My Life Without Gladys

I acted oddly after Gladys died. When particular people offered their condolences, I would shrug off my mother’s death and make inane comments about not really liking her anyway.  And yet I would burst into tears at the sound of Harry Belafonte, the sight of maple walnut ice cream. I alternated between remembering every horrid thing my mother did to me, and the sweetness in her.

It wasn’t until I sat down to dinner with a woman, who had lost her mother a few months before Gladys died, that everything fell into perspective. I confessed to her that I was trashing my dear, dead mother. She understood perfectly. By remembering all the bad stuff, I was managing to keep my grief at bay. Exactly! Why didn’t I think of that? Bingo!

Once I allowed myself to feel the loss I truly felt, then, although, I felt like poop, I felt better.

In August, I flew to Guelph and my brothers and I had an internment ceremony for both my dad and Gladys in a beautiful cemetery where most of my dad’s family is buried. Neither of them would have wanted this, but I did. It made me feel peaceful that they were there. My brothers and I totally disregarded their wishes. I remember when a friend of mine, whose husband died of cancer years ago, overrode every instruction he left when he died. I thought she was evil and selfish to do so. Couldn’t understand it. Now, I understand it.

I loved Gladys very much, and not a day goes by that her voice doesn’t pop into my head giving me advice that I’d heard so often when she was alive.  Sometimes, she comes to me in dreams that are so real, and we talk. She is loving and gentle. This, too, leaves me peaceful.


Gladys died early Thursday morning. My brother phoned to tell me. Krista and my granddaughter were here. I was glad of Krista’s comfort and the baby’s joyful ignorance. I don’t know what to say about Gladys’ passing. She was 98, and most people would think,”What a long life. I hope I live that long.”

For my two brothers, it was a relief. For me, I saw it as a release from existing so long in a non-existence, of being chased by hallucinations, of being too tired to eat or drink, but still too afraid to die.

However, it’s hard for me to imagine a life that no longer has my mother somewhere. Even though we had such a love/hate relationship, even though I spent most of my life running away from her and then back to her, I want her to be somewhere. If she is somewhere, I can fix what was not working for us, I can wait for her to finally tell me that she loves me. But she isn’t anywhere anymore, and I have to hold on to the moments where her love for me spoke silently.

She was underneath it all, a kind, sweet woman who tried the best she could, and sometimes succeeded in finding moments of  joy and   laughter.

The joy in her final months came from visits by her great-granddaughter, Scarlett. Mom fell in love with Scarlett. Describing Scarlett as a happy baby doesn’t do her credit. She lives so joyfully, that her joyfulness is contagious. By being around Scarlett, or by looking at a photo of her, Gladys would momentarily connect to that joyfulness and be transported to a sweeter place than what she knew day in and day out.

Gladys, I guess, had a good ending. Certainly, better than most. I suppose knowing that, will have to do. I’ll miss Gladys. She may not have hugged me or told me she loved me, but we sure had some grand talks, and some great laughs. Rest in peace, mom.

I actually woke up this morning and wasn’t afraid. Afraid of going blind; afraid of USCIS rejecting my petition for permanent residency. The usual stuff that would wake me up in the middle of the night , anxiety washing over me.

The glorious weather may have something to do with my feeling calmer, but I think it’s the fact that the human psyche either comes to terms with stress or it shatters into a million pieces.

My ocular pressure was exceedingly high a month ago, 40/35.  I rejected my doctor’s advice to get laser surgery which had a 50/50 chance of lowering my pressure. I made an appointment with a glaucoma specialist. If I was going to have eye surgery, it was going to be done by someone who does nothing but  glaucoma surgeries. I’m still waiting to see him .I have another four weeks to wait.

In the beginning, I was frantic that my ocular pressure wa steadily rising. It probably is. Every twinge and throb in my eye panicked me. I check my peripheral vision every day, even out in public. I put my right hand up and start moving it back behind my head. People think I’m waving at them.

 I finally went to the specialist’s office to see if my situation could be considered an emergency. I was buoyed by the specialist’s assistant telling me to get a copy of my latest field vision test and reports of my last two visits to my other doctor. She would have the specialist take a look at them and she’d get back to me. That was two weeks ago. I can still see, but I’m still waving at strangers in public. On my way to the dentist’s office yesterday, I checked in one more time to see what was what with the specialist. He had been out of the office all week, and if and when he checked my stuff, his office most certainly would get back to me.

