Up at 7.30 to take a fussy, probably teething baby away from his exhausted mother, and now, at 9.30, he has just fallen asleep and it’s Glamma who’s exhausted. My mother’s living room is a disaster – we only have a few toys here, but luckily Eli is thrilled with mixing spoons, calculators, little packets of things, his Johnson’s baby powder canister. He had a bottle, some banana which he mashed into the table and dropped on the floor, many Baby NumNums, some scrambled eggs mixed with avocado, and another bottle. And then he fell asleep, to the great relief of the old bag whose arms were dropping off, and his mother who has just started the clean up.
Yesterday’s event was one of the most important of my life, no question. Several people said it was the nicest service of its kind they’d ever been to. The First Unitarian Congregation is sacred feeling, definitely a church, but with no overt religious symbols, just a warm, dignified, wide open space. There were about fifty people, I think, including family – friends of Mum’s from the condo and from her past Ottawa life, highschool friends of my brother’s and even highschool friends of mine, from my one year, Grade 13, at Lisgar Collegiate. Mike G. appeared – his mother Helen was best friends with my mother in Halifax in the Fifties and then Ottawa; Helen worked at the CBC and gave me my first job on-camera when I was ten. I hadn’t seen Mike in about 30 years, or more, but knew him right away. Clive Doucet came with his wife Patty – Mum was on the board of a community housing project with both Patty and Clive, who later ran for the Mayor of Ottawa. He’s a wonderful idealistic man, and another of Mum’s crushes. Several of her crushes, whether they knew it or not, were there.
Highlights – my friends Louise and David playing a Shostakovich arrangement for two cellos, in honour of Mum’s love of music in general and the cello in particular; both of my children speaking, beautifully and with great emotion, about their grandmother; the chaplain, Kye, calling on people to come up and share a memory of Sylvia with us and to light a candle. Several came up, including friends of my brother’s who spoke about how welcoming Mum was to them as teenagers, how they thought of her house as a second home – and how she smoked dope with them once. “The coolest mother,” said Colin.
And then Kye said a beautiful prayer of remembrance, and we all sang “When I’m Sixty-four,” which was my parents’ favourite Beatle song, and my brother, who looked elegant in his first classy suit, wrapped up. We adjourned to the next room to eat and drink and continue to remember, to the strains of Mozart’s G Minor Quartet, which Mum had requested. The baby was amazingly good throughout, assisted by generous helpings of Cheerios, the other kids were great, and everyone had a very good time. Do was toasted and celebrated; she looked beautiful.
Now I am truly an orphan. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. There’s a blizzard in Ottawa – so much snow outside the window that the scene there is barely visible. But Anna wants to go to Ikea, and I’m game. All is well. All will be well. Bring it on. I’m free.
No, I’m not free, obviously, if I’m going to drive to Ikea in a blizzard for my daughter. But I’m free in a certain way. A great weight has been lifted, whether I should admit that or not. And I am looking forward, with all my heart, to the next stage.