Near a Year

You’re in the arms of the angels.  May you find some comfort here.

You also liked the Prayer of St. Francis, and the hymn.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;Where there is hatred, let me sow love;Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is discord, harmony.

I was talking to Linda today.  You were right, I told her, the grief does lose a bit of its jagged edge.

But it comes back sometimes, I say.

Yes, said Linda, who lost her own mother to early onset Alzheimers’ a number of years ago.

What would you think, mom, of dad living in Ottawa in a beautiful assisted living place where he is sometimes catered to like a king.  I have to admit I wish you had had such an opportunity.  Sherri and Scott visit all the time and he is sometimes more relaxed than he has been in years.

You were so worried about what would happen with the house.  That’s taken care of now.  You would be so thankful, yes?  I wish now I had kept more of your things – I couldn’t manage to do that at the time.  I do have that cute piece of china though and I often look at it and think of you – wondering when you bought it, why you chose it.

I realize the last coherent conversation I had with you was more than a year ago now – even then, you were a bit beside yourself with fear.  Oh, I don’t blame you at all on that one.  It was a scary time.

I was relieved for you in a way that you didn’t have to live through the second coldest Winnipeg winter on record.

where there is error, truth;Where there is doubt, faith;Where there is despair, hope;

Is there still a you somewhere out there?  I like to think so.

Sylvia told me once that she sits on her deck, has a glass of wine and talks to her deceased father.

I spend a lot of time thinking about where you have gone.

What you have missed.

Not much on my end – a job here, a job there, an article here, an article there.  No man yet so I think we have to give up on that one.

where there is darkness, light;And where there is sadness, joy.

I still find it almost impossible to believe that I won’t ever hear your voice again.

Sherri’s had this horrible vertigo/ear virus thing and I know you would have worried yourself really sick about it.  You would have called relatives and told them in French what was going on.   French French French, Sherri, French French French.

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l’amour.Là où il y a l’offense, que je mette le pardon.Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l’union.

I remember we would sometimes go to the French cathedral mass and all I understood was Seigneur.  That was right across the street from Memere.  I like to think that y’all get to hang out with each other and my heart wants to be that much of a literalist.

From this much of a distance, I said to Linda, I can pretend that the house is not sold in Winnipeg and that you and dad are still living there.

Good denial, Linda said.  Whatever works, she said.

You’d be thrilled that I had two! solid weeks of work teaching some lovely middle-aged Chinese immigrants.  Somehow I mentioned you had passed and there was a sweet chorus of ‘sorrys’ said in their accented English.  It was lovely.

Là où il y a l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.

And Cheyenne – well, Cheyenne.  The walls of the living room would have been covered in printouts of her high school graduation photos.  And the photos shared on Facebook over and over.  “Great pictures of Cheyenne, eh?” you would have said to me.

She’s going to be a nurse – not sure if you knew that.  And she’s volunteering at a French hospital and at that your happiness would have bubbled all up.

I think it’s rather entertaining that dad is having a hard time figuring out his new computer.  You would have had it all aced in a day.  “Not that button, Joe!  It’s this button!  Come on.  Scott showed us, it is easy.”

I know that you would have shared and shared the story that I wrote for the Vancouver Courier.

“Karen, front page.  French French French French.”

“That was pretty good, Karen.  She’s older than I am (the woman I interviewed).”

Your last year was so difficult for you – and that still makes me sad.  I remember at the end when you were confused and told Sherri and me you didn’t know why you were crying.

That tears me up now.

où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

“Did you copy the French from somewhere?” you would have asked me upon reading this blog post.  “I mean I know you don’t understand French.”

I even miss the sarcasm, mom.  I remember Christmas 2009 when I came to visit for a week! in the -35,000 temperatures and how I didn’t leave the house for a week except for a marathon swimming session where dad was surprised that I could even figure out the lockers for myself.

We had sat down to our Christmas meal, one of the last ones you would ever make.

“Were the stores all out of Christmas cards,” you said and I stared at you.

“Hmmm?  Oh ha ha ha ha, I said.  “You are trying to say that I should have gotten you a Christmas card.  Yes, the stores in Vancouver had no Christmas cards.”

“Just joking,” you said.

“You are never sarcastic with Sherri,” I said.

“She is never sarcastic with you,” I said to Sherri in a phone call later that night.

“Maybe take an ativan,” said Sherri.

“It is -35,000 here and I can’t go outside.”

“Oh dear.”

You’d be so proud of Sherri now, mom.  She stepped right up and cared for you until the very end, sitting at your bedside and getting you Sprite, water, ice cream.  And then she and Scott got dad to Ottawa!  Who could have imagined that.

“Sherri knows old people,” you told me once.

“Well, she is an old person,” I said.

You laughed.

“No, I mean she knows what to do with them,” you said.  True, Sherri is a social worker for old people (not her official title).

I know you always wanted us to be closer and you missed seeing this happen a bit.  It was you who drew us all to Winnipeg almost a year ago, the five of us bunched up in the little house on the prairie.

“Mom would love to be here now,” I said.

It was -40C and horribly windy the afternoon we stood outside and had the ceremony for your urn niche in the wall.  Auntie Maria trekked out there with us even though she didn’t have to and took my arm.  I am forever grateful for that and you would have been so proud.

Uncle Charlie was there which blew me away.  How much he respected you.

And Auntie Gilberte.

And a relative of dad’s.  I oddly think you would have been proud of me when I blurted out to him, “oh, so you are one of the very few relatives of my father who didn’t disown him.  Great you could come.”  He mumbled and backed away from me.

There were cousins there I hadn’t seen in years.  All there out of respect for you, to honour you on Christmas Eve.

I still think of you as a you, existing out there somewhere.


I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great women because of you – a hospice counsellor who helped me through in the beginning and an art therapist that I still see.

“What do you do at art therapy?” you would have asked.

“Colour and stuff like that.”

“Oh.  That’s interesting.  Whatever makes you happy.”

That’s what you wanted – it’s what you said to me.  Be happy and be nice to dad.

You were so horribly worried that we would abandon dad.

Honour thy mother and thy father. – Sherri’s doing really well at that one.  I call him once in awhile and he is always happy to here from me but seems to like to get off of the phone quickly.

“Okay, then, we’ll talk to you again,” he says.

“All righty,” I say.

He is doing okay and I think he likes all of the attention.  There’s a manor Christmas dinner in a couple of weeks and he can bring two guests – Sherri and Scott have accepted.  They won a fruit basket at the open house the other week.  A really big fruit basket actually and apparently.  A small perk.

I know you would have been watching Dancing with the Stars and reading books that you had dad get for you out of the library.  Sherri said that you liked to read whatever she was reading.

I was on a Soap Opera Digest obsession for almost a year – reminded me of you, I think.  Not so easy to get is SOD anymore.  They cancelled every soap opera you watched, except General Hospital.

I hear tell that the actual anniversary date – the first one especially – can be really, really hard.  I’m nost sure what I will do that day.  If ever you want to send me a sign I will watch out for one.  I still look at Mr. Big bars in the line up at the grocery store and think of you.  Maybe you could have someone like accidentally throw one at me or maybe I could trip over one on my way to the store to get Soap Opera Digest on the anniversary of your passing.

We never said the i love you thing, or not much anyway.  I say it now because it is easier and somehow doesn’t feel too late.

“There really is no one who loves you as unconditionally as your mother,” I said to the art therapist awhile back.  True, that.

One thought on “Near a Year

  1. very well written and touching, as though written to your mother. Yes, I believe she is out there somewhere, as I also believe my dad is. The first anniversary is tough indeed. You will get through it.
    There will be hugging

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