Category Archives: Time and Space

Portugal Day

Portugal-Day-Corte-Real-statue-wikipediaOn this day in 1965 Newfoundland Premier Joseph R. Smallwood proclaimed June 17th Portugal Day in the province. It was at the Confederation Building when the Portuguese Fisheries Organization presented a statue of the 15th century explorer Gaspar Corte-Real to Newfoundland. At the ceremony, Joey spoke about the bond between two peoples, two nations.

Premier Smallwood

“Newfoundlanders have a deep affection and a great deal of respect for the people and country of Portugal. We intend every year to have Portugal Day. It will always be a simple ceremony.

And we hope that it will be attended always by Portuguese people and they will join with Newfoundlanders here at this monument, this statue that was given to Newfoundland by Portugal. For a few minutes once every year we will remind ourselves of the long and honourable friendship that has existed between our two maritime countries, our two fishing countries.

Portuguese-White-Fleet-archivalmoments.ca_2013_04_09
Portuguese White Fleet in St. John’s Harbour (Archival Moments)

And remind ourselves too that whatever other industries there may come to Portugal and to Newfoundland, the fisheries continue, they go on, they continue to be important to both of us.”

National interests – multiplied

But by 1965 Newfoundland was part of Canada, something Joey had fought hard for. So it was no longer Newfoundland and Portugal talking; it was Canada and Portugal. When Portugal joined the EU in 1986, it was Canada and the whole of Europe. Diverse industries and interests, with Portugal and the Grand Bank fishery just one small part.

In 1986 Canada banned Portuguese vessels from entering Canadian ports after a dispute over illegal fishing. No more coming into St. John’s to refuel and resupply. Or play soccer on the waterfront, shop on Water Street, go to bars and restaurants. Play music. Visit friends and family.

Newfoundlanders and Portuguese

Tony Charana, a retired trawler captain from Buarcos: “For Portuguese to arrive in St. John’s is like arriving home.”

For him, that’s especially true. His wife was born and raised in St. John’s.

Irene Fleming Charana: “When I was small and went shopping with my mother downtown – the fishing clothes on and the long boots and everything like that, I was afraid of them. But I remember my mother saying she felt sorry for them because they were so far away from home. Little did she know that I’d end up marrying one!

Tony: “Now – I have my family. But I go to St. John’s like a tourist.”

Their friend Valdemar Aviero, another retired captain, felt it was a betrayal of history as well as friendship:

“At least thirty years before Columbus and John Cabot, João Corte-Real was there and named the land Land of Codfish. Terra do Bacalhau. 1463.”

Terra do Bacalhau

Vasco Garcia, a University of the Azores professor and former member of the EU Parliament:

“That instinct of being an ocean-goer five centuries ago with the feeling of possessing the sea: this is so hard for someone who has imprinted this, when they look to the fishing grounds of Newfoundland. For cod is called in Portugal the faithful friend, fiel amigo. It’s in the gastronomy. One cannot have Christmas in Portugal without bacalhau cozido – boiled cod – and bacalhau com batata – cod with potatoes. So cutting the Portuguese from these kind of roots is very painful. Not even from an economic point of view, but also from the heart – chromosomic, historical. It’s almost as if you are cutting the roots of the tree.

fishing boats on buarcos beach portugal 1995A young inshore fisherman in Buarcos, José, wishing he could fish on the Grand Banks:

“It’s my life. Because it’s in my blood. My family is working on the ocean all the time, you know.”

Portuguese Waltzes

There’s long been an ex-pat Portuguese community in Newfoundland. But it’s also like there is – or was – a big Newfoundland outport in Portugal. Those are the people Joey Smallwood was talking about, I think. Them, and the Newfoundlanders who looked forward every year to the arrival of the Portuguese ships. Like Art Stoyles:

white fleet hospital ship Gil Eannes in Portugal wikicommons
Gil Eannes, now a museum in Viano do Castelo, Portugal, where she was built in 1955

“I used to go down with me accordion waiting for them to come in. So they docked and they’d be off. They had their music, mandolins and whatever. One day, this buddy come up over the hill, ya know, with a great big accordion. I heard the music and said, where in the hell is that comin’ from! That’s beautiful. This guy had a big accordion – five rows of buttons. He was on the Gil Eannes, this guy. He was a captain, right. And boy, he had some outfit there. It had more bass on it than the poles on Water Street! Anyway, we played. He played a few tunes and I taped them off. After, I learned that Portuguese song.”

