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Greasy Roads, Summer Tires and Life Spins Out of Control

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 10:26 PM
Last week was a tough one: the six month anniversary of my mother’s death and the death of a colleague after a four month battle with ovarian cancer. I went to her funeral on Friday and felt such a strong sense of disbelief. Four months ago, she said to me, “I feel perfectly fine and I know that they’re going to make me sick.” She looked perfectly fine but as the months went by, the news got repeatedly worse and we were finally warned that the end was near.

I went into Montreal after the funeral and went out to supper with my closest friends and some members of my family. I ate a good and very large Indian supper, washed down with a pint of Newcastle Brown, my favourite beer. The dinner conversation was lively and it was a good evening. For the rest of the weekend, I cleaned house, baked and ate some delicious oatmeal raisin cookies, sat by the fire a lot and drank big cups of coffee and a few glasses of wine with supper - a quiet but comfortable weekend only broken up by the routine of the weekly house cleaning and food shopping. I had no major complaints.

Life is tremendously precious to me although I have not trekked down the route of fame and fortune that I originally thought that I was on. The bliss of middle age is looking back on a life with few regrets. This is always incomprehensible to young people - and there is a bad Cat Stevens song that you can use as background music for that thought - but please don’t. Things could have really gone a lot worse for me but I was fortunate to find help on the way and a few people set me straight.

My father used to say to me on many occasions that there are two kinds of problems: those that are out of our control and those that are man-made. My mother was afraid of dying and yet she faced her terminal illness with courage. Yes, she used denial much of the time to handle the fact that she was going to die but it worked for her. Who am I to knock a life-long tool that has stood me in good stead? Procrastination is just another form of denial and it works just as much as it gets me into trouble. Mom complained rarely and cracked lots of jokes till she couldn’t talk anymore.

Some of my close friends are going through a similar process, getting through the first year of an elderly parent’s death. You find that some problems have sadly ended while the newer and more mundane ones of dealing with what parents have left behind seems to go on and on. It is a source of constant worry for me at this point. At least two members of my family have severed their relationship with me and I with them; it’s too painful.

These are the man-made problems that Dad talked about. Something can be done about them. Grieving for a lost loved one and death are out of our hands. It’s a test of our characters that we can’t avoid and that we need a sack-full of aphorisms to get through. I carry that invisible bag across my shoulder, like Santa, like the laundry bag that my father used to haul to the car on the way to his laundry business.

You take it one day at a time or it takes a year to get over the death of a loved one or as Janis Joplin said, get it while you can. For me, getting it has become that glass of Chateau Lafitte Laujac 2004 or that pint of Newcastle or that smile across the breakfast table from the one I love.

Here’s another one. The late, great Frank Zappa got up in concert and said that the show was going to be about the fact that it’s fucking great to be alive “…and if there’s anybody here who doesn’t think that it’s fucking great to be alive, then I wish that you’d just leave now because this show will just bum you out.”

Wish you were here, Frank. It’s 2009, an African America is about to be president (the jury’s out on what he’ll do with it though), the world is sinking into some kind of Depression/Recession and in spite of it all, it’s still extremely fucking great to be alive.

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