I was watching the evening news one night with my 85 year old mother. The two top stories were about recent murders.The first story was about an estranged husband who had shot his wife. After the story aired, my mother responded with complete contempt saying, "That bastard! God only knows what that poor woman had to live with. The years of abuse she suffered." In that brief three minute news story, she had imagined the victim's whole life and the hardship of living with this man.
The next story was about a women who had stabbed her common-law husband to death. My mother, continued to rock back and forth in her recliner, intently listening to the details, but she didn't comment. The look on her face said she was thinking deeply about something. I waited for a few minutes before I said anything. I couldn't help but to speak up and ask, "You were so outraged at the first story about the man killing the women, but you didn't say anything about the women killing the man. Why?" She looked directly at me with a twinkle in her blue eyes and said, "I was just sitting here wondering what that bastard did to piss her off enough that she had to kill him. He must have been bugging her all day.""If you ever get selected for jury duty please let me know so I can talk to them first" I told her.
The world has changed in 85 years and my mother had a hard time keeping up with it. She always worked from home. She believed hard work reaped great benefits. She has never used a fax machine or email. She's convinced Facebook will be the down fall of this generation. "Talking about your private lives on a computer, my God what are the young ones thinking" she says. She thinks LOL is "lots of love" she left me a message that says "Helen, I can't find the cat. I am worried she is dead somewhere. LOL Mom"She called me one day at work and asked me to take her to Zellers. She wanted to go shopping and of course, she had to return something (most times without the bill). I was convinced she bought items she didn't need for the sole purpose of returning them. I told her I just couldn't get up in the middle of a work day and pick her up to go shopping. I explained that I now reported to a higher power and not one that walked on water. Leaving in the middle of the day when you weren't on a stretcher wasn't acceptable. "Tell your boss you got a doctors appointment" she said. "I can't. I have to give 24 hours notice for a doctor appointments." "Then tell him you have to do something for your mother." "It don't work that way" I told her. Relentlessly she said, "I'll write a note saying you had to leave early to help me. Will that work?" Unable to hold back the laughs knowing her mind wondered back to my school days I answered, "No that won't work on him but write the note anyway. I just want to see the look on his face when I hand it in." It was a simpler time when she could just write a note to say "Dear Sister, Helen was sick yesterday. Please forgive her. Mrs. Cleary" When I really stayed home so we could go shopping downtown and end the day by having cherry pie at Bowring's restaurant while we looked at the ships in the harbour guessing at where they came from and where they were going next.
In her younger days my mother looked like Elizabeth Taylor's younger sister. She was almost six feet tall, thin with long black hair that she kept in a bee hive on top of her head. When I came home from school on cold winters days with cold hands she would let me put them in her bee hive to warm them. She wore black pencil skirts and crisp, starched white blouses, pearls and perfume. No one loves perfume like my mother. I always knew when mom was going out in the evening because you could smell the Channel #5 ten miles away.My mother always has an interesting take on things. I asked her if she watched the new Octomom reality show when it first aired. "No" she scoffed "I had 10 kids. I am Octomom and I did it without lights and cameras! I could make a chicken feed 10 kids and turn the leftovers into a soup!" She could too. I remember mashed potato sandwiches and putting Carnation milk on bread sprinkled with sugar as a snack.
When Kathy Dunderdale was elected I asked her "Mom, what do you think of Dunderdale?" "It’s great." She says, "No one cleans house like a woman! Women see things differently. She’ll do more in 6 months than Danny did. She’s not afraid to eat either. That says a lot about her. She’s from Burin, and a bay girl can put an arse on a cat." I edged her on with "You’re a Bay girl." quick as a wink she says "Yes, I like to eat too and if the cat needs an arse she knows who to come to." She was right about Dunderdale and the cats arse works fine.She once called me to say "Helen, my friend is turning 90 this weekend. What should I get her I wonder?" Jokingly I replied "A coffin." She huffed back at me "Don't be so foolish, she already has one. She bought it 20 years ago." I pointed out "See that's the difference between my friends and yours. Mine don't own their coffins yet." "Yes" she informs me, "They are just hitting the diaper stage again."
I could never trust her in front of my friends, she seems to have selective amnesia when it's convenient. One afternoon we ran into my old boyfriend at the mall: "Mom, do you remember (I won't use his name to protect the guilty)?" Puts on her glasses "I wouldn't know you now. You used to be really good looking. What happened to you?" I try to hurry her out the door. "You dodged a bullet there Helen." "He can still hear you Mom and you're the one who wouldn't let him go not me."She has spent most of her life alone choosing to work herself to death than marrying again. I asked her one time "Mom, you should go to the Legion and meet men your age. It would be nice to have someone to do things with." She informed me "I am 83! Any man I meet now will be wearing diapers. I’d rather be strapped to a horse’s arse and shit to death!" Point taken.
I have learned that I get my sense of humour from her. She gets her's from years of choosing laughter over pain and finding the "funny" in everything around her. Her life was hard and horrific at times but her sense of humour kept her going. Today she is 85 and never misses an opportunity to laugh. Maybe that's the secret to a long life, laugh. Laugh at everything.