My Life Story in Poetry



The Wrong Threads?
My Life Story,
Perthmore, April 2017

And so I begin.
Elderhood 101.
My assignment:
A life review,
The Story of My Life.

This might be a bit
Of a challenge,
Since I have spent
So much of my life
In forgetfulness.
And it is time now
To remember:
The good
And the less good.

I will go,
To my pre-life,
To my Mom’s birth,
And her first 13 years
With her Grandparents
Not her parents,
And her
Never knowing
The why of it.
She with her grandparents,
Her younger brothers
At home.
Her grandparents
Became her parents.
She felt torn from them
When she was finally
Brought “home”.
How much of that feeling
Embedded itself,
I wonder,
In her psyche
And her body,
Deeply and forever,
To be carried forward
To us, perhaps,
In our genes?

And my Dad
With his
Own experiences
In his body
And in his psyche

Some of my

Bedtime stories,
Which I loved.
My Mom’s budgie birds:
Listening as she taught
Them to talk.
The one
That got away.
Puppy dogs.
Micky and Goofy.
Mom carrying Goofy home
After he was run over,
Her sobbing
As he died
In her arms.
Always a cat in the house,
Coming and Going.
Coming home in the Fall.
Leaving in the Spring.

Saturday morning BLTs
And cartoons…
With their
Funny parts,
And the parts
That fostered

Large snow banks,
For sliding on.
And horse-drawn sleds.
The weather,
So different then.

In the fields,
And forests,
Finding and cutting,
Our own Christmas trees,
On neighbouring farms.
Decorating the trees
Was always
A special time
For me.
Most special of all:
Spending time alone
With the finished tree,
Doing all the little,
Final touches,
Making it “perfect”!

Christmas morning
When I was allowed
To be the first
Down the stairs
To see if Santa Claus
Had visited.
And he always had.
There had to be
A Santa Claus.
My parents
Could never afford
Those beautiful gifts,
That incredible
Doll house.

Visiting Grandparents,
In Ottawa,
It was a long drive then.
Grandparents visiting us.
Even remember
My Dad’s Grandfather,
My Great-Grandfather,
Although only as a bearded image,
The white beard and mustache,
The dark suit,
The cane.

Bama always bringing gifts.
Her way of showing,
And seeking,

Cousins living with us
For a while,
Or just visiting.
The Noonans.
The Brousseaus.

Weekend house parties,
With neighbours:
Women playing Euchre.
Men watching hockey.
Kids playing,
Or sleeping.
Then the fiddles
And the piano,
And the snacks.

At the drive in,
Bundled up
In pyjamas.

Good memories all.

Remember too
The day I found my
Baby sister
Out of her carriage,
Face down,
In the earth,
And I thought I had
Killed her,
Having been
To keep watch.

And the night
I thought
Another baby sister
Was burning to death
In what turned out
To be only
A Chimney fire,
But no one had
Time to stop and
Tell me
As I screamed
For them
To save her.

And, then,
There was
The bedwetting
And the spankings.
The belt.
Sitting alone,
On the couch,
Or in the corner,
Watching my siblings play.
Me on the outside
Looking in…
With my own faeces
Thrust in my face.
A knot of anxiety,
In my belly,
Maybe that first thread,
Knotted there,
That was to guide me
Through my life:
Surely not a right thread
To be following.

Daily chores.
We owned:
A country grocery store,
Gas stop,
Mail route,
Ice house.
Lots of chores.
As the oldest girl.

We had a cottage,
For a while.
Our own little beach,
And, when very lucky,
In winter,
There was skating,
On the lake –
Oh my,
To be on the end
of the chain
Of skaters,
Hanging on
As we practically flew
In those wide,

Long bike rides.

Large timber snakes.

An outhouse.
We were the first
To have indoor plumbing,
And TV!

I remember
That first day
Of school.
I only had to walk
Across the road.
Hid instead
Until my Mom found me
And sent me off.
About walking into that
Into the great

We moved deeper
Into the country,
An old farmstead,
Now a Buddhist monastery.
Lots of lawns to mow there.
And a garage to paint.
And fields to wander in.
And trees to climb.

