Monday, 18 April 2016

Kennedy Rose: The Haitian Sensation

My granddaughter turned two weeks yesterday, on her original due date. She arrived early at the ball after the doctors decided to induce her mother to give her relief from gestational diabetes.

Newborns are such strange creatures with their big "ready for their closeup" heads and their tiny bodies. Kennedy also has these long pink feet that don't really match.

"She's got my feet," my daughter Marissa chuckled.

On the day Kennedy was born, Marissa looked up at me and smiled.

"I made that," she said with a self-satisfied grin.

Yes, you did, I thought. It's the best thing you will ever do.

When I had my first baby, I was a hot mess. I didn't know how to do anything. So my husband put my mom on a plane and brought her out to Regina where she showed me the ropes and minded Nicholas while I slept.

Maybe it's because we have the Internet now, but Marissa doesn't need me. She's a natural mother, and seems very relaxed for having had a watermelon pass her nethers just two weeks ago. Marissa is also lucky to have Jeff who shares the workload, taking the night shift while Marissa gets some much needed zzzs.

And Jeff is taking parental leave while Marissa goes back to work next week.

I am in awe.

I love this new creature with her black hair and her tan skin. She is the perfect blend of genes from her mother, the original Snow White, and her Haitian father.

I'm calling her the Haitian Sensation, and yes, I know, there is an artist named that. But I like it.

I'm so proud of this little family for reminding me everyday what's important in life.

Love. Happiness. Newborns.

The circle of life.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The cancer diaries: I've earned this ear

This is my ear.
Have a gander at it.
It won't look like this for long.
A surgeon is going to take a hunk out of it to get rid of an aggressive cancerous lump that's been growing there for years. I didn't notice it because I didn't know what basel carcinoma was. I just thought I had dermatitis. That's what the doctor said I had, too.
Bad, bad doctor.
Give me your medical licence. Hand it over, right now.

I don't have dermatitis, or a bed sore. I have full blown cancerama.
The good news is that there's an innovative technique being used here in Ottawa, called the Mohs Technique, which involves shaving and cutting off the cancer while a pathologist sits by and monitors the procedure. When the pathologist rules the cancer is gone, the surgeon stops.
Holy shit! That is so cool.
I'm still going to be missing part of my ear, which is not at all cool, but I'm okay with that. I could simply adopt a new hair style, join the Red Hats, or find some sort of upper ear bling that would cover it. Not me. Knowing me, I'll show the cashier at Loblaws, and anybody else who wants to see it. And a lot who don't want to see it.
The other upside is that it will be easy to identify my body should I fall out of the boat at the cottage or be found stabbed in the parking lot without my purse.
"Oh that's just Rose," the CSI will say. "According to the relatives who reported her missing, she only had one ear."
Sorry, I work with pathologists.

When it comes to my skin cancer, I'm a glass is half full dame. It's not going to kill me. It's in a place that I personally can't see, so I don't really care. And I never go out in the sun anymore, anyway.
As my dermatologist says, if you're going to get cancer, this is the best one to get.

I'm turning 60 in a few months, and I'm entering the Third Act. That's the time in life when the chickens come home and shit all over your head.
We've all done stupid things in our lives, and if we live to see the Third Act, we're sure as hell gonna pay for it. Cancer. Heart disease. Wrinkles. Muffin tops. Dripping pricks. Pee Pants.
I don't know many people -- including doctors, and I know a lot of those -- who live perfect lives. Even those who profess to follow doctor's orders have dirty little secrets.
They might not drink, but they sure as hell eat a lot of cake and drink a lot of Coca Cola, which is the Spanish word for drain cleaner.
They might play sports instead of sitting in bars, but they have artificial knees and hips.
I accept all of this, and hope against hope I don't get anything else.
Which I probably will.
Because I'm a sinner.
I've done it all, and had a ball, and I wouldn't change one minute of it. I wouldn't have traded that golf game or tennis match and wouldn't have given up drinking on the 19th hole.
When I die, the headstone's gonna read:

She had a high lifetime average.
Of Everything.

Red wine, sports, sex, video games, dirty jokes and laughter.
I have no guilt, and lots of good memories.

So bring it.
I've earned this ear.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Hey Mulcair: There's no crying in politics

My old boss in the Prime Minister's Office was fond of hauling me up on the blue carpet several times a day for various infractions. We worked in the correspondence division, Peggy had very high standards, and I was a sloppy hot mess back in those days.

I'd stand there, and stutter. Or I'd make an excuse, or apologize.

After a few minutes, Peggy would glare at me.

"Stop grovelling, Rose."

Her words came crawling back into my head as I watched Tom Mulcair standing on the stage during the NDP convention. His face was contorted and strange. It was as if he were a character in one of those Kindergarten books, the ones that were cut into three different strips, so you could take the eyes on one person and put them on another.

