My father, Bob, didn’t really age until he was eighty-four and developed an aneurysm in his stomach. Surviving that nicely, he went along, ignoring whatever medication had been prescribed, until the stroke at eighty-seven. While he was in the hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, social services discovered the extent of my stepmother Mari’s memory loss. They refused to allow Bob to go home unless he hired a housekeeper to cook meals and clean. Reluctantly, angrily, he did.
The Canadian health system required Bob to write a petition in order to receive extensive physical therapy. Because he was able to clearly articulate his reasons for wanting to live independently, he was accepted and continued with outpatient care.
Bob lived for almost three more years. In fact, he was reading a book about chaos theory by Stephen Hawkins the day before he had a second stroke. By then, Mari was incapable of phoning the doctor. The housekeeper found him when she arrived to make lunch.
After he died, Mari repeatedly asked about the old man who sat in the chair across from her in the living room. He had been her only husband, the man for whom the sun had risen for their thirty years together. She was his third and best wife.
Mari went to live in a nursing home near her younger sister, Margaret.
The exhibit, “Aging” was shown once at Simons College, but has otherwise stayed in portfolio boxes. These images were scanned from slides and don’t represent the quality of the 16x20 exhibition images that were printed and matted by Toru Nakanishi. Had I had more sense, I would have tried to publish them in a book with text about taking care of aging parents.