Thursday, 31 July 2014

Free Parking

Last week on Wednesday when I took Mike to his bath appointment at the hospital, there was no parking in the free, ten minute drop-off zone in front of the building where we usually park, so I drove around to the back. We have parked in the back a few times before, but not only is it all pay parking, there is only one wheelchair spot. Thankfully, the one wheelchair parking spot was available and for the sake of the five or ten minutes it takes me to drop Mike off, I wasn’t going to worry about paying for parking.

As I was getting Mike out of the van, I could see a couple that looked a little lost walking toward us. It was a beautiful older Indo-Canadian couple in bright coloured clothing, each walking with a cane. The man came right up to the van and asked if I knew where he could pay for parking. His accent was lovely, but his english a little rough, so there was some confusion when he also showed me the map of where in the hospital they had to go.

I pointed him in the direction of the entrance where the parking machine is and I told him we were going that way and I would help him. He and his wife started walking toward the entrance while I got Mike out of the van. We caught up to them and went in together and I showed him the parking machine. He told me his parking stall number and I punch it in along with the amount of time he wanted. I told him it was $6 and he pulled out a bunch of change from his pocket. He had a toonie and two loonies and a bunch of dimes, so I took the four bigger coins out of his hand and grabbed two loonies of my own and put the money in and gave him his ticket. He wasn’t about to accept my money and insisted I take all of his dimes. He showed me his map again of where he and his wife had to go, so we walked them to the elevator and I explained to them that they needed to go up one floor and then when they got out of the elevator, they needed to turn right and follow the hall to reception. They thanked us very much and we parted ways.

Yesterday when I picked Mike up from his bath appointment, we passed a man in the hall talking to medical personnel. I told Mike it looked like the man from last week and continued to our vehicle parked in the free, drop off zone in the front of the building. As I was wheeling Mike backwards up the ramp into the van, the tall, well dressed man with a bright blue turban appeared. He tapped his hand on the outside of one thigh a few times and with a big smile said his wife had her surgery and it went well. I said that was great and told him we were happy to hear it. He said, “Do you remember me?” I said we did; Mike nodded. He pointed to Mike and said, “What about him?” I told the man Mike was ill and that he probably wasn’t going to get better. The man came closer and with his finger pointing up, he said, “God is supreme!” Mike and I nodded in agreement. He said it again and then told us if we pray every morning and every night, everything would be alright. We nodded in agreement and the man said good bye and walked away.

As we drove off, I got a little choked up and glanced at Mike in the rear view mirror. He was already smiling at me - I smiled back and thought how God is very mysterious but He keeps it so simple at the same time.






Thursday, 24 July 2014

On Track

Mike’s sister, Moira and her husband Mike were here for a visit a few weeks ago. They came a day before Pat got here and left a few days before she did.

Moira isn’t a fan of flying and of course, I can relate…I think her aversion to flying is even stronger than mine. When I heard they were taking the train back home to Toronto, I thought, “What a great idea!”

I would love to take a train across the country. Mike and I had often spoke of doing that together someday. Not only would it be a great way to see the spectacular scenery of each province, but trains travel on the ground (so there's no fear of falling out of the sky like there is in a plane).

This is Mike’s message to Moira about a week after they left:

“So I guess you are home by now. Most people taking the train will say the rocky mountain portion is enjoyable and that the prairies are boring because they contain only vast amounts of tall wheat fields that are bland to the eye. I read a book years ago called ‘Who Has Seen the Wind’ by WO Mitchell. In the book the last chapter gives a description of the old grandma who is wheelchair bound and sits all day staring out the window at the wheat blowing in the wind. To all around her people see what appears to be a demented old lady staring into space but Mitchell's description gives the reader a different outlook at what she sees.”

Moira’s reply back:

“We just got in this afternoon as our train was 5 hours behind schedule due to a freight train that had problems ahead. Many times we stopped to allow for freight to pass, as they get priority. No problem for us, as we just sat up in the glass top area watching the scenery and talking with some of the train passengers who were very friendly. 
Although the prairies were not as spectacular as the rocky mountains, they had their own beauty, and we enjoyed watching all of it, including the forest and lake areas after that. We were allowed to get off the train occasionally in small towns along the way for some fresh air and a stretch while the train was serviced, and if you have ever seen the show 'Corner Gas', well it reminded me of that, with the size of the towns... 
The train was only really rocky one night, the rest of it was normal old fashioned train rocking, just like the olden days. You felt as though you had been on a train from the 50's, especially with some of the original bunks and refurbished end of the train lounge car with a cigar/beer table, original redone lounge chairs and decor. It was like that same place on the train in the movie ‘Double Indemnity’ with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, where he steps out the back door for a smoke.”  

