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November 27, 2007

In Remembrance

The Eulogy I gave at my mother’s memorial service
November 27, 2007

When I think of my mother I think of her hands. The veins on her hands have always been raised and crooked, blue and strong, like roots at the base of an old tree.

I remember as a child I used to trace those veins with my fingers always curious about why her hands looked the way they did. They seemed old. Like they`d been here before perhaps.

In hindsight it was as if her hands were our hands; I hate to say it but her hands, at the time, seemed to exist mainly to serve us – her family. Her hands were never idle.

It was as if my parents raised two families. They had my sisters when they were in their 20s/early 30s and then they had my brother and I when they were in their late 30s/early 40s.

My mother used to say, “Women of my generation don’t get to retire!”

When I think of her hands and I asked others what stood out for them about our mother it was unanimous: She was always in the kitchen. Baking cookies, preparing roast beef for special Sunday dinners, getting out the good china, instructing us how to set the table. White linen tablecloths. Good silver. Grandparents were always invited. Heather`s boyfriends. Relatives. If it was Sunday then company WAS indeed coming!

As if it wasn’t enough to cook for us, she volunteered with Mrs. Oikawa to be the camp cooks on a special week-long field trip to Saturna Island with our Grade 7 class. After cooking spaghetti one lunch-time for about 50 people they discovered that strainers were nowhere to be found. What else could they do but use their hands. So they did.

Hers hands made thousands of lunches over the years for my father as she packed his lunch kit for another day at the mill.

She did a lot of packing as well of camping equipment for camping trips to Gallagher Lake in Oliver and Westbank with Heather, June and Joy and to Osoyoos with Gordon and I.

In the summer she’d pick blueberries and strawberries and sometimes I’d go with her. I’d be hot and tired and bored in about 10 minutes. Afterwards, her fingers would be stained red and blue as she prepared the berries and canned them so we could have fresh jam for our toast and fruit for dessert on top of ice cream in the winter.

I can recall once when we were camping in Osoyoos, my parents left my brother and I alone when we were old enough and they went off to pick cherries or apples or something. They were gone for hours. Apparently they were in different locations but my father had climbed up one of those tall ladders. When my mother returned, she saw him from a distance lying on the ground. Now most wives might be alarmed but not mom. Her first thought was: Look at him. I’ve been slaving away all morning and he’s been taking a nap!!!

In fact, Dad had fallen out of the tree and was unconscious. They had to go to the hospital to see whether he had a concussion!

My mother taught me how to drive. She was a good driver but because she wasn’t the most patient person in the world, she was fast. As a result, after a mere one time behind the wheel, she thought I was ready for the actual route they take you on in New Westminster when you do the driving test.

This belief was definitely more about her impatience than my readiness.

I remember coming up 4th street in New West and taking that left turn onto Royal at what felt like 60 mph. I ended up driving onto the median all the while I could hear a voice, her voice, somewhere beside me in the car yelling, “hit the brakes”. Of course, I continued to hit the gas, because I’d only been in a car once. I swerved over 3 lanes to the curb in front of City Hall where we came to a screeching stop a little out of breath, a little amazed that we had managed to avoid crashing into anything. I think the only thing she said before we headed home was, “Oh my god. Maybe you should take driving lessons!”

She sewed a lot. My sisters tell me she was incredibly stylish as a young woman taking after her own mother. She made matching clothes for my twin sisters which we`d make fun of when we saw them in the family movies that dad shot. She made wool winter coats for my brother and I when we were toddlers and there are home movies where we look as if we were getting ready for a fashion shoot as we ran around Moody Park. She made a graduation dress for Heather. She sewed the dress I wore when Lord Kelvin Elementary won May Queen that year and my good friend Phyllis and I were flower girls in Grade 1 or 2. She made her own square dance dresses.

She even sewed clothes for my dolls, the dolls I had kept from childhood, refitting them with new outfits even though I was in my 30s at the time and they had been sitting, neglected, in the spare bedroom for years. My mother and I were very different. But, when I saw that, and I noticed that one of the dolls had on these new white cotton polka dotted shoes, I was taken aback. I realized that in that one act she had expressed her love for me in a way that she could never verbalize. That one act – her making new clothes for them and getting those new shoes – helped me see her in a different light and inspired me to write a poem for her which you have.

