(My longest and closest ally in the care of my father these past years writes his final blog post before moving on to new adventures. Thank you for everything Nicol Drysdale. I would have lost my mind without you.)
‘TONY!!! LEAVE THOSE BLOODY GOLDFISH ALONE!’
I shout out the kitchen window as Sandy passes me with his walker, doing well over the maximum speed limit, inquiring, ‘Nic, did I ever tell you I was the biggest masonry contractor on Vancouver Island?’
‘…hmm…. come to think of it, Sandy. I think I do remember you mentioning it to me one time.’
‘…. excuse me just a sec, Sandy …’ I say, rushing out the back door toward the former swimming pool/ now pond where the waterlilies have started closing their petals for the night.
‘Tony, you’re as bad as that fat bullfrog over there stalking the fish by pretending to be a lily pad!’
As usual, Tony, our most recent vagabond to find a home at Sandy’s, looks at me with the same amount of respect afforded me by the other animals: Nigel, Emmy, and Sammy (ie. zero), and returns his gaze to the golden prey below with a concentration the most accomplished hunter envies. Suddenly, he swipes outstretched claws through the water, skimming the tail of the petrified fish below. He shakes the water off his wet paw, and gives me a look which, in no uncertain terms, blames me for spooking his intended victim.
I chase Tony awkwardly around the pond trying to dodge dead branches as he hops nimbly over them.
‘Stay away from those fish, or one day you’ll bloody well fall in!’
I know that telling Tony not to go after the fish is futile because like me, he is who he is. It is in his character – just as it is with the fabled drowning scorpion who belatedly informs the drowning frog who had unfortunately given him a lift on his back.
When I return to the kitchen, the hunter is safe on Sandy’s lap – snickering at me as only a cat can.
I finish the dishes reflecting on Sandy’s significant entrepreneurial accomplishments, which I find particularly remarkable considering they were achieved, unlike most of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve known, without being a ruthless b*stard.
While impressive, Sandy’s past business success pales in comparison to something else he built – his Mt. Newton home. A place to give love to his children and grandchildren, as well as his many other ‘daughters’, friends, and the endless stream of vagabonds, like Tony and myself.
Sandy built his home with a particular kind of love, something very rare these days – unconditional.
I have known few individuals in my life who have given so much to so many without any expectation of something in return. And never thinking badly of those who take advantage of his kindness.
Most of us can only dream of even a modicum of the unconditional love Sandy has for others. And those of us who think we have it, usually, in my experience, have less of it than those who think they don’t.
Time changes almost everything in life. As we get older, part of us needs taken care of. And often, this change effects the things that always were.
In Sandy’s case, the wonderful laissez faire chaos of the farm had to change for him to continue living there in his twilight years, rather than the alternative of spending them in the ‘home’ oxymoron where most of the elderly find themselves.
While the farm was wonderful chaos, it was simply not an environment conducive to Sandy’s health and wellbeing at this time in his life, and someone had to take on the unenviable responsibility to transform it.
Katie, Sandy’s daughter, took on this heavy yoke.
Could Katie have made better decisions in some instances? Perhaps – she’s human, after all.
But, who among us could have done better and sacrificed so much of our own time, lifelong friendships, and family relationships to accomplish the transformation, eh!? Most of us would have sat back, spent the time on our own interests, quite content in the knowledge that at some point in time, we’d reap the same material rewards without risking and losing so much of what was important to us.
The necessary transformation required at the farm has been a selfless act of unconditional love by Katie for the sole benefit of her father at the expense of significant personal loss and anguish.
‘So why would she do it when most of us wouldn’t?’ asked the frog.
‘Don’t you ever learn!?!’ said the scorpion.
It is time once again for me to resume my nomadic wandering.
To be who I am – a stranger in strange lands, knowing at the end of all my exploring, I will end up somewhere in purgatory, sitting on a sidewalk well aware there’s no chance of a home in heaven – just as on earth.
Of course, I tried sneaking in heaven’s backdoor by reaching up as far as I could while God was preoccupied checking admissions at the front gates – but fell short. Sitting there, homeless as usual on the sidewalk, I see a hand reaching down from heaven’s backdoor and a voice saying, ‘Hey, Nic, grab on and I’ll pull you up. I’ve got a spare room in the basement, you can hide there with Tony.’
I grasp Sandy’s forearm and, while being pulled up, I stop him in mid air and say from my heart, ‘Thanks for everything, Sandy!’
When he resumes pulling me up, I notice a scorpion on my shoulder.
I turn to it and ask, ‘Why does this man do these things?’
The scorpion turns away from me to the audience saying, ‘Just when you think there’s nothing dumber than a frog, along comes an oatmeal savage….!’
Just then, I hear a strong powerful voice from above Sandy interrupting the scorpion, ‘And, pray tell, Sandy, just what do you think you’re doing…?’