“Boing!” said Zebbidy.
“Boing, boing!” said Florence.
I never saw The Magic Roundabout, but my long-ago English boyfriend used to quote from it, sometimes.
These two short lines from a cartoon I’ve never seen feel like an anthem for 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt a lot like life has been going “boing”, these past months from one scary, uncertain, or sucky scenario to another, at the mercy of a pandemic that shows no signs of releasing its hold on Canada/the world for at least another year.
I’ve been missing a lot of my usual tra-la-la, even though I am one of the lucky ones who is safe and loved at home. I have lots of toilet paper (my Practical Man already had Survivalist tendencies) and a large property to wander (were I inclined to go outside). I have a small, steady pension income and too much fresh bread (Practical Man has had a sourdough starter in use for 8+ years).
I am very lucky and I try to focus on that while I’m wandering around in my fetching combo of productivity paralysis and pajama pants.
We were fairly pandemically prepared (all credit: Practical Man) to begin with, so the transition to DEFCON-5 Safety State has perhaps not been as traumatic for us as it has been for others. Practical Man finished treatment for throat cancer 18 months ago and has chronic asthma, so we were already being extra cautious about germs. Covid-19 versus our household has merely meant dialing up the germ-a-phobia a further notch and sinking even deeper into our hermit-like habits (all credit: pajama pants). I got to sew masks like the obsessive project-person I am (without ever having to shop – haha take that, minimalists!), and he got to feel smug about his well-stocked cold cellar and thriving sourdough starter.
Even so, I’ve felt very much like Florence and Zebbidy.
“So fortunate” – BOING!
“So nervous” – BOING, BOING!
“So comfortable” – BOING!
“So squirmy” – BOING, BOING!
I struggle with guilt amongst the BOING-ing because others are dealing with living in a big-city apartment, not seeing a tree for the three months of Spring. Or, “working at home”, not to mention home-schooling their kid(s) in French Immersion when they only took high-school French and their seven year-old gets mildly electrocuted while they’re on a conference call because multi-tasking is the great 21st century myth. Many are trying to make the impossible decision about school or don’t even get a decision because their family has no financial/parenting choices.
Still others deal with even more complicated situations. #BLM, #wildfires, #Brexit, #explosions #racism #refugeestatus #poverty, #foodinsecurity, #unemployment, #acutecovid, #chroniccovid, #frontlinework #cancertreatmentdelays #justtonameafew.
If, like me, you’re incredibly privileged overall, but you still need a new (and definitely ridiculous) way to express what it feels like to live in this year and you’re inclined to the quirky and geeky and several other of the seven dwarfs of High School Siberia like me, feel free to borrow the lines from that vintage, British cartoon.
“Boing!” said Zebbidy.
“Boing, boing!” said Florence.
I know it seems ridiculous. Hey, I’m just trying to match the unprecedented (do you hate that word as much as I hate it now?) situation over here.
You could try yelling, “Schlagzeuger!” (pronounced: Shlahg Tsoiger)
That means “drummer” in German, but I have been flinging it at other drivers under my breath for 35 years, because it’s both harmless and intensely satisfying, especially when you growl it with all the Arnold Schwarzenegger you can muster.
Now, Practical Man has lung cancer. The “very curable” throat cancer 1.5 years ago was cured. This is a shiny, new cancer.
How very 2020.
He went to urgent care for sharp chest pain. An x-ray showed a mass and so did the CT scan. Our region allows a 10-person social bubble, but from that day on, I haven’t felt like seeing anyone else but my Practical Man.
Take that, Covid!
Since June 8, it’s been an ever-more frenetic Zebbidy and Florence extravaganza of BOINGS.
Two biopsies through his chest wall plus considerable pain, internal bleeding and partial lung collapse. BOING!
Seizing summer on our little pontoon boat and in our pool, which we are so fortunate to have, while he is feeling okay. BOING, BOING!
Playing “find an open washroom during Covid, before you burst”, as I waited in the park during all his procedures and appointments (Covid rules). BOING!
Soaking up the waterfront breeze and and sunshine with physically-distant caring friends and family, as I waited. BOING, BOING!
Brain MRI, PET scan, bronchoscopy, and doctor’s appointments to hear results all by himself (Covid rules). BOING!
Physically-distant visits, outside, with small numbers of family and friends. BOING, BOING!
Upcoming surgery (hopefully, it happens before a next wave of Covid restricts hospitals again) to remove two tumours, lymph nodes, half his left lung, and a partridge in a pear tree, because that’s the “best chance for a cure.” What happened to “very curable”?? BOING!
