Caregiver's Diary: Moving My Father

Organ Player
My recently widowed 87 year old father put his house on the market shortly after my mother died last year, with a vague plan of selling it and moving to a bungalow my youngest sister owned in Niagara, close to most of his children.

He doesn’t like real estate agents. He doesn’t like showing the house. He doesn’t like getting out of the house when it’s being shown. He’s not a real estate person.

So, he listed the house on MLS for a flat fee, paid a fly-by-night outfit to put up a website and some photos and sat back, confident he would sell the house himself in no time. That was in 2010.

The bungalow in Niagara was eventually sold. Youngest sister went down to the Maritimes to help clear the house of everything my father wouldn’t be moving to Ontario. That had become rather a lot of stuff, because dad decided he didn’t want an apartment or a house, he wanted to move straight into assisted living where he’d have some company.

The boredom had been eating at him more and more, and soon it was the first thing we talked about in our regular phone conversations. I called him on Canada Day and found him all involved in watching the festivities from Parliament Hill, despite the fact he hated popular music. A few days ago, I phoned him again, and he was all busy watching the Calgary Stampede Parade. This from my father, an accomplished classical musician who rarely watched TV, and never mindless spectacle.

Not that he has nothing to do. He wakes up and has an egg for breakfast. He plays three games of computer solitaire. He drives down to the post office. That usually takes him to 11:30 AM, when it’s time for a glass of wine and a thought for lunch. After lunch, a nap. After that, three more games of solitaire and, what do you know? It’s time for a glass of wine. After that it gets hazy, may involve another nap, usually includes dinner around 6 PM and bed shortly after. Dad says he goes to bed in daylight in summer because there’s nothing to do.

Very occasionally, not nearly often enough, he fills in for the village organist or plays a funeral. Each funeral he plays, worth a hundred dollars in cash, is a treasure trove of purpose and activity in his life.

This is why we want to move him to Niagara. I’d get to see him at least once a month (though probably not more often) whereas diligent youngest sister could see him every day. We know he’ll rot if he’s not engaged mentally and socially. He needs to get out and play for people again like he used to – he’s never so composed and focused as when he’s performing.

I have had some success in getting him to reconsider not listing the house with an agent “If you keep trying to sell it yourself, you’ll be there for years”. “Yes”, he’d say “but they’re all crooks. Especially the one who came by with his girl the other day to talk me into listing. I think he already has a buyer”. “But Dad, that’s perfect! That’s what an agent does. Why don’t you list with him right away?”. “No”, he said “I don’t want to pay his damn commission. We lost money on the last house and I need to make it back”.