A Far, Far Better Thing ...

Ranjana had been bad! Very bad!

This should come as no surprise to anyone who had read about her escapades in the nation's capital. However, this time she wasn't doing in some politician or other. She'd managed to do herself in!

Now those of you who know something about Ranjana may not be aware of the 'dark' side which she keeps hidden so well. After all, she puts on a such a charming, considerate demeanour that who could possibly have guessed that this is the person who caused the demise of three of Canada's most prominent leaders! You can find the ghastly details in the published and authoritative document: Ranjana in Ottawa.

This sordid business, believe it or not, took place while she was merely a teenager! So you can imagine how serious things could have gotten for Canada (and even beyond) as she came into full possession of her powers!

You see "Ranjana" is phoenetically nearly identical to the Bengali word "johntrona" which means "problem" or "trouble" or "irritation"! So the obvious should be immediately evident!

Fortunately, it was part of my fate to protect others by intervening with my personal self and attempt to neutralize the influence she might have thrust upon an unsuspecting humanity. Yes, I understand how remarkable was this sacrifice and Dicken's poignant words: "It is a far, far better thing I do …" forever echoes in my head as solace.

Many decades ago (though years be eternities!), I made a significant contribution to this cause by marrying her. While such a noble action at least kept the potential for disaster under containment within a somewhat localized perimeter, it required constant vigilence to ensure that all beyond, were indeed kept free from the imminent danger therein. I am pleased to say that my efforts have been largely successful as there have been only a very few casualties and they are still alive, albeit understandably in a certain state of disorder.

Now that you have some background, I can relate to you the present tale which would be worthy of being printed in tabloid media … were it not actually true!

Ranjana and her mother had developed rheumatoid arthritis in 1976. The simultaneity had the doctors baffled though such things should not be considered too surprising, given the state of medicine in the 20th century.

Her mother opted to go the drug route while Ranjana tried that for a while too, but then realized in a constipated moment of enlightenment that she didn't want her health to become dependent upon pills and needles. Of course, her decision was assisted by the fact that her arthritis quack got her to take a particular drug even after she told him that she was allergic to it. The result was a series of dark blotches on her back which lasted several years.

When all drugs were stopped, her situation deteriorated initially. The arthritis got progressively worse and by 1992 she was on crutches. It was a disappointing time for our young son Kyron as well, who despite having two parents, found that one of them couldn't quite play the way he would have liked her to.

However, Ranjana persevered against the arthritis and employed three significant tactics. The first was meditation: a calm, perceptive mind works with synergy to optimize what the body is capable of accomplishing. The second was eating blue-green algae: a high nutrient food goes a long way towards helping a body recover. The third, and most important item, was to go vegan: animal proteins wreak havoc inside bodies through a process known as protein antigeneity, which causes large animal protein molecules to be viewed as antigens causing inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, eczema and asthma.

Her efforts paid off. By 1996, she was not only walking with a lessened limp, she had regained much of her former athletic abilities that were quite prominent in her high school days. She was able to run, skate and even play tennis again!

One would think that this story could come to a happily-ever-after ending at this point, but one must realize that we are dealing with Ranjana, so it cannot be so.

After several years of steady improvement, in 2000, Ranjana decided with Garth (one of my son's godfathers), to start up a non-profit called the Cowichan Family Caregivers Support Society . The name is excessively long, but the intention was a very good one. Caregivers give service to their family (and their community), often relinquishing their own activities to provide care. Sometimes, it means losing their employment too since certain situations require considerable care. The stress levels can be very high and it is not uncommon for the caregiver to fall seriously ill as well. They need support and societal institutions just don't provide enough.

Ranjana's idea was to utilize a concept of community-building known as a Support Circle (which she had learned from a former teacher of mine, Marsha Forest) and apply it to these specific situations.

The society was a great success providing a much needed service in not just our local community, but well beyond. The provincial government supported it in many ways and the federal government financed various projects through significantly large grants.

President Garth admirably managed the organization under Ranjana's stern hand and watchful eye! He had hired her five years earlier while he had been a member of a different non-profit, so it was quite understandable that she would recruit him to engage in this activity due to his vast experience. The poor man was even made to do the dishes after dinner at our home! Is it any wonder that this fine individual was awarded the Governor General's Caring Canadian award? I really had no objections about the dishes because Garth was merely in his eighties at the time, and besides, if not for him, it would have been I!

