Author Archives: Ruth McQuirter

Ruth McQuirter

About Ruth McQuirter

Ruth McQuirter is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University (Hamilton Campus), where she teaches Language Arts. Ruth enjoys writing retreats at Five Oaks Retreat Centre in Paris, Ontario, only partly because she can say, "I'm off to Paris to write."

Pulling Together

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I wakened Tuesday as most everyone did, dreading what news the day might bring about COVID-19. What I didn’t expect was to find a small but definite lump in my breast as I casually brushed my hand over my left side. I froze and thought, “Really? Is this some kind of cosmic joke?” To make matters worse, I knew my family doctor was away until April with no backup.

Over the next two days I lived in various states of panic between periods of calm. I contacted my Ontario Breast Screening Program and booked an emergency mammogram for the next day. They needed a doctor’s requisition, so with the help of my daughter in Toronto I found a nearby walk-in clinic. Wednesday was a time of angst, with a mammogram and follow-up ultrasound. The technician said if there were any urgent news they would call the Walk-in clinic. Thursday afternoon I was wakened from a nap by the phone ringing, and I saw it was the clinic. The receptionist said she would put me on hold, as the doctor wanted to go over the results of my mammogram. I doubt I took more than a shallow breath or two during the agonizing wait for him to come on the line.

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Grandparenting in COVID-19

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Precious days lost
Will I miss her first steps?
Daily photos and videos help
But I can’t touch her soft skin
Pat her round belly
Inhale her baby scent

FaceTime becomes “Story Time with Grandma”
She reaches out to touch my face
Opens and shuts the iPad for Peek-a-boo
And giggles as I feign surprise
I read her favourite books
Make animal noises,
Delight her with pop-ups

When she fusses I sing “Skinnamarink”
Her face relaxes, tears dry
I sign off and she searches the room
No fears, dear Josie
Grandma will be back.

To Dye or Not to Dye

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Fifty Shades of Grey by Robyn Martelly


To Dye or Not to Dye

To dye or not to dye, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler to let the grey hairs win
And reveal the age she truly is,
Or to take arms against the march of time
And hit the Clairol aisle at Shoppers. To dye—to streak,
Or more; and by dyeing to hide
The roots and faded follicles
That dot the ageing scalp: ‘tis a temptation
Difficult to resist. To dye—to streak;
To streak, perchance with foils—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that choice to dye what costs may come,
When she must colour every month or so,
Must give her pause—there’s the price
That makes expense of so long life.
Yet who would bear the tyranny of age,
The dismissive glance, the cheery “Dear”
The assumed discount on Seniors Days
The insolence of youth and the scorn
Of techie geeks
When she herself might fix it all
With a single flask of dye?
She ponders highlights, hues, and tones,
Till a nagging question wracks her brain.
“Why not be who I truly am?
To hell with turning back the clock!”
And thus the needless plans to dye,
Are cast off with a single thought:
“I’m free of this, let the grey begin
I shall embrace my silver locks.”

With apologies to William Shakespeare