She was very musical.
Her hands guided my father during the years they square danced and when I took classical piano lessons she took popular piano lessons at night school. They bought an organ, and we used to have to listen to her practicing at night. Long before we came along, before she met my father she played the Hawaiian guitar in a group with her sister Gloria and entertained in Winnipeg. She sang in the church choir at the Presbyterian Church here in New West.

I spent some of the last week looking at some old photo albums. One picture of her in particular stood out for me. She was wearing men’s trousers and had on suspenders and loafers at clear lake in Manitoba. When I looked at that photo I saw her as an adventurous spirit, athletic, someone with the spirit of an entertainer.

I think she had dreams that we never knew about and had it been a different time, perhaps she would have been more than our mother or someone’s wife but I think in the end those roles - wife and mother - would still have been the most important to her.

While her hands weren`t very good at shuffling cards, I do recall the banter and joking that took place during the many Saturday evenings my father and her spent with Uncle Gordon and Aunt Jean, Pat and Vi. The friendship she shared with her brother and his wife was unusually close for siblings, it was lifelong and cherished.

I can visualize her hands and the strong strokes she took as she swam lengths at the Canada Games pool and even lifted weights; a place where she spent so many happy hours with her friend Sheila and others up until she was about 81 years old. It seemed to me that one day she was independent, driving and swimming and the next, she became ill. That’s how it seemed although I’m sure there had been warning signs.

Maybe because she thought she`d finally done enough for everyone else her whole life and because unfortunately she really was ill, she had a tendency to be a little bossy. (Actually to be honest, she was bossy long before she became ill). As a result, especially after she was ill, Dad became what I would call her manservant. I can hear her now. I can see them sitting in their chairs. He’d settled in with the paper. She’d be sitting there, looking around and she’d say, “Jay could you get me a drink of water? He’d dutifully get up and faithfully deliver the glass of water. 15 minutes would pass. Then she’d say, Jay, What`s that on the floor? And she’d point to some piece of lint or paper. He’d get up and get it out of her sight. Another 15 minutes and she’d say, Jay, why is that light on in the kitchen? Could you turn that out? And dad would faithfully do as she asked.

As an observer of this, I used to think, Wow. It’s definitely payback time!

Our mother was a very friendly person and people always remembered her or thought they`d met her somewhere even when they hadn’t. This seemed to happen to her a lot, especially when she worked at Woodwards during the 70s.

I think her friendliness was one of her best traits that she passed down to all of us. She enjoyed a good laugh. She was quick, she was blunt, she was stoic, she kept her feelings and her emotions to herself so as her children we sometimes felt like we didn’t really know what she was feeling. Those traits persisted to the end.

Overall, she was very lucky. She had good friends. She had a devoted and loving husband and we know that she truly understood the value of that these last couple of years of her life. As someone who has never been married, it has been clear to me these past few years, as I looked at what they were to each other that their relationship was based on a strong love right from the beginning and I could truly see the value of a 62 year commitment to another person especially as he was truly there for her these last few years.

In short, I have to believe she completed exactly what she was meant to here on earth --to learn whatever she was meant to learn.

In the end she had the courage to make a difficult decision and let go – for herself – and I believe, out of love for my father. She had been too active a person her whole life to continue existing the way she had been as a result of dialysis. She also knew, I think, that her health care needs would begin to impact his own health and so out of love, she chose to make the decision she made.

As a result, I view this day (and I’m sure she’d want us to view this day) as a celebration of a life well-lived – one that was worthwhile.

As her children, I believe every one of us is thankful for all the positive traits that she helped cultivate in us.

She was the matriarch of our family in the purest definition of that word and we will miss the energetic spirit we knew before her illness.

I’d like to finish by reading part of a poem from Kahlil Gibran. He was a Lebanese-American poet. He’s probably not someone my mother would have been aware of but I believe the sentiments in this poem express something that she would have understood prior to making her choice to end dialysis.

