This Tattled Tale is true.  The names are not.  The Teller wishes to respect the privacy of family members connected to this Tale.

Shelly and I were playing cribbage in my screened porch, safely out of the sun, relishing the occasional lake breeze that chased away the humidity for mere moments at a time.  The sweltering heat made us dopey, so dopey we couldn’t keep track of whose crib it was, or who had just dealt.   

We’ve been cottage neighbours for seven seasons, the friendship growing carefully at first, not wanting to disturb each other’s privacy.  When the steep hill behind my cottage started to erode three years ago, she and husband, Ray, (both in their 80’s now) came to the rescue arriving with wheel barrow after barrow of plants harvested from their own hillside garden.  I knew nothing about gardening, but under Shelly’s guidance, my Darwinian-style garden has thrived, the hill has been saved and the friendship liberated from the bonds of civility.

As I snatched up the cards from the floor that had flipped out of my hands for the umpteenth time, I professed that I would be a bloody card shark in my next life!  Something in the small laugh and the softening of Shelly’s expression made me ask, “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

“I could tell you a story.” And she did.

Believe It or Not …

My daughter, Anne, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in her sixth year.  The pediatric doctors and specialists who treated her at Toronto Sick Kids had a really hard time getting Anne’s blood sugars balanced.  Something else was going on, they said, but they just couldn’t put their fingers on it. 

When Anne was a teenager and sitting at my mother’s table for lunch, she had her first attack.  Her speech became slurred, and she was a bit wobbly.  We rushed her to Humber Hospital.  It lasted a few hours, and she was sent home without the doctors being able to diagnose the problem.

Three years passed before the next attack.  I was at work when she called and asked me to come home.  She couldn’t move or walk.  She was paralyzed from the waist down.  It was early October, and she wouldn’t leave the hospital for nearly three months.  The baby boy the doctors had recommended Anne never even think about having was just two months old.  She had suffered terribly from gestational epilepsy but the seizures had stopped altogether.  This was something else.

She’d been in hospital, paralyzed, for about 6 weeks, and I was visiting with her when she said, “I think my toe just moved”.  Anne was home for New Years.  

Some time within the next couple of years she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  The doctors predicted that Anne would be in a wheelchair by the time she turned 21.   She never accepted the diagnosis, and stubbornly refused to use a wheelchair.  When she wobbled across a room the people around her automatically held their arms out … just in case.

As a little girl she loved ladybugs, letting them walk upside down on her fingers, catching them in jars, then setting them free again.  She turned to me one day when she was about seven and said that she would come back as a lady bug in her next life.

The day of Anne’s funeral I was standing on the balcony when a ladybug landed on the railing and stayed with me for a while.  It was October, well past the season for ladybugs.  The same thing happened at Christmas and again within a day or so of Anne’s birthday in June. 

We’re closing up the cottage six weeks earlier than usual and heading back into Toronto tomorrow – Ray is facing surgery; neither one of us wants to leave the lake.  Last night I was thinking about a news report I’d seen earlier in the day concerning a new treatment for MS when I felt something crawling on my neck.  Moments later a ladybug plopped onto my book and stayed.   Eventually I shook it off the book out the screen door.  Later, after dark something was flitting around the kitchen and stopped on the ceiling.   The ladybug was back, determined. 

Ray is more emotional than most people realize.  He keeps things to himself.  It was a long time before I could mention Anne without causing him pain.  A feeling I can’t describe filled me as I watched him gently touching and nudging the ladybug into a jar and then letting it go out the door. 

Believe it or not I think Anne is keeping an eye on us.

You may also like…

Copyright © 2010, Cheryl Andrews