Revisiting a few memorable 2013 Christmas photos

Revisiting a few memorable 2013 Christmas photos

It’s time to revisit a few favourite Christmas photos. I took these during the incredible ice storm in 2013 that knocked out power for days across Ontario and Quebec. Well, except my little stretch of heaven. Turns out we’re right on a major power grid so we were safe. Lucky that. We did spend a scary night listening to sheets of ice sheer off the side of the building and crash to the ground. Anyone caught under one of the massive sheets would have been sliced in two.

The aftermath was magical though. I’m still amazed, 7 years later. So far it looks like we’ll be having a green(ish) Christmas this year. Bit mild, not much snow. Suits me fine. It fits the overall Grinchy mood of 2020.

In 2013, I went out to take a few pictures with my smart phone that morning, despite being terrified of falling on my back. Once down, I’d never get back up. It was worth the risk.

Christmas Photos 2013

A photo of iced up crab apples after the 2013 ice storm - Christmas Photos

Sugar Plums anyone?

The word dramatic comes to mind. The ice made the crab apples translucent. You can see the core shining through. When I looked at them, I was taken with the idea they were sugar plums. Now that notion is firmly stuck in my head and that’s all I can think of when I look a the photos.

Iced over tree from the 2013 ice storm

It really did look magical

The effect was jaw dropping. I’ve been through several ice storms, but this one was different. It froze everything almost instantly.  I wanted to wander around the neighbourhood taking more photos, but everything was covered in ice, not just the trees. After a few more shots, I slid my way home.

Frozen leaf from 2013 ice storm

Everything was insta frozen

When I was preparing to go out, Mom asked me if I had a death wish. She stood on the balcony and watched as I teetered across the icy road. I remember her shouting across to me that if I fell on my ass, I’d be there until spring thaw. Ah, but the photos were worth the risk.

That was a good Christmas. We were safe and warm in our apartment. We exchanged little gifts, listened to Mom’s favourite Christmas tunes and chatted about the ice storm, dinner and whatever wandered into our consciousness. Yea, it was a good Christmas. Merry Christmas Mom.  Miss hearing you sing along with Dean this year.  Miss you.

Tired of thinking about 2020? Try this:

Harbourfront expedition & some awesome photos

Yodeling cowboys, ramen, and grief

Yodeling cowboys, ramen, and grief

Photo of Mom as a child with her pet chicken Brownie

Momand her pet chicken Brownie

Grief is a funny thing. One moment you’re doing fine, getting on with life and the next moment a memory flits across the horizon and you’re emotionally sandbagged.

I have a lifetime of memories that keep tumbling out at odd moments. Sitting on the subway and a laugh reminds me of a conversation with Mom or standing in the kitchen makes me remember the last time we cooked a meal together. We had a lot of laughs over the years. Lately, those moments have been popping up all over the place. They are … bittersweet. We’ll have no more moments of unbridled laughter at the silliest things. So many of those memories are tied up in events or jokes only mom understood. I’m holding each memory tightly.

Yodelling cowboys and Mom

I still have her YouTube account with all her favourite music.  I scroll through the lists occasionally, smiling at some of the memories. Music played all the time in our apartment. Christmas songs in July, opera singers during breakfast, Joan Baez over tea, old musicals in the wee hours of the morning, it was like she had a theme track running along with her life. That’s what bothered me the most when she died. The silence.

She also liked yodelling cowboys. Yes, yodelling cowboys. I’d come home occasionally to Slim Whitman yodelling away, Mom leaning back on the couch singing along. It was quite an experience. Mom and her music. Still makes me laugh at times

Soup and Mom

After her first operation, mom’s diet restrictions meant her food choices were limited and repetitious. To tweak her appetite, we explored different ingredients, things she never tried. She became quite adventurous during the last years.

Her favourite meal was soup. Good old-fashioned soup. She could eat it every day. I used to make little pots of it for her when she wasn’t feeling well. I enjoyed cooking for her. She was an appreciative audience. After a lifetime of cooking for everyone else, she liked the feeling of sitting around reading while someone else made dinner.

Mom always thought a noodle was a noodle. She didn’t grow up with the variety we have now. When I made her Ramen soup for the first time, it was a revelation. She was hooked on ramen noodles. Oh my, she ate a lot of it. Couldn’t seem to get enough. I taught her how to make it so she could have a fresh bowl whenever she wanted. It became her go-to quick meal.

