Bye, Bye Love…

You just never know what the next tick on the clock will bring. For me, at 5:23 pm on August 5 it brought the end to the time on this earth for my soul mate and true love.

That’s when Patricia Renee Raidt drew her last breath after a gut-wrenching one-month assault from cancer. And my heart will never be the same.

It wasn’t a fair fight.

Pat had a history of cancer attacks and did all the right things. She made great lifestyle choices and had regular screenings and visits to her doctor and specialists. And still…

The last time I blogged – my return to blogging – was to signal my attempts to publish a new novel and the featuring of a short story in a magazine. Now that all seems so, well, meh.

It’s cliqued, but it’s amazing how quickly things can change. Below is an excerpt from my diary on July 31 to show you what I mean:

It’s the last day of July, a month that started with so much promise.

I had two weeks and change off from work, from Canada Day through July 15th. Pat was back home from taking care of her dad in Calgary and we were going to have our first long stretch alone together since she started looking after her parents back in November. First her mom was ill, then her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Kristina was coming home on the 9th and Anna was going to be in town, too.

July 10th was going to be spent hanging out with our girls before they hit the road to Calgary where Kristina would see Anna’s new apartment in the central neighborhood of Eau Claire. They’d do some Stampeding. Pat and I were going to pop down as well. Visit some friends, do some Stampeding of our own, and see more of the girls.

The first week went well. We had a fantastic time together, though Pat’s pain from the hip issue she’d been suffering from – and seeing docs, physio and naturopaths about– limited what we could do. But we were together. Kristina landed on the 9th as planned. I picked her up myself because Pat’s hip was hurting. Back home we had a great reunion. It was the first time seeing each other without a screen between us since Christmas.

The evening ended well.

We’d see Anna in the morning.

Instead, Pat’s pain intensified Sunday morning. Her breathing was tight. Alarmingly so. Kristina called an ambulance.

Today, I sit watching my bride lying on a bed in the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Robbins Pavilion. She has a beautiful view of downtown Edmonton. If she could get up, she’d see a lovely park that she has no hope of ever visiting.

Pat is dying of cancer that has somehow savaged her entire body. Confoundingly, they tell us this is the work of the cancer she bravely battled –and beat, we thought – seven years ago. That took a hysterectomy, chemo and radiation. But the damn thing came back.

And it rapidly spread. To her left lung, her spine, bones throughout her body, her kidney and on and on. But it seems like it’s the kidney that’s going to get her. Perhaps in days. Maybe weeks. No more they say. 

They doubt she’ll make our 25th wedding anniversary on October 4th. I’m holding out hope, if it doesn’t cause her too much pain. Her birthday on November 11th will almost certainly be a Remembrance Day of my time with her. Christmas? There really seems no way.

We’ve been together exactly 30 years. We started dating the same year my mom died of cancer at 58. Now, as my daughters follow in my footsteps at almost exactly the same age, my heart is ripping out from multiple directions. 

What helps is my many talks with Pat over the last few days. Her breathing is difficult but through the gasps she exudes a bravery that, when it comes right down to it, seems based on both the simplest and most profound of things.

She’s content with the way she lived her life. Goal number one was to walk, really walk with our girls through their lives. To be there in every sense of the word. Hear them out, share, talk through problems. Really and truly. To go on fieldtrips, to volunteer in every event, be on the sidelines or in the crowd at every concert, competition, and ceremony. To cry with them when they needed to cry – day and night, 24-7. To move them to Toronto, to campus, to Calgary. Help set up apartments and clean them up. To cry and laugh. At the right time. When it was needed, wanted, no questions asked.

Pat did that. And she thanked me this week for helping her do it.

She told me that she won’t ask why this is happening to her. She’d love more time. But she says she’s content. She’s run a good race- a very, very good race. She told me she’s thankful for this and that’s enough. My bride refuses to be bitter. That, I’m sure, will help her into whatever is next.

Pat did this all while being a hell of a bride. She supported me through everything. Everything. Through my career whipsaw, my stroke recovering, and my writing. She was the first editor on my first two, as of yet, unpublished books. Her pen was on my blogs, on feature stories, and short stories that I’ve published.

She consoles me even now, while she’s in her hospital bed dying. She’s still giving advice and support to our girls. She called a counselling session to help her parents cope. She makes silly jokes to console us. Like a play on the old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Kindergarten Cop. There’s a line Arnie delivers when the kids are driving him crazy and he has a headache. A kindergartener suggests that it may be a tumor.  Schwarzenegger says, in his thick Austrian accent: “It’s not a tumower.”

One day, out of the blue, Pat tells me and the girls, with a smile on her face: “It is a tumower.”

And for 30 years, I’ve tried to get her to fist pump me. She always explained that she doesn’t fist pump. But now, seeing the pain and fear in my eyes, she consoled me with regular fist pumps including an added end-of-fist-pump move that included a spreading of her hand and a ‘bowww’ sound.

What a woman.