Portugal Day

The huge cod stock that gave the name Land of Codfish to the island of Newfoundland has been overfished to near extinction. Still, salt cod remains “the roots of the tree” for both Portuguese and Newfoundlanders. And the relationship between the two peoples goes on too. So here is Art’s “Portuguese Waltzes” on this, Newfoundland’s 54th Portugal Day. Let’s celebrate this “long and honourable friendship”.

CBC Land and Sea’s footage from 1967 of a White Fleet sailing ship’s journey is here. CBC also has video and audio from 1955 when Portuguese fishermen carried Our Lady of Fatima statues through St. John’s, their gift to the Basilica. At Archival Moments you can read more about the Portuguese in Newfoundland as well as at Newfoundland: The land of the Portuguese king.

The quotes in this post come from CBC archives, for Premier Smallwood, and from interviews I recorded in 1995 for a radio documentary.

Boogie-Woogie Piano

boogie woogie land-photo-d-stewartToday, the 88th day of the year, is Piano Day. So CBC Radio q told me. One or another piano has kept me company almost all my life. And one very battered music book.

My sister bought Boogie-Woogie Land when she took piano lessons. So her playing was my introduction to boogie-woogie. That, and the book. There was a lot in it. The notes themselves – you could hear the music just by looking at them. Photos of glamorous people in Cafe Society nightclubs in New York City. And a short history of boogie-woogie and explanation of its techniques.

Many years later, on Holger Petersen’s Saturday Night Blues, I heard Meade Lux Lewis play Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie. Wow. Lifted me right out of my music book. I didn’t know you could do that with ten fingers and 88 keys.

Sammy Price dedicated his music book “to all those who feel a tingle up and down their spines when the strains of boogie-woogie are to be heard.” Here’s some of its story that he told.

Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons at Cafe SocietyThe Birth of Boogie-Woogie

On many occasions I have been referred to as one of the third generation boogie-woogie pianists… The first song that I ever learned to play on the piano was a blues. Even before that I recall a strange melody… Its title was “The Livery Stable Blues.”

Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have mentioned the blues. Let me explain that this is the basic foundation of boogie-woogie… The same chord structure used in playing blues may be used in boogie-woogie fashion by utilizing a repeated bass movement in the left hand and playing the melodic strain of a composition with the basic chords of the blues as a guide…

I believe it was originated by a piano player named Clarence Smith, who was perhaps better known as Pine-top Smith… He knew that when he took a strain of the blues and played this repeated bass, a new effect would be achieved. This he called boogie-woogie.

I have talked to a man named J. Mayo Williams, who is particularly familiar with Pine-top’s recordings. Williams met Pine-top in the middle Twenties and soon realized that here was something new and important in the field of blues and jazz. A series of conferences were held and in 1928 the first records were waxed in Chicago. On this historic day Pine-top talked continuously during the recordings to a mythical character in a red dress…

pianists mary lou williams and hazel scottBarney Josephson then opened Cafe Society Downtown in New York City and with his customary foresight he engaged Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and others who were top-notch at both the blues and boogie-woogie. Then came an event that thrilled some and shocked others; the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. Despite the fact that many of the critics were completely without understanding of this new music form, the recital was a success and boogie-woogie at last became respectable…

Here, thanks to YouTube, is that 1928 recording of Clarence Smith playing his Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie and telling the woman in the red dress to “shake that thing”. Oh yes, this is your grandma’s piano.

