Hand lotion makes a great gift- Blogmas #16

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December 16, 1996. It is a day that is etched in my brain forever. It was just nine sleeps before Christmas and we got a call early that morning around 6am. My parents and I got up out of bed and got into our car and rushed to the nursing home where my grandmother had been staying for the last few months. She was 86 at the time. In the two years before she passed her health had deteriorated. She had osteoporosis and had broken her hip when she rolled over in bed. Born in 1908, when she had found herself confined to a wheelchair, she refused to leave the house. For her, it was shaming to be seen anywhere in public in that wheelchair. My cousin, Laura, lived with her and cared for her, but by the fall of 1996, it became too difficult. My grandmother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had also put a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in place, probably because of the depression from being in the wheelchair or the depression from being in the nursing home or both. The call we received that morning was from the nursing home to let us know we had to get there quickly; my grandmother was close to the end. If we wanted to be with her in her last moments, we didn’t have any moments to spare.

sunny winter morning_InPixioI remember it was a cold but sunny morning. The sky had that pink glow as the sun was rising. It was hard to believe that something so terrible could happen on such a beautiful December morning. My dad is someone who always follows the rules. For example, most Canadians, when they do cross-border shopping in the U.S., lie about how much they bought when they come back into Canada. Not my dad. No, my dad is always honest and he would dutifully report how much we spent and then we would dutifully pay the duties on what we spent. And he never speeds. Never. But on this morning, my dad sped. It didn’t matter. When we arrived, my grandmother had already left us. I remember my cousins, Laura and Liz, sisters who were more like her daughters since she raised them being there. It was the first time I had ever seen a dead person. I was 22 at the time. Immediately, when I saw my grandmother, I realized it wasn’t her anymore. Yes, it looked like her. But the person I grew up loving more than anyone was no longer there. My cousin, Liz, who was hugging her body and crying didn’t seem to understand that she wasn’t hugging my grandmother anymore. She was hugging the home where her soul had lived, but her soul had moved on.

mini tree_InPixioChristmas is always hard when it’s the first Christmas you celebrate after someone you love has died. But it’s even worse when the person dies just before the Christmas holidays. Not only do you have to do all the usual Christmas stupidity, but you also have to prepare for a funeral. I remember in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my cousin Liz insisting we celebrate Christmas with my grandmother since we knew she wasn’t expected to live past Christmas. My grandmother, who was a no-nonsense, practical lady, often found my cousin, Liz, to be ridiculous, even though she loved her like a daughter. Liz brought in a little tree and decorated it and put up garland and lights all around the room and all of the family was told to bring gifts for this early Christmas. My mom and I both racked our brains; what do you get someone who is dying for Christmas? And I knew my grandmother well enough to know that she was going to roll her eyes at this whole “Christmas” before Christmas fiasco. My mother and I settled on a bottle of Clinique hand lotion for the gift, because we knew my grandmother’s hands got dry from the air in her room. And we also figured, whatever we got, we would end up getting back after anyway. When we finally came to the day of my grandmother’s special Christmas, she, surprisingly, didn’t grumble or roll her eyes as much at my cousin Liz’s antics as she usually did. I think she knew that the early Christmas celebration wasn’t for her. It was for Liz. It was something Liz had to do to deal with the pain of losing the woman who had raised her from the age of two.

graveyard_InPixioEvery year on December 16, I think about my grandmother and that first Christmas without her. She was the matriarch; I think most women are in their families. It is the mothers and grandmothers who are the glue that hold families together. The last time I saw all ten of my aunts and uncles together who were left at the time my grammy died was at her funeral. My grandmother was buried next to her three children who had passed away before she did. When you have twelve aunts and uncles and fifty-three cousins, it is difficult to maintain close ties with them all. When my grandmother was alive, she was the reason that family who had moved to Ontario would return home at least once a year to visit. After she died, our family fell apart. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles and cousins anymore and our Christmas tradition of going to my grandmother’s for Christmas dinner and spending the afternoon working on puzzles and playing cards ended.

My grandmother died 21 years ago today. Ironically, she always said as she was nearing the time of her death, that she wasn’t afraid of death. She said she was ready at any time. Her only stipulation was that her death couldn’t be at Christmas because she didn’t want to ruin Christmas for her family. That was the kind of woman she was. No-nonsense and practical, and someone you didn’t want to cross. She’d hold you to account. I like to think that when she got to the other side that she tore a strip off of God’s decision to take her at Christmas! So today, I ask you to be thankful for your family and friends, and to enjoy every moment you have with them in the days leading up to Christmas. Hug your loved ones just a little bit tighter and remember that every moment you have with them is precious. Finally, if someone you know is dying at Christmas, hand lotion makes a great gift.

Image sources:

Graveyard. Free Stock Photos. <http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/9185> December 16, 2017.

Hand cream. Px Here. <https://pxhere.com/en/photo/634760> December 16, 2017.

Mini-tree. Flickr. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/8251311244> December 16, 2017.

Winter morning. Max Pixel. <http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Frozen-Season-Morning-Cold-Sun-Ice-Winter-Road-1881442> December 16, 2017.

