As for here… 2020 was supposed to be a fabulous year. I had been studying Italian for years and had a solo two-month trip planned to Italy, including a gorgeous studio apartment in Florence for a month. I was taking a couple of European history classes at UVIC last fall and winter. The plan was I was going to fly to Rome on April 6. Everything was arranged and paid for, including Easter Monday breakfast with the Pope (lol) and my annual pass to the Uffici in Florence. My bag was packed. I was still hoping and wishing all would be well at the end of March. Then KLM canceled my flight and AirB&B canceled my studio. I’m still grieving that loss. Unfortunately, the year from hell didn’t end there.
Long story … probably not short. Days after viewing the solar eclipse in totality, in Lincoln City, Oregon, in August 2017, I started experiencing a sound and vibration thing, occasionally. I thought it was the laundry room beneath us in the hotel, then it was the neighbour’s hot tub, then it was the new heat pump system installed in the church on the hill behind our house. Then maybe it was the city’s water main, or maybe BCHydro had something to do with it. I experienced it in our house and in our yard and on the driveway. It was weird but it was still sporadic until September of 2019. It had been off for a couple of days, in fact, I had told Eileen that it had sounded sick before it went off. Then, on September 9th, it came back on with a vengeance. So much so that I had run out of my house because I thought the house was going to fall down. Weird, eh? The real problem was when this thing ramped up I would get nauseous, dizzy, and walk into walls.
By this time I was heavily into my trip planning and studying at UVIC. So, I spent most of my time in the library and finding excuses to stay at friend’s houses. My GP had never heard of such a thing, but she was going to get me some psychiatric help. I had a cat scan on January 3rd. My brain is totally fine, even quite exceptional, said the neurologist. Anyways, I was ready to try anything and if it was in my head then “let’s get it out of there.” I started an anti-psychotic and started seeing a very nice doctor. Of course, nothing changed. By now we had decided to sell our house and I had moved into an apartment in Langford, still part of Greater Victoria, but what we call the Westshore. So, I’m prepping for Italy, prepping to sell the house, going to school every day of the week, and living on my own. Eileen wasn’t going to move to the apartment until the house was on the market sometime mid February. Then I was told I had breast cancer. Sheesh.
So instead of going to Italy on the 6th of April, on the 8th, I was in a deserted hospital (because now it was a total lockdown and only “emergency” surgeries were happening) having surgery. The surgery wasn’t so bad, they only took a part of my right breast. But a few days later I got the news that the margins were not clear and I would need more treatment. Normally, it would be radiation, but I have something called Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and the radiation would not only fry my skin but likely fry my lungs. So that treatment was ruled out. I was told that if I did nothing I would have a 30% chance of recurrence in the next 10 years. Honestly, I was good with those odds, but no one else was. They wanted to take the whole breast. They could do reconstruction they said! I had less than 6 months to figure it out. Well, Eddie, the fakest thing I’ve ever done is wear some lipstick and mascara, I just didn’t see myself with foobs (fake boobs) and even worse I didn’t see myself with just one boob. If they wanted one they needed to take both. That was a struggle against the patriarchy, which I eventually won.
By the time May had ended, we had sold our house (and downsized all our stuff) and now we were living in a small apartment. By the time June came around, we had purchased a much more spacious and brand new condo. So, basically, we moved twice last spring.
My surgery was on September 8. Eileen, a senior school science teacher, had been working from home since the original lockdown in March, now schools were open but she took six weeks off to look after me. The “disturbance” was far more subtle here. I was talking with a very nice psychiatrist from the cancer society. I came off the anti-psychotics as they were doing nothing and he suggested an anti-depressant. There was CBD work, more counseling, lots of talking, but the sound and the vibration remain.
I didn’t feel so great for a few weeks after the surgery. I barely got out of bed as there wasn’t any place to go. I quickly became addicted to the news, to CNN and MSNBC, to the entire election story…. except for when Trump was saying anything, then I had to switch channels or close my eyes. Egads, what a mess. So… besides keeping an eye on our neighbours to the south, who mostly seemed to want to give up their democracy and install Trump as King/Dictator, I was healing and not doing too much.
But it isn’t over yet. On the night of November 3rd I was all ready to watch the election results when I had some horrendous pain when I tried to breathe. I seriously couldn’t breathe. Eileen called 911 and within minutes the fire department and two teams of paramedics were standing in our condo … all dressed like covid-19 aliens. They started giving me oxygen and I started to feel better. Then they gave me fentanyl and packed me up for a trip to the hospital. I spent 24 hours in emerg, then three days in a ward. Cause: I had a shower of blood clots in both lungs. IOW, had it not been for 911 and the speed for which I was given oxygen, I likely would not have been here to write this story.
I’m still recovering, and on blood thinners for another 3 months, but it gets better every day. They said the pulmonary embolism was provoked by the surgery in September, so chances are good I’ll be fine. But there will be more tests, yada yada.
Oh ya, the pandemic. All I really want to do I go hang out in Starbucks, or go back to the library at UVIC.
So that was my 2020. As I said, the plan was to have a fabulous 2020. Best laid plans…. Now I just look for a little fabulous in each day, twinkly lights, yummy food, a walk, an exercise class, sunshine, hummingbirds. We had 30cm of snow here on the weekend. It was so pretty and so rare. Now it’s just about all melted and soon the spring flowers will start to pop.
