Between Then and Now

photo of clocks at MOSS by FS

Photo by FS — clocks on the wall of a Toronto shop


Between then and now
(if by then you mean the last time
we saw each other to get caught up with the happenings inside and outside of us and
if by now you mean right now
as we are both here, together as in HERE — this point, this
moment, this place this NOW in a shared space that we inhabit)
she fell on the way back from the bathroom, the private bathroom in the private room in the cancer hospital and as she fell she didn’t put her (skeletal) hands out. Instead she raised them to her chest to contain a bursting heart and her partner caught her before she hit the ground and only then could she let herself relax, only then could she compeltely let herself go into the shaking arms that held her as she said in a voice that sounded like it came from a much stronger body, ” Oh! I think I’m dying now, I love you,” and her partner wrapped her up close — feeling life leave a body, energy leave the room,  a beloved heartbeat


Between then and now
(if by then you mean the last time there was a carefree moment in each of our worlds when we could get together and sip coffee and comment on passing fashions and smile at the silliness of wearing camouflage of a city street the has never known war and if by now you mean right now as we are talking)
he got into a brand-new truck and drove and drove and drove not knowing where to go not
about police bulletins asking the public to be on the lookout for a missing elderly man,
who’s a Dad and a widower and a grandfather
who once had gorgeous handwriting who once was in love and passionate about printing and gardening, and the opera, and cars, and meals of meat-and-potatoes and playing golf and who doesn’t understand dementia or how he ended up in the hospital a day later because they found him a long way from home sleeping in his truck in the winter by the side of the road.

Between then and now
(if by then you mean a point in time and if by now you mean another point in time) the care accident gave them both traumatic brain injuries because the 19-year old driver in the brand-new Mercedes didn’t stop, and he didn’t stop because he didn’t see the line of cars waiting at the red light, and he didn’t see the line of cars waiting at the red light because he was texting and he didn’t put the brakes on so he ploughed into their car and a year later they can’t read or organize or sleep well and they need special glasses because their vision is affected and their heads hurt and they can’t take care of their kids or stay calm, and it’s clear that a heart doesn’t have to stop for a life to be over. and he’s only 19 and his mother said, “No worries. It’s not that bad. You didn’t kill anyone.”

Between then and now
(if by then you mean — goodness only knows what you mean by then because then might be past or it might be future, I only know it doesn’t mean now)
but what I know,



not with any certainty mind you, but with a belief that is beyond certainty, is that now is here, with you and me and breath and heart and sight and sound and sensation beyond words
and that


what matters


Posted in CHANGE, Life, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life with a Pet

Gia and Piper

Part 1: A creative prompt about describing life with pets. The response could be in any media and I chose to do it in writing.  Well, not a choice. More of an experience. A stream of consciousness that spent its time capturing feelings and random impressions that were then wrestled and compressed and perhaps best expressed in words. Because collage just wasn’t doing it.

Part 2:  The response.

Life with pets

Messy.  Like life. Warm-bodied cuddlebugs or life-savers squeezed in to that impossibly small spot right beside you on the couch or on the street on a cool night.

Eyes connected to a heart that look into eyes connected to a heart.

A dog as a pet is reason and a demand to get out into the world and talk to other pets and other people.  I might not do that otherwise.  I might just do what’s easy and stay home. I might stay home and come to believe that the news is what my street and my neighbourhood and my city and my country and the world are all about.  I might stay home and not notice my world getting small and scary or how tight I’m holding myself.

Life with pets.

Messy. Like Life.

Maybe they add perspective. About taking care of this moment that leads to the next moment, and over time it becomes clear that life is simply living and adjusting to the weather and everything else. Seeing how there aren’t bad weather days or good weather days except by how we judge it, and what there is is simply and non acceptance and unpreparedness for the reality of what the weather is and does, and oh yes, inappropriate dress to go out and through it.

Life with pets.

Messy.  Like life.

Throwing balls, retrieving balls and buying poop bags and pet food in bulk.

Litter, blankets, cage things.

Dirty paws and dirty towels and barf spots on the carpets. Wondering and worrying what’s in their food.

Training them is training me.

Less selfish maybe. The weather is not going to change just because I want it to.

Pets teach.

Pets teach about being in relationship. Being in a good relationship with a pet is about Patience. Listening. Sensing. Adjusting. Pets adjust. I adjust. I can learn. I am learning. Telepathic talks. Not a child, but a pet. Not a pet, a living being. A responsibility. I’m listening.

Even the birds talk back now and again.

Looking at tree trunks and people slouching by faces hidden in hoodies.

What’s the pee-mail have to say today?

Walking and walking and walking. Going for car rides and curling up on a couch and singing along with the howls.  Heartbeat rhythms matching.  Oh, and Telepathic Talks.  Definite connectedness.

Life with pets.

Messy. Like life.


Trips to the groomer and the beach and the vet.  Toy box full of pet toys. Special blankets and beds.

And then it’s time for them to go.

One day you have that dog or cat or lizard or ferret or horse or pig or bird or mouse, or snake — one moment you have that pet and then the next moment, you don’t. That pet   goes to The Rainbow Bridge, or to nowhere we can understand but that always feels like Way. Too. Soon.

