Saturday, May 30, 2009

into the shadows

As I take my stint on "Mom watch" during this marathon vigil that I share with my brothers and sister, I realize that I'm getting a rare glimpse into the elusive person that is my mother. In those moments suspended between sleep and wakefulness her behaviours and words reveal her driving concerns.

There is always work to be done: laundry to be hung to dry; sheets to be folded once the sun's rays and summer breeze have evaporated every droplet of moisture. She clutches them near to her chest taking in the fresh air scent that permeates their fibres.

On another vigil she scolds my father with a squeeze of my arm as I lay beside her, "You have to have something to eat. You can't go all day without anything to eat. Come on I'll make you some tea." and rubs my arm vigorously, her whole body sighing with a deep, relieved contentment that finally allows her to sleep; secure in his arms.

As her condition improves I sit in a chair out of Mom's view to invisibly observe and keep her safe; a beeper goes off in the Alzheimer lady's cubicle in the other corner of the room. Mom, who has been silently looking through the ceiling, dreaming with eyes open, begins to focus and stir with agitation. I go over to the other woman's bedside and pull the call bell. Mom sees me in the distance. I walk over to her. "I have to answer the phone" she says, struggling to get out of bed.

Our voices fade the bell's irritating cadence into the background and the sound of the nurse coming in, attending to this other patient laying silent in deep sleep oblivious to the activity around her.

"No, it's alright someone got it already."

"Is everyone O.K.?"

"Yes. We are all O.K. and so are you." I gently stroke her shoulder and arm.

"Is Dad sleeping?"

"Yes. He's sleeping." Stroking her slower and lighter; her body eases.

"Who was that on the phone?"

"Jude, she called to say hi and give you her love." Lighter and lighter my voice and strokes.

"Oh." she nods; her face softens.

"It's late and you should go to sleep."

A present and earnest look comes over her face, her eyes become animated as she holds my gaze and in a motherly tone sternly, lovingly asserts "then you should too."

We smile at each other and softly make a pact to do so. Her eyes close and I slip back into the chair in the shadows.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Well, Mom’s been in the hospital since Sun. She’s 88 years of age and has been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s for a number of years now; a diagnosis I question, perhaps the term dementia would be more appropriate. But this is a description we “normal” people give to behaviour observed from our own vantage point and points of reference. Even that doesn’t accurately describe the world as she or even we experience it.

The first day in hospital she was very sedate, her body quite still from pain; but during the night it was a different story. Her hands sought out things to grab, usually landing on the IV or catheter tubes or to pull covers and gown off her body. She squirmed around til she was angled at a diagonal on the bed; her legs and feet alternately pushing down it or extending towards the floor, “I just need to get my feet on the ground” she repeated over and over.

I understood. Once, during an extended car trip, experiencing great distress, I said those very words, “Stop. I just need to get my feet on the ground so that I can walk around and feel the earth under my feet, otherwise I feel like I’m getting dizzy and disconnected from everything around me; I might as well be at home watching it on T.V.” I was not surprised when, once she’d maneuvered so that her legs dangled over the side of the bed with her soles hovering over the earth, she became calmer.

I would deflect her arms away from the tubes gently interjecting my hands or arms in the way for her to grasp and move in the air. It seemed to me that her daytime stillness built up such energy in her body that it just needed to move to discharge it while her brain tried to make sense of it all. How often I had experienced physically restless, fitful nights of sleep after 8 hour days of modeling where I’d maintain the same position for hours so that the artists could capture it on the page, canvas or in clay. During some sessions I would “feel” a limb move about in the air or reposition itself only to glance down and see, unbelievably, that it was still in the same position and had been motionless the whole time; only the undisturbed focus of the artists could convince me of that fact.

I later lay beside her that night and I watched her arms flowing movements; reaching to pluck things out of the sky or clear away something blocking her way; folding invisible sheets noticing that, “I think they are dry though maybe they’re still a little damp.”

Both of her arms reach up and she talks of having to get up a staircase that she’s climbing and her legs move up and down in response. And then, after her body has been quiet for a while, and I’ve begun to doze she squeezes my arm “all the neighbours are here, can you see them?” her face brilliantly beautiful, shining in amazement.
“Yes, yes I see them.” they are reflected in her face.

