Thursday, May 8, 2014

Looking back...

It's hard to imagine how my sister, my wife and I have gotten through the past 63 days.  Certainly there was an incredible network of support.  People like our cousin Jen - now going through her own challenges with her Mum, Johnny and Wendy who gave up so many of their infrequent days off together to haul shit (literally), dig through the disaster that was my father's paperwork, and prop Shelley and I up.   Jeff and Nory who moved mountains to take care of my Mum, visited her, fed her, hauled garbage from her home, supported us financially. But: More about all those peeps later.

- - - -

When I got to the house on the afternoon of March 6 in my rented Toyota Camry, Jeff and Nory were both there, and ready to take a break.  Hugs, and they were gone.  The body was gone.  Jeff and Nor had cleared off a ton of garbage from the house and deck.  There was snow everywhere. Snow, and stratified layers of Sandy-the-dog's poop, from where she'd been let out on the back deck to poop in the frozen wasteland, and let back in again.

It was cold.

The house was a wreck, but I knew that Jeff and Nory had been clearing dishes and crap off everything.  It looked a little better than it normally did.  Mum was in the living room speaking to her friends.  I kissed her on the forehead and sat down in the chair beside her.  Her friends took a look at my Mum and I together, made their respectful goodbyes, and took their leave.

We were alone.  I held her hand.  She cried.  We sat.  She looked around the room:

"It all means nothing.  Everything we've worked for. Everything we have.  It's all meaningless.  He's gone, and what am I going to do?  Where am I going to go?".

Sandy wuffed at my feed and wiggled her tail for a skritch.

I held Mum's hand some more. I couldn't cry.  I was so mad at my Dad.  So incredibly mad.

As she had been every time I'd seen her over the past two years, Mum was confused, and had clearly been drinking all day.  Cotton mouth, hard to understand. Tears.  No confusion that Dad was gone, but clearly no understanding about what lay ahead for her.  Dishevelled.  Unbathed. Dirty clothes.

We talked. I got some non-alcoholic liquid into her. Well, a few sips of gatorade.   I got her to bed, which was a struggle, gave her half a gravol for her nausea, and sat down to make a list.

This is a transcription of my first list:

  • Dad cremation
  • Dad autopsy (Calgary ME, who next?)
  • Dad service (location?  invitations? list?)
  • Wills (Break into Safe)
  • Finances: Bills paid? Bank account access?
  • SAIT: Teaching ... when?  Exams? Papers? Who to call...
  • Mum: In home care
At some points in the coming weeks, this list grew to over 200 items, and included things like: "Taxes - Mum, Taxes - Dad, Taxes - Dad's Business, Sell Cars, Pension and Old Age Security, Repair Well room roof, Prep Home for Sale, Pension, OAS, Death Benefit ..." and all those items turned into five items, which turned into ten more.  But that was still to come. 

In the mean time, I had a demented diva to deal with.  A lady that I loved, but who didn't know the peril she herself was in.   Barely knew the way to the bathroom in her own house.

Little did I know how much peril was facing my sister and I. 

I got a call this morning ....

March 6, 2014.

I was sick for two days. Woke up on Monday midnight with a fever and chills. Spent two days in bed. Scrolling documentaries on Netflix.

Thursday morning, the 6th, I got up feeling better.  It was my one month anniversary at a new job, and I was way behind on my duties.   I walked to work and let myself into the shared office space where my company, a little startup, had some desks. No-one else was in.  It was cold outside but the view to the North Shore mountains was gorgeous and clear. Snowcovered.

My phone rang and I saw that it was Nory W, my parent's neighbour.  It was 8:15 in the morning.   Nory called me now and again, maybe with a question about her iPad, or saying she was coming into town and did I want to get together.  But it was pretty rare. I answered.

She asked me if I'd heard from "the house".  Meaning: my parent's house.

No, I hadn't.

"Well", she said:  "I don't know how to say this, but Bob's gone. He's passed away."

Things got a little numb and foggy from there.  In the next two hours, I got a lot accomplished: First, I called my wife, called my sister, called my Dad's brother, called my Mum - who was confused of course, spoke to Nory's husband Jeff who was sitting with my Mum, spoke to the RCMP officer, called some of Dad's friends, booked a flight to Calgary, spoke Johnny and Diane and Don, and got on that flight.  Wrote a bunch of documents. Wifey had driven me to the airport in a fog.

All I could think about was: What the fuck are we going to do with Mum?

And then I arrived at the house. And it all began.