I won’t talk about the cost in money or tears or rips and shreds to the heart muscle. Can I do it again?

Living with a pet is all of life crammed into a best-before date programmed into the DNA of that living being we call pet. There is pain without suffering.  I can do this. I am doing it.

Life with a pet?

It gets messy. It gets crazy happy and fun. And scary and sad.

Like life.

Posted in animals, dogs, Life, pets | 3 Comments

There isn’t a thank you big enough

“We’re gonna put you through hell,” the doctors said. “It’ll be brutal, but we’re confident it will work.”

Because I want to live I said okay, registering the fear that was coursing through my body and the concern for the special someones in my life, two of them being canine someones. The doctors said other things too. “It’ll be at least a year before you can even begin to process what happened to you.”

It hasn’t been a year yet, and it’s true: I can’t process a thing.

It’s possible that at some time I might write about it. I might write about the odd language of cancer: battling (or fighting) and journey and survivor and gift. Or I might write about how three of us on my street were diagnosed with different cancers at the same time, and how we all wondered what we did wrong to get cancer and how we came to realize that living a healthy lifestyle and being healthy doesn’t prevent cancer; it just helps you weather the treatment a bit better.  I might write about all that at some point in time. But that time is not this time, and to be honest, I don’t think too much about time other than the moment that I am in, here and now.

A few minutes have passed and I have spent that time searching my brain for a transition, a bridge (you know, the writerly techniques) to move this post along. I can’t find one. So I will start again.

There is perhaps never a greater sense of absolute separateness, of existential isolation as when your ears receive (or your senses perceive) the fact that you are in a life-threatening situation; when you are acutely aware that the moment that changes everything is fading away and the next moment has yet to show up. When it does, with luck it brings goodness and connection from kind, caring, wonderful and fun people. Friends, family, neighbours, strangers, and dogs. All who just do stuff you didn’t know you needed or wanted done. All who do Helpful, Essential, Life-Saving Stuff.

I had luck. We had luck. Or something like it. And help.  Friends, family, neighbours, strangers — people near and far, and of course, health care people. There isn’t a thank-you big enough.

Meanwhile, the dogs: baby poodle Piper and senior terriermix Gia got to know new people who took care of them when we couldn’t. And, when I couldn’t be with them, Tinababa captured their antics in illustrations and digital recreations.

Did I say thank you yet. For all of us?

Thank you.

surgical waiting room

illustrations by Tinababa




Posted in Cancer, Life, Mindfulness, Words | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s a thing


at the Brickworks

I don’t recognize the number.

Because I’m waiting for a call, I answer.  A pleasant male voice asks, “may I speak with Frances?”

Due to a cold and complicated bunch of other things, my voice barely registers as human. But I plod on and in a tone that’s close to the Low E string on a guitar, I ask, “Who’s calling?”

He hesitates a nanosecond, gives the name of my bank, then adds, “it’s a courtesy call.”

A bell chimes in my head.

courtesy is an act of politeness, like someone opening a door for someone else, or, when something is given free of charge to people who are already paying for something, like the repair shop giving a client a loaner car at no charge. How is it that the selling tactic of a call at home at night can be warped into something that a sane person would consider a courtesy?

The word who is in relation to a reference to a living, breathing being.

In this dimension of our consensus reality, acknowledging the malleability of the English language, a bank is a corporation and a corporation is not a who, it’s a what. I do not give a flying magic toadstool for greedy sleight-of-handers or the cabal of warped concisioners whittling away at laws and language for the insidious intellectual thrill of Poof! Turned a corporation into a Who! High-Fives all around!

Oh, and about the cabal of warped concisioners: take away words with which to describe things and the ability to express, describe,  communicate, convey in words our feelings and experiences and our ability to create connection and togetherness and meaning falls away. Which is not in any way to discount the possibility of replacing words with interpretive dance or fingerpainting as a means of communication. But I digress.

Back to the courtesy call

Something clicks in my brain.  It was not the thing in my brain that had once been a telemarketer before landing in communications. It was not the thing in my brain that had once been a supervisor of a 35-person call centre for a telemarketing company, or the thing in my brain that had trained telemarketers or the thing in my brain that had opened a branch office of a telemarketing company in another city. And it is definitely not the entire thing in my brain that is keen on the goodness of mindfulness, kindfulness, compassion and patience.

The thing that clicks in my brain also furrows my brows.

I croak out a question.”Why?”

“It’s a courtesy call,” he repeats.

He has a job to do. Get bank customers to say yes to the product the bank is selling.

I swallow, hoping my voice will hold up and ask, “Why do I need a courtesy call?”

My question is not included in the script of responses on the telemarketer’s sheet, which means he has to think but he’s not fast enough which means he misses a beat. Silence. Not something you want in a telemarketing call.

I have about 4 seconds before my voice is lost for the day. “Thank you.  I’m satisfied with what I have with the bank. I don’t need a courtesy call. Take good care.”

It’s not personal. It’s a thing.


(No professional communicators were harmed in the creation of this post)

Posted in Life, Words | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Three ways to avoid life

Me, Piper and Gia


1. Don’t care.

2. Don’t commit.

3. Don’t accept the reality that everything changes.




Posted in CHANGE, dogs, Life, Toronto | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments