My mother died in October, 2018. While I cannot point to the precise day of the month, I remember what I was doing at the time. I was lying by the pool on Longboat Key, Florida. We had just arrived there from Canada. My partner had (I presume) received an email from my sister – or perhaps it was a telephone call – notifying us of mother’s death. When he came to pool and bent to my ear to whisper the news, my reply was, “Good!”
While that may sound peculiar, it was nothing more than my reaction to mother’s thankful departure from the dreadful condition to which she had lately descended following a heart attack or seizure. She had initially been confined to a bed in any emergency ward of an Ottawa hospital, uncommunicative and likely unreceptive. Soon thereafter she was removed to a palliative care home (Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice, Kanata, Ontario). My sister later informed me that mother received superb care during her short term in palliative care. She was 92 years old.
It was mere weeks before mother’s death that I had visited her at Revera Colonel By retirement residence in Ottawa. Not only was she then in full form and vigour; but pointedly I had taken her to the garden overlooking the Rideau Canal so that she could smoke a cigarette. My sister and I had, I believe, removed the bottle of Dubonnet from mother’s ‘fridge in her apartment; but we calculated there was less disadvantage flowing from the cigarettes.
Interestingly my late father – who was born in 1918 100 years before my mother’s death – was throughout his life both a teetotaler and a non-smoker. This is an unusual characterization for someone like my father who, in his business as a military commander and a diplomat, would have encountered enormous persuasion to both drink and smoke. It is perhaps even more peculiar that my father endured the habits performed by my mother.
What my parents had in common was a love of their family, both immediate and removed (and sometimes estranged). LIke most family avowals they were delivered with lack of tact and force of directness – but always with honesty and hopefulness. The alliances are all the more meaningful when recalling (as I am informed) that my mother’s parents refused to attend her wedding because she did not marry a Roman Catholic. From what I can tell that was a short-lived exposition. In the end I don’t think either of my maternal grandparents had any better friends than my parents (who doted upon my maternal grandparents to the end).
The important dunnage my sister gave my parents that I could never do is grandchildren. My mother was beyond ethereal bliss when accompanied by her grandchildren. No one was prouder than she of her grandchildren.
My mother read me like a book. Though she was far from expressing her insight to me, she overcame the superfluity by devoting herself to what matters. She hadn’t the native witticism to manipulate intelligence with quips or innuendo. But there was never any confusion surrounding our joint exploits. In a word we both appreciated nice things. And she gave me a lot of them throughout my life. My return volley normally involved sharing the array of goods with her during a family foregathering for a meal at my house. There was no limit to the display which reguarly included a performance on the antique Heintzman grand piano or the new Steinway salon grand. It never escaped me that my mother was the sine qua non and I adored catering to her as a result.
Often I reflect dolefully upon my mother. I think it is the normal consequence of aging and idle wistful reminiscence. It is however difficult to arouse either grief or misfortune when considering the life my mother had. And when considering how long she lived. Nor to my knowledge was there any loss beyond the expected. My mother had a comfortable life with a loving family, great friends and terrific opportunities in which I include travel – and did I mention grandchildren?