I’m still involved in web stuff. https://cozyhost.ca My social life revolves around a group of awesome engineers and others who like to fiddle with raspberry pi and different controllers, networking and coding. We used to meet in person at least four times a month, now we meet using jitsi or zoom and have a social thing via jitsi on Friday nights. https://vicpimakers.ca
Eileen retires this year. She was going to retire last year, but when the pandemic and cancer and moving happened, we decided maybe one more year working wouldn’t be the worst thing. Last spring everything seemed so strange that sticking with the status quo looked good. Anyways, June will be the end of it, at least at SMUS, and we will be free to travel… when we can travel. The plan is a trip to Yellowknife then Kugluktuk, Nunavut. We also want to take the ferry from Prince Rupert to Skagway then rent a car and drive to Whitehorse. That will complete our Canadian geocaching challenge. Then a trip through the southern states. We geocached 30 states in 2014, but Mingo Kansas was the furthest south we got. Finally, a trip to Hawaii will complete the USA challenge. I had some European geocaching in mind…. oh well.
Do take care of yourself and those loved ones, Eddie. Stay tuned.
I found this image today in a box I hadn’t looked into since before the move before last. Almost 12 years ago I packed up this box full of art supplies I rarely used. Today, while trying to decrease the amount of stuff in my life I found this image. Mom and I in March 2004. Miss her.
This week was the third time I have had to cancel a trip to Italy! Covid-19, ugh. My heart and thoughts to everyone who is struggling. Let’s all sing from the windows and clap from the doors! Stay safe. Stai al sicuro.
Wow! 2020 already. Time flies, fast, really fast. When I was 15 my imagination was convinced that by 2020 I would be in a fabulous retirement home… out amid the rings of Saturn. And we haven’t even been back to the Moon! Perhaps too much greed and too much poverty and too little adventuring has our humanity stuck in a rut.
I’m going to Italy this year. No more wishing and hoping because now the flight and hotels are booked and not only am I counting sleeps …. I leave in less than 2,000 hours.
Joesph William Cousineau
17 November, 1955 – 17 February , 2019
I am very shocked and very sad to share this news of the sudden death, by fire, of my old friend and lover, Joe Cousineau. He was born in Tofino, BC and he died on February 17, in his cabin near Tofino, BC. Joe was a one of a kind human who lived life according to his own songs. Not many understood Joe, but many would find the warmth in his heart and the stories in his head, just as I did.
He sailed the seas of Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Nootka Sound and all the way to Haida Gwaii. He was the best boatman, ie: I always felt safe, as much as one can on those challenging seas. Indeed, he was born with sea legs and it was Joe’s love of the sea which encouraged me to get my own sailing Skippers ticket.
I have so many amazing memories of our time together in the Pinkerton Islands of Barkley Sound, on the float house he built. There was one trip, we had been floating and stormbound in the back of Barkley Sound for weeks, in a cold and dark February. One day the sea seemed calmed enough, at least from our perspective, to head to town. So the tugboat Moe was fired up and we cast off.
However, on the other side of Hand Island, the sea was not so calm and even though it was my suggestion, there was no turning back. The swells were approaching from every direction. It seemed to me that the entire Pacific Ocean was piling and roiling on that shallow rock beneath us, as we headed past Beg Island and into Ucluelet Harbor.
Those swells, the thumps of them ending in green water cascading over the wheelhouse, on that stunning midwinter day. I was trying not to get too scared-sick while being awed by the beauty of it all.
And Joe, he was singing.
I don’t ever remember Joe being a singer, but on that day he was belting out every Christmas carol he could remember. About halfway across the passage, we noticed the hawser, a tow rope, had fallen off the stern and was going to sink, then wrap itself around the prop. Joe was finessing that wheel, and singing those songs, and by osmosis was encouraging me to hang on with my eyelashes, and wrangle that wayward hawser back onto the deck. What team work!
Oh memorable moments, one loves those which can be told over and over for decades.
When on the water, Joe would always get the destination. He was the one who was the most adept with those swells and those rocks and that fog and that rain. I would have gone anywhere with him, as long as it was on water.
And who could forget the time, at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, where Joe and I were the invited partiers onto a big and beautiful multi-story converted tugboat. Just before docking, we learned the engine had now gone haywire and we were about to ram into the event jetty not 100 meters away. When all else fails, the skipper let Joe have at the engine and, of course, Joe stopped that ship. It was a moment that saved not just a gorgeous ship, but likely the lives of those onboard and on the docks.
I would have more pictures, except a few days after we met, Joe left my camera on the beach at 52 Steps. The tide came in and the tide went out. He found the camera, about 300 meters from where he had left it. It was a day’s search, and it was that day I fell for the guy, and damn the camera.
Although it has been a decade since I last saw Joe, and more than two decades since we hung out together, He will always have a special place in my heart and mind. If I thought he could hear me, my last words for him … “Go gentle on yourself, Joe.”
Thank you Eydee and Anamarjia for seeking me out at this sad time. I know he loved you very much and to have him gone now is a big hurt. Big hugs all round.
Obituary : by Anamarjia
#JoeCousineau #vancouverisland #tofino #ucluelet #clayoquot #barkleysound #WoodenBoatFestival