Western education 2013

Monday, May 17, 2010

..... family comes to call

...... my parents, older sister, brother and nephew have come a long way to visit with us and arrive on Mother's Day within minutes of my in-laws.  All these people I love under one roof.... so many people laughing and exchanging stories around the dinner table.  Gina is probably right when she says that it will likely be the last time we are all together under the same roof.

Monday 10th May

Today is my Mother's 77th birthday and Gina and I break out in 'Happy Birthday'.  I have not slept well.... surprise, but am on my best humor as I prepare breakfast for 11 people at 6 am.  The kids are up early and eager to sit around the table and be a part of the energy that swirls around and incorporates everyone.  Gina and her son Ben are only overnight guests after dropping my parents off - they will make their way up to Tobermorey to catch the ferry which will take them up to Manitoulin Island, shortening up their trip out to BC.

Today will be a long day... Dad has the beginnings of Alzheimer's which becomes more apparent as he grabs his dinner plate and makes his way over to the bathroom off the family room and Max takes him by the elbow and guides him over to the dinning room while he  expresses a sense of surprise when he realizes that he has never been to that side of the house..... he had breakfast there hours before.... I react by laughing almost hysterically - not because it is funny but because I would be crying otherwise.  We take him out shopping - he loves going out and ends up wandering off in his own direction but not the one we need him to go in and he is shuffling his feet.  His eyes look distant when I approach him and slip my hand into his which gets his attention and he smiles at me with his beautiful blue eyes.  The ends of his fingers are bent every which way but straight, so I make sure that I do not squeeze them as I lead him through the store while trying to pick up a chicken and some sugar for his coffee.  My Mom just follows along.  Shopping with them is akin to playing psychologist/daughter.  They each bend my ear when they are sure the other is out of earshot and funny enough, probably because they have been together for almost 50 years, they say the same things.  Each of them, despite the complaints they will issue about the other... it would be wise not to say anything other than the positives about each of them, to each other.

I am tired and need to have some down time - I have now set aside quiet time for the two of them in the afternoon and will put on a movie or ask that they read a book.  During the day, I take them for walks in the mall because it is not warm enough outside.  I am reading the Nora Roberts books - J.D Robb series and love the time spent reading these mysteries.

Thursday 13th May 2010

My Dad is staying in bed today.... must be all the activity of the past few days - forced marches through the shopping malls that he loves so much.  The weather is providing most of this depressive mood and I and Mom are downstairs wrapped in blankets and reading magazines or a book... perfect day for just relaxing.  Time goes by fast when you are at home, surprisingly, this afternoon is as well.

I missed yoga this morning - my doctor thinks I may have Plantar fasciitis which is painful.  It is like my heels are walking on a rock.  My hands still are numb at the tips and my left shoulder is causing me some pain and popping noises are abundant when I move the arm..... need to go back to the gym when my parents head out on Monday to go back home.  We managed to book them on a train that will travel straight to their destination without having to transfer trains in Toronto.  They will be traveling first class for the first time and I know that they will be well taken care of and well fed.  Last thing we need to worry about is Dad getting lost in a train station.  I will take them to the train station and will see them board the train and make sure that the person picking them up is going to be at their destination.  Gina and Benjamine have travelled into Saskatchewan as of last night.  They reported that the Chi Cheemaun Ferry was a great idea and cut short their travel time by a few hours.  The country they travelled through to get there is gorgeous.  They anticipate an arrival home by Friday afternoon.  I miss them already.

Saturday 15th May

It is my birthday.... I am now 46 and will celebrate the end of a really long year and a journey that re-routed me from a predictable path to the unknown.  I will celebrate a new birthday today that will hopefully be the start of a very good year.  My parents take us all out to dinner to a chinese restaurant that I always took my children to before we moved four years ago.  The owner steps out to say hello and to fuss over the kids.... she taught Will how to use chop sticks a dozen years ago and her son and mine would sit together and watch TV in the back kitchen while waiting for her husband to cook our meal.  Now her son is serving our table and William towers over her..... where does the time go?

My deepest condolences to John and Sue on the passing of his father today.  Through all the sadness of his passing and her step-mother, who will soon also pass from this world, she has thoughtfully brought over home-made cupcakes and card to celebrate my special day.  I am deeply sorry for the week you are having and I wish I could make it better.  I love you Sue. xo

Sunday 16th May

My parents do not have a lot of money but are quick to pull out their wallets to try and pay for everything.... once a parent, always a parent.  My Dad is starting to show the stress of having Alzheimer's in a strange place.  We found that he had folded his pajamas and house shoes in a neat pile in the livingroom - he keeps telling me that we need to get ready to go to the train station.  No worries, I tell him, the train leaves after you wake up tomorrow morning.  He began the ritual over again when he woke up from his nap.  This morning I found him laying down on the bed with one house shoe on and one off.  He was so thirsty and couldn't find a tap to fill his glass (bathroom is next to his room) so he decided to just take a nap.  I sat with him while he drank from the cup I had filled for him.  I filled it three times while he rambled on about France.  He has repeated the same stories over and again and I can now repeat some of them verbatim.  He sits at the edge of the bed looking forlorn, his eyes are far away and I just hold his hand and rub his back.  He is quick to tear up when I am talking about the wonderful people who have helped me in my journey and rubs his eyes with the back of his large soft hands - the tips of which are cantered in different angles signifying a rheumatism of sorts.  My mother is looking quite worn with fatigue as he has been coughing most of the night and quickly falls asleep on the couch in the afternoon and I just cover her up with a blanket. She begins to snore part way through her nap.  I study her face and see how old she really looks and I am sad.  My parents are in the last years of their lives and circumstances of our modern world have them living farther away than any parent should live from their children.  I have spoken with them about moving but they are set on staying where they are.  We have also discussed finding them a retirement home close to where they live and have said they would consider it later.  Right now my Dad still has most of his wits about him but that will soon go with all the memories of us.  Mom has come down to say goodnight and I am trying not to tear up - I have been tucking them in every night when I can but tonight I am filled with emotions and do not want them to see me lest it upsets them.  I run the furnace fan all night and open my windows near the cold air intake so that my father will not cough because of the stuffy room they are in.

