Happy New Year!
I received a call from my dad on Friday letting me know that my Nanny was in the hospital and things weren’t looking good. She had a ruptured aneurysm in her aorta. The doctor said that surgery was possible but Nanny, at 102, decided that she had no interest in a lengthy and painful recovery period that had no guarantee of a quality of life she wanted. The doctor concurred and the waiting game is on.
The news hit me hard. Nanny is so intricately woven into the fabric of so many peoples’ lives, it is generally accepted that she will be here forever. As I let my friends know, that truth set in. Shock and disbelief, coupled with a profound sadness was the unanimous response. She’s 102 and my kids are convinced that she will be present at their weddings (keeping in mind the oldest just started university)! I am 51 years old. I will have to live to her age to get to the point where I have been alive longer without her in the world than I spent with her in it. How lucky am I?
Upon hearing the news, I wanted to get to St. Catharines to say my goodbyes. But as it turns out, visiting loved ones in the hospital during COVID times is tricky business. I got to video chat with her on Friday and my aunt made arrangements for my sister and I to visit on Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m., one at a time, fully gowned and masked. I told my aunt I would wear a full hazmat suit if it meant seeing Nanny one last time. After a fretful night’s sleep, I got up and ready for the trip to St. Catharines, only to see a text from my aunt letting me know that Nanny’s floor had a COVID outbreak, and she was the only person allowed to be there. I was definitely disappointed and feeling sad for myself, but certainly wasn’t upset at the hospital rules or decisions. We planned another video call for lunch time.
Then, at 10:30 a.m., my aunt called and said that we were going to be allowed to visit. When the doctor was checking on Nanny, my aunt commented that COVID sucked, and the unfortunate by-product was that the grand kids weren’t going to be able to see her in-person. The doctor said she was a big believer in family getting the chance to say goodbye and that she would see what she could do. A couple of minutes later, the duty nurse came in letting my aunt know that we could visit as long as it was one at a time. I called my sister and the two of us headed to the hospital.
We got there around noon. The front entrance screening staff had not been informed about this exception to the rule and had to make a few calls to verify the information. She apologized for the wait, and we told her not to worry about it. They were doing us a favour and we appreciated it very much. After about five minutes, she gave us visitor badges and said that we could wait in the cafeteria for our aunt. She would have to come down so that one of us could go up. Since I drove, I called dibs on getting to see Nanny first (sibling rivalry never ends) and headed up to the fifth floor not really knowing what to expect. My aunt had come down in a gown, gloves, N95 mask and visor. She said I should expect to have to get the same when I arrived on the fifth floor. But there was no one there and when I got to the nurses’ station by my Nanny’s room, I told the nurse I was there to say my goodbyes and she told me to go on in.
There Nanny was, lying in bed looking like she does every day. She was fully lucid and talkative. I have no idea how much energy that sapped from her, but I certainly appreciated the effort she put in. “So, you are just slowly bleeding out?” I asked jokingly. “Yep,” she replied, “but I am doing it internally, so I don’t make a mess of things!”
She was animated and asked if I would video call my boys so that she could talk with them too. She was completely up to date on what was going on in their lives, asking Gavin about university, Jude about robotics and his new girlfriend, and Patch about grade nine and him spending much of second semester in the UK. I told Nanny that if I were to give her a hug from everyone who told me to, she would have to live for another decade just to get them all in. She told me to say goodbye to all my longest friends, rhyming their names off like she had seen them yesterday. After about 20 minutes, I leaned in, told her how much she meant to me and thanked her for being such an influential part of my life.
She tightened the grip on my hand and said, “Don’t you cry. I am giving you two days to mourn once I am gone. Any more than that and I am coming back to haunt you!” Holding back tears, I said goodbye and exited the room.
I spent a lot of time this past weekend thinking about that statement and realizing how true it is to every aspect of your life. There is always going to be something that throws you for a loop – sometimes in your control and other times out of your control. It can be work related, personal, a bad decision, a lapse of judgment, etc. It happens to us all almost daily. If you dwell on the issue, mulling it over in your mind and playing the “what if” game, it haunts you. And left unchecked, it can have a bigger impact on your life than it did when it first happened. I remember being on my honeymoon with Trish. We were on a beach playing in the waves, just three days married, when I got crushed by a side-swell that tore my ring off my finger. I felt it coming off and then spent the next 20 minutes frantically searching the ever-shifting sand at the shore break in hopes that I would feel it. I felt absolutely horrible. Trish finally stopped me and said, “It’s gone. It sucks. But what will suck more is if you let this ruin the rest of our vacation.”
She, of course, was right. I felt very similarly when I heard that COVID was once again going to put restrictions on our industry. We had just got back to our knees after a pretty nasty beating and the bully came back to knock us down again. There is nothing wrong with mourning this setback. It sucks. It really does. But if you keep in your funk rather than figuring out how you are going to pick yourself up off the floor this time, this shutdown will haunt you. It is not going to be easy, but you have to get back in the driver’s seat. Jude got into a minor fender-bender last week that was his fault. His foot slipped off the brake at a stop sign and he bumped the car in front of him. He handled the situation really well at the scene but was really quite shaken and upset when he got home. I gave him the night to beat himself up over the mistake and then made sure he drove his car to the shop and then mine to pick up his girlfriend later in the day. He had no interest in driving, but after just those two trips, had started to put the accident behind him, rather than let it weigh on him for days.
At GlowZone, we are shut again until the restrictions are lifted. Rather than dwelling on the negative, we spent Sunday testing new food products and pricing them so that when we are allowed to finally reopen, we have another revenue stream to help us recover. We also worked together on the Tourism Relief Fund application, ensuring that we do a good job of explaining how our reinvestments will improve operations and our ability to serve our visitors. It gives us something to do, allows us to feel like we are fighting back against the losses that have been handed to us. If you need help getting through this latest setback, please reach out. We are good listeners and, better yet, have lots of great ideas that can help you brush off the dust from this latest blow. I am an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is the Monday of the big snowstorm. I had half expected to write this article referring to Nanny in the past tense. However, Nanny is a force to be reckoned with and is still hanging on. My dad was there for three hours last evening, and he said she chatted with him most of his visit. I asked him this morning if she was going to beat the odds and survive a ruptured aorta without surgery. His response, echoed by anyone who knows her, was “don’t put it past her.” Well, my fingers are crossed and here’s to the rest of us having a fraction of the strength and determination of Nanny.
June 5, 1919 – January 20, 2022
(Post updated January 20, 2022)