Tag Archives: children

Colouring Contest for Easter!

Only a couple more days remain for Oliver the Rabbit colouring contest!

Open to kids 5 to 8.  Deadline March 30, 2018.

For more information, check out OLIVER AND HIS BFF Facebook Page:

Oliver and His BFF

 

OLIVER AND HIS BFF, an illustrated book for children of all ages, will be available soon! (Although this book will be published during the Easter Season, it is not specifically geared toward Easter. It is a book about friendship and includes many different animals. The star, Oliver, and his BFF, Reggie, happen to be rabbits.)

 

Oliver Easter coloring page

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My Experiences with Death

My Experiences with Death

(This is an abridged version of my essay for the Guided Autobiography course I’m taking.)

I was nine when I experienced my first death, too young to understand and grieve for a grandfather far away in Bermuda, a man I’d seen maybe a half dozen times. I don’t remember being told he had died, but I found my mother in the basement laundry room, weeping, and asked what was wrong. We didn’t go to his funeral; I don’t think Mom went either, being pregnant at the time with my youngest sibling. Nine was the age of my granddaughter Taylor, when she stood by her uncle Matthew’s open coffin, staring and crying so hard I thought she was having a meltdown.

My next experiences with deaths were years later, when my grandmothers died at the ages of 89 and 90 (my paternal grandmother achieving her goal of reaching her ninetieth birthday). I was close to them both and grieved, of course, but it was if their deaths were expected, at their ages. Plus they were grandparents, and all grandparents die before the rest of us, right? How funny perspectives change. Now that I’m a grandmother, I hate how I had justified their deaths. I don’t want my grandchildren to say, “Oh, she was a granny; she was old. She needed to die.”

Had my father taken better care of himself, he may have lived longer than 72. When he started passing out at the kitchen table due to lack of oxygen, Mom forced him to go to the hospital. He didn’t want to go, saying, “They’ll put me down.” She always regretted her decision, wishing she had let him die peacefully in his sleep.

While Dad was in the hospital, the nurses told us to limit our numbers in the small waiting room, as other families were unable to use it while we were there. Other than short rotations to shower and bring in food, we were there for five days. Mom slept in a cot by his bed, while eight of us (me, my four siblings and their spouses) snuck into a large empty room, snatched linens from the closet, and slept on the cold, hard floor. Nurses found us there the first night, in the dark, and told us to leave. As before, we ignored them, and the second night they brought us pillows.

When we were told there was no hope for Dad, they moved him out of intensive care and nine of us hovered around his hospital bed, waiting. When we thought he had breathed his last, a hush swept over the room. Stunned and shocked, we all looked at each other. And then he groaned, a deep guttural sigh, and we all jumped. Naïve me thought he had come back to life; perhaps the others had, too. This was my and my siblings’ first real experience with death.

Seventeen years later, my mother’s death, on Good Friday, in 2016, was worse. Perhaps it’s because I’d been closer to my mother. I must have been in denial my mother would ever die because it took me and my brother three days after she was admitted to the hospital before we flew to Ontario from Nova Scotia. My once-vibrant mother had morphed into a shrunken, frail woman, shrouded in linens like Dad had been, with numerous tubes and wires snaking from beneath the sheets. Mom had always taken care of herself. She even had her own teeth—pristine perfect teeth—pure white without the use of whitening agents. When the paramedics arrived at her home to transport her to the hospital for observation after a fall, the first thing they wanted was to remove her teeth. Someone said, “No, her teeth are her own,” which changed the paramedics’ attitude, realizing they weren’t dealing with the usual elderly senior.

Mom, like my father, didn’t have to die, even at 89. She was caught in a catch-22 type situation. Drugs for pneumonia would work against her heart condition, and drugs for her heart would work against the pneumonia. Ironically, she was scheduled for heart surgery to remedy her minor heart condition until pneumonia struck. Oddly, no one, including her, knew she had pneumonia until after that minor fall at her home.