Kahlil Gibran – excerpt “On Death”
...what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance!

November 23, 2007

Letting Go

My mother died on Tuesday, November 20th at about 1:15 pm. My father, one of my sisters and I had been with her all morning as we had been every day since she went into the hospital on November 6th.

When she chose to go off dialysis they said her death would be peaceful, that she'd just go into a coma. I wouldn't characterize her last 3 days that way at all.

In fact, the last 3 days seemed completely unnecessary and inhumane.
If we can put our pets to sleep, why can't we choose to put people to sleep in the same way when we know that they are going to die? Why must we wait for them to waste away, to stop breathing on their own, even when it seems that what they are experiencing, in spite of morphine, is labored?

I couldn't help but think that in life she had not been good at letting go and that was what I was watching as she journeyed towards death.

We were stroking her face and talking to her and holding her hands on and off because they say that hearing and touch are the last senses to go. We were telling her that it was okay to let go, that she could just let go and everything would be okay. We would be okay.

I believe, in spite of her not being able to communicate those last 3 days that she did hear me and in fact, if I could indulge in a little black humour I believe she was probably thinking that she wished she could tell us to stop saying THAT. I can just hear her saying that. Lying dying and having living people tell you that it's okay to let go would be really annoying don't you think? I'd find it annoying.

The waiting was the same as I imagine it must be waiting for a birth. The impatience mounts. You can't believe it's taking so long. But, you know you have no control over when the timing is right. All you can do is wait.

It was the most profound experience I've ever had. It was love personified to be with her. A messy reminder that every physical thing you have ever owned, every disagreement you've ever had, every person you've ever met, every memory, every place you've ever been, everything your ego has ever believed about you, or wanted to believe, every denial - let it go. Be in the moment. Your fingers are being unwrapped from whatever you are grasping for in every moment of every day until the timing is right for your own death. And, you don't get to decide when "right" is.

November 12, 2007

Her Hands

For a year I volunteered in the cardiac ward of St. Paul's Hospital as a one-on-one patient visitor. That meant I basically walked into the Cardiac wards on 5A and 5B, walked into rooms, looked around and picked someone to talk to. I just started chatting with the person. At first it was really intimidating - as if my first words weren't mine, barely audible.

I learned a lot during those visits. I learned that sick people are not defined by whatever has brought them into the hospital. I learned that I really like listening to people. I really liked helping people. That on some days just getting someone ice for their water was more fulfilling than what I'd done at work all day and my job at the time was quite fulfilling.

I learned that sometimes strangers can tell a stranger what they can't tell their families. That hospitals are so boring just about anyone to talk to is an improvement over staring at the ceiling. I learned that the human spirit is a social one even when it's in pain. And, after 2 or 3 hours on the wards, after talking and listening, and really looking deeply into someone's eyes, making the connection, I'd walk home down Robson street and it was as if my own heart had been healed a little bit at a time. I didn't think it was a coincidence that I'd chosen the cardiac ward. Love's disappointments had impacted my own heart the kind of healing it required could not be bestowed by surgery.

Sometimes I'd make a strong connection with just one person the whole evening and the other chats would be superficial and light. Sometimes I'd talk to several people and with each one of them it would feel like we had touched upon something of significance to them. A worry had been eased, they'd been distracted from their fears. I'd heard about family estrangements and each night I was reminded how insignificant life's problems are if they weren't life threatening. On some nights, there would be no significant interactions. I also learned that heart surgery, while huge to us on the outside is actually quite routine.

So, as I visit my mother in the hospital as she has chosen to end dialysis and is on the journey towards the end of her life, it feels a bit like getting at the pulpy middle of a squash; slashing through the hard exterior to discover a stringy vulnerability or a treasure chest where all the secrets are hiding.

