Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Few Tales From the North

The Graffiti artists should have been in school. Attawapiskat.
The Boys in Blue brought someone to the clinic the other night, just to be checked over. They needed  my name and date of birth for their report. I told them 1982. For some reason, I didn't get away with it.
We have a lovely machine here in the clinic pharmacy that prints labels for our prescriptions. I was giving a lady some Flagyl, and typed the directions as follows: "Take 2 tablets BID until finished. Do not drink alc." I had used up all the character space, so alcohol would not show up in its entirety on the screen. What printed out was this: "Take 2 tablets twice daily until finished. Do not drink in the left ear." Yeah, I know. I didn't get it either. I thought I saw Godzilla somewhere outside the window, made me wonder where I was for a minute. Cancelled that label.
Mud season. Okay, so it's a pot hole.
There are really just two seasons up here: winter, and, mud and dust. Winter is pretty much over. It still freezes at night. Then the sun comes out and melts all the water in the pot holes and beyond, giving way to some pretty serious glue for your boots. I bought wellies up here, leopard printed ones, but just one good dry day, and all that water will dry up. The roads aren't paved in any of these communities, so what you have now is dust. And there is a Murphy's Law that says, no matter which side of the road you are walking on, or which direction the wind is blowing, the dust kicked up by the ATVs, the SUVs, pick ups and latent snow mobiles, will always be directed at you. The wind is funky like that up here. The dust is the sunflower of the pedestrian world, always following and settling on those who deem to put one foot in front of the other in a town where vehicles rule, even though you can circumnavigate it in 20 minutes or so. Then it rains, and it is mud all over again. Or it freezes, and winter is temporarily back.
Dust in the wind.
When I was in school, we were overjoyed when it was announced we would get a March break. I don't remember getting 2 weeks at Christmas, but then I also thought I was born in 1982. And of course, summer vacation. Up here, things are a little different. In addition to the March break and the two weeks at Christmas, there is Goose Break. Which is now. Folks go hunting in the bush for two weeks. In other communities, there is  also the week long Moose Break, in the fall portion of the mud and dust season. I would imagine this community has that too, although moose aren't in great abundance here. That's because the moose knows what happens to the goose, so he just doesn't show up for the party.
So now I have been a week without the internet. I have bug eyes, my hair is greyer. Much like everyone else in this town. The air is blue with collective F-sharps cried out in abundance daily. Why is it in the poorest countries of the world that I have visited as long as I have electricity, I have the internet? And in developed CANADA, I have gone as much as a month before connections could be fixed?
And of course, there is nothing like a puppy to make it all better.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Spoonful of What??

This guy had nothing on me. He never got the onions either.
I used to listen to a radio show every Sunday morning while driving to church, and then on to see my Mom. It was a Toronto paediatrician giving advice to all the parents out there at loose ends. He would say you will never win a fight with a child when it comes to food. Or much of anything you try to put in their mouths. Then I think back to my childhood. I would have a nasty hacking, spitting, sputtering chest cold. The kind that as we got older garnered me the nickname of "Honky the Christmas Goose". In the middle of the night, I would practically heave a lung into the mattress, my head covered tightly, in my estimation, by two pillows. And then I would hear the footsteps down the hall, the flick of the kitchen light, the sound of what seemed like a hand saw going through a log. Okay, I was young. The clink of a spoon against that little porcelain fruit nappie. It had a particular clink, different from all the other bowls. And then the footsteps treading ever so softly towards my room. I would hold my breath. See, I'm not coughing anymore, until I would explode into a cacophony of gurgles and rasps and, yuck, mucus. On with the light, and my Ma would magically appear, with her secret weapon, when the Benalyn with codeine (my favourite) had failed. Onion juice. A magical elixir of onions grated finely on that side of the cheese grater. Mixed with a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon juice to make it taste better. As if. And even though the tears would be streaming down my face, I swallowed that stuff without a fight, because my Ma knew best. My brother and I respected her that way. And magically, the cough would disappear, and we would all sleep again. Fast forward to when I had a child of my own. Oh how I swore I would never torture her the way I was tortured, with raw onions. Ick. And they made so many better tasting cough preparations that worked better, didn't they? But one night, after a couple of very long, exasperating nights, that cough continued unabated. So I pulled out that grater, and that onion and the honey and the lemon. And while my daughter absolutely detested the stuff as much as I had, she swallowed it too, because she knew I knew best. And all was well.
Big hat, big brain, 'cause this Mama knows best.
So these days, we have all sorts of lovely antibiotics to give kids, with flavours like banana and raspberry. But the difference is, kids don't respect that their parents know best. I had a youngster in the clinic, and she was allergic to the banana flavoured stuff. So I had to give her the raspberry flavoured stuff, a different antibiotic. And she dutifully spat it out. Gave the syringe to Mom to give to her, and she spat it out some more. Then I was asked to give her the banana stuff, the one she was allergic to, because she doesn't like this one. After a couple of more tries (not the banana one) by Mom, I, the big mean nurse, forced her mouth open, shot the stuff into the back where she couldn't spit it out, held her mouth closed just for a second. Down and done. If looks could kill. Well, if Mama didn't know best, the nurse certainly did.
And that was my week.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Really, From the North