New siblings arriving
Every couple of years.
My brothers
And sisters.
Six of us,
Two boys, four girls.
There would have been
More of us,
But for the

Helping my Mom.
Vacuuming the house.
Doing dishes.
Ironing Dad’s shirts.
Dad liked
Starched collars,
And wore a
Fresh white shirt
Every day,
For Sunday afternoon baseball
In the field
Beside the school house.
The same field
Where we had a
Hockey rink
In winter
And I first
Fighting for the puck
In the corner.

Grade school years.
A one room school,
Grades one to eight.
One special teacher
That I remember.
Never did learn
To learn, though.
Thread of anxiety
Through it all.

Taking piano lessons.
Wrapped on the knuckles
By Sister Mary Laura,
As I fumbled,
And she prayed
For patience.
Took a taxi to my lessons,
Until the taxi driver
Tried to get too friendly,
And my Dad intervened.
And I knew,
Even then,
Right from wrong.
And, I, of course,
The wrong one.

Made it
Through the
Grade school years.
Never really learning,
Memorizing instead.
Doing exams,
Then forgetting.
Even then.
Fogginess and anxiety
Nagging at the edges,
That thread knotted
In my belly.

Graduated to high school
When I was only 12,
Having started at age 5,
And skipping a grade.
Way too young.

Living in the country.
Going to school in town.
Didn’t know how to
Make friends.
Always on the outside
Looking in.

Coming home every day
To home-made cookies
On the table,
My Mom baking every day
For our lunches
And our suppers.
Maybe it was then
That I learned
To use
Food as comfort,
Food as a reward!
My Mom’s cookie recipes
Still in demand!

My teenage-hood:
My worth
Always defined
By others.
Little feeling
Of self worth.
Feeling, instead, that my
Value derived from others.
Those constant yearnings
For validation.

First boyfriend.
First love.
Until my Dad intervened
And it was over.
Second one,
The same thing.

High school years.
Still living
In the country.
Commuting to town
By bus.
Never really making friends.
On the outside looking in.
No Internet
To learn
About the facts of life,
And parents who
Did not speak
Of such things.

Did some track and field.
An average athlete.

Did not think I was
Smart enough,
And certainly
Wasn’t encouraged
To higher studies.
Had learned early
That I was
Not very pretty,
And not very smart.

Took Special Commercial
Instead of nursing,
Or teaching,
The main “girls'” options
At the time.

Started my career
As a very young person.

Boy friends,
Catholic guilt
For every stray,
Or not so stray,
Nothing lasting,
Nothing to validate
My outwards oriented
Self worth.
And just enough
To feed
The guilt
And anxiety.

Age 19 or so:
An overdose.
Sleeping pills.
I didn’t want to die,
It was more of
A reaching out,
A cry in the dark.
Visit to a psychologist,
One only,
As I sat there
Feeling judged
And determined
Never to return.

And the career:
A bank teller first.
A move to Ottawa.
A stenographer.
A private secretary.
An administrative officer,
An executive assistant to an ADM,
A project officer,
A management consultant,
A manager,
A middle manager,
A senior manager,
An executive.
Finishing as an EX,
An Executive,
In the Privy Council Office.
Some travel involved
Which got me places
I would not,
Have seen.

Through these years
Government-wide recognition
And awards,
Always superior,
And outstanding,
Performance appraisals.
In spite of this,
At one point,
18 months of
Work place harassment.
Anxiety making,
Fear making,
Even then
Achieving a
Superior rating
Because my achievements
Were such
That it would
Have been
Not to award the rating
And risk a grievance.
Many hours
With lawyers.
A lot of money spent.
Finally, in my moment
Of greatest achievement,
Using it to propel
Myself out and up.

Start point:
Department of Indian Affairs.

In between:
Department of Environment.
Department of Justice.

Privy Council Office.

And there were
The workaholic years,
Working day and night,
Working holidays.
My work my primary validation.
Carrying anxiety,
Like a weight,
On my shoulders
And in my belly.
Always did well.
But never felt worthy,
Almost like
An imposter.
Why on earth
Did I always,
Have to outperform
Everyone else,
Have to achieve
Those outstanding ratings,
Have to work
Above my level.
By that need
For validation.

