Tag Archives: Marion Cooper

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day today. You can see what we did on Wendy’s blog.  It was a great day and I am glad we had it but I wanted to write a bit about my mom.

Mom died in 1998 of brain cancer.  I was attending the University of Saskatchewan and I remember walking about of the U of S and going to the RUH where they kept her in palliative care because it was so much easier for my sister and I.  I would walk out of class and sit beside her for weeks hoping for whatever conversation she could have.  It wasn’t much.  By the time she was in the hospital, the tumor was winning and she treated me like I was a child.  She did that to my brother and sister as well.

It was a weird time.  Go to the hospital, go to class, back to hospital over lunch, back to RUH, grab supper at Alexander’s, then back to hospital.  It was like that for weeks.  I don’t remember feeling a lot of emotion at the time, she was dying and there wasn’t anything we could do about it and plus someone had to crack jokes around her and appear that we had our crap together as her kids.

Wendy and I were there with my sister when Mom took her last breath.  We called in a nurse because no one had died in front of me at that time, the nurse came in, assured us that she wasn’t in pain and then the doctor confirmed she was dead.  We cleaned out her room of personal belongings, paid for parking at RUH and drove to Lee’s high school where I told him that our mom had just died and then drove him home.

Wendy had called her parents to let them know that Marion had died but they were too busy interrupting her about how muddy the floors were in Brandon, Manitoba to listen.  It’s a conversation that still makes Wendy angry.

After that was done, it was up to getting ready for the funeral.  Mom wanted the burial to be first and then the funeral.  So we buried her and then went to the Saskatoon Inn for brunch.  Later was the funeral and I gave the eulogy.  My mom was a life long Progressive Conservative voter and proud of it except she had a lack of judgement in 1968 and voted for Trudeau.  She used to joke about this skeleton in the closet.  When I told that story at her funeral, someone  I didn’t know got up and walked out at that point.  No matter who that person was that walked out, my mom would have wanted that story told.

There was the funeral and the condolences and then we went home an ordered Vern’s Pizza.  It was really hot and wrecked the coffee table finish, something that bugged me for years every time I looked at it.  Then it was done.   I had felt nothing. 

I didn’t feel a thing until about a three months later when I was at home alone.  Wendy would work evenings and the phone would ring and for a split second, I would think it was mom.  I never knew how to deal with it.  I am a INTJ with Myers Briggs which means that I am what they call an underdeveloped feeler.  I don’t really under my feeling and it doesn’t understand me but the pain and loss was incredible.  Every day that phone would ring it was a reminder that she was gone. 

Stuff kept falling apart with the family.  My brother and sister were living together and struggling.  I didn’t know how to help.  All our lives lurched along for a while but we all seemed lost.  My sister and brother went to live with my father.  Wendy and I stayed here.  I knew it was the wrong thing but I couldn’t persuade anyone of it.

Life changed for my mom the day before my brother was born when my dad walked out for another women.  She was devastated and crushed.  She told me what happened a month or so later.  I still remember every word from that conversation.  I was eight.

All of our lives changed on that day.  It never got easier for us.  I was messed up, my sister was seriously ill and my brother was just days old.  There was court battles and visitation rights and financial struggles that never ended.  It took me years to get my head around what happened and what it did to me.  My mom bore the brunt of it.  Instead of making it easier for her, I made it much harder.  Sadly we never had the kind of relationship either of us wanted.  I was a rebellious oldest son and she needed me to to be a better and more responsible one, characteristics I came by later in life.  I needed to her to let me be a kid once in while and be a kid, something that the stress of the finances and her depression couldn’t let her do.

Despite me being, well a teenager, she was the one that would encourage me to be a better writer.  She read more short stories of mine growing up than any parent should ever endure.   Mom never really understood my desire to create.  She was trained as a math teacher which was about study and discipline, things I was never good at until later.  In many ways, I was the opposite of her.