Willow Grove Settlement

On the road to St. Martins in southern New Brunswick you see a sign in a clearing on a corner. Willow Grove Black Settlement Burial Ground, it says. Behind it is a large cross and a tiny church. You stop to take a look.

sign-cross-and-church-2016-photo-j-stewartThis small meadow marks the memory of a once vibrant community, the Willow Grove Black Settlement. Its significance goes beyond local history, to the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States as well as slavery in the US.

The tiny church is a scaled-down replica of one that stood there a hundred years ago. Looking in the windows, you see photographs of what that church looked like, and the community around it. Also notices and papers pertaining to the settlers and land grants of 200 years ago.

inside-church-2016-photo-j-stewartThe cemetery is beside the church but there are no longer any individual grave markers. Two large granite markers tell you the history of the site and the settlement.

burial-ground-markers-oct-2016-photo-j-stewart
L: Edmund Hillyer Duval… R: The Black refugees arrived May 25th 1815… (tap to enlarge)

The settlers at Willow Grove were African-Americans who escaped the United States during the War of 1812. Royal Navy Commander Alexander Cochrane invited them: “…they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies…”

A Proclamation, 2 April 1814

cochrane-proclamation-2-apr-1814-loc.gov
2 Apr 1814 Proclamation by Vice Admiral Cochrane, Library of Congress (tap to enlarge)

So slaves took him up on this offer. Some joined the British armed forces, in a newly formed Corps of Colonial Marines. About 4000 people left the Chesapeake Bay area in 1815 on British vessels. Many went to Nova Scotia, others to Trinidad. But nearly 400 came to Saint John in New Brunswick on HMS Regulus.

The new settlers received grants of land east of Saint John. Each grant was about half the size of those given to white settlers who also came. The land was less arable and farther away from the desirable Saint John River Valley. Still, they made a community here at Willow Grove. They farmed, ran businesses and raised families. They built a school and the church.

willow grove hwy-111-base-rd-nb google
photo Google Streetview – on Hwy 111 at Base Road, east of Saint John airport

Over the following century, the community dispersed. The church burned down in 1931, grave markers in the cemetery disappeared. Only the cleared field where they stood remained.

But in the 1980s, descendants of the Willow Grove settlement brought back their history. They built the tiny church, using photos of the original. The sign and cross tell passersby what this place was, invite you to stop. Invite you to feel the lives lived there.willow grove baptist church-2016-photo-j-stewart

 

Ma Bell

Our landline was not working. So my husband calls BellAliant. Customer service representatives are all busy, would you like a call back? Thank you very much, he thought, and pressed the number for yes. Bell called back, a technician will come next day.

dog with phone photo d stewartThe technician came and fixed the line outside. He explained the problem clearly and said if it happens again, call. Ok, and thanks. Great service.

Then a call from BellAliant, a recorded customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who placed the call, the recorded voice asked. I pressed the number for no. We will call back, the voice responded. Recorded voice did call back and my husband answered its questions. That’s the end of it, we thought.

The phone bill arrived. A charge for a “Call Trace” – $5. No date, no number, nothing explaining what this was. So a call to BellAliant to ask. It means a call back, the customer service representative said. You used the menu option to receive a call back from someone you called.

Undisclosed service fee

The only call back we had asked for was our call to BellAliant. To fix the phone service that they provide us. An option in their phone menu, but with no warning that a charge will apply for using it.

Then it is listed on the bill with no details of when or to whom the “Call Trace” was made. They must know – they’re the phone company! And, in this case, it was made to them, to report a problem with their service.

The day after making that call to BellAliant, the phone rings. It’s the recorded voice from BellAliant, a customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who made the call, it asked me. I hadn’t been, but I said I was. I now know it’s the only way to make them stop calling.

It was a short survey. The service representative did her job well, the wait to get through wasn’t long. So BellAliant can tick the box for a happy customer experience. However, there was no opportunity to give the reason for the call in the first place.