So many Awards,
Significant Awards,
Government-Wide Awards,
And they languish
In files and boxes
In the basement.
Meaning nothing really.
It is all gone.
All past.
And what did it mean
In the end?
Well, not so much,
That was then.
And this –
Is now.

Took some time,
At one point,
To do some family history,
Family trees.
A lot of work,
But gave it up.
It was used once,
In a meaningful way,
In the year 2000
When the Brousseaus
Had their first,
Family reunion.
Since then,
It languishes
In boxes and binders
Probably never
To be revived.
I don’t have
The energy
Or the desire.
But there is
Some good stuff there,
A few jewels
That point to the
How and the Why
Of us, as a family,

A high period,
I recall,
Cross country skiing,
Down-hill skiing,
Snow shoeing,
I was young
(Well, sort of)
And fit,
And achieved those highs
One can only find
With physical exercise
Breathing in the beauty,
Feeling the magic,
Of the big
And the beautiful

And now,
Having been
Avoiding this
So far
In this life review,
Here we go:
Two marriages,
Over these years,
Both of which I left.
Didn’t know how to
Build a relationship,
Discover a soul,
Keep a commitment.

One miscarried pregnancy,
Many related procedures,
As I tried,
To conceive again.
After all,
A woman is not a woman,
Until she is a mother?

All my life,
One of my biggest fears
Was of growing old,
And being alone.

And yet,
I began
And left
Two relationships.
And could never have children.
Chose not to adopt.
And created exactly
The situation
I most feared.

Not sure why
I could not sustain
A relationship.
There is,
Of course,
Much room
For conjecture.

And, then,
There was the violent end
To the first relationship.
The beating.
The strangling,
Almost to the death.
The vicious rape.
The 22 hours at gunpoint.
Fearing every moment
Would be my last.
The final escape
With the promise
That it was not over.
That someday,
When I would
Least expect it,
He would kill me.
He would end my life.
So far, he hasn’t,
As you can see,
Since I am
Still here,
I don’t even know
If he is still alive,
But the threat
Is there,
Buried in my gut,
As I await,
A life-ending

And the second leaving,
In my mind,
I fully relived the
Of the first leaving.
But did it anyway.

By now,
Two failed marriages,
10-12 years, at least,
A workaholic,
18 months of
Workplace harassment,
A new high-stress job,
And the 22 hours
At gunpoint.

And it started,
Almost overnight.
The pain,
Unbearable pain,
20 years later,
Still governs,
And limits,
My life.

Tried so many modalities
During this time.
To healers
Who all
Had the answer,
But didn’t.
Tried so many medications,
Spent my days
With foggy brain
And chronic fatigue.

Lost my Mom
About 11 years ago now.
She suffered so much,
And us with her.
I always
Felt the guilt
That I didn’t
Look after her better.
One of the worst days
Of my life:
The day we put her into
Long-term care.
And she cried every day,
And every night,
To be taken home.
She lasted 3 years,
Failing from day one,
Until she was barely
Able to move,
Had to be fed.
Had to be sling-lifted
From bed
To wheelchair.
And then,
The pain of her dying.
For once in my life,
In the privacy of my home,
Giving in
As the pain of it
Drove me
To my knees.
My dearest Mom,
Suffered so much.
Gone forever.
She gave her life
To my Dad,
And to us,
And then
She was gone.

I wrote a tribute
to her.
My Mom.
And gifted
To Siblings
And Nephews
And Nieces.
An important part
Of our family history.
And based,
In part,
On my Mom’s
Memory book,
Which we worked on
While she was still
In her own home
And happy
That we cared
To talk
And record.

I also started yoga,
Soon after
The pain began.
Could not
Just enjoy
The yoga.
Had to take the
Teacher training
Become a teacher.
Something else
In which to try
To excel.
Taught my
“Heaing Yoga,
Gentle Yoga”
For 11 years.

The yoga
May have saved
My life.
But I left it,
And I left my job,
When the
“Relentless Routine”
Finally threatened
To overwhelm.

Took a cruise,
During this time,
With Siblings,
To Alaska.