Being the opposite of her, she saw a lot of my father in me.  To be honest, I think she was projecting because he couldn’t stand who I was either.  I remember her yelling at me that I was like my father once and going to myself, “I think he’d take that as an insult as well”.  I wasn’t like either one of them.  She was a math teacher, he was a driven oilfield consultant.  I was just a kid that wanted to read history.

Of course being a kid, I was never disciplined and yet it my mom’s incredible discipline that kept the family housed and fed.  I don’t know if I was much different than other kids but she spent most of our her life being disappointed in me.

When it finally started to get better, the tumor started to affect her.  Doctors blamed stress from her kids.  She did too.  She was angry and lashed out at me and I had no idea what was happening.  When we found out she had a tumor (on Mother’s Day), it was both horrible and allowed us to have some healing.   She managed to see Wendy and I get married and loved Wendy but within two months, she couldn’t talk anymore.  The next spring she had passed away. 

I think about her a lot.  Wendy’s family rejected her when she told them of her childhood abuse.  They don’t know our kids and I don’t think they would recognize Wendy if she passed them in a mall or on the street.  In the last conversation I had with my father, he made it clear how much he couldn’t stand me or Wendy.  I don’t even know if he knows Oliver exists.  It’s lonely having almost no family and as much as it was hard growing up, I knew Mom loved me.   It doesn’t seem like a lot but on a day like today when we know that all of the surviving parents can’t stand Wendy or myself, it is a lot.

My regret is that my mom never saw either her grandkids grow up.  I’m not a perfect parenting and to be honest, some of my parenting appears to be the work of a mad scientist but I think she would have been pleased in the kids of kids Mark and Oliver have become.   She was also scared that I would leave Wendy as my father had done to us.

I remember sitting there in the hospital telling her that I remembered every detail of the day she told me that my father had left and that I would never make anyone I cared about go through that again.  During the worst of Wendy’s depression I remember laying on the sofa thinking, “this isn’t as bad as that day was”.  It’s been almost 19 years and 15 Mother’s Days later and we are still holding on.  I wish she could have seen that part.

Christmas Morning

Good morning everyone. To be honest I hope you aren’t reading this when I post it.  It’s early and I can’t sleep.

Not sleeping well on a Christmas Eve/Christmas morning used to be my normal routine.  As a kid I would go to be early with all of these expectations of Christmas morning in my head.  I desperately wanted to sleep but never could (even then I knew that sleep would make Christmas come sooner).  I would read, count sheep, read some more and eventually around 4 a.m. my brother and sister would wander into my room while we debated if it was too early to go upstairs and wake up my mom (it was but it didn’t stop all three of us from taking the opposite view).

Around 5 a.m. we would try to wake up Mom only to be hollered at to go back to bed (later on I found out that she was awake too but wasn’t going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to open presents).  Around 6:30 a.m. she would wake up and tell us that we couldn’t come up until the coffee machine was done perking her coffee.  The normally fast coffee maker would slow down to a crawl on Christmas morning as we huddled at the bottom of the steps waiting for it to finish while Mom set out our Christmas stockings.  Every drop of coffee was heard and seemed to take forever.

After what seemed like hours, her coffee would be done and we would open our stockings and then our gifts before Mom would make us a big breakfast.  Since our stockings always had candy in them, at least once that morning Mom would say, “no more chocolate until breakfast” which would generate howls of laughter from her and us as soon as the words left her mouth.

After breakfast the wrapping paper would be carefully gathered up making sure nothing got tossed out.  Mom would then turn on the Disneyworld Christmas Day parade and we would collectively mock Regis and Joan Lunden.  Joan Lunden isn’t nearly as irritating as Kathy Lee Gifford but it was Christmas morning and we were high on chocolate and strong coffee.  Some toys would be assembled but in a family of readers, the books would distract us and soon all three kids would be in our rooms reading whatever soft cover book was in our stocking.  Since all three of us were up all night, it lead to a Christmas Day nap and some quiet time for Mom.