They tape the calls they receive. So they can tell on the spot if a customer is satisfied or not. I’d like to call them again, and talk to a real human, to tell them why we called in the first place. A problem with the service we pay them to provide. But it would only generate another automated customer satisfaction survey call from them!

Ernestine the telephone operator would be proud. Ma Bell is still Ma Bell.

Dinner Talk

Swiss Chalet in Saint John, two 20-something women with a toddler Swiss_Chalet_quarter_chicken-2011-Tabercil-wikicommonseach and one infant. Four full meals. One child picks at his food, the other has eaten all he wants. One woman eats her meal, the other appears to be done. All the plates are still full. Side dishes, most still full, been pushed away.

One toddler goes exploring, over to the next table. He reaches as high as he can and pulls napkins and cutlery off. The woman sitting there smiles and talks to him. The child’s mother doesn’t notice what woman on cell phone wikicommonsis happening two feet away. Her head is down, over her cell phone. She is reading and texting. The other woman doesn’t notice either. She is chewing french fries and talking on her phone.

Finally the child’s mother looks up to see where he is. “Come back here Randy” she says and apologizes to the couple. They say it’s ok, they have a grandchild the same age. Randy sits in his chair. Mom goes back to texting.

The other mother goes to the washroom, baby carrier in one hand and phone held against her ear with the other. She returns, still talking on her phone. Both women continue texting and talking to people who are not in the restaurant.

Randy climbs down from his chair and goes to yet another table to pull things down and hang off restaurant patrons’ legs. Occasionally, his mother looks up from her screen to see where he is. Sometimes she gets up to retrieve him. He screeches when she demands he sit still. She goes back to her texting and reading.

Birthday Boy

birthday cake with sparkler wikicommonsWaiters head over, bearing birthday cake with a sparkler. They surround the table, clap and sing to the other little boy, who has stayed quietly in his chair. His mother continues talking on the phone, glancing up as they finish to say thank you. Then she returns to her call. The other woman texts throughout the entire thing. Birthday kid eats his cake and looks confused. The waiters are gone and everyone at his table is back to ignoring him. Randy screeches, baby sleeps, moms talk and text on their phones.

Randy’s mom looks up long enough to realize he is tired and is not going to shut up. “Ok, I’m taking you outside” she says. She puts her phone in her purse, gathers both boys up and leaves. Randy screeches all the way. The other mother puts her phone down and gets the baby ready to go. She asks for boxes for some of the food. Thank heavens, there is enough left to feed them all for another day. While she waits for the bill, she talks to her baby and to the couple sitting beside her, apologizing for her nephew bothering them. “It’s ok,” they too say, “we have grandchildren that age.”

Thankfully, Randy hadn’t made it to our table. While the child’s behaviour was understandable, if not desirable, that of the mothers kid-and cell-phoneswas not. Talking neither to each other nor their children, engaged solely with people somewhere else. We were fascinated by it and repulsed. Happy birthday, little boy. You deserve better than what you got.

junk email aug 2018
From a spam email I received recently. I highlighted the probably accurate – and scary – figure.

Five years later

I wrote this the day after it happened five years ago because I needed to cleanse my mind of this hideous family outing. I didn’t post it then though. Maybe it was just a “when I was young” old fogey complaint. Everyone had a cell phone, and always seemed to be on it doing something. Part of life. But others still talk about the omnipresence of phones, even little kids. The kid who wrote this widely-shared essay would be about the same age as the two little boys in Swiss Chalet.jen-adams-beason-fb-may-2018

Mary Jo Kopechne

kopechne 1969 july 27 nydailynews.comKnown best as “the girl in the car”, Mary Jo Kopechne had a promising career as a political worker in Washington. She was idealistic and enthusiastic – the sort of person you want to see in public service. Then she died at Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. The car she was in, driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy, went off a bridge. He survived. The next week, she would have celebrated her 29th birthday.

Mary Jo was born July 26, 1940 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Joseph and Gwen (Jennings) Kopechne. Her grandfathers were coal miners. Her family had been in the Wyoming Valley of north-eastern Pennsylvania for 250 years.

