Twenty-five years ago Mother died….

Counting pennies, hating birds... I usually concentrate on writing humorous pieces. Recently, though, I haven’t felt like writing funny stuff, since I’ve been thinking a lot about the death of my mother, Pearl. I miss her. She was wise and funny and compassionate.

Jack and Pearl 1955

Counting pennies, hating birds…

I usually concentrate on writing humorous pieces.

Recently, though, I haven’t felt like writing funny stuff, since I’ve been thinking a lot about the death of my mother, Pearl. I miss her. She was wise and funny and compassionate.

Born in 1903, she weathered all the depressions — they made her frugal. Mother loved animals, especially dogs; however, she had little use for birds. When she was a tiny child, barnyard geese attacked her.

On March 11, 1999, I telephoned her. She was in Edmonton, I was in Los Angeles. She had a touch of the flu, and had trouble breathing. The next day she seemed better.

On March 13, I called and her breathing was laboured. I suggested I return home to Edmonton. Mother scoffed at this, and refused to go the hospital.

My wife, Kate, said she thought I should hop on a plane that morning. Since Kate is a flight attendant, I’m often able to travel for a small service fee. Of course, I can only fly when there’s available space on the plane. Kate had purchased some very discounted tickets on Air Canada, but the airline’s flight to Calgary was overbooked and there were no direct flights to Edmonton. Luckily, a United Airlines flight was scheduled to Vancouver within several hours and Kate got me on it.

When I arrived in Vancouver, I had an intense feeling that my mother had died. It was as though I were bathed in a white light that was filled with love.

I found a phone and called Edmonton.

Our next-door neighbor answered Mother’s phone. He said Mother had suffered a massive heart attack. She was at that moment fighting for her life at the University Hospital.

I had to get to Edmonton immediately. I had a ticket for an Air Canada flight that took off in four hours. This standby ticket cost only $20, and that flight had plenty of seats.

I discovered there was a Canadian Airlines flight leaving within the hour. Even though it went through Calgary, it would get me home sooner. The Canadian ticket was almost $500.

If your mother is dying and you can get to her bedside to say goodbye, you would pay anything for a ticket. On the other hand, if she’s already dead, why pay $500 to arrive early? (I told you:  Mother was frugal, and she taught me to mind my dollars and cents too.)

I paid the $500 after explaining my dilemma to Brenda, a Canadian Airline ticket agent. Within minutes I was on the plane. There were numerous delays; finally, we taxied down the runway. I figured I would pick up two hours.

Kerbang. The plane, just taking off, made an emergency stop.

The pilot said he had hit a bird; back to the gate we limped. Precious minutes wasted. Another half-hour elapsed. Finally, a gate was assigned to the plane.

Brenda walked on board and whispered to me that there would be a long delay. It would be best for me to take Air Canada direct to Edmonton. She tore up my ticket, saving me $500.

I called Edmonton from the Vancouver terminal. Mother had died. She had just been taken off life support. As far as I could tell, this happened within a few moments of the bird hitting the plane. Was this just a coincidence, or a glimpse into the cosmic potential for serendipity?

It was probably just a coincidence.

After all, my frugal mother would never have harmed any animal to save her son $500 — of course, she didn’t consider birds as animals.

Looking After Mother


Our house is in such a terrific neighborhood that landlords have renters over a barrel. I knew this would be handy if we ever needed someone to stay with Mother, who lived on her own in the house.

When she hit eighty-nine she broke her hip.

The surgeon, who successfully mended her limb, said Mother was too frail to live alone any more.

Judy offered to move in. She loved that she could have a garden in our backyard. I told her that she would be expected to help make one meal a day for Mother, empty the garbage and tend the yard. No pets allowed. I suggested Judy pay Mother a paltry $200 a month for our basement suite.

Judy thought that was steep but I held firm — the advantage of owning property in a good section of Edmonton. She finally agreed.

I left and returned a month later. When I got out of the taxi, Mother was mowing the lawn. “Judy has fallen in love,” exclaimed Mother. “She’s preoccupied.”

That evening, Judy asked to have her rent reduced to $150 a month.

I was about to toss her love-sick soul onto the street when Mother explained that she enjoyed doing the lawn and garden herself—it was therapy for her. (Seems the lawn mower was better than a walker.)

I reluctantly lowered Judy’s rent.

Judy’s new terrier scampered up from our basement and jumped into my mother’s arms. The thing nuzzled and licked her. My mother looked 65. What could I do? I agreed to let Judy keep the dog — she vowed to look after it faithfully.

