Cakewalk Chronicles – Caring for loved ones, caring for ourselves

Esther Darlington MacDonald shares her views and opinions on small town life in the Interior.

Sherman in care

Some of you will know that Sherman is in care. He chose to live in Kelowna, where he has a son and daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, and a daughter. This has been quite a stressful almost three weeks for us all, but his children have found an excellent facility in the downtown, The Dorchester, and Sherman will be enjoying his family, and the many activities and services available in his new home.

Still, it is a change. And change as everyone knows, isn’t easy. Sherman had been in failing health for some time, but the company of his Kelowna family and the one in Langley, have helped revive him and build his morale in recent weeks. I expect the Dorchester will provide him with variety and nourish his love of people and animals, always a prerequisite to healing body and soul. To say, “I shall miss him”, is the under statement of the year. But I want what is best for him. And he has chosen to live in Kelowna near family members, and I have to accept that.

We’ve had some wonderful times together, Sherman and I. Have explored the Okanagan from top to bottom, the Kootenays and further north. We’ve been to Haida Gwaii, camped in Prince Rupert and everywhere we’ve been, we’ve found beauty and interest. I remember those good times, and the laughs we shared for 14 years. Those who have seen loved ones needing more care and medical services will understand what Sherman and myself and his family members have been going through.

Milk, cheese, and butter

And now to matters less stressful maybe, but hopefully, read with some interest.

The changes in lifestyle in the last 50 years have included new ways of looking at diet, the day to day activity that affects our health. But I wonder about some of the advice in the media about how we should live. The emphasis on cutting down or eliminating altogether such foods as dairy products for example. Foods which, in former times were part and parcel of Canada’s food rules. Cheese and egg producers are now having to advertise their products on TV. Who would have thought that would be necessary even 25 years ago?

Milk, eggs and cheese, dairy products loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins for bone, blood and energy health, are now a No-No. Instead, we are told to eat yogurt, fingers full of nuts, fruit, vegetables, whole grains in preference to those age old foods that we have eaten for our whole lives. There’s nothing wrong with these Dr. Oz foods. But in themselves, I wonder about how they can sustain energy for us all day in this busy world.

People are living longer. They say the fastest growing age group is seniors from 90-100. Every night on the news, a new birthday wish to a person who has reached 100 and even older is heard. I am sure that most of those elders have lived on the diet they grew up on as kids. With some modifications, of course.

Food preferences change over the years. For example, I hated turnip and broccoli when I was a kid. I hated butter on my bread. I hated salmon. The list goes on and on. But the point is, I enjoy all those foods today and have enjoyed them for years. Dr. Oz notes that a glass of milk contains the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar. Good grief! Does that include mothers’ milk?  (Said to be the best start for newborn).

I think we are going overboard in this skinny stuff. And overboard on this exercise regimes, which, for us older folk, seem absolutely punishing. We can live with a little weight, enjoy a moderate exercise such as walking downtown to get the mail, banking and shopping, and walking home. We can play with our pets. We can keep our homes dusted, mopped and cleaned. We can work in our gardens, bending, moving about. We can live with a few extra pounds and be happy with ourselves.

I notice, when you see old films on TV,  that the actors in them are quite healthy looking, certainly meatier than the current rashes of near-anorexic looking gals with bones jutting out from shoulders and arms that resemble sticks, cheekbones and eye sockets that look closer to concentration camp survivors than they do healthy specimens of womanhood..

Moderation. That’s the key. We don’t have to kill ourselves, with punishing “extreme” exercises,  or undernourishing ourselves by essentially, eating “snack foods” to keep our weight down to what some so-called “experts” say is necessary to maintain health. I’m sure some will disagree. Others may find it satisfying to read opinions that think of milk, butter and cheese as essential to human health. My old neighbour, George Thiessen, lived to be well over 90. He loved milk, and drank lots of it over his lifetime. So there!


Another euphemism. Give me a break! Who thought up this one?

It’s another word for closing schools. Why can’t we just come out with the words that mean something, rather than inventing something like “reconfiguration”.

