Mothering Mother

I have an elderly mother who I am very close to. She has outlived her first husband, my father, of 58 years, and also outlived her second husband of four years; he was eighty when they married. She has outlived two sons and a daughter-in-law. My mom is ninety-three, she suffers from dementia and lives in a full care facility not far from me.

I spend many days a week with her, helping her to eat her lunch because she can no longer manage cutlery on her own, and stroll her in her wheelchair around the hallways because she can no longer work her chair on her own. I listen and nod as she talks, although the words and sentences no longer make sense. But she is looking at me and smiling while she talks, seeming to understand what she is wanting to share. That’s enough.

Being in this care facility visiting mom several times a week, is a place of endings. A constant reminder that nothing is going to get better. Any changes my mom experiences are going to be for the worse. Her new milestones are reached but not celebrated, only solemnly acknowledged because they aren’t the milestones of progress as when we would watch, for example, as children reach theirs; first tooth, crawl, steps, school.

The milestones of my mom are milestones of Lasts. I was trying to remember the last time my mom was able to get into my car and go out for a drive to the beach she loved, where we used to go frequently; sometimes picking up some burgers and park the car facing out to the water, eating and talking, watching people walk their dogs. Then, when was the last time she walked, the last time she fed herself, the last time she knew my name.

In the past six months her Last’s have increased exponentially, and each last brings her closer. And I know it’s coming, the day, and it will break my heart in a million pieces when it does. But I know that my heart can remain full in knowing I gave her as much as I could, did what I could. I was there, as I am now, to comfort her from the fear and confusion that stole her peace of mind; like a parent reassuring a small child that all is well there is no monster under the bed, I am here.

I take comfort in that she had a long life. Has. And I do focus on the positives she can experience in her days; when she does engage in conversation, when her never failing humour will slip in when least expected and we can laugh together, and her never ending gratitude extended to everyone with ‘Bless your heart’.

I also ask myself how could I come to mourn someone gifted with living well into their nineties when my two nieces lost a father, and another two nieces and a nephew lost both parents when they all were young? I can’t. But I will. Regardless how long or short a time we have them with us. Yet living to such an age is what we all desire- we couldn’t do more, and if you have your children around to look after your care and quality of life, that is the best of what we could hope for. How can we be sad? Of course we are still sad. Losing a parent at any age will carry its own grief.

It is all still hard, because- she’s my mom, and I’m bracing for The Day, as I braced for the day when my father, and then my brothers each passed from cancer. With dementia it is a long and lingering goodby as, piece by piece, parts of who she is take leave, what remains is a shadow of who she was.

My part is to be her touchstone, that maybe deep within her memory she knows she’s not alone, that she knows she has her family near to keep the night-light on in her dark room.





Why Would You Leave When It Was So Good?

Just over broke, working long hours into the late night on the line, you banged out Steak and Fries, Confit de Canard, and Gratine des Halles, surrounded by swearing, sweating bodies slamming sauté pans over the fire. Plates crowded the pass with impatient Pick Up shouts from whomever was expediting that night. Your after-after hours spent at the only open bar down the street, meeting up with kitchen comrades from other restaurants. Your wife already accustomed to sleeping alone.

But you loved the life, hard life. An outlaw with a ten inch french knife and a microplane, part of a brotherhood in aprons. At mid-life you owned no home, had no savings, and could barely make rent. Barely enough for drugs.

When you penned that exposé to the New Yorker that pulled the sheet off the reality in the nations restaurant kitchens you shot like a cork into another dimension. A trajectory that sent you around the world, with us, your prime time entourage, following every step of that windfall that erased all your past hardships and filled your coffers. And you found true love, and had a baby girl. For her you got clean. 

And because we knew your hardships we celebrated your good fortune, because you were the real deal human being. No pretence shadowed motives. Obvious to everyone that you held the world by the tail.

You had once said, of your new life, that you felt like you had stolen an expensive car and kept looking in the rear view mirror for the flashing lights. But you came through the mire, and you made something real and soulful and honest. So maybe we could do that too.

You have the network finally heeled to your creative vision, you love what life unfolded for you. You said so. You look so happy. You hold to your own terms, never succumbing to the lurid lure of a sell out. 

You are embraced and folded into a hundred million hearts as kin, and are held there. We never faltered or showed concern you would one day not come. There was so much life yet. Of course you’d come. But one summer day you didn’t. Instead you decided to shed your body in a lovely room at the Hotel Chambard. Leaving us all behind to question, leaving your daughter to question, when the living is easy when is not living easier?

~  ~  ~

When Anthony Bourdain left the room, he took the air with him. I still struggle with his suicide. I still find it difficult to watch any of his series, distracted by questions like; what was the last discussion he had and had he already decided to carry out his final act during that discussion; had he already planned to do it when he arrived at the Hotel Chambard; did anyone one in his entourage notice a difference in him? More disturbing and painful are thoughts of picturing him standing alone in his hotel room, preparing what he would need to carry it out. Thinking. And now, when I see him on T.V. I see him as he might have been found that morning.

I feel cheated somehow. Blind sighted, because he was the good guy. The solid one who made it. And while I make attempts to accept it was his decision, that we all have that right to leave this life on our own choosing, I grapple with the selfish thought that he had no right to leave that amazing life he created. That he had no right to be depressed. And I will never come to understand or accept him leaving his teenage daughter broken by this.

Old Prodigy?

A three year old sits at a Steinway and bangs out a little something by Bach, an eleven year old knocks out huge abstract paintings with as much depth and experience as Picasso at the height of his career, an eight year old belts out an operatic piece with a richness that should have only been achievable after years of training and practice, a six year old rips up some blues riffs on a Stratocaster twice her size that would blast Clapton off the stage.

And then there’s technology. The nine-year old Microsoft certified technology specialist, the fourteen year old college student with sites on graduating at seventeen with a master’s degree. There’s more where they came from.

So where are the proverbial ‘Dues’ that we associate with this kind of skill and talent that were supposed to be paid in a million seedy night clubs, in years of mentoring under a master, and years of investment in universities- straining through calculus and higher maths?

What causes this kind of fully developed expression to be realized by these fresh, unsullied, half-pints? Where is the hard-won grinding life experiences to validate their being allowed to fathom and harness a sense of a confusing, beautiful, complex, tragic, heartbreaking, spectacular world?

But we love them don’t we? We marvel, we parade them across the stage without questioning their ‘credentials.’ The talent they present is accepted at face value, applauded and encouraged. Dues paid are never addressed.

I don’t want to go into in-depth speculations about how and why prodigy behaviour may manifest in some individuals, you know, the musings of incarnation or spirits of old masters vying for a posthumous come back. I’ll save that for another post.

I’m curious that the phenomenon of Prodigy apply only to prepubescent individuals, and found this article.

Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz,

…”Prodigies have a nature component that all the nurturing in the world can’t compensate for. There is a biological difference that kicks in with these kids and they become obsessed with their work and want to engage in their art or play the piano all the time, even though they are ordinary kids in the sandbox.”

That excerpt, and especially the phrase “a biological difference that kicks in” made me think that there might be something to that curiosity I had been mulling over for a few years. Which is if older individuals can be prodigy’s?

I had assumed it doesn’t occur because we never hear stories about an octogenarian who suddenly taps into a full-fledged talent which caused them to flourish in unbridled creative pursuits.

But if being a prodigy means something “kicked in” then why could it not be possible that this something can kick in or awaken at any time in one’s life?

Maybe the only advantage a child prodigy could have over an adult or senior “prodigy” could lie in the fact a child is not sullied and bogged down with woe and heartbreak. And debt. Their mind isn’t cluttered with the ways of the world.

Their mind is more like an open conduit to the creative spark, not yet conditioned and manipulated by societal constricts, leaving room for creative ingenuity to fill in societal conformity has yet a chance to dominate.

So why not us? The middle-aged, the seniors. Are we so calcified and brittle and rutted?

A whisper in the back of my mind is saying –mmmm probably.

I googled “Cases where a senior citizen suddenly exhibits prodigal behaviour.” The list read like a roster of symptoms one would see in a mental institution: Brain damage, Delirium or Sudden Confusion, Unusual or Strange, then ending with Savantism and Autism.

It appears this ‘Biological Difference’ kicking in is a sweet thing if you’re five, just not so much if you’re seventy-five.

If anyone has some stories of “mature” individuals they would like to share I’m all ears!



Whatever, I’m easy.

Do you want to go to such and such place or do you want to go to the other? Do you feel like eating Greek or Thai or at home? Would you like to schedule a time for now or then?

When I’m with someone and I ask any of these questions I really do want some feedback, an opinion, a suggestion, some help in deciding. Because two or more individuals are obviously involved in the scenario, this is diplomatic behaviour, to ask the question, to want to involve the other person in a final decision. It is open for discussion, so discuss! That’s democracy.

So then it’s no surprise it exasperates me when I ask those questions of someone I’m with and instead of some constructive input a volley of ‘I don’t know, whatever, I’m easy, where, what, when do you want to…?’ is trolled out.

C’mon, I offered some choices for crying out loud – help narrow things down!

I’ve come to the conclusion that those responses of ‘I don’t care, whatever, I’m easy’  are tactics in handing over control, sending the message of not wanting to commit. It could even be an act of passive aggression. It means evading any responsibility to the outcome of the decision.

Not wanting to risk making a “bad” decision and take the blame, especially if it doesn’t pan out as hoped. Like if a restaurant I may have suggested turned out to serve horrid tasting dog mash on a plate. Could be countered with, “Why did you pick that restaurant?”

Worse yet is the ‘Whatever, I’m easy’ person who complains and blames if all didn’t go according to your decision ( because remember, they didn’t give any input), proving many times that they aren’t as ‘Whatever, I’m easy’ as they propose to be, truth be told.




My mom just celebrated her ninety-second birthday on December thirteenth. Much of my blog content has included experiences of facing the realities of an aging parent, something I never gave a second thought about when I was in my thirty’s. Taking for granted that my parents had each other and they would always as they grew old. Together, in their own home. But of course, it doesn’t play out like that. After fifty-eight years together they became separated with dad passing away at age seventy-seven.

