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Is It Raining? A Letter For My Mother

Credit: iStock/Getty Images (Nastco)
“Is it raining, honey?”

How much does one need to wish for something for it to come true? How many times do I need to ask her to come back before she hears me?

There she is.

I hear her keys jangle and the tap of her feet on the last few steps up. The clang of metal and the subtle screech of the key in its hole, followed by the familiar swoosh of the old-school metal door to our apartment. She’s returning from one of the few errands she could do so that she felt useful for the last six years. Okay, technically five-and-a-half, but we round up for cachet— she deserves it.

Except she’s not there. My mind snaps back to reality and I hear my neighbour open the door to their adjacent apartment, swiftly closing the door behind them as if to not call attention to themselves. I’m not sure how much they know, but I’m sure they know something’s up since I’m the one collecting the rent cheques now.

But of course, it’s one of my neighbours, because the universe is cruel before it’s kind. I can wail all I want and say whatever cliché thing I can think of, but it won’t change the fact that my Mom — my best friend, my rock, my life — is dead.

“No, Mom, it’s not raining.”

Did you ever watch Gilmore Girls? Even if you haven’t seen a single episode, I’m sure you know where I’m going. If not, the show is about a mother-daughter duo. I always compared my mother and I with them and used it as a shorthand explanation of our relationship to friends, co-workers, and passers-by. The lead characters have a bond and life-story similar to ours: Single mother raises an only-child daughter. The one caveat is that my mother didn’t have me until 36 rather than 16. Yeah, sure, my mom was always young at heart — which helped her in more ways than one — but she got a chance to live her life before having me, had an established career. You could say I got the best of both worlds in that regard.

Unfortunately, my mom still sacrificed a lot for me. Unlike her TV doppelgänger, she didn’t have a wealthy Connecticut family to fall back on. She had no choice but to hustle and hustle hard. Everything I have is because of her, especially memories of a picturesque childhood. One full of Christmas’ and Birthday’s while she ate Kraft Dinner every night and wore the same winter jacket for most of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, it was most likely from a designer brand. Except when she bought it, it was on sale or layaway or both. Those days were gone in the mid-nineties. Contract public sector work can be a bitch to maintain — even when you’re good at it. For the two years before she was diagnosed, she worked upwards of 60 hours manual labour every week to put me through those first two years of University. Even after that, she made it her mission to stick around as long as she could.

One of my mom’s tried and true axioms she said to my all our life together was, “Someone, somewhere out there, has always got it worse.”

Oh boy, Mom does it ring true now, or what? I could have lost her at 14. She could have given up on treatment four years ago — especially knowing she was only buying time.

The truth of it all?

There is NEVER enough time.
You will NEVER know what it’s like until you live through it and, unfortunately (or fortunately, I haven’t landed on a definitive answer yet), we all have to live through it at some point.

She would talk about the other patients every so often. Some of them traveled hours from Northern Ontario to Toronto for treatment and appointments. “See Kira,” she’d say, “I’m only 30 mins away, I don’t have it that bad.” Of course, I would reply by shaking my head or rolling my eyes. That’s just how my Mom was, empathy for days.

Don’t get me wrong, my Mom was also the worst! In that she missed her calling as an actor and comedian. She would laugh at everything and disliked little. She’d exclaim at the most relatively banal things as if they were life or death. As if someone died. Well, jokes on you Mom!

I can hear her laughing at that right now. I’ve been told that we have the same laugh…

And if you're offended by that joke for some reason, just remember one thing. Someone’s always got it worse.

The rain hits my window the next day.
“Mom, it’s raining,” I say to an empty room.

A companion piece that goes more in depth about my Mother’s death is forthcoming. If the month of anxiety leading up to her death has taught me anything it’s that we seriously need to start demystifying death.