Got to thinking recently that if anything happened to me, no one really knows the whole story of what happened with my kids, including them. If I’m gone at least some of my friends know this site exists, and maybe some day my kids will see it as well.
My son, Christopher Michael, came into this world March 27th, 1970, the year after I married his mother, Janice, born Janice Kennedy Tyrrell. In 1977 along came the light of my life, Heather Tyrrell on October 2nd, 1977. There is so much to tell about how wonderful they made my life, and how proud I was of them. They were both very active in sports, particularly Chris, who was a truly talented hockey player, and was destined to play in the NHL until he lost his drive. This story isn’t about their lives though, rather, it’s what happened to get us where we are now.
They both knew things were not good with Janice and I, for a whole lot of reasons I won’t deal with here. At one point I came out West, where my parents lived since 1970, to take a break from work stress, and my kids came out for a three-week holiday. We had the best times of our lives during that three weeks, but it ended on a tough note for me. They both told me that they had never seen me happier, and that they knew my marriage was killing me, and that I should stay out west where I belonged. This nearly killed me, as I could not understand how my own children would want me to be so far away from them. They were a lot smarter than me. They knew what was best for me, more than I did.
Despite their good advice I returned to Ontario, if only because I couldn’t stand the thought of being without them. No matter how happy I was out here, losing them was too high a price to pay. I spent the next few years in a loveless marriage, never giving up that it would somehow magically get better, which it didn’t. I left home in 1992. Over the next few months it became increasingly apparent that my kids had busy lives of their own, and I had to almost make an appointment to see them. I realized that I was sacrificing my own happiness just to be there when they found time to see me. I believed that if I came West at least we would have terrific holiday times like we did before, at least that’s what I thought. Could not have been more wrong.
The hardest day of my life was when I left my daughter to come West. It broke my heart even though I felt I was doing the right thing. My son had a family of his own, with a new daughter, and I didn’t see it hurting him as much. We had had our challenges over the years between us, as most fathers and sons do. Of course, I was also under the impression I would see them soon, when they came out for a holiday. So, despite my concern over leaving, I packed up and headed West in the summer of 1993.
Although a vacation didn’t happen as planned, I still tried to stay in touch with them – birthday cards, Christmas gifts and so on, never realizing something was wrong. Heather had phoned me to ask me to come down to her graduation ceremony in the spring, which I was planning to do. She said she had the option of going in the spring or the following fall, and would let me know. I came home one day and my Dad said she had phoned and said she decided to go in the fall, and would let me know. I never heard anything and this was the first sign of trouble. In a conversation with Chris he told me that it was just brutal for them to talk to me, because their mum gave them such a hard time about what I was doing, who was I seeing and so on. I sat down and wrote a long, heart-felt letter to Heather about how I was feeling and how much I missed her, and how much I wanted to talk to her. The following winter I knew something drastic had to happen, so I planned to drive down to Ontario to see them. Heather was to meet me at her place.
It was a scary drive down, thorugh the depths of winter, and I nearly bought it in quite a few places. I had planned to drive straight through, so there wasn’t much time for sleep. I pulled off the road into a truck stop, where there were all kinds of trucks parked at three in the morning. I woke up shivering and tried to see what time it was, but I couldn’t see my watch. It was because it was frozen over. I prayed the truck would start, which, miraculously, it did. When the radio came on, they said it was minus 53 degrees. There also wasn’t a vehicle in sight, so I could have perished right there if the truck hadn’t started.
When I got to Brampton I went to the condo Heather lived in with her mom, and buzzed for her – no answer. I asked the security guy if there was any message for me, and there wasn’t. I thought maybe I had got something screwed up, so I went up to her school, Mayfield, to see if she was waiting there for me. After hours spent in coffee shops and making phone calls to anyone I could think of who might know where she was, I finally got a hold of Chris at home. He broke the unbelievable news to me that they had hidden Heather away and were not going to let me see her. After taking my life in my hands and driving all the way across the country, this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I ended up staying for a while with Chris, then drove all the way back without ever seeing her. I tried to have coffee with Janice to talk about it, but her new husband would not hear of it. This after twenty-three years of marriage.
