The Adventure – Days with my Dad
It’s not every day I get to spend time with my dad, there are over 1000 kilometers that separate us.
In the last couple of years, he’s been ill. Emergency surgery, an ambulance rushing him to the nearest hospital situated an hour away, one town over. His life is saved, a blockage in his colon removed, and in return, they give him a parting gift…a colostomy.
A reward for surviving the surgery in that tiny northern town.
A week later, he’s back in the hospital. A blood clot almost made it to his heart. They forgot to mention this could happen, blood clots, that is. And that it could kill him.
Another close call.
A few months later, another surgery. This time, they forget he’s on blood thinners for the blood clot. The surgery goes awry in more ways than one and my father is left mutilated.
I’ve never felt such cold rage before.
The sound of silence…
My father entered into the world in complete silence.
Without anaesthetic, his mother refused to utter a single sound because two doors down, her 8 year old daughter Patricia lay dying.
Those who knew my grandmother was in labour thought she died because the tell-tale screams which normally accompanied a drug-free birth, were missing.
My grandmother swallowed the pain so she would not upset her daughter during the last few remaining days of her precious life.
Less than a month later, when Patricia’s time to came to pass, her bestest friend came to the hospital to pick her up, taking her home one last time. That ‘bestest’ friend was her father.
Patricia went home to silently die in the arms of those she loved best.
The sons of my father…
My sister Nikki and I, learned at an early age how to get firewood, chop firewood, change the oil in vehicles, change the tires on vehicles, not to mention learning how to drive a stick-shift on old dirt roads because as my dad would say, ‘any idiot can drive an automatic’.
My current car is an automatic.
Oh, and the power tools…did I mention how my sister and I also know the names of almost every type of tool out there and what it is used for? We learned everything boys did. But then again, Nikki was supposed to be Nicholas and I was supposed to be Patrick.
We were, in essence, our father’s sons.
My father also had a special talent that involved bribing. Remember the firewood thing? Well…he would somehow ‘convince’ my sister and I to get firewood out in the forest with the promise that we could shoot the .22 calibre rifle. And, of course, it worked every time. Looking back with adult eyes, when I think of the labour involved just to shoot a few measly bullets…well, I can see how my dad got the good end of the deal.
Upon reflection, I now realize that this fell into the category of the game they used to play with us when travelling in the car long distance…the “Let’s see who can stay quietest, the longest” game. That game worked out VERY well for my parents…every single time. The end result, of course, was that the two very stubborn bickering little girls would completely pass out. Yeah. I get it now.
Are we there YET???
A walk in the woods…
A year after the mutilating surgery debacle, I get to see my daddy. He’s here in Vancouver for the entire month of October. This time he is getting the so-called ‘final’ surgery and I feel a strong sense of fear rippling through me, terrified something is going to go wrong…yet again.
But I don’t say anything to my dad.
I keep my fear hidden behind a silent mask of smiles.
He arrives several days before the surgery and we spend time together exploring the city’s hidden treasures, meandering about the countryside, much like we used to do when I lived at home as a little girl. We take a ferry over to the Sunshine Coast where we discover walking trails that calls out to us to explore.
As my father and I walk in the woods, we are surrounded by the silence of the land and echoes of the past.
The sounds of the city are muffled by the woods and it feels like I am transported back to another time, another world. The forests, timeless in nature, have a way of regenerating the spirit, lifting the soul, taking us on a journey where I discover I am both little girl and grown woman all wrapped up in one.
My father would take my sister and I out hiking in the woods. And as little girls are prone to do, we meandered about aimlessly, looking for hidden treasures and secret squirrel stashes. The inevitable bump and scrape would ensue and daddy was there to make it all better. Every hill we climbed we named as our own…$5 Dollar Mountain and Dead Rabbit Mountain to name a few…for the more obvious reasons, of course. I liked $5 Dollar Mountain best….I got $2.50 out of the deal.
I am thankful for this time I have with my dad.
Following this, my dad went in for his third and final surgery. He spent a week in the hospital recovering to confirm that he was out of danger and that the surgery was successful. He spent much of that time drugged up (which was I discovered the best time to play cribbage with him) or complaining about the hot pink slippers I bought for him to use while walking the hospital corridors.
Those pink slippers are famous now.
All my friends who come over to my place ask to wear my dad’s legendary pink slippers. Legendaddy slippers.
