Tuesday, February 2, 2016

X-Files 4 of 4 - Night time spirits come alive

A part of me always knew I would play an integral role in the support for my parents during the last years of their lives. It was logical. I was their only unattached child, and a female to boot. I had no clear/successful career nor dependents. But, in my heart I knew the reason was far deeper than this. 

Perhaps that's why I fled to the west coast in my early twenties. There, free from my past, in my spiritual home, I met myself. I stretched my wings, had my flings, immersed myself in the study of yoga and lived a bohemian artist's life before a coincidental stroke of fate lured me back to Ontario.
(NOTE: I got married within a year of returning to Ontario but all the other conditions mentioned above applied, plus I lived near by.)

I was shocked to find that my years of dedicated yoga practice hadn't prepared me in any way shape or form to handle many of our parents' needs as their health and abilities declined, nor the waves of emotion that swamp a family doing their best to keep afloat. Yoga was my sanctuary, my home and safe place where I licked my wounds, dipped into source and filled myself up, celebrated life and expressed gratitude. But their journey made me confront myself and the question - what is the point of yoga if you can't take it off the mat and into the world. This is the stage of the yoga of the householder - it was bound to catch up with me sooner or later.

My parents' quirky personalities and way of looking at life was deeply challenging and heart warming. Their great sense of humour got us through a lot.

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“Dad, don’t try and think so hard. Just go through the motions and I’ll double check it against the instructions on the bottles. You’ve been doing this without thinking for years, your body has a memory. It will know what to do. Arrange the bottles in the way they normally would be and start from there.” Sorting through b.i.d.’s and t.i.d.’s the before, during and after meal notations of prescription lingo on each container, together we walked our way through our task. Unable to offer any assistance, Mom stood aside. I briefly turned to check on her. A cloud passed over her face; helplessness shifting into sorrow. She knew this was yet one more task, falling out of his hands.
A few fact finding trips to his pharmacy and doctor’s office followed. Asking for, or demanding, access to his files didn't achieve the desired outcome. Only when I was reduced to pathetic pleading, were they surrendered to me.
Foolish me, I logically assumed some kind of summary list of all his medications would exist. Instead, my search yielded scraps of photocopies of prescription notes written in the virtually illegible, professional M.D. scrawl. The end result was the master list drawn by my own hand complete with descriptions and illustration, the one that I worked from tonight.
A week’s worth, twelve varieties of life sustaining pills and capsules of every colour and description get sorted into their appropriate compartments - breakfast, noon, dinner, bedtime pills; pills for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diuretics, heart and thyroid medications, laxatives ... the list seems endless.
“Eighty ... eighty-one …” the rocking has slowed down, his enthusiasm wains. He merely taps of the heel of his hand against the top of the chair now.
“Geeze Edie you’re getting heavy.”
“Well, I weigh the same as when we began,” she comments innocently.
“I know that. I’m the one exerting all the effort. I should be losing weight.” Pausing for a few minutes, he leans over bracing himself with hands on top of his thigh as he catches his breath.
Newly revived, he hits the chair with determination, “O.K., now where were we?”
“You’ve got me.”
“Geezus Christ. I’m counting on you.”
“Then you’re in trouble aren’t you,” she jokes. He looks at her silently grinning, with laughter in his eyes.
I look at my watch. More than five minutes have passed from when they started counting. “118,” I yell.
“What?” he shouts. Then quietly he asks Mom, “who’s that?”
“Nance. Nance is in the kitchen.” she replies.
“Oh, yes I forgot.” he taps his head. “Nanca!?” he exclaims with delight.
“Dad!?” I return in kind. “You’re at 118."
There's a pause.
He hasn't quite heard. “She says 118.” Mom informs him with authority.
“Well, O.K. then.” he slaps the chair again. His strength returned, he resumes the last few victorious pushes as they count together, “118 ... 119 ... 120 ...” adding a push of exclamation on the last number.
“Hallelujah!” he rejoices, throwing his arms up victoriously.
“Amen!” she adds with equal enthusiasm. 
“Now let’s get these other goddam drops in before my goddam arms fall off.”
By the time my mission is accomplished, all has been reduced to silence. I place the plastic medicine bottles back into the box which I return to its hiding place, leaving the docette in full view in its usual location on the counter.
Standing at the foot of the 3 stairs that rise into the family room, I smile as I gaze at the flickering images of my parents bathed in a faded cool blue set against a backdrop of darkness, momentarily resting their eyes. And I marvel at these strange nocturnal creatures who prefer to stay up all night with the owls rather than soar with the eagles in the morning. My eyes grow wide as I realize this is one more confirmation that I am indeed their progeny. Who knew? Who? That nighttime lifts their spirits so and makes them come alive. Two childlike, giggling creatures emerged from the depths of elderly bodies. And I can’t help chuckling. I resolve to return to the nest in the dark of night more often. God knows I need the lift.
I sneak out and in leaving turn on a trail of lights in order to illuminate their 2:30 a.m. bedtime migration.
            *          *          *
“Om ... Om ...” now subdued I turn down the volume on the tape deck and ease up the driveway and down the road as waves of chants carry me home on a freshly rain washed, starry night.