Soon after she was born, her parents moved to New Jersey. She graduated from that state’s Caldwell College for Women in 1962 with a business and education degree.

Montgomery, Alabama

St_Jude_School_June-09_chris-pruitt-wikicommonsAfter graduation, Mary Jo moved to Alabama. There she taught school at the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic mission in Montgomery. From its establishment in 1938, it served both black and white community members.

Selma to Montgomery March Day 5 The_Abernathy_Children,_Ralph_David_Abernathy,_Juanita_Jones_Abernathy_and_John_Lewis_lead_the_line_up_and_beginning_of_the_March.-leaving-St.-Jude-for-State-Capitol Mrsdonzaleighabernathy-wikicommonsSt. Jude was put in the spotlight in March 1965 when it opened its grounds and doors for the march from Selma to Montgomery. Harry Belafonte organized and paid for a concert there that last night of the march. The “Stars for Freedom” rally included Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Joan Baez, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more.

White parents didn’t like the attention this gave the school so they pulled their kids out. Just as it had become de facto integrated, St. Jude became de facto segregated.

Washington D.C.

Mary Jo had left Montgomery by then. She moved to Washington where she worked as a secretary for Florida Democratic Senator George Smathers. A year or so later, she began work for Sen. Robert Kennedy.

During Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, she was one of six aides called the Boiler Room Girls. They compiled and analyzed data and intelligence on primary delegate voting probabilities.

After Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Mary Jo left Washington. She was devastated by the loss of the man who represented the ideals of social justice in which she so strongly believed. But she didn’t leave politics. She moved to Colorado to work as the campaign strategist for the former Governor’s Senate campaign. Then she returned to Washington. She worked for a political consulting company, one of the first, organizing campaigns at all levels of office.

Chappaquiddick

She kept in touch with friends from Robert Kennedy’s office. The party in Chappaquiddick was a reunion of the Boiler Room Girls. Ted Kennedy was the host, and he left the party with Ms. Kopechne.

Chappaquiddick_bridge-Edgartown-MA-2008-Arwcheek-wikicommons
The guardrails on the bridge at Chappaquiddick were added after the accident

One week after her death, Kennedy appeared in court. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury. The judge suspended the mandatory jail time, saying Kennedy “has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose.”

“A man does what he must…”

Later that night on television, Ted Kennedy quoted from his brother John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage. He said, in part:

A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressure… Each man must decide for himself the course he will follow… For this, each man must look into his own soul. [NY Daily News July 27, 1969]

An odd – even audacious – choice in light of the circumstances. Legal charges, an ongoing investigation and controversy about his actions the night of the accident. However, his words somehow close the circle of the Kennedy decade.

Kennedy_bros-John-Robert-Ted-July-1960-US-Senate-wikicommonsThe youngest, and only surviving, son quoting the elder brother who ushered in the 1960s. Such hope, dashed by assassination. Then his brother Robert assassinated, another loss of hope. The decade ended with this third tragedy, the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. An accident, but a messy and mysterious one. She was not a Kennedy, but her life was entwined with theirs in terms of her beliefs and work. Her death also.

Mary Jo Kopechne 1962-Caldwell-College-yearbook-wikipediaTed, his wife Joan and Robert Kennedy’s widow Ethel attended Mary Jo’s funeral in Pennsylvania. Joan, who was pregnant at the time, later miscarried. Joseph and Gwen Kopechne moved back to Pennsylvania. They received a settlement of $141,000 from Kennedy’s insurance. Joseph died in 2003 and Gwen in 2007.

The movie Chappaquiddick is now, or soon will be, in a theatre near you.

Martin Luther King

I don’t remember what I was doing when I heard that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed. I do remember the shock and horror I felt. The loss and hopelessness that it signified. Even to me, a kid. But a kid old enough to understand what he was saying, and how important he was. How important his message was. He was the hope.Martin Luther King with wife Coretta Scott King 1964 wikicommons

Then two months later, Robert Kennedy was shot. Another hope, gone in the flash of an assassin’s bullet. It was like some horrible circle was closing, taking down those in whom we all had invested so much. First President John F. Kennedy, then five years later Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. The killing of those whom we believed would make change. Would indeed make America great again.

