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chronicle from Smith’s Falls

7.15 p.m. on the sunny train home – just leaving Smith’s Falls. I wonder who Smith was. This will go down as a marvellous but absolutely exhausting voyage, juggling the needs of the extremely young and the extremely old, my 7 week old grandson and my nearly 89 year old mother, neither of whom can remember much or is very ambulatory.

Today Anna wanted us all to go to her favourite café for lunch, which is a great idea except for the logistics – finding a time that worked for everyone and getting us there: Auntie Do, who at 92 is spry and sharp; the baby, who is a champion traveller as long as he’s full, which means his mother preparing bottles and pumping and nursing most of her day. Then getting my mother out of her room and down in the elevator in her walker and into the tiny rental car and over to the restaurant and into the restaurant and sitting down and fed. She is so thin, so frail. This morning I pushed her, sitting on her walker, to look at the bigger room she’ll be moving into in a few weeks, down the hall, to figure out which of her furniture pieces will fit. We looked and I jabbered about this chair and that bookshelf, and when I turned around, she had fallen asleep, sitting on the walker. Heartbreaking.

There was a funny moment on Saturday, when I was coming in to see her just as the movie showing on the residence ground floor got out. I was alone in the elevator when a whole crowd of seniors appeared wanting to get in too – and I had a cruel moment, as they approached, slowly and awkwardly with canes and walkers, shuffling, staggering, odd shapes and sizes, mumbling – a voice in me said, “Aaagh! Night of the living dead!” I felt guilty for thinking so and we smiled; they’re charming and friendly. But being surrounded by a crowd all over 85 is something of a shock.

And then a visit to my brother in Chelsea, Quebec, getting out there another masterpiece of organization. He took us and his young son, not my mum who stayed back for a snooze, to his “yacht club” two minutes down the road – a wonderful folksy place on a Gatineau lake surrounded by huge fir trees; we plunged in and had a swim. A real Canadian experience.

In Mum’s condo today, I opened a cupboard and found a huge folder entitled “Beth’s Writings,” and another box full of my letters to her. Took some with me. My life, all our lives in the family, have had a lifelong archivist. Lucky us; they’re not cutting HER budget.

But mostly, on top of spending time with my Ottawa family, it was bonding with my daughter and her incredibly delicious baby that made this trip so memorable. What joy to watch one’s child become a wonderful parent. And this baby, well, spectacular, giving pleasure to all. Do said he was the best baby she’d ever seen, and that’s 92 years of babies. I confess there are many photos. Perhaps you won’t mind my sharing just a few.

But ye gods, I will be happy to be home and just have my own body to prop up, my own mouth to fill, and my own functional little legs to carry me about. Well, just me to look after and the crabby cat, who as usual will be overjoyed at my return – ha ha – and the house and tenants and garden. A different kind of caregiving. Don’t have to get them into a car.

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2 Responses to “chronicle from Smith’s Falls”

  1. The city is named for Thomas Smyth, a United Empire Loyalist who in 1786 was granted 400 acres (1.6 km2) in what is present-day Smiths Falls.

  2. beth says:

    Mon dieu, you are the Google speed champion, or else you have a Ph.D. in obscure Canadian facts. Many thanks, Chris!

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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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