Suzy Snapper
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
All Hallow's Eve

A little picture from a few years ago. Ms Thang was a little unsure of her new friend!

Thanks again for the well wishes. I seem to be emerging from the other side of things. I basically became a hermit for the last few days, only leaving home on Saturday night to spend a few hours with some good friends. It helped a lot, and I needed that downtime.

Of course, that means now all the anti-stress is taking it's toll now. I look like a pubescent teenager as my skin has decided to do it's impression of Mt. Vesuvius. I am not a big makeup wearer at the best of times, but the stuff is caked on the last couple days. And for fun, I'm also dealing with a little Crohn's moment and migraines. All usual signs that I'm under stress, but I don't know when I've had all three at once. Makes for some very interesting drives.

Tonight is Hallowe'en. I love sitting out front of my house handing out candies to the kids. Usually, I grab a lawn chair and just stay out front chatting. It's a great community feeling, but tonight we will see. It depends on how quickly I can get home (after having to drop my car at the shop for repairs) and how festive I'm feeling when I get there.

Also, it is Samhain. Being the belief gypsy that I am, I like to spend some quiet reflective time thinking of friends and family who've departed this world during the past year. We've been fortunate this year and not too many have left us. My cousin passed in February, and he's left a big void in our lives but we know he no longer suffers in a body broken by ALS. My Mom's best friend left us in August. She'd had cancer and it was a blessing when she was finally released from her pain. And of course, recently, my neighbour. She also had cancer, and fought valiantly until the end when she slipped away gracefully and in the most peaceful way we could have hoped for - with her husband's arms around her. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Bailey, my brother's pup who passed away in February. She was a beautiful spirit and she, too, is missed every day. Instead of being sad about these losses, I see them as a way to remember and celebrate having them in my life for the time I was fortunate to know them.

And with that, it's time to get back to work here.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
He's Home
Dad came home today, with a cool half a grand worth of medications and an even bigger smile.

The exhaustion is setting in now. I can't even describe what I'm feeling except to say, as thrilled as I am that Dad survived and has returned home, I am feeling years older than I did just a couple weeks ago.

Thank you so much. Everyone who has kept up with me through this whole time, and even in their own troubles, found time to lend a kind shoulder to me. I am truly honoured and touched.

I have been remiss in keeping up with my friends too, but that should hopefully change as I catch my breath in the next few days.

In the meantime, it's Thursday. That means Coach Potato night. Greys Anatomy, Survivor, CSI, ER. I shall savour the chance to relax on the couch with a vengance.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Plunking Along
I visited with my insurance company yesterday and was surprised to hear the damage was approximately $1500 to my car. Thankfully, it has been deemed 100% the other person's fault. While I had no doubt in my mind, it was still not up to me to decide that. Unfortunately, the lady that managed to create this whole mess is not happy with me. She didn't want me to make a claim on insurance and to go privately. However, considering the cost of the repairs and the need for me to have a rental vehicle, it was not an option. Let's just hope that after they explained that to her, she will now stop calling and leaving nasty messages on my answering machine. Like I need THAT stress!! After the call this morning though, I told her quite bluntly that I will be speaking to the police if she continues. Let's hope she got the message.

It's all good though. Initials aches and bruises dissipated and there was no lasting physical injury. My Mom's nerves are shot so she's having nightmares of being in car accidents though. Hopefully that will also go soon.

Now, my Dad. Another day, another complication. The infection in his chest wall is not subsiding yet so more potent antibiotics were ordered. He is now experiencing shortness of breath. We are told this is a 'normal' complication. Typically, he would have been out of the hospital today but with these delays, it now looks like the weekend before we'll see him home.

There are also a couple beds on the floor he's on that contracted the Superbug. They are taking precautions to ensure the outbreak doesn't spread but we are very aware of the fact that, while he needs to be in a hospital, it will be much better for healing when he's out.

I returned to work yesterday. It's tough to be here but I know getting back into some sort of routine is important for everyone's sanity.

With that, I'll end with a picture from the weekend. Apparently, Ms. Thang didn't take too kindly to a little kiss from her brother!

Friday, October 20, 2006
Just for fun...
On the drive home yesterday from the hospital, we decided to stop off at our friendly neighbourhood Costco to pick up some pictures.

