THE GENTLE TOUCH
by Lorraine Williams
My cousin Donald died of heart failure on Ash Wednesday this year. He was 82. My husband and I were with him as he took his last breath. Because Donald’s only sibling was confined to a seniors care centre in Western Canada, we had the task of cleaning out his cluttered subsidized senior’s apartment in a dicey area of Toronto’s downtown.
Where would we start? The walls were totally discoloured with sickly yellow nicotine stains from his chain-smoking. Cigarette smoke had permeated every single item in that bachelor apartment, even the envelopes and computer paper in his desk drawer. The kitchen contained a few cracked dishes and blackened pots and pans. The arborite dining-room table was peppered with sticky tobacco flecks. The pullout couch was open, facing a surprisingly decent TV set. I envisioned Donald lying in bed watching his beloved Toronto Maple Leaf games as his strength declined over the last couple of years. The most honoured spots in his humble dwelling, however, were reserved for two large bookshelves crammed with volumes, and a huge desk with computer and dot-matrix printer, both unused over those same declining years.