Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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He Only Has One Ball and Other Ways My Mother Made Me Laugh

My mother and I were in the hospital as she was getting another treatment about a year before she died. My mother was in a bed, but there was a gentleman close by in a chair talking LOUDLY about his orchiectomy. I looked a my mother with a question in my eyes because she was very well versed in medical terminology, having worked in my father’s office for so many years. My mother looked at me, and in a very LOUD whisper said “He only has one ball.” I looked at her, and she looked at me, and we were in tears, we were laughing so hard. The gentleman never knew the difference, but he was such a loud talker, every time he got on the phone, my mother and I would mouth “He only has one ball” to each other and each time, we cracked up. Whatever the situation, and no matter how sick she was, my mother either made me laugh or she would find something humorous in a situation. She had an amazing sense of humour and was one of the funniest people that I have ever met.

One of Joe Biden’s (yes, I know, but the quote fits) most famous quotes is that “The day will come when the memory of the person that you lost will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye.” The good news is that sometimes, I laugh before the tears come when I think about some of the things that my mother has said and done or just an expression that she had on her face. My tiny mother was the source of so many big laughs over the years. As time goes by, one of my biggest fears is that I’ll forget something that she has said or done or even just her hilarious reactions to my own oopsies. Maybe these stories are just funny to me, but the greatest gift that I can give my mother now is to remember her.

Flirting With the Fireman

I remember the last time that my mother had to go to the Emergency Room. My aunt was in town, and it was October 2017. My mother was short of breath and I was so worried. I called 911, and the firefighters were the first responders on the scene. All of the sudden, my mother, who was so sick, was WIDE AWAKE and started flirting with the fireman, who she thought looked like Tom Selleck. I was trying to give him information to, you know, hopefully save her life, and she asked him to take her to the bar across the street instead of the hospital. He left the room for one minute, but he had a big smile on his face. I was pleading with her to be good for just 5 minutes. She’s said, “Jill, he’s so handsome, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers.” I was torn between laughing hysterically and scolding her. She had a huge smile, so I told her to be good. She kept flirting with him at the hospital too. I gave up.

The World’s Most Expensive Coconut Cream Pie

I’ve always been gullible and my mother always took advantage of that fact for her own amusement. Every year for our birthday, we get to pick our birthday cake. My mother made the absolute best mocha chiffon cake, but the poor woman had to make it so many times, I decided to give her a break. I prefer pie over cake, so I asked for the coconut cream pie from Scaramouche (a fancy Italian restaurant in Toronto). I had never had it before, and just wanted her to get a slice, but that wasn’t my mother. She bought the pie and informed me that it cost $110 but whatever her baby wants, her baby gets. She bought it about a week before my birthday and left it in the freezer.

Every single day for that week, she reminded me how much it was. She’d make little remarks like, you know, it was expensive, but how could I say no to you? I felt sicker and sicker by the day, and I said when you found out the price, you should have said no. My little Mummy told me that she would never do that to me, but she wasn’t sure if I was worth every penny. The day arrives, and I’m sick over it. I’ve never been big on my birthday on a good year, but I felt so selfish. It’s birthday cake time, and I was MISERABLE thinking how could I have made my mother spend that much money. She looked at me, with the BIGGEST smile on her face and said, “What, are you stupid? Did you really think I’d spend $110 on a pie? Jesus Murphy (still not sure who he is, but my mother said Jesus Murphy often) you are gullible. It was $35. Now get that look off of your face and put a smile on it.” I said you were stringing me along this whole time? My mother said, “You bet, and you fall for it every single time. It’s like taking candy from a baby” She killed herself laughing, and then, after berating her for taking advantage of the weak and the helpless, I joined in.

You Look Like a Hooker

My mother was bed-ridden and for the first little while, she had many different care givers until we got her into a routine with the favourite five that would take over. I came to see her just about every day, to check and make sure that she was ok, especially when someone new was there. I walk in, and let’s just say she was wearing makeup from a bad fairy tale. Yes, her lips were as red as blood, but it was her eyebrows that were as black as ebony and Snow White didn’t wear bright green eyeshadow or smudge jet black eye pencil around her eyes. I took one look at her and started laughing and so did she. She said that they woman was trying to be nice and make her feel good by putting some makeup on her. Now, my mother and I both have an inappropriate sense of humour, so half of the things that I find hysterically funny, will never be written. She could also laugh at herself and I never needed a filter around her.

I said, “You look like a cheap hooker. I’m going to take you down the street and sell you for $5 for 5 minutes.” My mother, almost always had an answer for everything and she looked at me and said, “Oh Jill, your awful. I couldn’t last five minutes.” Me, “Ok, I’ll bring the stretcher down and sell you for one minute, there is a market for everything.” My mother said, “Well, you aren’t wrong.” Then we both cracked up. Yes, I know – no harm is meant by this comment.

She Gave Me Fudge

During my mother’s illness, I was constantly in a state of high alert. I constantly had to advocate for her. My goal was for her to spend any energy that she had on herself and things that she enjoyed. I was the squeaky wheel at the hospital going 48 hours before her treatment, telling them that she would need a bed and that they needed to make a note and put it on the white board. The receptionists would always remind me that they don’t hold beds, and I would always politely tell them that I knew that this wasn’t the case and that I would wait until her name was down for one.