As I was turning into the disabled parking spot (my Mom has the pass as she can't walk far), we were hit HARD from the side. Some lady decided it was more important to talk to her friends than look in her rear view mirror before reversing. As far as accidents go, it's minor. My passenger door is pushed in and scrapes are all down my back quarterpanel.

I was turning so for some reason, my forearm is very sore. I think I may have sprained it. Stupid, really, considering the low speed of the collision but almost immediately I had a strong sharp pain up my arm. Damn!

My Mom somehow bruised her knee. We can't figure out for the life of us how, but it is definitely bruised.

The lady? 'Oh, I'm so mind was elsewhere and I was talking to my friend who's here out of town'. Whatever, lady. I told her we were just on the way home from the hospital and that this was exactly the stress we did not need. I was very shaken though.

As my Mom later said, 'If it weren't for bad luck, we'd have no luck'. I got a case of the giggles for some strange reason.

Updates for my Dad though are mixed. The good news is really good. The delirium has subsided, and he also knows he was all mixed up. His heart rate has regulated and his blood pressure has stablized. All very great improvements that we are pleased with.

Unfortuantely, a few more dips though. Through this whole situation, his Type 2 Diabetes is causing issues. Right now, his insulin is all over the map and not at all regulated - even though he is on several medications to try and control it. Today, we began sessions on how to test blood and administer insulin.

As well, the wound in his chest is showing signs of infection. It's minor right now so a dose of IV antibiotics was ordered to be on the safe side. Let's just hope they caught it quickly.

He's very grumpy today. I see that as a good sign. Grumpy is fighting...his spirit is coming back.

Tomorrow, my brother will take my Mom. This will be the first day in 13 that I haven't driven her. I am needing a break badly, but part of me feels out of sorts because I want to be there too. However, given the fact that I have begun bursting into tears at the slightest thing, I think I need a forced day off. So tomorrow, Mom will go to the hospital and I will join the my niece and the kids at the Pumpkin Patch.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I wish I meant "Proof of Delivery" or even 'P*d off' but unfortuntately, I don't.

Today has been a very long day. We started off with a phonecall early this morning asking us to get to the hospital right away. My Dad was agitated and not sure where he was.

We rushed to the hospital, which is still a good half an hour away to find my Dad very confused. He had no idea where he was. In fact, he thought he was at a dentist office. He knew he had to get to the hospital but they wouldn't let him out of the dentist chair.

As we sat with him, he seemed to focus more. Well, in and out. At times, very lucid and aware and others, completely out of it. The worst was when he was in between and knowing that he wasn't in his full faculties. 'I'm losing my mind', he'd cry.

Apparently, 30% of open heart surgery patients go through a Post-Operative Delirium. It comes from a mix of medications, lack of sleep and the trauma of the surgery itself.

I wish we'd known this before today, as it would have at least given us an idea to expect it.

He was convinced that there were seagulls outside of his window (there weren't), that my Mom had vivid blue hair (she may be grey but no blue rinse by any means!) and that she had worn dirty clothes. In fact, he kept trying to brush the dirt off her clothes where there was none.

To me, he asked why I'd left school early and if my teachers knew. Hell, I haven't been in school for 2 decades!

He'd then seem to focus and wonder what all the fuss was about.

There's another complication as well. His heart is just not regulating properly. He is averaging 140-150 bpm (should be 80) and his blood pressure is very low. This is difficult because the meds they would normally give him to lower his heartrate cannot be administered because of the low bp.

Also, during this stint, he has been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. It has likely been going on for some time but was unknown as he hadn't been to the doctor in years. We are now getting a crash course on checking his blood levels.

We stayed at the hospital for 10 hours today. Scared to leave, lest he lose his grasp on the slim reality he has. But finally, this evening, my brother came and pushed us out to go home. I thought he was talking to my Mom when he said "You look a wreck. You need to go home and rest or you won't be help to anyone'. That's when I looked beside me and realized my Mom was in the other room. Apparently, I really am exhausted.

I have to be positive though. This is just a standard complication of major surgery. He is in good hands and we just must be patient while his body heals.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Thanks yet again for all your good wishes, prayers and support. It would seem things have turned a corner.

