Thursday, September 20, 2018

Welcome to 50!

Dear Heather:

"We are writing to invite you to get checked for colon (bowel) cancer." I'm sorry, you're...? reads the sentence again... You're inviting me to WHAT??  

"After age 50, your risk of getting this disease goes up."  How much?  How MUCH does it go up?? Could I get actual percentages here? Into what level of panic should I descend? And why have you BOLDED this text in your letter?!?

"The good news is that you can take steps to protect your health by doing an easy test called the fecal occult blood test (FOBT)." Fecal Occult Blood Test? OCCULT?!? Am I taking my poo and smearing it into a pentagram on the floor while I call up various demons from the Netherworld?

"The FOBT is a safe and painless cancer screening test that checks your stool (poop) for tiny drops of blood, which can be caused by colon cancer. You can do the test in the comfort and privacy of your own home, and it only takes a few minutes a day on three different days to complete." Wait? Have enough people sent in three pieces of wood from actual stools that Cancer Care Ontario had to define what "stool" is?

"Get your free FOBT from your family doctor or nurse practitioner!" 

Of course I had to Google it. There's a handy-dandy video!

Another perk of turning 50? My friend Kelly got me this great book!

I immediately open it, eager to discover new things. Its pages are completely empty. "HAH! This is amazing! It's a sex journal!"

"What? No! It's a gag book! It's empty! No sex after 50!" says Kelly.

"Gag book? You mean I'm not supposed to write all my post 50 sexcapades in here? I could invest in a fabulous sex pen!"


Thursday, September 6, 2018

And then we were carjacked...

Driving towards Rissa's university residence, we blithely follow the directions offered by the nice young people in their bright orange safety vests.

"Just drive around there folks, and they'll help you out."

I'm a bit confused - we are still relatively distant from her Residence. But we do it, we drive through the parking lot towards the dozen or more colourfully clad students. "Oh look there's a welcoming committee, isn't that..."

Clapping, stomping and whooping, these hoodlums swarm our Honda Civic.


"What's going on?!?" asks Rissa.

"They are apparently encouraging you to leave the car."

Our "Welcoming Committee" comes closer, faces at the window, yelling to a decibel level that seems impossible.


"Oh, crap!  Crap, I guess I'd better get out!" Rissa departs the vehicle.

"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" The students explode with joy.

"I've got her!" says a young man in face paint and a dozen bandannas wrapped around his limbs. "You just drive up there and the guy in the vest will tell you when it's safe to go."

"When it's safe to go?"

"What's her name?" asks another student.


"RISSA!!" she yells as she checks off the name.

"RISSA!!!!!" Everyone else yells.

The student Sharpie scrawls onto a pre-printed, university-issue, green paper. "Here's her room number, you drive up to the Res. We've got your daughter." She hands us the piece of paper "Don't lose it or you'll never know where she is." She laughs.

They've got our daughter?  What the fuck just happened here?

We drive up to the guy in the vest.

"Is everything..."

"You just drive up there and we'll take care of everything."

"So she's just..."

"He's got her. She'll get there."

O...kay. We drive towards the Res.

"RIGHT THROUGH HERE FOLKS! RIGHT THROUGH HERE!!" Music is blaring, new packs, larger packs, of university students bounce up and down in excitement.


We show them the green paper.


"Uh... yeah, yeah... sure... it's okay."


(Perhaps now is a good time to mention that I was recently diagnosed with Endolymphatic Hydrops - an inner ear disorder that affects the fluid in the ear canals. Some of the symptoms make me super sensitive to sound, which in turns makes me dizzy and nauseated. Usually this isn't an issue outside, unless it's incredibly loud.)

I stagger out of the Civic. So much yelling. Music SO loud. I grasp blindly for anything to help me regain my balance - finally finding the car's side mirror. Okay... now I can help with the... I do a cartoon double-take to the back of the car. Everything's gone. All Rissa's stuff is GONE - two shopping carts are disappearing into the Res. They took my daughter and now they've taken all her stuff! I start to hyperventilate.

David is  incredibly thankful and commends everyone on their organization and energy. I can't breathe.

"You guys are fantastic!! Can we get a picture?"

A picture? He wants a picture of these people?!?


Head OUT? But we haven't... I haven't...

"PARKING LOT IS LOCATED HERE." The university-issue paper with Rissa's room number is turned over and we are shown a map to parking. "THIS ACTS AS YOUR PARKING PASS. YOU GO PARK NOW!"

We get back in the car. David says, "Wow - that was amazing! They are like a well-oiled..." He looks at my face. "Love...?"

Tears streaming down my cheeks, I shake my head. "I'm just going to..." I reach into my purse for my emergency ear plugs. "I'm just going to put these in."

We drive away from the Res. I have no idea where Rissa is. I have no idea where her stuff is. I have a few moments of hiccuping sobs before I get my shit together. Eventually, I blow out a calming breath.

"You okay?"

I nod. "They took her. Then they took her stuff. We were car-jacked."

"Oh love..."

"No, it's okay," I say. "It really is okay. It's amazing. You're right they ARE a well-oiled machine. It's  wonderful for all these kids to have such excitement, such joy when they arrive at school. I was just... I was... unprepared for it, is all."


The week leading up to this day provides me with the opportunity to do the best acting I've ever done in my life. She's so excited to get going - every day is a new thing that she's thrilled to talk about. All her Frosh Week activities, the messages on her chat groups... each thing has a new superlative and she is practically vibrating with anticipation. I respond positively to everything.

"It's so great that you're so excited for this!" I feel like I'm going to vomit. "Really? They'll have a carnival? That's great!!" I'm this much closer to death. "Yes, this is going to be the BEST THING EVER. Yay!!" My heart... my heart is... breaking.


I manage to stop the tears before we exit the car. Now in a full-fledged hydrops attack, I clutch David's arm so that I don't fall off the world as we walk back to the Res. I watch as other shell-shocked parents listen to the cheers and chanting and see their child's belongings disappear into the Res. We get directed to her floor and are greeted in the stairwell by another dozen excited students, this time chanting:


They're clapping and hooting. David has one arm and I'm clinging to the banister with my left hand; even with the earplugs firmly inserted, I'm so dizzy I feel like I could double for Sandy and Danny in the Shake Shack.

As we descend those stairs, the kids eventually notice that this particular parent is not so much "on the move," but instead, looks like she's going to keel over, or vomit, or both. They tone it down and I smile/grimace at them in thanks.

We get to Rissa's dorm, and knock politely. She bounds to the door Tigger-like, grabbing us both in a huge hug. And her smile? It could light up the galaxy. "HI GUYS!!!" She immediately goes back to unpacking her clothes. "I think I'm going to need more hangers. Can we get more hangers? I thought I'd counted them all, but somehow I think I don't have enough."

I rest on her bed and watch for a moment. I watch this person who grew in my body. This person I snuggled with, even last night, as we watched a movie together. This person I love so much, that our  impending departure at the end of the day is already making me feel like my organs will liquify. I  feel the panic creep into my chest and I close my eyes for a moment to regain my equilibrium.

And then I start helping her unpack.