Me & Dad (1966)

Can I Really Tell My Story Now?

Ending my silence

Tracey Ormerod
6 min readMar 10


“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

~ The Gospel of Thomas

There are many layers to my 3-year silence.

In March 2020, it was grief and shock. Fear too, because we were all sick with COVID in our household and quarantined, without any of the knowledge or protections we have now.

After that it was concern for how my story, in all of its truth, might hurt others. My dad wouldn’t have wanted that, so when the press found us and started calling, we firmly said “no.”

COVID then became increasingly politicized. Participating in any conversation that could kindle that sort of vitriol was hurtful. I also kept hearing people say they’d heard enough about it. They were “over it.”

When I saw the Medium invitation to share our pandemic stories, I wept.

Can I really tell my story now?

Me & Dad (1972)

Dad didn’t want to go. Who were we to make him do it? Why not let him stay in his own home? He was growing stronger after his stroke (2019) and, with proper therapy, that would continue.

But the call came in the first week of March 2020. There was a bed available at Pinecrest Nursing Home.

“Maybe we should pass on this one. Dad doesn’t want it; he’s going to refuse when they offer it,” I said to my stepmother.

“No! He has to go. I’ll just die if he doesn’t,” she said.

I convinced him and I had to believe we could make it better for him. With time and therapeutic care, we’d find a better spot, one with a pool and a gym. He loved the water.

On March 10th, we moved him in.

On March 12th, I went straight from work to spend the afternoon with him. He wept on my shoulder when I left to go home for dinner. I promised to come the next day, and hopefully by then he’d have his new phone hooked up too.

On March 13th, a Friday, everything was locked down. No visits. No phone. Isolation.

Me & Dad ( 1977)

On March 20th, we got the call. Dad had COVID.

The doctor told us that sending him to the hospital wasn’t advisable, even though Dad had requested medical effort as needed.

“They won’t have a room for him. He’ll be left on a gurney in the hall, after a rough ambulance ride. At least here, we can keep him comfortable.”

We believed her and we sat at our dining table with the phone. Days passed. We’d call for updates from the nurses, but all I wanted to do was talk to Dad.

“Can I bring a cellphone to a door or window? Could someone take it to him so we can call him?”

“Does he know how to use it?” the nurse asked.

“Well no, but couldn’t someone press the answer button for him when we call?”

“We don’t have time for that,” she said.

The next day, the newspapers listed an 89-year-old male resident of Pinecrest as one of the first to be diagnosed with COVID, in the first of what would become many long-term care outbreaks in Canada.

My dad.

Me & Dad (1980)

Pinecrest allowed me, my husband and my son to go inside and there was no way I wasn’t going to go. It was strange but it was early days. They were still allowing compassionate visits and Dad was dying.

Some room numbers were marked with torn pieces of yellow post-it notes. Dad’s room had one.

There was a wheeled cart at the door to his room, with packaged cookies and bottled water, and a basket of pamphlets about what to expect when a loved one is dying. That’s where we put on our paper gowns and masks before going into his room.

But we couldn’t stay.

My son & Dad (2007)

It’s strange what COVID did to people in those early days.

The stores in town had guards at their doors. We had to lie about our connection to Pinecrest so that the 16-year-old at the drugstore doorway would let us in to buy aspirin. (A month later, they were “#BobcaygeonStrong”.)

A woman in my mother’s building around the corner from Pinecrest called me early one morning in a panic, “I have grandchildren, you know!”

Someone I grew up with, who should’ve known better, accused me of wanting to profit from it when I told him to keep it quiet and let us be, that we wanted privacy while we waited for my father to die. (I still don’t get that one and I can only guess he was drunk.)

The press found me and my husband via social media very quickly. I asked our neighbour, a CBC journalist, how they did that. With a spark of pride in his eye he said, “we have our ways.”

I learned later that one of the nurses at the home had her car vandalized with a note accusing her of murder. She came back from a holiday sick and went to work shortly before the outbreak.

Another neighbour’s partner told me people in town were talking and blamed my father for bringing it with him from Toronto.

Fear does things, as does the desire to find blame. So much of it leads to anger and we find ourselves saying things that are best left unsaid.

My husband with George, Dad and my son. (2016)

Dad died alone on March 28, 2020.

In the end, no matter the dark and strange behaviors around us during those days, that’s what haunts me most. That, and the “what-ifs”.

Because it was early days, the ongoingness of the pandemic made it impossible to recover from the grief or to forget the many things best forgotten.

Every news report, every death count, every right/left debate, every outburst of anger and accusation, reopened the wounds and reminded me of the loss.

Nothing was left untouched: family, friendships, career, and home. Nothing is the same.

Dear reader: That last line makes me want to add something. I don’t want to leave you there, in a dark place, so I’m searching for something, anything, to end this on a better note ...

Happier times

Hi Dad,

I know time isn’t on our side anymore, so I’ll be brief and do my best to catch you up on 3 years of everything. Here’s what I know you’d want to know:

Kip and I are doing well. We’ve moved to a nice house in a nice neighbourhood. Kip’s business is good and I’ve had some good writing contracts. We lost George, but our new puppy Dora is a hoot. She’d make you laugh. (I miss your laugh.)

Your grandson has a lovely girlfriend (you always asked me about his love life) and a new job with benefits (you always worried).

The world continues to be a mess in ways you’d find both familiar and strange, but it also continues to be beautiful.

And you continue to be loved, always.

Tracey xoxo



Tracey Ormerod

Writer, teacher, armchair philosopher. Sharing what I find while wandering around in the messy middle of life.