Something Important Happened 3
[Continued from here. All articles in this series will be archived here]
The building was still under construction when we took the tour, and it was just as under construction when you moved in. The inside was done, if sparsely decorated, but the gardens outside were unfinished. It was in an ex-industrial area of Scarborough. One of the neighbouring lots was a vast tract of under-construction townhomes. Another was an empty field apparently undergoing decontamination.
Pretty soon my mom had your room looking great, full of photos and paintings.
We had to buy you a wheelchair. It was an expensive, elaborate thing. You were permanently diapered, despite being continent when you were admitted. You could control your bowels and bladder but it could be a lot of effort getting you to the toilet and back because you were unstable on your feet.
Everyone on your floor was in a wheelchair. We began to wonder about that. My mom got in the habit of coming to see you every day around 3, and when she got there you’d be dying to take a leak. A lot of your fellow residents were always asking to be taken to the bathroom. The caregivers couldn’t seem to keep up. Dinners were theoretically at 5, but often it was 6 or 6:30 before you were served. There didn’t seem to be enough staff.
Months went by and the gardens outside were still ‘under construction.’ Ministry of Health officials were seen now and then, apparently evaluating the facility. You had a fall, but no big injuries. We asked about the toileting schedule. Apparently once every four hours was plenty. We objected. It was not until your daughter Heather, a doctor, visited that we got this reduced to two hours. They put a sign over your bed detailing this. No one seemed to notice. There was a high turnover rate in caregivers. We knew from talking to them that they were brutally overworked by the management. There were one or two amazing caregivers, and when they were on duty, my mom didn’t feel she had to be there as much. But they tended to quit before long.
I told you I had bought a house, and you asked, “does it have umps and muffles?”
Later you asked where my clothes were and I responded, I’m wearing them.
“No,” you clarified, “when do you close?”
Moments like that I would feel proud and elated that I had caught a glimpse of you. That beautiful smile of yours, that smile we can see in all your photos when you are looking at one of your children. That smile was still around.
I wondered what you thought about, how it felt to be you. I was pretty sure you could hear what I was saying, but your words came out all wrong. Did you know they were wrong, or did they sound right to you? We would always try and take you for a walk, but sometimes you would have trouble because the tiles on the floor seemed like rocks over a precipice. You would step gingerly from one black tile to the next.
When you were in bad shape, you simply slept, hunched forward in your wheelchair, drooling. If we weren’t there, we knew no one would wipe the spit away for hours.
That July, we celebrated your birthday. My other sister Alyssa was visiting with her kids. We booked the special room at the nursing home, and had a big meal, and cake. You seemed happy, despite everything.