Chipped China

“You live here more than me now.”

Dad says when I warn him about more change.

“I’m just existing.”

I pack away Grandma’s Toby mugs and china figurines and store them in the basement for Kristin to go through later. I persevere through piles of junk, certain my Zen minimalism will one day overtake the shabby not chic clutter I grew up in.


“I moved the china cabinet.”

I tell Dad when he gets home from Friday dinner with Barbara.

“Did you chip the Limoges?”

He asks.

When I was little at Grandma’s house, she told me I was the only grandchild ever permitted in the living room. It was packed with her breakable collections. I would move my favourites one by one to the coffee table and back with the care and focus of a rookie in a bomb squad. My little fingers never so much as chipped an ear off a kitten.


“I’ve got a chore for you.”

I say, pointing at the fancy silver cutlery and the special holders they’re supposed to fit into.

“I’ll add it to the list.”

He says and walks away.

Later, after my list, I find half the cutlery tucked in and rolled up safe in their little sacks.

“I’ll finish them later.”

He says before I can say a word.

“Is Aunt Mami’s china going to the Salvation Army when I die?”

Jokes Dad.

Aunt Mami was a nice, strict and devote Methodist who believed that anyone who took the drink went straight to hell. With the full knowledge of his drinking habits, Aunt Mami left Dad  her white with gold trim Limoges dinner set for 12, gifted to her and her politician husband as a wedding gift in 1912 from members of parliament.

“The value is in the history.”

He says.


When somebody I love dies, their belongings turn into treasures. When Sam died, I asked for his pillow. When Ian died, I kept a hard hat with his name on it and a man-sized Fort Mac snowsuit for two years before letting it go.

With John, I am trying to focus on what I can keep that not only holds memory but that also holds the value of everyday use. His pink paisley guitar, his record collection and his faded and ripped-collared Pogues t-shirt that I wear anyway.

For some things, I had to search for a new purpose. His white, yellow and orange Tae Kwon Do belts, I now use for yoga stretches. And some other things are just plain sacred: photos, his Buddha statue and childhood music box.

Mum wears his sweater. She doesn’t even particularly like it but it makes her feel close to him. It’s hanging on her bedroom chair waiting for her to come home from her travels.


“Talk to me.”

Says Dad.

“How can we have a meaningful relationship if you don’t talk to me?”

I reply.

Another Saturday night spent watching shitty TV with Dad. We’re having a good time.

He tells me stories I already know and I pretend to listen.

“I’m leaving it all to the dogs.”

He says from time to time, testing my attention span.

I know his tricks.

“I’ve already asked you, haven’t I?”

He asks when he recognizes an answer.

I don’t tell him how many times.

“Look, it’s the cheap cook and bottle washer,”

Dad says when Nicol brings out the spaghetti.

I score leftovers.

After dinner, Nicol comes out again with his evening puffer meds and then spoonfeeds the old man a chunk of sweet halva as a reward. Dad loves it and I get a piece too.

Sayla starts barking but won’t get up in his chair.

“She wants me to go to bed.”

He says, getting up and shuffling to his room.

I wish him a good night.

“Night, dear.”

He says, and The Ink Spots start singing on his record player, like they do every night.


I don’t know what will happen to Aunt Mami’s Limoges and the rest of the historical artifacts wrapped up in the basement, but the treasures I want most are the moments we are sharing right now.


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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8 Responses to Chipped China

  1. MissLilly says:

    Wonderful! In the basement you say?

  2. Mary says:

    you’ll have NO regrets when your dad goes to the other planet.His sense of humour is great;however ,I am sure annoying at times.!what a fine woman you are Katryna!

  3. lorraine says:

    I love reading your blog!!

  4. In rather blind panic and grief when I was visiting my 82 year old dying mother in hospital in Wpg two weeks ago, I took a small piece of china from the china cabinet. Mom’s had a heart attack in addition to her terminal cancer and was paralyzed with anxiety. My sister and I, both long distance daughters, figured her next stop was a nursing home since my dad, to put it mildly, is not a caregiver. Mom had wanted to get rid of the china for years; dad wouldn’t allow it. This was the same reason they were stuck still living alone in the suburbs; dad refused to accept reality and move to a retirement home. But I digress. Seems mom is rallying a bit and she will be sent home for a few months until she needs to go to palliative care. So I’m going to need to explain why the little piece of china of a chubby little woman knitting is no longer in the cabinet. Oops.

    • Karen, Thanks for your comment about your Mom and her china:) Reassuring to know we all have similar responses when it comes to losing the people we love. My heart goes out to you during this difficult and precious time between you and your parents. Lots of love. xo

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