Category Archives: Conversations with My Mother

Dying isn’t for the faint of heart

The truth is that dying hurts. It hurts for the person who is dying and it hurts for the people around that person.  I’ve learned that it’s hard watching the body of a person with an alert, active mind, slowly fall apart. I don’t know because I haven’t experienced it first hand, but I imagine it’s equally as hard to watch someone lose their mind to illness. It doesn’t matter if you lose someone who is young or old, loss possesses a unique sorrow for each and every one of us.

It’s true what they say…that you go through stages. From the time I could first remember I dreaded the thought of losing my mother. I swear I used to worry about it in bed when I was eight years old and I would pray to god that nobody in my family would die. And then I would list all of their names and if I missed anyone  I took that as an omen of doom. I was prone to suspicion as a kid and these thoughts plagued my small mind.

Now years later that I’m faced with it I’m thankful for the stages…because they’re true. I think you have these stages because letting go of someone is a process. It forces you to focus on now. More importantly it forces you to focus on your heart and your mind.

I am visiting my mom right now in my old home town where I grew up. She stayed and I left. This is something I think about a lot. When I wander around at night after visiting her in the hospital I feel the memories of this place where I grew up collapse into a single evocation of so many moments and feelings in my life. I feel the past pulling me as hard as the present.

My mom says to me that she likes to be with her memories. I wonder if this is her way of letting go.

The thingI like about her at this stage in her life is her honesty.  I like very much that she talks directly about dying. About the things she is facing. About the finality of her life. About the fact that she just isn’t into this anymore.  I don’t know if this is courage or just the honest truth spoken plainly by a dying woman. But I feel it is helping to prepare me.

The other things I worry about are that people won’t see beyond her body. That she will be consigned to the invisibility of old age. I want them to see the rich life she has led. Her sorrow and her joy. Her love and her broken heartedness. The young dutch girl, the married woman, the mother, the wife, the friend the dancer, the harmonica player, the laugher, the prankster.

That’s what I worry about.

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Because I love lists… 25 more things about Rosie


1. loves Dancing with the Stars.

2. loves attention.

3. loves to dance.

4. met her best friend Aggie in high school in Holland. They still are best friends.

5. and Aggie sing Dutch songs together and talk about how Aggie met her Canadian husband after liberation in a dance hall.

6. used to roller skate with her girlfriends.

7. loves to cook.

8. loves President‘s Choice Apple Blossoms.

9. loves to walk with her head up to the sky humming as she goes along.

10. values her independence.

11. gave up on marriage.

12. has cancer.

13. likes going to the movies.

14. said wow many times while watching Avatar with me and Dave.

15. wore a pretty red shirt and lipstick when Dave arrived.

16. can be very particular about things in her house.

17. used to like being alone but doesn’t anymore.

18. is a flirt.

19. can be very sweet and funny.

20. can be very direct in an uncomfortable way.

21. loves shopping.

22. is friends with Dave.

23. loves watching sports on TV.

24. having fun.

25. really digs her purple socks.

26. can’t stand Olive our cat (but she doesn’t really know her well enough.)

27. loves her children.

28. can’t buy enough hand bags.

29. thinks Obama is very cool.

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Conversations with my Mother: Saying “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” like she means it

Defeat of Jessie James Days

Image by GSankary via Flickr

Ever since my mom has gotten sick she says hello (and goodbye for that matter) much differently. She used to say “hello” by doing this “Hoi Hoi Hoi Hoi” until I told her to stop or until I repeated it after her. Or sometimes she would say things like “Geboodle, Geboidle, My Mutha is a Toitle” which really cracked her up. More recently she has started saying “HUUUULLooooo” which requires a sound clip to get the full effect.

But these days she answers the phone in a raspy voice that she’s had since her surgery and she answers it this way…”Hiiiiiiiiiii” just like that, real long with a tinkle, like little alarms are going off, like she wants to wake up the world, as if  she’s saying “hi” like she really means it. And I think she does. And I like it. I really, really like it.

Note: the above image is not, I repeat, is not my mother. But it easily could have been.

