Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Cancer Diaries: Sex, Lies and Videotapes

Last week, Jennette and I had the big talk.
You know the one, the talk where you set everything straight, and confess to past transgressions, lies and half-truths.
If you're a caregiver for a cancer patient, you know what I'm talking about.
Even the most solid gold hearted caregiver sometimes has to lie to the patient, if for no other reason than to keep heart and soul together.

My big lie concerned Jennette's apartment which I had to empty out over the course of about six days when she undergoing radiation at the Ottawa Hospital. Her doctor told us that Jay needed to go into assisted living, and would no longer be able to live the swinging single life at her pad on Kilborn Avenue. The oral cancer was now Stage Four, and it was inhabiting the side of her face like a burrowed squirrel.
"Unless you have someone to care for her 24/7, she might choke to death one night," he explained in that concerned oncologist voice. "You don't want to come to her apartment and find her dead. Let somebody else do that."
The doc did have a way of snapping a person to attention, and that is how Jay, her brother and I decided it was time to make a move.
The trouble was, she didn't remember.
Jay was really, really sick and out of it after the docs gave her a huge bolus of radiation.
One minute, she was her lucid and sharp self, the next she was buzzing around her hospital cubby looking for something that was right in front. Thanks, cannabinoids!
To me, time was of the essence. I needed to find her a place and get her moved -- stat. And so I began the thankless task of sorting through another person's life, and making decisions without her.
It didn't help that Jay was a bit of a pack rat. She had some of her mom's clothes, sleeves of golf balls, and two pairs of golf shoes, size 5 -- and I had never seen her play golf in 30 years!
Finally, I got the job done, and came back to her hospital room.
She leaned over, and put her little hand on my wrist.
"After I'm out of here, we'll go back to my place, and I'll tell you what to keep," she said, trying to focus her rheumy eyes on me.
Holy shit, I thought.
How can I tell her that the only things left in her apartment were the drapes?
And that's when the lying began.
It was heartbreaking, but I promised.
A few days later, we moved her into Hunt Club Manor, and she was surrounded by all her nice things: the paintings, her furniture...everything except all the pack rat stuff.
She was still agitated, and fearful.
She kept insisting on returning to the scene of the crime, the place she left by ambulance with none of her memories.
I kept hoping she'd forget, but she didn't.
Weeks went by, and I kept putting her off.
"We have lots of time," I said. "Your lease doesn't finish til the end of the year."
I felt like a dream thief, a scallywag, and a no-good sinner deserving of anything Dante could possibly throw at me in the afterlife.
I've been known to tell a lie or two, in my life, but this was different.
I was lying to a cancer patient and it was eating me up inside.
I fought with myself, night after night. I reasoned that I wasn't lying for my own personal gain or redemption in her eyes.
I was lying to give her hope.
Then I thought back to a small incident that gave me my own version of hope.
I was sitting on her bedroom floor one afternoon, and sorting through her drawers, as well as bags unopened from her last move, the one she made after Roger died. I was hot, and tired, and dispirited.
I reached into the back of the closet and found a big yellow gym bag.
I opened it, and found a treasure trove of black and white magazines.
It was full of porn.
Not just any porn, but 1970s porn, displaying antics of people all shapes, sizes and genders.
I was stunned.
How could Roger have left this for poor Jennette?
And how could he have left it for me to get rid of?
I began to laugh, harder and harder.
What the hell was I going to do with this?
I marched the bag down to the dumpster in her apartment and the bin was locked.
So I had to leave the bag out in public for anyone to pick up.
I snickered at the thought of the maintenance guys opening the damn thing and seeing a guy with a blonde with his wang hanging out.
I left it, and sped home.
A few days later, I mentioned the incident to my son Stef, who lives in the same building.
He just shook his head.
"Why did you get rid of it?" he asked. "That stuff's worth a lot of money!"
I remember another thing about that day.
I remember thanking Roger for bringing me out of my doldrums. It was as if he had reached down and slapped me on the back of the head.
"Come on, kid," I heard him say. "It ain't all that bad. Go home and have a beer!"

