October 8: my mother’s birthday. She would have been 96. Yesterday at Ryerson a student wrote about her 90-year old mother with dementia who has turned violent, and I breathed, once more, a sigh of relief and gratitude that Mum died when she did. She was losing memory, getting weak and vague and sometimes strange, but still beautiful and more or less together. It’s devastating to imagine your mother as a vicious stranger.
I’m still reading Mum’s lover’s letters. It’s difficult, because I see her in a new light, as a modern woman struggling to sort out her complicated life, but at the same time, she had ensnared a married man with young children who was desperate to ditch his family and run away with her. There is mention of sheep farming in Spain. They were really nutty.
At one point in class last night, as the 13th person read an essay, I cried, once more, “I LOVE MY JOB.” A room full of interesting people whom I didn’t know a few weeks ago, and now I do. Now we are starting to know each other well. I just sent out a newsletter to former students; after reading it, Aime Wren signed up for my blog and then replied, “I must tell you that your suggested – to look up – book titles, account of seasonal garden closing, and your photo shoot description was heartwarming to read! I could hear your voice and recalled the class I took with you. A few of the women that met in your class about five years ago now are still working together in a writing group. Your warmth and humour united us.
Currently I am typing from Oxford, on my fourth study abroad spell at the School of Continuing Education here in the UK. One never knows how their teaching efforts inspire others, and might not see the ripple effect of encouragement that impacts their students.
Beth, because you taught me at the University of Toronto, I am now at Oxford.