Okay, so no one seems too concerned. No point in me being concerned. I’ve done all I can.  Reading about Judi Dench losing her sight to macular degeneration put my situation in perspective for me. I love Judi Dench. She is a phenomenal actress. I loved her in My Week with Marilyn. A small part, but she was wonderful. There is nothing any specialist can do for her. She wakes up every morning knowing that she eventually is going to be blind.

The worst scenario for me is that  I lose a wee bit of peripheral vision before the specialist can operate. No biggy!

We were getting a drink downtown after the chess tournament , and started up a conversation with a man beside us. He had learned that his retina was peeling off the back of his eyeball like wallpaper. Sounded pretty serious. He’s waiting around to see a specialist in some other part of the country. If I had to wait 2 months to see a specialist in Spokane, I can only wonder at how long he’ll have to wait to see his.

As or immigration, this week, we finally sent off the second round of documents that USCIS requested. I agonized over whether everything was in order, if every “i” was dotted and “t” crossed. I stayed awake worrying that I left something out, that what was sent wasn’t good enough, or complete enough, or correct enough.

Finally, I let that worry go. Couldn’t hold onto it any more than I could hold onto worrying about my eyes.

It’s Spring, and life is renewing itself. The stresses which pummelled us throughout the winter, have lost their power to do damage.  Maybe they are off somewhere regrouping, but for the present, I’m feeling peaceful.


I went to the eye surgeon yesterday to have my pressure checked again. I woke up with a pounding headache and a terrible foreboding. While I sat in the waiting room, I did my yoga breathing to try and calm myself, and in a moment of calm, I decided that if my pressure was up again, I was going to see another doctor before I resorted to surgery.

I had to wait ten minutes in one of the examination rooms before the doctor came in with a woman and her lap top. He introduced the woman as someone who was going to help him. He read my ocular pressure and, as I feared, it was up again, 30 and 32.

He then began talking about laser surgery. I told him that I had read that if the laser surgery didn’t work that having had it would decrease the success of later having a tribeculectomy.  He gave me some assurance that it wouldn’t, given the progress made in refining laser surgery. However, after more questions, he did admit that, in my case, I had only a 50/50 chance of it working.He said that paying $500 on a 50/50 chance was a good bet. If It worked, I would then not have to have the more complicated eye surgery.

He had told me two weeks ago that he really didn’t like doing tribeculectomies because they were so complicated and he hated dealing with the complications. I asked him if he was the end of the line for me. He said that he wasn’t. That there were glaucoma specialists who did more operations than he, and  would, of course, be better than he. But, he assured me that he was good. Well, I didn’t want good. I didn’t want a doctor who was uncomfortable with dealing with the complications of a tricky surgery. He said he would refer me to someone at the Eye Center for a second opinion.I told him I’d go home and talk to John and decide what our course of action would be.

John and I talked. We could not understand how the Lumigan by itself brought the pressure down so dramatically, and then, two weeks later, not work. We thought that somehow the addition of the Azopt interfered with the working of the Lumigan. So, we decided to go with the Lumigan for another two weeks and then get the doctor to recheck the pressure.

I also phoned the Eye Center and made an appointment with a doctor who specializes in glaucoma and who trained under a prominent physician who wrote papers on dealing with the complications of eye surgery. However, I can’t see him until May 3.

We have a clear plan of action, but I’m feeling adrift in an unknown sea. I’m not comfortable with my present eye doctor doing any kind of eye surgery on me. If I’m going to pay out big bucks, I want someone super qualified, not someone who tells me how uncomfortable he is with the surgery. John sees this as the doctor being honest. I see it as totally unnerving.

I just want to be able to hang in until I see the specialist in May. I don’t want to have to commit to a course directed by my present doctor. Then, I wonder if I shouldn’t go home and have this done , but we’ve gone through all that. It would mean John and I selling off all our stuff here, John quitting his job and both of us relocating in Ontario until both my eyes get done. It could be a year. We’ve established a good life here. I’m close to my children. We’re half way through the immigration process. It would be a huge step backwards.

