Disaster has struck!

“Disaster has struck!” says Mum in all her British-accented glory when I answer the phone.

Dad wants to call the police because he thinks Nicol is stealing the silverware.

He’s not.


But, change is in the air and with change comes uncertainty and uncertainty inspires anxiety, which experience has taught me can lead to conspiracy theories. Mental illness or dementia only adds to the creativity of those possibilities.

I take the week off work, catch the ferry to the island and spend it watching Murdock Mysteries beside Dad, hoping my presence will reassure him. Throughout the days, he turns to me and asks,

“What’s happening with the grandchildren?”

“Seth, Delean and Taeja are going treeplanting,” I say, “And Kai has moved into John’s place in town with Seth.”

“Oh, that’s right,” he says petting Nigel on his lap and turning back to the TV.

The chicks have flown the coop.

taeja &Gpa

Back on the mainland, I get word that Dad called the man who pocketed a cheque for $20,000 while I was at work and is subsequently banned from the farm, to come over to fix a leak in the kitchen sink. A friend doing a favour, he charged Dad more than a certified plumber would have. Apparently, the 20 grand didn’t cover it.

“But Dad, don’t you see that inviting Ken over when I’ve told him he’s no longer welcome here puts us in conflict? He’s my Roy Err, Dad, my Judas.”

Dad goes silent before he explodes and hangs up on me. The silence is the moment he understands my point of view. The explosion is his apology, and the hang up is a promise not to call Ken for maintenance help again. At least, that’s how I interpret it.

Feeling guilty for upsetting Dad, I warn Nicol to keep an eye on him.

“Your dad is fine. I know how sensitive you are about those things. Your dad knows that you are always doing what you feel is best for him – even when he disagrees with it. He has told me this often. He loves you deeply and appreciates what you do for him. I believe your dad is very happy with his life at the moment, and it’s primarily because of what you have done for him.”


“What else is exciting?” Dad asks me every few minutes the next time I’m in town. He’s full of jokes to make me laugh because jokes make everything better.

“I bought a new dishwasher,” I tell him, running out of exciting things to say. The other one is old and broken, so he agrees with my decision. But then, he turns to me with terror in his eyes.

“I better be careful about what I say about what to do with things when they get old!” His hands cover his mouth.


“Have you thought about putting him in a nursing home?” asks another friend.

It’s not that I’m against nursing homes that I keep Dad at home. In fact, without a biological child to burden with my own old age, I hope to be able to afford such a place for myself, somewhere that doesn’t remind me of the smell of urine or the memory of wheeling Granny into a closet of a room and lighting her a cigarette with a plastic bib hanging around her neck. I’m hoping for comfy couches and singalongs of all my favourite songs, a clean, private room with a window, a cat and a view, and where the caregivers are kind to my fear, gentle to my embarrassment and ever ready and quick to laugh in spite of my pain.

Dad is different though. He’s happy and confident in the home he built when he was young and strong, where he walks down the hill to get his paper and falls asleep to his favourite records each night with three dogs and a cat snoring on the bed. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think he’d live long if we were to move him now.


“The first one comes anytime, but after that, it takes nine months,” says Dad, making jokes about illegitimate babies.

After every ending comes a new beginning.


“That’s it! She’s staying here with us,” says Dad on the first weekend Lynn and my honeymoon baby, a Mexican rescue, came to spend at the farm. Already up on his bed with the other dogs and cat, Dad can think of nothing better than adding another dog to his pack.


“The Goat Lady’s here,” says Dad, nicknaming our new tenant who moved in with two dogs and cats and five goats on the farm.


John died a year ago, and now two of Kristin’s children live in his house, the beginning of a new era. The farm has shifted too and is now home to a whole world of new: new tenants, new love, a newborn baby, and six new baby-goat kids (yes, eleven goats in all).


Change often feels like disaster, and death an ending without reward, but when disaster hits, I must try to remember that every ending brings a new beginning.


And due to my morbid nature, I can’t help but think about the ending of my own life’s song. May my life leave behind it a fertile soil for a new story for someone else to tell.

Remembering John




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 Disaster has struck!

  1. The story of your brother has really stuck with me. I remember the pictures you posted of him pre-illness. I was talking to a psychiatric nurse friend the other day and we were discussing schizophrenia and I mentioned how much it physically changed your brother. I am rather haunted by it and also touched by your commitment to him. I was speaking to another psych nurse (apparently I know psych nurses who know each other and introduce me and then I inundate them with psych talk) and he mentioned a young man, 21 years old, who had his first psychotic break and was found wandering around Vancouver naked, after fleeing from Calgary where he felt his family wanted to kill him. Twenty-one. I thought again of your brother.
    As for your dad – that’s a tricky one. While I remain rather grief stricken about my mom who passed almost six months ago now (unbelievable to me as I write it or think it but somehow more vaguely more liveable with) I am relieved that she never had to go to a nursing home. My dad is still around (who’d a thunk he’d outlive mom) and stubbornly refusing to move from the home they lived in together for more than 45 years when really he should be in assisted living. It’s amazing the support your dad has to remain ‘in place.’
    And yeah, I hope should I live to be old enough, that I can afford to live in a nursing home that smells okay. Not sure if that will work out or not.
    Alright, this has been rather depressing. I feel the need to say something positive – it’s summer! And you are married!
    – Karen
    p.s. – your blog gives me deep thoughts.

    • Karen, Thank you so much for thinking of my brother. I can’t believe it’s been a year since he died. I’m sorry the grief of losing your Mom is still hitting you so strong. It’s a long, fluctuating process. Honestly, I haven’t even contemplated the idea of losing Mum yet. Where my Dad depends on me now, I still depend heavily on my Mum. I’m also sorry that my blog is always rather depressing:)! I’m hoping that as I face the idea and consequences of death and of losing everyone I love, that at the minimum it will remind me to be fully present in the gift of my time with them now.
      And yes, the sun is shining and I’m ever so grateful to be happily married for as long as I get to have him! Love now, cry later?:) xx

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