April 15th 2011: “The reason why I am writing this is that I cannot understand why I am still alive and all these great people are dead. I really don’t want to live much longer. Why? Please don’t think that I want to do away with myself. I wouldn’t know how. But at the age of eighty-seven, what is left to live for? I check the computer each morning for incoming messages (very few) play three games of solitaire, then check to see what the Thinking Anglicans are doing..
This is an e-mail from my recently widowed father in the Maritimes, in which he reports the death of an old friend. What do I do with a message like this? We speak on the phone every few days, and the next time I call, I’m solicitous; “Dad, for the first time in your life you have no worries, no responsibilities, not even a dog. You have all the money you’ll ever need, why don’t you start enjoying yourself?”
“Because I’m bored to death” he says, and I can understand. I have been sending him Wikipedia entries on subjects of interest to him in lieu of real e-mails; container ships, pipe organs, submarines, jet fighters, fishing boats. All he ever uses his computer for is solitaire, and I tell him there’s so much Google has to offer. I think I may have taught him how to google subjects of interest and add the word “wiki” so he gets the Wikipedia entry; he is quite gob-smacked at the breadth of information Wikipedia offers.
We talk of the house, which is not selling very fast. “I don’t know if I want to live in a cramped little house in sweaty, muggy St. Catharines. Maybe I’d be better off in a village nearby, what are houses worth around there?” This is a new development. When the plan to move him into the bungalow in St. Catharines that youngest sister was renovating for him fell through, we had all assumed he’d live out his years in the Maritimes, entering an assisted living facility when the house finally sold. “Don’t tell youngest sister, though” he said.
What am I supposed to do with this? My wife says my father is a problem that can’t be solved. I love him, but I don’t like him very much. He’s manipulative, childish, arrogant, selfish, narcissistic, just like me in other words. I guess that’s why, of all the family, I’m his enabler, trying always to cover for him, make excuses for him and making sure he gets what he wants. My wife says I will keep enabling him, butting my head into the wall, and my father will continue to turn down solutions.
I want him in Niagara. I don’t travel well, and I don’t like the Maritimes. I want him an hour’s drive away, close enough to see him once a week, but not close enough to see him daily. I can’t make him make up his mind, though, and he’s stubborn. He knows when the house sells he’ll have to make some big decisions, and I can only hope that his need to be close to his kids will overcome his residual inertia. One thing is for certain; it won’t be a simple story.