I'm grateful that a specialist by the name of Dr. Mohamud Karim, a nephrologist, was exceptional in his ability to communicate with us and with her. I liked his gentle manner. I liked his calmness. I saw how he focused on my father during a family meeting, his hand squeezing my father's arm when the emotion began bubbling to the surface. The tone of his voice. The choice of his words. His bedside manner was impressive and humane. And, I think too many people have had the opposite experience. I saw how he talked to my mother after he talked with us. I felt the respect.

I have never experienced a birth, giving birth, seeing a birth. And, I have never really been up close to death except for when my sister slipped into a coma on her last day on earth in a cabin on Shuswap lake before she was taken by ambulance. I remember sitting on her bed and holding a cold face-cloth on her forehead for a reason I now can't recall. She was wearing a T-shirt that said Life's a Beach. And, that was the last time I saw her.

I'm reflecting on how different that experience was to this one. That was scary. That was overwhelming. That was emotion that had no where to go. I had no faith then. I had no spiritual beliefs then. I didn't know who I was then. That was so many problems ago, now overcome; transformation of every cell kicking and screaming through the sorrows to the other side.

I feel blessed that I am not working. I want to visit with her every day. Although we have not had a close relationship it has been complex in its emotional distance as relationships always are.

I want to photograph her hands because her hands are buried in my memory. They are gnarly hands with one permanently bent finger on the right hand that has never been right ever since she sliced a tendon as a young girl.

The veins on her hands have always been raised and crooked and strong like roots that have wound around a base of a tree. I see her fading blue eyes looking at me intently. She isn't saying much but it's as if she's looking at me for the first time; really looking and I wonder what she's thinking. I wonder about her regrets. I wonder if she's afraid. I notice how even now in what could be considered now or never time she doesn't verbalize what is going on for her.

I feel how everything is in the being there.

They say it takes less than 7 days to die once dialysis has been stopped. But, I really hope she's still there tommorrow. Just another day. One more day! I want to capture a photograph of her hands that says everything to me there is to say.

November 11, 2007

How to Stay Single Forever

Now I suppose this might seem a little uncaring or like I shouldn’t be thinking about my future happiness when my mother is nearing the end of her life but would it be so wrong to have something good come out of something not so good?

When my mother was admitted to the hospital this past week, my sister and I spent 3 hours or so standing in the hallway of Surrey Memorial Emergency.

When she was brought in there were the requisite 2 paramedics who picked her up. And, while they were helping her to the stretcher, I said, "Hey mom, it’s not often you have two good lookin’ guys helping you into bed lately eh?" (like THAT’S a joke they’ve NEVER heard!)
One of them, talking to my mother said in response, “those crazy kids eh?” He had such a nice energy about him. Like the kind of face you’d definitely want to look into if you’d just crashed your car head on into something.
Anyway, that was about the extent of the conversation.
Fast forward three hours.
As my mom was being wheeled up to the dialysis unit this same paramedic who I hadn’t seen in a couple of hours, comes running down the hall towards me and says, Hey, are you going to the concert on Sunday the 18th?
“Concert?” I say totally confused.
“Yes, I live in the complex next to where your parents live and there’s a concert on the 18th he says. It’s country. It’s Sunday morning.”
Still confused, I look at him and say, "Aren’t you kind of young to live there?” unaware that the same complex has independent condos that people can just buy and live in.
My brain is kinda getting that, duh, he must LIKE me and I can vaguely hear my friggin voice saying you little weirdo NOW is not the time to get specific OVER DETAILS.
But, maybe I could be forgiven given the events of the day and the context. So, do I say what I should have said which should have been Hey, if you’re going, I’ll be there! And, I don’t even like country music. But, maybe he doesn’t either. There’s always hope!
Of COURSE NOT. Of course I don’t say that.
I hear myself saying, well, I live in the West End. That’s it. That’s what I say. Like that isn’t even an ANSWER to the question!
And that’s that. And I have to catch up with my sister and my mother being wheeled away.
But, of course, later, I’m kicking myself knowing I must follow up on every lead. Like job-hunting. And, just as in jobhunting, it’s not every day I’m actually INTERESTED in the position! So, dammit, I’m now on a mission. I’m going to that concert. Even if I don’t really know where the hell it is. Which complex?