Over the years, I have never given up trying to find them. Heather was planning to go to Carlton University in Ottawa, but I don’ t know if she ever made it. I had heard that Chris and Tina had another child, but don’t even know if this is true. My Dad called her step-brother from Arizona and left a message for Heather to call and that it was urgent. No response.
The most confusing thing for me is, even if I grasp why they cut me out of their lives, which I don’t, why did they cut off the entire family out here? Their grandparents loved them and they had a ball with them when they were out here. They have uncles and aunts and cousins, but they totally severed any contact with them. The real tragedy in all of this is that we lost my Dad suddenly in May of last year, and they don’t even know their grandfather has died. My mum suffers from Alzheimer’s now, and her memory of them is fading rapidly. It is all so confusing and tragic.
There is not a single day goes by that I don’t think of my kids and wonder how they are. Christmas and birthdays are particularly hard, and they remind me of all the good times we had over the years. Although I do not regret leaving my marriage, or coming West, for one second, the loss of my children in the process weighs heavy on my heart every single day. If Chris and Heather ever get to read this, please know that I have never stopped loving you, ever, and that losing you has been an unbearable burden every day. I have had many many good days out West, and would never leave this paradise, but no matter what, they have never been as good as if you were sharing them with me. You, or your mother, made the decision to cut us out of your lives, and I cannot find an excuse good enough to justify this in any way. I have had days where I am very angry that you have not been strong enough to realize your mother does not run your lives, and that, whatever is wrong between us, Grandma and Grandpa should never have suffered for it. They did nothing wrong.
Those of you who try to chat with me, and have been getting frustrated that I could only use Windows Messenger or WebMessenger, will be happy to know I’m back on MSN Messenger. After two months of grief with MSN Tech Support, with no solutions, I discovered a great site – www.imzers.com, which has a forum for MSN Messenger problems. I found the error code I kept getting and ran the solutions, and it worked! Two seconds after two months of wasting time. Unbelievable!
My buddy Wade flew in yesterday and is staying with us for a few days. He was just here at Christmas and stayed with us then too. He asked about Mum, as he always does, and was happy that she at least remembered him when he was here at Christmas. I told him things were worse, and not to count on it this time.
He got back late and crashed on the couch in the living room. Mum was up early, and she came into my room and asked me if that was Kevin sleeping on the couch – my brother who has been in Indonesia for months, and who she just talked to on the phone the day before. I told her it was Wade, and she said she didn’t know a "Wade", so there you go.
It is an amazing disease though. You just never know what will stick and what won’t. I heard her talking to Wade, saying it was her birthday March 24th, and that she would be 84. She hasn’t once remembered how old she is months, then, out of the blue, she suddenly remembers. Small glimmers of hope in an otherwsie dark picture.
No matter what, you have to see the humor in every day.
Although there is absolutely no humor in this part, and this one gets me angry, last night, Tuesday is movie night, and we go to Wendy’s before the show. I heard her in the kitchen around five, opening the fridge and so on, then I hear those wonderful words, "come on Gary, get out here and cook dinner.", shouted ever so sweetly at the top of her lungs. To resist my kill instinct I stayed put, but a few minutes later I heard her playing with the microwave. When I went out to ask her what the hell she was doing, she said she was just getting us some dinner, as though she does that every day. I reminded her she hasn’t cooked in three years, and we were going to Wendy’s for dinner anyway.
When we went out, and she saw the Real Estate sign, you know, the one that’s been here for a week now, she said, "oh, I have a new sign!". When we went out the park entrance, where the Real Estate has a sign for our place for "lakefront property", she said, "oh, our park has a new sign. I’ve never noticed that before." When we came back she said, "oh, we have a new sign on our house. Are we selling the place?"
Tonight, Wednesday, is Bingo night, as it is every Wednesday. And we go through the same turmoil each and every week, about money, dabbers, purse and so on. Every single week she wants to call her friend to tell her she’s not feeling well and won’t be going, then her friend calls her back to remind her about Bingo and she goes. Today she asked for the phone to call her, cause she wasn’t feeling well, and I said, jokingly,that she calls her every week to tell her that. That set her off, yelling at me that she goes every single week and has never ever called to cancel. Fine. This week, her friend didn’t call back for some reason, so Mum asked me for Nancy’s number. I said it was on the table by the phone. When I heard the cursing I went out to see what was wrong, and she was mad because she couldn’t dial the phone. The reason was because she was trying to call her on the TV remote control. I told her it would work better if she used the phone, which she did. She told her friend she sounded disappointed, so she would go.
