The Flip Side of Retirement

I always visioned that in my ‘retirement’ I would have an abundance of time to do the things I enjoy, but never quite had the time for when I was working.

Perhaps I’d get back into piano lessons, unearth the watercolour painting supplies from my storage, or finally have the time to workout on a regular basis.

Man, was I ever wrong…life had other plans in store for me.

Even though I’ve bid farewell to my job of 30 years at Save on Foods, I was about to start a more challenging role – one that, at times, has robbed me of my time and sanity.

I’m what you would call a ‘baby boomer,’ which is the generation born between 1946 and 1964. In addition to taking care of my beautiful grandchildren while Kristyl is at work, I find a lot of my time goes to my 96-year-old father. Dad is what you would call a ‘proper English gentleman’ and has a heart of gold.

Although dad has resided in a 24-hour care home for the past six years, his demands can be a little much.

Okay, let’s be honest–they can be downright overwhelming and utterly exhausting.

While dad is of sound mind, he is in a full-care nursing home because of his shortness of breath due to having emphysema — a progressive disease of the lungs.

This ailment requires him to be on puffers and oxygen, and rely on his wheelchair to get around.

At 6’5 and weighing a mere 129 pounds, his body is failing him, daily.

There’s also his poor hearing. Even when using his hearing aids he struggles. Because of this disability, he isolates himself in his room and doesn’t take part in any of the activities, such as word games, bingo, name that tune, etc.

Dad lives for visits from his family and having The Province newspaper and International Express English delivered to his room, which he reads from front to back.

And if there’s a White Caps Soccer game on the ‘telly,’ you can damn well bet he will be watching—the same goes for hockey.

Dad may forget what day it is, or sometimes, how old he is, — heck, I do too sometimes.

But he’s sharp as a whip, quick with his humour and well aware of his surroundings.

Back in the day, his favourite hobby was gardening. He had a proper English garden, where he’d spent most of his time.

Giving that up was hard on him. Today, he ‘owns’ the little raised garden outside his room, which he can watch from his window. He struck a deal with the president of his care residence, whom he likes to call “The Boss’ to make that a reality.

Every spring, he takes great pride in watching me and his two great granddaughters plant his tomato plants and a variety of flowers.

But of course, the garden has to be looked after and tended to every day. That’s where I come in.

Come to think of it, perhaps that has been his intention all along? I told you he’s smart.

I try to see dad every day to get him out in the sunshine and take him for drives to Bear Creek Park, which he really enjoys as the garden paths are filled with foliage and beautiful flowers.  Sometimes we go to Derby Reach and I bring a camping chair and a Thermos of tea. We love to sit by the river and watch the boats go by and people fishing. It’s very peaceful there.

With life expectancy increasing, in males it’s 80 and females 84, my dad has surpassed that statistic by 16 years and may live to be a ‘centenarian.’

After many bouts of being hospitalized for pneumonia, there seems to be a strong will for dad to survive.

How many 95-year-olds do you know undergo cataract surgery? Mine did and now only needs his glasses for reading.

With his mind sharp as a whip, he still has living to do, but with that comes more demands on my time.

“Janine, call the store and get me two tomato plants!”

Janine, get me a new battery for my remote control.”

“Janine, I lost my hearing aids—again.”

“Janine, next time you’re in, bring a hacksaw for those branches outside my window that are blocking my view!!!”

Those are just the mid-day calls. They usually pick up again after I’ve finally kicked up my tired feet and am about to settle in for the night with a glass of chardonnay and a good show.

Mind you, I’m not complaining and feel very fortunate to have my father here today who I love spending quality time with.


This is where I have to take a deep cleansing breath, a big sip of wine and remind myself that one day I may be in his shoes.

Having recently turned 60, I've decided to turn up the fun factor in my life and pursue all my passions. This includes travelling, cooking healthy and nutritious meals for myself, friends and family, home decor, spending quality time with my grandchildren, gardening and keeping fit.


  • Jodi Shaw

    September 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    I love this article, it’s true we don’t think about our parents getting older. I see my parents aren’t getting any younger and so want to spend more time with them. Funny as teenager and young adult I couldn’t wait to be rid of them and on my own, yet it comes full circle. Great story!


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