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the storytelling animal

If my mother hadn’t died, I’d be in Ottawa this weekend. We’d be cooking a dinner for my brother and his family, maybe my kids if they’d come, Auntie Do. I’d be fussing because Mum’s toppling piles of newspapers and bills and junk mail, her collection of plastic bags and white blouses and silver spoons would be driving me crazy. But we’d be laughing, even as we argued about how to cook the turkey or how my daughter is raising her son or a million other things.

But she’s not there. Her apartment has been emptied, painted white, and sold; the deal just closed yesterday. My bank account is healthier, with my share of the proceeds, but my heart mourns. I had a long talk with Do today, and she is bewildered, exhausted, bereft. My mother and I talked almost every other day, but Do and Mum saw each other and talked daily. And now, at nearly 93, she’s alone. She complained that her apartment is a mess, and I offered to fly up on Sunday to help her sort things out. No, I don’t want to see anybody, she said. My apartment is in too much of a mess.

We’re all in a mess, Do. And yet – it’s a lovely day, and I am listening to Bach and reading a fine book, “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human,” by Jonathan Gottschall. He’s putting into words what I’ve known since childhood and what I now teach – the power and importance of stories. The cat is sleeping in a patch of sun, my tenant Carol has just returned from her other home in Ecuador, and in my fridge is a superb dish I made for my friend yesterday, soba noodles with eggplant and mango, from the cookbook “Plenty” by my favourite chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I love his name, as well as his food. I ran into neighbours on the way home from my walk, a couple I’ve known since moving here in 1986, and we stood for ages catching up on our adult children – one of their daughters is legally married to a transgender woman, and “they’re happy as clams,” said her mother. We stood commiserating about our poor city with the idiot mayor from hell, our poor country under Harper, who, my neighbour posited, is a high-functionning socio- or psychopath.

And yet – here we are, alive and thriving in the sunshine.

And yet – I miss you, my mother. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.



2 Responses to “the storytelling animal”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your grief. It can seem so strange, all the little ways life continues on, after someone dies. I wish you strength and hope as you mourn your mother.

  2. Beth says:

    Thank you for writing. I find I'm often blindsided – something just hits me and the grief rolls over. Tonight I was at my daughter's; she had asked for a sticky note my mother kept on her fridge, about art, and for the first time, I saw my mother's writing and that familiar piece of paper in another home. Whammo.

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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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