I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot, which isn’t unusual. I’m often triggered by memories, lovely happy ones. This is a different kind of thinking about them though. I wonder what they’d make of the times we’re living in and how they’d cope.
My dad passed away first, many years ago, in 1987 so I think the adjustment to this world would be more shocking for him. My mom is just gone 14 years and although the last five or six years have seen massive change, she’d be less surprised than my dad.
First I think of COVID, and how that would have affected them. Personality wise they were both very different from each other. My mom was a complete extrovert and talked to everyone, total strangers became friends in the blink of an eye. My father was quieter, not quite as out going. But both were people persons, both loved to entertain — formally and informally — and our house was always full.
If it wasn’t my friends, it was theirs or it was family or it was a melange of all of the above. Everyone was always welcome and last-minute invitations were never a problem because there was always enough food for at least 10 people.
I honestly can’t remember a weekend throughout my entire life when we didn’t have a houseful of people. And even on weeknights it was hardly ever just the three of us sitting at the dining room table.
My mother was a fabulous cook — as were her sisters and her mother and aunts — and so were my dad’s mother, aunts and his sister. So even more formal parties — where there could be upwards of 20, 30 people crammed into every nook and cranny of our house — were self-catered.
So I think the isolation of the past year and a half would have been very hard on them both. But having said that, they both had such grace. They accepted whatever life handed out and got on with it. They both had such a wonderful life philosophy. I remember when my mother was told she’d have to go on dialysis and immediately — without a moment’s hesitation — said “well, it’s not what I would have chosen for myself, but if that’s what I have to do to stay alive, then that’s what I’ll do, because I’m not done yet. I’m going nowhere.”
And at 84 years old she’d get home after four hours of dialysis — which is not easy on the body — and ask if I felt like going to a movie.
I’m pretty sure they’d both be shaking their heads, not understanding why people are refusing to get vaccinated or wear a mask. My dad would probably try to reason with them and I can hear my mother getting pissed off and swearing a lot. And then I am positive my father would be out shopping for all kinds of food so my mother could cook up all kinds of meals and treats and they’d be taking car loads of food to hospitals for the doctors and nurses and other front line workers. And knowing my father, he’d have his mother and aunts doing the same and he’d be doing food runs from their house too.
I’m sitting here laughing as I write this, because I’m sure I’m right. I actually feel like I’m watching a movie at the moment, that’s how clearly I’m seeing them and hearing the conversations between them and the plans being made. A part of me is waiting for the phone to ring, with my dad asking what I think of the menu.
They also both loved helping people. Which is why I think the Trump years would have done them in. They’d never understand that — the disdain, the disrespect, the racism, the anger — and omg, the lies. My father would have lost his mind over the lies and the corruption.
As I think about it, as difficult and challenging as the pandemic would have been for them — as its been for everyone — they would have risen to the challenge and come through it fine. But I think the callousness and ugliness and the way people have been treated, and continue to be treated, would have just disgusted them and hurt them at their very core. And made them angry and sad at the same time.
My dad would have tried to make up for it, by being even kinder, more compassionate and more generous than he already was. My mother, given the chance, would have thought nothing of staring Trump and his followers straight in the eye (after someone picked her up because she was five foot nothing and wouldn’t have even reached his chin) and telling him exactly what she thought of him — and cussing wouldn’t have been out of the question either. She taught me every swear word I know and my vocabulary is pretty extensive.
She did do that once to René Levesque, Quebec’s separatist premier from 1968 to 1985. His car was double parked while he went into a grocery store to buy an apple and when he sauntered out, after quite a long while, she screamed at him at the top of her lungs that he was “screwing up the traffic the way he was screwing up the province.” Her language was more colourful.
Much as I hate to think of them going through everything we’ve been through over the last several years, there is a part of me that wishes they were still around so I could test out my theories. I have a feeling I’d be right on the money.
Do you ever wonder what your loved ones who are no longer around would make of these troubled times?