Three years

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August 30, 2013 by T. Gregory Argall

Three years ago my work schedule was Sunday-Thursday. Our plan for the Labour Day weekend was that we’d head out of town on Friday morning to visit my daughter and her family. We’d stay overnight then drive back Saturday afternoon, in time for my friend Gord’s birthday gathering (which had been delayed a week because of limited availability of everyone).
Thursday morning my wife and son went with my mom to visit my dad at the care home. I didn’t start work until 1:00 so logistically I could have joined them and gone to see my dad. But I didn’t because, well, I’m a selfish coward.
Honestly, I didn’t like seeing him because there was hardly any him left. His body was failing but I knew his mind was still sharp. It frustrated me and it frustrated him when he tried to communicate. He loved to tell jokes, usually the same jokes, but that was part of the fun. When he tried to tell jokes now it was just sad. And that’s not the point of visiting someone you love; sadness should not be re-enforced while you’re together.
And so I rationalized that it was all right to skip this visit, because I’d go see him after work on Sunday, or maybe Monday because I was off that day (Labour Day).
Friday we went to St Thomas and had fun with the kids. Saturday we woke up and had more fun with the kids. Then we drove home. The drive was easy and relatively uneventful and we were looking forward to having more fun with the gang that evening.
The gathering was set for 7:00 and we got back to town a bit early, so at 6:30 we were home for a quick washroom break. My had just gone into the downstairs bathroom when she got a call on her cell phone (or maybe it was the homephone and she’d taken the cordless handset in with her because it was ringing when we got in the house; I honestly can’t remember that detail, yet others are so clear and vivid. It’s annoying.) Anyway, the point is, she was in the bathroom when she got the call from my mom. Dad was gone.
Not wanting to yell through a closed door to share the bad news, she wanted to get out of the bathroom as quickly as possible, but random coincidence stuck and she’d found that the toilet was clogged, probably had been since we’d left the day before but it was only discovered then.
The human brain is a weird little thing sometimes. In times of stress, it sometimes focuses solely on irrelevant things as a coping mechanism. And that’s when it becomes frustrating because my wife needed to get out of the bathroom and tell my son and I about the call but she couldn’t because the toilet was clogged and she couldn’t leave the bathroom until she’d unclogged the toilet because that was the thing that her brain chose to focus on. I heard her getting angry and upset so I called out “What’s wrong?” and she yelled about the goddamned toilet, so I told her to forget about it and just come out. Somehow I sort of knew what the phone call had been.
She threw down the plunger, opened the door, took a calming breath and told me.
And I just sort of collapsed. I ended up sitting on the bottom stair which happened to be behind me, otherwise I would have just been on the floor.
I knew I couldn’t shutdown for long because I had to be the one, the “strong” one. There was no longer a selfish coward option.
So I switched to auto-pilot and just did what needed doing. We drove over and got Mom and took her to the care home. People spoke in hushed, sympathetic tones while they made sure all the required paperwork was signed.
Here’s an “interesting” fact that I didn’t know until I was forced to know: When a resident dies in a care home, the staff need permission from the family to deal with the body. They can’t even close the eyes or the mouth until the proper forms are filled out. Which they hadn’t when the nurse asked if we wanted to see him. He was still in his room, in his bed. My auto-pilot said “Yes” and I followed her into the room.
So that’s something I probably wish I hadn’t done.
The actual day was September 4th, but calendars be damned, for me the anniversary of my dad’s death will always be the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend.
I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make here. I’m just rambling now.
This blog is about whatever falls out of my brain. There’s a lot of funny stuff in there, but once in a while some of the not so funny stuff falls out.
Anyway. I don’t know what the cat crammed down the toilet while we were away, but even with daily plunger-attacks the damned thing was clogged for about four months.
I like to think that was Dad’s last joke, a parting jest, and that he’s somewhere quietly laughing to himself about it.

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