Category Archives: Death and Dying

Only Child says Carpe Diem should be your motto

Only Child and son, Martin, on Mother’s Day 2012

I know I’m in stress overload/overwhelm, whatever you want to call it when I keep losing and misplacing items. Some, like the sunglasses left out on the patio overnight, turn up. Others, like my property tax payment receipt, seem to linger in limbo. A big pile of files waiting atop my file cabinet to be filed just adds to the confusing milieu. My late mother had another version of this – she’d mix up things, such as haul the bacon, instead of the steak, out of the freezer. Guess I don’t have to be concerned about doing that – my freezer contains neither bacon nor steak.

Add in all the client work deadlines, plus doing another proof of my mystery short story collection (Beyond the Tripping Point, due out this fall from Blue Denim Press), the stuff I’ve been worrying about, a couple of health issues I’ve been dealing with, etc. etc. and I’ve been spiralling around in big overwhelm the past week or so. I’ve been heading out to the garden a lot to work off the excess anger/energy with weeding and trimming the silverlace and to just sit, relax, read a book and the newspaper, and eat my meals.

But I’ve still been tumbling around like a top gone awry. And feeling resentful.

Then I got the bad news from one of my “old” school friends about her cousin, another school friend. The cousin (who used to walk me to and from kindergarten) just lost her son. He died suddenly last week. He was 43. That’s too young and no parent should outlive their children. I know with war it happens a lot, but…

It gave me a jolt. I immediately emailed my son and his girlfriend who are in London at the Olympics to see how they were doing and enjoying their holiday. Haven’t heard back yet, but it is less than 24 hours since I sent out the email.

The situation with my old school friend does put things in perspective. Got me thinking, that we all need to slow down. How much of what we cram into each day really has to be done? Can we slow down, move something to another day, delete doing something, and just try to live and enjoy each minute of the now? I know John Lennon’s words of wisdom – “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” definitely enters the picture. But you never know what will happen tomorrow…or later today.

Gives me some clout to cut back on my business email time without feeling guilty about it. Today, I heard on the news about a Canadian professor who when going on vacation, emails all her work connections not to email her during her holiday time because their emails will be deleted.

I send out an email notice to clients about my vacation and ask that they don’t email or phone me then. Not all pay attention. Should I add the “your email and voice mail messages will be deleted and you’ll have to resend/ phone again?” Food for thought.

Meantime, check out these studies on taking email vacations and how it can reduce your stress. http://storify.com/ucirvine/email-vacations-decrease-stress-increase-concentra

Oh yeah, don’t forget Carpe Diem. Check out its origin and real meaning at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/carpe-diem.html.

You never know what lurks around the corner.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Carpe Diem, Death and Dying, email overload, Life demands, Mother and Child, Only child, Overwhelm, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress

Only Child’s win of ABC Blog award official

Only Child won this award. Part of the criteria when winning is to post their logo, so here it is.

One of the criteria for those who receive the ABC award from its creator, Alyson, of the Thought Palette blog (http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/abc-award/) is to nominate other blogs and also to share briefly something about yourself, from A to Z.

I  recently wrote about my blog being nominated for an ABC award in this  post

https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/only-child-abc-blog-award-nominee-on-memoir/ Now that it is official (thank you Alyson for awarding me this and Trisha http://trishadm.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/alphabet-soup-the-abc-award/for nominating me), it is time for me to do the A to Z list of  things which have meaning for me. In line with this blog’s content about writing my memoir, including all the offshoots into health, living the only person syndrome, time management, etc., and of course, my parents, cousins and my son and his partner, here is my short list.

A is for ABC Award (I couldn’t resist) but it is also A for my mother’s middle name “Amelia” and my middle name “Anne,” and for Alison, my son’s partner, and Alyson who gave me this award.

B is for blogging.

C is for Crawford, my last name.

D is for death, in relation to my parents. I still grieve.

E is for empathy with others who are only children – any age.

F is for my family.

G is for good, which despite all the ups and downs, I feel my life is (well 80 per cent anyway).

H is for my health, what is good about it, but maybe for some of the bad as it teaches me lessons and makes me curious to find answers.

I is for inspiration which fuels my imagination.

J is for Joker – a mild word to describe whatever causes the snafus in my life.

K is for Kleenex, something I use a lot, for allergies, for crying when sad, and when really exasperated.

L is for Langevin, my father’s last name and the name I was born with. I still use it, too.

M is for memoir, and also for Martin, my son.

N is for Nancy, an “old” friend from school – grade to high school, whom I reconnected with at a high school reunion almost ten years ago.

O is for ostrich, the way I used to handle problems and sometimes do now, at least as a delaying tactic.

