Saturday, June 13, 2009


Janet was my mother; the strong, not so silent matriarch of a family of four children. She was the wicked witch of the west, the Queen wishing Snow white’s demise, the complex hag who was both beautiful and demanding, wise, hardworking, and self-centred, a bit like most of us, I suppose. She was a multi faceted individual whose life had been anything but serene.

In her later years, bereft of money, she stagnated in a state operated board and care facility for seniors who suffered dementia. In the years before her dotage, she travelled to Peru, China, France, and Alaska where she suffered a blood clot in her calf that put her in a Juneau hospital with her bed tilted so that her legs raised above her ass and her head to stymie the perpetual movement of blood clots towards her heart while couminden struggled to thin the size of the clot wedged below her knee.

She survived, but the Alaskan health department refused to allow her to fly alone back to California. And so, on a misty Labour Day after a taxi ride to the bluer than blue Mendenahll glacier and the town dump full of more grizzly bear than trash, she and I boarded a crowded Alaska Airline jet to return along with the rest of Alaska's seasonal workers to the lower 48.

When the time came for the great goddess to take an accounting of her life, sexy Janet found herself losing track not only of the places through which she had trekked, but even the names of her grand children and her sisters. As the eldest child, I assumed responsibility for her care even though I had always sworn to never feel beholden.

There were perks. Janet's last beau, Don, in the days just before he failed to wake one morning after a massive heart attack, loaned $5000 as an investment to Natural High Health Foods, Janet and my escape from the mundane, our business venture. I always wanted to inquire about whether his affair with the lively but memory less Janet contributed to his heart's ill health, but he departed the scene before I worked up the courage to approach the topic.

After the demise of her lover, Janet's brain deteriorated rapidly. There we were. The mother with no recollections of days past and the eldest daughter who was not only living her own life supporting the education of her children; she attempted to satisfy the needs of her husband, as well as over see the daily traumas of a 70 year old dementia victim.

Janet retreated. She spent the next three years quilting complex, soft beautiful quilts. She gave them to anyone who happened to pay her a kindness. Several were promised to multiple owners as the woman with no memory created wild, colourful, hand stitched patterns onto bed covers, she often forgot to whom she had promised the finished product.

Days wore on. Flowers in her once well-groomed garden grew wild. Her mind seeped into those little holes created in the callous of her fingertips by the quilting needles that tormented her for hours each day. When she was finished for a day and I had not yet arrived to fix her supper, she would go out to her little milk chocolate general motors car and drive the highways of southern California. One wonders about the wisdom of the California DMV for not testing senior citizens more regularly, but Janet had a way of convincing people that her mind was still in tact. Finally, one stormy March night, she drove the same 10 miles of Interstate 15 for six hours. She ran out of gas once, and thoroughly demoralized at not being able to find her way home but believing that she was within a block or two, she finally begged a garage owner for help. He took her to a Denny’s restaurant where she called me.