With two sisters,
Headed to Scotland.
Visited my brother there.
Did some
Hiking, Climbing,
Albeit in pain.
But enjoying every minute,
Including the
Pub time afterwards,
The great meals,
The visiting,
The laughing
And writing it all up
At each day’s end
To share with family –
My first attempt ever
At a type of blog.

Similar type of
The Adirondacks,
The moments when
Life was at its best.
Too few
Of those”
“Special” times
Over the years.

On retirement.
The big move,
Closer to my Dad.
Took him in
When his wife
Threw him out.
Too short a time
And he left
To join my Mom,
On the other side.
Another painful leaving.
More guilt…
Guilt that he died
On My Watch.
And I miss him,
I miss them,
And for always.

Did not suit me.
From working,
And teaching,
7 days a week,
All of a sudden,

Things I thought
I would do,
I didn’t.
Partly limited by pain,
Partly by
“The big inertia”.
Filled my life with food.
70 pounds worth.

Working at making
A new life.
Trying to make friends,
Thankful to have made
Some good ones,
And a community
Of acquaintances.

Keeping in touch
With family
Through social media.
And spending
A little more time
With them.
Time that is limited,
By pain
Or by energy
(Or lack thereof).

Always had
A special feeling
For my nieces,
And nephews,
Ten of them,
And their better halves.
Plus great nieces
And great nephews,
Even down to the great-greats.
Beyond special,
All of them.
One great nephew sadly lost,
At a young age,
And deeply mourned.

Taking karate,
Started at age 64,
Got my first belt
The eve of my 65th.
Getting ready
To try for blue
When I left it.
Loved it
While I made it last.
Fortunate to have
My brother,
Shihan Bruce,
As my instructor.

Doing exercise class,
Twice a week.

I injured
Knees and ankles
And the problems
Became chronic.

Focussing on yoga now,
Gentle yoga,
And private
Exercise classes,
For my needs,
And limitations.

Writing my blog,
To which
I may
Add this writing,
A writing
I never
Would have done
If it weren’t for
Elderhood 101.
My blog
Which attempts
To give a voice
To chronic pain
And the trauma
Of living
With PTSD.
A voice I thought
That I would
Never speak,
But did, finally,
With encouragement
Of a niece,
And friends
From my
Pain Management

Filling time these days:
Volunteering at PEP
(One of the
Best things
I have done
In retirement).
With my blog.
My pets.
Colouring books.
Jigsaw puzzles.
Manis and pedis
With my sister –
Our monthly
Occasional coffee
With family,
Occasional lunch
With Neighbours.
With sisters.
Their place
Or mine.
Dinners, Dice,
And movies,
With good friends.
Boy and dog sitting
Once in a while.
Brunch and colouring
With great nieces
And great-greats.
Singing class –
Hoping so much
It will continue –
It’s so much fun –
Those endorphins,
Helps me forget
The pain
For a while.
Regular chiropractic.
Occasional massage.
Long hours
With ice packs.
Meds of course,
So much experimentation,
With so many meds,
Over the years.
Even Medical Marijuana
Which I did not like
At all.

I asked, earlier
In this,
My life story:
The wrong threads?
Threads of anxiety,
Seeking validation,
Striving to prove
A worth that really,
In the end,
Had so little worth?

Underneath it all,
The threads
Got me through.
I have survived.
I am a survivor.
I want to live,
In spite of pain.
I still want,
In some way,
However small,
To make a difference.
And I still
Want to see
The little ones
Grow up.
It will be so hard
To leave them,
When the leaving time

There is a long thread,
In our family,
A thread of survivors
That goes back
Upon generation.
And I,
And my siblings,
And their children
And children’s children,
And on and on,
Are part of that
Long thread,
And we have
The toughness
To survive.

And perhaps,
Without the limitations
Of pain,
And the empty space
Of retirement,
I would never
Have slowed down
Long enough
To place myself
In the position
Of remembering,
And trying to learn
Life’s lessons
In this time
Before I die
And give over
All my energy,
To the abyss.

Leaving behind
Whatever there is
To leave behind,
Small or Large,
Until it is all
As everything is,

And life goes on,
For those
For whom
It goes on.

Some memories stay,
For a while,
Then disappear.

Some writings stay,
For a while,
Then disappear.

And then,
All is gone.

And life goes on
For those
For whom
It goes on.!