Sunday, December 31, 2006


Three of a Kind


Rob's Mother, Zillah May

Zillah May Young, Rob's mother, died yesterday morning. She had a heart attack on the 27th. Rob flew to New Brunswick on the 29th. Rob's phone call that morning woke me, stunned me. Why is it when we know that we will die, that our parents will most likely go first, why is it still such a shock? Rob tells me that it is harder than he ever imagined.

When he called, he said that he and his sister, Kathy, were taking down the Christmas tree in her condo: they couldn't stand its festiveness and so I took down our tree (after my friends, Penelope and Roy left for the Yukon. Thank heavens they were here to talk to after Rob called.)

I spent the day in a daze, wandering, doing odd jobs... and thinking of Zillah or Mother, as I have always called her. Rob has always said that she is a farm girl. Or did he say, country girl? She didn't leave New Brunswick until 1970 when she attended our wedding in Toronto. And yet for all her country ways, she was one of the most open-minded, liberal women I have ever met.

When Rob called to tell her that we were living together - remember this was the sixties - she said that she was happy he wasn't alone. I was afraid to tell my parents. When she found a bag of green weed in his drawer, she asked if she could try some. She'd always wondered about it.

When I first met her - Rob and I flew "home" for a holiday - she was working in a restaurant. She never put on airs, never apologized for who she was or what she did. Her home wasn't fancy but it was always neat and clean. I never saw her angry, never heard her raise her voice. She listened. She made fancy pies and Rob's favourite Maritime dish - salt cod in cream sauce over mashed potatoes - when we visited her. And when she came our way, she'd bring sealed packages of salt cod and fiddleheads.

Later, when we had children, she came for the birth of our last two to help me. (My mother came too and they timed their visits so I always had a mother to help for at least several weeks.) She was a quiet, unobtrusive guest. I never told her what to do. She took it upon herself to look after the older child/children, do the laundry, clean - all the little things that add up to a lot when one arrives home from the hospital with a new baby.

She was never a rich woman, far from it, and, as Rob told me this morning, she didn't really care about material possessions but she was always generous with us and our children. For years, she knit us socks for Christmas. How we loved them, always asked for more.

She was such a good woman I can't believe that I will never see her again, hear her voice on the phone.

This summer she flew to Vancouver for my niece, Sarah's wedding. She stayed in our house and I am thankful for this time. Again, she was an easy house guest. When I was consumed with the wedding cake, she helped herself to food, wandered and read. She'd willingly go with me when I went out for supplies. Sometimes, she would stop, ask me to wait while she caught her breath. It scared me a little. When she arrived, she looked so frail. Her skin was ashen. She had aged so much since I'd seen her last. But she was quick on the uptake, made jokes, laughed. Her mind was all there. One of my last memories of her is my nephew Thomas asking her to dance and she did. She did beautifully.

I feel sad that I won't be at her memorial service. And I could/would go but for Rob and he says he's fine as he has his sister there. Together they have made the funeral arrangements and are sorting through mother's stuff. When he is in her place, he says he forgets, thinks she will walk through the door.

All yesterday, I had the feeling that I wasn't quite present. I searched through our photo albums for images of her. She is most often holding a child.

She was active to the end, loved walking and bowling. She accepted everything, everyone - all of us who joined her family with all our weird quirks and inconsistencies. I never heard her bad-mouth anyone. Or complain. She more than anyone I know, seemed content with her lot. I hope this is so, must of been, she looked it.

When I think of her, I think "good woman, good example, one I wouldn't mind being more like."

When Gill was born, we thought of calling her Zillah. Mother insisted we not. Although soft-spoken, she had definite points of view.

How do I conclude? How does one conclude a life? It isn't possible. She is in her children, in my children.

You know how when someone dies, no one wants to say anything bad about the deceased? With Zillah, there is not even a glimpse of a negative thought. Do I have any regrets about my relationship with her? Only that I didn't tell her how much I admire her. But I can imagine that this would have been too difficult for her: she would have laughed and shrugged me off.

Farewell Mother. You are loved more than you will ever know.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Rob, Brendan, Gill, and I drove down to Seattle yesterday. Gill and Bren are in the Ace Hotel - young and modern. Rob and I are in the Warwick - an older boutique hotel - that I booked through Hotwire. Except for meeting for dinner last night at Lola, we have all gone our separate ways. Soon I will sign out of the hotel and wander down to Pioneer Square to explore "Eliot Bay Books" - one of my favourite book stores.

And today is my big sister's birthday:
Happy Birthday Stephanie

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Christmas Eve was lovely - a good meal with Rob, Brendan, and Gill and then a walk by the water to view the decorated trees. Christmas Day was lovely too - a few special gifts and then a traditional feast with my sister Bev and her family. It could only have been better if Michael and Mackenzie had been with us.