Lung cancer would not have been found until much later and been inoperable, if it wasn’t for his chest injury. BOING, BOING!
We are sad and brave (him) and hormonally weepy and anti-social (me) and we look for the good news everywhere. So far, we have not been one of the incredibly heartbreaking people whose cancer treatment hasn’t even started, due to Covid. But, I also need to paraphrase Dickens:
“it was the suckiest of times, it was the even suckier, suckiest of times”.
Do you agree?
That doesn’t mean we don’t see the blessings. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for the good stuff. It doesn’t mean we don’t have hope for the future. But, whatever space you’re in and before your next Zoom call, I hope you’ll give yourself permission to wallow with me for a minute, an hour, or however long you can spare and need. Then, say it loud and in your best Arnold growl:
In case you haven’t figured it out by now…
I’m a weirdo.
Weird–for reasons too numerous to count–when we are not on Daylight Savings Time anymore. We’re losing daylight with every turn of the calendar, my friends. Focus on the precious hours of sunlight and stoke up those sunshine cells while you can!
Today, the weirdness refers to the fact that I’m nearing 50 years old and I still have a living grandparent.
She turned 91 yesterday.
Happy 91st birthday, Grandma Verna!
91 going on 61.
She’s always been my Movie Star Grandma, but I didn’t officially think of her that way until my friend, Corvette, pointed it out.
My wedding to Practical Man was the first time Corvette had ever met my Grandma Verna. This is what Grandma looked like on our wedding day:
Doesn’t she look like what Princess Diana might have looked like, had she been able to reach a luxurious age and attend our wedding?
No disrespect to the late Princess, but who needs Diana when you have our Grandma Verna? You can sort of understand why Corvette gave her the Movie Star moniker.
That would make me the Movie Star’s granddaughter, tra-la-la.
I think I skipped the Glamour gene, so I’ll take my glamour by association, yes indeedy.
Grandma’s 91 now, but she seems 61 and she’s full of sass.
She drives all her friends around in her immaculate car.
She passes her driver’s test every two years and to my knowledge, she’s never left the right blinker on for miles and miles on the highway.
She celebrates Happy Hour with some red wine, most days, along with one friend or another and they giggle like a pair of 13 year olds.
She has a great giggle.
It’s hard to catch it in a photo, though. She hates getting her picture taken so you have to sneak up on her all Secret Agent-like.
She lives, alone, in a lovely, lake view apartment (NOT a senior’s residence, retirement villa, or old-age anything).
I covet her apartment and fabulous style.
Isn’t that written somewhere, “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Grandmother’s Apartment and Fabulous Style?”‘
She does all her own banking and noticed recently that there was $3.76 missing from one of her accounts and boy, was there (rightly so) a hulabaloo at the financial institution that day!
“Most seniors wouldn’t even notice that they were being ripped off,” she told me, “I have to stick up for all of us.”
She’s kind of the Ever-Ready Bunny of Grandmothers, our Grandma Verna, that is, if the Ever-ready Bunny was WA-A-A-A-A-Y more stylish and had red patent ankle boots and a matching scarf.
These boots are made for Grandma, make no mistake.
Except, instead of batteries like the Ever-Ready Bunny, Grandma runs on swimming and one hour of her daily “stories” on TV.
Many of my friend have parents in their 80s or 90s, so having a grandmother who buys the same shoes as you do, is a little unusual.
Hence, the weirdness.
Even weirder: I had four grandparents and a great-grandmother and a great-grandfather, until I was in my 20s.
I even had a great-GREAT grandmother, until I was 11.
She was my grandpa’s grandmother! How weird is that?
Also, very lucky, dontcha know. Those of us with grandparents really are the luckiest people.
But, Grandma Verna suddenly had a medical incident this week.
No sparkly dresses in sight, like the one she was wearing last year on her 90th:
It could have been a lot worse and we’re hoping she’ll make a full recovery.
She’s out of the hospital, after only 2 days, and recuperating at my parent’s house.
She’s doing the crossword puzzle in the paper and reading all the birthday cards she’s been getting, for days.
But, she fainted this week so she’s a little unsteady and using a walker to get from room to room, at the moment. She’s sleeping a lot and tires very easily.
Sounds a lot like me, in fact.
She’s a little less Snazz and a little more Snooze.
Definitely, like me.
Not that this will last forever, but suddenly, she seems closer to 91 than 61.
That’s perfectly normal, of course, after an illness.
Just weird, for her.
So, now we’re both weirdos.
Get well, Grandma.
I hope we get to be weird together, for a long time to come.
As he does.