His mouth was almost leering, with a strange side smile, and his eyes were glistening and small. I swear to God, his beard got greyer as he pleaded with delegates to keep him on to fight another day.

"Stop grovelling, Tom," I mumbled, and then my mind began to stray.

He'd lost the audience, this party of one, who should have been riveted by his inspirational words. He should have been Jack Layton; instead he was me, standing front of Peggy, asking her not to fire me.

I felt chills; I was slightly weirded out.

And then I began to pity him, and there is nothing worse in politics than having the audience feel sorry for you. Like Gilles Duceppe with the condom on his head. Stephen Harper in the cowboy costume.

Now it was Mulcair, and he was actually crying.

Everyone knows there's no crying in politics. His number was up. The red lights from the automatic pistols were shining on his rumpled suit.

I couldn't take it anymore.

So I began to focus on that beard.

What is under that beard? There's always something: a double chin, or no chin; a bad case of roseacea; or maybe an unsightly mole. Suddenly, I wanted to rip the hair right off his face.

"It's that facial hair that got you in this mess in the first place," I nearly shouted at the television.


It was a fascinating dance at the NDP convention. The audience was unmoved and the gathering began to look like a convention of stone-cold assassins, with their guns holstered, but with the clips on, about to blow poor Tom's beard right off his chin.

There were a few tears, of course. Several people waffled.

A total of 48 percent of the delegates had voted for the guy -- that's not nothing -- but they did so more out of pity and misguided loyalty than for any notion he would fulfil their hopes and dreams. Tom's supporters were all standing in the front; they were the old Leapless guard, the people in politics who still believe in "dancing with the girl that brung ya."

Tom's supporters are old school. They still wear corduroy and patches on their elbows. Still ignore the importance of hair color in a bottle.

They remember when loyalty was valued in politics, when traditions mattered.

Back in those days, everyone wore watches, and didn't LOL. Coffee was caffeinated and brewed in big pots at the back of the room.

People made mismatched friends in politics. Geeks became heroes. Weirdos got blow jobs from cheerleaders under the stadium stands. Girls were actually valued for their intellect.

There were no losers just also rans.

Those days are gone, Tom.

Or should we start referring to you as Old Tom?

The new guard have been raised on Assassin Creed. They've disconnected their cable.

There's no more Hootenanies in the NDP.

This group is not about harmony, it's about disruption.

We've entered a new era of youth charged testosterone. Leaders have to have demonstrably working prostrates and uteruses.

The hair has to be on top of the head, not on the face, Tom.

You are so 1984.

So get over it, Tom.

Move the hell on.

Don't let the caucus do the dirty work.

Oh, and yes.

There's always this.

The Tories are looking for a new leader.

That's a party you haven't tried yet.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Kennedy Express

Twenty-six minutes.
That's how long it takes to get a hot dog at a chip truck, or to exchange a sweater at Winner's.
And that's how long it took my newest granddaughter to pop into this world, after giving her mother nothing but trouble for the last four months.
One minute Marissa's cervix was a centimetre and the next, Kennedy Rose was shooting out of her womb like a torpedo. No time, not even for the good drugs.
It was the Kennedy Express.
The docs called it a Precipitous Delivery, and it only happens in about 2 percent of deliveries.
For this "express delivery" to occur, there has to be a perfect storm of genetic and physical factors:

  • an above-average "pelvic outlet"
  • a well-aligned pelvis, pubic bone and birth canal
  • an unusually small baby
  • a well positioned baby
  • a female relative who also experienced fast labors.

I had to think on the last one.

Then I recalled that my mother Vera gave birth to my brother Gary in a manner that had the placenta literally explode in the doctor's face. So Marissa can thank great grandma Vera for the baby eruption.

I'm just glad she was already in the hospital given the fact that Kennedy was born yesterday on perhaps the worst snow day of the decade. It took us an hour and a half to get to the hospital which is only about 20 minutes from our house.

I have visions of Jeff parking the SUV at the side of the road and catching Kennedy while Marissa was having her third contraction.

Anyway, I'm grateful and thrilled that our little granddaughter made it into this world to give her mother both joy and trouble for the next 50 years. Children are gifts that keep on giving, in good times and in bad.

In the long run, and for the most part, they are worth all the trouble.

Kennedy joins both her grandparents as children born in the Year of the Monkey.

Marissa and Jeff just have to look at us to see the trouble she'll be causing.

Welcome to the world, Little Monkey.