It is a few days later. Mom is sitting up in bed after having had a calm and restful night. She is alert and appreciates the beauty of the cut, spring flower arrangement I bring closer to her; flowers sent by her sisters with the note, “with oodles of love”. We even talk a little about Helen and Dot.

Mom’s eldest daughter, my sister, Judi is hiking the Camino in Spain. Jude’s voice was filled with emotion when we finally were able to talk over the phone, I can’t imagine how it would feel to be so far away and unreachable at a time like this. She asks me to relay her love to Mom and this seems like the perfect moment.

“Jude’s walking the Camino,” I say.

Mom seems puzzled; the word Camino probably threw her.

“Jude, Tildy?”

“Yes.” She nods and awaits with great interest the rest the story. Now I can proceed and I do so in a conversational banter.

“Yah, Tildy’s in Spain. She’s hiking, walking a trail called the Camino…”

Mom’s eyes begin to fill with sorrow and her brow furrows. “Oh, that’s so sad. It’s so awful.”

“Awful. No, Mom it’s a good thing.” She looks at me like I’m heartless and I finally twig.

Speaking much more slowly, enunciating as clearly as possible as I hold her gaze, I repeat, “No… Mom… SHE…. IS…. IN… SPAIN… NOT… INSANE… IN… SPAIN.

Her expression shifts as she takes in what has been said. Then the corners of her eyes begin to crinkle, as do mine, and we break out into hysterical laughter and our hearts become light again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

345, Sportline - I hardly knew ya

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of the Sportline 345.

The first inkling I had that old Sport wasn’t itself was when the step count from my bedroom to the bathroom came in at 378 which would have put me approximately in the bathroom of a neighbour across the street and down the block. I was sufficiently awake enough to observe that this wasn’t the case; I was in fact in my own bathroom. Something was horribly wrong with 345.

During our last Forrest Gumping this morning, (my definition - when one just decides to go for a walk wherever your feet and inclination may lead, and do whatever feels right along the way til you decide you’re done) its little clicky sound was replaced more frequently by a heart sinking, swishy sound. It was clear that the clicky thingy mechanism that kept pace with my steps was on its last legs, recording impossible numbers shortly after numerous resettings. Demise was by euthanasia. I am somewhat consoled by the fact that old Sport died doing what it did only moderately well.

A short service took place at the garbage can near the south east corner of Lakeshore and West River Road in Bronte (please folks, it’s pronounced Brawnee not Bron-tay) on this blustery, chilly May 17th at 10:30 a.m. One person (that would be me) was present serving as minister, funeral director and mourner accompanied by a gaggle of geese tirelessly at work, grazing and producing their ever popular dog snack.

A second of silence was observed after which these words were expressed:
“Our relationship was far too short, a mere few months really. But, during our brief collaboration you inspired me to, if not great, at least adequate accomplishments.”

Internment will take place at a landfill site somewhere, perhaps in the U.S. sometime in the future. “May your days of rest be accompanied by the sound of children playing cheerily on the mound under which you rest for all eternity.”

In lieu of flowers, donations to the charity – “KNOT’M – Keep Nance On The Move” would be greatly appreciated. Bills in big denominations or cheques with a number (other than zero) followed by lots of zeros, would be best.

Thanks for your condolences.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


O.K., now what I really intended to write about yesterday, before my mind veered off in a totally unexpected direction, was the conversation that transpired after Dr. S asked “How are you doing?”

As always, we begin talking about how life is going because he really is interested.

“Are you going anywhere this summer?” he asks.

I inhale, as one does just before beginning to respond, when he proceeds to answer his own question, “Oh, I guess not after last year's trip.”

I’ve been seeing him so long now that he’s beginning to converse like me.

And, he’s right. Rod and I have been exploring options, even considering renting the cottage that was one leaning fridge, leaky ceiling and broken step up from camping. One of my fav cottage experiences by the way – very Walden Pondish.