I am mostly sitting in his favourite chair (as I do), holding my belly button with both hands and trying to take deep, cleansing, banana-muffin-scented breaths.
My hands are cupped, as if I’m carefully holding a baby chick, but what I’m really doing is attempting to keep my belly button from making a fast getaway. It’s a task that requires vigilance and dedication, even through my bewilderment. I don’t honestly know why my belly button has forsaken me in this manner. I mean, I’ve been good to the thing, over the years.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being sun burned.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being mercilessly tickled.
- I’ve never pierced it (my sister holding the waistband of her pants out for two days after she had hers done a hundred years ago, was a good deterrent).
As in most things, I am a belly button goody-two shoes.
Yet, here I sit. In full-on Belly Button Betrayal.
I got terrible books out of the library and Olympic Golf has officially come back. This is what misery looks like, my friends.
Every once in a while, I limp into the bedroom to the full-length mirror and lift my shirt to look.
Is it still there? In one piece?
Now, I’m navel gazing.
Except, not like Gandhi or Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the wildly popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love). Someone with important socio-political/existential/spiritual (Gandhi) or even spaghetti questions (Elizabeth Gilbert) on their minds.
I do have those questions but, tra-la-la, the Olympics are on.
So, I’ve been navel gazing for a week, on account of the laparoscopic surgery I had. Note to self: my belly button does NOT look like the ones on the Canadian beach volleyball team.
Actually, navel gazing and fussing. Lots and lots of fussing.
I don’t remember Gandhi doing much of that, do you? Maybe you lose your belly button when you’re fasting for important, civil rights reasons. Not that I’ll ever know. I came out of surgery after lunch, ready for a 3-course meal, since I hadn’t eaten since MIDNIGHT the night before!
I’m really more like Elizabeth Gilbert than Gandhi.
More foodie than faster.
Uh huh, that’s me.
By the way, do you think making banana muffins is a sophisticated avoidance technique? Practical Man is…well, practical. When there’s a problem, he usually has a very practical solution. And, making banana muffins does afford a brief respite from your fussing/navel gazing wife doesn’t it? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I care if it’s a sophisticated avoidance technique, so long as I get some banana muffins out of the deal.
Naval gazing and fussing. I feel like that might be on my headstone some day, darn it. Kind of sums me up pretty well at the moment.
And, while I am a talented fusser, as Practical Man can no doubt attest, I would like to stop.
Really, I would.
It’s just that I never thought my belly button could hurt quite this much. On account of, I am a documented ‘fraidy cat and I’ve never had a single baby and everyone knows (or at least, I knew with utter certainty when I was 6) that babies come out of that aperture thingy in the middle of our belly buttons.
YAWN. (That’s how I thought the aperture part opened, when I was 6. The doctor would tickle it a little, and the mama would YAWN and then the baby on the bench nearest the belly button door, would pop out.)
Uh huh. Inadvertent childbirth. That must be it.
That’s really the only reason I can think of that my belly button would feel like it’s had a grapefruit pulled through it.
Maybe not. As far as I know, there is no tropical fruit lurking in my belly.
I’m more of a vegetable–okay, carbs–girl, to be honest. With an ice cream chaser.
Good thing, too since I now know how much it hurts to get (what feels like) a grapefruit pulled through your belly button. All you women who gave actual birth to an actual human and not a grapefruit. Pfffffff. Sure, that’s cool. But, I mean, really.
Have YOU ever had a grapefruit pulled through your navel?
It’s almost time to head to the mirror again.
Watch for my life-changing memoir:
So goes the vintage saying, but actually, I scream when I see old Volkswagens (giving Practical Man heart failure, in the process) and occasionally, I scream for cows. Because, they have big teeth and even bigger, hairy tongues.
The other day, I zigged when I should have zagged during lunch and the resulting coughing fit caused my body to try to faint for nearly an hour afterwards.
Dear nervous system: you are seriously high maintenance.
But, I take medication so I can (mostly) avoid having things like this happen. That is, if along with the drugs, I live a careful, don’t zig instead of zag, I’m-basically-a-Jane-Austen-character-even-though-I-don’t-wear-corsets kind of life.
Here are the BAD things about being a fainter:
- I am not, actually, a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although, I can play the pianoforte (as they called it in Jane Austen’s time) and recite long-winded poetry (okay, Alice’s Restaurant is a vintage song not a poem, but it sort of counts). Not being a Jane Austen character is unfortunate because my waist would look much smaller if I had to wear a corset. Or, if I stopped eating Wispa chocolate bars, which I obviously can’t because being a fainter, one has to have some compensatory perks in life. It’s a yin-yang sort of thing. So there. And, I’m pretty sure Jane Austen would wholeheartedly approve (and subsequently write about how a true gentleman brings offerings of “delectable sweeties”, which everyone knows–well, at least Practical Man does–is Jane Austen-ish code for: Wispa chocolate bars.)
