Saturday, July 9, 2016


I remember 2008.

So much happened to us in 2008, just thinking about that year makes me break out in a sweat. On Valentine's Day, Ivaan had his fourth stroke.
Five harrowing weeks later, I'd sold our beloved three-storey house and moved us into a condo which was open concept enough to accommodate his wheelchair.

Caregivers came in to look after Ivaan while I continued my university studies. Our condo was a three-minute walk from most of my classes, but I had a brutal course load that year. Ivaan was brilliant at quizzing me for exams and a couple of times I brought him to class with me.  

In September, an exhibition of Ivaan's unfinished pieces was mounted at KUMF Gallery.  Entitled "Sweepings: Treasures from the Atelier Floor", it was Ivaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to  the "Treasures of Ukraine" exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Ivaan was openly scornful of the artefacts on display at the ROM,  believing them to be fake, and calling the pottery "болото" (mud).

Life in the condo on St. Joseph Street wasn't easy.  People kept wanting to come and stay with us.  Ivaan was a social person and normally he enjoyed having people around, as long as they weren't interrupting his work, but it felt intrusive: an endless stream of people wanting to stay overnight at our place for one reason or another.  He didn't like overnight visitors unless they were family. My patience and hospitality were tested beyond endurance.  I felt as though I were running some kind of substandard hotel. One overnight visitor complained incessantly of having been cold and unable to sleep all night because the previous visitor had left the windows open in the guest room. Another repeatedly forgot our unit number and would sit in the lobby and have the concierge call us to come and escort them upstairs.  Knowing now how little time I had left with Ivaan, I wish I had refused their visits.

In November 2008,  Ivaan attended my convocation.  He devoted the next two weeks to helping me study for an important final exam.   He died three days before the exam.  My wonderful prof offered to excuse me from having to write the exam, but I was determined to write it in Ivaan's memory.  It actually felt like a relief to have something else to think about for a few hours.  I got 90% on the exam - or at least Ivaan did.  I couldn't have done it without him.

Although I've taken a few university courses since Ivaan's death, I hadn't really formulated a plan for future studies.  My life is extremely busy with Atelier Ivaan, my hospice work, social obligations, Ivaan's legacy, family responsibilities and occasionally some sleep. Nonetheless, I abruptly decided to make myself even busier.

I'm hitting the books again in September.  By some miracle, my classes are mostly on days Atelier Ivaan is closed, and while I no longer have the luxury of living three minutes away from class, I'm looking forward to the intellectual rigour of being back at university.

The Vice President of Atelier Ivaan recently pulled down a 91 in Calculus and a 92 in some other Engineering-related course.  Not sure I can aspire to that, but however busy I am in September, life is going to be easier than it was in September 2008.

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