Yodelling cowboys, ramen, and mom

One late night last year, around 2 am, I woke to the sounds of yodelling. I’d often hear her music in the night or hear her rustling around in the kitchen. It was like living with a little mouse at times. This night the music was a little louder than usual. I got out of bed to ask if she could nudge the sound down. I found her in the kitchen, making soup.

I stood in the door watching for a few moments. Slim Whitman was crying about lost loves, horses and I haven’t a clue what else. And mom, all 4’10″ of her, dressed in an oversized Tony the Tiger t-shirt and green plaid track pants, her grey hair standing up like Tin Tin’s, yodelling along.  Oh yea, yodelling and chopping carrots for the ramen soup simmering on the stove.

She was so happy at that moment. She turned and saw me, blushed a bit, and asked if she woke me. I said no, no. I was just getting up to get a glass of water. Just wondered what you were doing. Turns out, she had been playing Farmville 2 and became hungry. Of course, that meant another pot of soup. Those noodles were like crack.

I didn’t have the heart to ask her to turn the music down. I just shrugged and said it’s all cool and went back to bed.

Another stage of grief

I wish I could have more moments like that. Nights of her singing to herself and making soup; Farmville and Tony-the-Tiger shirts; Tin-Tin hair and yodelling cowboys. I miss every minute of it. I grieve over the reality there will be no more memories to make together. I’ll have to cling to the ones I have.

If you’re dealing with grief, whether over someone who has died or the dramatic changes that have occurred during the past years, check this site out for a bit of moral support.

Still contrary at 60 years old

Still contrary at 60 years old

I’m now past 60 years old. I always feel like I should start these posts with “Dear Diary, You’ll never guess what”.  Anyway. With my birthday firmly in the rear view mirror, I have a confession to make. I’m surprisingly content.

Been a horrible couple of years, with stress beyond belief and I’m still grieving hard for mom. I miss her every day. I have the odd cry when I lean over to tell her something funny and she’s not there to laugh with me. But over the past few months, a sense of peace has caught up with me. I realise saying this in 2020 is a certifiable act, but I’ve hit a sense of equilibrium. The years have been a frenzy of hospital stays, doctor appointments, helping mom with her exercises, making sure she ate properly etc. Anyone who’s taken care of an aging parent gets it, without further explanation.

Now, I have time to .. do nothing. Sit on the balcony and just watch the sun set or prop my feet up, with a glass of wine one hand and a trashy novel in the other. All knowing I no longer worry whether mom is okay. Don’t misunderstand. I would give anything to have her back. I miss her so much, it physically hurts at times. But that isn’t what reality allows. Mom had fun. We had fun. Together. We muddled along through her illnesses and had a lot of laughs along the way.

It’s just me. Me and the million thoughts that run through my brain all the time. Mom had things left unsaid. She wanted to share her thoughts with you and she was cheated out of that chance. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot over the past week. It seemed so unfair. But, as mom would say, no one promised fairness in life. She was very much a working class philosopher, in her own way. I was lucky. I had to chance to listen to her and understand her life and struggles. So, I’m going to share my thoughts on what mom told me over the years, especially the last 4 years. Much of it will be seen through my personal lens. I’m not as kind hearted as mom so much of what I say may be a little more cynical than mom would have been.

Mom had a soft heart. Well, except when it came to Trump. Whoa! Talk about swear like a sailor. My mom, at 83, would rail against her contemporaries for being blind and selfish fools for supporting his style of politics. She was more concerned with the younger generations and what kind of world they will have, than she was herself. If she could have, Mom would have put on a pair of steel toed boots and kicked a lot of asses. She was peculiar.

And funny.

And fierce.

Life dealt her a pretty crappy hand. But she was able to be something I’ve never managed. Despite it all, she remained a contrarian optimist. I know, sounds like a contradiction, but stick with me over the weeks as I tell you about her, myself and our world view. I’m debating about keeping the vlog portion. I’m not very patient when it comes to editing. It was something mom really wanted to do but cancer had the final say in the matter. I’ll likely keep it, for mom. I tried scripting out what I want to say in the videos, but that’s just boring. You can listen to anyone read to you. I’ll have to figure out a balance. Something between me editing everything down into a  bland pudding to a full on me glaring at you through the camera lens.

