A dinner I will always remember…

I now have thousands of digital photos. I have selected the “best” of them to post on my Flickr site or use as a screen saver but most of them remain poorly catalogued on my computer’s hard drive.

Every once in a while I get searching for one that I remember from years past and in the process end up scanning others that bring back memories.

I took this photo in 2001 in the kitchen of my ageing parents when I went for dinner one autumn evening not too long before they moved from their house into a senior’s apartment.  My mom was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s disease and my Dad’s vision was failing badly.  They actually helped each other. Mom could read signs and labels and mail and Dad could then process information in a way that my Mom could not.  Symbiosis.after dinner drinks

Before dinner, Dad offered me a glass of wine.  He asked if I would like white or red and I responded that I would prefer red. He went over to the kitchen counter and fiddled for a few minutes with bottles and glasses, soon returning to me with an absolutely empty wine glass.  He looked at it and then said ” I guess I poured you white by mistake”.  Judging what you are pouring and into what are a challenge when you are visually handicapped.

Dad then headed out to the back yard with matches and some barbecue lighter fluid to start the barbecue. I offered to help but he discouraged me, saying he could do just fine himself. I crossed my fingers that the poof as the barbecue flamed up would not cause third degree burns.  Five minutes passed and no charred father returned so that, apparently, went OK. The meat did not fare as well.

About 20 minutes later Dad arrived back into the kitchen with three little black nuggets that were the remains of the M&M’s filet mignon he had “cooked”.  Mom, in the meantime, had burned some frozen peas and carrots onto the bottom of a saucepan on the kitchen stove and was, for the third time, reheating buns in the microwave.

The meal was … memorable.

Mom was disgusted with the quality of the meat and was convinced they should take the rest of the package back to the store for a refund.   I discouraged that, knowing that the flames shooting up from the barbecue with a visually impaired cook was more the problem.

After dinner – there would certainly be dessert and tea – Dad asked if I would like some Port. I declined but he got out a bottle and poured a glass for himself as Mom looked on. He had a bit of trouble knowing when the glass was full. Then there was the problem of picking this overflowing glass up with a hand that has a bit of tremor.  As you can see, he found a solution.

My parents both enjoyed a great sense of humour. We all ended up laughing, along with  Betty Boop and Jean Chretien who are looking back from the fridge door.

Mom has since passed away. Her Alzheimer’s disease gradually robbed her of all recollection and significant interaction. A sad decline for someone who was very social. Here is another blog page I wrote about Mom last fall. http://wp.me/p2wvIq-i7

Dad has become more handicapped with his vision but still goes strong at 93. Earlier this year he upgraded to a faster internet connection so he could join “the Facebook”.  This is proving to be a challenge, though, as he has problems seeing posts and navigating on his 25x expanded desktop screen where the mouse arrow is often nowhere to be found.

In August, he is heading to the East Coast with my daughter and two of his great-grandchildren for a beach holiday.  And likely a gin and tonic or two.  More memories in the making, no doubt.

Time marches on…and so will I.

Today I celebrate my 65th birthday. Initially I put “turn” 65 but realized that this not only sounds like a child talking (“I’m five, turning six in August.”) but also the “turning” word signfies a change. Leaves “turn” brown and fall off the trees in the autumn. The weather “turns” colder. To every thing, there is a season.

I am really no different than I was yesterday. I haven’t “turned” at all.

This is the summer that I “turned” six. With my little brother, Bob.

For some reason there are certain birthdays that carry significance more than others. I remember “turning” 16 and being able to get my beginners driver’s license. It was a big deal. I felt like I had grown up. Little did I know. But it was a birthday to be anticipated with some excitement as it carried with it promises of increased rewards. Growth. Expansion. Benefits.

In a similar way, I recall being 21 and going to a bar and being able to legally order an alcoholic drink, actually hoping that someone would check my I.D.

I had no trouble with 40, 50 or even 60. I felt that these markers were middle-age and also had some benefits. Maturity, some financial security, established friendships and professional life and a certain degree of autonomy that only comes as you age.

There are some benefits, to being 65, I guess, but they seem to be overshadowed by the hovering grim reaper. I will save $1 when I go to the Screening Room for a movie. I will legally qualify for seniors discounts at several places. When I go to a Denny’s I can officially order the seniors meal – smaller, less salt, less fat, less everything. I hope they don’t offer me crayons. I rarely go to Denny’s so this won’t help me much.

I got to apply for the Old Age Security benefits – yes, Old Age. They will all be all clawed back so it makes me wonder if this is some sort of pretend advantage to ageing. I told someone this week that it was a bit like a dream. I am not “old”. When you apply for the Old Age Security the envelope you send the application in has “Old Age” printed on the front in big letters. A “rub-it-in” I thought. Or maybe they are trying to get people not to apply.

I got a couple of birthday cards this week – and some had the traditional “too many candles to blow out” message. That is just fine with me. I do have a sense of humour and can take some gentle ribbing about my advancing age. But I also got a card from the university saying that because I had reached 65 my dental insurance coverage would be cancelled at the end of this month. Happy Birthday. Gum your way into senility. Or maybe the plan was set up expecting most people over 65 to have long since lost their teeth. Whatever. It was a bit of a punishment for reaching this age.

Having said all this, I also recognize that I am very fortunate. I have good health, am able to play squash with people 20 years younger than I am, still can remember lines and do Shakespeare (or as in the Coarse Acting play I was just in, pseudo-Shakespeare). I have the flexibility to continue to work, but at my own pace, travel to visit friends when I want and enjoy visits (including a birthday dinner tonight) with my family which extends from my 92 year old Dad (what must that be like?) to my youngest of 5 grandchildren checking in at 1.

I will get over this psychological hump – probably by tomorrow – and settle in to my new age, recognizing that it is only a number and that I am no different than I was last week. A little older, a very little bit wiser and able to unabashedly get senior rates at Shopper’s Drug Mart on Thursdays!

Spring 2012 – Tofino B.C.