P is for parents – mine – Julia and Albert.

Q is for quiet – something as an only child and now only adult person you can get lots of.

R is for retreat, something the nuns at my grade school and one of the high schools sent us to.

S is for my son, Martin and also my first name, Sharon. My mother once told me she had also thought to call me “Sheila.”

T is for Tim, a childhood friend who stood up for me against The Bully. I reconnected with him 12 years ago.

U is for umbrella – I had a synchronistic, almost psychic experience with an umbrella left in a park and my mother’s spirit in the fall of 2005.

V is for the first letter of the last name of three cousins on my dad’s side of the family. We used to go to their home sometimes for Christmas dinner.

W is for writing. What else for a writer?

X is for xylophone, which as a child I used to play (a very tiny xylophone).

Y is for yellow, the colour of the sun. In my childhood and today I prefer sunny (and warm) days.

Z is for Zoomer, what I am in age and partly in spirit now. My spirit is also with my childhood.

Now, it is my turn to nominate other bloggers for the ABC Award. I have a few in mind and will report in a future blog post once I have done so.

In the meantime, there is a Facebook page for ABC Award blog winners. Check out the comment with my blog post at https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/only-child-abc-blog-award-nominee-on-memoir/ and go to https://www.facebook.com/ABCaward?bookmark_t=page

Cheers.

Sharon Langevin Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under ABC Blog Award, Albert Langevin, Alphabet list, Blog Award, Cousins, Death and Dying, Family and Friends, Health, Lists, Martin Crawford, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Only child, School reunions, Sharon Crawford, Zoomers

Only Child on elderly parents

Only Child's Mom and Dad

If my parents were still alive they would celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary November 25. Sadly they died when in their 60s (that’s age, not anniversary years). Dad was 66 when he died in 1965 and Mom was 63 when she died in 1971. Contrast that with my friend Carol’s dad who died earlier this month at age 88. Carol and her husband looked after her dad for six and a half years following his head injury from a traffic accident. They even moved in with him across the street from me and also managed to maintain their out-of-town home. I don’t know how they did it and I have only admiration for them both. I also don’t know how or even if I could have done it if by some miracle Mom, at least, would have survived her brain aneurysm. Dad with his cancer spanning almost seven years (including two remissions), is another story.

I was a very immature 22 when my Mom died and I remember thinking just after my then fiance and I rushed her to the hospital via ambulance that I didn’t want Mom to be a vegetable. Despite surgery, she never came out of her coma and died five days after the aneurysm.

Carol and her husband are a few decades older than my 22. But their situation and mine raises questions. Which is the better life scenario?

In my case I missed the stress, time, etc. of having to care for an ill or disabled parent. I didn’t have to go through the “put mom in a nursing home or care for her at home” question. (I’m ruminating on that question  for me – for in the future – way ahead in the future, I hope.) The downside here is I missed having my mother around living to an old age. Sixty-three isn’t old. I have to say that as I’m getting there myself. And I miss her still. Sometimes I think her spirit is around and she is trying to guide me. I say “trying” because I don’t always listen too well. And Dad? I still miss him too. Every time I go to Toronto’s Union Station or ride trains I especially think of him. As some of you may have read in previous posts, my dad worked for the CN (CNR as it was then known when it had passenger service) and Mom, Dad and I used to ride the rails for our summer holidays to visit family and friends in southern Ontario and Michigan, plus touristy trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City. In my memoir I write

“Board here for Guelph,” he [train official] says and checks our passes dangling from Dad’s hand.  “Uh huh,” he says and grabs the suitcase and duffel bag from Dad, lifting them up onto the narrow wedge between train coaches. “Watch your step, little girl,” and he takes my hand until I’m standing on the square footstool at the bottom of the stairs.

Dad is already ahead of me and he reaches down for my hand. The metal stairs sound like tin beneath my feet and I am thankful I don’t have to kneel on them. We need an usher because Dad now prances up and down the aisles, checking out the seats. I can’t see any difference in them. They’re all the same pale powdery green with a plastic bib draped over the top of their backsides.

“This one will do,” Dad says, pointing to one on the right, a few rows in from the corridor. He flips the back and now two sets of seats face each other.

I sit next to the window and place Darlene on my lap. Mother plunks herself down beside me and straightens the hem of her dress. After Dad places the big suitcase on the seat across from Mom and lifts the duffel bag onto the overhead rack, he sits down across from me.

“You’re going to ride backwards, Daddy?” I ask. 

“Yes,” he says, but he seems distracted and keeps looking up at the overhead rack. Then he stands up and gives the duffel bag a shove, but it’s already up against the wall.

