Sunday, December 16, 2001

Bureaucracy is your friend.


Thought you'd heard the end of me for a while ? Think again ! Scott and I have booked our flights to Toronto for the Christmas holidays.

This wasn't without much hassle. Scott is not entitled to any vacation days until he has worked at his job for a year. His work was nice enough to give him one day off because he had so far to travel. I have accumulated enough days for a longer vacation.

Booking the flights four weeks in advance was an absolute nightmare. The original plan was to fly out on the red-eye on the 21st (Friday). I had the flights all picked out, and was ready to book pending the final verdict from Scott's work. Within two hours, the price for the flight doubled.

So much for plan A.

We didn't have a whole lot of time, as flights were filling fast. Luckily, has the option of reserving seats on flights for a period of 48 hours. We did this for flights on Thursday, which turned out to be our saving grace. The next day, when appropriate permission from Scott's work had been obtained, the prices for the Thursday flights had doubled. Our reservations were given to us at the discounted price.

Were we ready to breathe a sigh of relief ? Nope. I mistakenly booked the wrong flight for myself, leaving at 12:00 noon on Thursday instead of the red-eye that Scott was on. I called Air Canada, begging them to change it, and they informed me I would have to pay an extra $600 to make up for the difference in ticket prices. So much for that idea.

I was informed by my lawyer that we should obtain letters from our employers confirming our employment from them in light of the increased security. I had no problem obtaining this for myself. When I called Scott's lawyer, he had some sombering news. Scott is not yet allowed to travel.

We have sent in, and received the receipt for, the last stage of our Green card process. Because of the type of visa I'm on, I can travel with my visa paperwork and the receipt. However, since Scott is on a different type of visa, he is not allowed to travel until the INS grants him travel authorization.

We applied for travel authorization over 3 months ago. The INS took a month to process the application, then informed my lawyer that they had lost my pictures. I had to have the pictures re-taken. This in itself is not a big deal, as travel authorization for me is merely a formality. However, Scott needs the paperwork to travel on the 20th.

I found through the web that the INS had been processing applications on the date we submitted ours for over a month. I informed my lawyer, who called the INS. The good news: Scott was approved for travel authorization on the 12th. The bad news: If we don't receive the paperwork in our hands by the 20th, he will not be able to travel.

The INS doesn't allow us to pick up the paperwork, nor do they have the option of couriering it for an extra charge. We have to WAIT for them to put it in the mail (which apparently takes "a while"), and then WAIT for the mail to get here.

Let's keep our fingers and toes crossed that we get that paper before Thursday.

As it stands, I will be arriving at 8:00pm on Thursday the 20th, and will be flying out on January 2nd. I will have Christmas and New Year's in Toronto. If all goes well, Scott will be arriving at 6:00am on Friday the 21st, and leaving in the evening of the 25th. For the Toronto people, we will be hosting a party at my parents' house on Sunday, December 23rd at 1:00pm. Please keep that day open if you can. An invite will follow.

Now, for a quick update.
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Limping towards recovery

Many of you have asked how Tiger is doing since her experience with spinal cord surgery. I am happy to report that she is in excellent spirits and healing well. The lab discovered that she does not have cancer. The likely cause of her disability was either a stroke or some sort of vascular problem blocking the blood supply to her spinal cord.

Since her surgery, we have had her on medications. She took antibiotics for a week, and has been taking Prednisone (anti-inflammatory) continuously. Of coures, this is not without a fight.

Anyone who has ever attempted to give pills to a cat, especially a high-spirited and opinionated one, knows the horror and carnage that usually results. We attempted to trick her by giving her the pill embedded in her favorite food. She refused. We tried coating it in her anti-hairball treat that she loves. Still no go. We had to resort to drastic measures.

Scott now picks her up and holds her on her shoulder. We try to pet her and comfort her, but she knows what's coming by now and always fusses at us. I tip her head back, pry her mouth open, stick the pill in her mouth, and hold her head up until she swallows. Sometimes she'll look at me and stubbornly refuse to swallow, but I don't give up. Yes, it often takes a few tries, and she usually ignores us for a while afterward. But how can you explain to a cat that this torture is actually good for her ? You really can't.

Tiger has made vast improvements since her surgery. She now has full control over her tail, and flicks it around like a pro when she's frisky, happy, or ready to swat. She plays vigorously, demands attention at the most inopportune times, and cuddles and purrs as always. Her personality is just as strong as before, and she's completely happy and pain-free.

