Caregiving

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A Big Man With a Heart

He’s a longtime family friend. Not the sort you’d ordinarily expect to find hanging around our house, but a genuine good soul who has earned an undisputed place in our lives.

I first met Hilmar a weekend after I moved into my second husband’s house. One Saturday, there he was at the front door with a naughty smile, a green garbage bag of dirty laundry under one arm and a barrel of beer under the other. An indelible memory.

Mr. Ruediger, as I came to call him when I needed something fixed, looked like a mountain man. Boisterous, with wild white hair and a Santa beard, he was right out of the deepest parts of the Thuringian Forest.

As the years have passed, Hilmar has kept us laughing. Yep, he still lived like the Alm Uncle in a two-storey home, full to the top with memorabilia. But it was all paid for and there was money in the bank thanks to his hard work. Over time, we’ve insisted he buy new glasses when the duct tape was dirty and falling off the oldies, and dragged him to buy pants and underwear.

Recently, Hilmar’s failing health has slowed him down. Bratwurst, sauerkraut and German beer consumption are on the back burner. He’s masterfully learned to manage his diabetes and cope with a bad leg, and attends dialysis three times a week. But Hilmar’s glass is more than half full. After all, the clinic is great place to laugh with the nurses and enjoy free internet.

Fast forward to last week, and he’s moving to a nursing home in Niagara Falls after an extended hospital stay. My husband, his Power of Attorney, was worried. It was goodbye to Hilmar’s rambling ways. But his first visit said it all. Picture this: it’s lunchtime on day two. Our lifelong bachelor sits regaling the 5 ladies at his table. Not another gent in sight. You’ve got the picture. “The nurses are nice, the food’s all right and my goodness, there’s a lot to do,” he says. Everyone loves him, he’s a physio-star, no trouble for staff and has already made friends. With a wink he tells us he’s never seen so many old people and that he’s breaking out to come to the cottage for a visit.

Fast forward to 11am, Saturday morning and guess who arrives in Cobourg. His friend, aka chauffeur and odd job man, is happily driving our daughter’s old VW rabbit, a recent trade down from his truck because of his mobility issues, and they’re both ready for strong coffee. You can’t keep a good guy down!

Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Editor in Chief

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