Caregiver’s Diary: Travel Plans

My widowed 88 year old father recently sent one of his “Letters from Serenity Towers” to the family. In it he talked fondly of traveling, and mentioned two trips he thought he might like to take – one out west to the Rocky Mountains where oldest brother and younger sister live. The second trip that interested him was to St John’s. Serenity Towers has a sister-residence there, and residents of the chain get to stay free in any one of them.

He mentioned in his missive that youngest sister, his constant helper and caregiver, could accompany him. They would use wheelchairs in airports and porters to carry bags. They would rent a car and tour the Avalon Peninsula. The residence was in Torbay, where my mother had been stationed in the war, and he wanted to go for old memories’ and her sake.

The trip out west would be a little more complicated. Pearson to Denver, and then a feeder airline to the remote corner of the high plains where the rest of my family lives. Long 4X4 drives, whoop-up and kick-ass, and lots to drink. Youngest sister was also going to accompany him on this venture. It would be the last of many trips to the mountains, and one last chance for dad to see his other two children in their native habitat.

This got me all excited. Maybe the lure of spring really had livened up dad and shed some of the years and feebleness from him. I went online and checked prices. From the Island Airport to St John’s was just $300 return, cheap at twice the price. A car was available. Serenity Towers’ sister place had guest suites for my wife and I. She loved St John’s and I had only been once, and had the time of my life. Early May was free, there would be icebergs, and the flowers would be out. Maybe whales!

I don’t travel anymore, really. The business of flying commercially has become so humiliating, it’s not worth the damage to my self-esteem. I will take short-hops in Canada, but I won’t cross the US border anymore, just out of pique. I could take a trip to St John’s, and the flight from the Island Airport is very convenient. I wasn’t up to the western trip, though.

Dad, on the other hand, is extremely well-traveled. As a pipe organ consultant, he traveled the world in the 60s and 70s. When he retired, he and mother traveled even more, visiting all 7 continents (more than once), touring Easter Island and Antarctica. He knows every airport in the world (or used to), and has no problem getting through them. He’s an enthusiastic cruiser, and has seen ports of call around the world. Going to St John’s with him might be an effort for me, but it would be a breeze for him.

I called him to propose a trip in early May. He wasn’t there, so I left a message. I described my plans for flying from the Island Airport, where I had free parking. I said we’d rent a car and drive around the Avalon Peninsula, maybe go on a whale watch cruise.

Two days later, I got a call I wasn’t able to pick up (I was in a meeting). I checked my messages later, and it was Dad. “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t get your message until now. I’m sorry, but I can’t go to Newfoundland with you, I’m too crocked up. I can barely get from the bedroom to the living room, l and I can’t really walk any more. I’m afraid I’m not good for anything anymore. You’ll have to go on your own”.

He sounded so frail, so resigned, the spark we had seen a week ago seemed to have been dampened. I really did want to go on one last trip with my father, as troublesome as that would have been (we always fight). It was clear he’d been dreaming out loud about traveling.

Well, the westerners are coming to Toronto to see dad, and it might be the last time they see him. He’s got all his marbles, takes no medication and doesn’t have anything wrong with him, but he’s just wearing out.

I guess the longest trips I’ll be taking with him is to the family restaurant on the corner for lunch, and I’ll keep taking that trip for as long as he’s around.