by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

As popular as it is to record the welcome and accepted advantages of a Friday afternoon and an upcoming weekend, it is equally frequent to remark upon the blight that is Monday morning. Today was no exception to that routine nutrition.

Actually the trouble started on Saturday when I learned that the new walker I had ordered for my elderly mother was not to her satisfaction.  She gleefully trumpeted that red was not her colour. It evidently didn’t matter that the colour was wine or burgundy – or more exactly a ruby gemstone colour, quite appealing in my opinion.  Even though I succeeded to get her past that cosmetic objection, I discovered upon closer examination of the walker that the left brake handle did not function reliably. My initial prosecution of the problem was to ask my sister – who knew someone at my mother’s retirement residence involved in these matters – to see whether they might adjust the handle and at the same time ensure that in their experience of physiotherapy generally the height of the device was appropriate for my aged mother.

That minute particularity quickly became redundant. When I telephoned my mother mid-morning today (Monday) she advised that the walker was too low to use when sitting in front of her mirror to apply her face. The whole damn thing had to be returned. I immediately called Ontario Medical Supply to set in motion the process of replacing the walker and returning the old one.

But not so fast!  OMS advised they did not have “small, medium and large” models and accordingly it would be necessary for me to measure the distance from the floor to my mother’s arms held out at a 45° angle, and from the floor to the seat.  Unbeknown to the telephonist to whom I was speaking, this seemingly unexceptional proposal was tantamount to asking me to repair an antique mechanical watch – an undertaking of Olympic proportions. When I stupidly sought to derail the agenda and suggested that they might instead have someone deliver a couple of models to my mother’s suite for her experimentation, this patent absurdity was rejected out-of-hand. Clearly some people know not what they ask!

Faced with the inevitable alternative of having to take measurements in situ I  began realigning my thinking and recalled that several days ago I had disposed of mother’s old walker by lodging it at the back of the retirement residence dumpster (as instructed by the staff to do).  I posited that if the implement were still there I could measure it accordingly.  But when I arrived at the retirement home the old gadget was gone. I subsequently learned from my sister that the in-house chauffeur had reclaimed it for donation to a local charity which appropriately assuaged my inherent guilt for not having recycled.  This meant however that I was compelled to ask my mother to do what OMS had suggested in the first place – take measurements. Fortunately for me my sister had in the meantime delivered to my mother’s apartment an old walker formerly belonging to my late father.  My sister kept the old walker at her residence for use when my mother occasionally visited. As it turns out the old walker – when I had my mother sit on it and push it about – was an acceptable height for both the seat and the handles. This naturally made it easier for me to measure.  Having done so I telephoned OMS with what I thought was going to be a quick and easy follow-up to our initial truncated conversation.

But not so fast!  This time I connected with a different Customer Service Representative. It became increasingly clear to me that OMS is a large organization. It was entirely possible that the person to whom I was speaking was located in some urban metropolis like Toronto, part of a pool of subalterns.  At the outset of our rally the clerk could not fathom my advice that I wished to return a walker I had bought and paid for on Saturday and which had already been delivered to my mother’s residence. These transparent statistics were confounded by a multitude of exasperating questions concerning whether this was a new order or a replacement, a rental or purchase, through a hospital, nursing home or private residence, whether I had the invoice, etc. After lengthy and exhausting discussion the clerk concluded she was unable to locate any record of my order or credit card payment notwithstanding that the transaction had been conducted as recently as 48 hours ago. Then thankfully after another prolonged delay (during which I agonized about being disconnected and having to re-start the entire affair with someone else) she at last unearthed a record of the primary transaction.  Finally the focus of our discourse turned to the original object of the exercise; namely, the replacement of the walker. What followed was an obtuse discourse of various models of varying wheel sizes, seat positions, handle heights and colours. I sought to pierce the veil of complexity by insisting upon a model identical to what had already been delivered (though in black if possible – but any colour was fine – and new or used didn’t matter either) with the appropriate handle and seat height as indicated. At last the order was settled!