Lorraine Motel sign, Memphis TN wikicommons1968 was a bad year. There were no giants left. No individuals who spoke with the authenticity and lyricism of Dr. King. No presidential candidates who made you believe yes, we can!

Four decades after Dr. King

Forty years passed and Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States. Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers rolled into one. If any of you ever rolled your eyes when someone over 50 said they feared for his safety, think of this: that person remembers those assassinations.

Dr King with dog in car, photo signed by him 1964 Florida wikicommons
“For Toby Simon – With great respect and warm [illeg] – Martin Luther King”
Fifty years on, Donald Trump, a president whose electoral campaign and time so far in office has spurred different memories of 1968. George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, also ran in the 1968 presidential election. Fears again felt by those old enough to remember. The white supremacism that we thought was gone, clamoring again at the White House.

Civil_rights_leaders_meet_with_President_John_F._Kennedy-28-Aug-1963
l- to r: Willard Wirtz (Secretary of Labor); Floyd McKissick (CORE); Mathew Ahmann (National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice); Whitney Young (National Urban League); Martin Luther King, Jr. (SCLC); John Lewis (SNCC); Rabbi Joachim Prinz (American Jewish Congress); A. Philip Randolph; Rev. Eugene Carson Blake partially visible; President John F. Kennedy; Walter Reuther (labor leader); V-P Lyndon Johnson partially visible; and Roy Wilkins (NAACP)

Salisbury Horses

“Outside this lovely home, drive down the circular driveway covered by mature trees and be greeted by an old barn and about 3 acres cleared ideal for horses.”

3063 main street salisbury mikedoiron.caThus reads the real estate listing I found online for a 5.6 acre property in Salisbury NB. It is now owned by the Dangremond family. They bought it so they could keep their horses Misty and Reiner at home instead of having to board them. A barn and cleared pastureland – ideal for horses!

Then, while putting up fencing last year, they were told that the property is zoned RU, Residential Use. They appealed for rezoning, a variance, or even a temporary permit to keep the horses there for even just a year. Denied.

Following the story on CBC NB news, I’ve hoped, even believed, that the town council would wind its neck in and allow the horses to stay. But the news report yesterday was that the horses must move.

Reiner and Misty beside barn
Beside their barn, from “Help Misty and Reiner the horses” gofundme page

A neighbour has offered to board the horses – yes, a neighbour. A distance of 150 metres, CBC says. Not a big distance for the Dangremond daughter to walk to see her pets. Also not a big distance for the town council to make whatever variance is needed so those pets can stay in their own barn.

I realize municipal planners must do what is best for their region now and in the future. Evidently, the town foresees residential expansion in the area where the Dangremonds live. But, if houses are not going to be built in the immediate future, why not make an exception for the Dangremond horses with as many caveats as the council deems necessary?

location of propeerty google maps
Location of property in Salisbury area – click for larger view

Zoning Labyrinth

This sad story reminds me of when we were still in Ontario, hunting for a small farm in Elgin County. John Blake of Elgin Realty warned me that what looked like a farm might not be zoned one. So I started phoning municipal, township and county offices to get an overview of the zoning basics. No generalities, only a labyrinth.

One side of a road might be agricultural, the other – just as distant from a street light or a Tim Horton’s – is not. A township line at the edge of a property means another set of rules. Animals and farming may be “grandfathered” in after a zoning change, meaning they can stay only as long as those owners stay. Other times you can bring in new animals as long as the presence of farm animals is continuous. So, if the existing animals move off before the sale closing date, you can’t move new ones in. The planners told me to ask about each and every property.

Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC
Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC

That said, Salisbury has the chance to make a statement that matches its lovely rural-looking appearance. Let the Salisbury horses stay at home.

