My Mum is ninety-seven years of beautiful. I love every precious wrinkle on her dear face. Yes, it is a face that shows the ravages of time, but it is more than that. Way more. It is a face documenting a life. A life that is very precious to me. A life. A legacy. I see you Mum in all that I am:
- I see you in my ability to write. You asked me to help you once by checking over a letter that you had written to city officials. When I read your letter it was like seeing another you. A you who came alive on the written page. A you who wrote convincingly with style and creativity. A you who was pulled out of school when barely a teenager to go out to work to help your family survive.
- I see you in the ceramic Christmas tree that you made for me so many years ago. I see the expression on your face as I open your gift. My heart opens to your happiness.
- I see you in my positive outlook on life; if there ever was a “glass half full” person, you are it.
- I see you in my enjoyment of physical activity: every time I ride my bike, every time I go to the weight room, every time I do Tai Chi, every time I go for a walk, I see you. I phoned you the other day and was an ear for your frustration. I listened as you spoke about not being able to go outside right now. It’s too risky for a ninety-two year old with all of the snow and ice. I know that whenever you can’t get out to go for a walk, or to work in the garden, or even to hang out laundry in the fresh air, you miss it.
- I see you in me every time that I nod off when I watch a movie. I am rather amused by it. I think that I am becoming you. I like that. It makes me smile. It only started happening when I was fifty-two years old. We are each other. How wonderful is that! It doesn’t get any better than that.
- I see you every time I play Scrabble. I remember that it took until I was thirty-nine years old before I was finally able to win a game against you.
- I see you are not perfect; neither am I.
- I see that you are a product of the generations as am I. We cannot be separated. I am you; you are me. I am my grandparents. I am my great grandparents. I am all the generations that have gone before. We are one. I am your continuation.
- I see you in the marmalade that I put on my toast this morning. You made a jar of it for me because you knew that I liked it.
- I see you in my spirituality. You are Roman Catholic; I am Buddhist. The sacred knows no boundaries. On a warm summer’s night up at Lake Huron we sit outside on the deck under the stars as we talk about life after death. You confide to me your secret fear: What if reincarnation is real? It scares you that you might come back as a worm or something. We both chuckle about that one. I see you beside me in your church as we listen to the priest talk. I share what your religion means to you. The words coming from the pulpit are universal. They are about love and compassion.
- I see you now in front of me. I close my eyes and I see you. I will see you forever.
- I see you were a willing and caring listener when I was having to deal with my estrangement from my daughter. It lasted years. You never lost hope; that was transferred to me. Your example taught me how to be there for you when you were having difficulty with someone you love. It felt good to do for you.
- I see you in the pink lacy dress with the cap sleeves that I wore to my grade eight graduation. You picked it out for me. You spoke of that dress for years after the graduation: how pretty I looked in it; how beautiful the lace was. Years. Decades. I think it would have been your dream to have worn such a dress to your graduation, but it was never to be. You grew up in poverty.
- I see you in my love of nature. I see you every time I smile as I watch a raccoon scooting across the road, or as I marvel at a blue jay flying in to the nest and watch and feel excited at the sheer miracle as he places the peanut he is carrying into the open beak of the female as she sits on the nest protecting her eggs.
- I see you when I smell that wonderful fresh air smell of just washed laundry hung out to dry outside in the backyard. Like you, I have always loved the smell of the outdoors. It amazes me that at the age of ninety-five you still like to hang your laundry outside. There is nothing more wonderful than, after having a shower or bath, I am wearing the outdoors. I just have to breathe deeply and you are there.
And so Mum, a legacy: for you, for me, for us.