Good day everyone. At my tender age of 66, I still feel as if life can be filled with chaos. There are always appointments to attend, groceries to buy and people to see. I feel an urge sometimes to isolate – to concentrate only on writing or quilting or home improvements. After all, I am an introvert that truly enjoys spending time alone. . . I get energy from doing that.
But, I also realize the need to be out and about in the world; to be with my grandchildren, to see family and friends, to attend yoga classes, to spend time with my aging Dad. These things stave off chaos in my world and instead, bring me order and calm. These things bring me joy. It’s ever so important to find your path to joy and revel in it.
A Sweet Gift of Time
When the family doctor rescinded my 80-year old Dad’s driver’s license, my siblings and I were overjoyed. I know that sounds cruel, but his GP did our family a great service. Dad’s mild dementia had become an issue and his eye sight was failing. We were ever so grateful to have him off the road.
Since Dad is a stickler for the rules, he didn’t even try to drive his vehicle after his license was revoked. But that doesn’t mean he held back.
“I know that doctor has me mixed up with someone else,” he’d say over and over again. “Why did he take away my license? I’m fine to drive! I’m going to find another doctor who’ll give it back to me!”
Mercifully, he never followed through.
Like most people who have driven for many years, Dad’s life changed dramatically. No longer could he pick up and go wherever he wanted. No longer could he drive into the “office” even though he hadn’t really work there for years. No longer could he attend Calgary Flames games in person or go to his typical pregame meal at Boston Pizza. It was a difficult transition for him.
Dad lived with my elderly mom and middle-aged brother (their caretaker) in a home they’d owned for more than 30 years. When prostate cancer struck in 2014, for the first time in his life, Dad had to rely on someone else to ferry him about. That someone else was me.
Growing up, Dad was my advocate. . . his love and tender care had always seen me through difficult times as a child. He is a generous soul and was there for me whenever I needed him. But, our relationship lay on the surface of things; we didn’t delve into sensitive topics or discuss emotions or feelings. Even deep into my adulthood, we stuck to fluffy conversations about my children, grandchildren or sports – he and I can analyze a game for hours!
I began keeping track of and driving him to all his medical appointments, and in the initial stages of his diagnosis, there were many. He required hormone injections to keep the cancer at bay, regular trips to the lab for blood work to check on his PSA, and monthly CT and bone scans to check on the progress of his cancer. As a reminder, I called or texted him the day before a medical appointment. When I arrived on his doorstep, he was always ready to go, dressed in his “Sunday best”.
One morning, he had an appointment for a CT Scan in a neighbouring town. It was a long drive so we got an early start. Travelling in a south-easterly direction, along a major highway, a noisy freight train rumbled by on tracks running parallel to the road. Its presence tweaked something in my Dad’s mind, and he began to regale me with stories from his youth; stories I had never heard before. He told me how he and his brothers used to hang out at the CN rail yard. . . how they would take turns hiding from security in empty rail cars. He told me how they would play football in the off-limits, fenced yard adjacent to the train station and how they’d pick up wrapped candy that lay on the tracks, left behind by a shipment burst open in transit. He and his brothers were chased from the rail yard by the CN Police on an almost daily basis. As the sun rose over the horizon, I saw my Dad in a different light. His humanity came shining through.
He and I added a weekly lunch date to the routine of doctor appointments. On Mondays, we headed for the neighbourhood mall; always the same place, the familiarity of which made him feel safe. The benefits were twofold: Dad got some much needed exercise walking the corridors of the mall and I got to hear more of his stories. We’d order from A&W or Subway or have Chinese food. As we ate, he naturally carried on telling me more and more about his mom and his dad and his brothers and sisters. He told me he had to quit school in grade 11 to help support his huge family – after all, there were twelve of them! Being with him, wherever or whenever was a gift. . . it was a sweet gift of time.
Mom passed away in 2019. My parents had been married 65 years, so it was a huge adjustment for Dad to live without her. His prostate cancer spread to his back, but so far at his age of 90 years, it’s growth has halted. At each visit, his oncologist is amazed by Dad’s resiliency and his ability to keep going, no matter what.
I’ve been blessed. I’ve had both the time and the opportunity to glean a deeper, richer understanding of who my Dad really is. I’m connected to him now in a way I wasn’t before. For that, I’m forever grateful.
Talk again soon.