The next day I tell my dad this little story and he shows me the “entertainment” schedule for the “complex” and I don’t see any country concert. I only see a classical music concert. It is on the 18th however.

So yesterday when I took my dad to the hospital and we parked the car in the parkade overlooking Emergency, he looked out at an ambulance parked there and said to me,
"We could always stand here a while Gayle and see if you can see him."

Now that brought a smile to my face. The picture of me and my 89 year old dad hanging out in the Surrey Memorial Hospital parking lot so I could pick up an ambulance driver who tried to pick me up.

How crazy sweet and creepy is that?

November 07, 2007


I wrote this poem for my mother 7 years ago and it felt right as she gets more ill to type it out again here - making the connection from my head to my heart.

I can see your love for me
in the dresses
you make now
for the dolls I carried
when I was a child.

I can see your way of
hoping I will carry you with me
when you are gone.

A simple act
invisible hug
reminding me of all the love
you tried to show
not the words I desperately
wished you could say
acts of kindess
offered as required
for all those times when I was sick
when I was sad, and tired.

Your white head bends forward
crooked fingers pushing straight cloth
feeding the shiny needle of a Singer sewing machine.

Alone in the spare bedroom
not even noticing the noise of
Hockey Night in Canada
ricocheting off the hall walls

Dad watches Gretzky retire
while the whirr of your womanly machine
drowns out the Zamboni between
the second and third periods.

Absorbed in your own documentary
scenes from the 76 years of your life

memories recovered
armholes created
one stitch at a time

love's light reclaimed
pin pricks of a hemline.

A tiny dress
and you shrinking more fragile
and vulnerable

trading me places
the way you needed me to be
when I carred those dolls
right before, I too, went to sleep.

We won't bother waiting for the speeches
"Women of my generation don't get to retire," you say
Precisley why I would choose that sentence as the first line
in a memorial I may not ever get around to offering
on your behalf.

Such thoughts wash across the
baby pink cloth
and I turn my head
as if distracted by the hands
of a silent clock -
the moment it takes two strangers to nod,
a sinking prediction
about how quickly you'll be gone.

For now we pretend
there's lots of time

You carry on measuring
finished garments against my
plastic children
maneuvering their stiff, artificial limbs
smiling with satisfaction
at your good job.

I like to think you might have smiled at me
in that same way
when I was a child
Sunday mornings after my bath
Scrubbed combed obedient and clean
pointy black patent shoes
huring the shortbread soles of my feet.

Did you assess me then
your creation as well
and feel just a tiny bit of victory
helping you to endure the losing battle
of begging him to join us behind those
sombre Presbyterian walls?

It scares me to know
you are clearing and sorting
preparing to leave the only reality we have,
imagining the new worlds
being fabricated for you.

Tailoring a departure
you hope won't evoke complaint.
Intent that I,
the daughter most foreign to you,
will have something to hold to me
show me how you cared
remind me that you loved me
in the only ways you could
long before I questioned all the ways you couldn't.

Doll 1: Baby
Doll 2: Chatty Cathy
Doll 3: Regal princess
her long, silver-white hair
and newly fashioned polka-dotted shoes
bought by you at an Arizona thrift sale.

Strangers barely noticing
just another senior citizen
wanding alongside a highway of tables

snowbird vultures in a foreign desert
searching for deals

But, oh, so much more;
the finale of life statements,
personal treasure hunts
and this one ending
in what might prove to be
the most important find in our lifetimes.

Those tiny, white, cotton, polka-dotted shoes
helping me to forgive
letting me understand
walking away from anger
into the arms of this single, caring act
embodying why you are
without any more doubts
the title you have worn for so long --


November 04, 2007

Facial Anyone?

I’ve never been big into beauty products. I find those women, you know the kind, the Heathers and the Stephanies and the Staceys who work behind cosmetic counters, positively intimidating!

If I see some woman (or a gay guy) standing in a Department store hanging on to perfume and giving out samples, I pretty much duck and cover and walk at least two aisles out of my way just to avoid them as if I’m detouring a potential landmine site.