Today, within the hour, the four of us are off to Seattle.

And it's my Mother's Birthday:

Happy Birthday, Mum

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Happy Birthday, Dad

(I'm the little one, in the insert, on the left. I've been told that I look like my father. My mother says that we alike:
we don't have a peaceful bone in our bodies. )

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Birthdays

I have an unusual family. One sister's birthday is the 23rd of December. My father's is the 24th. My mother's is the 26th. And my older sister's is the 27th. Instead of gifts, I'm emailing each a birthday poster.

Happy Birthday, Gael

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I was on antibiotics for four days and every day I took a pill, I felt worse. Finally I returned to the medical clinic and was told that this proves my cough was not bacterial but is viral. And because I was wheezing and coughing to the point of vomiting, the doctor listened to my lungs, pronounced me asmatic, and gave me an inhaler and suggested I sleep with a vaporizer. I followed his instructions. Finally I am beginning to feel better. I hardly cough at all. Each day, I have a little more energy though I am still not up to speed.

People say oh it's good to be sick. It slows you down. Allows you to smell the flowers. But when I feel like hell, I mope. I hate being incapacitated. I can't even read a good book and so sit for hours in front of the television watching stupid mindless crap and feel my life slipping away.

I have been away from home so long and though a sickie, it feels good to be back, good to have Gill here, and felt good to have Brendan over the other night. We are missing Michael and Mackenzie. We're planning a simple feast for Christmas eve , a traditional turkey dinner for Christmas day. (My family love food.) We will give a few gifts but won't go overboard. I like this though worry a little that those I love will be disappointed. I need a little inspiration. It's so hard to find THINGS that express love, that bring delight, let alone fill a need. Is it even possible? I have always thought that it's not really the gift that counts but the thought that goes into the gift. At times this is true (i.e. the slide show for Rob's birthday) and at other times, it is the gift, the thing itself, that gives pleasure.

I wrote a story about gift-giving, as a university assignment, that Western Living nearly bought but didn't... I just found it in my filing cabinet. It's not great but not bad and is giving me ideas. (I'll type it out later into this blog spot.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I'm so happy to be back except I'm sick. A cold and hacking cough I caught in France kept fading during my travels but never quite left me. After flying from Montreal, it is back with a vengence so I went to a medical clinic and am now on some serious antibiotic that has me weak - no energy - with an upset stomach. I often feel chilled to the bone and am taking hot baths in epsom salts. Sunday night I take my last pill. Hopefully then I can get on with my life and prepare for Christmas.

And Gill arrived home last night from Toronto. And my friend, Helen just dropped in for a visit. So good to sit around the table and talk but I WANT MY OLD ENERGY BACK. Soon, I hope

Monday, December 11, 2006

I am in Montreal with Angela, Helen's cousin. She lives in one of the most beautiful apartment/houses - her daughter and family live upstairs - that I have seen. Her taste is exquisite - paintings and books everywhere. Her table is set with crystal and gold-pattern plates, scrolled silverware and red floral napkins to match the Chinese red walls of the room. Yesterday we wandered downtown streets, visited an extraordinary art gallery (one painting with grapes dripping blood stole my breath), Ogilvy's department store, and Chapters... I am suprised to hear French spoken again - a more twangy French to be sure but French all the same.

Where am I? What am I doing as I wander from place to place? This trip has been an adventure. I have spent much time with family and friends observing, listening to them, in their homes while their everyday lives goes on - except for me. I now feel the need to be quietly at home digesting it all.

Christmas is coming and except for putting together a basket for Michael and Mackenzie, I have done little and feel no compulsion to run to stores and buy things just to have some thing to give. I would like to throw gift-giving out the window though I love giving gifts when I see something that would suit someone I love.

The last week was spent at political functions - quite unlike my usual choice of activity. My sister is a regional counsellor for the district of Peel, town of Brampton, and has just won a local election with a 87% majority. She loves community service and is good at it. Unlike me, she is a real people-person. loves to stand up in public and speak. She works hard and has helped to change the rapidly growing face of Peel, advocating for beautification (flower beds and treed avenues), youth centres, safety and neighbourhood-watch programs. Her baby, at the moment, is the resurrection of a cancer support house, a branch of Well Spring, that she hopes to see built in the coming year. Already a developer has given her a piece of land. A contractor has offered to build for nothing. A lawyer, accountant, oncologist have donated their services. She is astonished and thrilled by the generosity of others. She tells me that of all the things that she has accomplished in this life, this is most dear to her.
And I think she knows but can't quite grasp how much good she is responsible for.

