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May 12, 2024

Ode to my mother

I was 5 and I already knew you were terribly sad, Mom.

A martyr with eczema-ridden fingers, your mummified hands, gloved and painfully burning, Mom.

The morning tears when you’d pretend to go to the neighbour’s to borrow a half-pint of cream, Mom.

All the sleepless nights you spent unstitching and sewing one of Dad’s old jackets to make me a pretty coat, Mom.

I remember your delicious meals, and the jams you’d make for us, Mom.

Sewing, cooking and cleaning. You always did your duty, but your broken heart was incapable of loving us, Mom.

Your long silences bewildered our little hearts desperate for love, Mom.

As you busied yourself with chores, never resting , you kept your mind occupied to avoid thinking about what had ripped out your heart, Mom.

The rage, the sorrow and the disappointment must have exhausted you each day. This heavy secret you kept and took to your grave, Mom.

We had no clue about your indescribable sorrow as you suffered in silence, Mom.

Indiscernible and menacing, a mysterious pain had turned your life, and ours, upside down, Mom.

Our childhood was muted, as we gingerly stepped around you, afraid of disappointing you, Mom.

I blamed you. I needed to know about the important things in life. You failed to teach me or your two other daughters a single thing. Too young and naive, we found ourselves with our own child, Mom.

Was it the lack of knowledge or fear that kept you silent? We were pristine white goslings and you let our little wings become soiled, Mom.

This cursed ignorance caused us a thousand torments. Your daughters became trapped in loveless marriages. And our lives, totally lost, became battle grounds, Mom.

You knew nothing about my sad life then. Miserable as I was, I sometimes thought of leaving this world for good, Mom.

In that moment your car crashed head-on, you, your grief and your secret all died together, Mom.

At the morgue where I went to identify you, I was terrified. I was scared of your disfigured face, of the congealed blood on your cheeks, of the open veins in your neck, Mom.

As tough as life can be, it has spoiled me. At your funeral, one of your sisters finally told me your secret. That story, unimaginable today, nonetheless happened to you and ruined your life, Mom.

You were the most beautiful schoolteacher in the township, in love with a Protestant that the Catholic church forbade you from marrying. Do you remember, Mom, that in those days, religion ruled our lives?

You did as your father wished when he introduced you to a brave and hard-working young man who had recently arrived in Gaspésie. Grandpa liked him a lot, but you were in love with another, Mom.

I hate myself for accusing you, criticizing you and blaming you, oblivious to your sad fate. I feel so remorseful, Mom.

All the unused love inside me, I give to you, Mom.

Wait for me, because together, we’ll begin a new and beautiful life again, Mom.

Your daughter,