not have known then that we would have an enormous toll taken on us. I feel sad for the absence of fancy and free.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2 Funerals in 30 Days

I'd like to start by thanking all of you for being present to honor our Grandmother, our mother, our cousin, our aunt, our friend and although she was an only child, our sister of all sisters. And also, for being present to honor an awareness of the emotions and the memories that we've all been experiencing around the passing of Margaret Villeneuve.

At my Grandmothers 65th Birthday Party, my mother made a speech that made a reference (albeit a comical and not so positive reference) to her punctuality or lack of it. She was presented with a beautiful chime clock to assist her in being more punctual. I would like to offer that this time, and to this destination she's arrived on time.

I suppose that with so many questions and curiosities around death, we may suggest that a timely arrival be defined unequivocally by the preciousness of a very full, very long and very benevolent life. To experience Margaret's very full and very long life, we need only close our eyes and place her image before us to feel the vibration and the colour of her entire being.

Last week, my cousin Paula painted my Gramma's fingernails. Pink; the colour of a young girl's heart.

As she did so, I had an image in my mind of my Grandmother at the age of 84, just before she died. I saw her on a beautiful wooden park bench; her face toward the buttery sun; the red and gold leaves chattering in fall fashion all around her.

I place next to her my Grandmother at the age of 10. They lean into one another and they hold each other's soft hands. They are matched in their beliefs and their thoughts about life. The 10-year-old Gramma is sorry to hear about what she's endured over the next 74 years but she's not surprised.

I like to lengthen the bench and add a Gramma between them for each decade of her life. Now the bench is filled; a 10 year old Margaret, a 20 year old Margaret, a 30 year old Margaret, a 40 year old Margaret, a 50 year old Margaret and a 60, 70, and 84 year old Margaret.

When I do, the park bench begins to reflect her strength in character; it shows a progression, that she's always moved forward. My Gramma's very full and very long life was also content. As each of the Gramma's chat with each other on the bench, they discover their pains and their lessons; they listen and they smile and they know one another. The youngest Margaret must have known that she was meant for a life of perseverance; the oldest Margaret had come out victorious because of that perseverance.

My own memories of my Grandmother are very bright. You know they say that the reason that Grandparents and Grandchildren get along so well is because they have a common enemy! She never said a harsh word to me; she never used my first name in combination with my middle and last name in anger. When I think of her now I can smell her and I can see her behind the steering wheel of many a car. I see bubbles blowing from her mauve lips. I hear her voice, scratching at the silence and carving out a shape.

Our relationship was never still for we traveled the highways each weekend to visit the friends and family she loved so dearly. Sometimes I think that if it weren't for her bum leg, the two of us would have traveled in an Indian Motorcycle; me in the sidecar of course!

Margaret Villeneuve was a lighthouse. And all of us here who are related to her either by blood or by love are lighthouses too. We are lighthouses for we are grounded, we are in position, we help others to find their way and we embody light. While my Gramma has come through many storms, she always kept her lighthouse windows clean. Her clean windows meant that she never complained; she was always illuminated in our presence; when we glided into her territory she would keep us safe for the night and she helped us to project our own light.

It may be true that we have all just come through a storm of emotion and memory around Margaret's passing. To honour her and to be certain that she may find each one of us and feel the power of our light, let us clean our windows as the day and our lives go on so that we may begin to shine again.

We love you Gramma. Please kiss your husband and your son for us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Funeral

I’d like to start by thanking each of you for being here to experience Boris Vlasenko, his life and his ways. Perhaps to you he is your oldest friend, your lover, your newest friend, a part of your family, your friend’s father or simply, the man whose being and vibration you’ve come to honor; just for today. My father always said that if in a life time, a man could count his friends on one hand, he could count himself lucky. I’d like to suggest that my father was beyond lucky; for his life, his perseverance and his charm were born of sheer effort and intention.

My Dad knew that he was blessed for being loved and liked by so many, but, like the rest of us, he could never put his finger on the reasons why. As I called each of you to tell you he had passed away, many of you shared your thoughts about him with me. You used words like unique, special, witty, influential, neat, intelligent and compassionate. I would like to offer those compliments to him today.

Among these great compliments, none of you mentioned that he was bigger than a building. As a child, I thought he was. How unsettling it was to pass a building with him and see him glide through it inches below the door frame. As my depth perception and reality matured I realized of course, that he wasn’t as big as a building but I did go on to win all school yard bets about whose Dad could beat up whose Dad, or whose Dad was bigger than whose Dad.

When my Dad arrived to pick me up at school, we all watched him coming down the hall in slow long legged strides towards me. When he would bend at the torso to pick me up, it seemed to take so long for his face to finally connect with mine, and when it did, all the kids could feel his love.

