Letter to Mom – Written Two Months After She Disappeared

Dear Mom,

I’m so sorry about all of this. If there was something wrong with you before you broke your hip and had surgery for it, why didn’t we figure that out? I’m not supposed to think like this – because you were old and old people die.

God Mom, I miss you so much. I want to talk to you. It’s just little things that I’d say. Today I’d tell you that I went for a swim in the rain. And that I’m scrapping off some old wooden chairs to repaint. You’d admire the chair job because it’s frugal – and will be bright and colourful. You lived a whole long life without learning how to swim so you might not think of it as enjoyable in rainy weather, but it was.

And I’d tell you about going to the farmer’s market at the near-by community hall. Remember, it’s not like the ones in the city. Out here at the cottage they really are farmers selling cucumbers (got some) and zucchini’s (got those too) and fresh potatoes and corn (our supper). Maybe I wouldn’t tell you I bought a beautiful little bird house made by a local artist. It’s exquisite but you’d wonder how many bird houses I could own?

Did I ever tell you that we got the birdhouse off your garage before your house sold? How many birdhouses do I have to own before I’m a bird house collector?

Those are some of the things I’d talk about with you if you were still here. But you’re not and so what I want to talk most about is Dad. God it’s so hard with him. When you first left us (where did you go Mom?) his dementia seemed suddenly less of a factor. Like he was shocked into being clearer. Mom, I know you were 89 and I guess in worse health than we thought, but we were shocked when you died. (You know Dad doesn’t like the term ‘passed away’ so I try not to use it.) When you were first brought to the hospital with that stupid broken hip you said, You didn’t want to do ‘that hip thing’. And I knew what you meant – how a broken hip and surgery can lead to a slow downward spiral. But it wasn’t a spiral at all. It was way faster than that. I’m angry with myself for not staying with you at the hospital 24/7 but I had no idea we were going to lose you. If I could go back in time – I’d go back to then, but I’m guilty of magical thinking believing that I could have changed anything by being there. Your lung collapsed Saturday night but no one knew that . I’m glad I had a sister with me at the hospital, holding your hand and wiping your brow, but she and I are also glad the others didn’t see you, so they can remember you differently than that.

So yeah it’s hard with Dad. Cause he’s not clear now like he was that first week. He’s so lost without you. But maybe I shouldn’t tell you that. Though is there some way that you know? People I’m close to are saying there is. I don’t know what I believe. Are you looking over my shoulder at my fingers moving quickly over my iphone keys right now? Or are you just gone? I thought that I would have somehow felt you by now. There was one morning when I saw you in a dream and it was comforting then, but it wasn’t enough. I’m waiting for something like that again.

Mom we’re doing our best with Dad. It’s so hard as he doesn’t always seem to know that. And they are wonderful with him where he lives. He’s getting out a lot – like really a lot. He asks us to take him places constantly and none of us can say no, even if we’d taken him on a long drive in the country the day before. But we’ll barely have him back and he’s asking when we can do it again.

You’d be proud of your grandkids – they’re visiting him too. Hey, we made the family jelly – your special rose petal (maybe I felt you watching me that night), and raspberry jelly, and the peachy pear. I think we did alright.

Oh – and in this high tech world I taught my granddaughters how to embroidery one evening at the lake. I knew that would make you happy. Oh mommy. I miss you so much. I thought this letter might help. Maybe the first try is the hardest.

I could just imagine your response. I know you’d give me advice about the jam (it all set, but I did have one runny batch). And you’d just love that your six and nine year-old great-grand daughters were embroidering. It was cool to see how much they liked it and went free hand with their names above their carefully stitched puppy and butterfly.

I think you’d tell us we were spoiling dad and we don’t have to take him out so much. I know behind the dementia is my ‘real’ dad, who would never be so demanding. But both that dad and this dad are so lonely for you. I’m sitting here on the end of the dock, feeling as lost as daddy. I’ll slip into the lake and swim, I guess. I don’t know how to sign off.

Love you forever Mom.

Ps. I haven’t done the best job with your bills. Some got paid late. I know you’d hate that. I’ll do better.

Pps. Did I ever tell you that Rose says if she ever had a baby girl she’d name it Vera – after you. I hope I did.

Alice at Naptime and The Rabbit Hole of Maternal Love

Naptime- those words evoke a sense of peace and calm. Calm if you are the one indulging in a nap – but even more tranquility if the sleeping person is your busy little toddler.