The day I confessed my sin to Jennette -- the lie about her apartment -- we were having some libations in the afternoon after working on some paper work.
"You know, I'm so sorry that you have to go through all of this," I said tearing up. "You are such a good person -- you don't deserve it."
"Well," she said. "I brought it on myself."
Then I saw the sly grin.
"But I don't regret one minute of my life. I enjoyed every damned cigarette. I loved them all."
I can't explain it, but it was as if she'd given me a signal.
Truth or dare. I tell you, you tell me.
I blurted out the whole thing about her apartment.
She just shrugged and took another draw of her cocktail.
"Oh well," she said with a wave of her hand.
After that, I couldn't stop talking. And I had to tell her about the little treasure I found at the back of the closet.
"I do have a funny story," I told her. "When I was packing up, I found a bag of Roger's porn. I mean, really, Jennette...did you know about Roger's porn?"
"What do you mean?" she grinned. "Oh, you mean our porn?"
And then she began to tell me a few stories that I won't share here.
We laughed, and drank, and talked about the good old days.
It was as if we'd gotten the band back together, and we were sitting on their deck, trading stories.
There wasn't much I didn't know about the Levetts. Roger often greeted me in his underwear.
But I hadn't known about the porn until that very moment.
And now the circle of hell was complete.
Me, Roger, Jay, and that damned bag of porn.
It bought us even closer together.
But wait, where was the videotape?

Saturday, 9 December 2017

My Merry Christmas Newsletter: LOL!!

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Remember the good old days, back when there was snail mail, and your mailbox was filled with Christmas newsletters from friends near and far? I believe it was the 80s when those Christmas essays were all the rage, mailed to the masses, included in cards filled with photos of expensively dressed rich families in their matching sweaters -- including the dog.

I always hoped at least one dog bit the photographer.

I haven't gotten any in recent years. And that's because we're all entering our dotage. Those massively successful kids? The ones who went to good schools? Unemployed, divorced and living in the basement.

But some of the families are still out there. They're the ones who inherited cottages from their parents.

Anyway, I miss those cards and letters. So I thought I'd write one this year. You'll have to read it here -- like most Canadians, I cannot afford stamps.

Hello! Bonjour! Friends:

How are you!!!

We are fine, and enjoying a green December. When will it snow??

I was looking at the Sail ads, and they have some very nice snow shoes. Alas, neither of us have knees, so we'll just have to settle with sitting in front of the television, sipping our Ensure, while watching an endless loop of Trump tv, peppered with ads for heart failure, incontinence, and financial planning. 

We do have our fun!

It's been an exciting year for us. Scott is working at a stereo store selling speakers to RedBlack players and hipsters. He has spent most of his wages on a very nice turn table and bins of old records, which makes me feel like I am still living on Ontario Street in St. Catharines, with all my friends sitting cross legged, and drinking beer on burnt orange carpet. 

When he first brought home those records, I rebelled. But now, I'm down with listening to Eric Clapton -- the Wonder Years. And Poco, after Timothy B. Schmidt.

Scott is convinced that the future is vinyl. I can't wait to whip out the halter tops and bell bottoms. Thank goodness, pot is making a comeback!

I'm pretty much retired now -- I used to be just unemployed. 

I am looking after my daughter's toddler, the well documented Squishy.

Babysitting was my first job, and it appears that it will be my last. Still, I am grateful to be in her life, as her grandma, using my time tested child rearing technique -- free range. In other words, I let her do whatever she wants. She's reached Level 2,305 in Angry Birds -- and she's  only 20 months. There is a real future for her in technology!