My Dad had quintuple bypass surgery this morning. Once the surgeon was able to get into the heart, he found another blocked passage and had to do an extra bypass than was originally anticipated. However, everything has gone remarkably well. Dad is off the breathing tube tonight, and was able to speak briefly to my Mom on the phone this evening.

He is improving hourly right now, and is a better colour than I've seen him in years.

We still have a few hurdles to get through, but I believe we're now on the upward trend rather than the down.

I was extremely fortunate to have very understanding employers. I have been given a Leave of Absence until such time as I feel able to return. Hopefully, that will be next Monday.

Tonight, the relief has given way to exhaustion. I thought I was exhausted last week, but that has nothing on what I'm feeling now. He's through the tough part and now it's just about healing and recouperating.

Thanks has meant a lot to know my friends were so supportive.
Surgery Today
My Dad will undergo quadruple bypass surgery this morning. Actually, as I'm typing this, he should be on his way to the preparation now.

I will be going into work first to request a leave of absence. Let's just hope they're compassionate, but either way, I will be there this afternoon when my Dad comes out of surgery.

He will be in ICU for the next two days with a breathing tube. We've been thoroughly prepared by both the doctors and the nurses. Everyone has been fantastic. Now we just have to get through it.

More when I know more.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Yesterday was very very long. We were told he would be returned to the hospital from the other hospital at 5:30. I picked up my Mom at 4:15, but we still hit horrendous traffic and didn't arrive at the hospital until nearly 6.

I guess it's thankful, then, that there were no ambulances to bring him back so we hadn't missed him. Unfortunately though, that trend continued and the poor, tired, hungry man didn't arrive until 9:30.

Of course by that time, there were no doctors to talk to but again, the nurses came through. The news is not good, but repairable. He will need a quadruple bypass in the coming days. Two arteries are at 100% and two are at 70%. It is truly a miracle that he survived at all.

Last night, he was good. Absolutely exhausted and scared, but his regular self. It helped greatly.
I also had a talk with my brother. I told him I was considering quitting and he told me I was definitely thinking too drastically. 'You have brothers, Sue', he said, 'Let us do something too.'. So while I've been taking a big load this week, a lot of it apparently has been self-directed.

I will take today again - thank god for Red Bull. Tomorrow, I am trying to make plans for lunch with a friend to take a breather in neutral territory. And will return to work on Monday. Just taking one step at a's all a lot to take in.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
My Dad had his angiogram today. It was not good news. He will need an emergency bypass very soon.

My Mom's health is starting to worsen. Her emphysema and this stress has not been good. I've had to get her on oxygen these last couple days, something that we don't usually require until she has a cold or something.

We have a lot of decisions to make. I am on compassionate leave this week from work but I'm still so new there (5 months), I can't expect that to continue for much longer. So I am contemplating quitting. I don't know if that's drastic because I'm being overly emotional or not though. Have to take a deep breath on that one and try and think it through.

We're off to the hospital now to meet with the cardiologist. Wish us luck, please? I'm hoping things just sound bad right now and when we see this specialist, it will all sound a lot better.

I'm not usually so emotional, but today, I just can't stop the waterworks.
Something Completely Different

I'm a Lotus Elise!

You believe in maximum performance and minimum baggage. You like to travel light and fast, hit the corners hard, and dance like there's no tomorrow.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
You never really know how big your family is until you've just spent several hours speaking to each brother, each sister-in-law, each niece and nephew...not to mention the cousins. No one wants to bother my Mom, or upset her more so they call me. I don't think I have any voice left and I am utterly exhausted.

First, the good. He is scheduled for his angiogram tomorrow. The ambulance is booked for 8:30 and will take him to the other hospital an hour away. We are not to go with him, and will need to wait until he is back at the current hospital. If they need to do surgery, they will do it right there but will let us know. In some respects, this is good news. My Mom is cracking right now and I must admit I'm dragging. Tomorrow is a forced morning of relaxation and reloading. He is in good hands and we just must let them do their job.

The bad? Holy hell, that man can be a cantankerous, ornery old fool. He was quite out of it this morning and didn't seem to know if we were there. Eventually he woke up enough to get out of bed, go into the bathroom and brush his hair. We were so relieved to see him upright and it did Mom and I a world of good.

