I just returned from three weeks in Calgary and Toronto, catching up on a few things, tending to my “stuff” kept back there in our condo (listed on Airbnb.com), going through the mail, paying some bills, and spending a little time with my parents and siblings.
I wrote a post in January on my old blog, www.alongtheway-cliffjumpers.blogspot.com about my father and the events leading up to him being placed in full-time care for Alzheimer’s after years of declining cognitive function. My mother was already in care for the same reason, and had been for five years.
Recently, after much paperwork and many phone-calls (thanks to my brother, Mark and sister-in-law, Heather), my father was moved to a new care home five minutes from my brother’s home in Belleville, Ontario, and shortly after that, they got my mother moved into the same home, but on a different floor. They were together again in the same building after five years apart. The staff kindly bring my mother down to my dad’s secure floor on a regular basis for them to be able to sit together in a sun-room or outside in a secure garden area. My mother is in the end stages, is in a wheelchair, and does not appear to be aware of anything anymore, but we like to think she still hears my dad’s voice and remembers on some level.
It was touching and poignant to be there. Sad too, of course. My father has no capacity for short-term memory any more – he forgets from minute to minute what was said – and his middle and long-term memory are pretty bad too now. The memories he clings to are that he had a house but he doesn’t live there anymore; however, he is sure it is just down the street and would like to go and see it. He knows we are his family still, by sight, but doesn’t remember our names, let alone whether we are married or have children: his grandchildren. He doesn’t understand why he is where he is, and often remarks that my brother, Mark, is building an addition on his house so he can go live with him – which isn’t true. It just would not be possible.
The staff love him because he is still self-sufficient with personal hygiene, showering and dressing himself. He is a quiet man, and spends a lot time in his private room sitting in his comfortable lounge chair looking out the window and napping. He isn’t interested in TV or reading any more. He doesn’t like group social activities. He does go outside in the garden area and walk a bit, or sit. There is a construction site nearby that he can see, and he likes to watch the progress and wonder what they are building. He is almost child-like now.
My sister, brother-in-law, and I took him out to a walking path along the waterfront of the Bay of Quinte for a good long walk. It is something he still enjoys, even though he is confused about where he is and thinks that he and my mother used to walk there every evening in the past.
I wish, at those times, that I lived nearby. I wish I could spend more time taking my dad out for walks, and sitting on park benches in the sun with him. Even though he doesn’t remember the next day that we did that, or even that I was there visiting him. Or my name.
I am reminded once again that life is finite; there are no guarantees of health or long life. Or that you will even remember your life in the last years of your life.
Time and life are too precious to be spent doing things you don’t care to do, worrying, hurrying.
In that spirit, I am changing things up in October. I am moving to a large house, not far from where I am now, and sharing it with two other women. One of them is my good, long-time friend, who plans to spend extended time in Mazatlan this winter and learn Spanish. Her husband, like mine, is still working full-time in Canada, but he will come down too for a short time. The other I barely know but she spent three weeks in my apartment taking care of my dogs, and was looking for a place to live here after that. We seem compatible enough.
My dogs will have outdoor spaces to hang out on, I will have a nice kitchen for a change, and I will have an en suite bathroom with a large bedroom to retreat to when I feel the need for solitude. My costs are lower, yet my living standard improves. It will also be blessedly quiet compared to what seems to be the noisiest corner in Mazatlan where I live now.
Life is short. Live it while you can, the best you can.