Saturday, December 08, 2012


Melva George Halliday will be one hundred and three years old this December 9, 2012. Sometimes I think she knows me when we visit. Other times she asks me where my wife is and how the boys are growing. She tells me about her little house on Braid Street and her garden. She wants to go back there by bus. She misses the independence it gave her. She gets lost easily but motors around pretty good with her feet in a wheel chair. I got scared a few weeks ago when she had a fall and would not get out of bed or eat much. She misses her organic home grown vegetables that have a lot more taste than the puree mushy ones at the Kiwannis Care Center. They take good care of her there and provide her with a comfortable living situation safe for her. She is fed healthy meals with a lot of variety and lots of coffee. Her eyesight and hearing are failing making it harder and harder to communicate with her. She refuses to get cataracts removed, consider glasses or wear a hearing aid since she's over one hundred she thinks it's futile. I disagree. The children aren't keen on visiting her room but downstairs is less scary for them and less smelly too. There is a fish tank, a dining and living type room with giant televisions and a garden to look at out the windows. The get a lot of attention from the other residents. They seem to get a kick out of seeing the children. I guess they do not get a lot of children running around there. The center provides a lot of activities but her hearing and sight prevent her from participating. She finds it too frustrating. I love her dearly but feel very alone in that. I think I have a cousin who visits sometimes and possibly my half sister. She has one out of three sons left alive who in his eighties, lives in Ladysmith. He has 4 children that know her too. She has a few pictures in frames but what happened to all her memorabilia and possessions I do not know. Luckily I was able to track her down when she was taken from her home after a series of falls. Every time she was moved I had a job finding her. Now that my father has died I'll be lucky to be notified if she passes away, by my family that is. She always said, "Our family isn't very close." I suppose they aren't too interested as my own dad wasn't particularly interested in us. Actually he would not recognize me sitting next to him outside on a bench or hanging around him as he walked through the mall. He was an alcoholic, womanizer, chronological liar, drinking driver, diabetic, gambler with a few wives and children and destruction in his path but with "No regrets" according to him. He ended up very lonely and had been threatening to commit suicide when he suddenly died. The only way I found out was by accident through the NWPD. Ancient history. I do care about my grandmother and it's difficult to see her gone. In a sense she has already left us. There is a bit of dementia going on and a lot of forgetfulness. "When you are over a hundred you are always tired." she says. I hope I do not live that long because i am already feeling exhaustion frequently and i cannot imagine being like she is now. I was told by my Uncle H not to mention my father's death since she seems to relive her grief each time but sometimes when she recognizes me she knows. I can see it in her eyes and tear fall. Some days she tells us to "Get lost." or "Beat it." When she is having a good day it is a better visit. She still is physically pretty good and able to do a lot more than most her age. I think it's because of all her healthy living. She has out lived two of her sons so far. Bob her eldest died at the Garfield Hotel of Hepatitis addicted to Methadone. He was a walking zombie in the streets of New Westminster long before that. She used to delight in her flowers and vegetables and was forever outside in her garden. She used rain water to wash her hair and a roller washer to washer her clothes under her house. She never wasted anything and was good at repurposing anything she had since she grew up in the great Depression. She stopped giving Christmas gifts then and wasn't starting now she used to say. In her eighties she frequently enjoyed dancing and playing cards at the Century House until someone unknowingly sat in her seat and she refused to return to her weekly cribbage games. Her homemade pies were quite nice made with her neighbor, Mr. Card's transparent apples or her own berries and currents from the bushes outside in her yard. Everyday she enjoyed the puzzles from the newspaper and her index finger was bent to an angle from knitting her own socks and sweaters. Last week she told me about the time she knit herself a long long coat, a whole coat from top to bottom she repeated a few times. She no longer knits and cannot think well enough to play scrabble or crib or do the crosswords but she's hanging in there. After her last fall I was so worried she would waste away, staying in bed, sleeping as long as a cat does, not eating so much. Luckily she decided to get up and be brave. It must be scary to fall and not be able to get up on your own. I cannot imagine. They have cut her hair, very very short. She claims the hairdresser will be returning to finish the job. She used to cut her hair on her own. I was shocked when I first saw it like I saw who she really is now for the first time. I mourn the loss of her personality the most. After about 20 minutes with the children there she lets me know it's time to get going and we say good bye. I'm glad I haven't had to say it for this life so far. Patrick wanted to cook her some roast beef for her birthday but usually she has a hard time chewing and spits food out once there's no more flavour left. I remember she used to say about her sister Laura, "She has a tube down her throat and she cannot eat anything. How dreadful that must be." We'll bring her some chocolate and perhaps some ice cream or a black forest cake. That will make her happy.  She worries about things getting stolen and has every right too. Her room is by the nursing station so lots of residents wander in if the velcro guard isn't up. Things disappear unless you hide them especially sweets. I imagine people just think of it as helping themselves. I am trying to think what we can do with her but am at a loss but thinking of snakes and ladders. It's hard to watch her age so rapidly as she always seemed so young at heart while I was growing up. Avalina likes to say she must have been very beautiful a long time ago. Ella likes to say greatgramma greatgamma when she hears us talking about her or on the way to and from her place, the place where she is now. I too miss her home and the tours of her garden, her meals, her adventures, her laughter but we can usually get some smiles if it's early enough in the day and she has had a good sleep. I remember she would always visit anyone she knew in hospital and in rest homes when she was getting around more easily. She enjoyed writing and receiving letters from family and friends. She loved to talk and usually you could not get a word in edgewise. She also liked to go to the race track and visit Lynn Canon occasionally. She did not like to eat in restaurants or go to the mall too much. Her favorite flower is a pansy and her favorite treat chocolate covered macadamia nuts. 
This was a nice walk down memory lane for me. Thanks for listening. 

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