The following is a poem written by Michaela for a school writing assignment:


My uncle is a train. Always staying on track. Determined, motivated and knows where it’s going. The outside is made of hard, strong metal yet inside is cozy and inviting. The inside has chairs lined in perfect rows which look hard but once you sit and stay a while you realize they have the softest cushions in the world. In the front the engineer shovels coal into the fire. He doesn’t stop to take a break or get tired. Instead he pushes to the limit in order to keep things running smoothly. Sometimes the train needs some helpers and sometimes it can go on its own. But one thing is certain, nothing can stop it.



Michaela, Elanna, Peter and Luke before the ALS walk in PoCo last month

Elanna, Michaela and my mom with all of us at the ALS Walk in PoCo last month



Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Keep Looking Up

Madison pointed it out to me when the three of us were out for a walk one day. She said she thought it was weird that I have a fear of flying, but I’m fascinated with air planes…every time one flies over, I look up. I’m actually not fascinated with the plane itself - I don’t care about it on the ground, its more about the machine in the sky. Madison was right, it is kind of weird. But to me, it’s just natural…I have looked up for as long as I can remember and have wondered why most people don’t.

We live about 50K away from the Vancouver International Airport, so we aren’t that close. It’s not like the planes are loud, but still you can hear them, so I look up. Sometimes I comment. I might say something about it’s colour or size or if it’s flying really high or low etc.  Sometimes I’ll pop a wheelie with Mike’s wheelchair so he can see too. And on a nice day or evening, I often say something like, “How wonderful it is to be flying into Vancouver on a day like today.” Because of course, Vancouver is beautiful…from the sky and the ground!

My dad looks up too. I’ve really noticed it lately at Nathan’s ultimate frisbee games…he and I are looking up while everyone else has their eyes on the game. My dad knows planes…he flew planes. He had a licence to fly at one time and has always had an interest in planes. While everyone else is watching the frisbee game, he and I discuss where that one might be coming from and the airline and he always knows what kind of plane it is.

I don’t really know why I have to look up when one flies over, but its like I can’t not look up.  Regardless, looking up when a plane flies by has caused me to look up thousands of times and looking up is a good thing.

I think the sky is a great reminder of how small we are and how big God is. It’s huge and it’s uncluttered, unlike some of our spaces, so it helps clear the mind and make troubles disappear for a while. The sky is also in the direction of heaven and they say its good to look where you are going, not where you have been.

Because of Mike’s neck weakness, the physiotherapist from GF Strong recently came and fitted Mike for a neck brace. Mike wasn’t crazy about the idea, but I insisted. I told him that transfers would be easier and when he stands he wouldn’t have to work so hard to lift his head up and keep his head up. I also told him van rides would be more enjoyable. Poor Mike is like a bobble head in the van when we go anywhere and I drive super slow and avoid as many bumps as possible…train tracks are the worst. 

Anyway, Mike isn’t crazy about his new neck brace. He feels a little suffocated, so he hasn’t worn it very much. He did wear it when he and I drove out to Mill Lake in  Abbotsford a couple of weeks ago to surprise Neil and Donna at the ALS Walk there (the week before, our “I Like Mike” team participated in the ALS Walk in Port Coquitlam). 

We laughed a lot on the way to Mill Lake because I was asking Mike questions about getting there and with his sun glasses on and his neck brace on, it was almost impossible for him to communicate with me. I couldn’t see his eyes and he couldn’t nod his head yes or no. I’d say, “Smile if I exit here…smile if I turn left here.” Trying not to smile, made Mike smile more, so needless to say we got a little lost but we had fun.

I have never been more in awe of Mike’s determination as I am now when I watch him lift his head. When we get him standing up and leaning against his chair, it takes all his might to lift his head. Once it’s there, he smiles. Usually it falls back a little and then he’s looking up…and smiling. Sometimes I help him lift his head and sometimes I hold his head for him, but I also like to hold his feet and support his ankles when he stands, so this can be a bit of a challenge. Last week when Pat was here, she held Mike’s head and I held his feet. Elanna and Madison and whoever else might be around also help sometimes with this juggling act…its team work at its best!


All I can say is, “Mike, you blow me away! I am so proud of you and so inspired by you! Keep looking up!”



                                                             Neil's Team

                                       Neil and Mike at the ALS walk in Abbotsford

                                  The "I Like Mike" Team at the ALS walk in Poco