Tuesday, December 1, 2009


“It’s not mine”--August 14, 2006, 7:30 p.m.
On our drive into Gravenhurst, I spotted a black road-kill squirrel. It rested on the double line in the centre of the road. Its little tail fluttered in the breeze. From across the road, we spotted turkey vultures. There was a mother and her hatchlings. They are the natural garbage collectors that keep our Muskoka clean. They flew across our path and almost hit the car in their efforts to find food in this dry August month. One never knows what kind of wildlife will fly out of the forest.

When we went in to visit Dad, it was noon and he was sleeping. We did errands, casually puttering around the town. What a relief not to have to work. It was incredibly stressful working in April and May and looking after Mom. Thank goodness the memorial service was over. I began working on Dad’s obituary and announcement. It was good to prepare. I found it lovely looking through papers and uncovering the facets that made up my father while he was still a sentient human being. I had forgotten much and came across a great deal more I had not known. The grieving process is complex, but necessary.

Today was a really bad day. When we returned, Dad was awake and in a foul mood. He adamantly refused to put in his hearing aids, put on his eyeglasses or pants, eat his breakfast, or take his meds. At each request he would say, “It’s not mine. It’s nothing to do with me.” He refused to use his walker. He knew he had lost all control of everything around him and in a juvenile temper tantrum he decided he would not co-operate with anyone. He sat on the edge of his bed repeating his mantra, “It’s not mine. It’s nothing to do with me.” It was a clever statement and we still use it often when angry and frustrated.

As his agitation increased, it became increasingly difficult to work with him. He understood little. His hearing aids were not working. We thought it was the swelling of the ear canals. We were flushing his ears out weekly, but the wax damaged the hearing aids. He could not figure out how they worked. He would fiddle with them and turn them up so loud they squeaked. It drove people nuts at his dinner table. One person complained and so they changed his table to a more amenable group. It broke Dad’s heart. He was very angry that someone had complained. Mom and Dad had spent much of their lives looking after others; my older aunts and uncles, acquaintances--as they became unable to do things for themselves, my parents pitched in.

Dad would often wander around after nine p.m. and later after most of the residents were in bed. Dolly called for a staff member to come and look after him. Bless her, for her help. He had gotten up and was in the hall in his undershirt and boxers--without his walker. He must have used the railing on the wall for support. He got himself into the sitting area at the end of the hall and was in a chair, unable to get up. Dolly said it isn’t the worst thing she’d seen. She had found another resident in the same sitting area wearing only a shawl. Dolly sent her back to bed. Dolly was such a good person looking after some of these lost souls. His insomnia was having a bad effect on his routines and the ability of the retirement home to take care of his needs. I constantly racked my brain to figure out how to resolve these issues.

We had been scheduled to go to PEI to see my actor-son in his latest production, Anne and Gilbert: the Musical. I could not go and leave Dad alone. Yet again my parents’ ill health made me choose caring for one of them over seeing to my children’s needs. It was too far away if something happened to Dad. I had to advocate for many issues for my father. This was not the time for me to be away, but we hadn’t had a real holiday in two years. I should have taken the break. I was stressed beyond understanding. I was hoping that my family understood. Brian remained steadfast at my side.