We went home for an hour or so in the afternoon. The hospital is 45 minutes away so that 90 minute round trip is tiring. When we came back, Grumpy Old Man was in his place. He didn't remember us being there earlier, and accused us of forgetting him in the hospital. Then, when I tried to explain the timing of our visits, he insisted it was 5:30am (why would we BE there at that time?). Further attempts at explaining got an ornery response of "I'm the one in this g.d. bed, I know what time it is." Asking what he had for dinner? The response "Catsh*t". This is a man who won't say damn without apologizing for his language.

He is taking his cigarette withdrawl out on my Mom. He accused her of conspiring against him and other very foul things. She was brought to tears. Then he said, "Doesn't matter what you do...I'll get out and get them myself. I've done it before, I'll do it again". Keeping in mind that they are keeping him very medicated and he's not really able to move, we thought he was just confused again.

I pulled the nurse aside and talked to her. That damned man got out of bed this morning, argued with the nurse then signed himself out AMA. He got down 4 stories in the elevator, walked approximately 500 feet to buy a cigarette off anyone who would sell him one. I was FURIOUS! I realize the nurses can only do so much...the man is an adult and they can't restrain him.

We could, she explained, bring his cigarettes back in. However, I have refused. If he wants them, he's going to have to do it himself. I am not about to make it easy on him. I am more than sympathetic to the pains of withdrawl, but he is offered every chance right now of making it easier. When else can you go through this while sedated to ease the effects?

So I said to him, 'How DARE you? You are putting Mom and I and this entire family through hell. We are trying to HELP you! Take it, you old fool.' I still can't believe I spoke to my father like that but I was so angry. He just glared at me. I reminded myself that I wasn't talking to the man that is my father. I was talking to an addiction.

He was just so mean to my mother, though. 55 years together, and I've never heard him utter a cross word. She was in tears.

I did make her laugh though. The visual of my 74 year old father, going in stocking feet (he has no slippers) and a hospital gown, with unshaven face and uncombed hair....bumming smokes from the passerby. What a sight! Silly man!!!

The nurses have been excellent though. They have been tireless in supporting us, as well as caring for him.

Tonight, however, I've gotten home and I am utterly exhausted. I feel like I'm still driving even though I'm just sitting in my chair. So I am going to crash. We still have a long way to go, but for now, it's a bit of a respite while we allow others to take care of things.

Right now, we are caught between the land of knowing what we are dealing with and not.

It all hinges on the angiogram, which as yet hasn't been scheduled. There are only two facilities in the lower mainland of Vancouver that can perform this, and you can just imagine how booked they are.

My Dad seemed almost giddy yesterday. The nurses said it was a survival mechanism. Making silly jokes in an adrenalin-rush of realization that he's still here. But that was short lived. By afternoon, he was cantankerous and angry. No salt in his food. No cigarettes to be had.

Right now, his heart is so unstable and each time he sits up, the mere exertion of being upright causes his heart to spasm. Until the angiogram, nothing will change.

So last night the decision was made to keep him sedated for the next little while. Just so the anxiety doesn't cause undue stress on the heart.

My Mom seems to have moments of calmness. I made an appointment yesterday with her doctor to discuss her needs. I figured it would be best to have a good idea of what I need to watch for with her, and I was right. The doctor was great...she wrote out everything that was needed and gave me a good feeling of what we need to keep on top of. Of course, I feel more like a mom now than ever...'Have you taken your medicine?' She doesn't seem to mind though.

I'm not working. An attempt of going into work yesterday resulted in me being sent home. I am on compassionate leave. I don't know if I have a job at the end of this (my boss was very phoney with his words of kindness and apparently has been ranting all day yesterday in my absence), but I just can't worry about that right now. My place is here. I thought yesterday, what will I remember in 5 years? That I was working, or that I was with my Dad and Mom. The answer is obvious.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Continuing On
It's funny...I usually find writing as a great way to relieve stress and tension but right now the words just don't want to come.