When I returned a month later, I found Mother walking the dog. “I love this pup,” said Mother. “He’s like a member of our family.”

“But — ”

“What could it hurt that I take him for a walk twice a day? Besides, I have to walk to the alley to carry out the garbage, anyway.”

Later, Judy explained that she was taking expensive dog training classes so she could only afford rent of $100.

Before I could reply, Mother walked downstairs. This startled me since Mother had not been able to negotiate our stairs for a decade. She said dinner was ready, smiled and ran back upstairs.

Over dinner I met Fred — Judy’s fiancé — who raved about my mother’s cooking. Seems the three were always eating lunch and dinner at the house. Guess who was fixing it? She had put on ten pounds.

Before I could say anything, Fred turned on his boom box and did a jig with my mother. I had not seen her dance in 25 years.

If I threw Judy and Fred out, my mother would stop cooking and probably lose weight. Worse, Judy would take the dog and break my mother’s heart. Without the dog, Mother would stop walking.

I gave in to Judy’s $100 a month request.

When I returned a month later, Mother was nailing new shingles on our roof. She explained that with the baby coming, she had to make certain that the nursery (my den) would be dry.

Judy and Fred had married and were expecting. The doctor had confined Judy to bed during her first trimester. Fred had gone North to find work.

Enough was enough! I was about to order the pregnant Judy off the premises when Mother arrived with a four-course meal for her.

“Doesn’t ‘Mother’ look marvelous?” asked Judy.

I wanted to gag Judy with a polar bear but I had to admit, the effects of Mother’s broken hip were nonexistent. Her cheeks were rosy and she seemed thrilled about the arrival of a baby.

“With the little one on the way, we’ll have to renegotiate the rent,” Mother said.

About time! Mother was doing all the work. After all, instead of one renter, we would have three, plus the dog.

“We can’t afford anything for the next eight months,” said Judy.

My mother spooned soup into Judy’s mouth and said, “So I’ll pay you $50 a month. You can do odd jobs.”

Judy beamed.

As I’ve always said, it’s nice to live in a neighborhood where the landlord has renters over a barrel.

When Mothers Get Old


I take mother shopping now that she’s in her mid 90s and her mind is starting to fail.

Yesterday I said to Mother, “Please give me your grocery list and I’ll bring back the stuff from the store.”

“I’m going with you,” she said.

“Mother, just give me the shopping list, I’ll bring the stuff back in half an hour, I’m in kind of a hurry.”

“You think I’ll slow you down, don’t you?”

“Oh, all right,” I said. “Come on, maybe it would be a good idea for you to get out of the house. Fresh air is good for the old grey matter.”

When we got to the strip mall, Mother said, “Take my bank book and have it updated next door.” She hobbled out of the car and got hold of a cart before I could stop her. I went to the bank and had her check book updated, then walked back to the grocery store. She was half way through her shopping.

“Mother,” I said, “you only have a hundred dollars in your checking account, you want me to move some cash into it from your savings account?”

“No. I’ll be okay. I’m only going to buy forty dollars worth of groceries,” she said. “Hand me a melon.”

“Here,” I said, snagging one for her.

“That melon is no good, get one with thick veins on it, that’s how you tell a good melon.”

“No, Mother. You tell by the smell,” I said, sniffing it. “This is a good one.”

“Wrong. Get that other one for me. I’m finished shopping.”

I traded what I knew was a ripe melon for one that was going to be hard as a rock.

The cashier rang up the groceries and told mother that her bill came to $39.76. She pointed out to the clerk that a 25 cent package of gum had been overlooked. The clerk rang that up.

On the way home I drove to an expensive fruit and vegetable shop run by a group of clever merchandisers. Their produce was three times more than the local grocery stores; nearly all their items were air freighted in from tropical markets. Exotic fruits and vegetables to die for.

“We don’t want to shop here. This stuff is way over priced,” said Mother.

“So it’s a little expensive,” I agreed. “But people need fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re your best medicine. Let’s look around.”

Reluctantly Mother got out of the car and we wandered around the store. The owners had made certain that there were free samples of their produce, in lovely glass dishes throughout the store. Everyone was grazing. And buying.

“Try some of this pineapple, Mother,” I said. “Isn’t it delicious?”

“Yes, it’s very good but it’s too much money,” she said, eying the price.

“I’ll put it on my Visa,” I said, tossing a pineapple in our cart. “I told you good food is your best medicine.”

