• Jane Wheeler

Mom & Dad? A Sudden Assault of Grief




It was one of those days; I needed to go shopping, to spend my time aimlessly walking the isles gleaning ideas and looking for a creative outlet.


I was on my third store and so far nothing had inspired me or even beckoned to me, it seems I have not missed much by not shopping in the past few months. My idle browsing being replaced by hardware stores which had become my norm the past half year.


Christmas decorations were going out in each of the stores I visited and feelings of “home, family, togetherness” was welcome after a year of “stay away, do not touch, do not visit.”


There I was wandering down the bath isle when I turned the corner and suddenly stopped. My whole being suddenly came to an abrupt halt and I breathed out a whispered, “mom and dad?”


This older couple was standing there talking and while I knew it was not even humanly possible to be my own mom and dad, here was a couple that at first glance was them.


She had a walker just like mom, the curled white hair, he had on the baggy grandpa pants, baggy jacket and hands in his pocket. It was when she pulled a Kleenex out of her sleeve to use it that I totally lost it.


I was not prepared for the sudden assault of grief that overwhelmed me. I wanted to run over to them and hug them – hard! I wanted to feel my mom’s arms embrace me and hear my Dad’s voice. I stood and watched them for a little while until my heart broke, and my eyes glazed over with salty water droplets, I had to make a hasty retreat from the store.


Dad has been gone since 2013. Mom with stage 4 Alzheimer’s is safely tucked into a home in White Rock, how could I have thought it was them?


Life has all kinds of triggers that we suddenly walk into and they play tricks and games with our minds and memories. Our emotions suddenly burst into an epic brilliance of firework type illuminations inside our mind with memories and wishes. We have no control over triggers. We can control how we react but that would only be if we were warned in advance of their coming. With no warning we are at the mercy of our emotions and thoughts.


Grief can come upon a person like that, sudden, instantly, brutal, in an instant we, in our minds, are a world away from reality and where we are physically standing. The mind is a curious thing.


Sights or smells can usher in triggers, clothing or a remembrance, a gesture or a voice or sound is all it takes for grief to take a hold of us. For me, the undoing was the Kleenex.


My mom is a Kleenex hoarder even to this day. Her walker is filled with them, drawers and sleeves all contain the vitally important Kleenex. You could count on mom to always be prepared in this way.


Two of my sons saw the picture and they too commented on how much it looks like “grandma”.



Perhaps this year and not being able to go and visit mom has taken its toll. I am in another province and with Covid, visiting is restricted in many ways. At this moment only one family member can go and visit and it is supposed to be the same person. Other family can do a 15 minute window visit. My drive is 15 hours to get there and mom cannot hear well, a 15 minute window visit is not exactly what I had in mind. We are never sure if she will know who we are when we go to see her.


I feel distant, guilty and longing all at the same time. I believe that these emotions all played a part in the instant reaction to this dear older couple I ran into.


Treasure your time with family, it is never guaranteed and in this weird year of Covid – you simply do not know when you can get together again.

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