I was the one who dealt with the pharmacists, the doctors, the lab, and the list went on and on. My mother needed an emergency blood transfusion about two months before she died and they did not have a bed for my bed ridden mother. Her caregiver and I were together, and I was having a fit. I reminded the nurse about the compression fracture that my mother had in her spine. I reminded her that she was very sick. She told me that there were other sick people as well. I reminded her that I wasn’t insensitive, but were they as sick as my mother, for she was the only patient that I cared about.

Anyway, long story short, we did not bond. I was doing my usual, my mother needs this, and this, and what if this happens, etc. The nurse condescendingly told me that there was only supposed to be one person with my mother and either I or the caregiver would need to leave. I always got along with my mother’s nurses, but this one was a piece of work. My mother looked at me, and said, “I’m fine Jill, it’s ok.” and she meant it. I also didn’t want to stress her out, so I said fine, but I’m coming back. Her wonderful caregiver gave me a look like huh? Did that just happen?

I get back about 2 hours later, and my mother is snuggled up in a bed eating fudge, her favourite food of all time. She had a huge smile on her face, and she said the following, “Hi Jill. I told you I was fine. The nurse was so nice. I don’t know why you didn’t get along with her. She got me a bed about ten minutes after you left. And look, she gave me fudge.” Me, “She was horrible to me and Narda agreed (one of her wonderful caregivers). Are you telling me that all it takes for you to forget that fact is some fudge?” She said “You bet.” and popped another piece in her mouth. I told her that in no uncertain terms that she was a brat who could be bribed.

Forever Lost

My mother had the absolute worst sense of direction. She was a great driver though. If she drove us somewhere, she would always go the wrong way. Sadly, it didn’t matter that she was in the car with my sister and I who know the city, she still, somehow got it wrong. Every time I would tell her to go east, she would say “Never you mind with your east, west, north and south, just tell me right or left.” My sister would tell her to turn right. Of course she would turn left and we would be lost in suburbia. I would always spot the way to a major intersection and she would somehow follow those directions. Then she would say, without a trace of irony, “Wasn’t that nice? You got to see a new neighbourhood.” My sister and I would roll our eyes, but then we would all crack up.

There are so many more things that my mother did that were even more funny, I could write a book. Mother’s Day now, reminds me of being the kid who has to stand outside the candy store and can’t come in. I know that this year is different with the self-quarantine, but every email with a Mother’s Day reminder from a retailer or hearing people talk about what they are going to do with their mother stings. I know that it always will, but I will be forever grateful that I had such a wonderful mother.


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A Motherless Daughter?

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When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Khalil Gibran

Mother’s Day without your mother is a special kind of torture.  Everywhere you look, in the weeks before the holiday, you see signs – “Something Special for Your Mom”,  “Show Your Mother that you Care”, “Mom, the Heart of the Family” or just “World’s Best Mom.”  It hurts when you can’t participate in a celebration of something so meaningful because your mother simply isn’t with you anymore.

My mother died ten weeks ago.  In some ways, it seems like a lifetime, in other ways I’m struck by how short a time that really is.  I’ve thought a lot about her and why her death has been so hard.  One of the things that I realized is that my mother had a life before me, 31 years to be exact, but I’ve only had a very brief time without her.  I’ve never known a life without a mother and it is a huge adjustment, especially with one as special as mine.

My mother taught me almost everything I know.  She taught me how to talk (she probably wished, at times, that she didn’t), to walk, to cook, to do my laundry, how to save and invest for my retirement, how to appreciate a nice purse and how to live a good life.  She taught me the importance of family and how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything.  I recently looked up quotes for Mother’s Day, and this one came up, “My mother taught me everything, except how to live without her.”  Well, my mother taught me how to do that too.  I once asked her what I was going to do when she wasn’t here anymore, and she said “You’ll live your life.”  She didn’t say it in an off-handed way, she looked at me directly and said it in her firmest voice.  My mother was a Daddy’s girl, and when my grandfather died, she was devastated, but pushed forward with her life.  You see, she was an example, that as hard as it may be, life goes on.

Since my mother’s death, I’ve been reading a lot of books about people that have lost their parents and about grieving.  It doesn’t depress me, it makes me feel less alone in the world to see how other people handle things.  One book that I haven’t read yet, but is on my night table is “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman.   Initially, after my mother died, I felt like I was one of the club of these women.  A motherless daughter, a mourner, a griever.  The more I thought about it, over time, the less I believe it.    My mother is still present in my life, even if her physical presence is absent.  As much as I still cry because I miss her, I laugh because I remember something that she said.  As much as I miss all of our in-jokes, I think back on them and smile.  As much as I miss her daily, and believe me, there are days like today, when I think I can’t bear it, I know how strong she was and that I have to find a way to try to be strong too.

My mother was described by people as a force of nature and of strength.  She was called a happy warrior.  She never shied away from a challenge and she never quit once she started something.  She said, often unapologetically, what was on her mind – she felt at her age, she earned the right.  She didn’t suffer fools well, but she was also never unkind.  She tried to manage my expectations, but never squashed my dreams.  She was always proud of whatever I achieved but never let me rest on my laurels.  She was both my harshest critic and my biggest fan.  I was her biggest fan too.  I don’t have an idealized view of her – she was exactly the person that I’m describing.  Ask anyone that ever knew her.  She was, simply the best.

So on this Mother’s Day, my first without her,  I’m not a Motherless Daughter.  I’m really lucky to say that I’m every bit my mother’s daughter and I always will be.