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mothers

When Anna, Eli and I sat down on the train yesterday opposite a young couple, I could see their faces: “Oh no, a baby, groan.” Five hours later, after that baby had spent the journey to Ottawa waving his fists, kicking his feet, looking around with interest, eating, or asleep, they thought he was the cutest thing they had ever seen.

I’m in Ottawa, here to introduce my mother to her great-grandson. But also to see what’s happening in her life now; she’s in an assisted care facility where she went after surgery to recover, but it’s clear to us all now, and to her at last, that she will not be coming home again, she’ll be staying there. Apparently Amica is a chain – but they have done a very good job of setting the place up like a nice mid-level hotel with nurses. Activities are posted, Scrabble, shopping trips, concerts. All of us ate there – Eli again obligingly adorable in his car seat on the fourth chair, with many residents stopping by to say hello. The meal was delicious, though the portions aimed at seniors, not nursing mothers; Anna ordered an entire second meal. Mum’s medication is delivered before every meal; there’s a nurse at the end of a call button. I am profoundly grateful she’s so safe. She will move to a bigger room soon – though still very small compared to her 3-bedroom apartment.

It’s hard to be here, in her bright, stylish condo, without her. It’s hard to see her memory failing and her limbs so weak. And yet she was beautifully dressed, waiting for us when we arrived, and is still very sharp in some ways. She liked Eli.

The greater wonder for me, this trip, is being with my daughter the mother. She is expert at her job, and so her son is expert at his – keeping himself alive, growing, learning. Oh the infinite patience it takes to be with the very small all day – I am an impatient person, can’t imagine how I did it. I do remember I was crazy a lot of the time. Whereas Anna is, simply, patient and in charge. Beautiful to see. Her little man had his usual evening meltdown when we got back here, an hour of lusty and inconsolable crying – I had to go for a walk, get away for a bit when nothing settled him down. But then, yes, Glamma discovered the trick – Michael Jackson. I turned on the TV while he howled, there was a documentary on Michael, and I started to dance with the boy in my arms. Instant silence. This is my grandma tip #1 – when there’s howling, try Michael Jackson.

Mum just called in some distress; time to go.

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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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