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Worst Possible Moments: Reflections on Death and Other Stuff

Well that’s a pretty dreary title but I’ve had a lot of time to think about things due to forced relaxation (errrr ahem read unemployment). The worst possible moments, you know the things you fear your whole life, have a way of landing on everyone’s doorstep at some point or another.

At first I thought unemployment was going to be the zinger. Then on the same day I found out our unit was cut, I also learned that an acquaintance of mine had suddenly lost his 19 year old daughter. Somehow it made me feel embarrassed that a healthy, able bodied person like me could feel badly about something so mundane as being unemployed.

Shortly after this news, my mom went into surgery in April to remove a growth in her colon. It turned out that the growth had already spread and that there wasn’t anything she could do. Now this time, the feeling of dread was much more palpable. This was something I could truly be scared about.

So I went home to visit my mom in Toronto. For the first time I felt really unsure about seeing her. What would she look like, how would she be, how would I be, how do I stare cancer right in the face, what are we going to talk about?

It turns out she felt the same way. She said she was worried I wouldn’t recognize her. I said “Do you still have those big brown eyes?” she said “Yes”, I said “Do you still have that crazy head of curly hair?” and she said “Yes”. And I said “Then I’ll know you anywhere.” and she laughed.

When I arrived home I first saw the back of her little curly head and then she stood up to hug me. I looked into her big brown eyes and wrapped my arms around her. This is my mom and it felt so good to have her there and to be able to feel her so close.

Then we sat down, she demanded a glass of wine and we chatted about this and that. At 7:00 pm she said she was going to bed. Usually my mom and I would stay up until 1:00 in the morning with me begging her to go to bed.

Over the next three weeks we talked about everything from the ordinary to the fact that her life was ending and how she felt about it. I found it hard and I found it easy. I felt like we were covering new terrain but at the same time it felt so ordinary. That this is just what life is about and I’m grateful that we can have these kinds of conversations that seem ordinary but really are quite extraordinary. To me this is the essence of human closeness.

This summer has been full of these kinds of bittersweet moments. I feel like I am living in full techno colour both here on the coast when I’m home with Dave or when I’m back in Port Credit with my family and my mom. We laugh, we cry, we bug each other and then we come together again.

I still worry about things like getting a job but I also know that the time I have is limited. So I enjoy every single thing I have and am thankful for my family, my amazing friends and especially Dave and Reuben.


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25 Things about Rosie

1. My mother was born in Holland.
2. She was a young girl during the war.
3. She biked to the country side to get food from farms.
4. She was very naughty.
5. She kicked her teacher (a catholic nun) and gave her a nervous breakdown.
6. She has curly hair and brown eyes.
7. She was married twice.
8. She can be very funny.
9. She has spark.
10. My mother is 84 and can talk knowledgeably about Lady Gaga, Jay-z and other cultural icons.
11. She likes Bob Dylan but says he has dirty fingernails. I didn’t know she looked so hard.
12. She is addicted to television.
13. She can be very critical.
14. She says what she thinks.
15. Sometimes she shouldn’t say what she thinks.
16. Thanks to my sister she has recently discovered Starbuck’s tall non-fat lattes.
17. Tall non-fat latte’s are motivation enough for her to get out of the house.
18. She carries dog bones in her car to win the affection of animals around the world.
19. She loves Malls.
20. She thought Kits was great but that it needed a Walmart to be perfect.
21. She was able to sing an entire Beatles song the other day that I didn’t even know that she knew.
22. When I see pictures of her when she was young she always dressed like an elegant lady.
23. She cut all the fringes off her mother’s rug which made her mother very angry.
24. She loved her sister Nell.
25. She is a Dutchwoman.
26. She plays the harmonica.
27. She gave me the space between my teeth

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Conversations with My Mother: On Nothing

Tessa: Hi Mom, What are you doing?
Rosie: Hi Tessie, nothing. I’m doing nothing. Why? What do you expect me to be doing? Dancing?
Tessa: Uhhh, well, I don’t really know.
Rosie: What are you doing?
Tessa: Nothing.
Rosie: Oh.
Tessa: Do you have anything to say?
Rosie: No, not really.
Tessa: Okay bye, I love you.
Rosie: Yeah me too. Bye.
Tessa: I’ll call you later, we’ll talk more about nothing.
Rosie. Okie dokie!

