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  • Who knew it would take me three months to “thaw” and begin to feel the deepest sorrow over the death of my mother ?

    This photograph was taken at the front door of my childhood home on the occasion of our last family gathering around the dining room table. It was Easter of 2008 and the house was sold a few months later. Everyone was in attendance for this final command performance - including the love of my life, Bobby, who would die a mere six months later from prostate cancer.

    What strikes me about this photograph is its utter lack of colour. Everything is either black or white. A metaphor, indeed.

    Mom died on November 21, 2011 after a ten-year battle with the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

    I thought I had made my peace with the fractured, troublesome relationship I had with her.

    She never really knew me - nor I her.

    I only knew the “facade” that was trotted out for those occasions when I was visiting Montreal. Was there anything beneath the surface ?

    How I wish I could talk with her one more time.

    I have so many questions that remain unanswered and now I must navigate the balance of my days with those lingering unknowns threatening to seep in around the edges of my every experience.

    Mom, what did you know for sure ? What messages would you want me to hold close to my heart as I step into the generational gap that you have left behind ? For I will be the next to shuffle off this mortal coil. The birth of my granddaughter has moved me up a notch . . . within spitting distance of the Grim Reaper’s scythe.

    Has your narcissism damaged me to such an extent that I will only be safe eking out the balance of my days within a fortress of solitude ? Has your narcissism damaged me to such an extent that I will only and forever be drawn to those of similar ilk ? Their siren song is hypnotic to me and I’m inexorably drawn to it . . . basking in the initial whirlwind of heady, intermittent attention . . . only to withdraw bruised and wounded, yet again, into isolation and a sense of personal invisibility.

    I could feel your emptiness that should have been brimming with personal authenticity. And from you, I learned to pay attention only to words - in spite of the disconnect and inconsistency that your actions revealed.

    That was a lesson that it continues to take me many, many years and heartbreaking experiences to unlearn.

    I sensed your ambivalence around me and was crippled by it. I always wondered what was so inherently flawed about your first-born child that your love and acceptance of her couldn’t be unconditional ?

    Were you too distracted by the decisions and choices that you had made to have any energy left over for me ? When did you realize that you had made a mistake ? And why couldn’t you admit it ?

    Your tenacity in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary imparted a dangerous lesson, you know. Feminism never really had a chance to take root in your soul, did it, Mom . . . You paid it lip service, to be sure, but once again, your actions contradicted the messages that I was hearing.

    I’ve run with it, Mom . . . I will forever be grateful to you for insisting that I have a career of my own . . . for here I sit, now retired for four years, living independently and comfortably secure with a very healthy pension . . . a cultural acknowledgement of the investment of decades of my life and an abundance of plain, hard work.
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