gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Monday, February 8, 2016

the opera singer.

my old dad was totally lucid well into his nineties. he read 'the globe and mail' religiously every day even though it'd take him several hours. he could talk on any subject intelligently. dad was certainly not liberal in his thinking, but he was sharp as a whip. his problem was not his mind. it was his body.

at ninety-three, old dad still took care of his investment portfolio himself even though he could barely see. one day i heard him swearing like a drunken sailor at his computer. he had wanted to sell some stocks but had pushed the wrong button. he mistakenly bought more of the very stocks he had wanted to off-load. of course i found that incredibly funny so he hollered at me to leave him the hell alone. loosely translated that meant it was time to take him to tim hortons.

once we were seated at tims with our coffees, dad proceeded to rail against everyone at his retirement home. i eventually remarked: "you know what your problem is?" "no," he said suspiciously. "what's my problem?" "your problem is you're not senile." "what the heck does that mean?," he barked. "well," i continued. "if you could just get a little dimentia happening these things wouldn't bother you so much." he looked up from his double/double and said: "oh you just think you're so clever."

a day finally arrived when it was time to shift dad to a full-care facility. during the first week there he became quite depressed. he complained that there was nobody he could talk to. he said his spirits fell to his ankles every day and "my ankles were swollen enough already." meals were the worst times, he insisted, so i went along to see for myself. nobody at his table could talk except one lady who made no sense and a man who belted out opera terribly at the top of his lungs. my dad loved opera and hated that man. one other old man actually drooled. the nurses sat in chairs on wheels. they'd roll from one table to another and then another feeding each person a few bites in turn. needless to say, i certainly understood dad's feelings. all i could do was sympathize.

although i talked to him every day, it was a full three weeks before i could get back to toronto. i tried to prepare myself for what was sure to be a horrible visit. of course i immediately took dad out to tims and listened to all his complaints. that, at least, had not changed. later, i accompanied him to the dining hall. the drooler was already in his seat, leaning precariously to one side. dad shifted him a bit upright. "that's morris," he told me. "he's an aushcwitz survivor." dad pointed to the babbling lady and, with a wry smile, told me that "sometimes she makes sense." the opera singer shuffled in and, to my tremendous surprise, dad stood up to greet him. then with arms draped over each others shoulders, standing behind their chairs, they belted out an aria together at the top of their lungs.

food was not served until my dad and his friend had finished. people clapped, they sat down and then food began to come. apparently, it had become the routine. i patted old dad on his back and said: "i thought you hated the guy?" he shrugged and, without looking up from his plate, he said: "if you can't beat 'em join 'em." 

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