Pubdate: Tue, 07 Nov 2017
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Anne Farries


For months, Ralph (all names have been changed), neighbour to my
friend The Chairman, has left his house only for doctor visits and a
couple of hospital stints.

That's not for lack of trying. Prescribed mind-numbing meds put the
former coal miner into a fog. Several times he insisted that he needed
to go outside, rolled his wheelchair to the front door, tried to stand
but instead tumbled, like laundry out of a basket, like a milk bottle
smashed on the floor.

Ralph's wife Julie is tiny. Alone, she couldn't lift Ralph so she
hollered across the street to The Chairman, who rushed over, heedless
of his own painful, degraded vertebrae. Holding Ralph under the arms,
The Chairman convinced him to stay off the streets of Glace Bay a
little longer, hoisted him back into his chair and his dignity.

After that, The Chairman gave Julie a walkie-talkie so she could buzz
for help without the whole block opening their front doors and craning
their necks. And a doctor adjusted Ralph's meds, so now he falls less

The doctor also said he would find Ralph a nursing home, Ralph told
me, as we sat in his tidy living room watching a game show on the TV.
Julie was at darts. A home-care worker - one of several cheerful women
who help Ralph for a half-hour, twice a day - was in the kitchen,
filling out paperwork.

But Julie declined to send Ralph away. And after 40 years together,
Ralph would do the same for her, he said.

The mention of the nursing home sent a ripple of sympathy down my
spine. Although the Cape Breton nursing homes I have seen are bright,
kind and welcoming, still nobody wants to take a one-way trip.

 From the kitchen table, the home-care worker said something that eased
my worries about our collective futures.

All you can smell, she declared, when you walk into one Cape Breton
long-term facility, is marijuana.

Well, then, I thought, that might not be so bad.

It makes sense that those who are bedridden or in their last years on
Earth would want the comfort of the seven-leafed weed. Who would be so
cruel as to deny them that?

The current generation in nursing homes popularized the mild drug in
the '60s and '70s. For them, we need to talk about the effect of age
on potency and the interaction of various meds with various strains.
About edible products versus second-hand smoke for keeping peace among
roommates in long-term care.

The aged infirm have been forgotten in the discussion around
legalization, which is all about classifying the quality of the
botanical variety. The minimum legal age for purchase. Whether small
businesses or the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation should profit.
Taxation, testing and distribution.

It has been decades since I was interested in a puff but if, when I
become a geezer, I can giggle the day long, surrounded by folks with a
shared history, then I might not wish for a desperate escape, don
forbidden running shoes and sneak off to the familiar byways and back
alleys of my friendly youth.

Let's talk about that, I say, before any of us need to leave our
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