Even though
my career is going gangbusters, I am also volunteering, helping my good friend Jennette with her cancer. I blog about Jennette often -- telling people that she's in good spirits, essentially lying, which is what everybody does who looks after a cancer patient. Jennette has oral cancer, and her face looks like a balloon at the moment. I suggested yesterday that she could use herself as a piƱata at the annual Christmas party. She laughed, but I think secretly she wanted to reach into that cupboard behind her, the one with all the End of Days needles and stick one in my spine.

Cancer does that to people. It makes them grumpy. Go figure!


Fortunately, Jennette appears to have found the cure for cancer.

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Lots, and lots of vodka.

It goes with everything: Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Jello.

And she doesn't have to worry about drinking and driving!


You see, vodka makes the tumour too sleepy to kill her. 

But not to sleepy to kill me!


The kids are doing fine. Nick lost his first tooth yesterday, and he's only 32!

Don't worry, Nick, it's growing in Squishy's mouth!


Ah the circle of life.

A lot of people wonder what I do all day, now that I've given up blogging due to depression. The answer is, I like to watch television, just like Donald Trump. I watch CNN 24/7 just to make sure there isn't a nuclear bomb headed our way. You see, I'm all about FOMO -- fear of missing out -- and I want to be ahead of the curve in case we have to head for the hills.

Come on, people. 

It's not all gloom and doom.

We will always have Justin.

We might be on our way out, but Justin will be in a bunker someplace, smiling and mugging for the camera, hopefully with his shirt off.

But who, exactly, will see all those photos?

If a Trudeau strips in a bunker, will anybody see?

That must give him pause.

Well, gotta go. We have trees to trim, dogs to walk, and opiods to take.

In case I don't talk to you -- let's face it, do I ever talk to you face to face anymore? -- have a Merry One and go easy on the Lyrica!

Love and kisses, Rose and Scott, and the whole damned family. 

BTW, the furniture is still the furniture from Regina in the 80s!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Ashley Simpson's Father of Invention

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Sometimes you have to make lemonade with rotten lemons.
That's what my cousin John Simpson has done.
He has turned a terrible tragedy -- the presumed murder of his daughter Ashley Simpson -- into his own private mission to help rural and remote communities find their missing daughters and sisters.
In the last year, John has not so quietly begun to raise money to buy drones which can hover over farms, waters and forested areas, places that are not safe for humans to tread.
He got the idea when he returned to Salmon Arm, where Ashley went missing 19 months ago after a fight with her boyfriend. She is among a growing number of women who have disappeared in the area in the last two years.
It's been difficult for John to keep going. He's a man who has always worked with his hands, as a cook in logging camps, on ships, and in resorts.
He's a man of a certain age, still strong. But since Ashley disappeared he is slightly bent and broken. He has difficulty sleeping, then getting out of bed. He finds it hard to drive his car because the tears keep coming and he has to pull over.
Ashley is always on his mind, and he is tortured by the uncertainty of what has become of her.

So raising money to buy drones has become his mission, though Ashley remains his passion. He is always looking for a fresh angle to keep Ashley's image in public view -- and it's working.
Last week, he was all over the news after Canadian Press wrote a story about John and his drones. On Monday, he was on CBC radio all morning -- the drone story has made him a shiny penny once again.
This will fade, of course, unless the RCMP can dredge up a body, and then the national media will swoop back in. It's the saddest story of all -- the absence of the fresh angle.
Thank goodness for people like Jody Leon, and the women of Salmon Arm and Enderby who continue to march, and drum, and make posters, and videos.
If John is driving the bus, they are providing the fuel.
Because they know it's only a matter of time before the drones are needed again.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ashley Simpson: Ashley's Army

Thirty-four years ago, this little nugget came into the world to spread joy, and her infectious smile, to everyone she encountered. 

Her parents called her Ashley Marie.

Her eyes sparkled like diamonds. Her mouth hinted at a smile that would melt a thousand hearts. 

Nineteen months ago, someone stole this child from Cindy and John Simpson. 

We want her back.

Someone, somewhere, knows something.