Monday 17th May

Although I have slept well this week, I did not sleep at all last night... worried we would get up late and they would miss their train, but I can hear my Dad up at 5:30 washing his face and hands and getting ready for the day.  Lydia is up just after I rise to take a shower and she informs them that she will be taking them to the train station.  We arrive early to check in their suitcase and get them settled into the first class waiting room.  I get Mom a Cappuccino and Dad gets a paper to take with him to read on the train.  Lydia would like a hot chocolate but I inform her that we will get something later as this is only for the train passengers.  She reads out the breakfast menu for the train ride to Toronto and begs me to let her travel with my parents - what a magical journey they must be going on where they feed them while they are riding the train.  She pouts as she sits with them.  I realize, looking into my father's beautiful soft blue eyes that waiting until the train pulls in will cause him duress - the tears have come so quickly for him these past few days and this would just be too much.  I quickly rise and instruct Lydia to say her good byes to them.... it has all happened so fast as I hug my parents and kiss their cheeks.  I look into their eyes and tell them I love them.... have a safe journey and please enjoy the trip.  I am out the door with Lydia in tow before they realize we are gone.  'No tears' I kept saying to my Mom, 'just smile'.  I will have time for tears later....

I make sure the kids are off to school and head out to the car dealership to once again check the tires for the annoying tire pressure light that has once again come up - this is the third time in as many weeks.  I will wait for them to rectify the situation in the waiting room.  I am only there a few minutes when I look up from my book and see Pat.  It is a small world - I just met her again last weekend at the Breast Show In Town, and now here she is sitting across from me... neither of us have an appointment.  I make my way over to her and begin talking...... I offer her a coffee and our conversation flows like a lazy river on a warm sunny afternoon.  We have a lot in common and a real parallel life story.  She takes down my email and she will get in touch with me.  Many times in my journey, I have found that the little inconveniences seem to be part of the pay attention opportunities that only become opportunities when you recognize them as such.... it is an interesting life.

..... tears do come later but not in torrents and only because I know that I will miss my parents.... I will  miss my Dad and all that he was when his illness robs him of his recent and then past memories.  He speaks of his sister and his mother and is confused why they lost touch..... so long ago, so much has happened in between.... I heard him muttering under his breath many times in a voice so whisper thin, I could barely make out the words but got the impression he was trying to remember things that were important and repeated them in order to keep it in his mind.  It is so hard to see my pal begin to disintegrate before my eyes.  My children love how funny and affectionate he is.  He is mesmerized by Lydia as he describes her to be all knees and elbows as she crawls all over him.  He is patient with her and smiles when she pats his face and looks into his eyes..... his distant far away eyes which sharpen when she gets in close.  He is blind and sees so little at arms length but can see her clearly when she comes in close for hugs.  William laughed at him the other night when Dad walked into his room butt naked - he just took Dad by the hand and walked him to the room next door for my mother to dress him after his bath.  My Dad was always fiercely independent..... a trait he passed on to me..... 
I will miss my Dad as I watch the clock and envision where they are on the train...... the tears fall.... we all have a journey and this is his.... I Love you always and forever.... what I wrote in  the hand-painted birthday card I made for him last night while he sat on the couch sleeping.  

I will miss my Mom too.  She always says life is not easy..... she has said it her whole life, and as we sit at the table while I paint her a card, I tell her that all of us have a journey and easy or not - it is the cards that are dealt to us.  Every event has been a challenge to her and she never seemed to see the opportunities when they presented themselves to her..... and so, she failed to recognize them as such and labelled everything 'wasn't easy'.  She is perplexed at how I view my cancer as an opportunity... an opportunity to learn, grow and meet like-minded people.  She sees the pain but finds the positives elusive..... she is a lonely person, I have seen it many times in her over the years but most often she can hide it quite well.  I learned to be a rock in her world.  She is gentle and soft with eyes that tear up when I look into them and wish her a safe and fun journey.  I promise her that I will call in the evening to make sure that they have arrived home safe and sound.  For days, I have been building up her confidence to travel by train and to enjoy the trip..... she is ready.  I have bid a quick and early good-bye which has taken her by surprise - she has little time to react and I know I have made the right decision as I walk quickly away.  Her tears will fall when the train trip ends..... our visit will be complete.  I Love you always and forever.  xoxo  

I cried a lot this afternoon when there was no one around..... I will miss you both so very much.  

I called my parents just as they were coming in the front door from their trip - they are both tired but really enjoyed the first class ride from Via.  We have promised to keep in touch and to not wait so long in between visits - they are looking forward to another trip back to us for a visit!!!  I will pack up a care package for them with memories of their visit with us and will send them cards every month filled with pictures and notes from Lydia.

Thank you to Emily for her lovely handwritten card to Lydia!!! xo

Tonight, Lydia will go to her first soccer practice..... I used to play on an all-male team when I was in the military and do soccer camps for kids.... now I get to watch from the sidelines and cheer on my own child 25 years later.  The Long week end will find me in Ottawa for my 30th high school reunion - an old classmate of mine will be driving us out and back... still too tired to do any driving much past an hour.  It will be great catching up!!!  Sending out the love to all my family and friends and especially to Sue. xox

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