We children had the horror of deciding our mother’s fate. After agonizing for hours, we decided to let her go. We left the room while they transported her down the hall to palliative care. One of my brothers and I returned to her condo, a five-minute walk away, while my sister and another brother sat in the waiting room. My youngest brother was on his way.

As it turned out, my siblings and I thankfully didn’t have to play God. Unbeknownst to anyone, Mom had been dumped, and ignored, in the palliative care room and died alone. The nurses forgot to notify my two siblings in the waiting room that they could go to her room, and when my brother and sister decided two hours of waiting was long enough, they snuck into her room. My two sons, driving almost nonstop from Nova Scotia to Ontario, had stopped to pick up my nephew in Ottawa, and arrived minutes too late. My nephew was the only one who went in to see her body. I almost wished I had never left home because she never really knew I, or anyone, was there, and now all I remember is a shriveled figure that was not my mother.

The loss of a child is an unsurmountable grief, from everything I’ve read, a death that stays with a parent forever. And I know that to be true, something I never ever thought would happen to me. It’s a constant ache. Life is different now. Some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed; some nights I can’t go to bed. I don’t want to be around people as much anymore, either. I don’t remember crying much immediately after my son died, but I must have, because my husband caught me one day. “You can’t keep crying like this,” he said. “You have to get over it.” And then he paused, “Well, it’s only been two weeks, I guess it’s okay.” I was aghast. My husband was telling me I couldn’t be upset? I know he regretted his words immediately after saying them. Matt wasn’t his son, so he doesn’t suffer my pain; he doesn’t know what it feels like.

Matt’s death, a year after my mother’s, has overshadowed hers, and I hate I don’t think of her as much anymore, being so consumed with him. But occasionally, I’ll pick up the phone to call her, forgetting, mostly wanting to share my grief with her.

One horrendously rainy afternoon, when Gary and I were driving to a burial, I reached to the floor for my purse and my phone. I needed to tell my mother how sad I was going to a burial and how wet we’d all be. And then I hesitated. And the tears flowed. The burial was hers.

I read Ted Kennedy’s memoir, True Compass, a few years ago. He wrote a passage that resonated with me: “I wish that life were simpler. I wish that loved ones didn’t have to die too young. I wish that tragedy never haunted a single soul. But to wish all that is to ask for an end to our humanity.” I loved his eloquent wording, and after digesting his words, I understood why death exists and received confirmation of that the next time I looked at my grandchildren. If death didn’t exist, neither could birth. Life brings birth and death, giving us a certain perspective, making us appreciate life.

The other day, I discovered a grief quote on Facebook. One of the lines rings true: “Grief is just love with no place to go.”

 

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A Poem of Threes

A mother never expects one of her children to die. Never.

It happened to me.

Three months after the first symptom (which was hardly any symptom at all, really), less than three months after a diagnosis, my son was gone. The nightmare is replayed before me, every day, over and over. I can’t think about him without tearing up, but I don’t want to forget him. I want to remember him, but I’m sick of my tears.

Today, it’s been six months since he left us. Where have the days gone? It seems like yesterday, when too many of us surrounded his hospital bedside, but it also feels like a distant memory, a nightmare, one I never awake from.

There is so much more I want to write, but I can’t. I just can’t.

Poems are therapeutic.

***

A Poem of Threes

Six months ago today—

Nine months ago—

My life changed.

 

9/11,

Irma,Kattia,Jose.

Is my loss greater?

 

Feng Shui:

Fuk, Luk, and Sau,

Long life, fame, fortune.

 

Three-legged toad,

Three wise men,

Three immortals.

 

Three’s company,

Father, Son, Holy Ghost,

Tall, dark, handsome.

 

Rules of threes.

Odds better than evens:

Good things come in threes.

 

But odds beat you:

The Big C.

Despite three hearts.