And although mom remarried at seventy-nine, four years later she was widowed again.

When she was eighty-six we took a road trip to Cardston to visit family; this is when I felt the magnitude of understanding that my mom is now all alone. I witnessed how unsteady she was in the morning, that her memory wasn’t  as sharp. That no longer is there anyone to wake up to, or say goodnight to at the end of the day. She was living alone in Parksville, an hours drive from me, and it gave me concern. I’ve already written about how I managed with this in other blog posts, so I’ll just say it has been a journey.

The last nine years in spending so much time with her has enriched me more in ways that I couldn’t have expected,  leading to an even deeper bond. Our mother-daughter relationship became a friendship. We talked about everything, laughed a lot, went on drives, and she shared many thoughts and experiences from her life that now as an adult I can appreciate. That I can be privy to. I was discovering her as a woman, as an individual.

And all of it comes with heartbreak. Watching someone you love slowly lose ground not only in advanced aging but coupled with dementia; knowing all the things you know about them that they no longer know about themselves, and nothing can prepare you. It is the stage in which the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child. But instead of watching your child growing vigorous and branching out, you’re watching the opposite.

Dementia is a thief. Shrinking an entire life into only immediate confusing moments, each forgotten as quickly as they come. But thankfully, over the last seven years it has robbed slowly. If one can be thankful for such a thing. I’m thankful too in having had the time to spend so closely with her before the disease progresses further. As it always does, as it’s doing now. Thankful again that she is imbued with grace and humour, and optimism. This at least hasn’t waned.

Three months ago my sister and I have finally managed to move our mom down from the care facility in Parksville to one in our city of Nanaimo. A move we attempted over two years before when she moved out of her townhouse, but complications arose that had sent her back up to Parksville. In the years since she’s been widowed we’ve done our best in keeping our mom integrated in our lives, and I think we’ve succeeded, short of having her live with one of us. Which, if one of us could have done, we would have. And  so are left with doing the next best thing.




Imma Wrimo

I have been immersed this past month having jumped in, although nine days late, into the NaNoWriMo challenge. I had a particular story I had begun, oh, 1993 or so and felt taking the challenge would give a push to if not finish a first draft, at least be further ahead. The story had stayed with me all this time and I had over the years returned to it periodically adding on to it, then just ran out of motivation combined with just the ongoing daily life that needs to be tended to.

I will not finish with a 50,000 word count, and I’m ok with that, obviously because I’m blogging right now instead of upstairs at my desk getting in my 1500 words for the day. More accurately I need to get 30,000 words in two days to finish. Or maybe I’m blogging right now because I’m stalling.

Writing is a solitary occupation, and it is a juggle to be available to ones family, not neglecting friends, cooking meals, cleaning house, buying groceries; all the bits that living entails. The pleasant distractions that keep me from eschewing it all and closing myself away into my story world. It’s a work in progress.

The challenge has given me the incentive I needed though to continue on with daily writing until I reach my 50,000 WC none-the-less. I want this first draft completed! I was able to break through some fuzzy areas of the story and clarify many of the scenes. And doing this thing in a virtual group setting, knowing there are other writers out there grinding it out at the same time, supporting and cheering each other on to finish over the group FB page and sharing in their victories has been enriching.

All in all it has been a great experience. Can’t wait till next November.



A Bird in Hand

A small bird slammed hard into my big kitchen window yesterday, landing on its back in the flowerpot below, wings splayed, dazed. I went to it and scooped it gently into my hands and sat on the porch steps. Its eyes were open but the left one was squinting. Must’ve hit on that side. Cradling it in my cupped hand I let it rest, feeling the ball of so much heat radiating from its little body into my palm. I felt a kindred. It closed its eyes and began to doze off.

Then I thought of concussions and that sleep can be fatal, so I began to gently move the bird to roust it, opening its eyes again. We sat on the porch for twenty minutes or so then I thought this may take a while, and decided to place the bird in a basket on my patio table. It would be safe, and would have to take the chance  that though it may sleep, it will be all right.

I watched it through the window as I worked inside. It stayed on the cushion I had put in the basket for another hour. I’d go out to check and it would open its eyes, but not move. Another hour passed and I looked, it had moved to perch on the edge of the cushion, but I noticed it was a little wobbly. Not wanting to disturb it I watched closer through a pair of compact binoculars from the kitchen window. Although it was standing, it was still dozing off, dipping its head down.

Eventually I went out and quietly sat in the chair beside the patio table and observed the little bird, still perched, for several minutes. Its eyes were open now but made no attempt to move. I began to think maybe this little bird will never fully recover, that there may be brain damage. Forget how to fly, how to find food.

I went back in to get my sketch book, thought it’s not often one has a live bird this close and still, and sat by the bird again. It was looking more alert now. I began to draw, just getting its initial shape down before it suddenly flickered away off and up into the nearby bushes.

Leaving me fascinated by that little creatures resiliency after a hard blow. A human would not have fared so well I think.  Leaving me wishing the bird well.

I smiled. I should have brought my sketchbook out sooner.