And I suppose that this is the way it is for many people. "It's a wonderful life" though as I move from household to household, I see more struggle, tears of frustration and sorrow, than fun and laughter. C'est la vie.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My friend Kate sent me the following email:

"Hi everyone,

As most of you know, I write a blog for women
recovering from child birth for B5 Media called

To celebrate the first year of blogging and Christmas,
I am buying my readers a Christmas present. I would
really appreciate it if you would help choose the gift
by reading a few posts. The description of how the
system works is here:

A Christmas Gift

All the best,
Kate Baggott"

If you have a few moments, please follow Kate's instructions: the more people who visit her website, the more she will be able to give to World Vision.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The snow is falling furiously this morning - beautiful but I wonder if I dare take the trip out into the country to my parents' house. I decide to wait for a while, pull out my journal and try and recapture the last few days. This is an extraordinary time, full of people, happenings, and conversations - so much so that my head is spinning.

I last wrote about Friday.

Saturday, I spent the morning with Gill, the afternoon with Gill and her roommate - running an errand - and we ended up hungry, on the Danforth, Greek town. The first restaurant we saw, we entered, and were greeted by a kindly older man who told us "Pan" is owned by his daughter and son-in-law. "She's here in the evening and is more fun than me." He ran and brought back a picture of his daughter. Throughout our lunch, he dropped by to chat and I was reminded of the friendliness of Greeks during Rob's birthday expedition. I told George (we are now using first names) that I have just returned from his homeland and he wants to hear more - where I visited, what I did... and at the end of the meal his son-in-law arrived. When I told him that his father-in-law is wonderful. He smiled and said, "You should meet his daughter." We finished our meals, ordered coffee,and the old man brought us a square of cake and three forks. Although the food and service were excellent, it was the man's attitude, his smile, his obvious pleasure that made the experience so pleasurable for us.

The next evening, Gill and I had a similar experience. After she finished work, we drove to the Italian area for dinner. It was snowing lightly. The stores and restaurants along College were decorated extravagantly with lights and glittering ornaments. We walked along the street arm in arm and found an upscale restaurant, done in taupes and beiges with long modern bar and elevated eating area. Gill ordered eggplant parmesan. I had a seafood linguine. The service and food were excellent. When the young woman waiting on us asked if we would like dessert, Gill said that she would love to try the creme brulee but was too full. Minutes later, the waitress returned and said the chef would like us to enjoy a brulee on the house. We accepted thinking we could manage a bite or two. We ate the whole thing.

I am sure that it is Gill's presence that turns heads, brings us gifts. Every time I see her walking toward me, beautifully groomed and dressed - no matter how casually -she always looks fancy - perhaps it's the scarf around her long neck - I think "Paris": my favourite city has changed her, left its mark. She is so much taller, thinner, more confidant than I was at her age, and I wish that I'd had her presence, her worldliness. And though I worry about her restlessness, sleeplessness, I do not worry that she won't find her passion.

She is extraordinary young woman: she likes to spend time with her mother. We can talk for hours. When we are sitting, she curls into me. When we are walking, she links arms with me. She is such a gift.


For the past few days, believe it or not, I've been spending much time at political functions, at my sister's request. She wants, at least, one sister to know her life.

More to come

Monday, December 04, 2006

There is magic in the air... it snowed tonight but let me go backwards a little. The last few days have been filled with treasures.

On Friday night, I met a friend - a dream woman - in a small Middle Eastern restaurant for a meal of tiny appetizers - eggplant, lamb and veal on skewers, mushrooms, peppers, yam fries, and red wine. All was shared - food and the highlights of our comings and goings since we last met in Vancouver in June and before that in France. She has a soft voice so I have to lean forward to catch her comments and questions - sometimes hard questions. Her directness forces me to think before I speak and be as open as she is. She also reminded me of where I was not so many months ago. And I realize too , with my answers, that something has shifted inside me. I love when this happens. I thought not so long ago that I had to take some action, make some changes or I would die (not literally) but I was frozen and couldn't decide what to do and so did nothing. I lambasted myself for being so indecisive, and then, because of this conversation, I see that certain issues have resolved themselves without any effort on my part. (Patience has never been my forte.)

We leave the restaurant and she asks if I would like some fun? Her daughter is playing at a lounge downtown - a benefit for the 6 Nations blockade at Caledonia. I agree. She drives down to Church Street and parks (near Ryerson - such a part of my distant past) and we walk: I am freezing. The weather is crazy. One moment it's hot and I shed the fake fur jacket my mother bought me and wear a light denim coat. This evening I am in denim. I slip my arm through hers and snuggle in, asking if she minds. She doesn't. She is so lovely and warm. At one point in the evening, she reminded me that she wanted me to help her choose a new wardrobe. She wants the outside to reflect the inside. This pleases me - not only her confidance in me but because, she is tall, elegant, beautiful and it would be so much fun to do. (Since this evening, I have been thinking about colours and textures, styles that would suit her. I have some ideas.)