Then the society made another quantum leap with the 2005 arrival of Michael from Austria! We had met him playing chess on the internet. He was a remarkably competent finance manager and the comptroller for Stihl Austria! Furthermore he was a talented clarinetist and even spoke German! Ranjana figured he would be a worthy addition to her entourage even though we didn't have any need for anyone to speak German. She placed him right away into the finance area and eventually he found himself adding on the rather complex task of organizing the society's primary fundraiser The Shawnigan Lake Adventure! He helped prepare the vegan meals at home so that Garth would have some dishes to wash. As you can no doubt understand, I had no objections on this count either for the reasons cited earlier.

Though things looked as though they were going fine, no one was computing the actual effort required to keep the show on the road. Managing a high profile society can be very labor intensive and some people worked overtime even though they were technically volunteers. The final stop where the pieces had to be assembled was Ranjana and gradually the toll manifested itself in the form of her arthritis acting up.

When you're swimming in mud, it can be difficult to know how dirty you are. Even though I kept telling her what was happening, Ranjana wouldn't listen. Her 'work' had become far more important than her health.

During low activity points, her condition would improve because the stress wasn't there, but repeatedly, the arthritis returned as her body kept telling her to cut it out! She didn't though, for obsession is a dominating companion.

One day I emphasized that though her body had recovered to varying degrees in the past years, there would come a time when it would be unable to. There is a point of no return one can push to.

As things got progressively worse, Ranjana took up a cane, then crutches and then a wheelchair. We created a ramp into the house so she could get in and out and would wheel her to the car and put the wheelchair into it. At the other end of the trip, someone would get the wheelchair out, then push her to whatever location her society business was to be conducted. The process was reversed on the return home.

In the fall of 2011, even Ranjana had had enough. She realized that this time her body was not going make it and though she is very much against doing the medical route, she decided she was going to have a knee replacement. Some of the encouragement for this decision came from our activist friend Tricia who in her sixties had not only come through a double knee replacement, but as a vegan, amazed her doctor with her recovery rate! We figured, Ranjana would be able to do the same.

So she began studying about knee replacements to the point where she probably could have performed one herself! One benefit of this activity was that she was forced to cut down on the society workload, thus allowing her body to gain some much needed strength.

She felt confident about the surgeon too. He was an experienced fellow though he didn't have a good sense of femur. Upon hearing that one of his operations resulted in the patient having one leg shorter than the other, Ranjana showed signs of trepidation. However, after I pointed out that such a discrepancy likely wouldn't make much difference for her because a) she'd been limping all this time anyway and b) she was after all, somewhat vertically challenged to begin with, she seemed to take it in stride.

As the big day drew nearer, she went to see the anestheologist who was quite taken aback by the fact that Ranjana never did any drugs at all. In fact, for a while, he must have been quite flustered because Ranjana thought he started to call her names, the most potent one being that she was 'opiate naive'. I thought perhaps he should put an anesthetic mask on himself on low dose just to relax a bit, but since I wasn't there, it was not possible for me to make such a suggestion.

Now you may be wondering what our friends Michael and Garth had to say about all this. Well you'll be surprised, as I certainly was!

Michael, as mentioned, was a very good chess player. He is a paragon of preparedness that would put any boy scout to shame! For instance, he not only has a 5-blade hand razor, but also an exceptionally fancy electric shaver which actually cleans itself through an elaborate vibratory mechanism. Add to this his extensive collection of lotions and cremes (all of which are cruelty-free, of course), and one has to admire how there can be no hirsutian emergency with which he cannot cope - especially when one considers that he chose to sport a full beard all these years.

So utilizing these remarkable anticipatory skills, Michael had fled the country in 2010, thereby putting significant temporal and spatial distance between himself and Ranjana's operation.

Garth, on the other hand, is not known for his chess playing abilities. His talent lies in spontaneous insight and creative solution. He displays these qualities admirably at society meetings. Not having the foresight to cancel these in the first place, his uncanny senses indicate to him when there is too much talking taking place. With remarkable panache he solves the dilemma by indicating displeasure at the verbosity, after which no one dares to object his bringing the meeting to much needed closure. Unfortunately, Garth never dared to test that panache on Ranjana's incalculable verbal capacity, but since I haven't had much luck after half a century either, I suppose I really can't be too critical.