We spent twenty minutes in the store and I chose a number of items, including a decent melon. From its smell I knew it would be perfect.

Mother was right, prices were expensive so when it came time to pay for everything I took her out to the car so she couldn’t see me pay for everything. I figured our few fruits and vegetables would come to around twenty bucks—Mother would cringe at the price and embarrass me with some comment to the cashier.

When I went back to the store I discovered that the bill was thirty-two dollars. I signed my Visa, scooped up my card and a small package of fruits and vegetables and left.

On the drive back home, Mother thanked me for taking her shopping.

I could feel it coming. I knew she was going to ask me how much I had just charged but before she could say one more word I asked her what she thought the bill had added up to.

“I dunno. Maybe a few dollars over thirty.”

“You’re right,” I said. “How’d you know?”

“Well, sometimes that’s the price of good medicine.” She smiled.

When we got home, I cut open my sweet smelling melon and took a bite of it. It was harder than an ice cube. “We may have to let this ripen in the window for a few hours,” I said.

Mother cut open her melon with the heavy veins, sliced off a piece and handed it to me. It was perfect. Probably about the juiciest melon I had ever tasted.

Mother couldn’t resist another smile. Old people do that when they start to fail.

My Mother, the Criminal

Once a person breaks the law, there is no turning back. It can happen at any age. Mother drifted into crime at 92.

This was when she started to worry about being alone. I suggested we get her a dog since Mother has had them all of her life. She believes when she dies she’ll again see all her pup buddies. (Mother could be right and God’ll have to give her a fair-sized yard in heaven.)

“I can’t have another dog because if I die first, there’ll be no one to look after it,” she said.

“I’ll look after it.”

“You can’t even look after yourself, much less a pup.”

“Why don’t you get an older dog, Mother?”

She thought about this for a few days, then off to the pound we went and picked out a middle-aged terrier that was hungry for love.

We took Nike (the Greek goddess of love) home. Nike was a guy dog but he wasn’t going to stay that way long because the pound made Mother sign a contract that she would have him fixed within 21 days.

As far as we could figure out Nike had been a runaway. The little guy was confused and frightened but Mother lovingly won him over. She even taught Nike to howl, on command, like a tiny wolf.

All of Mother’s dogs have lived indoors and none have ever mated without her consent. She saw no point in having Nike neutered, he’d had a rough enough life already. Mother felt if he were fixed, he might stop his wolf howling —something she and all of her friends thought was wonderful.

The pound phoned when we neglected to send in the proper papers from the vet. I explained to a nice but officious young lady that Mother was going to keep Nike “as is.” The young lady said if Nike was ever caught off our property, she herself would neuter him, then charge Mother castration fees and horrendous penalties.

I relayed to Mother the fact that the pound woman was a dedicated castrator. Mother held firm. “No way I’m neutering Nike. He won’t ever run loose and if that girl calls back, tell her I’m getting a lawyer to prove I signed under duress.”

No one from the pound called back and Mother—true to her word—kept Nike indoors. When Mother walks him, she makes certain he’s on a leash.

I don’t know if Nike realizes how close he came to losing the family jewels but I’m sure if he could talk, he’d testify he’s happy. (Incidentally, testify comes from the ancient practice of swearing an oath on your testes.)

The fact is, Mother broke the law for that little terrier —and as I said, there’s no turning back after one begins a life of crime.

Take the tiny worms we discovered in Nike’s Iams dog food.

Mother had me call Iams. Peggy White, at customer relations, swore that Iams has the cleanest processing plants in the world but occasionally, after a shipment leaves, worms can get into the food. She assured me that the critters—which eat only grain—would not harm Nike.

Ms. White said that during shipping, someone could have nicked the sack and a worm could have hopped in. She promised to send us a coupon for a brand new sack if I would throw away the unused feed.

I agreed and bought a smaller sack to tide us over until the coupon for the replacement bag arrived. I sprinkled the wormy feed into the alley so birds and squirrels could enjoy it.

Hours later, I caught Mother spooning up the feed from the alley.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked.

“Feed it to Nike,” she said. “Peggy said it wouldn’t hurt and this stuff is expensive.” (Obviously Mother had been listening in on the extension—this in itself is probably some kind of misdemeanor—but hard to prove.)

“I promised we’d throw it away,” I said. “We’re breaking another agreement.”

“When you’re old, crime comes easy,” said Mother. “Get out of my way!”

