March 31, 2010

Through the dirt and grime

Tomorrow I will feel spring. March came in like a lamb and left like a lamb chop. It spent 31 days caressing us and coaxing us into believing spring was coming. It’s here, and here early. Fire the groundhog – he was wrong.

starts bubbling as soon as the winter days get noticeably longer – by the end of January you can see just the remnants of day trying to hang on at 6pm – that’s my first trip wire. I start watching the sunset times on the weather network. I obsessively check the long-term 14-day forecast for hope – a Chinook from the west – a warm front from the Caribbean – whatever.

But it’s false labour pains – because then comes February. And it’s long. All 28 days of it. My next sign of hope comes from the birds in the morning – the sparrows that hide like spies in the bushes along the sidewalk – I’ve learned to look for their droppings on the branches, they don’t wander far. They’re brave little souls when they’re invisible. They’re heartier than most other creatures since they stay all winter. But by March they’re too busy trying to get laid to notice humans within a foot of them. They yammer and jaw and fight and hiss at one another. I’m sure it all works out in the end – a kind of effective UN for bird brains. Then come the cardinals…the red-wing blackbirds and the bluejays.

Finally out come the humans with the café tables and chairs and the pub patios fill with patrons cradling a beer in their gloved hands in the warm sun, willing the vitamin D into them.

And then...this usually happens...

But not tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m getting my vitamin D naturally – on the deck. Tomorrow I will open the doors and windows and send the air of the last year packing. Things are ready for cleaning. For starting over. Rebirth.

We’ve had our rough patches this winter. My in-laws tested their mortality a few ways. During one epic battle my mother-in-law had with pneumonia and compression fractures in her spine, my father-in-law had spinal surgery, and I developed walking pneumonia. And as usual when tough times come, you find out what people are made of – and Steve was heroic in his care.

A friend, Erin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time as I was, and then re-diagnosed last year with tumours in the brain, found out in the winter the doctors had no more tricks to pull. She went into palliative care in the new year. She died March 5th. She was 50.

Every year we met the weekend after Thanksgiving at the cottage of a mutual friend, our Marney. All women from all over life. And we set goals, which I’ve written about before.  

Erin’s goal was a roll over from the year before – a full head of hair. Marney was with Erin throughout the last days – taking her food, feeding her, playing music, talking, laughing – honoring her friendship with a woman she has known for more than 25 years. She reported in her email when Erin died that she looked beautiful – she achieved her goal – a full head of hair.

I’ve been working on what makes me tick. That’s been hard. Because sometimes that machinery is buried deep under calluses of life, of denial and survival. I’ve loved the work. It’s settled my jittery soul. I remember my goal when I started was quiet confidence – a far off dream of something I think I could conceive…but not really. My work life has thrown some tests of that hard, personal work my way, and didn’t break me. And that makes me feel like I’ve cleaned house. And that I’m not done.

I said that quietly…and with confidence.

I knew this would be a year of loss – I’m nursing a 17-year-old cat with kidney failure who is right now giving me the “I ignore evil cat owners” look by keeping her back to me, her head erect and ears turned a little backward to listen for me. That’s because I just injected her with a bag of saline. The things we do for love. She doesn’t see it that way. So there may be more loss – that is part of it all.

But I also feel a great sense of hope. Of grabbing the reins. Of owning whatever path I’m on. I’ve stumbled around sometimes wondering why I haven’t felt an epiphany with my recovery – that I’ve just gotten on with it. That I missed something. But I think I’m blind to the signs. This has been no whiz bang lightning flash epiphany – I think this is one of those slow burning epiphanies. I think I prefer it – because I trust it more.

That is the great gift of spring – the warmth of the sun on your face, the crocuses blooming against a south wall, the rising excitement in your stomach, the need to believe.