Go Bananas.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Year of the Monkey 1956: Yadda, Yadda Makes Me Sadda

Scott and I entered the Chinese Year of the Monkey with great expectations.
This was gonna be our banner year.
Wealth, wisdom, maybe a little mirth -- we were on our way.
So we celebrated Scott's 60th birthday in high style, thanks to my son Stefan who treated us to a buffet of wonderful treats at Kelsey's, where Stef and his girlfriend Angele work. He also bought us wine, beer, and a bit of whiskey. Indeed, the Chinese New Year was off to a great start.
We're both Monkeys, 1956 edition, in the Year of the Monkey.
What could possibly go wrong?
Lots, it seems.
Since the beginning of the year, Scott has meandered from one bad job to the next. My own employment is also in peril, as the Canadian publishing entity where I edit medical journals has been bought by a company from India. That means instead of having monthly paycheques now, pay day is always a surprise. As in, surprise! No cheque this month!

Things aren't looking up from the medical standpoint, either. I was supposed to be in the queue for a breast reduction, but my paperwork was lost by both the specialist, and the GP. I tried to change family docs, and that paperwork also went into the ether. And the new GP doesn't remember she had agreed to take me, and keeps booting my appointments off her schedule.
When I finally got to see the boob doc, she informed me I had to lose 40 pounds before she would put me under the knife. Forty pounds! That's like, 1000 pints of Ben and Jerry's!
And to add insult to medical injury, I discovered my original doctor had misdiagnosed the bump on my ear. I don't have a bed sore, I have skin cancer!
Yadda, yadda, make me sadda, sadda.

I should have listened to Lainey Lui, the expert on all things Chinese on CTV's The Social.
According to the Canadian gossip maven, being thrown out of our mothers' wombs in 1956 was actually bad luck for us. The 1956 Monkeys are doomed this year.
"Monkeys will not be benefited by any lucky stars (this year) so it might be hard to make gains," she writes in her blog. "Be careful this year of backstabbers. There could be arguments and personal drama ahead."
What the What?
Nobody told us this wasn't OUR YEAR!
Have we been looking at The Year Of all wrong?
Angele Merkle won Time's Person of the Year for 2015. Does that mean she will cast bad luck on all Germans, as Chancellor?
Does winning Actress of the Year mean beetles in a person's cornflakes?
Look at Sandra Bullock who was cuckolded by a walking ink poster. Or Halley Berry who threw shade on black people in the movie business for a decade.
I guess if it's your year, you'd better get a helmet and a club.

According to Lui, the only chance of staving off bad luck in the Year of the Monkey is to buy everybody dinner.
Thanks, Lainey, for telling us AFTER Scott's birthday.
Everybody bought him dinner.
Now we're on the Ferris Wheel of Shit, apparently.
And don't get me started on the health stuff, Lainey.
"Overall, for Monkeys, there is an increased risk of cuts and bruises," she writes. "See your doctor soon after the New Year for a complete physical, including bloodwork, and your dentist for a thorough cleaning."
Well, that ship has sailed.
Been there, done that, got blood all over my T-shirt.
Fortunately, there may be some good news on the horizon.
My birthday is still upcoming.
I can buy wieners and beans for the crowd, hopefully, if I haven't spent too much of my moola on sunscreen and dental dams.
Lainey says a Monkey can actually earn some good luck by "building on your knowledge, increasing your skills, and becoming more attractive to good luck when it arrives."
Time to get to work.
Too bad attractiveness is already out of the question thanks to my skin cancer diagnosis.
Hard to put your best face forward when you have one that looks like it got caught in a hail of buckshot.
Maybe I'll just crawl under the covers and wait for 2017.

In the meantime, if I can't buy you dinner, at least I can give you this.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Remembering Grandpapa

My granddaughters will never know their great grandpapa who died last month at the age of 95.

Those who did know him would never forget him.

If I'd written a Most Memorable Character for Reader's Digest, I would have written about the father of my children's father, Carlyle Gagnier. He truly was one of a kind.

I wanted to get down a few memories for my grandkids in case they asked their parents about him one day. My kids were young the last time they saw him, only teenagers. They lost him to marital estrangement and it is a guilt I carry with me always.

Here goes.

Carlyle was born in February 24, 1921, the same day as my own sainted mother who passed away more than two decades ago. Carl was one of gaggle of Gagnier children including Patrick, Armand and Marquita. As the legend goes, his French Canadian father married his Irish mother who spoke no French whatsoever. Kathleen spent her life among the French not understanding anybody, including her own husband. She died of depression, or so the story goes, leaving Carl's dad to raise up his bunch.

Like many French-Canadians of his ilk (including Pierre Trudeau's father), Carl's dad owned a gas station in Balconville in Montreal which was a front for a bootlegging operation. He took the proceeds to buy an acreage of land not far from what is now the toney resort town of Mont Tremblant, also close to Sainte Agathe, the town made famous in the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by the writer Mordecai Richler.