I’m not really sure how this phobia began! I realize it sounds like it may be wrapped up in self-esteem issues but it’s not really that. Not anymore. Maybe now it’s just a deeply ingrained habit. I think what it really is, is that way down at my core, I’m actually really, really shy. It’s the same reason I don’t like to talk on my cell phone in confined public spaces. There are SOME THINGS that should just stay PRIVATE! Like flossing!

I’ve never had a manicure. Never had some tiny person of colour kneeling at my feet sloughing off the dead skin of my heels because, oh, I don’t know, to me it reeks of colonialism or something. I realize they’re being paid. Apparently, by the looks of it, I’m one of the few people on the planet, or at least on Robson Street, who feel this way. But, I just can’t do it. It’s the same reason I can’t call up a male escort and believe me it’s not because I haven’t really wanted to.

I don’t want a tattoo. I don’t want jewels or flowers painted on my nonexistent nails. Aren’t I a child of God already? Aren’t I just perfect the way I am? Give or take the extra 25 pounds. I’ve never even had anything waxed.

To think that there are women out there having what they call “Brazilians” just amazes me. What do you call those people who offer that service for a living besides suckers? I’d love to hear their title. Maybe it’s something that’s a cross between whatever they call a greeter at Wal-Mart and a dog groomer. I mean, can you imagine waxing someone’s butt hair and ripping it out. For who? For some guy? Give me a break. I don’t think so.

As my favourite comedian, Margaret Cho would say,” If someone is fucking me and they’re that uptight about what I look like they shouldn’t be fucking me in the first place.”

How do they do that anyway? Get at those hairs? Like, do you get up on a table and bend over doggy style? It’s one of those things I’ve always wondered. And the whole bikini wax thing. I’m way past wearing a bikini so there’s no need to shave the hair down there into a landing strip. I’m not exactly expecting the world. It’s not Heathrow International. It’s more like one of those landing strips in the outback, the grassy strip that you can hardly see from the sky cuz it hardly ever gets used!

But every once in a while, I do treat myself to a massage and yesterday I thought, I really want a facial too. I go to this place with the required French name. They have the requisite Enya tape playing forever. When Enya runs out, they put on the Buddhist chimes, or the rushing water or the forest sounds. I get undressed and get onto the table face down.

So I’m lying there trying to get into the zone and this woman puts her hands on my back and in my mind I let out this blood-curdling scream because her hands are so damned cold. It’s as if she’s just come in from the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg during a white-out. Not wanting to be difficult, instead of saying something, like a normal person would, or actually letting out the scream, I control my mind. I consider this a spiritual exercise. COLD HANDS, WARM HEART. COLD HANDS WARM HEART I repeat over and over again.

For 60 minutes she has her hands running all over my body and instead of being able to relax I can’t seem to control my monkey mind. I can’t shut off these thoughts I’m having so I’m not really relaxing because I’m feeling like I’m picking up on HER thoughts and I feel like she wants to go home. She’s tired. She has a cold. She tells me this when I arrive. Great I think. Perfect. Rub your germs all over me. I want to be sick too. Maybe you have some of that stringy snot still on your fingers to make this really special.

Next, it’s time for the facial. I was REALLY looking forward to this part the most. I meet the woman. She’s European. She doesn’t seem very warm, personality wise. But her skin is flawless.
“What’s your beauty routine?” she asks.
MMM? How do I break it to her I think. “Umm. I don’t know!”
“What do you wash your face with?” she asks.
“Soap,” I say, knowing that even THAT’S a lie. Usually I just use water, which now that I say that out loud is even a bit shocking to me. Who am I? Pig Pen? I’m definitely not the little red headed girl in Charlie Brown cartoons even though I do have red hair. Oh my. In my mind I begin to visualize the re-runs of that makeover show, Style by Jury.

