My mother loved beautiful things: a print of Tom Tomson’s The West Wind that hung in the vestibule of my childhood home; June lilacs in a tall white Wedgwood vase; fancy Limoges china inherited from her dead relatives; and, too, Barbra Streisand songs from Yentl that she would sing along to in the kitchen.
She loved the idea of people, but couldn’t fathom real connection, scowling if surprised by unannounced visitors, or shaking her head if she was even more annoyed. She worried too much about appearances, from the outside in, and about creating the illusion (for others) that all was well. On the inside, our world was built to be oppressive, cloistered, claustrophobic, and narrowed by blinders.
My mother had beautiful hands, long fingers to play piano with, and they danced in the air in front of her as she spoke. Her voice was musical, cadences like song. Ottawa Valley inherited, her voice.
Her voice like song, and mine in a similar lilting fashion, but neither of us learning to speak up for ourselves.
Listen. Bad news takes extra effort. Your ears won’t want to hear.
Vascular surgeons have blank faces without features. They bear bad news, so I erase their outlines in my mind’s eye. No nose, mouth, eyes. Faces eliminated.

For full story, check out our summer issue, out in July, 2024!