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The Lost Daughter

Thanks to those who asked me to send them the essay and wrote back, including dear Greg, who wrote Your essay about your father and Alice Neel is magnificent. I was captivated by the first sentence and you didn’t let me go until the very end. I loved the second last sentence…a brilliant summary. Thank you for sharing that noble piece of writing. Take a deep bow. You deserve it.  

How to live up to that? If only publishers were so effusive! 

It was mild today, thank God, so I rode my bike to Loblaws to pick up a few luxury items not available at No Frills – Quaker steel-cut oats, Adams crunchy pb, Icelandic wild cod on sale etc. Had a great convo with the man behind me in line, who was buying two cartons of cherry-flavoured water. He thought it would help him lose weight. Yuck. “I’m from New York,” he said, after our long chat. “People in Toronto aren’t usually so friendly.” When I told him I was born in New York, he shouted, “Aha! I knew it!”

Finally watched The Lost Daughter – both compelling and repellant. (Yes, spoiler alert, I think she’s dying at the end.) How Olivia Coleman can make us care for a selfish, borderline sicko woman, I don’t know, but she does. The film made me replay the many times in my own motherhood years when I wanted to leave and never come back – the time I ran screaming from the house into the snow to avoid strangling someone. But unlike Leda in the film, never in a million years would I actually have left. Inconceivable. 

It’s clear in what I think is the most important line in the film, when Leda’s desperate husband threatens to send their daughters back to live with her mother and she shouts he can’t send them to the “dark shithole” where she grew up, that her relationship with her own mother was not good. Which helps explain, perhaps, her truncated soul. 

After, I thought, I think the thing I can be most proud of in my life – yes, books and teaching and friendships too – but the main thing is that my adult children like and trust and take care of each other, and I like and trust them and they me. I really like them. I do not understand some of their choices and disapprove of others – tattoos! taste in partners and media entertainment! alcohol and food! – but they are fine fine human beings and the love between us all is the best thing in the world. Leda ended up teaching at Harvard, so her gamble for her career worked for her. But, my guess is, not so much for her children. 

I have decided to take a lot of credit for my kids. They nearly drove me, their single mother, mad for 15 years. And yet we all came through. 

Speaking of which, I was over at Anna’s yesterday for Sushi Saturday – we ordered sushi for us all which was expensive as Eli can eat most of it all by himself. Sam is the king of uncles, tossing the boys in the air to screams of joy, hauling them around upside down. The day may come when it will be harder for him to do that.

So many people have Covid. In the meantime, one friend is going through chemo and another is waiting for the results of a biopsy, but major surgeries are being cancelled because hospitals are overflowing with the unvaxxed. It’s infuriating. Maybe we should be less tolerant. As we saw Joe Biden finally ramp up the rhetoric about Jan. 6 and the attempted coup – maybe the time has come to take the gloves off, both with American fascists and with the anti-vaxxers clogging our health care system. I know, we must take care of them, as we care for chain smokers and people who live on cherry-flavoured water. But sometimes, in fury, I want to run screaming into the snow. 

On the other hand, here’s the view over the lake from Anna’s front window last evening:



8 Responses to “The Lost Daughter”

  1. I have just finished reading the essay. I was hooked, right from that first sentence. I think I may even have been holding my breath as I read it, finally releasing it in a sigh of satisfaction and appreciation. I was right there in that room with you, visiting Alice Neel. A wonderful piece.

  2. beth says:

    Thank you, Pearl! Such kind words.

  3. Rusty says:

    "hospitals are overflowing with the unvaxxed". Before you post misinformation you might want to check your figures first. tells another story. Scroll down to Hospitalizations pie chart. 55% of people in ICU are vaccinated. 70% of people in hospital(non ICU) are vaccinated. No the hospitals are not overflowing. In Toronto 22% of the beds are available.

  4. beth says:

    Rusty, we must be looking at different sites. The Covid science table for today, Jan. 11, says that Ontario ICU occupancy is 191 for the unvaccinated and 18 for the vaccinated. Hospital occupancy 762 unvaxxed, 171 vaxxed. Quite a discrepancy.

  5. artsfan says:

    Alice Neel sounds like an irascible old woman who dominated her granddaughter, Olivia. But she is legendary and I think your father and mother must have been very courageous, interesting for if they hung out with her. Whatever her personal shortcomings, her work is great- original insightful, passionate- genius!
    Thanks for sharing your experience in this fascinating article.

  6. beth says:

    Thank you, Artsfan! Yes, they were all fascinating human beings.

  7. Rusty says:

    You want to go to an unbiased objective source like this one:
    I looked at your source and "Science Table" It says The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table is a group of scientific experts and health system leaders who evaluate and report on emerging evidence relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic, to inform Ontario’s response." Sounds good but what it is really saying is it is not unbiased and objective. Anyone can make up tables and graphs. Time to wake up! Your opinions and choices are based on lies.

  8. Rusty says:

    And Your Science Table group, look under About Us. funded by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Then look up Dalla Lana School of Public Health, it says home of Connaught Laboratories, a manufacturer of vaccines, insulin, and many other pharmaceutical products. Don't need to look to hard to see whose narrative they are paid to support!

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