Putting Gramma First

As I’d mentioned earlier last week, I am currently on Goose Break. In the past 5 years that I’ve been teaching up north, my holidays were used often for overseas traveling and catching up with friends around my home province, Ontario.

This time, I’ve primarily focused on getting paperwork lined up for my new teaching job, as well as taking care of my maternal grandmother. My aunt and my mother are currently traveling around New Zealand with their friends. Since I’m not around Toronto very much, it’s only fair that I put the hours in to spend time with Gramma and help her with chores. I recognize that everyone around me has quite a regular workload driving her around, feeding her and getting her to her check-ups regularly; I’ve missed out on this responsability for many years now. I feel lucky that, despite my prolonged absence from Toronto, she – at the age of 98 – is still exceptionally strong and able to walk for 10 minutes without needing to sit and rest. She’s a great conversationalist, has a warm sense of humour and is a loving figure to everyone in our family.

My mom is having a grand time, as my sister and I get photos and updates from her through social media. I’m also happy that my mother is healthy, strong and exuberant about life in her retirement years; I could only hope to be like her, although we know that the idea of retirement will be radically different for our generation.

As for myself, it’s been a week where I’ve not been great at self-care. In the north, I go to the gym regularly, after school many times a week, but the past week I’ve made sure that Gramma comes first. I’ve only been downtown once to go to the allergist, otherwise staying close to home, inviting our cousin over for dinner one night and only visiting friends in the area for no more than 2 or 3 hours at a time.

While everything had been going smoothly, late Thursday night, or Friday morning, rather, Gramma and I were alarmed at a pungent smell in the house. It smelled like melted plastic but we could not figure out where it was coming from. It was becoming unbearable; Gramma felt nauseous and I began breathing through my mouth. We could find no smoke; no alarms were going off and the carbon monoxide detector was still properly plugged in. We packed up a few things and left the house around 3:30 am, driving over to my aunt’s vacant townhouse, just 2-3 minutes away.

I made sure Gramma was comfortable first and then quietly found a room to call 911 without alarming her. I scooted back over to greet four firetrucks (really don’t think that was necessary, given our situation) and some *ahem* attractive firemen. Altogether, one fire warden, four firemen and I went all around the house, trying to find the cause.

Confused, we stood in the kitchen, scratching our heads. We concluded that the smell was the strongest on the main floor, absent in the basement, and not coming in through the ventilation system when we put our faces to the vents. I realized that the smell seemed strongest around the fridge as we stood around it; one firemen pulled the machine back and caught sight of a wisp of smoke, plus a few sparks! The most likely conclusion was an overheated compressor, melting the casing and/or wiring; the plugs were promptly pulled and everyone sighed in relief. There was actually no fire, but the thought of what could have happened was definitely very frightening.

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The next 2-3 days were quite tiring, as we ran around, back and forth, looking for a new fridge, moving some of our food out of the current one and making sure Gramma had her 3 meals. We had help from family and friends, of course, but the whole of Friday, after a total of 2 hours of sleep – one before the incident and one after the incident – I had to make sure all my energy and every decision that I made, in my deteriorated mental and physical state, was for the well-being of my charge. I laugh when my sister asked me about minutiae that day, whether some of the fridges I perused had a nice interior on the lower rack; I was more worried that I was driving safely and fully alert while on the road! Thankfully, I did manage to get 12 hours on the following night, and my sister and brother-in-law were present to help the two of us out look for a new refrigerator.

Currently we have an old ice chest for a few items in the kitchen; however, because it doesn’t seal well, the ice seems to be melting faster than usual. No need to bore anyone with the fine details, but it’s been a pretty hectic past few days and we are only settling now. A new fridge has been purchased and will be delivered from Home Depot on Friday.

Knowing that things were lining up, I decided that I need to pin some time for myself. I’m not stressed, really, but I just have not given my body any love of late. Last night, I paid for a yoga class up front and will be headed out later this morning. Then I’ll stop downtown to continue working on a job application for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)* and then meet up with a few friends at Planta, a high-end vegan restaurant**. I’ll see a few more friends this week too before I leave, but I’m looking forward to some time by myself.

*Not to get confused with the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB)
**My sister will pop over after work to hang out with Gramma.

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