People still giggle about it…
So when it came time to leave the hospital, my dad stayed with me for the month to recover. I knew he was starting to feel better when he would slowly work his way off the couch and do the short little walk to English Bay. He’d sit on a bench for hours and hours to watch the ebb and flow of the tide, watching the seagulls at play under the warmth of the sun, making new best friends with anyone who accidentally strayed near him.
Rites of passage…
There comes a point in time in every child’s life when they realize their parent’s are not getting any younger – that they need help, that it’s their turn to be taken care of.
When little girls grow up to discover daddy has stopped holding their hand, roads diverging, and the little girl walks on alone, growing up. Years later, roads converging, the little girl holds her daddy’s hand…roles reversed.
The rites of passage. The changing of time.
And it wasn’t easy for me to see that this might be a foreshadowing of things to come in the future.
When the question of my parent’s mortality comes to mind, I try to squeeze it out of my brain, screaming inside…LA-LA-LA-LA-I’M NOT LISTENING…LA-LA-LA!!!!…as I try to frantically think of something else, fear seeping into my bones.
I remember as a little girl I would cry, afraid to think what would happen if my mommy or daddy were taken away from me. I would call to my mommy as I lay there sniffling in bed, telling her that I didn’t want her to die. I have NO IDEA what my mom thought about that.
But she would gently assure me that mommy and daddy weren’t going anywhere.
My worst fears were lived out by my mother a few weeks later, that very month.
A different dad had died…my mom’s daddy, my grandpa.
And it was time for my dad to go home.
While my dad was travelling home, my mom called to get instructions for his specialized diet plan.
I told her he was on a seafood diet.
Yes…he sees food and he eats it.
Five minutes later, she was still laughing, with tears in her eyes.
A better sort of tears, I suspect.
This was a different sort of adventure, I would say. It wasn’t one that I sought out. It wasn’t one that I wanted. And it certainly wasn’t all fun and games.
Not that I wouldn’t do it all over again. I would do anything for my family.
If anything, it was an unexpected adventure – one that involved the heart, the soul, and for me, the question of mortality.
It wasn’t until my dad’s close brush with death, did I realize exactly how lucky I was to have such a great family. My sister and I are lucky though…our parents are young and they are going to have to suffer for a long time with their daughters yelling out, “Are we there yet?”…torturing them endlessly.
We do what we can for them. 😀
Floating off onto another adventure…
Legend has it that under extreme and desperate circumstances, Eskimos would put their elders onto a floating iceberg and set them adrift to their death. The premise being that another world, a better world, would be there waiting on the other side for their arrival. But it was another time, another place…and who really knows what happened so long ago?
But knowing my dad, being a jack of all trades and collector of all sorts of weird and interesting stuff, he’d proudly walk out onto that berg with all his loot and go off on another daring adventure, collecting people as he went along, saying ‘Let’s see who can stay quietest, the longest.’
He’d lose, of course.
It’s shocking to wake up and discover that your parents are aging. Probably even more shocking when you look into the mirror and discover that you are too.
Without a doubt, coming to terms with an aging parent who needs your support and care can have you dealing with the question of your own mortality.
After all, it’s your turn next.
And as the adult child of your parent – are you willing to become the parent to your parent in later years?
I say yes.
But then that’s just my opinion.
– The world’s population is more than 7 billion and continues to grow by about 82 million people per year.
– In the last 50 years, the world’s population more than doubled from 3 billion to 6.8 billion.
– It’s predicted that the human population will double again in the next 50 years.
– Seniors are the fastest growing population worldwide. In 2000, just over 600 million people were over the age of 60. In 2050, this population is predicted to be almost 2 billion.
– The number of people aged 80 and older will quadruple between 2000 and 2050
– The main health issues for older people are: heart disease, strokes, lung disease, visual impairments, dementia, osteoarthritis and hearing loss.
– The creation of environments that are age-friendly allows for fuller lives and more active participation and independence
– In May 1963, JFK designated the month of May as Senior Citizen’s Month.
– Nearly 6 in 10 caregivers are women.
One last thing…there is an amazing story that makes me weep like a baby every single time I view it – check out Phillip Toledano’s ‘Day’s with My Father’ at www.dayswithmyfather.com for a visual story of father and son. So poignant, so wonderful.
© Monthly Adventure, Patricia Taylor, October 2008