Alice at Naptime is the sweet and dreamy latest book by Canadian artist and mom, Shea Proulx. Moms with children of all ages will delight in pouring over the colourful depictions of the sleeping child, and will lose themselves in the narrative carefully created for adults and children both. In this graphic story a baby’s naptime gives the mom a welcome chance to turn away from its need of constant attention but the artist simply can’t – the baby is her muse.

As Shea Proulx says she, “spent her twenties going to forest-raves, living with a lot of strange people, and becoming over-educated at Emily Carr and UBC. Immediately after graduating with an MFA she discovered that she was totally pregnant…  At its core, Alice at Naptime tells a universal story, of a parent pining for past freedoms, while simultaneously descending down a rabbit hole of all-encompassing maternal love.”

It’s the perfect book for new moms, artist-moms, moms we’re grateful for – and admirers of all of those. Anyone really – moms, dads and children – can lose themselves in the artwork that winds around itself in an ever changing pastel wonderland to the tales end. The book is available in hard and soft cover or a limited edition gift set that includes the hard copy with a signed book plate, two charming pins, and a special chocolate bar – a Mother’s Day present extraordinaire.  Available from the publisher – Renegade Arts and Entertainment.

Alice at Naptime can also be ordered from all your favourite book sellers (which include some in the UK) and Indigo and Amazon.ca Alice at Naptime

In The Air There’s A Feeling of Christmas

 

It’s that time of year again – in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. With that comes a house upside with; boxes of decorations, stacks of cook books, half finished ambitious holiday projects to pack up for another go another time. And the first coating of pine needles – because we insist on the real tree – is sprinkling down over the furniture.
closed the mall tonight hemming and hawing over tricky gifts that I didn’t buy, while purchases that felt unique, but maybe weren’t, filled my bags. At the grocery check-out, where I stopped for bread for our peanut butter-toast dinner, I bought a magazine promising a simple Yuletide menu and am now nodding off in bed browsing its decidedly not simple recipes  – too many fancy sauces and spreads to make when the household will really be becoming undone with all four kids home and the kitchen busy 24/7. 

Gift shopping is almost a fait accompli  though I’m a guilty over-consumer jotting notes in my phone, for just one more item for the tricky-to-buy for family member. I fall asleep by reciting and revising my next day to-do list; pick up holiday dry cleaning, book a haircut, return the too tight party shoes, make the homemade potpourri for the yoga women’s lunch, buy granddaughters pjs, take my mom out shopping for my dad and vice versa … and stop my head from spinning.

And above all the bustle I still hear silver bells, and anticipate the holiday with a joyous spark of delight. Why? Because I’m siding with Bing Crosby and Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams. My big family, which has spread far and wide, will be together for a feast that will end with the once-a-year Christmas pudding – a symbol of these time – fussy and time consuming to put together, but so special and longed for, and worth every mouthful. For eleven and a half months it’s been easy to keep our home tidy and organized, but for this stretch – from Santa’s visit to the singing of Auld Lang Syne – it will be noisy and chaotic with almost a dozen folks being loud, ravenous, merry and bright. Ah – joy to the world!

Would you get a kick out of reading more of the chaotic antics of Candace Allan’s family – read her book by clicking here  Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest. Buy it in time for holiday gift giving. 

And This Is A Good Omen?

We had this freaky issue at our cottage by the lake this summer. A skinny, slithering, sneaky problem that had me unnerved. At our lakeside place, one might occasionally see wildlife we are unaccustomed to at home – though I have say that our urban city life actually contains a plethora of bunnies, and deer – and recently a bobcat or two. I’ll attempt yo chase away the deer (good Luck), rarely get to see the bobcat and well bunnies are … bunnies. I’ll take any of those critters over the ones we were almost tripping over lakeside – because what we had hanging out at our cottage in the early summer were – snakes! Garter snakes and non venomous, but slithering and unnerving and creepy all the same.  You can’t talk me out of my views here – I’ve been told of their merits – that they eat mice – I’ll take mice. And yeah there is that they were here before I was argument – give me a break. Even Disney’s Mowgli couldn’t be trusted.

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The previous summer I accidentally stepped on one and the devil bit me. I hardly felt it at the time and was more upset by the two creepy snake-teeth marks visible on my ankle. After ‘that attack’ things changed. Previously we might occasionally have a snake sighting – a flicker across the rocks and then nothing. But a couple of them settled in, sunning themselves on the rock ledge with impunity.

