I'm going to put this up for Mother's Day. It was originally
published in March, 2006, but it's one of the few columns I still go
back to and reread. I know some of you might be getting tired of it, but some traditions are worth it. This one's for you, Mom.
I don’t like ice cream. A couple spoonfuls a year is enough for me, which works out well because No Frills puts these little containers on sale for a dollar about twice a year.
We open them one at a time and sit there holding spoons and watching television passing the tub around because family cooties don’t count.
Our home is a dictatorship, and Czarina Lorraine doesn’t buy ice cream any other time. The boys quit asking for it years ago, because they knew if they did I’d just find whole- wheat ice cream somewhere.
I was driving with Ari, 11, the other day. Out of the blue, he turned to me.
“I liked ice cream with Grandma,” he said quietly.
Mom died six years ago this month. Her last months were spent in and out of the hospital, and Ari spent most afternoons after kindergarten playing in her hospital room. He would draw pictures, comb her hair, charm the nurses and give her innocent baby kisses. And eat ice cream.
My mom would save him little tubs of ice cream, those single servings that come with that silly little wooden paddle. Ari loved that paddle. I would watch my mother watching my son, he so intent on enjoying the ice cream, she so intent on enjoying anything. Anything at all.
My mom had one of those Queen Elizabeth hairstyles, the kind achieved with something called a roller set. The problem was if you brushed it, all the curl came out, and you had to have it set again. She loved it if we brushed her hair, but only the day before a hair appointment.
She would let Ari brush to his heart’s content while she was sick. I would shore it up before we left, but she knew she was measuring her time in moments and was going to let no opportunity for love go by her. It’s funny how you have all the time in the world when you find out you really have none at all.
My children spent a great deal of their lives in their Grandma’s arms. They say it’s about quality, not quantity. I say they don’t know what they’re talking about. It was her grandchildren who kept my mother alive so long, and they miss her fiercely to this day. My niece, who was just 2 when mom died, has constructed a whole relationship with her from pieces of memory, photos, stories and wishes.
When my dad died, he did not go gently into that good night. He thrashed and railed and raged. There was no TV movie dénouement, just anger. My mother swore she would be graceful and calm, to make up for Dad. Always the gracious hostess, she did just that. I know I am my father’s daughter, and will choose fight over flight. But I will share my ice cream.
Ari used to look forward to going to the hospital to visit. He would colour stick figure boys with balloons, telling Grandma to get well soon and come home. There was hope in the heartbreak, but only if you were five and thought ice cream could cure cancer.