Overload, almost – a weekend in Ottawa with my entire close family. The Toronto contingent drove up in a small rental car on Friday morning, a glorious drive with fall colours exploding along the highway, forests of gold, scarlet and orange in the sun. The baby is a great traveller; we stopped only once, when he’d had it, to let him stretch his legs and to have a bite to eat; otherwise, if he got fussy jammed in his car seat, we put on Michael Jackson, and he listened and grooved. Much loud Michael Jackson on the 5 1/2 hour drive.
But the stress was incalculable for me. I don’t drive that often now, particularly long distances, and here in this little tin can were my most precious people on the planet, all of them. I wanted to go slowly, to be safe, but had to drive at a good speed to get there before we all went mad. So, stress.
We had supper Friday night at Amica, the residence where Mum lives now. She is extremely frail – slid off her chair last week and has bruises on her face. But she loved seeing the baby; he is such a laugher, exudes such pleasure in living that his joy is infectious.
That night was a challenge – my mother’s condo, where we were staying, has only two beds, and much of the furniture, including the TV and radio, has been moved to the residence. My kids are screen people. Luckily I’d brought my computer and they’d brought DVD’s, so we all 3 – or 4, when the baby was up – squeezed onto the sofa to watch “The Wire” on a MacBook. 6 foot 8 inch Sam slept on the sofa.
Saturday, to celebrate Thanksgiving, my mother’s 89th birthday and my son’s 28th, we had her and her sister Do, my brother and his son and spouse – all of us serene, of course, no issues, no problems, only peace and love – over to Mum’s small condo for a late Thanksgiving dinner. A day of cooking and preparation in a cramped kitchen, where when we went to make gravy, we found that the bin marked “Flour” was full of bags of brown sugar, as was every other bin. Anyway, we managed to pull together a great meal – thanks especially to the gourmet cooks my children have become, and to the vast organizational skills of Anna, who had her son bouncing in his Jolly Jumper in the doorway as she cooked.
God, it’s intense, that kind of scene. My brother’s rambunctious five-year old understandably had enough of sitting and climbed on his father’s back during dinner; Mum was nodding off, the baby was hungry, I burned and ruined the bread sauce. Yet here is what family is meant to be – a group of people linked by DNA, four generations ranging in age from 5 months to 92 1/2. Heartening and necessary, if exhausting.
On Sunday morning we visited Mum again. It was hard to leave her, so vulnerable and weak, but she’s in good hands with my brother, who is endlessly patient, and her caregiver, and I will be back soon, alone, to spend more time with her. We ate leftovers with feisty Do and took off, for the scenic and stressful Michael-Jackson-laden drive home.
Thanksgiving. Two of the greatest gifts – seeing my mother and her great-grandson beam at each other, and watching my giant son, his face tender as he played with the baby and helped his grandma walk and sit. And his older sister, a wise and skillful mother with the happiest baby any of us have ever met.
As Mum and I sat watching her, I said, in my hyperbolic way, “Isn’t she the best mother the world has ever known?”
“Yes,” said Mum, and then, after a pause, “Except for me.”