My husband made a comment to me the other day that couldn’t of been more true.  He said to me “you’re not a girlie girl.”   He’s right, I’m not, never have been ever since I was a little girl.  I played with Barbie but I always wanted Ken to play along as well.  When my brother got bored with Ken, I stole him and hid him in my Barbie box.  I had no illusions about Barbie and Ken being romantically involved, I just wanted my Barbie to hang out with a cool guy who liked to fish, hunt, camp and do all the guy stuff.   My Barbie stayed in pants, she rarely wore dresses or skirts and I couldn’t have cared less about doing her hair and make-up.  I wanted my Barbie to travel to Africa with Ken,  go on cool Safaris, I wanted her to camp, hike and dig in the dirt!  By the same token I preferred to hang out with the boys in the neighbourhood not because I was enamored with boys, I found girl play rather boring and I didn’t really have time to sit and gossip about this one or that one!  I talked like the boys, acted like the boys and I can remember frustrating my mother as she was constantly putting my dresses back on because the first thing I did when she put a dress on me was take it off and change back into my pants and t-shirt.   Sometimes I would sneak out wearing just pants and bare-chested like the boys.  Less clothes made more sense to me – hassle free when you’re digging up in the dirt and climbing trees.

My mother would become exasperated with me because she was a girlie girl and my older sister was a girlie girl.   Mom would get me ready for church on Sundays and the last thing she would say to me as I headed out the door “don’t go playing in the mud and dirty up your dress.”  She shouldn’t have said that because in my mind that was a challenge and the first thing I’d do was go find the biggest puddle I could find and jump in the middle of it knowing full well that I was pissing my mother off and I couldn’t have cared less.  After all she made me wear this ridiculous outfit and if I was miserable , she might as well be miserable too.  How I didn’t end up six feet under as a little girl is beyond me, because I can still see my mother’s face, all twisted up and mad as hell.   Once we got to church I’m sure I heard her praying “God why did you give me this tomboy of a girl who lives in pants and refuses to wear the adorable dresses I buy her, Lord what am I supposed to do with this one?”  One time Mom tried to cure my tomboy ways by taking me on a shopping excursion downtown Montreal and the whole day I bitched and whined that I wanted out of the store and to make matters worse, she dressed me up in a dress so we could spend the day together dressed up looking at more uggggg- dresses!  I hated the day, hated the mall, hated my mother for making me do the dress-up thing, wasting my day and I let her know how I felt loud and clear.  My mother would say to me “why can’t you be more like your sister, she likes shopping, she likes wearing pretty clothes and fixing herself up.”   The fact that I was so vocal drove my mother nuts as well  – she was always commenting that I had to have the “last word” and I would always come up with some smart ass comment after she made that statement because again she challenged me so I had to have the last word!   I wasn’t an easy child and now that I have a son just like me, I realize how frustrating I must have been!  I am more prepared than my mother as I completely understand my son.  For the longest time I thought my mother hated me because I could never conform to what she wanted me to be but as I grew up I realized just how much she loved me and she just wanted things to be easier for me as she felt that my personality brought certain hardships that I could avoid.  Mom use to say, “can’t you just go with the flow stop being so you.”

Funny thing is mom usually went with the flow unless something really rubbed her the wrong way or she had a fierce belief, she could attack like a tiger and you wouldn’t know what hit you.  Didn’t happen often but every now and then she would surprise me.  I remember one such incident, the two of us were flying from Vancouver to Toronto to visit family.  My stepfather worked for Air Canada so we had family airline passes and could fly stand-by.    I remember the flight was packed that day and we were lucky to get seats, we had to sit separately but we made it on the plane and we were both only too happy not to wait another couple of hours for the next flight.  Halfway through the flight I hear my mother’s raised voice plain as day, “you bastard, how can you be such an ass and admit something like that.”  Mom’s voice was really loud and then she went on to call the man a few more names I’d rather not mention.  I was shocked, the stewardess came running down the aisle and the man was yelling that he wanted this crazy lady moved to another seat.  The crazy lady was my mother and she yelled, “I’ll gladly switch seats because I don’t want to sit beside this cheating son of a bitch.”  Mom ended up sitting somewhere else for the duration of the flight leaving me to wonder what the hell was going on.   I couldn’t wait to land and get off the plane to talk to my mother.    When I found my mother she recounted that this man was flying with his mistress and both he and his mistress were laughing about the affair they were having and laughing about the fact that this man’s wife was at home.  “How on earth did you get into a conversation like that mom,” I asked.  Mom had a few glasses of wine which made her very opinionated but she said this man and woman just told her, weird if you ask me, but mom did not hesitate to put this man and woman in their place.

Truth be known my mother was no stranger to extramarital affairs, her husband, my father, left our family for another woman so my mother was angry to the core when these passengers made light of the affair they were having.  Then mom said to me ” we might not be able to fly on passes anymore because the stewardess told me that if a complaint goes in against me I might lose my passes for being an unruly passenger. I don’t care, she said, because I’d do it again.”  “Wow mom, so much for going with the flow, ” I said.    Nothing ever became of the threat, I don’t think that man put in a complaint, frankly because he was probably scared what my mother would do – crazy lady might go to the newspaper and frankly when my mother believed in something to the core of her being – I could see her screaming loud and long all the way to the editor’s office.  As much as my mother tried to stop me from being me, the apple didn’t really fall that far from the tree!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was still living close to me – I spent some time reading about the disease so I could prepare myself and other family members for the eventual fate of Alzheimer’s.   One book that meant the most to me was “Losing my mind” by Thomas DeBaggio, a well known herb farmer in the United States.  When he was diagnosed with the disease he set out to write a book about the various stages of the disease – what makes this book so interesting is that he was going through the stages as he was writing about the disease.  At times he said he couldn’t remember what a word looked like never mind write it.  The book fascinated me, saddened me, frightened me, taught me much about Alzheimer’s and about the journey we were about to embark upon with our mother.  Below is a poem he received from a woman who wrote this poem dedicated to her husband as she watched his mind being robbed by the disease – the poem struck a chord with me and I kept it close to my heart.  Two years after reading it, I included the poem at the end of the Eulogy I said at my mother’s funeral.  As the disease robbed my mother of the joys in her life, this poem reminded me of her because she fought the disease with all of her heart – determined to try and remember.  For anyone who is suffering of watching a loved one waste away with Alzheimer’s or anyone who has been through this experience I believe it may bring you some comfort.

Alzheimer’s Revisited

Today I hear the voice of a 58 year old man,

As he spoke of losing his memory,

Word by word, thought by thought,

He said “The only thing I never forget

is that I have Alzheimer’s disease.”

As he spoke of exercising his mind,

I pictured, once again, my husband

sitting at his desk, writing his name,

over and over, letters missing,

writing fading into a meaningless scrawl.

Then a group of near-perfect signatures.

Strong will and determination to not let go,

Beaten by the inevitable progress

of a mind-stealing illness.

At that moment I wanted to reach out

and tell this family that I too could

never forget that I loved one who

had Alzheimer’s disease.

I wanted to tell them too,

That times of pure love and closeness

will be theirs to savour and enjoy.

The simple accomplishments

are like a mountain climbed.

A victory against all odds.

That the act of unlearning

is like a book read backwards.

The words and stories there

to be unscrambled, interpreted,

and imprinted on the minds of others.

Author Anonymous

My mother pictured at our wedding – one of the last good times everyone was all together before she got sick.