“We’ve pretty much decided that we might just stay at home; tell everyone that we’re going away and then not answer the phones. Since we both work out of the house this is a really, really bold step for us. To have our house just as our home for a week, well that could be amazing cuz sometimes it feels like it’s business 24/7 and the only way we can get away from it is to literally get out of the house. So, if we told everyone we knew we were away it wouldn’t be so difficult not to answer the phone.” I replied.

“Oh, a Staycation” he said.

Brilliant! I love this word and was so pleased that another made-up, new word has been added to my favourite word list.

Hmmm… I'm thinking. He’d said the word with such authority. Maybe it really is a word. And, as I was driving today I vaguely recollected catching bits of an episode of Brett Butt’s Corner Gas in which he says he’s going on vacation but stays at home and sends post cards from his “trip”. Sounds like a staycation to me. It’s just too good not to be a word.

And, sure enough I googled and this is what I found for staycation. It is a neologism. Now, I know that you now know what a neologism is cus you just had to click on that one too. But, I just had to write that word cus I love it and I love that there is a word for the process of newly created words that are on the verge of becoming recognized as words by the general populace. It's magical!

The key issue for our particular form of staycation is – can we stay at home and not answer the phone or the door?

This will be easier for me than for Rod. For most of my childhood Mom stayed at home alone with us 5 kids for weeks on end while Dad made his living as a traveling salesman. During these times she didn’t want any of us to answer the door for any reason.

So, it usually went like this - a knock would occur and suddenly the yelling and carrying on of 5 rambunctious kids would stop. We’d drop down to the floor and hide out of sight because the caller would usually peer in the picture window to try to see what had happened. Luckily the drapes, though sheer, did provide cover.

It became a game really, like playing the urban, home version of COMBAT. Some of us would go on a reconnaissance mission bravely crawling on our bellies to peek out and see who was there, despite the shout-whispers coming from Mom (who was hiding behind the louvered kitchen doors),"You kids stay where you are; keep down. Get away from the window." We'd then slither back to her and report on our findings so that she could decide whether to answer or not.

When I thought about it I was a little confused and saddened, after all most of the people we were evading were traveling salesmen out there trying to make a living; someone like my Dad. Were there families dropping down and crawling on their bellies all over Canada when he came to call? I was relieved when I discovered, as I got older, that he called on drugstores, hair salons and beauty schools so this was most unlikely.

So I am highly trained to ignore knocks on doors, doorbells buzzing and phones ringing etc. Hell, I can go on staycation even while you’re standing next to me. Rod, he’s an amateur.

I’ll have to get him into training soon as we plan to go on staycation sometime this summer, but you won’t know we’ve been there til we get back only there’ll be no going and no coming and don’t expect any postcards either.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A fine flu

or - A Positive Contagion Is THE Real Inoculation for The Bugs That Are Bugging Us

I was in today getting remnants of the ol’ “surfing injury” that began as a yoga injury that began as a bed injury (as in, I turned over in bed and my sacroiliac went kaplooey) adjusted by Dr. Steve - chiropractor, iron man athlete and trainer extraordinaire, husband and adoring father of 3 cute little girls; the kind of guy that has a positive attitude towards life that is…well, positively viral.


Isn’t that what we all really need, instead of the Swine Flu; a bout of the Fine Flu!

Just imagine, someone asks you how you are doing today and you say, “Bloody fine mate!” And, you feel it. Feel how good fine…Oooo or maybe even - good, great, terrific, fantastic, ecstatic - would feel, in the moment that you say it, if only just for the moment as you are saying it.

O.K., so maybe some people will walk away considering you a nut case for not staying down in the muck with them but do you really need, yet more people to rain on your parade. Not me babe! Look to the rainbow…oh, oh I feel a musical coming on.

Look I’m no Pollyanna, I’ve had bouts of negativity to rival anyone else’s but where has it gotten me/us?

I realize that maybe aspects of our life aren’t the best. But, in that moment, if we realized that someone is caring enough to ask about our well being we could chose to acknowledge and appreciate that and welcome the amazing opportunity it gives us to honour the moment by feeling it.
(I came across the basic design of the rather Zen looking character done by another artist years ago, but I don't know who that person is. It spurred on this cartoon's story line - thank you whoever you are for the inspiration.)
*cartoon copyright Nance Thacker '90.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Forgive me,
If I have hurt you
in any way, shape or form,
in thought, word or deed,
in any time, any place,
past, present or future,
Forgive me.