This was the last day Pat saw Anna. Anna was to start articling at a law firm in Calgary and Pat insisted that she not put it off. She wanted to know, I believe, that before she passed, Anna had moved on to launch her career. Kristina remained with us, on a break from her post in Toronto. Pat now knew that both girls were launched full throttle into their career paths.

By the end of the following day, the love of my life slipped into a coma. I talked her ear off for the next week, as did Kristina and her friend Mary, before she passed away that Friday. It was beautiful that Pat was able to pass with that peace surrounding her. Her hands held; her hair stroked.

I was with her every day, all day from the time she was admitted, over night for the best part of the final two weeks. Before the coma, we had lots of great talks, though they were stilted due to the pain. In a weird way, they were some of the best days of my life. And I’m so happy for the peace she had knowing she’d run a great race and left this world with a great connection to her girls and me.

Now she’s ready for whatever is next…


I’m baaaaack

I took a break from this blog.

The break turned into a hiatus. The hiatus to an absence. And now, here I am – more than two years since the last helping from the Brainfood Cafe.

The point of the break-hiatus-absence was to focus my writing on finishing my book – the tale of an average fella who one day wakes up dazed and confused with a misfiring melon.  As you may recall from past blogs, it turns out that this fella – me – had a stroke, losing the ability to read, write and do arithmetic. My memory was shot and much of my cognitive skills were set back 40 years or so. Not too good as I was 45 when the stroke struck.

Me, my lady & my girls.

I figured finishing the book would take a few weeks. Maybe two or three months.

As well as I’ve recovered from the stroke, my math must still not be too great ‘cause I didn’t put a bow on the book until the summer. This past summer — 2020 COVID-19 Summer.

Why so long?

Because it was damn hard. Re-living the worst months of my existence took an emotional toll and required regular stoppages to reset my mind and rest my soul. And I had to get the writing right. Hemmingway said writing is easy, just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. There’s even more bloodletting when what you’re writing about is so personal. In the book I write about demons that haunted me as I fought to recover. Those demons also struck me as I wrote, making me question my words and my recovery.

But I finished.

And that felt great. My life’s goal was to write books, which is why I became a newspaper reporter way back when. It made sense at the time, but that trade left me with a lot of good ideas and partially thought-out beginnings. After career changes and years of starts and stops with my writing, along came the stroke, wiping away my ability to read and write and presumably putting a definitive end to my dream.

But now the dream is reality (I hate when cliches fit).

I’ll never forget the morning early this past June when I stopped typing, re-read what I’d just finished and realized that this was it with the book. I’d tied the yarn together, it was complete. At least complete enough to get it out in front of other sets of eyeballs.  My bride, Patricia, had a final read for me with some suggestions. Then I reached out to writer friends of mine about agents and advice on the path to publishing. I got some great feedback and advice.

Edmonton writer Wayne Arthurson (The Traitors of Camp 133, Fall From Grace, The Red Chesterfield) gave my yarn a spin and suggested an epilogue. That was a brilliant idea. Then it turned out that Wayne is also working as a successful agent. We shook hands electronically and Wayne is now shopping my book around.

I’ve been warned about how hard it is to get a book published. Told not to get my hopes up. Cautioned how difficult it is even to get a good publisher to just read a synopsis. But so far, Wayne has managed to get these folks to take notice.  I’ve even had the most inspiring rejection that I could ever imagine from a major publisher.

“Tim writes with poise and emotion (not surprising given the ordeal he’s been through!) and I feel he has a good voice here, and a sense of what he wants to convey.”

This publisher feels that my book isn’t the right fit for his company, but also believes that it is worthy of seeing the light of day in book stores.  I’ll take that – for now.

 At last count, five publishers are considering my yarn. It really feels like this thing will be hitting store shelves and e-readers sooner or later.

So, with that happening, I figured, the extended Brainfood hiatus is over.  I can take you all on the journey with me as I wait for news on a publisher, write about the talks I’m preparing to start giving again and share with you the new writing I’m working on. Oh, and you’ll also get the scoop when a publishing deal is (is, not if it is) struck.

The other inspiration for getting back on the blog horse is the milestone I hit while we were all dealing with the new Covid-19 realities. March 15 marked 10 years since my mind was sizzled by the stroke. My plan had been to celebrate that day with a book on store shelves and an incredible trip somewhere. I didn’t finish writing in time for that and the Coronavirus killed the dream of sipping Corona beer on a warm beach, in any case.

So, while I put all that on hold, I want to get back to writing stories that inspire stroke survivors, and the people who love them. Stories about different paths to recovery and to great new normals that can be even better than before. Like, for instance, writing a book after a stroke wiped out your ability to read and right 😊.

I also want to write more about the big beautiful brains we all have and explore with readers how to get the most out of them, how to treat them with the love and kindness that will keep them firing on all cylinders. And that can maybe coax just a bit more brain power out of ‘em, too.

All of this is what you can expect in future helpings of Brainfood.

Stay tuned!


RIP John Le Carre