Misty and Reiner have a GoGetFunding page (updated July 7/17). You can also check the Facebook page Power in Numbers for Misty and Reiner.

Christmas Stable

Their stalls are decorated, the horses snugged in. Wintertime at the stable, and Christmas approaching. Stockings soon will be hung on stall doors.Fletcher in decorated stall photo dorothy stewart

The riding students who decorated the stalls will come to the barn on Christmas Eve, so one told me, to have a Christmas party with the horses. They will fill the horses’ stockings and give them their presents.

Samson aka One Kid CoolOne horse is getting a lot of stuff from his Secret Santa. I know because she told me. Whispered it, actually, so Samson couldn’t hear. And they are practical things that horses need but that he will also enjoy. A lot of thought went into choosing his gifts. (Amazon links below give you a clue)

I’m sure his Secret Santa has made a Christmas wish list for herself. She’s a girl in her early teens and she has a wide range of interests. But the only gifts she has talked about to me are those she is buying for the horses. The special, big presents are for “her” horse but she’s been shopping for small things for all of them. She’s very excited about it, about the shopping for them and the giving to them.

“Her” horse is not actually hers. He belongs to the stable. The other horses being shopped for are the stable’s lesson horses. The details of ownership don’t matter. We all have a special bond with our favourite horse, no matter how many others may ride him or her. The horses feel the same way, I think. They have their favourite riders too.Willie in aisle beside decorated stalls

I don’t know what they think of their decorations. Well, I do know what “my” horse thinks. When I was leading him to the cross ties, he tried to eat the holly off a stall door. So that is his opinion: food!Butternut Stables doors with wreaths

Therapy Visitors

“A woman was here today, a long time. I don’t know who she was. She had a dog. I don’t know if she was lost. But she sat right here, with the dog, talking and talking. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had things to do.”

mom and charlie dog 2012 therapy visitorsMy mother told me this one day at her assisted living home. She didn’t have anything she had to do. She had Alzheimer’s. I doubted that this woman and her dog really existed. But to be sure, I asked the nurse if anyone had been to see Mom. “Today is the day the therapy dog comes,” she said.

I told Mom the names of the dog and woman, and explained. She kind of remembered. But why were they coming to see her, she asked. “He was a cute little fella. But I’ve got my own dogs!” She meant mine who came with me.

“A kid was here!”

Another time, Mom was even more distraught. “A kid was here all morning. I don’t know where her parents were. I thought maybe I was supposed to be babysitting her. But I’m too old for that.” I asked where the kid went. “A nurse took her, thank heaven.”

The nurse told me what I suspected, after the therapy dog incident. School kids visiting nursing home residents. It’s good for the kids and good for the elderly.

Therapy or confusion?

I’ve seen the joy dogs can bring to nursing homes. The residents in Leo being therapy dog at Glendale Crossing 2012Mom’s home were always so happy to see me. When I went alone, I found out who they really wanted to see. “Where are the dogs?” Those who usually smiled and came over, even if they couldn’t speak, didn’t even notice me. It was the dogs they wanted.

Bearing in mind Mom’s opinion on unsolicited visits, I kept the dogs away from residents who kept away from them. For Mom, the staff made notes on her preferences. She did not mention any more perplexing visits.

Social contact is good therapy for people in long term care. It breaks up their daily routine, the boredom, keeps them connected. Staff do their best but they have the nuts and bolts of care-taking to do. So waverley-resident-cat-2009visitors, of all ages and species, help. But they can also be confusing, especially for those with memory loss. Like for Mom – wondering who is this, do I know them, why are they here.

“Why don’t they ask you?”

“Do-gooders!” Mom spat when I told her why the young girl was with her, “why don’t they ask you first?” Words to keep in mind. Maybe they did ask and explain, and she forgot. Alzheimer’s can cause memory and perception of reality to wander. Frequent cues might help lessen confusion, at least for the moment, about the “who” and “why” of visitors.