 

Hoarders: The Secrets that Hide Beneath

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My husband and I have been staying with his 90 year old grandfather for a few weeks now. I am off sick from work because I went off the rails again from my PNES symptoms or as the psychologist I went to for a formal assessment calls it “Conversion Disorder.” Apparently, according to him, the two terms are interchangeable. It also is called “pseudo-seizures” and/or “functional neurological disorder.” Whatever you call it, it is incited by the anxieties of my workplace. I also have a cyst on my right wrist which makes writing difficult, as well as typing, and stapling. As a teacher, stapling is one of the most tedious, annoying parts of the job. Stapling handouts of stories (I’m an English teacher) takes forever and the hand movement causes great pain. You may be wondering: photocopiers have stapling functions enabled on them, so why do you have to staple by hand? Well, I’m mighty glad you asked. Because the school is too cheap to pay for the staples. My hand was getting very painful before I left to go on sick leave but it is my brain that is the reason I went on sick leave. In any case, that is not the purpose of my story this morning. As I said, we are staying at my grandfather-in-law’s, and just like my cyst that hides under my skin, his home has some secrets that hide beneath as well.

20171117_054107.jpgThe secrets are mainly in the basement, but can also be found in pretty much every drawer and cupboard in this house. You see my grandfather-in-law is a hoarder. Not the kind that you see on TV that you can’t even open the door to get into the house, but he certainly has great difficulty with throwing things away. Both he and my late grandmother-in-law, bless her soul, are people who have/had difficulty tossing anything away. And not just sentimental things. EVERYTHING! 20171117_064128.jpgMost of the items are in the basement. I go down to the basement about once a week to do the laundry. Doing the laundry is a fun adventure, because I always take the opportunity to sneak around the basement to see what cool things I can find… you know, like when you’re visiting someone else’s home and you rummage through their medicine cabinet. You just never know what will be in there!

Since we’ve been staying here, my husband and I have been trying to get his grandfather to throw things away. But it’s always the same with him, hemming and hawing, “I might need that someday.” For example, in the summer, I cleaned out his cupboards of all the expired food and went through with him what we should throw away and what we should keep. When I came to the Cake Mix, I was not allowed to throw it away. “I might bake a cake some day.” My husband laughed, “My grandfather has NEVER baked a cake. Now at 90 20171117_054843.jpghe’s going to bake a cake?” But in the end I prevailed (not with the cake mix but with other things), mainly because I waited for him to be asleep or out running errands. In those times, I quickly grabbed garbage bags to throw things away in such as cans of beets that expired in 2005 and had leached through the can. In the end, I threw out about 5 garbage bags full of expired canned goods, and baking supplies like sugar and flour that were all as hard as rocks. After organizing the kitchen, I was excited to tackle the basement. (I know, I’m a weirdo who loves to organize things… when properly medicated that is (ADHD)).

At first, my grandfather-in-law was receptive at the idea of cleaning up the basement. But then he got kind of funny about it. He decided he better get down to the basement before C. (my hubby) or I went down there. Just like me, secretly throwing old food away, he waited for us to go out for the day and, at 90 years old, climbs down the rickety stairs and into the maze of things lost and sometimes found, (but usually not found until a new one has already been bought.)  For example, he doesn’t have a dog, and hasn’t for at LEAST 30 years, but I found 5 heated dog bowls down there, 3 of them in the original packaging. In fact, my husband and I have decided to no longer shop for items we need before checking the basement. So far at the Lost and Never-Found Basement Store, we’ve picked up a spice rack, a paper shredder and a Pyrex lasagna pan. The prices couldn’t be better- FREE! My grandfather-in-law has no idea what he has and what he doesn’t have. Yes, we are horrible people. But back to the old man in the basement; he went down with a ladder and started moving things around. He did create a path that loops around the perimeter (for the most part) that allows us to maneuver around the piles of stuff. But the thought of my 90 year-old grandfather-in-law going down those dangerous stairs (even I’m nervous of falling) and climbing up on ladders, especially when he’s home alone, scares me more than Donald Trump being president of the United States (you know, because Trump can press “the button” at any time.)

So for now, my husband and I have decided against organizing the basement. We don’t want to be responsible for any accidents that could beFALL his grandfather down there. But for your viewing pleasure, I have taken photos of some of my favorite discoveries in the Lost and Never-Found Basement:

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Expired food. Notice the bottle of cleaner on the right- hand side of the photo. Yummy, canned goods, water and cleaner. The Heinz Chicken Gravy expired in 2001. Still good eating though…
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Above: Wardrobe bag. Right: Wardrobe bag inside an old Wardrobe Chest.

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How old do you think these ice skates are?

 

 

 

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Old wood for the fireplace that hasn’t been used for around 40 years. Notice there is also a toboggan, the old lawn chair, and on the left-hand edge, old cans of paint.
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More old paint. The house was built originally as housing for soldiers in World War II and some of the old paint in the basement is from when the house was originally painted.
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A broken chair along with empty garbage bags, rope, chemicals, an old humidifier and other junk.
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Broken exercise bike. There is another broken exercise bike upstairs in the kitchen that my grandfather-in-law won’t let us move out of the kitchen because “I’m going to fix it.” So he has two broken exercise bikes.
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Who ya gonna call? (Still works.)
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ASS. And if you wondered, yes, it is an Electrolux vacuum on the left. It still works and it is the vacuum they use.
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???????

As you can see, there is a myriad of treasures in the Lost and Never-Found Basement, along with piles and piles of just plain junk. I guess some people just have difficulty parting with the past, so they hoard. But if you have so much stuff that you don’t even know what you have, then how can you enjoy those items with sentimental value?

If you or someone you know is a hoarder, JUST THROW THAT SHIT OUT! PLEASE! Just rip it off, like a band-aid. You can’t miss something you forgot you had in the first place. And objects are just that- things. They can’t stand in or replace people- and you’ll always have the most cherished parts of people you’ve lost in your memories of them.

O.H.

ADDITIONS!