Opening Statement



Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Holding Hands




Sunday night in Sudbury sitting in the dark back seat of my sister's car. I'm with mom, heading to the airport to catch a flight back to Toronto. She is 80 now and her memory is going. Some days are better than others. We will drop her off at the nursing home along the way. She seems confused. The later in the day it gets, the more confused she becomes.

Every few minutes she asks the same thing,

"Where's you father?"

"He's dead mom."

"When did that happen?"

"Almost 4 years ago."

"Oh."

A minute or two later she will ask the same question and I will answer her again, the same way, as I always do. She holds on to my hand. Her's is old, thin, with a slight tremble. I squeeze her hand in mine, fingers intertwined.

"Well, at least I got you and your sister", she says."

"Yes mom. Don't worry. You do."

She seems somewhat relieved but doesn't let go, and so we drive through the dark, just holding hands. Hers in mine. She holds on tight.

I use to explain at length dad's death.Sometimes in her more lucid moments she says that perhaps it's just too sad to remember. I sometimes would try to help her, but she always forgets. 

Flashback: It's the middle of the night. Mom runs to our room. Dad is having a heart attack! Our family gathers around him. We are all grown up now. Our children too. Mom holds his hand. As I look into his eyes, he dies. The end?

We were all brought up Catholic. Dad very much so. I believe too, but perhaps in a more contemporary way. I really don't know what if anything happens next. No one can, but you have faith.

As we leave the nursing home and are getting back in the car my sister says she thinks maybe we lost mom the same time we lost dad. Married fifty years. Always together. They were set to downsize the family homestead, it had been sold, and the move was to take place later on the same week. So in a couple of days mom lost her husband, her home, and now her memory is going too. 

If she wasn't so nervous worrying about things all the time, perhaps it would be okay. She is comfortably set up in a nice nursing home with family near by. A phone. A nice room mate. Otherwise? 

She out lived everyone. I suppose the rest of our family and all her friends would have been grateful if they could have lasted as long as she has, but they didn't. Small consolation. Not necessarily a happy surprise. Not necessarily a good topic to broach. At least she doesn't seem depressed anymore.

Driving through the blackness of the night again, to catch our plane. It's cold, rainy, the treetops and smokestacks of Sudbury half buried in the fog. I open and close my now empty hand. For a moment I slip back, way back in my seat. Remember: I am a young boy again. I'm crying. I don't know what to do. There's mom. Young. Happy. Understanding. She takes my small little hand. I can feel it in hers.

"Don't worry," she says.

We begin life holding hands. We can end it that way too, if we are lucky. There's really not much more to say. As a little boy I was holding tight, and now mom is too. We come full circle. Life goes on.

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