 

Rules are meant to be broken,

But rules shouldn’t break—

Not at thirty-six.

 

Birth, life, death,

Two loving children

Plus one at rest.

Matt candle crop

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The Spot Writers – Faded Beer Cans by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers.

This month’s prompt: Think back on a memory when you were angry. REALLY angry. Now change the names of the people in the memory, the setting, everything familiar about it, and most importantly… the ending. Turn it into a memory that ends happily. Let all the writing wash your anger away.

The story that follows is by Cathy MacKenzie, who didn’t exactly follow the prompt. She was never REALLY angry…

***

Faded Beer Cans by Cathy MacKenzie

I’d always hated how John discarded empty beer cans throughout the house and around the yard. Hubby was never too impressed either. When I found one, I’d mutter and moan, “Dratted John and his beer.” We’d find them out of sight in the weirdest locations: behind the television, beside an ornament, under the couch, as if he were a two-year-old hiding toys. But when he appeared in person, I’d forget to chastise him. Or perhaps my memory intentionally faded.

And then John died.

A horrid vehicular accident stole John’s life when a drunk driver in a Chevy Cavalier careened across the centre line into his 2009 Chevy Silverado. My son died in my arms at the hospital two hours after I received the dreaded phone call that every parent fears.

Later, in fitful sleep, I pondered the accident. John enjoyed a beer—or two (or more!)—after work and into the evening. He also cherished his truck. He’d never drink and drive. But what if he had? He could easily have caused such an accident if he weren’t so conscientious. And shouldn’t a truck survive a compact car?

Fate, I surmised. Dratted Fate.

And Death.

And Dying.

And Life’s Horrific Circumstances.

And Incidents we have no control over.

Parents can’t hold their children close every second of every day. Especially adult children.

I enjoy a beer—or two. Sometimes too early in the day. Was I becoming an alcoholic?

Between my gulps and tears, knives glared. Pills danced.

“I’m stronger than you,” I chanted. “I have other children. I have grandchildren. As hard as it is, I must live.”

Spring cleaning taunted me after Hubby carved his initials, RTG, in the dust on the coffee table: a subtle hint; he wouldn’t chastise me for my lack of cleaning, not when grief consumed me.

But inadequateness and guilt weighed on my soul, and I grabbed a rag and furniture polish. On my tippy toes, I stretched to the top shelf in the living room. I swiped the damp rag across the surface and encountered a foreign object. What was it? Afraid to knock something over, I retrieved the step stool from the pantry.

I positioned the stool. And reached.

A beer can.

Bud Light.

Heavy.

Tears careened down my cheeks. My sweet boy. Gone before his time.

I once thought he stuck cans wherever convenient, too lazy to return to the kitchen. But no, he was simply impish. And after his death, I discovered he discarded empties at other homes, as well.

But only empties. This can was unopened.

“Don’t cry, Mom.” I hear his echoes through the house. “Oh, Mom, stop!”

Oh, dear sweet son, how I miss you.

In memory of my son Matt, who did leave beer cans everywhere—but only empties.

April 28, 1980 – March 11, 2017

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

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Thirty-Seven Years Ago

Thirty-seven years ago a babe was born,
But eight-pound Melissa
Became ten-point-six Matthew,
Would I cherish a cherub boy?

 

You charmed me with chubbiness,
Wide blue eyes, generous smile, 
Wiggling limbs in white flannel,
“A football player,” a nurse proclaimed!

 

You grew and grew, handsome and smart,
My middle child of compassion and heart,
Always there with helpful hands,
Drying tears, yours and ours.

 

Did that nurse know you’d be a Brady fan?
The Patriots stirred your heart
As did Kyla and Abby, your two loves,
Who lit your world on fire.

 

I dubbed you the Tin Man—
“All I want is a heart”—
Luck should have been on your side,
But your hearts were doomed—all three.

 

“I got a heart, Mom, I got a heart!”

