The Early Morning Phone Call

I was awaken this morning at 4:45AM by a phone call. I am use to wake up calls. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I receive morning homecare, supposedly, to assist me out of bed. At least that is what the Alberta government, Integrated Home Care – Seniors Care would have you believe. An aide arrives, different times every day except Monday and Wednesday. My aide, Kazel, is very punctual so I can count on her regularly to buzz my condo at exactly 6:50AM. Part of the condo security system is the front door buzzer system. Tuesday is a different time but usually by 7:30, Thursday usually by 8AM and Friday by 8:30AM at the latest. Different aides on all three days. However I have grown accustom to that morning call. Saturday and Sunday I do it on my own.

As an aging polio survivor I could do this everyday (there are times when I am already up before the morning aide arrives) but I always call the private contracting care company to cancel the aide. The issue there is that they don’t always contact the aide who then, unexpectedly, arrives. However, to receive four hours of “light housekeeping” (something that is really not defined) a month, provincial regulations require me to be receiving home care service. Anyway, it is not that the government is short on funds but rely on an abundance of needless regulations. It is a convenience having someone slip my clothes on me in the morning but it is not a necessity. However, with over 60 years experience living with the results of polio while dealing with a health system that has evolved into a policy based service rather than a health delivery system.

This is the weekend so I wasn’t expecting any homecare. My phone ringing at 4:45AM startled me while getting my imagination all revved up. I,. like other baby-boomers, am aging. Many like to deny it but we have reached that point in our lives when we attend more funerals than weddings (and when they are weddings they are traditionally a wedding for the grandchild of a friend). We are aging, denial or not.

For the past six months we have been on my mothers death watch. She is now 95 and has been declining rapidly in an extended care centre in Kelowna. With six siblings spread across Canada none of us are in Kelowna however, two siblings in particular, make regular trips to Kelowna to spend some time with mom. Whenever one of them is there they do a family roll call to arrange “Facetime” calls with mom. I spoke with her (or to her, the cognition is very limited these days) the past Tuesday and witnessed just how much she has declined. Although I love my mother and she was always there for me as I was growing up in the hospital. I want to remember that vibrant, energetic women who dedicated the best years of her life to a family of six kids. To see that withered, none communicative person I saw on Facetime is not the way I want to remember the loving person who took the effort to ensure everyone of us kids had the best she was able to give.

A 15 year old picture of my mother in her more vibrant days with my son, Sean enjoying a smile with grandma
My mother and my son, Sean about fifteen years ago.

She is now in a palliative care room and, based on information from my brother, hasn’t eaten in over a week. She does have an IV for fluid and medication intake but is now rapidly fading. So, when my phone woke me at 4:45AM, the first thought through my head was the potential for the dreaded news but also, the compassion of release. There is absolutely no dignity in her current situation so death would be a blessing, a reality that a generation living in denial is having to deal with more and more.

Turns out it was probably some telemarketer since, when I answered, there was no response and my “recent call” list showed a number from New Jersey. Getting my day started with a shot of panic induced adrenaline. So let the weekend begin and the death watch continues…the realities of the “circle of life”.



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