“These racks are too small,” he says.

(Excerpted from “Riding the Rails with Dad” Chapter 7 from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

But that was back in the 50s and early 60s. Now, with both parents dead and seeing my friends and others caring for their elderly parents, I understand the paradox of our situations. There are good and bad points for each. Probably the best way to deal with either is to accept it. If your parents are elderly and living (even with dementia) be grateful they are still living. If they died younger, be  grateful they may have missed the difficulties of living old. I say “may” because my dad suffered through cancer before he got old.

Count your blessings because there is a lot of elder abuse going on today. Next week’s post will go into this aspect of aging.

Cheers.

Only Child

Sharon Crawford

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Filed under Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Eldercare, Elderly parents, Mother dying, Only child memoir, Railways, Uncategorized

Only Child Remembers Mom

Only Child's Mother

My mom’s birthday is November 9. If she was still alive she would be 104. But she died at 63. Too young to die. Of course, I’m going to say that because I’m heading into that age territory later this year, so…

But the age and the date have got me thinking more about Mom. A psychic friend once told me she could sense her spirit’s presence in my house. And I have felt it, not inside the house I grew up in when I re-visited it, but afterwards at the nearby park where my friends and I used to play. I remember Mom’s weird  sense of honesty. In my memoir I have a chapter called “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty.” The chapter begins with

“Eat your dessert or the police will come and get you,” Mom says. She points to the front door and nods her head like I better do it or else the Black Maria will roll up the driveway and scoop me up into its dark interior.

I stare down at my bowl. Stewed huckleberries and apples. Black smashed berries and their dark juice seep through the apples. Yuck. Smothering the stew in vanilla ice cream can’t hide the taste of huckleberries, a taste that sits in the middle between sweet and bitter. But Mom insists on growing these strange berries in her garden.

“Sharon, did you hear me?” Mom gets up from the kitchen table, scurries into the living room and stares out the front window. “Oh, I can see a police car coming up the street; it’s turning into the driveway.”

I start to shovel the mixture down my throat. Then I jump up and take my turn at the living room window. Down the street, Mare’s father cuts his front lawn; Mrs. Armstrong sits on her front veranda, with her collie dog at her feet, and a couple of finned cars cruise up the road towards the dead-end street. Our driveway at 139 lolls in its usual empty state. When I finally get the nerve to look straight down at the veranda outside the window, all I see are the two Muskoka chairs – vacant.

Such was my mother’s twist of the truth. My legacy is rich with the fallout from my mother’s Rules of Honesty. She had a skewed sense of right and wrong. According to Mom, I had to tell it all as it actually happened, but she could tailor her honesty according to what she thought suitable for little ears to hear or what she wanted little people to do. Or she could stretch the truth by throwing in a little imagination. I compare it to a ruler, each inch (or centimetre, depending on your generation) from one to 10 being the equivalent of one of Mom’s Rules of Honesty to live life. The higher the rule or ruler number doesn’t necessarily mean the more significant the rule.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

To this day a strong sense of honesty, integrity and even justice stays with me. It is important that everyone is treated fairly and that covers the good and bad of each person. I’ve been taken to task for going after someone who has treated me wrongly or unfairly but I believe that if someone messes up they need to be held responsible. Often this means I confront the person – and that’s what I get the flak for. However, I also do the flip side of the coin and try to show my gratitude for someone who has helped me or is doing something good. An example of the latter is one of the members of my East End Writers’ Group who decided to help me with the publicity for our 10th anniversary celebration and did. Now, she is having a book launch for her memoir and I am doing my part to promote it and work it out so I can get to it (and the other book launch a few hours earlier the same day).

In case you are interested her name is Susan Siddeley and her book Home First: a memoir in voices is being launched Sunday, November 13, 4.30 p.m. at at The Flying Beaver Pubaret, 488 Parliament Street,  (just north of Carlton St. and south of Aberdeen). in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For more information on Susan and the wonderful writers’ retreats she holds in Chile check out her blog at http://losparronales.blogspot.com/.

Do I follow my ethical criteria all of the time? No. Was my mother perfect? No. But as I write near the end of this same chapter in my memoir…

Mother’s honesty didn’t just encompass telling the truth; it covered people’s basic integrity and how they dealt with the screw-ups, bad times and bad luck that always pop up in life. Nothing is certain except taxes and death, but the trick is to wind yourself through the days, months and years until you die – without falling into the muddy waters.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Book launch, Death and Dying, East End Writers' Group, Home first memoir, Honesty, Integrity, Life learning, Mother dying, Only child, Only child memoir, Responsibility, Sharon Crawford, Susan Siddeley

Only child disatisfied with being alone

Only child "holding up the house" alone.