So then we get to go through the whole turmoil of money, dabbers, coat, purse and so on. It only took about five trips down to her bedroom to get everything. When I asked her to get her coat on, she said she wasn’t going to bother to wear it because she had her sweater on. It’s about minus ten degrees out, so that was a very bad plan.
Just another day in paradise!
It’s now been three weeks since Mum’s status was upgraded to "emergency" first available bed. Some emergency, eh? I even have our provincial MLA’s office calling them every day to find out if a spot has become available. When I first contacted them it was to see if there was any way for me to get any assistance to help us survive. They ran into the same roadblock – that I "chose not to work". Talk about out of touch with reality/. Like I have a choice? Failing that they said they had some "special contacts" who could get around the system, and get her trated as a priority. Yeah, right. Three weeks later and nothing.
Mum has her good days and bad days. She’s still not eating hardly anything and wasting away. I asked my sister to follow the advice everyone has given us about taking Mum into the hospital, then refusing to take her back when they want to release her. It’s a sad way to do things, but everyone who has had anything to do with an Alzheimer’s patient says this is how it works, or doesn’t. My sister has been in denial ever since Mum was diagnosed, and nothing has changed. One of my Dad’s biggest diasppointments was that Wendy would not take the few minutes to watch the video Dad got from his care givers group – a video that explained the regression of the disease and how it affects caregivers. She refused, and it hurt him. Since Dad passed away, all Wendy sees is that she comes down on the weekend for a day, and takes Mum out to breakfast and the casino and bingo – party time, and Mum is okay. She doesn’t get to see the "joy" of the rest of the week, when Mum is lost and crying all the time and shaking and upset and terrified. No, she doesn’t have to see the reality.
A good friend went through this with her Grandma, and she warned me against leaving it too long, like they did with her. She bounced around the various aunts until no one could take it anymore, then they put her in a care facility. Every time someone visited her she cryed and apologized for whatever she had done wrong to be "punished" like this. She has gone too far to be able to understand that this was best for her, and she wasn’t being punished for anything. Celia said it’s hard, but don’t leave it until Mum is like this. Get her into a facility while she’s still able to comprehend what it’s all about and can enjoy it for a while at least. It would be nice if my family had enough understaning of the disease to be supportive instead of just constantly criticizing. Those of you who look after an Alzheimer’s patient know all too well how tough it is without getting additional crap from your own family.
It’s sad to watch someone you know and love, who was so full of life, waste away in front of your very eyes. The worst part with Mum is that, although she is 83 years old, her overall health isn’t that bad for someone that old. She beat cancer in 1991 and she’s stayed pretty active and healthy. Now, the confusion and upset of losing her mind is affecting her health by her refusing to eat. This will only get worse as she loses her grasp on reality more and more. It was heartbreaking to listen to her answer questions on her last assessment by Interior Health. She doesn’t know how old she is; she said it was fall; she said her health is excellent – she’s "eating like a horse", and her memory is "excellent". The saddest part of Alzheimer’s is that they even forget they have Alzheimer’s.
Not a great day on any level. I knew this would be hard, but it was worse than I expected. After the bad week I had, I thought it was time to accept the way things were, and adopt the "Crystal Plan" – back off and play the friend, and not be all lovey and kissy. Give her the space she obviously wanted. I wasn’t at her place ten minutes than she said she didn’t like the "new" Gary; she wanted the old one back. She asked what was going on with me, and I said it didn’t work my way, so I’ve adopted her plan now – no affection, no consideration, no Valantine’s Day surprise, no going away card, and no "expectations". She didn’t like this "new me" at all. I give up!