It's been another challenging 24 hours. My Dad was moved to another hospital yesterday when test showed he had a 'significant' event. It is the best Cardiac CCU in the area, which is the good thing. The bad? It is a VERY rough area of town and I have seen more, shall we say, less fortunate souls in the last 24 hours than I care to remember. It's also a 40 minute drive from here so that makes it a bit difficult.

My Dad is conscious but confused. He doesn't seem to have a great idea of where he is. Not all the time, but seems to go through these spurts. His heart rate is very elevated, and even the simple exertion of sitting up is too much right now.

My Mom is very shaky. Even without her health problems, this would be hard on her but having those make it worse. I have felt like I'm mothering her.."Have you taken your medicine?", "Have you eaten?" 55 years married, it is not easy for her to be apart from him.

The nurses are excellent. They have been kind and considerate, explaining as much as they know. All they know right now is that he has definitely had a severe heart attack. More tests will show how severe, and he will be scheduled for an angiogram this week. Bad choice of words though. The nurse was explaining the angiogram and said 'We'll see where the blockages are and if we can, we will open him up right there'. My Mom just paled at that.

My, what can I say? They are pulling together. All 4 of my brothers have been in touch and my youngest brother will go see my Dad today. That's a big deal..they haven't seen each other in 2 years. Both are stubborn men, actually very alike to each other and had a falling out. Maybe this is the scare they've needed.

I have to go to work. It's not what I want to do, but I don't see an option. I am covering for another girl who's away. And I'm still too new. I'm hoping when I talk to them this morning they will be lenient.

Thanks for your prayers and well wishes. It is much appreciated.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Not a Good Turkey Day
So our turkey day didn't go so well. My Dad is in the hospital. =
He had been having indigestion and chest pain all day but of course, being a stubborn old man didn't mention it to anyone. At dinner tonight at my brother's, he got up from the table saying he wasn't feeling well.

My brother went to talk to him and was worried (cop brothers don't get worried to easily so that was not a good feeling). He asked my Dad if he could take him to the hospital. My Dad told everyone to stop worrying so much.

Soon after, they left to drive home. It's a 45 minute drive. I said I'd follow, but my Dad - again being stubborn - said no. I did anyway. Thank God.

About 15 minutes into the drive, I got a frantic call from my Mom saying they were on the side of the road and my Dad was only semi-conscious and throwing up. I said I'd be there in about 2-3 minutes and called 911.

The ambulance arrived, along with the firemen. They were fantastic, and arrived very quickly. Although frankly, I never want to be on the side of a farm road again being the center of attention like that again. They took my Dad and Mom to the hospital.

At this point, it does look like my Dad has had some sort of cardiac incident but being the long weekend and short on diagnostic staff, we will not know more right away. He responded very quickly to the nitro and oxygen. He even had a bit of humour after a little bit. (Mostly to tease me about my stomach deciding to leave me rather abruptly in the aftermath).

They sent my Mom and I home. There's not a lot more that can be done right now and he's stable for now. My Mom didn't want the company so I'm at my house now. I am very scared though. I don't think I'll be sleeping much tonight.

Any spare vibes right about now would be greatly appreciated.

Update: He has now been moved to a Cardiac Critical Care Unit at another hospital. The initial results are indicating heart damage but we will know more over the next little while. My Mom is not taking it well, and is having some breathing problems related to the stress. 55 years's a little hard on both of them.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
It's that time of year again. Turkey Day.

Thanksgiving. Or the time of year we can reflect on what we are thankful for. I also usually try to give a thought or two to what I have accomplished (or harvested) so far this year.

Thankfulness. Well, that one's easy. Family. I am so thankful that my niece and I are so close. That each year she and I develop a relationship that is as close to sisters as I think I will ever find.

This year, though, I can add my other niece to that mix. S's sister, J. Younger than S by 2 years, she and I have been much more volatile in our relationship. We spent a few weeks travelling together in 2000 which, unfortunately, damaged things rather than the hoped for improvements. She was 16 at the time, and I was too nervous to let her out of my sight on the other side of the world. I don't think she spoke to me for a few years after that. But now, she's finally coming out of that...growing up, I guess. And I'm softening too. The funny thing is the more I see her, the more I realize she is me 15 years earlier. Maybe that's why we do this "oil and water" dance.

