A Letter to My Mother on what would have been her 81st Birthday

Dear Mum,

Today would have been your birthday. It’s been three and a half months since you died, and I thought you might like an update.

I know that of all the places you’re likely to be (and I expect you’re probably not actually anywhere, although Shirley thinks you’re in the blue jays) the Internet is the least likely, so I’m not sure why I’m posting this online. Maybe, like everything else post-mortem, it’s for me, not for you --- on account of you’re dead.

I hope being dead is working out for you. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were really a heaven, and you could be with your dad and your sister again? Maybe even your handsome first husband, who you loved so much. (I didn’t find any pictures of him in your stuff --- but there were pictures of Dad’s first wife. You were way prettier.)

I’m sorry I didn’t come to Saskatchewan sooner the week you died. When we talked on the phone on Wednesday you sounded okay -- tired, but okay. I really believed that lie we’d been telling each other about the cancer being a hiccup, just a passing thing that we would get through together. I thought you would live forever, or at least a few years more.

But you never regained consciousness after I got to the hospital on Thursday night. Did you hear me play Verdi’s Requiem for you? Was it still humming through your head when you took your last breath? Not a bad piece to go out on.

But let me skip to the most important part. The cats are fine. Just as I promised, we brought them home to live with us. (You should have seen the look on my cleaner’s face when I told her we have four cats now.) They settled in fast.

Sparky loves to cuddle with whoever is lying on the couch, especially Blake. (You know how he likes men.) He bothers me all morning at my desk --- he wants me to cuddle him, so he stands between me and my keyboard and leans on me, like a dog. I have to give him some scratches and hugs before he reluctantly lies down next to me, on that purple and blue thing you were knitting before you got sick. I’m not sure what it was meant to be, but we made it into a little knee blanket. Jennie Proulx cast it off for me and crocheted a pretty purple border for it.

(Sparky is sitting in front of me right now. It makes it difficult to type.)

Janey is happy too. Just like before, she doesn’t come asking for fuss during the day, but she comes to see us in bed in the evenings and in the mornings. She visits Delphine in the evenings, and in the mornings she goes to see Blake. She gets plenty of chin scratches and belly rubs.

They are getting on okay with my cats --- they’re not friends yet, but they don’t fight much, and no blood has been drawn. They all have their own places and habits, and don’t bother each other much.

The girls are doing well. Cordelia started taekwondo this fall and she loves it. She has already advanced a level and is determined to get a black belt. She’s pretty happy at school; her teacher is great and the kids seem nice enough. She has to leave the house at 8:00 to catch the school bus, and she isn’t home until 4:00, so that’s a long day. But she’s rising to the challenge and really seems determined to do well at everything this year.

Delphine is still happy at her new school. She’s doing a lot of baking and sewing, and she’s made a good friend there. She’s also taking a computer-assisted design class and a drama class, both of which she loves. She’s auditioning for the intensive drama ensemble in December --- her first audition!

I’m okay too --- I swore off any kind of work other than editing, and I’m working on some pretty interesting stuff. The work for the Indigenous Law Journal finally started coming in, and you would have loved the first paper I edited, about what it means to be Métis.

The weather is great this November; still very mild. Today it’s sunny and warm. It looks like it’s pretty seasonal in Sask, though. Your Roughriders didn’t do very well, I’m afraid. That’s all I know about that, though --- maybe Kat will write you a letter and tell you what went wrong for them.

I was sad for a couple of months after you died, but in the last few weeks I feel better. I still have moments of sadness, but I don’t have that heaviness all the time. I don’t know how you managed to get through your Mum’s death and your sister’s without anyone sympathetic around. You were so tough, Mum. You dealt with so much all by yourself.

I’m glad you had that stroke last year. It sounds weird, but it was such a little thing (a “lacuna”!) and we had so much fun that week together. I’m glad I decided to visit more often after that, so I saw you in November and then in April when you were still well. And I’m so glad I came out when you were sick in May and was able to look after you. I grumbled, and I missed a few things back in Toronto, but I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to be there when you were in the ICU and so scared, or in Recovery and frankly cranky and bored, or when you were getting settled in back home. I love you so much, Mummy, and I can’t think of any better way of showing it than taking care of you. I’m glad I got a chance to before you died; I’m glad you died feeling loved and taken care of.

All my love, forever,