 

Don’t try to make me like them. Don’t try to even make me appreciate them. My husband and I lay in bed the morning after the bite and googled snakes and how to get rid of them. The googling was frightening!  We read of snake invasions and basements filled with writhing snakes and snake nests.  Hec we’d seen Raiders of the Lost Arc’s snake pit – we didn’t need all the damn photos – thank you very much. FYI – Did you know that mother snakes never meet their babies? Mama lays her eggs and checks out. They are that cold-hearted.

snake photo

I always viewed my dad as a big strong protective guy. When I was frightened of bears as a little kid on a camping holiday – he told me not to worry, he would keep me safe from bears. But even as I kid I knew he wouldn’t make the same promise with snakes – because my strong tough dad has a snake phobia. I don’t have that. I can look at them, but I can’t stare too long into their beady little eyes. Google says you have to get rid of their habitat. But it’s our rock retaining wall that holds the mountain hillside away from our place. One fine June day my daughter saw five of them hanging out at once – she spent an afternoon photographing them while I read about snakes (one snake can have 40 eggs) and snake deterrents – sulfur and clove oil and garlic. I planned to somehow plaster the huge wall with vats of all three. I phoned a local pest exterminator and was told, “You have to take them away in a bucket with the use of snake tongs.  And,” he said rather gruffly, “we don’t do snakes.”

My next move was to put an ad up on Kijiji for an authentic Pied Piper to magically pipe them away. If you were planning to visit us with your own snake fears – don’t worry – I was on this.

And then presto… as if they could hear my snake tongs clacking the snakes seemed to disappear. They haven’t been seen since they modeled for my brave daughter. Though all summer before I picked the raspberries below the rock wall I banged on the rocks (snakes don’t have ears but they do sense sound) and I fiercely called out, “Go away snakes. Go away.”  And one more FYI – it’s supposed to be a good omen to be bitten by a snake. I dare you to seek that out.

raspberries in bowl

 

 

I don’t usually write about snakes leaving home, but if you enjoyed this you may want to read this ….  Text Me, Love Mom: Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest

Being An Adult Kid

I want to lean into this stretch of time I have here at the lake. Not to think of the days counting down – but instead of the days adding up. Today was as full as a day at any lake day could be.

I had company, my niece and a girlfriend were sleeping when I wound my way down to the beach and slid the kayak into the lake before climbing in. It was the years first kayak ride with the lake still and even, just ripples in the hot sun. I paddled out to watch neighbors following kids out for an early swim or setting out on a deck with coffee.

Afterwards I came home to see my niece and her freind off – hugging and taking last photos into the bright sun.

Invigorated by the kayaking I decided to bike, but it was already so hot that I turned back at the first hill, and spent my energy instead with a swim. After towelling off and deadheading the geraniums I read my book with the guilty pleasure of chips and dip, stopping to text with a friend and then my sister.

The deck rocked with the rolling water from all the ski boat enthusiasts yelping as they rode the waves. It was noisy and a bit wild, but I liked that seeing as there is such a short time for us Canadians to be raukus sun-worshippers before winter will drive us inside again.

I called my brother and continued the family talk about helping our parents through a move from their home to a senior’s residence- such tricky times to be an adult ‘kid’. I thought about how, if my own four children need to keep their dad and I ‘safe’ someday – this place of ours will be the first place they try to discourage us from coming to – worried about ‘an elderly version of us’ on the dock, or climbing the rocky slope from the lake, or even making our tired way to our upstairs bedroom.

I tried not to think too hard about that while I brought the day to a close watering plants and picking deep purple basil to eat with a plate of tomatoes and soft cheese. I couldn’t help my mind going there though on this summer’s day, with its mix of summertime action and tranquility.

(If you’d like to read more by Candace Allan – see Text Me, Love Mom – the book.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

As I hustle and bustle and get ready for three of my grown and flown kids to return for Christmas,  and dream of a little bit of snow, I thought I’d post my reader’s favorite holiday blog.

“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can count on me” … such simple words, but where is home? – I suppose my immediate answer is where my mom and dad are.  I did spend all my Christmas’s with my folks until I became a parent myself – I recall the bustle of Christmas Eve, so pleasurably and wildly chaotic with five siblings and later  girlfriends and boyfriends and always so much to do, the early dusk arriving and still wrapping perfume sets, or walkie talkies  and macramé plant hangers, someone calling out for tape, or shouting for their turn in the shower, or sneaking into the once-a-year-special marshmallow peanut butter squares, too sugary delicious to wait for, then curling our hair for church and marching through snow drifts to get to the car.

