NOT Happily Ever After

Some stories have decidedly sad endings.  Such is life, they say.  But it is so hard to understand when the persons involved have done nothing whatsoever to deserve a ‘sad ending’, a less than justifiable conclusion to the lives of sweet people.  This is the case of Richard, Pauline and Matt.

Richard, aka Dick, died several months ago from lung cancer.  As has happened so many times in my life, stress plus biological risk factors will bring on cancer every time.  In Dick’s case, he was a life long smoker, so small cell lung cancer should not be a surprise!  However, it seemed to ‘come out of the blue’, as his diagnosis at age 77 was a surprise to all.  Why?  Dick was not the frail one in the family, he was always the caregiver!

Dick spent his life caring for Matt, his son, as well as managing a high power career with an oil company.  Matt became a quadriplegic in his early 20’s in a near drowning accident.  His parents have always kept him at home with them, spurning the idea of a nursing home from the beginning.  Dick’s wife Pauline helped as much as she could, but she was always ‘delicate’, especially after the trauma of Matt’s accident.  They lost their elder son several years ago al well, also from cancer.

When Matt came home from the hospital after his accident, his parents also brought in a caregiver.  Since he was a solid muscular man, he was more than his parents could physically handle.  Moving him from his wheelchair involved using a lift, as did getting him in and out of bed, or wherever else he needed to move.  There has been a series of caregivers over the years., but Dick was still a large part of the physical care of his son.

Since Dick’s passing, many neighbors have circled around Pauline and Matt, providing meals, cookies, muffins, etc., hoping to help with her first few months of widowhood.  When my mother in law Anna came for a visit shortly after Dick died, we visited Pauline, and sat at the patio table on her front porch, enjoying coffee, cookies and chitchat.  She was still shaky from the turmoil of his illness and passing, and the lengthy funeral process.  I had seen her out on her beloved porch a couple of times since then, but only momentarily.

The following week, everything came to a screeching halt.  The familiar sirens of the nearby fire station were never really a cause for alarm, since they almost always were destined for the nursing home at the end of this street.  This time, however, they stopped closer by.  Our next door neighbor Simon was out in his yard, and witnessed Pauline come out on the porch, and fall.  She gashed her head, so Simon called 911.  Paramedics were able to staunch the blood from her injury well enough that trip to the hospital wasn’t lights and sirens.  Her daughter Mary, having been alerted by Simon,  accompanied her.

In the emergency ward, CAT scans were immediately ordered.  She had blood on her brain, so would have to stay in hospital until that cleared up.  Her stay in hospital went on for a week, during which time she showed signs of mental decline.  As Anna explained to me, head injuries can cause a temporary ‘brain fog’, which can masquerade as dementia.  Unfortunately, Mary may not know this.  I can only hope that Pauline’s doctors do!

Meanwhile, both Pauline AND Matt have been placed in rehab unit that provides long term care.  Dick had gone their when he broke his hip last year, and was most impressed with the care her received there.  Obviously, he had pre arranged it for both his wife and son to enter there, should they need it.  And with Dick gone, they DO need it!

The last I heard from our neighbourhood spokes lady, Barb, Matt is actually quite happy there!  He has come out of his silent shell, and is participating in group physiotherapy sessions!  I think of all the years that he spent at home, plunked in front of the TV, watching ancient sitcoms.  For him, this may have been the best change ever!  Perhaps there was more going on in his head than was obvious to the rest of the world,  Perhaps he was dreadfully bored, and lonely!

As for Pauline, we have been asked NOT to visit her, until further notice.  Mary is concerned that seeing any of the neighbors could cause her to mourn for her house, and her life here.  Matt’s latest caregiver, Anthony, who is also a friend of the family, was asked to move into the house temporarily, since insurance companies don’t insure empty houses.

Longer term?  At this point, we don’t know.  When life settles down a bit, Mary has a HUGE job to do, clearing out everyone’s clothes, plus kitchen contents, bathroom contents, furniture, etc.  Leaving it as is, they could easily rent it out, and get four thousand dollars per month.  They could put it on the market, and sell it as is, for about half a million, or a bit more.  I’m glad to be in the audience in this production, and not part of the cast.

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