My parents. Each passing day is a gift. Each day I see them both become more aged and weaker and it terrifies me. I try to appreciate every moment I have, as I know each day is a gift now. On Friday night, we had a family dinner and it was one of those rare moments when everything was perfect. Dinner was fabulous, and we were all in such good moods that we laughed until our sides split. No one wanted to leave and have the night end. I drove home and it suddenly struck me. I was terrified that somehow that might have been one of the last nights like that. It truly scares me, living on this borrowed time.

I'm thankful that I have phenomenal friends. They accept me for me. I have friends I talk to every day, and friends I may speak to once a year, but I know they're there. This week, I reconnected with a friend I hadn't seen in over a year. We sat there wondering what had happened, but it was just life. Nothing more. True friendship is lifelong. Sometimes we'll go on separate paths, but inevitably it'll go back to the same one.

Not to mention thankful I didn't back away completely from blogging when things went sideways. I have a strong need to write, and this medium has not only opened me up to many wonderful, strong friends but also a wealth of knowledge as well. It allowed me to feed that need in me to write (although I do write outside of here as well), and also strengthened my resolve in many ways. I don't apologize for anything in here. If someone is offended by my feelings, comments or opinions, I only ask you to put yourself in my shoes. This is who I am. Good, bad or indifferent.

I'm thankful I had the courage to finally dig for the answers regarding my health. I hadn't really been asking the right questions or telling the right stories to my doctors for some time for the sheer reason that I didn't think I could face the answers. While it still does mean surgery, there is something infinitely rewarding about the words 'pain free'. Inconceivable at this point, but it's like the brightest white light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm also thankful for taking the situation earlier this year and turning it into something positive. Forgive me for being vague, but I'm still a little nervous about who reads this. It however, is one of my greatest accomplishments this year. Being able to rebuild a friendship out of ashes. He's a good guy, and that's all I can say right now.

I'm thankful that I am living in a country as wonderful as Canada. That for all it's problems, it is still the best place I could ever imagine. I am thankful that my military and that of my neighbour's is doing all it can right now to help maintain that.

So tonight as I go to my brother's house and watch the kids chew down on a turkey leg and the puppy, who is now being referred to as 'Princess P*sspot' chew on our socks as we sit at the table, I will be very thankful. I am truly blessed.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Me Want Cookie!
You Are Cookie Monster
Misunderstood as a primal monster, you're a true hedonist with a huge sweet tooth.
You are usually feeling: Hungry. Cookies are preferred, but you'll eat anything if cookies aren't around.
You are famous for: Your slightly crazy eyes and usual way of speaking
How you life your life: In the moment. "Me want COOKIE!"

(thanks, Ian)

Friday drivel. Long weekend awaits! Only a few more hours to go!

Thursday, October 05, 2006
Somehow, just for fun, it would seem I have developed the flu. I had to take a day and half off work, but it was completely inconceivable to be in a car for over 1/2 an hour. Well, even 15 minutes would have stretched it yesterday.

My neighbour called yesterday. His wife of 47 years passed away Sunday. It was not unexpected, as she had uterine cancer but no matter how you prepare, it is always a shock. She was a strong woman with a quick wit. The wife of a career soldier, who followed her husband around the world as a military wife raising 4 children mostly on her own for the better part of their childhood.

In the end, my neighbour was so distraught in the last few days he actually broke four of his molars clenching his teeth while his wife slowly slipped away. She passed on Sunday and he spent Monday and Tuesday in the dentist's chair having the teeth removed. The dentist said to him as he first looked at his teeth, 'Dave, have you been under stress?' You could say that.

He's a very aloof man, my neighbour. Most of the local children are nervous of him. He's got a gruff voice and has no problem telling people exactly what he thinks. But he and I have always hit it off...he reminds me of my own father in so many ways and his stories always amaze me.

'Well, when 'Leen and I were courting, you know in Liverpool, we used to spend night after night in the jazz clubs. That's when they knew how to play music', he'd smile at the memory. 'And then those damned rock and roll Beatles started playing and those days were gone. People forgot what real music was.'

