Tag Archives: Mother

Poem of the Week: Mother by Ted Kooser – via Alison McGhee

I love this poem. Love it. Thanks to Alison McGhee for sending this beautiful poems out to new audiences and into the hearts and minds of others.

 

Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.



​For more information on Ted Kooser, please click here: http://tedkooser.net/



My blog: alisonmcghee.com/blog

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Tulips and Glory for the lady in 301 -Feb 23rd

20130224-125415.jpgIt’s the rituals that I miss. I loved phoning the florist near my mom’s house and asking for the spring bouquet of tulips. I loved asking if the Austrian gentleman could deliver them. I loved talking to my mom and hearing her say, “Oh you know what Tess, that flower delivery man LOVES ME. He’s always flirting with me.” (what this means is that my mother was flirting shamelessly with him). I loved the fact that her birthday falls fortuitously close to the Oscars, the single most important event of the year for my mother and consequently for us. The Oscars were better than her own birthday, better than her childrens’ birthdays, better than Christmas. Probably not better than John Lennon’s song Imagine which she loved dearly. The Oscars, you see, were the time where we forgot everything and imagined for a few short hours that we were stars, dressed and ready to be glorious. The ritual is so ingrained that my niece skyped the entire Oscars for me last year when I was sick in bed with pneumonia and without cable . Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Rosie

Rosie

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. I hadn’t forgotten about it. Thoughts of my mom weave their way through my every day life in an every day way. Missing her is the new normal – the sharpness of early grief has evened itself out. So I was taken aback when my niece sent me a text saying, “It’s nana’s birthday today isn’t it? I love you auntie Pie.” Yes, it was her birthday and I had half forgotten. And I don’t like that. So I spent a lot of time thinking about her yesterday. And this is what I thought.

I thought about all the things I loved about her and all my favourite memories. And then inevitably my mind wanders to the part that I find the most difficult. And this is what I struggle with. For most of my life my mother was my mother. I loved her but she could also make me crazy. She could be inexplicably difficult and hard on people. She could make things complicated, she could be intransigent and self-centred. I have known all these things about her. And as her daughter I sometimes reacted without always understanding where she came from.

More and more when I think about my mother now I think of her as a woman which feels different than thinking of her as my mother. As a woman I see her more clearly and I feel I have more context for her life. And that’s when my heart starts to hurt. Because my mom had a difficult life. And when I think of her as my mother, I just think about how well she loved and took care of me and how pure and well intentioned her love was. But when I think of her as a woman and as my friend I feel a deep sadness for some of the struggles she faced in her life and I realize that I understood too late who she was as a woman. And I wish I had had more of that.

Yesterday Dave and I chatted about Rosie. It’s Oscar weekend and t’s her birthday. The tulips that I planted for her are making their way up to say hello. I can’t garden – I don’t share her green thumb but these seem to do well in spite of my ability to kill all living plants. We chatted about who she was. Dave saw my mother’s faults but he loved her and saw her clearly, maybe in some ways as her good friend he saw her more clearly than I always did – but he said this. He said your mother loved you because she saw who you were. She saw that you didn’t have the outside layer other people have that protects them…so she worried about you and how people might take advantage of you. But it’s also the trait that really allowed her to be herself with you, to show you who she really was. She was your greatest friend. And she was. So here is to my mother Rosie. To her tulips. To her life. For showing me how to elevate life to its finest glorious moments. Cheers.

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Conversations with my mother: Oh Tessie, isn’t this great!

For my mom, the little Dutch girl.

Often when I was a young girl my mother would look at the incredible dinner we were eating and say, “Ohhhh Tessie, look at this. This isn’t so bad at all. If only they could see us now!” I never knew who the “they” were but just that someone “out there” should witness this incredible feast we were having. You see my mom was a single mother with very limited resources. And while I never lacked for anything my mother’s circumstances made me aware from a young age of the value of things.

