It is 10 p.m. on Saturday night. I’ve just come from dinner with one of my oldest friends, Louise, from Grade 13 in 1966, and her new husband who was her childhood cello partner. And Auntie Do. We talked a lot about the past. But also about now – Louise had just come from the “Met Live” series at Cineplex, where she watched “Parsifal,” a five hour Wagner opera. She was overwhelmed.
It was a lovely dinner with old and good friends. But now, here I am at Mum’s. This is my last night, ever, in the home of my parents. From August 1950 till I left to go to university in 1967, I lived more or less at home. From then on, I visited when I could, sometimes quite often, sometimes only once a year, when I lived in B.C. But they were always there, my parents, as was their hearth, always there to welcome me. After Dad died in 1988, my mother was always there, more eager than ever for my visits. The bed was always made beautifully, there was a little vase of fresh flowers on the bedside table, she had bought some treat especially for me.
Now – boxes in the living room, piles of dust and garbage in the corners, empty cupboards, one coffee cup left, one cereal bowl, to be packed tomorrow. From now on, wherever in the world I go, it will be as a guest, even with my closest friends and my remaining family. Whereas here – even though I never lived here, even though my relations with Mum were often strained and she exhausted and infuriated me – here was home. Home – was it Phillip Larkin who said so? – is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
Now, no one, anywhere, has to take me in.
This death is a liberation. I am untethered, and that is a good thing. My mother did not protect me from the elements; on the contrary, she hurt me more than anyone on earth. And yet, she was beautiful and open and very good company. She loved me, and she was my mother.