“You know, I don’t mean to alarm you,” she says but your skin is prematurely aged. It’s dehydrated. It’s SO dry. It’s coarse. It doesn’t have the FLEXIBILTY of the skin someone your age. How old does she think I am? I wonder. Maybe she thinks I’m 30 I think, in a classic moment of denial. I thought I was doing okay because most people don’t think I’m as old as I am. But apparently my friends aren’t REALLY my friends after all. Apparently they haven’t even been LOOKING at me. If they had, they would have recommended plastic surgery a long time ago if I’m to believe this chic.

Anyway, I’m wrapped up like a newborn. I can barely move my friggin arms. It’s as if she was trained as an embalmer or something. Or, I’m being prepared for a traditional Hindu burial. Light the pyres!!

She covers my eyes and begins to rub this wonderfully aromatic lotion all over my face, my neck and my shoulders and at that point I actually begin to have sexual fantasies. If only she wasn’t there. She’s rubbing my face in a way that seems like it’s probably some ancient Indian ayervaetic, yogic, tantric procedure that she learned from her guru. I know for sure I’m probably not doing a very good job of concealing the smirk on my face.

Her magic fingers are slathering this stuff all over my face and neck and shoulders and then without saying a word she puts on some steamer, as if I’m a child who has a severe bout of pneumonia and she’s my granny and then I hear the door close. She doesn’t even say goodbye. I have abandonment issues lady! Where the hell are you going? How long am I going to be left here?

I can’t see because my eyes are covered. And then I notice the music. I calm down. I’m trying to get in sync with my breathing because to be honest I’m feeling a little claustrophobic. Five minutes pass. 10 minutes. I start to move my legs around. It feels like an entire afternoon has passed. Did she forget me? I lift up my back. I have to get my arms out of this straight jacket. I begin to sort of thrash around a bit. My blankets surely must look like I’ve been having a bad dream. I’m actually feeling like I might just have to get up and run screaming from the room. What are these blankets made of? Why is it so HOT in here? Am I having a hot flash? I wish they’d turn that damned music off. What the hell are those monks chanting anyway? Please just SHUT UP, I think. How does she stand listening to THAT all day?

I start to actually let out some audible sighs, groans, like maybe uttering sound of my own will help me. I can’t stand it any longer and just as I sit up, my eyes still covered, I hear the door open and I scare the hell out of her because I’m sure I look like a dead person in which rigamortis has just set in which is why I’m now stiffly upright!

“You scared me,” she says a little out of breath from the fright. “I`ve never had anyone sit up like that,” she says. I start laughing, a bit on the hysterical side.

“How much longer do you think this is going to take?” I ask. Who knew that my face was a full day’s work; a massive renovation project? Something that some realtor might consider selling for a profit afterwards! "We’re almost done," she says, and I really begin to hope beyond hope that when she takes off the mask I’ll look like Jane Seymour.

But, before I am excused, there’s more. “I don’t want to come across as pushy,” she says “but are you considering buying any product?” I realize at this point that I’d have to have the lack of conscience of a Sociopath to say No. Instead, much to my disbelief I hear myself saying, “Umm. Well, maybe some exfoliant.” I say this as if I’m trying to guess the right answer on a surprise math test in high school. Maybe some day cream?

“Well, that’s a good start,” she says. “But, if I were you, I’d really recommend that you also get the eye cream. I think to myself, Look lady, if you were me, you’d realize how ridiculous it is to be talking to me about my face as if you’re a scientist who just discovered the human genome.

“I’ll just put it all out for you when you come downstairs,” she says. I get downstairs. At this point, I’m feeling resigned to buying whatever it takes to be presentable in public even though I am over 40 and I’m female so nobody’s looking at me anyway.

I’ll take a truckload of whatever shit you want to sell me if it means I can just finally get out of here RIGHT NOW I think.

I finally escape, but not before I have spent more money than it would have cost me to fly to LA and back. Who am I? Lady Di? I’m NOT EVEN WORKING! I just did a freelance job and apparently they should have just done a direct deposit into the bank account of this salon. Now that’s a RELAXING thought.

“Touch your face,” she says. “Your skin looks amazing!” And, well, I have to admit, it is a lot softer!

Beauty never comes cheaply now does it?