Malaspina Gardens Hospice


June 22nd, 2007

So in the course of finishing up our work at the hospice, it eventually came to pass that no more efforts were required outside landscaping. The only tasks remaining were within the old folks home itself. Something that I’ll admit I was actively avoiding for myself. I don’t know, I guess with Dad’s passing and that of Johnny’s as well, coupled with spending a sleepless night preparing a speech to be given at Johnny’s memorial, I was feeling a bit inundated with mortality. The idea of going into the hospice and seeing up close and personal, the frail and tired, aged just seemed to be more than I could take. But in the end there could be no more skirting the issue. What seemed to be of little consequence or noticeable recognition by the younger guys on the crew, and hence my willingness to allow them to foray into the hospice to assist Lloyd and the removal of old and dated furniture, was now for me to witness as I helped over the last hour to finish up the day. Going in on my own as the gang was upstairs on the third floor, I came upon an old man seated aside the elevator doors. As I awaited the arrival of the elevator car he began to ask me with a dismayed and wanting tone, where all of the televisions were going. As I hadn’t seen all that the fellows were extracting from the upper floors I found myself at a loss for an adequate answer. He proceeded to ruminate on the televisions. His tone and far off look to his eyes started to tear at my heartstrings. It was apparent to my eyes that we weren’t fully connecting within our brief conversational encounter. He may have been verging on senility but I was verging on discord for the multitude of thoughts that were crowding my mind. 

Where were they going with all the t.v.’s? 

By his count there were five that had walked out of the elevator doors past him, before my arrival at his side. 

Didn’t he have a television? 

Were they even televisions at all? 

In a world that is constantly subjected to and undergoing change is it too much to ask that in our twilight years we might be afforded some insulation from the constant that begs our acquiescence throughout all of our adulthood? To see this withered old man who appeared too weak to move from his seat, exhausted from a life of chasing toys, then balls, then girls, then babies, then bills, then memories and finally age itself, it looked to my struggling eyes as though time was now chasing him. The tables turned. Only he wasn’t running. His weakened body confined to his chair by the main floor elevator as though he were a display. The rush of time pressing him in the oscillation of the guys as they went up empty handed and came down arms full. I had only seen chairs and bric-a-brac exit the building previously from where I had been working. No televisions by my count had come out but not everything that the guys were drawing out of the hospice was bound for the refuse bin where I was toiling. The front side parking lot was beginning to fill up with furnishings intended for another destination. One that might see their further utilization. Lamps still to be lit. Seats still to be sat. Dressers still to be filled with dress. Bookshelves still to shelve books. Perhaps even televisions still to be viewed. My heart began to ache for this elder. Must change continue to erode… everything? I would imagine that for the infirm occupants of this hospice, and any other, that change would not only be disturbing to their compromised abilities to cope with it but actively be warded against by those charged with their care. What I was seeing however, showed me otherwise. Time indeed was chasing this man, whether he liked it or not, realized it or not, and the constant that is change would sooner or later see this fellow’s residence change from a hospice to a cemetery. Utterly depressing to stare down though utterly unavoidable as well. For him, for me, for you, for the crew. Joking, laughing, working, gawking at the nurses, eating burgers and salmon, grinding out a jail bit, chasing life until death catches each and every one of us. And in the name of this nameless old man, I pray that when that time arrives we’ll each have our dignity, the love of our families and a freaking television!

So upstairs I eventually found and got to helping Lloyd and the guys remove the last vestiges of furnishings from the hallways and the rooms they led to. Lloyd I found to be quite friendly but hard to get a straight answer from. Yesterday I had asked him what the total yearly budget was to operate the hospice and he rather wistfully and somewhat bluntly replied, “millions.” Then I proceeded to to inquire as to how many occupants resided in the hospice and his answer was that there were five floors of rooms. It was then that I decided that he either didn’t know or was unwilling to convey such information to me so I dropped my pursuit of it. 

The work was pretty much done by the time i joined the crew. I showed in time to watch Lloyd somewhat aimlessly or absentmindedly ducking into this room or that, that room then this, the others in tow. Standing at the convergence of four radiating wings, I waited for instruction as James Hudzicker was playfully propelling himself around in a wheelchair and the others halfheartedly conducted a search of the various rooms, almost as if looking for an exit. I decided to go into one of the rooms to sneak a look at the view, which happened to reach the waters of Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island. Impressive. But as I turned back to face the empty room and return to the hallway it adjoined, I began to realize that the entire four wings were deserted. Not a soul up on the third floor besides ourselves. The entire four wings of floor number three empty, as if decommissioned. The end of the day was upon us and answers from Lloyd seemed moot to question. Room #3331 empty. No grandmother in room #3337. No tired patriarch in room #3346. Just flotsam and jetsam strewn about the floors of each empty space. The lifeless void of each room and their whispers of unheard stories leaving each more cluttered than when they were furnished and occupied. The shadows of the twilight years. 

Who knew what the reason for the empty rooms were? 

Where are the elderly of floor #3? 

Why is the furniture being removed? 

The other floors of the Malaspina Gardens Hospice were fully functioning. Part of me felt like pulling up a chair beside the old man on the main floor for inside I was equally dismayed and wanting for answers to my questions. The deserted rooms of floor number three seemed eerily foreboding of change. 

Where are the televisions? 

Where are the occupants of floor number three?! 

While people can’t withstand change, nor too it seems can buildings. Hell, televisions likely won’t be able to withstand change forever either. Change. The one true constant, aside from time itself and being 2:30 pm, it was sadly yet also thankfully time to leave.