Growing up in my adoptive family required that I learn very quickly about how to survive. My family was very chaotic, emotionally driven. You never knew when one of them1 would fly off the handle and attack verbally, sometimes physically. As a child, as most children, I was trying to get my mother’s approval. At seven years old, I overheard a conversation between her and my great-grandmother. My mother was divorcing my father and she was telling my great-grandmother that she would be ok because she had me – her Rock of Gibraltar.2 After my dad left, my predicament became apparent.
As a single mother, in 1972, my mother couldn’t afford after school care for me and my sister – so that became my responsibility. I had to start dinner, make sure the house was tidy and try to control my wild sister.3 We had neighbours could call on if there was an emergency. But that was it, I was on my own.
At a young age, I learned to come up with contingency plans. My sister was extremely uncooperative and often made a huge mess and I would have to clean it up. I would need to have everything in place for when my mother came home. Trying to get my sister to keep the house neat was nigh on impossible. I would bribe and threaten her all the time to get her to clean up after herself. It never happened. If my mom came home and the house was a mess – there was hell to pay. My sister thought it was quite funny. I was the only one upset. This went on for several years.
I learned very quickly that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to do it on my own and thus the contingency plans began. I could, in a matter of seconds, assess a situation and come up with several different solutions. This became a life-long habit. I always had many different solutions should certain things happen. Some of the things I would think about were: what would happen if I lost my job, failed out of university, got in trouble etc. I also had a hyper-sense of fair. This led me to be an excellent advocate for those clients with complicated problems.
I can remember being in staff meetings and the group being presented with a problem. I would quickly go through the problem in my head, see the pitfalls, contingencies etc., and then give a solution. Invariably, my solution would be shot down. Two hours later, my solution would be adopted.
Right now, I have no contingency plans taking up space in my head. I have started a process.4 This is a process that I don’t control and that other people are going to take care of for me. I know that I have done the best I can to leave my family in good financial condition. I had hoped to work for the next decade, at least part-time, so they will need to do that. I am not worried about them. They are smart and resourceful. I have the support of those around me and I feel so at peace with my decision. Everyday it’s get stronger.
I am not working. My mind is empty of work related tasks of things I need to remember to do. This is such a blessing. There were nights my mind couldn’t stop. I solved a lot of problems at 3 am in my life. Now, I am not solving problems in my sleep. Since I made the decision to pursue MAiD, I am not trying to get surgeries or do other things to prolong my life. Instead, I can do what I want to do – things that make me happy. Like today, Stevie who will rarely stay on the bed for more than 5 minutes stayed for a couple of hours and I got baby bubba kisses. This made me so happy. I think I am really, for the first time, enjoying life. It seems counter-intuitive that this is the time I would be happy, and content.
I am ultimately not afraid of death – particularly a MAiD death. I will go to sleep. I can do that.
1 Mostly my mother, grandmother and sister.
2 At seven, I had no idea what it meant but I knew it was a compliment.
3 My sister was not adopted. She is 2 years younger than me.
4 #MAiD – Medical Assistance in Dying