Like his dad, Carl was entrepreneurial in spirit, and used his father's distilling expertise to his advantage during World War II. Carl became a bootlegger to the Royal Canadian Navy, and that kept him out of the fighting part of the war.

Carl fell in love with a feisty Montrealer named Gisele Morin, and eloped with her because her own father despised her choice of husband. The two were married for more than 60 years, over which time Carl showered Gisele with furs, paintings and expensive jewelry.

After the war, Carl started selling industrial motors while Gisele became a hairdresser in the Town of Mount Royal, crafting up do's for the rich English ladies. They worked hard, and sent their two children to private school where they were subjected to the usual abuse by nuns and Jesuit priests. Then it was off to boarding school for the pair, while Carl and Gisele established themselves and bought a nice house in TMR, and spruced up the family "cottage".

It is at this cottage where most of my memories of Carl were forged. While Gisele made it clear that I wasn't good enough for my husband, Carl did everything to make me feel welcome, and loved.

He welcomed and adored his grandchildren, taking them on rides around the property, and teaching them to fish at the local fish farm. One New Year's, Carl took the boys up a hill and pushed their sleds down, and came tumbling with them. When he recovered from the fall, his noticed his shoulder was set square, and had to find a local doctor to reset it. Instead of complaining, he bought himself a yard of wine and proceeded to drink it.

As the kids noted, Grandpapa drank many yards of wine over the years.

Carl was determined to stock the man-made lake on the property and brought in an expert from the fish farm who arrived with a truck full of small perch, or somesuch. Minutes after the fish man dumped his load into the lake, the fish came up bobbing. It was hilarious to watch Carl trying to revive them by giving them mouth-to-mouth. The stocking attempt turned out to be a failure, so Carl stocked the downstairs freezer with fish instead; and we ate a lot of it over a couple of years.

Carl was a composite character, a mix of Milton Berle and Leonard Cohen. He loved practical jokes and was always calling up pretending to be Father O'Toole after a few drinks.

The man also loved massages. That's enough said about that.

Carl was a wonderful father, and a doting grandfather, and the closest thing I ever had to a dad myself.

When my marriage broke up, one of my great regrets was not seeing Carl or hearing his corny jokes. I loved them man, and I am sad to hear of his passing.

Rest in peace, Father O'Toole, and give a kiss to cousin Coco when you get up there.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Pugs: Life among the coneheads

Sophie the pug woke me up this morning scratching her left ear, and panting.
This is a regular occurrence when you live among the coneheads, those dogs with allergies. Fawn pugs seem to be most vulnerable to the call of the mould that has laid dormant under the patches of ice in our backyard.
Sophie's allergies are the worst I've encountered as a pug whisperer.
She spends nearly her entire life under the big blue cone, one that extends to twice the size of her face. She's graduated from the smaller, clear cone thanks to her pug predilection for increased girth despite the fact she's been on a strict diet of salmon or duck laced kibble that costs a King's ransom, but fortunately can be found at Costco for half the price.
The blue cone is causing her problems. She can't get up the stairs without it catching so I've often founded her flailing about at the bottom of the front stairs, under the watchful and, I swear, amused eye of Finnigan. She's reverted to a puppy-like state, afraid of the daunting climb of six steps and so we're forced to carry her up into the living room, with Sophie fighting tooth and nail.
I, too, am a victim of the cone. I have cuts on the back of my leg where she butts me, nearly taking down my legs in the process. She also scrapes the cones on my body during the night, trying to calm her chronic face itch.
The only remedy is the dreaded red pill, the Benadryl which is nearly impossible to administer to a dog which has the mouth of a cartoon character. After claiming victory after shoving the tiny pills down her throat, I am often humbled in the morning to find the pill remnants under foot, or in my sock drawer, where it has been flung in a spray of saliva.
The cone stays on for weeks at a time to save her poor ear which she has scratched so viciously that it appears she's turned into a punk rocker with an ear gauge the size of a grape. When it's finally healed, she can roam the world coneles but for only a time.
A few days back, we were relieved to find her wound had healed, so finally we -- Scott, me, Finnigan and Sophie -- have been able to sleep in relative peace.
Last night, I discovered that she had scratched the inside of her ear instead of the outside, an obvious clandestine approach to hide her nocturnal activity. I grabbed her at 3 a.m. and shoved a pill down her gullet but alas, there was no end in sight for her panting and weaving.
So I took her to the leather couch with its calming coolness and she was finally able to sleep.
I, however, laid awake the rest of the night.
Chronic after-the-event insomnia.
It is the curse of pug lovers everywhere.
Today, we return to life among the coneheads.
I'm thinking of getting shin pads and a helmet to protect me from its wrath.