Saturday, 9 July 2016


Nearly two weeks ago, everything was going along smoothly. Writing was coming easily and I'd just had a visit with my Mom in Montreal, buying her fresh flowers for her balcony pots.  I'd done grocery shopping for our holiday at the cottage and the car was packed. I arrived up north and as I opened the old wooden door, I could hear the phone ringing. It was Jim who'd stayed home an extra day because of a cold. "Your Mom's had a fall and she's on her way to the hospital", he said.  My sister was away on holiday and her daughters were managing the crisis, thank goodness. My sister's three girls are not girls anymore - they are adults who know how to pitch in with my Mom.

Quickly, I made a plan. I decided to stay the night at the cottage and arrive at the hospital very early the next morning in order to take over the daily care with my Mom. I knew that too many people in the ER would confuse matters and I knew my nieces needed to work come Monday. I ended up staying with Mom morning till night for a week until I got a call from Ottawa that Nick was sick with the flu. He was vomiting and not tolerating his feeds. Luckily, my sister arrived home from holiday the day I left for home and Nick.

Nicholas is much better now and is back to his normal shenanigans. Mom is still in hospital and waiting for a convalescent bed. Nothing's broken, but she's still sore and weakened by her bedrest. Everything feels fairly calm again. I've just arrived back at the cottage with a plan to travel back and forth to Mom and Nick as needed. In the meantime, my sister is with Mom and Nick's with his carers.

I've been reflecting on the recent crises in our family. No one is seriously ill, but it felt like a crisis to me anyway. I dropped everything to be with my Mom and later with Nick. I thought of nothing else, but had trouble remembering details days later. Life felt extreme in the moment and blurry in the whole. I relished the slow time and open-ended conversation with my Mom. Yet going home from the hospital in the evening, I felt a sense of incompetence and failure wash over me. There was nothing I could do to prevent future falls.  When I received the message that Nick was ill, I felt badly that I wasn't with him. Love alone cannot mitigate the risks of frailty.

I've had to have a long chat with myself. I've had to accept that I cannot protect those I love most in life and I cannot be with them at all times. I've had to accept that there are no happy endings to old age and although love in the family helps, it won't change the final outcome.

Still, it felt good to drop everything, press pause on my life and surrender myself to people I love who needed me. I'm glad I can do it - I just wish I had superpowers to slow aging, prevent accidents and provide protection from illness. Maybe the lesson is that caregiving is about the doing, not the outcome.

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