Caressant Care Bourget resident gets his wish of a lifetime, to take an art class again, fulfilled

Ronald Parkinson, 68 years old, is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after traversing the darkest years of his life. The man who walked into the Ottawa School of Art on June 16th is not the same that was transferred from the hospital to the Bourget Caressant Care Nursing Home a few years ago, with a note saying that he had suffered brain damage from accidentally ingesting rat poisoning. Several years before, Ronald was led off and his life took a steep turn: he broke up with his partner, the mother of his daughter, ended up working as a janitor and living in a cabin in the forest without running water or electricity. These dire living conditions probably contributed to the accident that took him to the emergency room. 

Ron holds up sketch against the original before he paints itBut right when he was hitting rock bottom, Ronald chose to fight to get his autonomy back and help others. In a few years, he has become an essential figure of his community, introducing new comers to the nursing home, helping the activity director breaking the isolation of other residents and even creating his own reading circle, where he would read books out loud for those who cannot read anymore. His role was recognized by his peers, who elected him president of the residents’ council, and by the nursing home, which now let him go out of the facility on his own.

Ronald’s incredible road to recovery has been fueled by his lifelong passion for art: at age 16, he worked for a metal sculptor; still a teenager, he took his first art class, then a second one when he was 44. At the nursing home, he has been attending every art workshop available, but kept dreaming of attending one more time an art class outside of the facility, to reconnect with the person he once was.

"I couldn’t think of anything that would make me happier. After that, I could go happy."

Ron sits at a table painting an image he sketched of a carOn June 16th, Wish of a Lifetime was therefore thrilled to help Ronald in his fight for autonomy by allowing him to reconnect with his lifelong passion and attend an Ink and Watercolor Class at the Ottawa School of Art, where he was proud to show younger generations that even a 68 years old man with brain damage can still learn new skills and accomplish his dreams.

This wish had an incredible impact on him.

"I feel more important now, I have done something valuable" Ronald told us, before sharing how painting helps him finding wisdom in tough times. "Life is like painting. Sometimes you make mistakes that you are able to correct, sometimes you make mistakes that you can't correct, and you have to start over. This is OK; you have to keep trying and don't give up."

His adventure doesn't end here. The school offered to display his art at the students’ exhibit in the fall. The photographer, Maryse, who is also a watercolor teacher, was so moved by his story that she even offered to give free painting workshops at the Nursing Home! 

In photos: Ronald shows off his sketch of a car before he puts the finishing watercolour touches on it.

This story was originally published on Wish of a Lifetime's Senior Wish website and has been reposted with permission from Caressant Care. Additional pictures and videos can be found on the original posting, courtesy of Maryse Hatchard.