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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

around the world in 73 days with bedstemor

i have always found it kind of sad when people count down the days to a perceived "big" event...

you know, the 'ol, "143 days until i go on vacation!"..."woo! hoo!"

once, at the post office, i caught an upside down glance at an employee's date book, and in large sprawling script, "the words, "THANK YOU, JESUS!!!", on her upcoming day off.


so sad.

["not that there's anything wrong with that"...]

there's nothing actually wrong with looking forward to things, hey, i love looking forward to bi-annually reconnecting with my canuck pals up in t.o., or clutching at tickets for the next "killers" concert in vegas. but it implies a dissatisfaction with your daily existence. a focus on the future, rather than the moment in which you are living.

but today, for this hypocrite, december 1st (my transplant evaluation day), cannot not come fast enough.

this was my day:

-got up @ 1:30 pm (went to bed around 4:30 am)

-washed some dishes, did some laundry, made some lunch.

-caught an impending migraine with an imitrex.

-passed out until 5:30 pm.

-awoke, bleary eyed, headache free(!), as the cali sun began to fade away...


the other night, i sat in the avis rental lot @ the burbank airport, waiting for hubby, when suddenly i heard the familiar pattern of an automobile's horn off in the distance.

"beep, be, be-beep beep...beep, beep"

the rhythmic noise stirring. suddenly, transported back to age 7. running from our toronto apartment balcony to the back bedroom window; pounding limbs and pumping chest. daddy's signature beacon resonating throughout the apartment as he turned from bloor st. west onto high park ave, and down into the underground garage. face pressed up against the back, bedroom window; heart skipping time at the sight of the old jaguar he loved so much as it floated underground.

"daddy's home! daddy's home!"

wee henriette, so in the moment, thrilled by every sight; every sound...

where do we go?

there was a time when i accumulated "self-help" books like a hoarder collects, well, everything. until i realized the irony of it all and abandoned the entire process...

["help me, help you...help me, help you..." to quote a movie i secretly love, but am forbidden to watch due to the non-negotiable tom cruise ban within our home...]

but, there have been a couple of phrases from those books that stuck with me over the years.

in debbie ford's, " the dark side of the light chasers", she wrote about your best quality also being your worst quality. for me, i realized it's honesty.

it has destroyed relationships and set me free.

she also wrote of an arrogance possessed by those who deny "negative" emotions. folks in a permanent soma state (a la huxley's "brave new world"); impossible to believe. for who are these people who never complain? are never depressed? are nothing but positive? have no regrets?

"he died of cancer, and never complained..."

really? REALLY?

cynical hen never believed.

["poor, poor, pitiful me...poor, poor, pitiful me "]

perceiving these guys to be fakers of the most ingenuous brand; unbelieving that anyone can truly live in the moment all the time...

until i looked right under my nose.


danish for grandmother.

literally meaning, "best mother".

what is so fascinating about having so much "foreign" family (danish, latvian) is that although so much literally gets lost in translation; so much is universally clear. one of the greatest moments of my life, was when bedstefar (my grandfather), remarked upon an oil lamp i had made for my brother. as i explained to n. how to properly burn the wick, my bedstefar, the quintessential strong and silent type, mumbled one of the most poignant compliments of my life...

"henriette is an artist"...

and there you have it. art and love transcend all boundaries.

despite the miles that existed between us. despite the language barrier. despite the generation gap.

he authentically understood who i was.

and i have always felt that way with my bedstemor.

around the time julia cameron's "the artist's way" was popular, there existed myriad ways of psycho-analyzing yourself. checklists, cross referencing, charts and graphs, unsolicited interviews with strangers...cerebral ways for someone to isolate an impression of you. somehow pigeonholing became le rigeur du jour of not just l.a. "wannabes", but the general public as well.

but one mildly, interesting exercise did strike a chord with me. the simple identification of the three most influential people in your life. and it couldn't be your spouse...and from those choices a trickle-down-spiderweb-effect was supposed to reveal insight into the choices you had made in your life.

turns out, it wasn't so simple after all.

i was never able to satisfactory pick my three. yeah, i admired the talent of meryl streep; the undeniable gifts of both dr. cardella (toronto), and dr. dauer (los angeles); the incredible work ethic of my "liberty street" gal pal, m.; the bottomless depth of my sister-in-law's heart...truly, so many qualities to admire in so many whom i love...

but bedstemor.

together with bedstefar, she took care of my brother and i for 4 danish summers, while our own nuclear family was self-destructing back in canada. she taught me discipline, gratitude, compassion and creativity. she would learn russian because she thought it was cool. she smoked hash in egypt in her 70's, just to "try" it. i have never heard her eat a meal without "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" over every taste; every smell. she has been my lifelong inspiration to drag my slothful north american ass to the gym. she was a daily swimmer until her 80's and it's no small coincidence that became my sport of choice for many, many years. and her answer was simply..."you have to do it!".

no condescension. no judgement. just what she believed to be true.

these are the people who flew to toronto mere days after my '88 kidney transplant and "convalesced" with mum and i for weeks. these are the people who flew to toronto and settled in for 6 months, after my daddy died, purely to help a young, broken family of three get back on their feet. and these are the people who came may 27th, 1995, to my marriage to the love of my life, and have embraced him as their own ever since.

"they" say that blood is thicker than water. i say that's a bunch of hooey.

we are all individuals. some family rise up to challenges, and others stick their ostrich heads in the sand.

so when my precious bedstemor was suffering with kidney cancer, i heard of her laughter through her tears of pain. i read her nearly, illegible letters, always, ALWAYS spinning her situation into positivity. and secretly, i felt an even deeper connection to this woman, who now also only lived with one kidney.

the other day we got an e-mail from my uncle. bedstefar is now 92 and blind. bedstemor is 90, blind and can barely walk. but last year they went on an overnight trip to sweden. they remain the only marriage i have ever truly admired. and on my wedding day, she spoke the truest words of my marriage...

"of course, bedstefar and i have been mad at each other over the years, but we have never gone to sleep without giving each other a loving hug...".

they still hold hands. and when bedstefar teases her, she giggles like a schoolgirl.

never in my 41 years, have i witnessed a better example of living in the moment.

so when k. read the email describing how she occasionally gets a little depressed, my heart broke but a little.

for how can she not? and oh, how i understand.

so, yes, there is a part of me wishing these next 73 days away, so i can get on the transplant list, already. but there is a part of me that needs to stay here. in these moments. with her.

this. i can barely write.

she has been the greatest influence on my life.

may we all have a bedstemor.



  1. if only bedstemor could read your dear words <3
    sunday morning with my coffee, alone and yet not lonely, feeling very blessed to know you through your words Hen.
    much much love, Linda

  2. xoxox don't have the words to respond just xoxoxo

  3. your best quality also being your worst quality. for me, i realized it's honesty.

    it has destroyed relationships and set me free...

    beautful words..brutal, raw,,beautifl

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