After that I had to deal with my mother’s pestering and suspicious inquisition regarding whether the OMS delivery boy would collect the correct old (which was technically the “new”) device – not the one my sister had delivered from her home.  And this entailed having to explain once again how the old walker (meaning the really old one belonging to my late father) had materialized in her apartment; and when “they” were going to collect the old and deliver the new.  And just when I got all that intelligence sorted out I unthinkingly observed that a small blanket beside the television was soiled so I decided to retire it to the laundry hamper for cleaning.  My mother immediately objected – she simply cannot tolerate change of any proportion – and in spite of my corresponding push-back and contradiction the debate quickly escalated to a war of words involving some admittedly unbecoming philippics on my part and I felt myself ready to take a flying leap!

Just when I thought I had subdued the discombobulation my mother veered in a completely different direction and sternly enquired why her morning newspaper had not been delivered today. This too stopped me in my tracks. It forced me to reflect upon what day of the week it was.  Monday of course.  And not Easter Monday or any other holiday Monday for that matter. When I mechanically blurted that it was Monday that reminded my mother she had not had her bath today as she usually does (the staff attends upon her for this purpose).  Now I was juggling two issues, the newspaper and the bath. I recalled that the bathing is handled by people my sister knows and has dealt with. So I judiciously deferred that matter of personal care until I had an opportunity to draw my sister into the fray.  Meanwhile I set about dealing with the Ottawa Citizen which I fashioned to be more within my bailiwick of property management.

Recently I have exemplified that bent of old people for petty economy by canceling our internet data plan from our mobile phone accounts, choosing instead to rely upon our home WiFi, coffee house and restaurant WiFi when available or the WiFi service we pay for in the car.  This means that I was sitting in my mother’s residence (which unsurprisingly is not equipped with anything approaching computer services of any description) without the ability to search the internet for a telephone number for the Ottawa Citizen.  So I called home and got the assistance and information I required.  But my troubles had only begun.  When I telephoned the main number of the newspaper I was instantly directed to a so-called automated help line which in keeping with the circumstances of the day turned out to be less than helpful. When I attempted to enter a telephone number and municipal address on my tiny smartphone keypad the bland retort was that the information did not match.  This is partly a consequence of doing this stuff as Power of Attorney for my mother and not knowing whose telephone number and address, hers or mine, is in the system.  After re-starting the entire telephone contact I got re-directed to what was supposed to be a live operator only to be told by a programmed recording that their computer systems were down. It was only after I returned home and connected with my own computer records that I was able to send an email (as politely worded as possible since they couldn’t possibly know or care about what I had earlier been through); and then I received a stock automated response about them getting back to me within the next two business days.

Before leaving my mother’s retirement residence I enquired at the front desk whether they knew anything about delivery of the Ottawa Citizen and the failure of staff to appear for my mother’s customary morning bath.  The receptionist went into a state of quandary when she realized that her own copy of the newspaper had apparently not been received.  As for the bath  she made a quick telephone call and if I recall correctly she advised something about my mother having objected to the staff bathing her this morning.  In retrospect there may have been some substance to that comment since my mother had also informed me when I initially spoke with her early this morning that she was ill (a malignity which in retrospect strangely appeared to have evaporated). At the time however her diagnosis had triggered a telephone call by me to the resident physician who advised he would attend upon my mother later which – when I asked her about it – he had apparently done though to what end she could not recall.

I arrived back home thinking I had wrestled everything to the ground until I discovered that I had failed in my haste to get my mother to sign the insurance claim form for her new walker.  I had put the paper in my car so as not to forget it.  But it had gone out of sight into the glove compartment last night when I went to a movie with a friend.  And naturally I omitted to retrieve it.  I did however remember to collect the required prescription from the doctor when I was at the front desk of the retirement home today. My final act of absorption was to decipher notices received from my mother’s financial advisor in the day’s mail. What a Monday!