- I have landed with my head on un-glamorous things: like toilet bowls and berber carpet and my boss’s lap. Um, yeah.
- I got a large, oozing, rug burn wound on my forehead the last time I fainted, from fainting off our pillow-top mattress–which is tantamount to Olympic diving. Have you seen how high North-American beds are these days? I tried to tell people that the cucumber slice-sized mess on my forehead was from stealing jewels in my alter-ego life as a cat burglar but, apparently fainting goes hand-in-hand with fibbing and tall tales.
- There isn’t a frequent fainter’s club where I get sent free stuff. Y’know, an “every fourth time you faint, you get a trip to Paris” club, or something. I think that should really be a thing. Instead, it’s “every time you faint, you lose your driver’s license“. That club is not tra-la-la at ALL.
- When people compare you to a FAINTING GOAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Hey, aren’t there goats on the internet or something that faint?” and get to marvel at being compared, yet again, to a farm animal that went viral because that’s just so very flattering and sweet. And, we already know how I feel about farm animals…like scary, scary cows. Jane Austen would not approve of my being lumped in with that feral lot. Neither would Mrs. Bennett. Think of the disastrous consequences to my marriage prospects!
- No one ever picks me up and carries off my teeny-tiny, waif-like, unconscious body, the way they would in a movie. I am 5’9″ and I eat Wispa bars whenever I can get my hands on them so, it’s completely sensible, of course, that people don’t try to heave me over their shoulder, because one doesn’t want to cause other people to have hernias but, I really think the faint-and-go-to-Paris (maybe, with Mr. Darcy) thing should be a thing, don’t you?
But, like other annoying life stuff, it’s not all bad. Here are the GOOD things about being a fainter:
- I feel very tra-la-la when I’m not fainting. As in, since I started taking medication, I don’t spend nearly as much time whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. Um, yeah. Even better: I don’t spend nearly as much time WONDERING if I’m going to be whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. This leaves my brain time to think of pithy banter I can exchange with Practical Man, a la characters in a Jane Austen novel. And, for him to roll his eyes, but never mind about that.
- When you get your driver’s license back and then Practical Man suggests that you buy the vintage car of your dreams, it is THE BEST DAY (even if there are no Wispa bars around.) Insert an ugly cry here (but don’t cry too hard because you may not know it, but, crying leads to fainting, which in turn leads to losing driver’s license and, well, this lovely circle of drama is how things go when one is afflicted with the tendency to swoon.)
- Fainting seems vintage, somehow. As in, the manner of swoony women from times gone by. This sometimes makes me feel vintage and lovely (a la Jane Austen) and sometimes makes me feel vintage and pathetic (a la Jane Austen). When it’s pathetic, I console myself with images of highly-trained, stoic male and female soldiers standing on parade and keeling over. Or, that guy from The Wiggles. I remind myself that fainting is a non-gendered, training and stoic-ignoring, international activity. Plus, in the hierarchy of diseases, this is pretty darn minor. I could be allergic to chocolate – quelle horreur! There, I’ve found my happy place again.
- I get to be sanctimonious in the manner of ex-smokers, ex-wheat eaters, ex-aerobic exercisers: because no doctor ever harasses me about high blood pressure. In fact, when they’re finished looking alarmed at how low my blood pressure is, they proceed to order me in a stern voice to “eat more salt”. Obviously, I can’t be in the middle of ages, because what chubby, 40-something human from a G10 country is told to “eat MORE salt” in this day and age? A woman living the faint-y life of a Jane Austen character, that’s who. I am also grateful that my neuro-cardiogenic syncope syndrome hasn’t been diagnosed as “female hysteria” or “neurasthenia” which, if I lived in Jane Austen’s time (or even mine, in select locales), would be a certainty.
- When you get your driver’s license back (I can’t quite emphasize this one enough) for the umpteenth time, it is THE BEST DAY AGAIN, even if there are no Wispa bars or vintage automobiles around. Although, as every frequent fainter knows, this losing/getting back/losing thing gets old really quickly, so maybe some Wispa bars will be required in the future. Or the get-a-free-trip-to-Paris thing. Yes, that one, pretty please.
- I am medically required to have regular ice cream. I am not medically required to have Wispa bars but, lucky for me, the doctor told me that ice cream is apparently loaded with sodium. Sodium: as in “eat MORE salt”. I am pretty sure that means that ice cream counts as first aid and preventative medicine, for me. Not only that, but, I’m positive that eating ice cream WHILE IN Paris WITH MR. DARCY (aka Practical Man) will cure me of fainting, forever.