Ten days before Ranjana's operation, Garth's insight revealed to him the impending difficulty he was about to encounter. That afternoon, we received a call from him asking if we could pick him up because he had wrecked his car in an accident. When I went to get him, he was no where to be seen, but I managed to find him in emergency where the police insisted he go, despite protests, on account of his being nearly 90 years old. Later that evening, I took him his cellphone battery and found they were shipping him to a more sophisticated hospital for a brain operation. His nieces were coming to look after him (as Ranjana obviously couldn't) and he was going to be out of action for several weeks.

So guess who was left holding the ball and forced to look after Ranjana? As you can see, certain people are very adept at planning their escape, while others have the capacity to conjure miracles!

When the day for the operation arrived, I agreed to drive Ranjana to the hospital even though I thought eleven in the morning was excessively early. We'd purchased a 1998 Honda CRV some months back which was built fairly high, so Ranjana could sit down rather than fall into the seat. I felt it would be unfair to the vehicle to risk having Ranjana drive it with one functioning leg.

I brought Ranjana to the admittance booth and she filled out the paperwork after which we were told to wait in a designated area. She of course was sitting in the wheelchair, but I stood because I figured I shouldn't get too comfortable and be poised to make my getaway as soon as a window of opportunity presented itself. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that simple because I then had to wheel her into the operation preparatory room where several other silly things took place. I don't remember all these things, but I know I was standing the entire time!

Finally, I was permitted to leave as the nurse took over. I gave Ranjana a parting sentiment of important advice. I told her to make sure the doctor knew the correct leg to do the knee replacement on! There was no way I wanted to have to bring her back to go through all this standing up again!

That afternoon, I received a call from Ranjana. The operation was over, but she didn't know when. Though they only gave her a localized anesthetic, she had fallen asleep during it. When she woke up, they were trying to send her up to the regular ward.

She wanted me to bring her some things and when I got there, she was thankfully fast asleep. However, she somehow managed to wake up before I could put the items into the locker and leave.

Ranjana told me that a different anesthologist had actually done the job. He told her that she probably thought this is another routine job for them, but he wanted her to know that he understood it was an important day for her and he was going to do the best he could. The surgeon asked Ranjana how she was just before the operation. When she said she was nervous, he also, reassuringly told her that he wasn't.

It turned out that the operation was actually done on the left leg which was the correct one after all, but just to make sure she was fully certain, I said: "Looks like they operated on the right leg", causing her to look down and insist that it was the left leg. Before she could get mad at me, I brilliantly utilized the wordplay opportunity and said that it was the right leg indeed (as opposed to being the wrong leg).

I had to go back for the next three days, though I forced my parents to come and made them sit with her so I could take off. The nurses looking after her were very nice, so between them, my parents and the fact that Ranjana slept a lot, I was able to lead a nearly normal existence. We make the best of things as we can.

Before Ranjana came home, one of the nurses showed me how to inject her in the stomach with some silly fluid. I got quite good at doing this and after the second or third try, Ranjana couldn't even feel the needle going in. I'm sure it wasn't because of shock or anything like that. I was even disappointed when the exercise stopped for it had been yet another opportunity to demonstrate my medical expertise.

The therapist used to visit every week to help Ranjana exercise and increase the angle her knee would bend to. It was a pretty routine procedure. She'd appear all smiles then go and yap with Ranjana for an hour. After that she'd tell me how well Ranjana was doing and how she'd be back to normal in no time. Then she'd not understand why my shoulders seemed to slump under a great weight.

As expected, Ranjana made very fast progress since she was vegan, while the therapist looked on in astonishment. Not surprisingly, Garth, also a vegan, recovered at a suspiciously well-synchorinized rate. Michael, however, being ever the planner, isn't taking any chances and will not return for a few months still, sometime in the summer of 2012 we have been led to believe.

These days Ranjana is moving quickly, but not quick enough to catch me - not that she ever could! When people ask me how she is, I tell them she is behaving herself. This is a true statement, because she really is. She has set office hours for the first time in her life and is actually sticking to them. Every now and then, she has to be scolded for certain excessive efforts, but for the most part she is not over-extending herself.

At present we manage what we can and are always watchful, consoling ourselves with the ongoing refrain:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do …"

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