Tag Archives: Mom

A Friend Who Saved The Day (And My Sanity)

12 May

I met my friend Fran about fifteen years ago. We met more or less by default: my boyfriend and her boyfriend were old high school buddies. We always got along well enough, but we didn’t really become firm friends until just over two years ago, when Fran emailed me to tell me she was moving to Canada. By then both of us had long split from the boyfriends who had been responsible for us meeting in the first place.

Despite living on the other side of the country, since Fran came to Canada she has visited me in Toronto several times. During her first visit we ran a race together. I did the 10km race and Fran – running in her first race ever – did the 5km. During that same visit, she assembled an outdoor grill that I had been given and that had me stumped. This is why you have friends who can put helicopters together. Seriously. That is what Fran does for a living.

During Fran’s visits, we always seem to go through an inordinate amount of wine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Most recently, Fran came to my wedding. I can safely say that if she hadn’t been there, I would have been lost. She arrived three days before the wedding, when I was roughly halfway through a week-long nervous breakdown. By this point, she had already helped immensely, having offered to play flute music at the wedding ceremony (Fran can fix helicopters and play the flute like an angel).

On the day she arrived, Fran and I went driving all over the place, picking up the guest favours, sorting out a camera for the as-yet unconfirmed photographer, buying crafty stuff to make the guest favours look pretty.

The following day, while I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and doing frantic last-minute shopping, Fran calmly took charge of the guest favours. She spent the day wrapping them, putting ribbon around them and even adding a bit of hand-written calligraphy to finish them off. They looked gorgeous.

I have to pause at this point to give credit to my Mom. She helped with the guest favours too. Enormously. For a day and a half the two of them – Fran and my Mom – were at it, working hard to make everything look perfect. If it hadn’t been for them, I honestly don’t know what I would have done.

Fran also helped keep me from unraveling completely at the seams. During the day, she was offering practical help with all kinds of things. During the evenings, she kept me supplied with wine, good humour and great conversation.

On the day, she drove back and forth to the reception hall with her friend Corrigan, dropping off things that needed to be dropped off and helping keep everything in line.

And of course, there was the music at the ceremony. It was beautiful, it was personal, it made the ceremony complete in a way that some random organist could never have managed. The musical interlude continued at the reception, where Fran and Gerard’s cousin Liam played a wonderful set of Celtic music. They played together effortlessly, despite having met and practised together for the first time the previous day.

Then there was the photography. We had a number of people present with cameras, many of whom are very capable photographers, and Fran was one of them. She took hundreds – literally hundreds – of fantastic pictures that are a wonderful record of a perfect day.

Fran, if you’re reading this, thank you does not begin to be enough. You came through for me in so many ways at a time when I really needed it.

Next time you’re coming to town, let me know and I’ll stock up on wine.

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Things Are Getting Hairy

19 Apr

You know that your wedding planning is entering its final stages when you start using Flight Tracker to see where in their journeys your out-of-town guests are. As I type this, my Mom and my brother are en route from Johannesburg to New York (a brutal flight that keeps you cooped up in a plane for 18 hours – I do not envy them). I will see my Mom on Thursday; my brother will arrive in Toronto from New York next week.

Things are coming together. There is still a lot to be done – so much so that thinking about my to-do list puts a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach – but most of the little crises that have arisen have been resolved.

I have not had a nervous breakdown. I came close last week, though.

It was all about the hair. I had booked a hairdresser to come to my house and do hair for myself, my maid-of-honour, the bridesmaid and the flower girl. To be fair, the hairdresser had told me ahead of time that school commitments might get in the way and we might have to make other arrangements. That was a chance I took when I booked her. And sure enough, she called me a short time later and told me that she would not be able to help out.

I got in touch with another hairdresser, one whose rates seemed reasonable. The problem was that every time I spoke to the guy there, I was given a different quote. Each quote was progressively higher than the previous one. Eventually Gerard spoke to the guy, and he was given a much higher price than anything I had been told.

It was clear that we could not use this hairdresser. At this rate, we’d have to sell our house to pay him by the time the day of the wedding arrived. What this meant, though, was that with two weeks to go, I still had no hairdresser.

Any woman would agree that hair is kind of important on a wedding day.