And I forgive you
For hurting me
in any way, shape or form,
in thought word or deed,
in any time, any place,
past, present or future,
I forgive you.

I forgive myself,
And may the great Mystery
Forgive us both.

AMAMA, U A NOA – the prayer is freed.

copyright Rieckmann/Sakuma 1999.

Ho’oponopono means to make right (amongst other things - Hawaiian words have multiple layers of meaning).

This lovely prayer comes from Birgit Rieckmann and Harriette Sakuma – Lomi Practitioners and Lomi Hawaiian Bodywork Intensive facilitators. Lomi is Hawaiian Temple Bodywork – which they describe as a form of massage that is done when one is facing rites of passage to help align through love and compassion body, mind and spirit to your highest intention, connecting you to your inner wisdom allowing you to face change, challenges, and demands with renewed confidence, creativity and power.

Ho’oponopono was first introduced to me and practiced during the Lomi Teacher Training Intensive of 2005 as a forgiveness practice. When you forgive, you are residing in Love and God is love; so in this practice you are connecting to the most high within yourself.

Harriette said that we were coming together as promised eons ago for the purposes of healing ourselves and those in our lineage. As we heal ourselves the healing goes back 7 generations and forward 7 generations (the ancient Hawaiians knew that time is not linear). From my hypnosis training in past life regression we were taught that we travel together in groups through many lifetimes for the purpose of healing, clearing past karma and the evolution of consciousness – we have all been victims as well as victimizers therefore the ultimate responsibility for the path our life takes (our karma) through our interactions (thoughts, words and deeds) towards others is our own.

Thoughts are things so that even our thoughts have the power to hurt or heal, therefore we need to be aware of our thoughts and take responsibility for their consequences.

During the training we came together every night in a healing circle and recited these words together 3 times. Trainings are intense experiences; this one lasted 7 days, lots of mental/emotional/spiritual baggage rises from the subconscious to be healed. Sometimes you become conscious of your “stuff” and its impact on your interactions with others; at other times events, people, words, the smallest thing may trigger surprising emotions and hurtful actions and reactions. In reciting this prayer we acknowledge that in any relationship we all have hurt each other consciously or subconsciously, we feel remorse and take responsibility for our actions, receive and ask for forgiveness, let go and move on. Through this practice our subsequent actions become more aware and compassionate.

In the bodywork intensive of 2006 we were introduced to the Ho’oponopono practice of Dr. Ihalaekala Hew a Hawaiian therapist and psychologist who, we were told, cured a ward of criminally insane patients through the practice of Ho’oponopono. After studying an inmate’s chart he’d then look within himself to see how he created that person’s illness. As he improved, the patient improved.

He literally believed that the world and all that occurs is our own creation. In order to heal anything, we need to invoke the spirit of love to heal that which is within our own self that is creating the outer manifestation. Dr. Len did this by repeating over and over again…


And again last weekend, during my Lomilomi training Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim spoke about this forgiveness practice in even more sublte ways as one of many aspects that infuses lomilomi and ripples through our lives from that moment onwards in ways that we can not begin to imagine.

Anytime you reside in love, compassion and forgiveness you are raising your own vibration; inviting higher vibrations to inform your actions to do the healing work in whatever form it takes for body/mind/spirit, for yourself, for others, for the 7 generations and for the planet.

And, as is the nature of all subtle practices, knowing comes through your heart; its depths are beyond intellectual understanding.

Ahhh magical and cool!

Mahalo to Harriette Sakuma, Birgit Rieckmann, and Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim for sharing this wisdom and work with us.

