Velvet Divorce

“I know lots of people who fought over inheritances. Neither of them would back off,”

Dad says.

“Everybody ended up with nothing.”


Growing up, I played a soldier in my big sister’s army. Arm tickles and errands on command, I followed her cues and leadership all the way into my thirties.

However, with her absence to Japan these past years and my subsequent role as Dad’s primary caregiver, our relationship has shifted. The weight of the responsibility has made me a leader too and we now find ourselves as two queen bees with a single farm hive.

Kristin and I are as similar as we are different. Raised on land without boundaries to protect us, we now both require a large amount of control over our surroundings in order to feel safe.


You read it in the papers and hear stories from friends: families torn apart over an inheritance or care of an ailing parent. Death, old wounds and injustices shake up a fragile peace. And, overseas requests feel like instructions to a resentful employee and results in closed ears and a threatening taste of a faraway powerlessness.

Emotions pinball and nuclear bombs and civil wars bounce around in our heads. With our brother’s death and father’s declining health, we are all under a lot of stress.


“You have a good family home here. Keep it that way.”

Says Dad, hands in his pockets beside me as I cradle in the hammock on a sunny day.

Outside enjoying the view, Andrea tells me there is a solution I can’t see yet and I’m choosing to believe her. I am also choosing to leave the future where it is. Right now is about caring for an old man in the home he created, fostering the relationships around him and loving him while we have him.


“All of that being said, and as difficult as this is for both of us, how fortunate are we that we have anything to manage? Some people have no inheritances or properties to manage and be stressed out over. Some people don’t have parents still alive and around to take care of. We are actually incredibly blessed.”

Kristin writes.

Fighting over the farm is like fighting over a Christmas present. It’s only hard to share if you’ve forgotten your gratitude for the gift.


“Czechoslovakia break up,”

said the bus driver, translating the radio broadcast during our 24 hour ride from London to Prague in the summer of 1992.

Backpacking around Europe with Mum, my adolescent memories of Prague remain clear: young men in military uniforms waving from barrack windows, a funky clock tower in the square, a Jewish cemetery of bodies buried on top of bodies and a gallery of their children’s art from a concentration camp during the Second World War.

At the time, the bus driver looked sad at the news of change. But twenty years later, the Velvet Divorce is a successful example of a divided nation finding peace without violence.


“Never sell this place.”

Says Dad, a promise I can’t make.

Continents apart, Kristin and I pause to breathe. Peaceful negotiations begin and I remind my gratitude to stay close as we transition to a new era where boundaries or borders protect both my sister and I, regardless of our differences.


And as for Dad, we both agree. We keep him home for as long as we can.


About Morbid Optimist

My name is Katryna Mary Brooke Ormiston. I am 35 years old and after living in Vancouver for a decade, I am returning home to my 81 year old father’s hobby farm on Vancouver Island to care for him in the final stages of his life. This blog is to document my journey, process my experiences along the way and hopefully share and feel connected to a community beyond the three and a half acres I find myself on. A message in a bottle in the cyber-sea.
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2 Responses to Velvet Divorce

  1. Karen says:

    They really should tell us when we sign up for parents that we will be spending possibly years travelling back and forth caring for them. I’m off to Winnipeg to see my mom who in addition to terminal cancer has had a heart attack and my father who has cancer. They are both still living on their own in the house I grew up in in the suburbs of Winnipeg. They are stubborn and anxious (I come by it honestly). And home care doesn’t seem to be offering much, well, home care. Funny that, it should change it’s name to ‘slight home care and good luck to you.’
    So I understand the stress (there should be support groups everywhere at all hours, like AA, for adult children of elderly and declining parents).
    I actually look a bit to you and your blog to find support in a reading someone’s writing kind of a way – I appreciate your writing.
    – Karen

    • Karen,
      I’m sorry to hear about your parents’ poor health. So hard.
      I think readers and writers have something in common. Both crave the reassurance that we are not alone in our feelings and experiences.
      Thank you so much for reading my posts and even more for taking the time to comment and reassure me that I am not alone in my experience.
      Neither are you.
      Best wishes to you in this time of love, frustration, fear and trial. Keep looking for the funny.

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