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.