Or how when he was in the Golan Heights in the midst of the heightened tensions, hearing bullets snap like fingers as they flew by his ear, he was caught in a bomb blast. 3 months in a military hospital with traumatic blindness on the other side of the world. 'It wasn't like the kids have it today. My wife didn't even know I was injured for the first 6 weeks, and then after that, I was on the other side of the world. I couldn't write. She had to rely on the word of mouth of others.' We have it good now. He also took a keen interest when Todd and I were dating, always wanting to know what the latest news was from Iraq. Not many people were all that supportive at that time, but he always was.

I am just thankful his wife is no longer suffering. It has been a hard 10 months. As I said to him yesterday, being an outside observer, I've been so touched by the closeness of his daughters. I've seen a true family spirit of late. The girls take turns cleaning the house, and caring for their parents. Their mom was at home until just the last 5 days. It was not easy for any of them, but from my viewpoint, their strong bond seemed to give them all strength.
Monday, October 02, 2006
The Reunion Gig
As I began to get ready for the evening, those long forgotten feelings of that little teenage girl were close to the surface. The one who was picked last, teased and picked on for her stammering pattern of speech. She no longer exists, I told myself firmly. She was gone a long time ago!

It was the 20th high school reunion of the Class of ’86. It wasn’t my year, but the year ahead of mine. In a quirky twist of fate, the organizer had called my phone number a few weeks previous looking for someone with a similar name. ‘Not me’, I recalled saying, ‘But do you need any help? Photography, for example?’

She had been surprised at her luck as well. She had been unable to find a photographer within the budget that was willing to accommodate her requirements. ‘I am just starting out’ I told her, ‘You’d be doing me a favour just as much as I am for you. Besides, I know a lot of the people going, or did a couple decades ago’

Hired. We negotiated a fair price. Probably less than I could have got, but on the other hand, right now, it is all about word of mouth. It’s about showing what I can do, and practicing what I can’t. I sent her my online portfolio and also a scan of a recent newspaper showcasing a few pictures.

I put it aside. Things were busy as usual. The night would be the day after my birthday, so it meant moving a few things up. Meanwhile, I’d been in contact with a girl I did go to school with.

We, along with a couple others, were beginning to plan our own reunion for October 2007. She was one of the popular girls. Some would even call her one of the ‘Plastics’, if they’d watched that recent Lindsay Lohan movie. In high school, she was always poised and confident. The boys loved her. She had a reputation as a party girl. When we met again at the meeting, I found myself swallowing those old feelings of inadequacy as she talked about fighting with her ex-husband about who gets the corporate jet.

It surprised me when after our meeting, she chose to contact me to talk privately. She hoped she could join me as my ‘assistant’ for the upcoming reunion. I told her she could, but there were rules. Suddenly, the ball was in my court. I would pay for her dinner but that’s all I could afford, and in return, I asked that she take notes and addresses for me to later pass on the pictures. It was a bit of a load off my mind. I could concentrate on the photography aspect and not have to worry about the administrative side.

Suddenly, it was Saturday the 23rd. I was struck with a sudden need at 3 in the afternoon for a new outfit. Those odd insecure feelings were rising to the surface again. What if they see how inexperienced I am in candid photography? What if I take photos of people who don’t want to be in the shots? What if…. The list went on.

Truly, and I knew this, it was more because that little geek-girl of my teenage years still existed inside. I may walk with my head held high now, but it isn’t that long ago that I remember those lonely nights knowing that I wasn’t welcome at the parties of my schoolmates. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I wasn’t a fun girl. I stood out from the crowd then because I consciously chose not to do those things.

L showed up on time to pick me up in her cute little convertible Mini. As we drove to the event, she was overly hyper. Talking a mile a minute about her personal life and as if trying to convince me, she mentioned several times how much she enjoyed her single party-filled life now. She’d been married for a decade, then now single with a young son, she’d re-established that party-girl life I remembered her for so long ago.

We arrived at the reunion location, the first ones there. I found the organizer in a state of panic. It was nearly start time and no one had showed up. What if no one did?, she asked us. What happens if it was a big bust?

They’re fashionably late, we assured her.

About half an hour later, the first guest arrived. He wasn’t anyone we recognized. He came in and went straight to the outside balcony and took out his pocket book and began reading. Occasionally, he would glance up but seemed to have no interest in speaking or making contact with anyone.