Rosie’s joy in these triumphs both large and small gave me a sense of celebration. New shoes, ‘Yippee let’s celebrate”, a great dinner,” Woo hoooo I want the world to see this.” Beautiful sunny day,  “Wow, Tess can you imagine.” Or, “Nobody wants to hire me mom.” What? ”  she’d say in genuine shock. “Who wouldn’t want you? All in good time. There’s a reason for everything. Trust me.” Or she’d look around her small two bedroom apartment and say, “Look at this. It’s so cozy isn’t it. Look at those paintings. You know I just look around and I love it. I love everything in here.” My mom talked about that apartment like it was a palace. And to her it was.

So I’m going to try and apply her innate ability to celebrate life as a glass half full rather than half empty to this last year in my own life.

I would say that having a health scare and losing my job don’t even register as negatives in view of facing the biggest loss of my life which is the loss of my mom. I would also say that the wrenching pain of losing my Rosie yielded a different kind of beauty than I would have ever anticipated. That I have a more intimate knowledge of the word bitter and sweet. That these bitter moments in life also yield life’s greatest sweetnesses. That through this journey with my mother and my family I came to know her in a deeper and better way. That I watched my brother and sisters rise to the occasion even in their weakest moments, that I saw generosity and forgiveness. That I saw my nieces and nephews literally surround my mother with their love and their liveliness, that I saw them take her hand and love her. That I saw them not be afraid even if they were a little. That I saw that my mother had created a family of love and joy. That we all sat in her room with the liveliness and sense of celebration that we got directly from her and which she passed on to us.

That she was the creator of this family  that seems to have passed on the gene of experiencing life in all of it’s bittersweetness as more than half full. That when my husband said last year at Christmas “Let’s make room for the prettiest girl in the room.” that the dance floor parted with all her grandchildren and children surrounding her and dancing with the joy that somehow in spite of everything we have managed as a family to foster and grow and pass on.

So this year I lost my mother. But this year I saw more clearly what her gifts were and I see them everywhere in my family. And for that I am eternally grateful and will try and honour her ability to experience life as always more than half full. Cheers mom.

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Conversations with my mother: How Grief is Like a Super Nova

Apt. 301 371 Lakeshore Road West

Today is December 1st 2010. Today is also the day that a new person will be moving into Apt.301 371 Lakeshore Road West, my mother’s apartment. It feels weird to think that 40 years of living have drawn to a close in that little apartment. It’s where I grew up and it’s where my mother found her peace. It’s like the mecca of our family. The fulcrum, the centre. It’s where I can lie on the green leather couch that fits me perfectly and relaxes me. It’s where I watch Dancing with the Stars with mom, it’s where we have a glass of wine, where we laugh and have serious life talks and nothing talks. It’s where we irritate each other, where we laugh and where we cry. For all of us that apartment represents something different but for me it’s what I have always called home. Home is where my mother is. It’s where we watched over each other as we grew up and it’s where I watched my mother grow older. You never know when you start a journey where or when it’s going to end. Life offers no end point until you’re living it.

Grief I’ve decided works in weird ways. Each stage you pass through is like a super nova. It creeps up on you. You’ll never call it a stage or recognize it as a stage but suddenly it grabs you like a wall of fire, like a shooting star, like a super nova. It holds you tight and you feel loss like you’ve never felt it before in your life. And shock and more shock and sadness, anger, grief, and the endless shock that runs like a single narrative through these luminescent balls of fire. And then all of a sudden you feel normal and you find yourself laughing spontaneously, your guilt is unchecked until it comes back to remind you that you’ve lost your centre, your mother, your home.

Those moments of normality are so incongruent with the emotional trajectory of grief and loss.First you can”t believe that the world is marching on. Doesn’t everyone know you’ve just lost your mother? And then it becomes less of that and more your own embrace of normality that makes you feel a bit like a traitor. Don’t you know you just lost mom?

The hardest journey is from being able to embrace real life flesh and blood that you can hold and hug to having nothing but a few things and a lifetime of memories. The memory of a home, of all my mom’s special things, her clothes, the way she had this just so. It feels cruel to dispense with these things that meant so much to someone and now mean so much to me. Dismantling a home feels like dismantling a life.  Is this really all that’s left of this home? Just these things? I know that my mom is so much more than just things.