It got so bad at the airport that she said she thought I was just trying to start an argument so she wouldn’t miss me, which is ridiculous. That’s a game I wouldn’t play anyway. It got a little tense between us, but I didn’t want to upset her when she was off on what I hoped would be a great holiday for her. I did hug her and kiss her when we said our goodbyes and I just told her that I needed to back-off a little and let her come to me more. I still wanted to see her when she got back and we would do things together, but I don’t want to pressure her into an "I love you too" thing, when she’s not ready for that and doesn’t feel that way about me. She did say she would actually send me an email, so I guess that’s progress. Sure going to miss her, no matter what.
Oh, and by the way, she looked fantastic! She’s going to break some hearts in Fiji!
Okay, so I admit that I haven’t exactly been a rousing success with the women in my life. Most of my friends tell me it’s because I’m the proverbial "nice guy" and women don’t want nice guys – they’re more used to "trouble". They say I will be more successful if I play "hard to get" like other guys, but, to me this is playing games, and it’s just not me. When I find the "right girl" I can only give her my true self, right or wrong. This seems to be a curse. I also seem to have a knack for finding controlling women who all too easily take advantage of the "nice guy" in me. Case in point – this week with who I honestly thought was the girl of my dreams.
I’ve already said how bad Saturday night went, with not being able to stay over and spend our last night together, and Sunday was just as bad, when my plan for a great day together was toast, and ended up being a very stress-filled day. Crystal was going away for two weeks – three whole weekends, and I was hoping beyond hope that we could at least spend some time together this week before she was gone. No such luck. I wanted to take her out to a quick dinner Thursday night so she could concentrate on packing, and I wanted to get her a going away gift. She just got new contacts so I thought sunglasses would be perfect for her to enjoy in Fiji. She wanted to change this to Wednesday, when I can’t make it because of Mum’s bingo, when I don’t have enough time to get into Kelowna and back, so dinner was off. I was still hoping maybe we could take in a show on Tuesday, but she didn’t call, so Mum and I went without her. I offered to help however I could on Thursday still, but she was too busy and didn’t want to see me, so we missed the whole week. Now I’m just taking her to the airport tomorrow. So much for spending some "quality time" together. I can hear you saying it now – I guess I should just take the hint.
The sadest one of all? I was so disappointed that she will be in Fiji on Valentine’s day – to me the most important occasion for romance and to express how I feel about her. I had contacted the hotel she’s staying at in Fiji to try to arrange for flowers to be delivered on Valentine’s Day, but she wasn’t booked in under her name. I tried to find out from her, delicately, whose name she was booked under so I could still arrange for the delivery, but she wouldn’t tell me. I finally had to spoil the surprise by telling her why I needed to know, and she still wouldn’t tell me her friend’s name. She has some past experience to deal with, and, although I don’t blame her for being cautious, I am very disappointed that she lumps me in with this class of men. I thought I had earned her trust more than this. I even asked if she would email me where she was and she said she wanted to take a break from worrying about anyone and didn’t want to make any committments she couldn’t keep. If this isn’t a total brush-off I don’t know what is. Very sad.
No matter what I say or try to do, my plan is never okay. She has to be in control of the smallest thing, no matter what. I don’t honestly know if it’s because she has been on her own too long, or whether she just simply doesn’t care enough to consider what I want. I accept that we are not at the same point in our relationship. I kid her about being in "wuv with her" and there are so many things about her that I truly do love. She "works for me" on a thousand things and I am thrilled to be with her, but, as much as I wish it with all my heart, she doesn’t feel the same way in return. I guess there is no such thing as the "perfect woman" for me. Crystal was as close as I’ll come, and it hurts real bad to accept that it’s not meant to be. These two weeks without her were going to be miserable enough, but knowing now that I’m not the one for her makes it pure hell. I am truly sad. She was the brightest thing to come along in my life for a very long time, and she made me so very happy. I guess this blinded me to how things really were, and I have only myself to blame. I hope we can remain friends, because we enjoy doing a lot of things together, and we laugh a lot and talk for hours. I just have to find a way to fall out of love with her, which won’t be easy. She’s a very special lady that I hoped I would be proud to call "my girl" some day, but i’s not meant to be. This failure makes me feel doomed to spend my days alone – not something I ever thought would happen to me. I guess being a "hopeless romantic" truly is just plain hopeless in the end.