I lost it. I started to have this weird little meltdown, ranting to anyone who would listen about how I was never going to find someone to do my hair, and how I would have to persuade my makeup artist to wing it and do it for me (this was before the makeup artist bailed on me with no warning).

Gerard was trying to calm me down but I was just so stressed. I was making these high-piched supersonic noises that only dogs can hear.

Gradually, the pitch of my voice lowered enough for my noises to loosely resemble speech. I was tearfully saying stuff like, “My hair is very important, you know.”

Gerard, in a kindly and patient tone, said, “Of course it is.”

I think he was doing that thing where you agree with everything a hysterical person is saying, no matter what. I could have said that mulberry trees were falling out of the sky, and he would have agreed with me.

In the end, Gerard told me not to worry about it. He said he had a plan to make it all better.

Sometimes, when Gerard tells me not to worry, I have the sense to trust him. This was one of those occasions. And true to his word, by the time I got home from work the following day, he had found and spoken to a hairdresser. The day was saved. Relative peace could reign once more.

Despite earlier threats to shave my head and put a tattoo of a butterfly on my scalp, I will be able to walk down the aisle with beautifully styled hair.

It’s a good thing. That tattoo would have hurt.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25559122@N06/3811393733/)

Ashes And Roses

6 Feb

It is with a bittersweet feeling that I pay tribute to both of my parents on the anniversary of their marriage. The sweet part of the equation stems from the fact that my parents had a fantastic marriage. They had a deep, profound love for one another and apart from the occasional spat, they treated each other with the utmost respect. I could not have asked for better role models to show me just what a loving, solid marriage should look like.

The bitterness, of course, is because Dad is no longer with us. Today, Mom is in Cape Town without her beloved husband by her side, gazing longingly into the sea in which she placed his ashes six years ago today, on what would have been their 40th wedding anniversary.

As I reflect on this day, I cannot help but contemplate my own relationship with Gerard, now almost a decade old, and our own upcoming wedding. For all intents and purposes, we are already married. We have been living together for a long time, we have created new human beings, and our union is legally recognized as a spousal relationship. But still, getting married will, I believe, add a new kind of depth to our relationship. We see it as the chance of a new beginning, a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

People ask why we waited for long to get married; why, indeed, we are bothering to get married at all. The answer, quite simply, is that we have arrived at a point in our life together where we feel that we can get married. You see, Gerard and I have been through a lot. We have survived a great deal: the loss of both of our fathers, my post-partum depression following the birth of James, George’s autism diagnosis, near-bankruptcy, to name but a few. Our relationship has been placed under unbelievable strain; it has reached the breaking point.

But when it reached the breaking point, it didn’t break. Somehow we saw our way through all of the dark times. We found a way to stick together, to emerge from that terrible bleakness and desolation as a pair, as an integrated whole. We know what we are capable of surviving. Neither of us could imagine life without the other one. We feel that we have earned the privilege of being married to each other.

I cannot wait. I am really, really excited when I think about the day I will exchange wedding vows with my beloved, in front of friends and family. It will be an amazing feeling, walking down the aisle on the arm of my brother, and then looking into Gerard’s eyes as I declare my eternal love for him. Mom will likely shed some tears, but there will be happy tears mixed in with the sad.

It makes me sad, knowing that I will not get a father-daughter dance with Dad. But I know he will be there, hopefully nodding with approval and glowing with pride.

February 6th, 2005

Dad has been gone for exactly two months. It is almost sunset.

Mom tentatively carries the urn holding his ashes to the edge of the rocks, with her sister standing a respectful distance behind. Clutching Dad to her heart one last time, she whispers her goodbyes to the wind, and hands the urn to the man standing beside her, the man who is surefooted enough to brave the rocks.

Mom stands beside her sister, and watches as the ashes of her beloved are gently transferred from the urn to the sea, from whence they will travel to who knows where? Many, many rose petals are placed into the sea to travel with the ashes.

Mom watches in silence as the ashes and the rose petals float out into the ocean. The tide is low, the rose petals waft lazily as they escort Dad into the beginning of his eternal travels. Together, the roses and the ashes reach the horizon. With the sun directly behind them, the ocean current moves them around in a small circle, as if they are waving goodbye to the widow standing on the rocks.

Ashes and roses disappear from sight, just as the sun dips below the horizon and closes the chapter on the day.