Last week two elderly cousins of a writing colleague of mine got into their car, turned on the engine and suffocated themselves with carbon monoxide. She had been diagnosed with mesothelioma and he with Alzheimer’s disease and they wanted to die without burdening anyone.The comments on my colleague’s blog expressed horror and sympathy. Despite this, some also echoed his optimistic suggestion they had acted bravely, selflessly and died peacefully.
This picture and story about my sister, Enid Mary McDiarmid, are my comment on that tragedy. For several years I’ve traveled periodically to the Providence Healthcare facility in Toronto, 350 miles away, to sit with her and share hugs. Every time I go, I feel lucky and happy she is still here to be loved. I’m thankful for the staff and volunteers who give her the best care, and for the Ontario taxpayers who foot the bill.
Enid Mary isn’t part of Woman History Month, and her teaching career didn’t make her famous, but she had an impact on the daily social life of the country, the continent and beyond.
In the grade nine classroom of Cochrane High School in 1944 she sat behind a boy with a brush cut who had a crush on her. Enid Mary was pretty and he was the school hockey team’s star. One day he felt close enough to her to ask for help on a serious problem. He couldn’t stand his name, Miles, was sick of being teased and wanted to be called ‘Timmy’ instead. The next Saturday, when the Hearst, ON. team came to play hockey and Miles broke away down the length of the arena, Enid Mary had all the girls up on their feet waving their arms and cheering, “Come on Timmy! Come on Timmy!” at the top of their lungs.
Next time the teacher called out ‘Miles’ for the attendance record, and he sat mutely with his arms folded stubbornly, Enid put up her hand and said, “I think he wants to be called Timmy”. She and other girls clamored for their own hockey team and, when they got it, Timmy lent her his stick and she became pretty good at tearing off down the ice and shooting for the net, too!
Today Tim Horton’s is a major food-service chain with 3,665 restaurants in Canada, 869 in the United States, and 56 in the Persian Gulf region It was founded by the National Hockey League star but his partner assumed control of the company after Horton died in an automobile accident in 1974. The franchises spread rapidly and eventually overtook McDonald’s as Canada’s largest food service operator.
Enid Mary (Enid prefers her double name) has deteriorated as her Alzheimer’s disease progesses. She uses a walker and barely speaks. However, when I ask the attendant to tell her, “Your sister, Margaret, is here!” she accepts the idea and gives me a big hug — the same reassuring one I’ve gotten from her ever since I was born two years after she was. The attendant says she’s very nice and wanders around a large area but is sometimes confused. Her expression is vacant but she still knows who she is and how to behave towards others. When Tom and I arrived last time, she was sitting with a gentleman patient at a round table eating supper. She arched her eyebrows at seeing strangers sit down beside her, but was aware she was eating and we weren’t. She ripped her paper serviette into neat pieces and gave us one each as a substitute plate. Then she offered us some of her fish, her peas and her potatoes. We had to refuse evey item before she felt comfortable eating in front of us. When a bird alit on a branch outside the window, she became excited and pointed it out to us. She was most distressed when the elderly gentleman had a coughing fit.
My sister is still a role model and has lessons to teach us about the life of a person living and dying from Alzheimer’s.
Besides, life just wouldn’t be the same if the millions of people who line up each day to buy ‘timbits’ with their coffee had to ask for ‘milesbits’ instead.
Read more of this family’s story in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void or Kathleen’s Cariole Ride. This week Canada’s amazon.ca e-books joined most other countries of the world as a seller of digital e-books. Personally, I’m very pleased because I had some amazon.ca gift certificates to use up! Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.ca/Kathleens-Cariole-Ride-Margaret-Virany-ebook/dp/B00PJ9H3OI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1444880192&sr=8-1&keywords=margaret+virany:
Happy Reading and Writing from CozyBookBasics!