I reached out to take the wormy feed from Mother, Nike gave a wolf howl and sprung for my groin. I retreated.

Not only is Mother deeply involved in crime, now she’s got the wolf-dog as an accessory. At this rate, I fear neither of them will end up in heaven.

Puppy Love

Some people say dogs are expensive but you can’t put a value on them when you consider the happiness they bring to a home.

Of course dogs can cause pain.

My 94-year-old mother had her heart broken last month when her beloved Nike died. They were great pals.

Years ago, Mother, in her late 80s, vowed there would be no more dogs in her life because she feared when she died no one would be around to look after any pet that survived her.

My solution was to get an old dog. Nike was supposedly four when we saved him from the SPCA’s Death Row.

I think the vet’s original estimate of Nike’s age was wrong; he could easily have been much older and just died of natural causes.

Without Nike, the house was so empty and sad that I suggested Mother get a new dog.

She wouldn’t hear of it.

Two days later, a five-week old puppy (mostly Shihtzu) arrived. I claimed it was to be my dog. Mother immediately suspected foul play.

The fellow who raised him, a canny salesman, said he would just “leave the puppy overnight” to see what we thought.

Mother stayed up with the tiny pup and by dawn they had bonded and were in love with each other.

I told her the dog was for her.

“I can’t keep him,” she said. “When I die—”

“—I’ll look after him if anything happens to you—and if it does, I’ll have the dog to remind me of you,” I said.

She called the pup Nike-2 and I paid the smiling salesman $300, not much when you consider the joy a dog brings.

Mother had never had a puppy. Neither had I. We got all sorts of books and videos on Shihtzus.

Mother devoured everything and discovered that it wasn’t until this century the Shihtzu breed had been permitted to leave China. “If foreigners bought the dogs, the Chinese would feed them ground glass so they would die,” said Mother.

“I can’t believe that,” I said, revolted.

“It’s true. It’s in this book by Reverend Easton,” said Mother.

The next day I bought some dog food, an outdoor pen, a special indoor pen, puppy vitamins, a collar, a harness, a whistle, dog toys, stuff to mask the scent of “accidents” and some puppy candy treats. It wasn’t that much when you consider how much joy a dog brings.

Sherry, the lady who lives in our basement suite, also fell in love with the zany pup.

All three of us came under our new pup’s spell and he quickly set things up so that when he barked or cried (he can sob just like a human baby) that we would drop what we were doing to feed or walk or pet him.

By Day Three our adorable puppy had managed to nap a total of twelve hours. It had peed 79 times (twice outside), eaten nothing the first day—then five or six meals daily after that.

Mother, Sherry and I had no sleep. But it was worth it, considering the joy a dog brings.

Yesterday, on the way to the vet’s for shots, I ran into a truck. I was slightly injured (nothing serious, something to do with a shattered sternum) but I’m happy to report Nike-2 was safe because I had carefully strapped him into his “doggie” seat.

Since the accident was my fault (actually it was Nike-2’s doing but the witless investigating officer didn’t understand) I was faced with fairly high repair bills.

Mother and Sherry had a good laugh when I explained why I was driving a rental car. Stifling their giggles, they said it was unfair to blame a two-pound, six-week-old puppy (that cries like a real human) for a $6567 two-vehicle accident.

At five AM this morning, our adorable puppy got me up for its third walk of the night. After I stubbed my toe, then gouged my eye on a tree branch, I realized why certain cultures so enjoy lunching on puppies. (Just kidding.)

I bandaged my eye while Nike-2—that adorable little “dustmop”—ripped up my last shoe.

Mother and Sherry found me, half asleep, looking into our liquor cabinet. They thought it was hilarious that a mischievous two-pound mutt could drive me to drink.

I wasn’t looking for booze. I was hunting for some glass to grind up. And not for the delightful Nike-2. My, no.

The ground glass was for me.

My Best Friend

She was my best friend. I knew her as long as any other human being I ever met. She was always there for me and in her gentle way conditioned me to follow her kindly advice.

The conditioning started at age two when I contemplated inserting a paper clip into an electrical outlet at her parents’ home. She shook her head and wagged her finger and said, “Don’t do that.”

When you’re two, you ignore all instructions. I promptly plunged the metal paper clip into a 110 volt circuit and flew like a fiery comet across the room. Next time she told me not to do something, I listened.

I could always depend on her for a loan. Anything from ten bucks to all of the equity in her home if I needed to pledge it. She used to say, money didn’t matter. Only family and friends count.