Unfortunately, she still limps. She is much better than before the surgery, but her gait is very obviously affected. She can't run around like she used to, but has no problems getting up stairs or jumping over ledges. According to the surgeon, this may be a permanent affliction. She has pretty much stoppped improving over the last few weeks. I'm not too upset that she wasn't 100% cured with the surgery. The sheer fact that she's still with us, and is happy and pain-free, is all I ever wanted.

Looks like that prayer was answered.

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The Legacy of a Hero

This section is dedicated to a truly remarkable woman who, just by being herself, had a profound impact on the lives of everyone she came into contact with. She was my Aunt Rose, the oldest girl of eight kids, and a mother and mentor to the entire extended family. She passed away just over a week ago, after a long battle with multiple illnesses.

Being the oldest girl of eight children in a small town in Italy is not an easy task. However, there was never any doubt that Auntie Rose was well-equipped to handle such a responsibility.

She taught my father, the youngest brother, how to read and write so that he wouldn't have to go to kindergarten. She was a surrogate mother to all her siblings, and led with a strong mind and an open heart. No matter what crises or problems arose, she was always there with sage and wise advice, or just an ear to listen. She was a friend, a confidante, a leader and a mother to the entire family.

Auntie Rose was smart as a whip. She skipped grades in elementary school and excelled well past her peers. However, in her day and age, women didn't pursue higher education. She married my uncle Genaro, and made her career as a talented seamstress. Her sewing machine was several decades old, driven by a large foot pedal. She never upgraded to a fancy electrical one - why would she need to ? The old one still worked.

When we were kids, I remember our parents dropping us off at her house while they went on weekend business trips. She had a massive cherry tree in her backyard that we loved to pick cherries from. Every time we went over there, she always had pasta, homemade sauce, homemade cookies, and a cellar full of the soda we liked. It was always waiting for us. She sometimes made pasta from scratch, shaping each individual noodle with her own two hands.

She lived her life to love and to give to others. Her door was always open; not once did we ever have to knock. No matter when we would drop over, with or without notice, the cookies were always on the plate, and the coffee was always in the pot. Her home was everyone else's home. Her greatest joy in life was entertaining and providing for her guests.

The summer before I left for California, I played in a CIBC softball league. One of the parks in use that year was literally right up the street from Auntie Rose's house. One particular game, I made sure I had my car with me, as I usually grabbed a ride from my teammates. While the rest of the team went ahead to the bar, I dropped by to visit my aunt and uncle.

I walked into their house in my softball uniform, covered in dirt and smelling like a stray dog. Sight and smell notwithstanding, the sheer joy on Auntie Rose's face is something I'll never forget. She brought out the cookies and coffee and we enjoyed a nice, relaxed coversation. For me, it was a mere 45 minutes out of my life. For her, dropping by just to say hi was the greatest thing I ever could have done.

She was like a mother to me, and to the entire extended family. She treated my cousins, my sisters and I with the same love and attention she gave to her own two children. There was no measuring her capacity to love and to nurture. She touched the lives of everyone she came into contact with.

Auntie Rose and I did have our share of disagreements. We had some serious discussions over the years, and at times we simply agreed to disagree. She was opinionated and strong-willed, but she never tried to force her views on others.

I remember, as a child, not wanting to take a bath when I was over at her place for the weekends. I was probably about 8 years old at the time. We used to fight about that, as I always refused to get in the bath. One time, I finally gave in, and let her bathe me. She was just as gentle and kind as my own mother.

Last June, when I was in Toronto, I somehow knew that it may be the last time I would see her. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to say goodbye. I said to her, "Auntie Rose, remember when I was younger and I didn't want to take a bath ? It wasn't because I was a dirty pig or I didn't like you. It was because I didn't want you to see me naked." She said "Oh, whatever you have, I have too !", to which I replied "Well yeah, but I was only 8." She laughed heartily at my embarrassed confession. Looking back, I am thankful I had the chance to tell her that.

Throughout her life, Auntie Rose took a lot of responsibility with her siblings, and had more than her share of work. She had a tough life at times, especially in her last year, when multiple medical problems in quick succession plagued her. No matter what life dealt to her, she never once complained. Many in her situation would wallow in self-pity; she dedicated her life to God. Many would have passed unprotestingly; she held on for many months longer than any doctor could ever have predicted. She was a true fighter, her strength immeasurable by human standards.

Now that she is gone, I have made a promise that I will continue her legacy. I will be the aunt to my friends' and sisters' kids that she was to me. I will have an open ear, an open heart, and an open door. I may never be able to make pasta the way she did, but I'll always have cookies for my guests.

If I could give half as much as she could;
If I could love half as much as she did;
If I could touch half as many lives as she did;
I would be truly blessed.

See you on the 20th.

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