It's time to come clean, or make a mistake. 

We are watching.

We are Ashley's Army, and our reach is far and wide. 

If you killed her, we will find you, and you will be brought to justice. 

If you have her, we want her back. 

We will never give up.

The hills have eyes.

The lakes have ears. 

Her bones will rise.

People will talk. 

Lest you forget. 

Ashley's Army is watching you. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Ashley Simpson; Her father speaks

A message from John Simpson:

The support and love we are getting from family, friends and strangers is very overwelming to say the least. We love that and will never forget the love.

Our daughter Ashley has been missing for over 18 months; others have been missing much longer. 
At first, there was concern over the missing, then it died down to a dribble. Now, after 18 months of anguish, we get dozens of calls from the media -- papers, radio, Internet -- all with more concern about how things are. 

After numerous walks and interviews, searching and researching, barbecues and golf tournaments, over these 18 months, we haven't given up. 

Why did the media give up? Why did the community leaders give up? Why did our government and our police force give up?

Why didn't they see the missing as a national tragedy? Why did we, as a whole, leave our friends and neighbours out there, lost, to fend for themselves. Why did we give up looking, searching, caring?

If we had had thousands out looking, maybe as a community, we could heal the wounds that the missing and murdered make within our souls. Now is not the time to look away, now is the time to get involved in solving this crime of the missing.

When you hear of one missing in your area, go and help. Use whatever means at your disposal to help.

Don't let anyone become another victim. Show them that we care enough to help, Let's heal this wound and make it a better place.


Ashley Simpson: Dry Bones

Somewhere, in the killing field, the bones are coming alive.
No amount of fire can destroy the DNA.
Finally, our sisters will tell their tales, not using their voices, using their dry bones.
There is no tree stump heavy enough, no hole deep enough, to keep them silent.
Our sisters will finally tell their stories.
Through their dry bones.
Who will be listening?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Ashley Simpson: Justice for our Stolen Sisters

There will be a gathering today at the Salmon River Store near Silver Creek, B.C. to protest the rising and alarming level of violence against women in the area. Protesters will meet at 11 a.m. with their drums, voices and fists to rage against the fact that six women have disappeared in their community in less than two years.

“Calling all hand drums, women and men," reads a Facebook posting. "Let's be there to call on continuing support against violence against women."
The protest comes during an horrific week in which more than 30 RCMP officers descended on the community to collect evidence at a farm near where my cousin Ashley Simpson disappeared along with the other women. For three days, the police scoured the farm and outbuildings as part of "an ongoing investigation" linked to recent charges against a person who threatened a sex worker with a weapon.
The investigation led police to human remains at the site. 
It may be weeks, or months, before the remains are identified, leaving in limbo the families of the missing including my own family. Our Ashley disappeared in April 2016. Since then five other women have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. 
In a heartbreaking turn of events, the RCMP this week assured Ashley's parents that the dig had nothing to do with her or any other victims. But the families believe there may a connection, as the property is not far from Yankee Flats Road where at least two women, Ashley and Deanna Wertz, disappeared. 
The events have opened new wounds for the families who just want the closure they deserve after all this time. 
The investigation also has people from the area in an uproar.
"I live on Yankee Flats and I am sickened by this," someone posted in a comment on my weblog. "We, as residents, were not made aware of two of the missing women. Ashley was brought to my attention by the RCMP at a road stop one night months after she had gone missing. 
"It is beyond disturbing to acknowledge this is happening let alone in your area. I am not certain why the police have to be so secretive."
The person who posted also wanted to thank the young woman who came forward after being threatened by a man with a firearm. 
"She had the courage to get away and contact the police with her story of him and his guns which put the police on this path. I hope that this is put to rest for the families and that they find peace."
Let us hope this is the beginning of the last chapter for Ashley, Deanna and the other women, and for the people of Salmon Arm. May our Stolen Sisters finally rest in peace.