This is the new shit! A line and title of a Marilyn Manson song, but the reality is that I have not written anything new in a few years now and thought it was time I did so and this will likely be a part of my next blog as well. A few things have changed since my last blog, which was the latest thing I wrote while living up in Fort McMurray, Alberta, primary one being that I am no longer living there. I am back home now, in Victoria, B.C. and am very happy to be back, but it has been a tough transition. It has been a year and a few months since I got back and it has been difficult, first having to deal with the death of my father, Robert, about a year ago now. It was nice to spend time with him after I got back and although I wish I could have spent more time with him he was greatly diminished since he had a major stroke the year before. I could see that the effects from the first stroke were major and from the several smaller strokes he had suffered before that first big one that left him on the floor where he had collapsed for at least a day and a half before my sister found him.
I have thought about that a lot since it happened and can only imagine how he must have felt, unable to move, smelling his own bodily functions that had let loose when he went down, no doubt leaving him plenty of time to wonder if that was it, whether he would be found alive. Leading up to that we all thought he was maybe losing his memory, maybe Alzheimer’s was kicking in, but both himself and the rest of us did not clue in that it might have been minor strokes causing his mental deterioration. Maybe he did know, or suspect, as he was a very intelligent man, but regardless of that, the damage was done and likely set the stage for his first major stroke. But Kim did find him and got him to the hospital, or called the ambulance at least and cleaned dad up a bit before and after they had taken him to the local hospital on Salt Spring Island, the Lady Minto. Being in Fort McMurray at the time I had to make arrangements to take some time off and drive back to Victoria a few days after, hoping that I would make it back in case he was on death’s door step.
He did have a recovery of sorts, and it was very painful to watch as he struggled to speak and understand what we were all saying. While in the hospital it was discovered that he had bleeding tumors in his bladder, which made treating the stroke with regular treatments difficult, as the blood thinners caused the tumors to bleed and without the blood thinners the likelihood of another stroke was quite real. The doctor wanted to try and stop the bleeding by going in through the urethra and cauterizing the bleeding tumors and after some family discussion on whether to go ahead with the operation we decided to try that. The first attempt was unsuccessful and a more difficult discussion ensued as to whether to try one more time, as the alternative was basically to let him die from the bleeding tumors, which would bleed more profusely if he was put on blood thinners to avoid another big stroke. We decided on one more attempt, which was successful, at least short term, enabling them to get him on to blood thinners once his body had recovered enough from the surgeries and the bleeding had stopped.
To find out that there was more than one tumor in his bladder was not good news, that the only real alternative was to remove his bladder altogether and hope the tumors had not spread beyond the bladder, a real possibility. At 85 years old that kind of radical surgery was just not something we wanted to put him through, hoping that he would have at least some recovery from the stroke and have a little more quality of life without a permanent catheter. The likeliest scenario was that either another stroke or some other complication would end him before the bladder cancer could take him out, so we focused instead and his recovery. I was on a schedule, however, so much sooner than I wanted to I had to drive back to Fort McMurray with Lorraine and the dogs, back to my job and my home there. It was one of the toughest decisions in my life and I wanted nothing more than to stay, take care of my dad and say to hell with Fort McMurray, my place, my things, my job. My father and mother, however, had ingrained in me the thinking that those things were important, that it was not a thing to throw away on a whim or desire, so back I went.
That set wheels in motion, however, and after one more cold Fort McMurray winter I had enough, was determined not to have one more winter in that place and prayed to God to help me get back home to Victoria. God answers prayers and in March of 2016 after some resumes were sent out I got the call from a firm in Victoria who offered me a job and plans went into action. It was fateful that decision, as three weeks after we left the entire city was evacuated and partially burnt down by “The Beast” in the following month, forcing evacuation of something like 60,000 people or more, the largest evacuation in Canadian history. We would have been among those evacuees had we not left when we did, truly a decision and result of active prayer and a little work on my part to pursue the move back to Victoria.
The decision was made easier by the fact that Lorraine, my wife of 26 years now, had been out of work for over 6 months, one of the longest periods in her adult life without a full-time job. The fact that the clock was ticking for my dad, who could lose his battle with bladder cancer or suffer another stroke anytime weighed heavily in the decision and my mother was also approaching 80 as well and having her own health issues. But timing is everything and I thank God for making things come to fruition when they did.
I came home to basically not having a place to live, (the house needed major renovations before I had a space to live in), to a job that paid barely enough to cover the bills and was happier than I had been in a long time just to be back home, with family. The next few months was full of renovations, family, a new job and was very busy, life seemed very good during that time. Dad had recovered from his stroke, but was obviously not 100%, still struggled with his speech and was very much in a diminished capacity to the man I had known. He had moved into a building that had some support for the elderly and he seemed to be doing well enough until one day he went down in the hallway of his building, victim of another stroke. Just previous to this it was discovered that his bladder tumors had started to bleed again and a decision had been made to take him off the blood thinners, as he had been getting anemic from the loss of blood.
We knew that the danger of another big stroke was increased as a result, but the alternative was him basically bleeding out. Another surgery to try and cauterize the tumors again was not something we wanted him to have to go through again, the two operations he had undergone the year before, or rather the recovery from those operations, had been very painful for him to go through and for us to watch. This second major stroke was his undoing, affecting the same area of his brain that had been damaged by the first major stroke and the prognosis was bleak. In the end, we decided on palliative care in the Salt Spring hospital so that he was close to family, with no extraordinary care to extend his life. He did not recover enough to speak, other than the odd word he tried to get out, including one clearly heard FUCK in frustration at what was going on with him. But his ability to eat was limited, even drinking was very difficult and giving him fluids through an intravenous was decided against. In retrospect should we have insisted on intravenous fluids to keep him alive and give him a chance to recover somewhat? The doctor said no, with the amount of brain damage from both strokes his chance of a meaningful recovery was very low. At 86, without enough fluids and food to sustain him it was just a matter of time, a few days I think, before the inevitable. Being confined to the bed, unable to move, not being able to eat or drink enough, his lungs began filling with fluid and his breathing became very labored over that last 48 hours. Sherri, Lorraine and I were with him in his room when he breathed his final, gasping breath, then he was gone. Lorraine said his mum and Moira’s spirit (his daughter who had passed the year before), were in the room with him in those final moments, to escort him to his place beside God in heaven, at least I hope and pray that is why they were there.
While his ashes we put under the Japanese Maple tree in mum’s garden, his spirit still comes to visit, so Lorraine says, and I think about him often. I think I really wanted to commit these events to paper, as I inherited his love of writing and reading, and this is the first time I think I have really taken time to give these events voice, as it were. Emotionally I still don’t know if I have truly processed my father’s death and maybe this is my way to do that now. I have had deep emotions about everything that has happened, but I don’t think I have really shared those emotions meaningfully, am not sure if I know how to do that. I have had a year now to deal with his death and that year has been very full, with work, with renovations, with a lot of stuff that takes a lot of my time and energy, so how do I know if I am finished dealing with this grief thing? I’m not sure, but this is a start I guess.