I’m almost sure of it.
I am feeling sick today. Poorly, as they used to say in England. Behold my feverish sheen and not-so-minty breath.
Okay, maybe I’ll refrain from sharing that with you.
I woke up with a sore throat Sunday morning but I decided to ignore it and weed the garden. To thank me for intruding upon their cozy wilderness of lupins and sundrops, some kind of insect bit me. Now, in addition to my sore throat, I have a large bruise-like area on the side of my stomach. And my left eye has been hurting since February. But that’s another story.
Back to today’s story. Only the weird bugs bite me.
This re-affirmed for me that weeding out in The Nature is like asking for trouble, playing with fire, flirting with death (even in Southern Ontario where we have nary a poisonous anything to worry about).
I think my spleen is swollen. There’s a lump where my spleen is…supposed…to…be, I think.
Practical Man recognizes that I have morphed into that pathetic man from the Nyquil commercial and is feeding me echinacea and zinc for the sore throat and reminding me to keep applying the antihistamine goop to my anonymous bug bite. He’s very comforting and logical about the first aid stuff. Maybe all the herbal hocus-pocus helps but I am not a very stoic patient. I tend to favour the lie-around-and-fuss-and-groan approach. Even though there’s no scientific evidence, I’m almost positive that it helps.
Especially the groaning.
While he is rather fond of the herbal hocus-pocus, at least Practical Man doesn’t force me to endure some of the vintage home health care remedies common during my childhood. Remember, this was an era where caution was firmly in the wind. A time in which seatbelts were optional and babies slept in a drawer at grandma’s, in a pinch. No modern-day candy-flavoured/shaped medicine for us. No, no. Medicine was supposed to taste bad and be uncomfortable. That was a sure sign that you were on the road to a cure or at least discouraged future episodes of staying home from school. By the time they were done with us, we wished so badly not to be sick anymore to escape treatment that we sort of did get better. Growing up, my sister and I were given a battery of vintage home health care remedies including:
- Being forced to drink pulpy, unsweetened orange juice by the gallon at the first sign of the sniffles. Pulp is disgusting. Blecch.
- Being isolated up in our very boring rooms, without TV or any form of entertainment (because “being sick requires real rest, not The Flintstones“)
- Being slathered in violent-smelling eucalyptus Vapo-Rub then wrapped in the world’s scratchiest, wool sock that had been crisped in the oven and secured around our swollen neck with a giant diaper pin
- Being slathered in some homemade concoction called mustard plaster then wrapped in the world’s scratchiest, wool sock that had been crisped in the oven and secured around our swollen neck with a giant diaper pin
- Being slathered in the tar-like substance called Cuticara: a blackish/green goop for scraped knees and elbows. Could also fix a flat tire or seal the cracks in the driveway. Just kidding.
Vintage health care involved a lot of being slathered, as you can see. A good, vigorous slather was apparently the cure for all. Case in point: my aunt got poison ivy and there was no one home to help her except her older brother, my dad. He slathered her in Pepto Bismol instead of Calamine Lotion (both pink–oops!) but she survived nonetheless. It’s all about the slathering. And, if slathering didn’t work, there were always the unhelpful comments from parents such as:
- “Can you wiggle it?”
- “Well, you’re not bleeding very badly.”
- “Well, if you can wiggle it, I’m sure it’s fine.”
- “Well, you were bleeding, but it’s stopped now. I’m sure that toe will grow back someday.”
- “Okay, so you swallowed the clicky bit from the kazoo. I’m sure you’ll pass it in a few days.”
- “You think this is bad? In my day, we had to take cod liver oil from a rusty spoon!”
- “You think this is bad? In my day, we went to school when we we were sick…and there was no heat and we had to walk 25 miles one way with no shoes.”
- “I’m pretty sure you’d feel better if you ate more roughage.” (that’s vintage speak for “you didn’t eat your brussel sprouts at dinner”)
- “I’m pretty sure you’d feel better if you got more exercise.” (that’s vintage speak for “please go play outside for a while and get out of my hair”)
- “I’m pretty sure you’d feel better if you got more fresh air.” (variation on number 8. I didn’t like The Nature back then, either)
Even if some of these have been slightly exaggerated, you should still take my advice: forget all the vintage home remedies and modern-day herbal hocus-pocus! When you’re feeling poorly, I’m quite confident that ice cream every two hours is the only cure.
I can already feel my spleen perking up.