I don’t want my eye to blow up, or go half blind waiting for a specialist when, in fact, my present doctor is, in a pinch, okay. Considering what I know about glaucoma, and the type I have, I should be okay for the next 11 days when I go back to my doctor and have the pressure checked. If the Lumigan is keeping it in the low 30s, then I can probably hold on until May 3. If it has risen to a point where I can no longer wait, then I’ll have to put myself in my doctor’s hesitant hands.

It was odd though, this woman coming into the examination room with him, carrying her laptop. She did nothing the entire time we were there. My only conclusion was that the doctor had her come in so that she could bring up his schedule to see where he could book in my laser surgery. He had her in there before he had taken my pressure, before we discussed laser surgery. It made me wonder. It made me not trust him.

I really hate this. It was much easier in Canada when I didn’t have to worry about cost, I had little choice over doctors, and I did what they told me. I don’t like it here where I have to be so adult, and make adult decisions, and act like an adult when I just want to cry and be a kid and have someone else look after the doing. AARGH!!!










Win Some, Lose Some

Remember I said we asked good friends to sponsor me? I was a little hasty. They decided not to. I can understand perfectly their position. I wouldn’t sponsor someone I barely knew, with whom I only played bridge. As soon as we asked them, I could see the change in the way they looked at me. Was I going to turn into the psycho alien, leave John, live in their spare room and shop them into debt?  Actually, sponsors are only responsible for any debt I incur to the government. If I got food stamps, medicare, school lunches..that sort of thing. The very fact that I make too much money and wouldn’t be eligible didn’t sway them much. Perhaps, they anticipated the Ontario Teacher’s Federation Pension fund going bust.

A very sweet friend of John’s agreed to sponsor me. She liked the idea of being responsible for someone now that her two girls had left home. She and John take care of me until I become an American citizen…3 years. I may ask for an allowance!

I took John with me for my appointment with the eye surgeon. I was very nervous. He was very nice, and not at all panicked about my eyes as was my previous doctor.  The drops, Lumigan, which the previous doctor was reluctant to give me because he felt they wouldn’t work, but “what the heck, try them anyway”  brought the pressure down from 37 to 27 in my right eye and from 32 to 24 in my left eye. With these results the eye surgeon felt confident that he could stabilize the pressure by adding another type of drop and, at the very most, laser surgery.

We were a very happy couple.

However, while celebrating our good fortune one evening, our car was broken into and John’s laptop, camera, recorder, briefcase, our gym bag full of clothes and such were stolen. When we got into the car, there were papers strewn all over the place. Although I recognized certain items that marked the car as ours, my first reaction was that we’d stepped into the wrong car. It took a few minutes for reality to set in. John’s life is in his computer so having it stolen was akin to losing an arm.  Although we have insurance which will replace all our goods, the inconvenience and time lost in buying new items make the entire situation a total drag.

We were a very unhappy couple.

So there it is: you win some, you lose some.


I walked into the bar and grill in the Saranac Building, sat down and ordered a large glass of the house merlot. I like the way it’s served in a short, fat, round tumbler. The waiter asked how I was, and when I replied,” I’m having one of the worst days of my life,” he ran like hell.

I shall start with the simplest of the bumps in the road that we are experiencing, and then move the metaphor to the off-road, straight down a rocky ridge into a lake type of experience we are having.

First of all, John’s Saab is on it’s last legs. Poor thing has been limping to work every other day making “going-to-die-soon” noises. There is no money for a new or used car. Sharing the Mazda is a pain. So much for the little bump in the road.

Secondly, my ophthalmologist has been unable to reduce my ocular pressure which is now 37 and 32. We’ve gone through all the drops and my pressure keeps rising. In two months, I’ll be losing peripheral vision if I don’t have eye surgery. It will cost me roughly $15,000 to have it done here. I have no medical insurance. I cannot go back to Canada. I’m in the middle of the immigration process.  And even if I could go back, there is a 5 month waiting list and 3 months of post-op care, and one eye is done at a time. I have no car in Canada. I would have to pay for a rental car,  a place to live, food and entertainment, fuel, a round trip plane ticket and ultimately, my free Canadian operation would cost me more than having it done here. So, I’m having it done here.  John and I go to the surgeon’s on Wednesday. We will find out exactly what has to be done, how much, and then we will proceed to negotiate a price that we both can live with. For a Canadian that has never had to think about medical stuff, this is something BIG!