It seemed to be the trick though. People began pouring in. Groups. Singles. Couples. Within another half an hour, there were nearly 200 people congregated in the pub.

Everywhere you looked, there were smiles. Gales of laughter. Hugs. It was not hard to take great photos of candid moments. They were in every corner.
Some people had aged phenomenally. One girl, remembered as a quiet bookworm, had blossomed into an exotically beautiful woman. Some not as well…most notably the guy all the girls loved. He was voted in high school as the most desirable, but in walked a pudgy, salt & pepper buzz cut fellow barely recognizable as his former self. I thought he looked great…warm eyes were what I noticed, but apparently he was much changed from 20 years ago.

I was surprised to hear my name called out a few times. “Sue, is that you?”, a casually-dressed woman called out. ‘It’s me, M? You remember me, don’t you?’…she looked at me almost pleadingly. Of course, I do...but it was her face I recognized and couldn’t place her name. I said to her ‘I’m surprised. I thought no one remember me. I was such a shy little girl back then’. She laughed. ‘Yeah, you were. But you were always you. Didn’t matter what the cool kids were doing. Even then, you knew what you wanted and why’. I was shell-shocked. Really? Is that what people thought?

There were others too. People I had long forgotten, but who stood before me as newfound friends.

Before we knew it, midnight was upon us and it was time to leave. I walked with L to her car, in an upbeat mood. It had been a perfect night. I was paid for doing something I loved, and I had reinforced my self-confidence.

It was L who surprised me though. She said as we drove home. ‘Well, I’m glad I forced myself to go tonight. I’ve been sick to my stomach with nerves’, she confided.

‘Why? You were always so popular! How on earth could you have felt nervous? Everyone loved you!’, I said in a shocked voice.

‘Well, that’s just it. The boys loved me. And well, I thought by being the life of the party, that was my key to everything. Turned out it wasn’t. I just ended up being used. The boys got what they wanted, and the girls all hated me.’

I had no idea. Here I was walking into a room where I felt shy and inadequate. What she did, on the other hand, was even more courageous. She walked into a room where her demons were much more vicious.

I asked her how she felt now. ‘It made me feel like maybe I could overcome it. I can’t forget it or change it, but at least it doesn’t have to define me anymore’.

It put the whole evening into a new light. We all have our own demons and pain. We all deal with it in different ways. It takes courage to face them, but the rewards are worth it.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Last night, we held a Mexican themed party for a friend of ours celebrating their first anniversary. A friend of mine is just starting a cakery business and I asked her to come up with something special. We bantied about a few ideas, but in the end, I just said "You know this better than I do". When I walkeda round the corner yesterday to pick up the cake, my jaw dropped! Not only was this a beautiful looking cake but also tasted phenomenal. Cappucchino Truffle.
The hostess of the party has a keen attention to detail, and loves creating. Not only was the entire house transformed into a Mexican cabana...each wall decorated with something from the theme, but she also made a 4' paper mache cactus. All this while raising a 3 month old teething baby!

One of the highights of the night was this little girl. When I last saw her two years ago, she was still a ball of fire but had some medical issues going on. She was born in July 2002 at just 24 weeks! When she was born, she weighed only 1 lb. 4 oz. and fit completely in the palm of her father's hand.

She lived at the hospital for the first 14 months of her life, and when she came home, she was still on oxygen and a feeding tube. When I last saw her, they were trying to wean her off the feeding tube, but when you've never swallowed in your entire life, everything is new. It's not instinct anymore, but a challenge. The taste, the texture. She much preferred to have her quiet time laying on the couch having her food the old fashioned way...through the tube in her stomach. It was all she knew.
So last night, I was overjoyed to see how far she'd progressed. This little miracle's only lasting effect 4 years later is compromised hearing. She wears a Cochlear implant but with that, can hear well enough to converse like every other 4 year old I've known...but with a quick wit and an incredible sense of humour. "Are you learning ballet, C?", we asked her as she twirled around the room. She turned with a gleam in her eye, 'Salsa, baby!'

She is truly a miracle and a testament to modern medicine!

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from cdnsue. Make your own badge here.