I have a growing distaste for statements, announcements and other means of communication, that use what I think is more like “double speak”. Sure language changes. Changes with every generation. But we Canadians are known for our forthright, honest opinions not only in world affairs, but in every day.  We are a direct type of people. Some persons from Europe, more particularly, from England, notice that quality in Canadians. But are we changing into “double speak” and depending on invented euphemisms that take the place of forthright language – language we can all understand. That doesn’t have to be translated?

Our politicians today are becoming less and less direct. They speak around a question. They answer a question with another question. They speak in homilies and general terms that in the end, say nothing.  That is one reason why politicians of every stripe have become less than popular and more and more mistrusted.

The heat wave broke

Yes, that two and a half long months of heat wave that certainly pulverized some of our elder folk, me included, broke finally, on Sept. 16. The heat, coupled with a scourge of wasps that flew and buzzed over the territory like a horde of locusts, made summer less than easy to live in. You know the song: Summer, when the living is easy… Well, this one, nice as it was for those first few hours in the morning in our desert country, was not that pleasant. Air conditioners were mandatory. You pulled the blinds down, and you drank lots of water. But still, you sweated up a storm.

Heatwaves are particularly hard on the elderly. They can die in a heatwave, and in some big cities like New York and Montreal, they do. So, I’m enjoying these cooler days, when you can walk a little further, and enjoy the balmy weather, and admire the changing colours of autumn.

Now Hallowe’en is upon us. Decorations are already out. Desert Hills Farm is awash with beautiful pumpkins in the nursery section, and they are laid out on a beds of straw. You can smell the peppers in the fields as you drive down the road. You can feast on all the good fruits and vegetables that Dr. Oz likes so much.

And you can pull the green tomatoes off the vines, and wrap them up in newspaper and store them away in a cool dry place to ripen. A frost will come any day now. I remember my parents wrapping the tomatoes in newspaper when I was a kid. We were able to eat tomatoes from the garden until almost Christmas.

Care givers need support

O yes they do! I’m told by Cindy Adamski that an informal group meets regularly in the conference room in the our hospital. When Sherman was home, I intended to go. That kind of social meeting with people who are taking care of elders with various problems, from dementia to Alzheimer’s, or conditions that border on both, is essential to keep you balanced. Sharing. Knowing there are others who are experiencing what you are, helps tremendously.

We have a good caregivers’ service here in this district. I certainly appreciated the women who came five days a week to see Sherman. Massaged his feet. Guarded his safety when he showered. Helped me make our bed when we changed the bedding….those little things that mean so much to the client and the care giving spouse. I can’t say enough good about those ladies who came every morning. Cheerful. Ready to listen. Ask how things were going. That meant a lot. I thank each and every one of them who visited our home for many months.

Kayaking the local lakes

One of our coffee club members tells me that he spent a good part of the heatwave summer in his kayak on Green Lake and Kelly Lake, paddling along the forested banks, enjoying the coolness. He skates too. on Barnes Lake, and he tells me that last winter a path was cleared of snow and skaters could enjoy the thrill of the wind at their back as I have done for so many years in the past.

We are so fortunate to have these lakes not many miles away from our communities. I enjoyed Willard Lake for years too. Not only in summer, but in winter, when the ice was thick enough. I’d take my spaniels up and they’d have a good time too. Ice fishing and cross country skiing are other activities that keep us out of doors and give us plenty of exercise. Winter has always been one of my favourite seasons. And when the first fall of snow comes, I’ve been out there with the camera. The world is quieter, when it snows. Haven’t you noticed?

Tony Bennett in Maui

Tony Bennett in Maui was a magical evening for my daughter and her friend in Lahaina on the Island of Maui. She has just e mailed me pictures of the event. Says this 87 year old man has the voice of a 40 year old. She couldn’t get over it. Bennett took up painting in his later life. He’s really a fine artist. Coupling talents like his has got to make for a dynamic life that goes on and on. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Well, cheers for now. Have a good October. Enjoy the changing scene. They say snow will hit the higher elevations this week.

Esther Darlington MacDonald