Hump Day: Thanks for the concern, kindness from coffee shop gang

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

“Excuse me! I need an ambulance!” No one heard me. Let’s try this again. I’d tried to call 911 but couldn’t manage to dial. I was shaking too badly.

“Excuse me! I need an ambulance!” This time I pretty much screamed. It was so loud, flocks of birds in Africa took off in unison. Dead people awakened from their eternal sleeps. Drinking glasses shattered. The heads in Tim Hortons turned around that time!

I got their attention. Before I go on, however, let’s start from the beginning.

As Sophia Petrillo used to say on The Golden Girls: “Picture it. Moncton and Dieppe. Saturday, June 2, 2012. A dutiful son goes to his father’s special care home in Moncton to take him to Tim Hortons on Paul Street in Dieppe for their regular Saturday morning coffee. The son will have the biggest coffee they have. The father will have the smallest coffee they have. Other than both being stunningly handsome, this is where the similarities end.”

So, yeah. I went to pick up my father on Saturday for our regular weekly trip to see “the boys” at Tim Hortons. I didn’t know most of them before I started to take my father there, but in the 1.5 years since I’ve been taking him, I’ve gotten to know a few of his friends and we’ve had some good chats. My father usually talks hockey playoffs and they tease each other about how badly their favourite teams and players are doing.

My father’s been using a walker since he entered the special care home in December 2010. Over time, he’s become completely dependent on it. Lately, everyone has noticed that he’s slowed down dramatically. He’s now reduced to an excruciatingly slow pace of inch-long shuffles.

Sometimes, there’s not a lot of joy in the joys of aging. On Saturday, he was the slowest I’d ever seen him. It took an eternity to get from his room in the special care home to my vehicle. I didn’t really mind. It is what it is. Most people at the home walk slowly. This time, though, something was different.

After finally arriving at my vehicle, I noticed his legs were shak­ing like they were about to give out. He’d also complained about his arms being sore. (He later clarified this to his arms just being tired.) I decided then and there that this was likely the last time I’d be taking him to Tim Hortons. The long walk down the hallway seemed to be too much for him. I even had to lift one leg into the car for him. That was the first time I’d ever had to do that. An offer to take this Saturday off and not go was refused. He wanted to go.

So, we went.

We chit-chatted on the way there. He commented on the various paving jobs going on around the eastern part of Moncton. He asked me if I was busy. He’d had a couple of strokes and some mini strokes before this, so his speech is slurred. It gets worse when he’s tired. This Saturday morning, I found it difficult to understand some of what he was saying and he had to repeat himself. He seemed exhausted.

We arrived at Tim’s and I asked him to sit on his walker (it has a seat) so that I could wheel him in. I thought it would go faster. He agreed, so I pushed him from the vehicle to the door. When we arrived there, my back was to him because of the way I was pushing him, so I couldn’t see his face. I asked him to get up so he could walk in. No response. Selective hearing? Just being ornery? Who knew?

So I asked again. No response. I then decided to just bring him inside the doors, which I did. Someone held the door open for me. I thanked them and pushed my father inside.

I turned him around and asked him to stand up again. What I got back was a blank stare. Seated on his walker, his head rolled back, his jaw dropped open and his eyes stayed open staring into space. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t blinking. I called his name. He didn’t respond. I moved my hand in front of his open eyes. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Arrivederci. Sayonara. Goodbye and good night.

Have you seen the Tim Hortons commercials where young hockey players bond with their dads? Where friends gather to chat? Where smiling employees pour coffee for happy customers? Nice commercials, eh? Well, at that moment, I felt like I was living the worst Tim Hortons commercial ever. “My father loved Tim’s so much… he died there.”

I grabbed my cell phone to dial 911. I was shaking and couldn’t do it. That’s when I decided to ask for help instead of trying to be a hero.

I called out. No one heard me.

Then I pretty much screamed. Heads turned. Looks of shock. People ran over.

‘I think he’s dead,’ I told the first concerned employee who arrived. He looked dead. He absolutely did.

Others arrived. I tried to find the pulse on his neck. I couldn’t find it, but someone else did.

The fire department and ambulance showed up within minutes. By then, he had come back to life from what was apparently a mini stroke. He woke up, looked around and wondered why everyone was there.

Meanwhile, I’m traumatized and the Tim Hortons employees had about one nerve left between the entire lot of them, while my confused father was whisked away by ambulance and wondering what all the fuss was about.

He’s now recovering in hospital.

We often hear about how people in the service industry don’t seem to care these days. What I saw on Saturday morning, though, was nothing but supreme care and concern from these wonderful employees. They were stellar. They were great.

Thank you… and sorry I forgot to leave a tip for your troubles. You certainly earned a biggie.

2 Responses to Hump Day: Thanks for the concern, kindness from coffee shop gang

  1. My heart went out to you when I read your blog about your dad. I last my dad 4 years ago after watching the physical decline in him as well as dementia affecting his mental state. I am very fortunate to be a part of a wonderfully close family of 4 brothers and 2 sisters nearly across Canada who were all willing and able to help out by merely picking up the phone. I always referred to our caring for him as an apprenticeship in grandparenting. If your compassion and patience did not grow in caring for an elderly parent then there is something wrong with you. Cherish and savoour every moment with your dad Brian as you never know when it might be your/his last. God Bless

  2. Thank you very much, Gerard. I really appreciate your kind words. As you’ve experienced yourself, it’s definitely a role reversal where he’s the “child” now and I’m the parent. One thing that I remember very clearly from when I was a child was that he thought very highly of his parents and treated them like gold. I don’t know if I’ve always shown the patience I should have (or could have), but I’m doing my best along with my brother and sister to ensure he’s getting the proper care he needs. It’s not something I was prepared to do (are we ever prepared?) but I’m learning how the system works and will strongly advocate on his behave to ensure he is treated well.