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remembering the fourth floor

My friend Chuck came over yesterday to give me a seminar about my iPhone 5. What an extraordinary piece of equipment – mind-blowing. My father the scientist died in 1988, just as personal computers were beginning to be widely used, though I don’t think he ever had one. I imagine showing him this minuscule device which is both camera and movie camera, phone, internet, tape recorder, music provider, calculator, television and so much more. He wouldn’t believe it. And he wouldn’t believe that it’s an American product. In his time, small amazing technical devices were produced in Japan.

But then, he also would have a hard time believing that an African-American was just re-elected for a second term as President of the United States, defeating a phalanx of Republican billionaires. And believing just how far to the right his country has fallen. My dad spent his life fighting for social justice and education. The thought that many millions in America don’t even believe in evolution would break his heart.

Yesterday’s excursion: A friend of mine recommended a face cream made by Kiehl’s, a no-nonsense company with an outlet in Holt Renfrew, so I biked over there yesterday. I used to enjoy just wandering around that luxurious store, enveloped in the smell of money. This time, the whole place with its sparkly bustle made me ill. I bought what I had to buy and got out as quickly as possible. HR is the kind of place the Romneys and their 1% friends feel right at home, and I’m a 99% girl, albeit with very nice face cream. And a pretty fine garden. Yes, it’s true, I’m a 99% person with a 1% garden.

My mother is hanging in there in hospital; I’m going back to Ottawa next week. I meant to tell you what happened while I was visiting her there. The elevator up to her room on the fifth floor stopped at the fourth, which I saw was the obstetrical floor. Suddenly I realized that it was here, right here on the fourth floor of Ottawa’s Civic Hospital, that my son was born in 1984. I got off and walked the halls, listening to the wails of newborns, remembering that night. He came so fast that they feared for him, there was a sudden panic and they whisked us out of the birthing room into an operating room, whisked him away after birth to suction his lungs. It was a blur of terror and speed; I don’t think I’ve dealt with it even now. Our stay there was brief – we arrived in the early evening, he was born at 11.30 p.m., and we went home at 7.30 the next morning. And now that boy is 28 and healthy and very tall, and my mother is one floor above, struggling to stay alive.

When people say the customary, “How are you?” all I can reply is, “A bit battered.” A kind of grief lives in my belly now. A layer is missing. It hurts.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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