Joy and weariness lined your words,
I wept for another mother,
A death to save a life.

 

Life went horribly wrong,
Exchanging “I love you” on Tuesday
To watching you go on Saturday
After I promised you wouldn’t die.

 

Though comforted you phoned loved ones,
I wish I’d said, “Wait a while,
There’ll be more hearts,”
Despite your famous words, “I gotta go.”

 

A three-month roller coaster ended,
Days alternating between life and death,
Could we have done more?
Should we have gripped you tighter?

 

I miss you, my dear impish son,
So much you’ll never know,
Endless days I crave to die
So I can join you in peace.

 

Instead I add tears
To white wine and Bud Light.
“Gotcha, Mom,” you say,
When I spy a discarded can.

 

I hold on though I want to go,
I gulp another breath
And pretend I never cry,
“I’m okay,” I say when asked.

 

Tears aren’t the way to begin a day,
Nor to end the night,
But weeping starts and doesn’t stop,
I shouldn’t be without my child.

 

Horrid clichés mark my soul:
Life takes the good before the bad,
Gone before your time,
Children shouldn’t predecease parents.

 

Why does my heart beat fast
When yours stopped too soon?
I’d trade places if I could,
But your voice echoes, “Oh, Mom, stop!”

 

Your father called it Matt’s Moon,
That glow the morning of death
When God swiped your unassuming soul

To improve His holdings in Heaven.

 

Rest in peace, my dear son,
At home upon the hill,
I’ll forever cherish my cherub boy.
Fuck cancer. Fuck, fuck fuck!

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Children, Children, Children…

I’ve always felt extremely close to my children, other than the odd disagreement. Sometimes, even though I was aware of the admonishment that a parent should be a parent, not a friend, I may have lapsed in that department.

I’ve been going through some stuff recently, some pressures and soul-searching, but mainly I was feeling pretty good. My writings have been going great, for a change, even though I’ve been more than lax on my blog.

A few minutes ago, Hubby and I got home from dinner and a movie, and I settled in our electric-blanket warmed bed with my tablet, anxious to read my latest emails. Imagine my surprise, thinking my life with my children and grandchildren was pretty well perfect, to read a nasty email from my daughter-in-law. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really nasty, but basically she told me she was backing off from our relationship due to some incidents with my daughter. I replied to that email, in a diplomatic way, trying – again – to restore peace.

When I scrolled down further, I found a message from my daughter. Not so much a message, but a chronicle of some chats between her and my daughter-in-law. Okay, I was royally pissed then, and immediately fired off an email to her, with a cc to my son and his wife.

You have to understand: I haven’t been sleeping well the past several nights, one due to having my daughter’s two kids overnight the night previous. And I drank a bit of wine at dinner. So I probably shot my mouth off more than I normally might have.

But I’m sick of the four of them bickering – my son and daughter and their spouses. (My other son, lucky for him, lives on P.E.I., and is removed from most of the fray.) I always seem to be caught in the middle, the end result being that everyone is mad at me. And it’s not even my fight! Yet I’m the one in tears, I’m the one losing sleep, as I am and will tonight.

I haven’t heard back from anyone yet. Of course, it’s almost midnight Friday night as I write this. They’re either all steaming or asleep.

Although I love the four of them dearly, and would give my life for any of them, I feel I am never shown any respect. I realize respect is earned, but I’ve definitely earned it. It’s a fact none of them would treat their father (we’re divorced) like they treat me. Nor would I ever in a million years treat my mother like they do me. Of course, Mom lives almost two thousand kilometers away and always has, ever since I went off to college, but I’m positive respect would be forefront on my mind.

Perhaps I haven’t followed that old adage to not be friends with my kids. Perhaps I shouldn’t have ‘interfered’ the couple of times I did, to try to get them all speaking when they weren’t. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to remain neutral and offer advice when asked, or when not asked. Perhaps I shouldn’t have voiced my thoughts when I’d say one was at fault when one of them truly was, in my opinion.