Before Boris died he wished that his life and his death would come together like rain drops hitting a river. Today I seek solace in knowing that it did.

Boris was a lover of cities; from the ghosts of his heritage in Leningrad and Kiev to the billboards in Chicago, the daily death of chickens in Kensington Market, the crisp white concrete Rues of Montreal, to the smoke stacks and broken warehouse windows of Boston, he loved the city and the shot; for photography captivated him for many years

Through his lens, I see him at the top of Coney Islands’ Ferris Wheel; one of his favourite spots. At the peak of its cycle, he turns in slow motion to suck in the magic around him; like the Chinese man who could suck up the sea; my father sucked up life. As the wheel drops and stops at each level he feels no lower or higher than before; he is merely grateful for the change in perspective. I’d like to offer that like rain drops hitting a river, Boris has simply come to a new spot on his Ferris wheel.

Boris was a custodian of all memories. He kept them clean and colorful and ready to be pulled from the archives of his mind on a dime. When he shared his memories, he used his tongue to polish them as they came to life and made noise among us.

My father was a teller of jokes; while his repertoire included the standard knock knocks, and “a guy walks into bar…”, he could also sing Jingle Bells in Russian without cracking up and was never afraid to embarrass himself in the name of humour.

Boris is the owner of many a lesson. He was his own teacher and among many lessons he came to love the delicacy of humble pie. Towards his last days with us, he asked that his ego be pushed aside in the name of truth and he wanted to contribute more by faith and kindness than by smartness.

My father admired characters in fiction for he knew that if he hadn’t met them all, they all lived inside of him. He was touched that so many authors could write about him so accurately.

My Dad was a builder of families, one that became two and two that became one. My brother Jonas, my father’s wife Maria, my mother and my husband Kelly are united through him now.

My Dad was a thinker, a believer and a fighter; he was bigger than a building.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dear Max

When I was pregnant with you we were so excited about having a baby, having a family. We talked about you every hour and we listened to you every minute. Because you were standing up inside my womb, we had to have a C-Section instead of a natural birth. I was devestated and relieved all at once.

It was 8:23 in the morning when you finally joined us on this side. I was behind a blue curtain and couldn't see or touch you for what seemed like an hour; but it was only minutes before your Dad brought you to me. While I waited for you, I was dubious. In my distortion, I heard a cat and asked the doctor if there was a cat in the room. He said no Treice, that's not a cat, that's your son. I said "are you sure? It sounds like a cat." He said he was sure. Believe it or not, I kept pressing the issue.

When your Dad brought you to me I held you and smiled. To date, this was the most surreal moment in my life. While most non-parent adults [like your Dad and I in the moments before your arrival] have seen babies, not all of us have seen newborns. And while we thought we were having a baby, we realized, in our first sleep deprived 57 hours that we had a newborn, and not a baby. I hope you too learn some day that these are two very different species. You became a baby soon enough, thank you.

I was so curious about you. A lot of women told me their stories of love and lights, and peace and understanding, and warmth and glowing this and shining that at their births, but not me. Nope, just intense curiosity. I wanted to put you on my tongue like a lozenge and figure you out slowly; I tried to meet your darting dark eyes and look deep into them to see if there was a brain in there or the moving parts of a clock. I wanted to feel for your ribs and see if your skin stretched around them like mine does. I wanted you to tell me how it felt to be resting on me instead of in me. I wanted to know who you were and who you might become. And I wanted to know who I was and who I might be with you in my life.

In the hospital room, your Dad slept on the floor and I got the hospital bed. You slept in a clear plastic rectangluar bin. At night, we would take turns walking you, feeding you , holding you and lgetting to know you in the hospital hallways. Your Dad thought he had it rough until he saw a Dad with new born twins crying at the same time! When it was my turn, I sang the only song that I could think of singing. "From this moment, I will never let you go". That was the title and only line, and I sang it over and over again; more like a chant. That night, at about 8:23, your parents were born.

It was there that we first discovered your feet. They appeared to be the size of a small boy, maybe in Kindergarten or Grade 1. I asked the doctor if they were too big. He said "well, they're generous."

You are 20 months old now and I've been singing to you since I wrote my chant. Sometimes, I sing the old favourites like Frere Jacques (by the way it's 'sonner a matine', not 'semma lemma teema', like I thought), and Hush Little Baby. And other times I sing the ones I've been making up since you were born like 'There's Another Human Being In the Bedroom', or 'His Name is Max and He Doesn't Like to Relax', or 'From This Moment I Will Never Let You Go'.