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“Please have snow and mistletoe And presents under the tree” … And suddenly there was a transition.  I was married with our first little baby and though my parent’s house was just a ten minute drive away – home had shifted.  I wanted to leave the jumble of family at my parents and wake up with my tiny girl and husband to share something sweet together around our first tippy decorated tree.  Since all those years ago we’ve usually managed a crazy mix of several homes, my parent’s, mine and my in-law’s  -except the two years that we brought home our wee baby boys, both born weeks before the holiday.  Those years we stayed put on the coast where my husband was in law school, more for the baby’s sake and mine.  On each of those home came to us – our parents or siblings arriving with tiny outfits and trinkets to fill the stockings of bright new Christmas babies.

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“Christmas Eve will find me, Where the love light gleams”…   My four kids are grown and have almost always come home for Christmas.  I’ve felt the exhilaration of them returning from university with plane loads of students, most thrilled to be away leaving independent lives, but back in parents arms at the airport you can hear the audible sigh of home. The first year that one of our four didn’t join us for the big unwrap fest and Christmas morning wife saver egg strata with o.j and champaign, all three of the females in the family hid our weepy tears. Our eldest son was gainfully employed working through the holiday season as a liftie on the slopes of Whistler resort, and the rest of us couldn’t have been more conscious of the miles and miles between him and home as we steamed the Christmas pudding, carved turkey and settled in around the table.

“I’ll be home for Christmas….” Of course, home is here now in this house where I raised my kids. I’m cooking today for Christmas Eve. In the wee hours I searched through recipes for something new, thinking that perhaps I’d switch it up, try a fish pie or seafood casserole, but sometimes you just want the same in this life.  Like the year I finally got too embarrassed of the poorly stitched oddly shaped stockings I’d made when the kids were small.  I bought lovely, bright, too big felt ones – who knew that my four darlings were quite attached to my sloppy efforts from years past?  I imagine they’ll be looking for the same old-same old Christmas Eve fare – cracker crumb fried oysters, rice pilaf and rich butter tarts.

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It’s quiet in the house this morning. Snow is falling in the backyard, covering the urban rabbit tracks.  The peace will change soon with adult kids home for the holidays, coming and going, calling out to each other. Tape will be missing again and showers coveted.  But that same son, who left us for Whistler years back, had a rare chance to go travelling.  We’ll try to be more grown up about it.  He’s in Thailand where I imagine on the eve of the 24th in a quiet moment it’ll be odd for him, too.  He’ll imagine us gathered around the tree or the table and maybe, despite his exotic location, he’ll close his eyes and for a few moments – our boy be home for Christmas, if only in his dreams…

You can still purchase Text Me, Love Mom tales for a mom on your list (or a feel-good gift for yourself) online and in print at  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 

September Takes My Breath Away

The leaves start to drop. The air is fresh. A school playground fills with shouting kids, and pick-up soccer games – and I feel melancholy, but on the edge of excitement, too. More than January, isn’t September the time of new beginnings? New grade school? College and university? Parents and kids fill backpacks with crisp notebooks and coloured pencils, then head to the malls looking for squeaky new runners? There are anticipatory trips to Ikea to deck out tiny dorm rooms or studio apartments full of furniture with funny Swedish names.
But there’s boo hooing all across the country too, for all those kids heading out the door with hockey duffles converted to super suitcases, and back packs hiding that favourite worn out stuffie, or that last  pair of sandals hopeful for another month of warm weather?

I have four young adult children who are just now getting used to my having written a book about this next stage of parenting, about all those Septembers – those goodbyes until Thanksgiving.  When Zoë, the eldest, left home, her copies of Love In the Time of CholeraHarry Potter, and Dragonquest gone from the shelves, her colorful collection of shoes gathered from the closets, and her vanilla-scented products stripped from the bathroom, I searched the self-help sections for a manual on how to let go. Now that I’m a true empty nest-er, it seems a bit odd. After all, I still had three hyped-up teens in the house. One of them leaving home should have given me a little more room to breathe. But it didn’t. It took my breath away. photo

I was able to relive it all, writing Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two boys, One Empty Nest.  (Hey kids – I gave you pseudonyms – relax.  Nobody knows who this Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily that I write about are.) If you’ve been following my erratic blog, I’d love it if you check out my book.  It’s been one hec of a ride. And if one of yours has packed up and will be spending winter and spring in another part of the country, or maybe another country – it’ll be okay.  Really.