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the anvil’s lament

Three weeks ago, I was swanning around Paris, taking in art galleries and beautiful buildings and cheese. People ask about my trip, and I can barely remember. Was I really there? The subsequent events have quite taken over. This period will go down as, shall we say, difficult. I am quite raw, often near tears, just so much emotion, on and on.

My mother had a pacemaker installed Monday, with the hope that from now on, all she has to do is get better. But at the moment, she has other ideas – my brother says she seems to have given up. She doesn’t want to eat or move, as if she’s saying, Enough. I understand why she’d say that, except that she agreed to the heart operation to save her own life, knowing what was in store. So let’s hope this is a temporary slump, and soon she’ll be on the road to recovery.

She loves to flirt, and I said to my bro, if only we could find a handsome man to come visit, she might perk up. But at the moment, she might be past even that; for Mum, that’s serious. And I can’t go to be with her until Anna’s baby is born.

At the same time, my daughter at nine months pregnant is exhausted and grumpy, can’t sleep, walks with difficulty. “Stress happens when the mind won’t accept what is,” I said to her cheerfully, urging her to accept her situation rather than complaining about it. But she has an answer: “It’s not stress, I’m tired and uncomfortable, and it makes me feel better to complain, to tell my son to come out NOW. I know he’ll come when he’s ready.”

Okay, is all I can say, if that makes you feel better… On Thursday, I’m going to an ultrasound appointment with her, and then on to the midwife, and then to her favourite barbecue place for lunch. She is doing this most important job, producing the next generation, on her own; I’m glad to accompany her for a bit of it. Even if she does live way the other side of the planet, at Roncesvalles and King.

Somewhere between these two poles is my own life. I sent a whiny note to Wayson yesterday about an upsetting work-related incident, and he sent back a stern email that said, in essence, “Grow up!” I needed that, but it hurt. Sometimes, these days, I feel ancient, and sometimes about twelve, not growing up anytime soon. He and I met to talk at the delicious Mad Dog Café on Gerrard St. “Sometimes, in life, you need to be a hammer, and strike,” he said. “And sometimes you need to be an anvil, and bear.”

He was saying to me, in his way, just what I was saying to Anna, in mine.

On top of all this, spring sprang for a day or two and then vanished into a dank, cool gloom. On the weekend I wrote to a Sony executive to ask how much it would cost to use Beatles’ music in a storytelling event, only to read in the NYTimes that when “Mad Men” used a bit from “Rubber Soul,” it cost $250,000. And when I carried the heavy jasmine plant outside on Sunday, I strained my back, which throbs still.

BUT: MUCH to be thankful for. Only one week and one day more in the basement. Flowers everywhere. A Vancouver friend wrote about a play coming to town, which Way and I will see next weekend, baby willing: How to disappear completely, by Itai Erdal, a one-man show which sounds wonderful. I’m reading a fascinating library book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. When I told him about it, Wayson said, “I wouldn’t have the willpower to read it.”

The Globe appeared this morning on the doorstep, as delivery resumes, and John my dear handyman took me to Home Depot, oh such fun, spades and brooms, hooks, solar lights, downspouts and a giant gerbera plant. The cat purrs. Books await. Students write. And what is this before me? How strange – a glass of wine, where did that come from?

I am anvil. Hear me ring.

P.S. Just had a long talk with Mum. It’s hard to hear her, her voice vague and frail – but when we talked about the French elections, she grew louder. “When I heard, I jumped for joy,” she said, though that must have been hard for someone attached to beeping monitors and stuck in bed.

This does not sound like someone who has given up. Merci, Francois Hollande.



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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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