Finally, what has sent us hurtling down the cliff towards the lake. We went to see a lawyer who deals with employment immigration. He gets people into the country who are being hired by big companies. He looked over our stuff and told us that we’d better get a family immigration lawyer because our problem was trickier than he could handle. Stay with me here.

Over the years, John has filed corporate and personal income tax. All his earnings shows up in his corporate income tax , not his personal. He has done this to avoid paying personal income tax. So, his personal income tax filing shows that he barely makes anything. Immigration requires that the petitioner makes 125% of the poverty line  to be able to meet the financial requirement to support an immigrant. His corporation could make millions, but USCIS could care less. They could care less how much I make. I could earn $100,000.00 a year  and it would make no difference. Only John’s personal income matters. And he doesn’t make enough.

Unless we find a co-sponsor, I’m out of here at the end of April. Luckily, we went to see a lawyer who put us onto a local lawyer who is so busy getting Russians into Spokane that she couldn’t take us on as clients, but she did give us some quick tips over the phone. We then phoned another contact in Seattle who will work with us over the phone, emailing, and thru faxing documents back and forth. She says our best bet is a co-sponsor. If we get a co-sponsor, she’ll refile for us and all will be well.

There are two possibilities for co-sponsors. Good friends in Spokane and John’s sister in Michigan. The good friends in Spokane are thinking about it. We haven’t talked to Cindi, John’s sister yet.

This is way too much for my little self to absorb, so I’m not. I’m going to put it aside and go to bed and read a good mystery. We’re doing all we can, and that’s all we can do.  I have faith that it will all work out and we will avoid sinking into that lake at the bottom of the cliff.

I despair sometimes that I’m not a more courageous person. At the first sign of trouble, I want to run.

I have delighted in the notices from the USCIS, believing, naively, that every notice will be good news, and take me closer to being able to stay here permanently. WRONG!!!

Today, I receive not one, but 5 sheets of paper that I can not make head nor tail of their meaning. I have a general idea but am not sure of what USCIS wants or what USCIS is complaining about.

I filed a form that a customer support person suggested was part of the package that John and I should file. It was a petition for employment. I thought it was part of the whole procedure. I don’t want to work here. I’m retired. I have a good pension.

I get these five sheets of paper which detail all the documents I need to submit in order for this file to be processed, a file I don’t even want processed. If I don’t come up with these documents my case will be rejected. My case regarding employment or the whole kit and kaboodle? I’m not sure. I can’t think. On reading the five pages, I go into panic mode. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I want to throw up. I envision myself being escorted to a plane and waving good-bye to Spokane and John. I’m completely overwhelmed by this new bump in the road.

I reread these  five pages and still only understand 50% of what’s being said. I do gather that it has to do only with the file for employment…which I don’t want. Finally, I pull myself together long enough to phone the customer service people at USCIS and get an agent. It’s amazing how fast you get to speak to real people when you have a file number. I explain my situation as I see it. She says, matter of factly, “Well, write them a letter and tell them that you really don’t want to work, that you’re retired and on a pension and that you filed only on the advice of someone you tallked to, and because the filing was free.” I felt that the last reason for filing was incredibly lame. Would I apply to fly on the first spaceship to Mars because the filing was free? I think not!

Having talked to the agent made me feel better for only 4 hours, until I returned home to reread the five pages. Enormous doubt flooded over me, and I panicked once again. I really, truly did not understand what these people wanted from me. Hence, the only step left to us. Get a lawyer!

So, John will find an immigration lawyer and we will drag these five pieces of paper to him and have him decipher it all. I know in my little heart of hearts that this entire matter has a simple solution. I only hope that this simple solution doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg in lawyer’s fees.

I have 87 days, actually 83, because I was slow to pick up the mail, to get this resolved.

Over a glass of wine this evening, John informed me that if I got booted out of the country, we’d pack up and go live in Italy. I said,” We don’t know how to speak Italian”. He said, “So, it’ll make it an adventure.” Bless his heart!