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Conversations with my mother: Maybe we can dance my way

Tessa: Hi Rosie Posie
Rosie: Hiiii
Tessa: How are you doing?
Rosie: Not too bad. Tired all the time.
Tessa: Maybe it’s the medication.
Rosie: Maybe. I’m looking forward to you coming. Everybody is.
Tessa: Me too. I’m excited to see you.
Rosie: I have a skinny sprout head. I look like a bird.
Tessa: No you don’t.
Rosie: Yes, I do.
Tessa: Stop looking in the mirror then.
Rosie: No. (giggles)
Tessa Anyways,
Rosie: My legs are like string beans.
Tessa: How’s that different?
Rosie: Well they’re more stringy.
Tessa: You have nice legs.
Rosie: It’ll be harder to dance now.
Tessa: Don’t worry about the dancing. We can wave our arms in the air.
Rosie: I can probably manage one leg too. Two arms and one leg. Wowwweeee. We’ll watch soccer together. You know the Dutch are very good at soccer.
Tessa: I can’t wait.
Rosie: Me too.
Tessa: I love you.
Rosie: Me too. I love you too. I’m not dead yet you know.
Tessa: I know.

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Rosie’s air conditioner

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Conversations with my mother: learning to say goodbye

My Rosie

My Rosie

Tessa: Hi mama, how are you?
Rosie: Hi Tessie, not dead yet!
Tessa: That’s good. What are you doing?
Rosie: Jokelee and I are eating a big bowl of ice cream and I’m having a second piece of pie. To hell with the diabetes. Now that I know, I’m going to live it up.
Tessa: I’m sorry mom.
Rosie: For what?
Tessa: To hear about what the doctor said.
Rosie: Oh what the hell. He told me I looked great for my age and that he had never seen anyone be so healthy for so long. I’ve been lucky. We all have to go somehow. I’m 84 for godsake.——-(Long pause) Don’t be sad. I’m so glad you have Dave.
Tessa: Me too. He really loves you.
Rosie: He does? I love him too. I love him so much I’m going to take him with me when I go.
Tessa: Oh mom. No you’re not.
Rosie: Oh yes I am. Are you coming home now?
Tessa: I’m coming home mom.
Rosie: For how long?
Tessa: As long as I can.
Rosie: I have to go now. Dancing with the Stars is on. Whoopeee..

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Conversations with my mother: Dancing with the stars!

Tessa: Hi mom,

Rosie: Ohhhh Tessie. Do you watch Dancing with the Stars?

Tessa: Nope.

Rosie: It’s so good. You won’t believe it. You should see this old man on there. He’s 80 for god sakes. He’s dancing and dancing. He does whatever he wants. No rhythm. Stiff as a wood block. Just like your father.

Tessa: Who is it?

Rosie: I don’t know. Some astronaut.

Tessa: Buzz Aldren?  Buzz Aldren is on Dancing with the Stars?

Rosie: You should see his wife. Old bitty with a 100 face lifts. She looks just like a clown. Always there smiling. Geen gezicht. (not a good sight) What, she thinks she looks good?

Tessa: Yeah, like Joan Rivers.

Rosie: Joan Rivers was never good looking to begin with now it’s worse. But you should see Pam.

Tessa: Pam who? Pam Anderson?

Rosie: I love that girl. So down to earth.

Tessa: Down to earth? What’s down to earth? Her breast implants, her fake blond hair or her Marilynn voice?

Rosie: She’s down to earth. I love her and boy can she dance. The judges love her. They say she is Sexy Sexy Sexy. Me too. They showed her aunt. Beautiful skin just like Pam. She uses Crisco as moisturizer. Says it’s cheap. Who needs all those creams anyways.

Tessa: I think I heard Kate Gosselin was on there.

Rosie: Achh. That woman. Can’t dance. Not one lift, always dragging on the floor. Ohhh, I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow night so you can watch it too. Okay?

Tessa: Okay mom. Love you.

Rosie: Yeah, me too. BYE!!!!!!!

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