Then we would do something fun.  We went public skating one year, tobogganing on many of them, often we took Misty our dog for a walk along the Meewasin Trail and there was often friends who stopped by.  Once mom would make her initial proclamation of “no more chocolate until breakfast”, you would hear someone say it every time someone ate a candy, including her.

Eventually it was time for the Christmas dinner.  Mom had these crystal glasses that meant the world to her.  She would always warn us to be careful and it seemed like every Christmas she would break one in the weirdest of ways.  Even weirder was that even with brain cancer, she never broke many things except for those goblets.  The Bay sold them and we would always pick up the replacement glass for her on Mother’s Day but it was kind of a tradition, Mom breaking her prized goblets.  It wasn’t like she dropped them.  Something would fall out of a counter (which never happened) bounce and the ricochet into the goblet.  We would just sit there with a look that said, “I can’t believe that happened”.  Even weirder is that as kids, we never broke one and we were the ones who broke everything.

Then it was a night of talking together, playing crokinole, and drinking too much strong coffee.  

I hated crokinole.  Mom played it all of the time as a kid and would sit there and do all of these crazy trick shots and then go, “Jordon do you want to play?”  Let me see, getting humiliated by my mother who was a poor winner seems like a lot of fun.  She was undefeated for her entire adult life.  I was winless.  So I would play and get beat badly and then get taunted for losing.  I was so happy when Jolene and Lee were there and could be beat as well.  To be fair, my mom was insanely competitive and would accept any video game challenge we made to her.  She got as good as good as she gave.  Then we would wind down and make plans to take the tree down on Boxing Day.  Christmas always started the same (waiting for coffee to perk) and ended the same (waiting for more coffee to perk).

Taking the Christmas tree down on Boxing Day started because my great Aunt Beth spent every Christmas with us.  Aunt Beth never married and adopted Mom as her favourite niece and spent every holiday with us.  She would come down from Regina on the bus and stay for a couple of weeks.  We loved Aunt Beth but she was eccentric and lived alone too long.  She was also really short (that matters) and smoked a lot.  i used to bug her that she lit her last cigarette when rationing ended after World War II and then just lit one smoke of another since then.  It wasn’t that far from the truth.

Aunt Beth would come in the second week of December and so would the smell of Player’s Light cigarettes.  So to get the smell of nice pine Christmas Tree, our tree had to go up before Aunt Beth got here.  Which meant by Boxing Day, we were tired of the tree and Christmas decorations in general so it all came down.  She never realized the reason and I don’t think she cared that much either.  There was still cookies to eat and festivities to take part of.

So today is going to kind of be the same kind of day.  The boys aren’t awake yet but they will be upstairs soon.  My coffee is being made as I write this and I assume I will be joined shortly by Oliver and Mark (who will also be drinking my coffee)  We will have a nice breakfast together and then head downtown where we will take some photos of an empty and abandoned downtown core.  Mark, Wendy, Oliver and I have new camera gear to test out.  Someone has to feed Bridge City with fresh photographs. Then back home for a charcuterie board for lunch and maybe the kids will have a nap while Wendy cooks our Christmas dinner before spending the night goofing off and drinking too much coffee.

Hope your day is a good one.  Merry Christmas.

(tomorrow, the decorations come down)

My week in review

On Sunday I decided to take the family to Waskesiu for the day.  We drove up through Prince Albert, past the Prince Albert Penitentiary and Riverbend Institution (Wendy was curious over where the Salvation Army has our prison barbecue) and then to Waskesiu (Mark thought we were headed to the cabin via Regina but in his defense, I had purchased him an issue of Transworld Skateboarding and he may not have noticed the forest through the many trees).

After eating at The Angry Taco, we wandered around the beach, did some shopping, and some exploring.  During most of the day, I had chest pains which I have had for months but had been telling myself, they were stress.  I have stress at work and for those of you who read Wendy’s blog, I have a lot of stress at home, depending on the state of her depression.  For the last month, I would walk the fifteen blocks home and be totally exhausted.  I have walked  back and forth from home to the Salvation Army hundreds of times and while I am walking up Caswell Hill, it isn’t as if I need to use climbing ropes for safety.  It’s a pretty tame climb.

On Monday morning I woke up with pain and I decided to go to Royal University Hospital’s Emergency Room to get it checked out.  I was hoping they would tell me it was stress but after my chest X-Ray, they told me it something more serious and I was being admitted.  So off to the 6000 ward I was sent with all of the other cardiology patients where I awaited my angiogram.  The first night was just annoying.  Wendy brought my noise cancelling headphones which makes sense but I sleep on my side so I knocked them off my head where I was greeted with snoring, snoring, and more snoring.  As soon I would fall asleep, I would knock off one of the heart monitor points which would sent a nurse scrambling in to see if I was dead and/or fix the points.  If I wasn’t doing that, I was rolling over and jamming my intravenous.  I was also woken up blood work techs and of course they needed to wake me for my blood pressure and temperature.  On top of that the blood thinner they gave me made me cold which all adds up to under two hours of sleep.  I don’t know why but in the silence of Monday night, I felt scared for the first time since Wendy was giving labour to Oliver.  Death has never bothered me that much but the idea of giving up on life prematurely because of stupid diet decisions and choices really bothered me.  My mom declined to have chemotherapy when she was dying of cancer because she didn’t want to go through it and I have always questioned that decision.  I don’t want Mark and Oliver to think, “Why didn’t Dad cut the McDonalds out of his diet and choose to be with us for some more years?”  I felt quite disappointed in myself.

Tuesday was spent waiting.  I saw my cardiologist and other doctors who lectured me on my diet and weight.  Fair enough.  The other thing that hit me was they were on me because of how high my cholesterol and blood pressure was which was news to me.  They put me on Lipitor for probably the rest of my life and also Ramipril to help me deal with high blood pressure.   Wendy had to work Tuesday night so I was chilling out reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Post American World Release 2.0 when Cam Broten came by and chatted politics and life for a bit.  The best part of the visit was he brought up The Economist and a fantasy football magazine.  The next day this doctor comes in and looks at my reading material and says, “No wonder you are in here, you can’t relax reading The Economist”  He picks it up and sees the football magazine and then without batting an eye goes, “Should I pick Manning as my QB with the neck problems or Brady with Ochocinco?”  Apparently global economic stress is bad while NFL fantasy league stress is good.  That’s why I am not a doctor.

Wednesday morning I was in for my angiogram.  They found a lesion on my heart as well as two partially blocked arteries and some blockage in another one.  The most concerning were the two arteries that are partially blocked as they aren’t bad enough to deal with.  Those mean that I need a drastic change to deal with or schedule myself a series of heart attacks, by-passes, and strokes in the coming years.

After having a 40 minute heart ultrasound and nurses tearing away connection point after connection point off my body, I was allowed to return home where I hung out with the boys before I fell asleep.  My right arm was useless as that is the artery they chose to get to my heart which resulted in some spilled milk but we survived as a family.  Mark fired up Netflix and showed Wendy the Arrested Development where GOB is CEO and going on and on about how much his suit cost.  At the hospital he goes to Wendy, “C’mon, I’m the guy in a $3700 t-shirt and you want me to get you a pop?!”.  It’s even funnier now that Wendy gets what he was talking about.  Even Oliver is going, “C’mon, look at my pants”.

Today I went to Indigo and bought a couple of cookbooks.  One is on eating Heart Smart, the other one was The Vegetarian Bible.  We have the Mayo Clinic cookbook and some other heart healthy eating books so I have some choices.  Low cholesterol diets can be summed up with one word, bland.  I had a chicken fajita tonight and they weren’t bad which is kind of pathetic but that is how food will be defined now.   After that I stopped by work to chat and after 30 minutes of that, I was too tired to wander over to the other side of the building.  Wendy drove me home (I can’t drive for a couple of days) and I have just been exhausted all day.  My proudest accomplishment has been writing this post and doing some dishes.  Other than that I have been sleeping and resting.  Oh yeah, thinking.  I have been thinking a lot as well.