For more info about their work - Lomi, and Hawaiian Bodywork Intensives contact Hariette and Birgit at

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Food For The Soul

So, just the other night Rod and I were thoroughly enjoying RATATOUILLE the animated film about the little rat that aspires to be a great chef when we get a call from my brother-in-law Paul.
This amazes and delights me for a few reasons.
He was calling from Victoria, B.C.
When my Dad was on the road as a traveling sales man for Roux hair products calling long distance was be a big deal. Usually just after dinner on a Sunday night all 5 of us kids would crowd around the phone at a pre-arranged time waiting for his call and our turn to say hi and hear his voice barely audible through the static. My imagination would soar as I visualized his description of where he was and what he’d been doing through the week. Even if he was calling from a run down hotel in Windsor on a blistering hot and humid 104 degree day in August, lying on the bed in his undershirt and pants while a metal fan whirred from a bedside table - it was all very exotic and exciting to me.
I got as excited as Remy in seeing Gusteau’s restaurant when Paul mentioned that he and Sue (my sister-in-law) were at that very moment sitting at a table in my favourite restaurant of all time Pagliacci’s.
“You’ve gotta have the chocolate cheesecake!” I shouted to Sue who was, she said, at that very moment “stuffing myself with their delicious bread.”
“Oh, they still have the foccacia bread!” I was so excited you’d think I was the one eating it as anything I’ve had since pales in comparison.
“And, get the soup too. You’ve gotta try the soup.”
Pagliacci’s was more than a restaurant to me; it was a refuge in the early 80’s. I was house-sitting, working on my cartoon strip, freezing my butt off modeling for art groups and teaching yoga; living on about $200. a month - $50. of which went for my studio rental at Xchanges Gallery.
Now, I have to say that I’m going nuts writing this. As I Google these places it’s like meeting up with old friends and getting caught up with them as I find out what has transpired over the years. The amazement and delight centres in my brain are firing like mad at this very moment and I feel very warm and fuzzy inside.
Anyway, I got paid once a month for the yoga classes ($6. per hour) and every few weeks for modeling (at a whopping $10. per hour) and was perpetually living on my last few bucks til payday. But that didn’t matter cus at Pag’s I savoured every forkful of chocolate cheesecake, or every spoonful of soup, or every bite of foccaccia or every sip of cappuccino…ahhh. And, when I felt really flush I’d have maybe all 4 items!
My more moneyed friends often commented that my money would perhaps be better spent if I used it only for groceries but what they couldn’t see was that this nourished my soul.
It was worth every penny. I could sit there for hours writing, reading, listening to the chatter of others (gathering much dialogue and inspiration for my strip) and be carried away by the sax, guitar, bass and vocals of Big Band Trio as they performed in front of the window overlooking Broad Street. In contrast to my solitary lifestyle, I felt part of a lively scene where I could mingle with others just by being present at a table.
What’s more as a single female diner they always treated me well and looked out for me, finding me just the right table where I wouldn’t be bothered by undesired attention and take in the atmosphere. I felt safe and welcome, especially important as I’d often come in late at night after my last yoga class. And then when it was time to leave I’d get on my trusty blue 5 speed boys’ bike and head off in the direction of my newest place of residence.
“I wonder if Howie still owns the place.” I commented to Sue.
“Wait…” I overheard muffled voices. “Yes, the waitress says he does.”
That’s just so cool that this question is answered on the spot from a few thousand miles away by someone sitting in a place I used to sit years ago.
And I’m happy that he does.
I’m sure you’ve had one of those times when you felt you just couldn’t make anything happen, nothing’s going right, like the God’s have conspired to kick your butt and you find yourself saying to yourself and to any guiding spirits who might have separated from the pack that’s picking on you, “just give me a break, pleeeeease!” Well I was going through one of those times. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but I was – people who know me well will catch the sarcasm in this disclaimer.
Anyway on such a day Howie Siegel, flamboyant transplanted Brooklynite, gave me a gift that every time I think about it I am filled to overflowing with gratitude, even to this day.
He refused my money when I came to the till to pay him.
“It’s on the house” he said without fanfare; just as a fact.
The beauty is that he knew nothing about me or my circumstances. I’m sure he didn’t realize the huge impact his action had on me and how in need I felt.
And in that simple act he gave me a pass it forward, and confirmed that maybe just maybe helping spirits do exist and appear in the oddest guises at the oddest of times.