Today I’m taking a page out of the book of Margaret Parkes.
Margaret is my 95-year old maternal grandmother, who views life with the kind of sunny optimism normally reserved for Disney princesses. When you catalogue the ups and downs of Margaret’s life, it’s amazing that she has ever had the strength to keep going, but despite the tragedies she has faced, she rallies, she moves on, and she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. If she were a member of my generation she probably would have spent most of her adult life on a therapist’s couch, prozac-ed to the gills, but she just smiles.
The other day my family and I were talking about the incredible adversity Margaret has faced in her time. She was born into poverty in Saskatoon. Her father abandoned her mother and the kids at a young age, forcing the whole family to rely on the generosity of relatives to get them through. She lost a brother in childhood to illness, she suffered a burst appendix as a girl and nearly died, losing her teeth and hair in the process. She watched her husband go off to war as a young mama to two little girls, not knowing if he would return. She and my grandfather worked to raise their five kids, fending off debt collectors and scraping by. Now, she has outlived her husband, siblings and contemporaries, and recently was forced to move into a nursing home, having come to the difficult conclusion that it was no longer possible to live alone at home. And yet – the other day she went on an excursion to go sailing around Toronto harbour on a tall ship. The woman is made of tough stuff.
“And didn’t she have her thyroid removed?” I said to my mom.
“Yes, and her gall bladder,” mom replied.
“And a chicken ate her diamond,” my brother Duncan added.
Thanks Duncan for providing a little comic relief in these ridiculous times. I’ve needed it.
And thanks Margaret, for always laughing when you told us this story. See, my grandparents had a chicken farm for a short while and one day a rather irritating chicken pecked my grandmother’s diamond out of the ring on her hand and ate it. She was unable to ahem, retrieve the diamond, and I don’t think it was ever replaced. I guess the moral of the story is: Diamonds are really just another type of rock. People are the true diamonds.
For her own reasons, my grandmother understands more than anyone else what I’m going through and what Gavin has suffered and will continue to suffer. I know she’s praying for us. I know my mother and my lovely aunts also remember, and pray, and hope.
For Uncle Brian.