My mom. (File submitted)

CARIBOO TALES: Stirring up seasonal memories of my mom

Fiona Grisswell’s column to the Free Press

This was going to be a column on dementia, something I am much too intimate with but the story took me in a different direction.

June started as a month of excitement. I’d just landed the job writing at the Free Press. My dream job. I was on my way to a friend’s house in Alberta to spend a few nights. Life was feeling good.

My phone rang and everything changed.

It was my mom’s lodge asking when I planned to visit next. It wasn’t hard to tell they thought her time was numbered in days, not week or months.

I spent the weekend with her, watching her sleep for the most part. She did not know who I was but that was nothing new. She had dementia and I have been saying goodbye to her for years, each time the disease took another part of her away from me.

So why was it so hard to say this final goodbye?

I didn’t sleep much that weekend and had to make a flying trip home on Monday to pick up some documents. Tuesday morning, as I sat looking out over my lake, I got a call telling me she was failing and her time was numbered in hours, not days.

Time never passed as slow as it did on that drive back to Alberta.

I made it back in time to spend the last 12 hours of her life with her. I sang her songs and read her favourite poetry. I pulled out old photo albums and laughed as I remembered. I found myself telling her again about my life here in the Cariboo.(You would love autumn in the Cariboo, mom.)

Watching summer green slide into shades of amber, burnished copper, vivid crimson, fiery orange. Lazy walks, losing myself in the soft fall of leaves as the trees prepare for their long, winter slumber. Squeezing in one more paddle around the lake before the ice appears. The first scent of wood smoke in the chilly morning air. The double-edged delight in watching the geese form up in the skies above for their long flight south. A sense of renewal in knowing that what was, will come again.

Wintertime. (Still your least favourite season mom.) Safe inside as the icy teeth of a storm howled around the windows. The warm rich scent of homemade soup simmering on the back burner. The magic of walking through a forest dusted by frost. Laughing at the dog as he joyfully bounded from one snow drift to the next, burying his head to his shoulders.

The mud. I remember heading home after a walk one spring day only to discover the wind blowing through my sock. A giggling fit ensued as I tried to pull my errant boot from the thick, unforgiving muck. Cringing at the thought of the frigid mud between my toes, I gave in to the inevitable and stepped bootless into the gluey mess. (I can see you shaking your head, laughing at me mom.)

Spring turned the corner. The buds burst with renewed life as delicate shoots of green peeked shyly through withered brown stalks. The colours of summer splattered the landscape like drops of paint on a canvas of green. And oh, the sweet fragrance of the wildflowers. (People still remember your flower beds mom.)

Summer evenings when I would pack a meal of finger foods and go out on the lake till darkness began to fall. The simple pleasures of watching a red-winged blackbird burst from the lake grasses, fish jumping in the evening light, lazily drifting as the sky bloomed with the colors of sunset.

She took her last breath shortly after.

Enjoy your endless summer, mom. I love you.

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