As astonishing as it sounds—until almost the very end —she was able to run a house, provide meals from one to seven people at any hour of the day and do all of her own laundry and cleaning. She could fix a zipper and she grew her own lettuce and apples. For the last ten years, her income was below the poverty level but she had been raised in The Great Depression and she knew how to save a buck and make things last.

When she was almost 90 she broke her hip after she travelled 300 kilometers to look after a sick friend. The hip was broken on Wednesday, the operation took place on Thursday. She was walking on Friday, albeit with great pain.

Her lifetime could be measured by her dogs. She had about a dozen of them over the years. They were treated like royalty. She thought that after she died, God would reunite her with all of them.

She hated her wrinkles but said at least they didn’t hurt. She had shingles for the last part of her life. She tried everything, including shark cartilage. It didn’t work but she wondered if it would help her swim.

She came to Edmonton when she was 26 and ran the Beauty Salon at the Hudson’s Bay Company. It only took her a few months to make it “the place” for ladies to go and she soon had 16 stylists working for her. She made a fortune for her employers and did well for herself. At the height of the Depression she bought a red Ford roadster and tooled around this town.

She looked like Gloria Swanson. Got the Jack Housea photos to prove it. Skeego, a huge Alsatian, was one of her favorite dogs. He rode in the roadster’s rumble seat and they had a rad time.

She was one of the first people in those days to take a cruise to the Hawaiian Islands. It took about 15 days and was the holiday of a lifetime. She danced the Charleston, played basketball and smoked. She quit tobacco when she joined the Mormon church. Also, she wanted to set an example for me.

She could make rhubarb pie better than anyone. (Her secret was lard in the crust.)

She knew Edmonton when everyone knew everyone. While she was living in a boarding house, she met my father and they married secretly. Still haven’t quite figured out why the intrigue, something to do with his mother. Dad went on to become a dentist.

When he died she was 72. We sold his practice to a young Dentist and she ran his office for a couple of years. Made the kid money. After 80, everyone became a kid to her.

The woman I’m talking about is of course my mother. She was born before plastic was heard of. She joked that she may even have been born before carbon. There were no 747s when she was born. As a matter of record: she was born before anyone flew in any plane anywhere.

The other day Mother said, “I don’t feel any different than when I took Skeego for ice cream on Jasper Avenue. Time just goes by so fast. Won’t be long and I’ll be leaving.” She wasn’t afraid.

“Knock it off. You’re only 93—you’ll break 100,” I said.


After I finished this I showed it to her. “Why’d you write everything in the past tense? This looks like my obituary,” she said.

“It kind of is. I wanted you to know how I feel about you before it was too late to tell you. There are things you say about people after they die that you can’t seem to say to them when they’re alive.”

“I’ve raised a crazy child. What few friends who are still around will tease me if they read this. Don’t embarrass me by printing it.”

“They won’t tease you.”

“Do not print it.”

“Dammit! Just because I got electrocuted when you warned me not to do something, doesn’t mean I’m always going to do what you say.”

“No need to cuss,” she said.

Mother made it to her 96th year. She died March 13th, 1999.

A Conversation with Nike

After my mother Pearl died, I asked her dog, Nike, what had happened.

“It was fast,” he said. “Pearl seemed to have a little bit of flu and some of her friends came over and then she had a humdinger of a heart attack. The paramedics came and woke her up and took her to the hospital. I could tell she was not going to come back.”

“I wish I could have been there to be with her at the end,” I said.

“You were doing your best to get home. Don’t blame yourself. You were a good son. You came home almost every month for decades. She loved you very much.”

“If only I had known,” I said. “Maybe I could have done something.”

“Pearl was in her 96th year, she was worn out. She wanted to go quickly. She couldn’t walk two steps without a lot of pain and she knew that God wanted her to come back to him. Your mother lived in her home until that last hour of her life. Her mind was razor-sharp. We should be so lucky when our time comes.”

“We’ll both miss her,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Nike. “She was my favourite old elephant.”

“Your what?” I asked.

“My favourite elephant. You know how big their ears get? Your mother’s ears got huge after she was about 90.”

“My mother was no elephant, you silly dog.”

“She was to me. You ever see her clomping from her bedroom to the bathroom with that four- legged walker of hers? When the light was low, she moved just like an old elephant.”

“If you say so,” I said.

“I say so. And stop feeling sorry for yourself. Your mother would want you to celebrate her life, not bawl about her dying.”

“I don’t think you have much of a heart, Nike,” I said.

