Written on the Body #38, June 28, 2021: Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, JuneTeenth, National Aboriginal People’s Day, and Pride

Much to commemorate this month. First, fathers, grandfathers, people who stepped into the role of father when needed. Memories of fathers in our past, alive or gone to spirit; relationships with fathers now; painful or loving memories; hopes for the future. I am thinking about my dad, who died in 1993 after nine years of living with the effects of severe strokes, taking away his language and mobility, though I know he continued to love me. I wish I’d had more chance to talk with him, adult to adult, and that he had gotten to know my son as a teenager and man: Joe was almost 5 when the first, major stroke hit, and 13 when his grandfather died. But I know Joe has warm memories of visiting him, and often would surprise me by saying, “Grandpa Harry would like that….”, whether it was a sports event or water striders on a pond. My father remains a touchstone of integrity in my mind and heart.

I am also thinking about other fathers: my grandfather Lou; Roger and his three children and his grandchildren — and his own father; my son Joe who has stepped into being dad to his partner Christina’s two sons, building loving relationships; Joe’s dad Allan, despite the differences we had as a couple.

The Summer Solstice: the longest day, the shortest night (of course, this is reversed for people in the Southern Hemisphere, where June 20 (or 21) is the winter solstice. Celebration of light, growth, renewal, flowering, fruits to come, and more light in our hearts and minds. As I wrote in a poem called “My Letter to the World” (after Emily Dickinson), published in the We’Moon calendar for 2021, “love is the force that greens and grows us all,”

In Canada, June 21 is also National Indigenous People’s Day, in the midst of Indigenous History Month. This year, especially, it is a time of soberness and grief, with the unmarked graves of 215 children at the residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and 751 more in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. There is much healing and reparative work to be done — and a sense of urgency about doing it. One good thing is that, this month, Canada passed bill C15 saying that  “the Government of Canada must take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration.” It acknowledges there has been systemic discrimination and injustice, and rejects as racist and unjust any doctrine or policy based on the superiority of one nationality, religion, or culture over others (the doctrine which served as the basis for colonialism and slavery). In the U.S., Juneteenth commemorates the day (June 19) that the last slaves were freed, in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. It is another instance of a day to acknowledge the atrocities of the past — and how they still affect the present — as well as a day to celebrate freedom and work toward making it a reality in every aspect of life. And it has special meaning this year, I think, after the killing of George Floyd and the arrest, trial, and conviction of Derek Chauvin, and the .ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

Finally, Pride month, in Canada, the U.S., and around the world, celebrates people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, queer, +; at the same time, it takes into account all the injustice and violence that have been — and are still being committed — against people who are not heterosexual.

These holidays, whether just one day or a whole month, honour people’s lives and identities, their history and their presence in the present, but they also bear witness to the injustice and discrimination and hatred (both systemic and individual) against particular groups of people, singled out as somehow less than human. They are a reminder to all of us to recognize and fight against prejudice, in our own lives and in society, wherever it exists. As Emma Lazarus wrote: “Until we are all free, no one can be free.”

And now for the medical news: As I mentioned in the last blog, June 12, I had a test on June 14, a biopsy of the esophageal tumour, to see if I still have enough of the HER2 gene for the new drug to be effective. That went well; we are still waiting for the results, but I went on to have more tests last week based on the belief that the outcome will be favourable. These included another CT scan, an echocardiogram, an eye exam (as the drug can affect the eyes), and an MRI of my brain — all requirements of the clinical trial. The MRI was quite scary in anticipation (like many people, I felt panicked at the idea of being closed inside a machine), but thanks to friends who suggested visualization and breathing exercises, and a small dose of an anti-anxiety drug — and a nice technician — I felt no anxiety at all during the test itself; even the loud noises became background sounds without being invasive. So that was a relief. The CT scan showed slightly more growth in the tumour and also, unfortunately, in the liver lesions — so I am glad to be going back into treatment, starting July 8. This will be an IV infusion every week (with a break every 4th week), requiring a few hours at the hospital per session, so a bit more intensive than before, but there are good hopes for this treatment; as I’ve said, it is great that these new drugs are being developed. And I am still feeling well, able to eat, talk, walk around — and write. I will report how things are going after a few treatments. As always, your good wishes and thoughts mean a lot and are helpful in so many ways: thank you.

(and I realise my remarks about Pride, Juneteenth, and Indigenous People’s Day can only touch the surface of these problems, from the point of view of someone who does not know these situations first-hand.)

for hope, here’s a lily from my garden

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *