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.