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Ottawa, freezing cold, nice and warm

I’ve been in Ottawa since Saturday morning, visiting my mother, aunt, brother and family. Took the British ladies to see “The King’s Speech,” which they enjoyed, though of course they knew the whole story, as they were there. “Colin Firth is not a bit like the real king,” said Do, who will soon be 91. “The king was very small with narrow shoulders and he wasn’t handsome like that.” But of course, this is a Hollywood king, he must be tall and handsome.

The film builds to the king’s famous speech as the country launches itself into war; my mother heard that speech on the radio, sitting at home, in the thatched cottage in the village of Potterspury, with her mother and father. “It’s the only time I ever saw my mother cry,” she said.
“Did you know he had a stammer?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” said Do. “Every speech was slow, with long pauses. But we didn’t know anything about Lionel Logue.”

I loved seeing the film again, the marvellous music, the beautifully wrought interior and exterior shots, and especially, once again, the rapport between the two men, those sublime performances. Oscars all round, say I.

The following day I took my mother shopping for shoes, which is a major excursion as she takes a size 13 and there’s only one shop that stocks them, Tall Girls, which has changed its name, not surprisingly. It’s now Long Tall Sally. It was amazing to be in a shop where my mother, who used to be six feet tall, looks petite; there were amazons and giantesses in there. But none, I noticed, with size 13 feet. We bought Mum something she has never had – a pair of ballerina flats. I can tell you that not often has the word “ballerina” been used in a sentence about my mother. She’s not clumsy or ungainly, not at all – just very tall, with big hands and feet. But now she has some pretty ballerina flats.

I went for a walk in the freezing cold and hot bright blinding sun – the snow is white out here, and it’s a beautiful, Cornelius Krieghof scene. Punishingly cold though.

The next day we cooked a large meal for the family – it was Family Day, so our timing was good. My brother came over with his partner and their 3-year old, who is so delicious, you just want to gobble him up. He’s a great dancer, so the two of us did some dancing together, which often involved being on all fours, not the easiest position. I invited him to come to Toronto in 15 years and we’ll go clubbing. Jakie and Auntie Beth, on all fours in a club.

We’d had a family meeting earlier in the day, and for those of you who’ve been following here, I am happy to report that it was an exceptionally good meeting. I relaxed into the punches, so to speak, and in any case, there really weren’t any. It was the best family meeting we’ve ever had, also on Family Day. We resolved some issues and no one got up and walked out in a huff. Followed by a giant meal and dancing. Do arrived with dessert – a big fruit salad and a freshly baked walnut banana cake. May I have half her energy at 91.

But today a walker arrived for my mother, delivered by the government of Ontario, which will let her try it for a month; if she likes it, she’ll buy her own. What a great system. They are taking extremely good care of her, with nutritionists, social workers, physiotherapists all making sure she’s well. Thank you, taxpayers. Because she is frail. I am worried, just as most of my friends are worried about their aging parents. So we do what we can.

There was a book about the childrearing years, called “Looking back on a decade of walking slowly.” And as we tottered around the grocery store today, I thought, that’s what we could call a book about this time of life too. I’m leaving tonight; the larder is stocked, and the wine cellar, and the fridge, and there is much love in the air. I could not be more grateful for this precious time.

PS And just picked up my messages from Toronto – MacZine is repaired and ready for pick up. Life begins again.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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