These days you talk about trucks and tractors and firetrucks. You love the sound of ambulances and airplanes and you eat mostly blueberries and Sunny Boy Organic Whole Wheat Waffles. After you eat, you hold your wrist with one hand, extend your middle finger and ask for 'won mo waffle.' You love the Butterfly Kiss and the Eskimo Kiss (although we're not allowed to call it that in 2008; it's a Nose Kiss), and you never leave me without blowing me a kiss through your tiny fingers. You've just planted peas, parsley, onions and pumkins in the garden. Your Dad bought you a baby watering can, and each morning you wake your Dad up to water them with you.

When I ride you around on my bike you say "Lally Bop" or "Ready, bump!" When you say 'pool', we think you're saying 'poo' and get excited that you're telling us you need to go! When we put you on the toilet instead of taking you to the pool, you drop your lower lip in disgust of your parents and say "I don wan it." Yesterday you said "comfortable" and I believe that tomorrow, you just might say "I didn't want scrambled, I prefer fried, but thanks for your effort Mom."

When we get to a locked door at home or elsewhere you say "Mommy needs key."

My dear Max, you are the key to all the locked doors in my world.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yet another appointment. I'm changing my attitude for this one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Hammer and The Healer

"Hey, listen, can we talk?"

"Sure, let's go the boardroom; grab your tea."

"Listen, I really hate to tell you this. I mean for the most part, you've been good to me here; but you know, I, um; I, I quit."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"You know, um, it's, ah, it's really too much for me here. I, I thought this was a place that I really wanted to work, but with the team changing as it is, I just, - I want out."

"You don't like the team, here at H & H?"

"NO! I don't like the team here at H & H; are you serious? Do you like the team? Do you like what you've created here? These people are shadows of people; they have no souls; they're counter productive. This is ridiculous really. Um, so yeah, listen, I just, -I quit."

"I happen to believe the team here is well balanced."

"Well balanced? Are you off your rocker? You hired Depression last week! What could she have to offer us here? The week before that you hired three new guys. Really come on, Isolation? Misery? Self Doubt? I saw Fault interviewing Sadness last week for Christ's sake. Look, I thought you really needed me here, and that I could do this job for you, but no, I can't; no one can do this job for you, this is ridiculous."

"Well, there's Hope; you and her have always got along."

"Got along? What? Hope is a fucking chameleon! Our relationship started when I caught her making out on my couch with Death. Jesus, I don't even see her anymore since you gave her office to the latest addition to your team. Her office is in the kitchen for Christ's sake, I see her at coffee break and that's it."

"You're still drinking coffee? You know, you shouldn't....."


"Do you have any positive thoughts, any at all, about what you're doing here?"

"Yes, I have some, I guess"

"You know that positive thoughts are exponentially more powerful than negative thoughts."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean it doesn't matter that you are negative about your team; all negative thoughts are weak and all positive thoughts are powerful. It's true; try it."

"What is this? What did you do? Did you read a self help book and now your passing your learnings on? Great, thanks!" I can read my own self help book thank you very much."

"Yes, I did, and I do and you should."

"You do what?"

"I pass everything I learn on to you."

"Thank you, I guess."

"Look maybe you're right. People have done this job before you (and done very, very well) and if I recall correctly, the teams in the past may have been more balanced."

"AHHH HA! I knew it!"

"How about I make some more hires this week?"

"Forget it, I quit, I told you Fah-ni-to."

"Well, there's a couple resumes right here on the fax machine, how about we take a look at them together? Maybe you'd like to do the interviewing this time around? Maybe you can build new offices for them? You know that construction management thing you were on about before, maybe that would help."

"Oh? I, I would like that very much. Let me see those."

"Here you go."

"Hey look, it's Laughter, I used to work with her a couple years ago. And look, here's Pretty, I remember her, and Confidence, and look here's Healer herself, and Joy....can we hire them all?"

"Well, we have no room, we can't possibly hire them all."

"Look, I told you, I can do this. I can make space for new hires, this is doable. Hell, Death needs company in the corridor, I can put Laughter in there with him until I design something more suitable. I'll build the offices for these new hires. I'll do that and still do my real job."

"That is your real job. Congratulations!"

"Congratulations on what?"

"Youv'e been promoted.'"

"You don't say, you mean I came in here to quit and I got a promotion? I love that!"

"Good, we'll see you tomorrow then."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Empty and Sad

This morning I am empty and sad instead of full and happy. It seems that denial has many dance partners, happiness and postive thinking among them.

I'll be in the Chemo Chair again tomorrow and am fearful of the side effects experienced last time.

The folks at the Hammer and the Healer called a board meeting yesterday; what's up with the assigned seating? They always put Denial and Fault on either side of me, and Death and Hope straight across from me.

Death is currently negotiating for a permanent office but they're not biting. His desk is under the concrete stairs in the emergency exit corridor. He says it's too cold in there and it's hard for him to work in such poor conditions. He says he's going to call WCB.

Hope has a permanent office but it's in the photocopier room. I guess they set it up that way so I'd have to run in to her several times a day.