Erin's Journals

Monday, March 25, 2024

Just a thought… Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. [Emory Austin]

Well, it’s been a week. I mean, not just since I sat down to share a few thoughts here with you, but a WEEK. You know what I mean.

The alpaca farm getaway was an almost total success. The weather turned chilly and rainy on Thursday but then Friday Rob arrived to the tiny cabin and everything brightened considerably. Plus, having used up all of the Cobb salad ingredients I brought and ate for five straight evenings while warming up ingredients on the outside grill (there was no kitchen or microwave in the cabin), it was nice to go out for dinner two nights in a row.

I was not disconnected from family, friends and social media and did post a short video of me being surprised by the rather rude utterances of one of the alpacas. They were docile and lovely and it was a pleasure to overlook a yard with five of them, a few barns and a duck pond, with the Washington state Olympic mountain range in the background. Here’s our favourite, whom we nicknamed Ringo.

There were a few gentle outings: one day I made the short drive to Sooke and walked along the gorgeous Rotary pier there. It was a perfect day to shoot pictures and think of Lauren (whose 33rd birthday was yesterday), while singing “Long and Winding Road.” Lead me to your door, indeed.

Most of my week was spent editing and producing new Drift with Erin Davis sleep story recordings, and last week’s Gracefully and Frankly Episode 65, as well as a best-of show that’s coming up in April when Rob and I are away for his birthday. I read two books and watched an entire series (Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen) on Netflix.

So, as we pulled into our driveway yesterday, I felt I’d accomplished everything I needed to do while I was away. Most of all, I came back well-rested and happy to be here.

There was something happening on the family front that caused a great deal of worry, but I’ll tell you first and foremost that the person at the centre of it is doing much better today.

Dad, who turns 91 in June, wasn’t feeling himself on Monday. He was taken to hospital in Kelowna and we learned he had suffered a mild heart attack. He recovered gently and, as of this writing, was expected to be released back into daughter Leslie’s care today.

A flurry of thoughts accompanied that message from Les that he was on his way to the hospital, not the least of which was, Okay, this could be it. And we’re all at peace with that eventuality, having seen Dad deteriorating for the last few years, as the tightening grip of dementia has pulled him away from us. But it seems that his physical strength and otherwise good health will keep his body with us for a while longer, even though his mind continues to fade away.

I wanted to tell you, though, about what he did when they carefully put him into the ambulance. In a nutshell, this is my father right down to his last cell. It’s also how I manage to be that person who’s always looking on the bright side, continuing to seek reasons to be grateful and counting blessings instead of losses. I know I’ve been blue the last few weeks but underneath it all is a sense that we’ve got this. We’ll change what we can and let go of what we cannot.

Here’s the scene: covered in a blanket, his gurney is lifted into the ambulance. And dad is SINGING.

He’s always finding a line from a song that fits a situation. For the life of her, Leslie can’t remember what song he was sharing and I would love to think it was “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…” (totally fitting for a former Air Force and commercial pilot, and a tune he’s been known to burst into). And it’s so totally DAD. Make no mistake: he knew what was happening in the moment. And he chose to sing.

So often my sisters and I credit our mother with our strength: when one of the coven had a biopsy recently with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, she said that she was worried for a bit and then decided that she’d have to wait and find out, and in the meantime there wasn’t a thing she could do about it, so she “chilled.” She took the stoic route. (And thankfully the outcome was negative!) I made the comment to her: “It’s a good thing we’re made of tough stuff…” and it is.

But you know, that resiliency, if I may be so bold, isn’t just from the strength and pragmatism that our mother drilled into us. It comes, too, from that eternal internal sunshine of our father.

Isn’t it amazing how, even in the throes of something like dementia, our parents can continue to teach us lessons?

Rob WhiteheadMonday, March 25, 2024