One of my walking buddies.
So many things I have observed during this first short week.
1. I always think I'm pretty tough. I can stand up to most emotional situations quite well, reason being that I feel for everything there is a purpose. And today I was smacked right down. Dogs are a commodity up here, in other words, cheap, if one dies, you get another. Dog shoot? Yours is gone? A host of other wiggly bundles of love to take its place, until the guns go off again. Today, I had a lovely walk, accompanied by two local mutts that I believe are owned. We went to the dump, the older of the two much like my beloved Rocky from another reserve (who was nailed in a dog shoot), she would trot on ahead, and wait patiently for me to catch up. The other a young husky mix, just an adorable babe. So we walked the roads, and trampled through the bush together, exploring. On the way back, close to the Really Expensive Grocery Store, I noticed a small silvery brown heap in the ditch. People were walking by the heap all morning, I found out, this young husky cross. She was breathing, and seemed to welcome a gentle voice and a pat on the head. I was too far from home to carry her, I was pretty sure she was either very sick, or had been dinged by a car or snow mobile. As I passed the locals, I asked them who would take care of her. By that I mean shoot. There is no vet. There is no needle to give, up here. Death can be swift, or it can be slow. But it isn't necessarily kind. And no one wanted to take responsibility. I found someone who would look after her, but I had that niggling feeling, so after a couple of hours had passed, I walked back, and she was still there, still alive by a thread. I picked her up, I could neither see nor feel any injuries. She was limp, but she managed to turn her head to try and give me a "kiss', which I pulled away from because I wasn't sure what was wrong with her. I stood her on the porch to the residence after a bit of a slug over (dead weight seems to weigh more than its numbers report), and she stood on four legs, then tried to lick a bit of the melting ice water from the boards. I found her a bowl and left her there. When I went out again, she was lying down, the bowl knocked over. I managed to get a knob of peanut butter into her, which encased some Keflex, in case she had an infection. One pill went down, the other dutifully spat out like a toddler tasting brussels sprouts for the first time. Or me for that matter. I kept watch over her the afternoon. The sun was shining joyously, keeping her warm, but as the afternoon waned, so did she, and she moved herself just under the raised oil tank, still kissed by the sun, and died. And just a little piece of me went with her. And my exterior cracked a wee bit, enough for a few tears to find their way onto her rich silvery brown coat. 
2. Once again, no good deed goes unpunished. I turned on the water to do dishes, went to do a quick check on the dog, and forgot the water. There was a huge puddle in the kitchen, I mean a half inch of water pooled to one side. Which then mostly disappeared before I could mop it all up. They are worried about the river overflowing its banks here. Hah!
Hard to say if my kitchen flooding would add up to this. 
3.One should never pound that chicken breast in the vicinity of a breakable plate full of butter. Just saying.
4. My room began to smell like there was something dead in it the other day, and no amount for Febreeze would cover it. One lonely little chicken breast declined to be involved in the aforementioned pounding process, and continued to inhabit my soft cooler until I found it, 5 days after getting here. The cooler is still airing out. My room smells much nicer now, thank you very much.
5. Witnessed a take down at gunpoint right within the clinic. Most of my friends watch one form or another of CSI. I think I will pass.
6. The best line of the day: I went for a second walk in the early part of the evening. Met up with a hulking figure staggering down the middle of the ice road, hat on, greying hair sticking out in triangles from beneath the rim. Oh he was happy! Big toothless smile with a few dribbles of spit down his grizzled chin, he bid me a slurry good evening. Good evening, says I, looks like you've been drinking. I know, says he, but it's okay. I'm an Indian. And off he goes to find his home.
Just a tad breezy.
And that was my world this week.