Caregiver’s Diary: A Grand Affair


At the end of our last installment, youngest sister was about to visit our 88 year old widowed father to tell him that no real estate agent would list his now empty home in the Maritimes for what he was asking, and he’d have to drop his price by at least 20% to have any hope of selling.


This sounds like a logical conclusion, given the state of the market in the Maritimes and the relative age and condition of his house. It was built well in the 70s but has never been updated, and definitely needs work.


However we’ve discovered the very old get weird ideas about real estate. In my father’s case, he wanted only people of good breeding to buy the house, preferably someone with an aged parent who could use the Acorn stairlift we’d installed. We told him the stairlift should go, be sold for junk, no one wants one in their house, but to him, it just added to the immeasurable value of his fine house.


Youngest sister thinks, now that he’s in an assisted living residence, with everything taken care of for him, the house is the only thing he can worry about and call his own, and he doesn’t want to give that up. He’s convinced the house is worth far more than it is, that all realtors are crooks and that there’s a nice middle-class family out there just waiting to buy it.


Well, youngest sister dropped over to Serenity Towers at the end of her run and sat down with Dad. It didn’t go well. He accused her of being in cahoots with realtor. He accused her of being after his money. He accused her of wanting the house for herself. He made no sense. Youngest sister stormed out and left him, afraid she’s say something she’d regret.


Later that day she sent him a very firm note, which she shared with us. He must never behave like that to her again, or she would dump him flat, no more visits, no more banking, no more caregiving. She explained that he (and she) was spending about $1300 a month on insurance, snow removal and lawn cutting, keeping animals out, heating, water and twice weekly visits to keep the insurance up. She explained that this monthly drain was whittling away at the value of the house he so treasured and wanted to leave to his kids. If he wanted to leave them anything, he had to sell and sell now!


Fortunately, a solution of sorts presented itself. Kathie Rose, my parents’ caregiver before my mother died, was being kicked out of her flat with her teenage son. She could rent dad’s house and keep it up, and take care of most of the expenses, at least until it sold (not until after Dad dies, at this rate). Kathie Rose liked the idea, and Dad was surprisingly amenable to it. We think it allowed him to put off the decision on what to do with the house, and that’s all he wanted.


With that cleared up, it was time to party! Oldest brother and his wife came east from the mountains for a weekend, to go to a school reunion and visit dad. We drove down to Niagara in convoy, oldest brother, youngest brother and me in one car and our wives in another (smoking) and spilled out at youngest sister’s new house. We had wine and cheesies and all bundled in our cars for the ride over to Serenity Towers. Dad had all of us to his room, and we took a group family photo (with youngest sister holding older sister’s portrait, because she wasn’t there). I had a twinge as we took the group shot. Would it be the last with my father in it?


We all bundled in the elevator and down to the private dining room beside the swimming poll. There were 14 of us. Our family, my mother’s sister (also in her 80s) with her children and some grandchildren scooting around, as wll as youngest sister’s wife’s children, all in university taking their MAs. A big happy crowd.


We had steak (very small, and tender as the night, special for old teeth) and Dad was at pains to remind everyone they didn’t have to order the full portion, he often ordered a half portion. We looked at the plates and all ordered double portions. We brought our own wine and it went fast. We took endless pictures. Cousins who hadn’t seen each other since my mother’s memorial caught up with each other.


Dad was in his element. Once again, just like old times in farmhouses across North America, he sat at the head of a full table, presiding over loud conversation and laughter. No matter that he couldn’t hear a thing, he was supremely happy.