This being alone, the only person, in your daily life sucks sometimes. I’m fed up with having to do and organize everything myself. Then there’s the financial aspect – think what you want about women making big bucks on their own; some of us scrape by. Time is also a problem.

Just take this week’s list – get/organize house/property repairs (more keep popping up and there is the weather factor for outside repairs. Don’t get me started again on the picnic table scenario), client work and preparation for a course and workshop I’m doing, some writing promo and volunteering – all this within the next two weeks and of course everything and everyone isn’t co-operating. I know, we all have a life, or should. And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my house, garden, and the work I do, which I love. But, I am also ungrateful for an overload of problems.

When Dad was still alive, he and Mom had each other. After he died, Mom fell apart and her health went from good to bad to …well, she died too young (63) form a brain aneurysm.

Now statistics support that we women living on our own (and men, too) get a hard deal in life. Richard Niolin, PhD. reviews the book  The Case for Marriage Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher. The book  has some startling statistics (well, not to me. I’m living proof of many of those statistics). The authors state that white married women with no kids earn 4% more and black married women earn 10% more than single women (Waite, 1995). And if you think a kick in the pocketbook is the only downside of living single, life spans also don’t fair as well. Mortality rates of single women area 50% higher than those for married women (Ross et al., 1990). And a spouse can help lower your risk to die from cancer and even help keep you alive 10 years longer. Here’s another scary statistic. If you’re a single person in the hospital, prepare for a longer stay than your married peers. Add in surgery and a single person has a higher risk of dying afterwards (Goodwin et al., 1987). It gets worse. Factoring in life expectancies, only eight  of  10 single women reach age 65  (Cohen et al., 1997). My mother is dead proof.

Thank somebody or other I recently updated my will, although I’ve warned my beneficiary he’ll inherit debt.

You can check out Mr. Niolin’s excellent review at http://www.psychpage.com/family/library/brwaitgalligher.html. Although the book factors in only married people, even having a significant other in your life can make a big difference. If nothing else, you can get companionship, support (including financial) for the problems that arise. I’m not saying having a life partner means the life partner will do all the house/property repairs, but the partner can share in organizing getting all this stuff done.

Being alone definitely sucks. Maybe I’ll find some positive aspects of it. Not this week. I’m “hiding” in my book reading (mystery novels), the garden, walking, and watching the new TV season, but apparently not in sleep as I’m waking up a few times a night in fear and getting up in fear. As for my dreams – they certainly depict my situation and feelings about it as only dreams can. Maybe they’ll present some solutions – if I can remember them. Even my work helps. So, please excuse me; I have to get back to work now.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, cancer, Death and Dying, finances, linda j waite, lower your risk, maggie gallagherl, Mother dying, Only child, Problems, Reading escapism, startling statistics

Only Child considers a bucket list

Only Child's home and garden respite - part of the "bucket list" already done.

One of my cousins has a bucket list  – you know a list of things you want to do before you die. Up to now I haven’t really given it much thought. My parents died in their sixties and I’m getting very close to the age when my mom died. And when you are busy dealing with the daily crap coming your way, it almost seems redundant to consider a bucket list.

But my cousin has got me thinking. I have a bucket list, for want of a better word, for my writing, but it doesn’t go beyond a year. I think I’m afraid to think beyond that because it might throw a curse on it. Looking at her and other cousins’ travel photos, I started asking myself – where would I like to travel? I’ve been across Canada both ways and the only provinces I haven’t seen are Saskatchewan and Newfoundland; I also haven’t been to any of the three territories. I would like to go to Newfoundland and Nunavit Territory (both preferably in summer). I’ve also been to England and Wales. And I like to ride on the train. I’d also like to return to the other Maritime provinces – a grade school friend is travelling in his RV to the Maritimes and I read his blog and I think I would like to go back there. You can take a train into the Maritime provinces. You can also take a train out west – takes a few days but the scenery and the experience would be more interesting than a five-hour plane ride where you look down and maybe see toy-sized buildings if the clouds don’t get in the way.

That is some of what I would like to do. I know I don’t want to jump from a parachute or go bungie jumping but I’d like to ride in a helicopter, even though I chickened out 15 years ago. I don’t want to go canoeing, camping, but maybe I’d like to go fishing. Perhaps the clue here is to brainstorm for a so-called bucket list and then prune it down. As for “scheduling” when I would do what – that would depend on time and money. Right now I just don’t have the money to travel a lot beyond southwestern Ontario to visit my cousins (but I get my train ride and some interesting visits with my family). And there is my house and garden, something on the “bucket list” already achieved. I’m living where I want to in my retirement home, a small bungalow and have slowly cultivated my garden of perennials, vegetables, fruit and herbs. The garden also provides a serene place to sit and read or just enjoy the flowers, butterflies and birds.