“You can think what you want,” he said. “But as long as you keep thinking about her, your mother will be around. And from time to time, you’ll get some signs.”

“What kind of signs?” I asked.

“You know the morning of her funeral, when you were awake at 5 a.m. and thought about her and that ladybug landed on your finger?” he asked. “Your mother’s favourite bug was a ladybug.”

“That was a coincidence,” I said.

“Maybe,” said Nike. “But what about the night before she died when you had that dream and your mother told you she loved you. Was that a coincidence?”

“I knew she wasn’t feeling very well,” I said. “My brain generated that dream to make me feel better.”

“Yeah, right. That’s why you caught the next plane home,” said Nike. “Hey! What about when you were waiting to change planes in Vancouver and you felt that surge of white light around you?”

“I don’t know that I believe that really happened,” I said.

“Oh, it happened all right,” said Nike. “And you can’t stop thinking about it, can you?”

“I think about it,” I said. “And it was intense and it happened while she was dying and it made me feel everything was all right. Just like when she would kiss away my tears when I fell and skinned my knee as a little boy.”

“Your mother was saying goodbye and telling you she loved you while she was dying. She used white light. Happens to a lot of people.”

“My mother may have believed stuff like that, but I don’t think I ever did,” I said.

“So you thought your mother was a little crazy, did you?”

“I guess I did when it came to a life after this one and telepathy and dreams.”

“Yeah,” said Nike, “Pearl was a little crazy. Why, she even used to think she could talk to dogs.”

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This

Twenty-five years ago, when my father ended his life for reasons that were both complex and crazy, I vowed to help my mother enjoy the years she had left.

Mother had lived in our home for 15 years and felt comfortable there. I paid off the house; the mortgage was only $100 a month in the ‘70s. Since Mother did not want to live alone, I made sure she had a dog and that the basement apartment was always rented. I always chose tenants who were a bit wacky and needed some tender loving care.

Over the next quarter of a century, dozens of renters became a part of Mother’s busy life. Their wackiness kept her amused and gave her someone to nurture. That gave her a feeling of worth. Many elderly people have no sense of being needed, a major tragedy of our so-called enlightened society. Shame on us.

When Mother was in her 80s, well-meaning friends suggested that it was time for her to check into a retirement home.

Mother told me this would be fine. I talked to other friends and found out that she was trying to make things easier for me.

Mother dreaded the thought of some old age joint. She enjoyed her home. She was part of the community. She loved her tenants, who often became boarders with no rent increase. Mother had her dogs, her garden and her apple tree. She got a thrill out of baby-sitting.

I told Mother I needed a place to stay on my frequent trips to Edmonton. I suggested we postpone selling the house for a year or two. Mother reluctantly agreed.

A few years later, she started to forget little things. Again, several of my friends hinted it was time to move Mother into a senior citizens’ home. I pointed out that her long-term memory was working better than mine was. In her familiar home, if Mother’s short-term memory failed, her long-term memory would kick in. (Which is especially useful if you’re looking for the fridge and it’s been in the same place for 30 years.)

The well-meaning younger friends thought I was cruel. They said that Mother repeated things. I pointed out that I did, too. I often tell the same story to the same person three or four times. As a matter-of-fact, this tendency has gotten so bad that I now preface all my stories with “Stop me if you’ve heard this.”

In her early 90s, Mother fretted about dying. By then, nearly all of her friends her age had died. I told Mother she’d break 100. To reinforce this, whenever Mother asked me to buy anything for her, I’d buy enough to last a decade.

The final item she asked me to buy was an envelope. I got her 500 just last month.

“Are you crazy?” she asked me. “I don’t need all of these.”

“Why not?” I asked. “That’s only an envelope a week for ten years. You write at least ten letters a month. By golly, we better get you some more.”

“You think so?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I said, and later that day I came home with hundreds more.

Within a couple of weeks, Mother had used up several dozen. Then her heart attack came and she was gone within hours.

I am happy Mother went quickly; she was worn out. But I feel sad. To overcome my sadness, I visit some of her friends. Helping them is a magical formula for making my heartache disappear. I buy her elderly friends things in bulk.

This reminds me of a story.

Stop me if you’re heard it….

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Jaron Summers wrote dozens of primetime television and radio programs, including those for HBO, CBS, ACCESS TV and CBC. He conceived the TV and Film Institute of Canada. Funded by the University of Alberta and ITV, Jaron ran the Institute for 12 years, donating his services for a decade.

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