After receiving his Quesnel and District Community Arts Council Gallery of Honour award, Bert de Vink (left) plays the harmonica and performs one of his original songs with Ron Friesen and Mike Nelson Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, at the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre. (Lindsay Chung - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Letter to the editor: ‘Do what you can when you can’

Bert de Vink shares some insight into life with dementia


At this point in my life (87 years old), I like to share what I physically and mentally am going through.

There are things I am having a hard time with, the most important being that I cannot do my art anymore. The reason is that I lost my depth perception, which makes welding and carving impossible.

Combine that with losing my driver’s licence because of my eyesight and occasional lack of concentration, and as a result, I have lots of time I do not know what to do with.

Fortunately, I have been playing with the Windy Reeds for a long time, and that still occupies some of my time and makes me feel good because we play in rest homes and give people pleasure.

We also play for senior’s functions, the Billy Barker Days, the Bluegrass Festival and, occasionally, I jam with musician friends.

The winter time is the longest and most boring time of the year when I cannot use my scooter, and the walls of our home start to feel like a friendly prison. It does not help that I find the TV boring most of the time, and my eyes are only good for reading at short intervals, but I can type using glasses and big type font.

Quite recently, I have started to sing some songs in public.

I put these songs together quite a long time ago, but I have a hard time remembering the words again. On one occasion, I got so flustered I started to wobble and could not find the right words. I am lucky that my friends in the Windy Reeds caught me and guided me back to my seat.

The reason I am still playing in public is I have always been as stubborn as a mule, which helped overcome my embarrassment.

Recently, I have become aware that my dementia is getting worse, and that is a hard pill to take. In some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways, my body is also telling me ‘you aren’t what you used to be, so take it easy.’

On the other hand, I am a very lucky man because I have a very loving wife and children, very good friends and I have not the slightest intention of giving up. Compared to an increasing amount of seniors who are lonely and who have to endure their misery and pain by themselves, I have a good life, and I am thankful for that.

My advice is do what you can when you can and don’t wait for your golden years; they don’t often live up to your expectations.

Bert de Vink

Quesnel, B.C.

READ MORE: Community contributions recognized during Quesnel Gallery of Honour presentation

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