And maybe that is part of the answer. Try to take each day as it comes. If you plan too far into the future you can get screwed.

What do you think?

And my friend’s Maritime travel blog is Thinking Inside the Box at http://phil-brunette.blogspot.com/

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bucket List, Cousins, Death and Dying, Family, Gardening, Home and Garden, Maritimes, Newfoundland, Nunavit, Only child, Only child memoir, Peace and quiet, Reading, Retirement experiences, Risk taking, Seniors, Train travel, Travel, Trust

Only Child looks at aging parents

Only Child's late Dad and Mom

My friends across the street had to rush her dad to the hospital again, the third time in as many months. Her dad is 87. My dad died at 66, my mom at 63. So I have no aging parents to look after but I have no living parents. Which is the better life scenario?

One thing I’ve found with any person I know – relative, acquaintance – anytime after age 82, you can go from living a good life (substitute “meaningful”, “productive,” whatever you want) to a life of hell – for you and your family. If you’re lucky, you make it into your early 90s before entering old-age hell. Oh sure, there are a few exceptions – you see them and read about them in the news – so-and-so is celebrating his or her 100th/103rd birthday. And they are relatively well physically and they still have active functioning minds. To them I say, “Great. You are very lucky.” But most of the elderly-elderly have to deal with some or all of the following: heart disease, aftermath of strokes, diabetes, extreme arthritis (including osteoarthritis of the knees and hips), blindness, cancer, and perhaps the worst of all – dementia.

It’s hard on the elderly person and it is hard on his or her family. I find myself flipping from both sides as to which has it worst. Sometimes I’m almost glad my parents died in their 60s (when I was 22 and 16) and then I want to shake myself because they aren’t here anymore (except in spirit and memory). I also have to remind myself that dying in their 60s didn’t guarantee them freedom from debilitating diseases. Most of you know my dad died from cancer, but it wasn’t sudden.  He had flare-ups of cancer off and on for almost seven years before he finally got out of his misery.

Mom’s situation was something else. After Dad died she fell apart and her health showed it. Suddenly arthritis flared up – rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and feet and scleroderma. She had to quit work because of these crippling diseases  when she was in her late 50s.  Both may have led to her death – she fell a couple of times and scleroderma makes the face so taut it can lead to pulmonary or cardiac complications and death. Mom “officially” died from a brain aneurysm.

Both deaths leave me ambivalent about when to die. With Dad I had a chance to say “goodbye,” but not with Mom. Her aneurysm came suddenly and when I found her unconscious in her bed I didn’t grasp the seriousness – perhaps out of panic. Despite surgery, she died five days later. During those five days while she was in a coma, in the “wisdom” of my 22 years, I grappled with “What if she comes out of it a vegetable? I can’t cope.” In my memoir in the  “Suddenly” chapter, I write

Where did going to church get her? Lying comatose while surgeons dig around in her skull to stop the swelling and maybe, just maybe, get her to wake up. I try to read one of the nameless consumer magazines piled on an end table, but my attention span is lower than that of an addict on speed.

If you let her just wake up and be okay, able to get around, I’ll… I’ll… I try to bargain with God.

You’ll what, Sharon? You don’t want to be a nursemaid. You’re 22 and that’s not happily ever after.

No, God, conscience, whatever, that’s not really it. If I’d have woken up earlier and caught her when she drifted off, if I’d acted sooner, if I’d called an ambulance immediately and got her into the hospital right away after I got up and found her. . .

If…If…if…if “guilt” were one of the seven deadly sins, I’d score a 100 plus on it.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

And guilt often plays a big part in the sons and daughters of elderly parents. Do I put Mom or Dad in a nursing home? Do I look after them myself? Do I?  What is the right thing to do – for both Mom and Dad and me (including spouse and children)?

Seems there is no right answer. Well, maybe if we lived in relatively good health until 90 and then our bodies just died during the night. But that’s sci-fi. With people living longer now (men 78.0 years and women 82.7 years average. (2005 Statistics Canada Mortality Report  http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-209-x/2004000/rprt-eng.htm#a3) and the rising number here (read “baby boomers”) the situation is in crisis. Sure, governments should provide more assisted-at-home living as well as more nursing homes. But these things cost one way or the other.

It’s Catch-22. I don’t have answers. Any ideas from my readers? Please comment.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Eldercare, Elderly parents, Family, Health Seniors, Heart Disease, Only child, Seniors