My Darling Mum: Joyce M. O'Toole /
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Until Next Time
Hello dear readers,
This newsletter is written with a heavy heart. I lost
my beloved mother a few days before Thanksgiving, and would like to
devote most of the following space to her. If not for her lifelong
and loving encouragement, its doubtful I would have taken up writing
in the first place. Without her I am left lost and bereft, as if a
piece of myself is irretrievably gone. I'm told the pain of loss
lessens over time, but at the moment find it very difficult to
A special thanks to Mum's caregivers over the past year, including
Lisa, Colleen, Caroline, Margaret, Analy, Faith, Ashley, Andie and
Peg, and to the entire staff at Brighton Hospice who treated Mum
with great care, dignity and respect until the end.
My Darling Mum: Joyce M. O'Toole
Mum was my hero. Long before she was officially
diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she knew something was wrong and
did her best to fight against it. She constantly wrote notes to
herself to remind her of things to do, telephone numbers, names and
personal events. She fought to the end - both mentally and
physically - to comprehend what was happening to her. Mum was the
strongest person I have ever known, and I can only wish to someday
be a fraction of the amazing human being she was.
Mum loved spaghetti, honey-nut cheerios and
chocolate. Her favorite beverages were Pepsi, coffee (with cream and
sugar), and chocolate milk. She enjoyed music, her tastes running
from generational favorites such as Elvis Presley and Tom Jones to
English rocker Robert Palmer and country singer Keith Urban. Imagine
my surprise many years ago when she took a serious liking to Robert
Palmer's tune "Simply Irresistible," dancing to the rock-and-roll
beat with glee. I said to her: "Really, Mum?" She just laughed and
continued to dance, wagging her finger in the air.
Mum loved anything in miniature, and was also an avid
devotee of crossword puzzles. She and my father made many trips to
Wendover for a bit of gambling, always stopping for a hamburger on
the way back home. Mum had unfailingly astute taste in clothes,
matching outfits with shoes and other accessories in flawless
fashion. While she appeared somewhat reserved and proper in front of
people she didn't know well, Mum did have a devilish sense of humor
when she let her hair down around family and close friends. One of
our favorite back-and-forth repartees was tossing in the "F" word
during normal conversation, just to get a reaction from each other.
So "What's for dinner?" often became "What the f***'s for dinner?"
as we collapsed with laughter.
Mum saw me through thick and thin, read every story I
ever wrote, told me everything was going to be all right even when
it wasn't, took joy in my happiness and sadness in my tears. She was
more than a mother to me - we were like the best of friends, sisters
even, who could talk about anything under the sun and often did. No
subject was off-limits for us, which firmly cemented our
unconditional love and unwavering trust in each other. With a quick
glance or slight change in tone, we instinctively knew what the
other was thinking or feeling without a word being spoken. Ours was
a miraculous relationship, a true gift that will never be repeated
in my lifetime.
Mum and I traveled to her hometown of Timmins,
Ontario by train together some years ago, visiting places from her
childhood and meeting many of her old friends. She recalled her
youth, telling me stories about her teenage hangouts such as the
Esquire Grill, Ellis Cafe, Kresge's (the equivalent of Woolworth's
in America) and the Fern Cottage, where she always ordered "chips"
with gravy (known as Poutine in Canada) and a coke.
Our trip to Timmins in 1987 was an extraordinary
experience not just for the beauty of the location and its people,
but by the obvious joy the trip gave my mother. There were many
whisperings of a lost love, giggling forays to her old hangout the
Esquire Grill and regrets expressed at leaving her native country in
the first place. Earlier this year we talked about moving back to
Canada, and she was excited by the prospect. How I wish it had come
There are hundreds more precious memories of Mum that
I can draw on now and in the future for strength and humor,
reflections which may eventually bring a smile to my face. I'm
grateful for each and every one of those memories, and for the
fifty-four years I was privileged to have her as my darling Mum.
In honor of Christmas, a full preview of
Foofer & St.
Nick is freely available. The short story can be read online in
its entirety from now until December 26, 2015.
Foofer & St. Nick
Book #3 in the Short Tales Collection, and tells the story of how Foofer celebrates
Christmas. Read what gifts Foofer receives, and what he gives to
others. Discover how "Santa Claus" is said in different languages as
a highbrow friend enlightens young Foofer. The curious Foofer also
learns the true meaning of Christmas, but only after he mistakes St.
Nick as an intruder and chases him back up the chimney!
Until Next Time . . .
I don't see myself celebrating the holiday season
with much enthusiasm this year. However, another
newsletter will be coming your way in late March or early April 2016
- so keep
your eyes peeled.
Until next time, happy reading . . .
December 1, 2015
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