The Year of Hard Things
Our recent trip to Texas was at the end of a long year for us. Not the calendar year necessarily, but our personal Year of Hard Things. Last Spring my father, in the final stage of Alzheimers began his final descent into the confusing world of extreme memory loss. My mother in spite of exhaustion persevered in his care-giving. Walking along side her was a wonderful caregiver who in the ice storms of 2018 fell and broke her arm, putting her out of commission for months. For ongoing weeks it seemed I was on the phone every single day arguing with caregiving management as to why my mother simply could not cope on her own even for one day and why someone had to come everyday. Incontinence, terror of falling water in the shower and the need for every daily task to be managed were simply too much for one person, and with the unpredictable weather and our own challenges, I was of no help in this area. At the same time, the health of Brian's mom who had been diagnosed with a chronic blood was taking an ominous turn, resulting in trips to Kelowna to provide support there as well as caregiver relief to Brian's sister who was doing all of the heavy lifting locally. Our plates that Spring, were very full.
The first of June I got a broken hearted call from my exhausted mother telling me she couldn't do this any longer and my father was taken by ambulance to hospital where he passed away in early August. My sisters were there during that time, otherwise I don't know how we would have managed both my father's final illness as well as my mother's exhaustion and journey forward without my father.
Shortly after that Brian's doctor booked him for surgery as an ominous growth had been detected after a routine colonoscopy. Fortunately they got to it in time, and it's pre-cancerous state meant that removal was all the treatment needed.
With Brian finally on the mend and mom slowly adjusting to life on her own, we left for a cruise and some time to regroup. Sadly Brian's mom was admitted to hospital as we were leaving and her blood disorder had morphed into full blown acute myeloid leukaemia. Brian raced against the clock to get to her before she died and arrived 24 hours before she passed. I spent Christmas alone at home handling responsibilities there (with the severe weather and other complicating factors, there was no way to get to my mom for Christmas) while Brian worked along side his sister, finding a care home for his dad who is also suffering from profound dementia. We weren't sure when he (Brian) would be home. It was not an easy winter. Storms swirled both physical and metaphorical this winter.
As joint executor with his sister, Brian went back to Kelowna once with me and now on his own to help wrap up the selling of the home and dispersing their artifacts of life as well as attending a Celebration of Life in his mom's honour. Hard times indeed. Once again I found myself far away during a difficult time, but close in heart to all concerned.
Brian, with daughter Chantal, is finally on his way home, driving, in his mom's beloved 1992 Buick Station Wagon - her golf mobile . These are his sister's words during her beautifully written tribute to her mom :
Mom was famous for, and loved her Woody Wagon. She would pack it up to come to the lake, and then pack it full of apples to bring home for all her friends in Calgary when we went home after the summer. She loved to take it and load up her golf clubs and pick up her friend Joyce to go golfing with the girls. On one occasion my car was in for service and I had to take Travis to a hockey tournament in Osoyoos so Mom let me borrow Woody. He and his little buddy were in the seats that are in the rear of the car that face backwards. As I was coming to McDonalds in Summerland, I yelled to the back “are you guys hungry? Do you want to go to McDonalds?” … they hadn't responded immediately so I said, “uh … too late, we just passed it”. Travis replied with … “well we haven't back here”. Mom loved to tell that story. Mom would be so tickled to know that Woody is staying in the family and making her last cross country adventure. Brian and his daughter Chantal are driving it all the way back to New Brunswick where Woody will have her new home."
The storms have certainly swirled around us these last 12 months. Very little time to think or reflect, let alone write about it. But we are slowly starting to do a normal (whatever that is) life again and I am starting to add my thoughts to Creating Moments of Joy after a long absence. Our Storm Trees and their attached message are still in production and will be available at Epilogue Studio and Gallery in Browns Flat for the foreseeable future. If you are not familiar with them, you can read about them here. I think we needed a whole forest full this year!
When Brian's sister, a newly minted Gramma with two sweet grand babies, tearfully asked her mother what she would ever do without her, her mom gently replied, "your babies will help." And life continues on.
Dorothy Ruth McMillan, my dear mother in law passed away in December 18, 2018 and was honoured at a celebration of life in Kelowna BC, April 2019. She will be greatly missed by all of her family.