The passing of time could be as a blur if it weren’t for the moments that mark a beginning or an ending or perhaps a turning point in one’s life and among ones family members. Such an occasion came this past Wednesday for my father as his deteriorating health and inability to be on his own and take care of himself has quite suddenly forced him to leave his home of 55 years to join my mother in a nursing home – Fairview Lodge in Whitby. My mother, Margaret, has been at Fairview Lodge for 2½ years though she was diagnosed with Dementia fifteen years ago. My father was my mother’s sole caregiver for over eleven of those years and I’m sure that in part it took its toll on him. Once he recognized that he was no longer able to care for my mother himself and at home, the decision was made that she would have to go to a nursing care facility.
After one year in her former nursing home we managed to get my mother transferred to Fairview Lodge, an admittedly aging and worn out facility but with a tremendous reputation and staff to match who make all the difference in the world to people like my mother who are in need of 24/7 care. Fairview has been my mother’s home and it is soon to be replaced by the brand spanking new building now well into construction. And now my father has joined my mother there leaving behind the house they bought in 1959 and where they worked and lived and raised their seven children. My mind is flooded with memories of growing up at 904 Bayview Avenue in Whitby.
My father is glad that he’s going to Fairview both because my mother is there and because he knows he needs the care. He told me and my siblings at a family meeting recently that “it was like a load lifted off of my shoulders” when he got the news he was on the waiting list for nursing care. He won’t be driving any longer but will be free to come and go as he likes according to his health. It is heartening to know that my father doesn’t feel he’s been forced or even driven from his home like those who, sometimes as victims of their own family’s machinations, have been manoeuvered out of their lives, placed in a home, their houses sold and where they are largely left alone and forgotten. The poor among us can so often be the elderly and those who live out their last years without family or friends or peace.
The Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift wrote:
“No wise man ever wished to be younger.” It is true most especially for the believer who sees this mortal life as a journey toward a fulfillment that is not realized on the earth but in heaven, though it necessarily must begin here. My mother and father have always had a strong Catholic faith with an assurance of not only ‘where’ they were headed but to ‘Whom’. They did a good job of truly raising their children in the practice of the faith they held dear and laid a firm foundation of faith for their children to follow on their own and of their own choosing. No parents could ever do more for their children than to pass on their lived and precious faith.
(I searched throughout my pictures to find a photo of both of my parents together but could only find individual pictures of them holding my then pup, ‘Bear’ way back in 2005.)
Alas, time marches on for all of us and the standard by which we measure our own aging is most often in seeing our parents grow older and more frail and in seeing the younger generations push us along that slide rule of life by their own rapid maturing. I am reminded by my father’s present placing in Fairview Lodge on just how quickly one can go from independent living to the necessity of nursing care and in my father’s case it was just a mere matter of months. Life is precious and a gift from God.
My parents have lived busy, productive and meaningful lives and have passed on so much by their own living to those who have come to know them and know them still. That is a tremendous and lasting legacy in itself.
In the Book of Wisdom (4:7) it says:
For old age is not honoured for length of time,
or measured by number of years;
but understanding is gray hair for anyone,
and a blameless life is ripe old age.