Today is the close of one chapter in the life of Apt 301 and the beginning of another one. Life without Rosie has truly begun. Finding my way home now is no longer getting on an airplane and making my way to Rosie at Apt 301. The crazy explosions of emotion that have engulfed me these last few months are subsiding and when I think of my mom I think of a spark, a star,  a super nova and I’ll find my way back through the lifetime of great memories she has given me. I love you mom.

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Conversations with My Mother: Things I’ve learned from Rosie

My mom died in the amazing Dorothy Ley Hospice on Saturday October 9th in the late afternoon. It was a brilliantly beautiful fall day and she had her family by her side. Dorothy Ley lies somewhere just outside Port Credit where my mother lived and Sherway Gardens, Rosie’s favourite mall of all time.  My mom once said of a friend’s house in Kits, “This is nice but where’s the mall?”

I feel as though I have been on a journey with my mother. At first I thought it was the journey of these past few months but now I realize that it has been a journey of a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to see our mother’s as people or as anything outside their roles as our mothers.  But now when I try and disentangle myself as my mother’s daughter I feel like I can better understand the quirks she developed as a result of some of the hard knocks she had to take in life.

My mother married twice. Both times she married men who liked to take things from her. Her children, her safety, her children’s safety, her things, whatever she had they wanted and they took without asking or without scruples. Abusive men will change your life and the life of those around you forever if you give them the chance.

When husband number two left my mother high and dry it was the best thing he could ever have done.  My mom never was allowed to work but suddenly at the age of 43 she had to figure out what she could do. And she did. She cleaned houses and eventually she took care of other people’s children.

I don’t think in all the years of knowing my mom she ever complained of the things she had to do or the things she didn’t have. She just did it. And when we had a particularly good meal  she always looked at me with a mischievous smile and say, “If only everyone could see us now!”

Eventually my mom got a job at Eaton’s where she worked at the accessories counter for 10 years. She loved that job. Always a clothes horse, she would get dressed up, make her lunch and off she’d go to have coffee with the girls before work.

There is no doubt that my mother had her quirks. She was brutally honest, sometimes unkindly so and she could have a hard edge. She could make a dollar stretch like nobody I know because she had to.

Sometimes even in the last few months I had this idea that my mother didn’t live her life to its fullest potential. I felt badly that she never had another partner or that she wouldn’t take risks or adventure far beyond her beloved apartment in Port Credit. It upset me that television had become her world (especially Dancing with the Stars and the Olympics!)

If you asked her she would wave her hand and say “What for? Why would I want anyone in my life? They’d make me cook and clean. Forget it. I’m happy. Tessie, I’ve lived more than you would ever know.” I guess the thing is I heard this but I didn’t understand it.

In the last few months my mom would look at her place and say, “Isn’t this cosy? Don’t you love all the pictures and all the things in here. I love this place. I love Port Credit.”  My mom lived in her apartment on Lakeshore Road for 40 years. Once she managed to escape the craziness of life with husband number two she decided to build a life for herself where nobody could take anything away from her. Where she could feel safe. Where she could have peace and be happy.

It was from this safe place that my  mother executed her witticisms and divined her essential Rosiness.

  • I’ve learned from my mother to take from life what you can.
  • To keep laughing in spite of it all.
  • To be silly and laugh even through the worst of it.
  • To love the people around you.
  • To give even if you don’t have much.
  • To not bemoan what you don’t have.
  • To not let lack of money ruin your sense of peace.
  • To create your own safe place.
  • To understand that there is nothing about dying that is undignified.Whatever the cruelties that old age and sickness impose on you, they have nothing to do with dignity.
  • That regardless of anything Rosie’s amazing spirit shone through adversity and kept us laughing and on our toes until the very end.
  • That just being there and holding someone’s hand is the most important thing in the world.
  • That old age never compromises a mischievous fun-loving spirit.
  • That when you look at older women understand that they have lived every age and their entire being is comprised of that. They have been daughters, sisters, lovers, wives, girlfriends, adventurers, nurturers. They’ve loved and they’ve lost.
  • That love can make you do things you never thought you could.
  • I  believe that Rosie’s spirit lives all around me and is a part of me.

I hope that wherever my mother is, it’s as peaceful as 371 Lakeshore Road West, Port Credit.

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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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