I tend to get mouthy when I’m off script. I’d love to say I’ve mellowed with the years, but the opposite has happened. I’m to the point where I simply don’t have many fucks left to give. Mom had a lot left. She was the optimist in the house. I was the pessimist.  We balanced each other nicely. Guess I’ll have to channel a bit of mom’s better nature before I turn the camera back on. Tap into this sense of contentment I’ve acquired. So mask up folks. Take care of the people around you and buckle up. I have a lot more to say before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

Photo of the writer at 60 years old wearing a mask with black cat faces on it

Buckle up, I have a cat mask and no fucks left to give.


Death in the time of a pandemic

Mom ran out of time last night. She died quietly and peacefully shortly after midnight, after years of serious health problems, with humour and an undiminished sense of “screw you cancer”.

For quite a few years, Mom and I took a hard journey with chemo, radiation, surgeries and more doctor visits than either of us cared to remember. It wasn’t always easy, but we did it – together. Along the way, we learned a lot about each other and had a lot of laughs. I met mom – the woman. And let me tell you she was fucking amazing. Funny, resilient, compassionate and smart.

It was difficult trying to work, write and help mom. Often, I pushed projects aside because I wanted to spend the time with her. I knew we were on borrowed time and I wasn’t going to waste any of it. It felt, at times, as though we’d just get settled into a routine and then mom would become ill or something would happen. For about 5 years, I’ve been living on high alert, waiting for the bad news, rarely sleeping the entire night. It was hard to concentrate and stay focused, but I tried the best I could, which, at times, was not terribly good. But our motto was “we’ll just muddle along”. I’m thinking of creating a banner with that on it and hang it on my door.

It was lonely, waiting, listening to people moving around outside the room and not being part of it. I spent hours looking out the hospital window, down onto a normally frantically busy street. Never was it clearer we are in the middle of a crisis – rush hour boiled down to 6 cars and a handful of carefully distanced pedestrians. It contributed to a general feeling of disconnection from the world at large and the lack of movement outside those windows amplified that sense.

Mom was always my rock. We helped each other out and were there regardless. Lazy summer nights sitting on the balcony sipping tea and chatting. Random jokes no one else will quite understand. Long, walks to test mom’s endurance after her various surgeries. She was proud of how she handled the devastating effects of cancer. I was proud to be at her side the entire journey. I didn’t want to say goodbye but there was no choice. I feel selfish because I didn’t want to let go.  But it was time.

Despite the overwhelming sense of loss, I can’t help feel, I was one of the lucky ones. I could stay with mom throughout.  I wasn’t going to be haunted by the knowledge she died alone, like so many during this pandemic. One of the nurses even found a big bark-o-lounger they dragged into the room so I could sleep there with her and I got trays of food to keep me going. Originally, they thought she would be gone quickly, but mom being mom, did things on her own schedule.

She hung on for over a week, unconscious and mostly unaware of the world around her. That’s ok, I fancied she could hear my running monologues with her, talking about rearranging the apartment (we lived together), deciding what shows to watch while waiting and talking about how quiet the world had become. I read her news, played some of her favourite YouTube videos and often, just sat quietly holding her hand. Occasionally I felt her squeeze my hand, whether that was a spasm or she was aware of my presence, I don’t know. To my heart, she was aware.

She’ll be bitterly missed. Every day I’ll think of her and how quiet life is without her in it. She would sing in the kitchen when she got up to get breakfast, and this morning was brutally quiet. The silence was painful. But in the wider scheme of life, like I said,  I’m lucky. Others aren’t going to be able to say goodbye to people they love. The pandemic means they don’t have the luxury of spending a week just talking to their mom. I  had that chance.

So now, I am a card-carrying member of a wider club of daughters who have lost their mothers – I referred to it as the Sad Daughter’s Club when a friend lost her mother last year. When the quarantines and distancing are over, those of us in the club (and the Sad Son’s Club members) will get together, hug one another and share memories. Eventually, things will be better.

And one last thought. I wisely decided to not follow one of mom’s ideas – split her ashes up into envelopes and mail them off to people with the note “Guess who”.