(Later, I’ll find I’m accused of being a “carrier” – of information. Of not sticking up for my only daughter, of not keeping confidences. And on and on… And a flurry of emails will storm back and forth.)

My eighty-five-year-old mother has told me numerous times how happy she is that the four of them are so close. Not just close in distance (approximately a four-minute car drive) or close in age (eighteen months apart between my son and daughter), but in their relationship, not to mention that their two daughters were born three weeks apart. “It’s so nice they’ll grow up together,” my mom has said on numerous occasions about my grandchildren. I’ve never wanted to burst her bubble to mention the drama between their parents and how the two little girls don’t really get together as often as one would think.

I feel blessed to have my children nearby, especially the easy access with my grandchildren. Maybe it’s also a curse.

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Sometimes I Save Plastic Containers

Sometimes I wish I weren’t me.

I see other people – better looking, smarter, richer, more popular, more loved – everything I think I’m not (depending upon the mood of the day, of course), and sometimes I’m envious.  Oh, I know I shouldn’t be, and ninety-nine percent of the time I’m not.  The “grass is greener” and one never knows “what goes on behind closed doors” and all that other cliché stuff comes to mind when jealousy and envy intrude. Sometimes, though, I am a bit jealous of others and what I perceive is their happiness. But who knows what their happiness is. Are they REALLY happy? Is it all make-believe? It is all a show?

Yes, most times I’m happy to be me. I’m not normally a jealous person; things “are what they are.” One cannot change destiny and fate; I truly believe each one of us is born into a pre-destined existence, but…

Things happen that I have no control over. Non-consequential things bother me for no reason; someone’s actions or mood affect me and MY mood. Sometimes I’m down and I don’t know why. Sometimes my husband’s moods affect me and, likewise I’m sure, my moods affect him.  Sometimes I drink too much, and that over-indulgence definitely affects how I act and feel. Lack of sleep puts me in a “mood,” too.

I don’t want to be unhappy and I shouldn’t be – and most times I’m not. I look out the window and know how lucky I am with my wonderful life, but still…things happen…sometimes…

I don’t know how to get out of a “mood” sometimes…

I’m not one to put on airs. I hate that. I am what I am. If you don’t like me, well, that’s your loss. Because you know what?  I AM a nice person. I could be your BFF, if only you’d let me. But, sometimes, you don’t give me a chance and then we pass by, like “strangers in the night.”

Sometimes I miss my grandchildren too much. Sometimes I try to NOT think of them, because if I think about them, then I miss them, and then I’m depressed. My husband and I are away for the winter and I haven’t seen them since early January, and I have three more weeks to go before we’re home. But, you know, I miss them when I’m home, too, sometimes, and those are the times I pick up the phone and dial their parents and ask, “Can I pick them up tomorrow and keep them overnight?” And, of course, they say yes.

My Little Darlings are only thirty minutes away when I’m home, but I still miss them. Not just sometimes, but all times.

So, even though I’m envious, sometimes – I still want to be me. I don’t want to be you or anyone else. Cause you know what? If  I had had different parents, if I had had a different upbringing, if I had lived in some other land, if I had been married to some other husband, I wouldn’t be ME. And if I weren’t me, I wouldn’t have had my terrific children, and if I hadn’t had my children, I would not have those precious little darlings who mean so much to me. Yes, I’m only their grandmother, not their mother or father, but still, sometimes…I want to be more. I want them with me forever, sometimes.

I think I love them too much.

And – sometimes – I save too many plastic containers. Then my husband is upset with me. “What?” I say. “They’re only plastic containers. Things to save leftovers in. You never know when you might need a container to save something in.”

And then I turn away and blow my grandchildren a kiss, even if – sometimes – it has to travel across the world. Cause I love them so much. And I miss them. More than sometimes- always.

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