We reach the lounge, small, packed. We stand until a space clears and then sit. The concert is already underway. A young man in overalls and a conductor's cap is playing a guitar and singing heady lyrics about love and loss while, behind him, a film of images and words - made by him - is projected. He reminds me of a young Bob Dylan with his sexy words, blunt comments while the next performer - or his lyrics - reminds me of Leonard Cohen though he is has a better voice and is an amazing guitarist. And the way he sways and moves around the stage - oh la la. I am reminded of my college days when I would, night after night, go to small coffee houses and bars and fall in love with musicians. Once, my friend Penelope and I fell in love with the same musician/man - Ron Nigrini. We attended every performance we could - probably as many as could afford. (Amazing. I just goggled him and he is still performing.)

At last, my friend's daughter, Lila Rose, is introduced. I have never met her. She is a beauty (not surprising). Her fair hair is in dreadlocks, tied back, unruly, springing out here and there like a crown or halo. Her arms are tattooed, and though I'm not keen on tattoos, hers are subtle - an upper arm bracelet of roses (I think) and something I cannot remember on the inside of her wrist. She wears a sleeveless silk short dress over jeans. She is enchanting. Her first song is performed without music though her voice is music, her words poetry. (She writes her own lyrics - and her first song/poem is a protest that fits well with the benefit's protest.) She performs two more songs and the evening is over. I loved every moment of it.

My friend dropped me off at Gill's who was waiting up, so worried about me that she threw her arms around me.


more to come

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My nights and days disappear here. The only constructive thing that I have done is cook. For the last three nights I've made dinner for my parents and two evenings ago Michael and Mackenzie joined us. I made a family favourite, chicken in cream and white wine sauce over rice, steamed asparagus and baby leaf salad. My mother made a multi-berry trifle for dessert that I think Mackenzie, a vegetarian, enjoyed more than the main course.

I wander a lot. Internet is a problem though I found the past three days, at my parents' home, that Port Hope library has free wireless and what's even better is my emails leave this computer. I don't understand technology well enough to understand why, at Gill's, the wireless cannot send my emails but is able to receive them.

Yesterday, I found a real-time plane tracking site and followed Rob from Toulouse to London to Vancouver. I always feel better knowing that the plane that carries someone I love has landed safely at its destination. And so Rob is home. And I continue to wander.

I left Port Hope at 7:30 this morning and drove to Toronto - back roads as I am too fearful of the super highways here (some have twelve lanes) - and, after three hours in the car, through fog and rain, am now back at Gill's. I agree with Kate: "I would just like it stated that I do not like driving, I hate cars and I resent the forces in my life that demand both." Here my family are spread out hours from each other.


For some extraordinary reason, I am blessed. I find it difficult to write about people or events that touch me, make my chest expand, fill my heart...

As much as I love simple clean sentences, without flourishes and without unpronounceable words, I fear sounding like a simpleton. And always always when I feel afraid of exposing myself, I think of Helen Luke and her essay on humility that says something to the effect that instead of becoming defensive when someone calls us/me a fool, an asshole (though she would never have used such a word), a simpleton, the thing to do is to admit to the allegation. But how the old ego struggles to lord and master it over all and not admit flaws or weaknesses.

You have no idea how many times, I've written this damn blog and thought myself pathetic.

And then something happens - as it did the other day - and I realize how blessed I am. A woman who I've met only once in France came to Port Hope and took me out to lunch. She is a whirlwind, a dervish dancer, a body of energy - enthusiastic, excited, exclamatory - and like Christmas, she lights up the space she's in, the people who are in that space. For example, we went into the drug store downtown that was decorated with feather wreathes, feather trees (rather fetishy and unexpected for this conservative town) and bright balls of coloured Italian glass in many sizes hanging from the ceiling. All was so festive and this woman squealed with delight. Heads turned. Two young women, who had been replacing stock, looking bored, ran over to help us. My friend's energy changed that sedate place.

She is a woman of extravagant gesture and I love her for it. And as Colette said somewhere, it's so easy to love someone who loves you. She told me that she loves me, that my blog gives her permission to be, even motivates her to do. If such a "marvellous" person as me who does what I do and still descends into hell and self-doubt, keeps moving, she can. Oh such generous words and I beam like a child who has been praised for some small task.

Though I think her praise over-the-top still it gives me courage.