January 12, 2011

Try not to worry about things that might happen

As published in The Erin Advocate

I had a good time at the Mayor's Levee on New Year's Day, skating at Centre 2000. It was a nice family event, with little kids learning to skate, budding hockey tykes showing off their skills, parents chatting while keeping an eye on their broods and old folks proving that they can still get around on the ice.

A "levee" can mean any sort of reception, but it was originally an assembly of men hosted by the British monarch. Mayor Lou Maieron was on duty to greet the masses, and showed a good example by wearing a helmet, instead of a crown.

I've been skating on Monday mornings at the arena this winter, and I've taken to wearing a helmet as well, after a friend of mine fell and suffered a serious head injury. After a year, she is still struggling to make a full recovery.

My caution was reinforced at the levee when I saw a gentleman stumble and crash head-first into the boards. He ended up with a cut over his eye that took four stitches to close.

I'm not old yet (at least I don't think I am), and if I keep my body and brain active, I may be able to put off that stage for a good long while. The aches and pains are increasing, but they seem to rotate to different areas, instead of striking all at once. As my mother is fond of saying, "Getting old is not for sissies."

I went to visit her in Cambridge after the levee. Last spring, at the age of 80, she was golfing and swimming, after recovering from her second major cancer surgery. It was a short reprieve, however. Now it is in her bones and she can barely stand up.

We are at the stage where survival is estimated in months and relief measured in doses of morphine. It is a stark reminder that the advances of medicine may improve our quality of life for a certain time, but cannot save us from the inevitable.

She has made a transition, from strong and independent to frail and vulnerable, while maintaining a positive attitude, which is quite an accomplishment. Her faith in God is strong, and I think she wants to teach by example that suffering is to be expected, and accepted without a big fuss.

She will not be impressed if she reads this, only because these things are so apparent that to write them down shows an excess of sentimentality. The need to write things down can be a curse. Or perhaps it is a form of therapy, an attempt to impose some order on a confusing array of thoughts.

Anyhow, we had a good Christmas. She was able to come to the table and enjoy dinner in the company of her children, grandchildren and of course my father, who has devoted himself to her care without a big fuss.

A few days later, my sister and I were sitting at their kitchen table, working on things like the medication schedule and the power of attorney document, and my father seemed concerned about us.

"Try not to worry about things that might happen," he said.

That sounds like a good New Year's resolution, one that might make the other resolutions easier to achieve.