Montreal·Writer-in-Residence

Moving out of a dark year

One day, perhaps darkness will hold a final allure. For now, I am happy to walk in what sunlight I have.

Adapting to my new life has made room for some lightness, too

'Adapting pushes back dark shadows for a time.' (Submitted by Isobel Cunningham)

"Adapt or perish," or so the saying goes.

I am old but I don't want to perish just yet, so I adapt. Even though I am a young girl inside, I listen when my daughters tell me it's time to sell my duplex and "downsize" to a condo. Having been sucked into the hurricane that is the current real estate market in Montreal, I have come out the other side, the owner of a small condominium.

What a dark year it's been. How do I obey the stern command to "adapt" in the face of losing the company of dear friends, or the warmth of a lover with whom I had been convinced I would spend the rest of my life? How to accept that kissing a grandchild is a clandestine act? Loss is the real darkness. This move means I will lose many of my beloved books, my quirky ornaments, my paintings, too.

I had a little stroke on July 4. My 73-year-old brain demanded attention. It taught me that I am not 20. For half an hour, I was unable to read, unable to make sense of the perfectly clear marks on the page. I was unable to decipher what language the words were in and I was terrified. I consulted a neurologist.

Moving is never easy, but Isobel writes that with the change comes excitement for a new chapter. (Submitted by Isobel Cunningham)

I refused to take any new medication because I was afraid I would not be able to get travel insurance. Yes, I was still convinced I would travel — somewhere. When I had the second "incident," I ran to the drug store and filled the prescription. Imagine not being able to read, or write! What a dark prospect.

Once I faced the reality of living in a smaller space, I started to get rid of things.

I hear about a blind refugee whose family needs all sorts of things and I am able to offer a new single bed. I pack a box with bedding, crockery, kitchen supplies. I feel lighter. The weight of the possessions I will have to get rid of is diminished. Light can mean a feeling of weightlessness, too.

By chance, I meet an old boyfriend and he offers to help me with boxes and the other chores of moving. There is a lightness to our socially distanced meetings in the park near my new home. A cool wind blows away the heavy doubts I have about this move. My doctor calls me to tell me my "numbers" are good. My new medication is working, and it is unlikely that the dark curtain of not understanding language will fall again.

I visit my new apartment to take some measurements and notice that a tree stands right beside my balcony. The autumn light filters through the almost bare branches and the twigs look like thin hands reaching out to lift me up. My grandchildren see pictures of my new home and are enchanted.

"Oh, Granny, it's all white in the kitchen and we can cut through the park to come to see you!"

Adapting pushes back dark shadows for a time. The excitement of planning the move, of getting rid of unnecessary things, brings with it a precious sparkle. One day, perhaps darkness will hold a final allure. For now, I am happy to walk in what sunlight I have.


This article is part of the CBC/QWF Writers-in-Residence program. More information can be found here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isobel was born Wales, but Montreal has been home for most of her life. Her day job, from which she is happily retired, was working as a hospital social service worker in St. Mary's Hospital. She attended the San Miguel Literary Conference in Mexico three times and recently completed the University of British Colombia course on revision of the novel. She is presently looking for an agent or publisher for her first novel, a fantasy set in Iron Age Britain.

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