This is not a sad column. But for those of you who were left wondering after my last column about my mother, I regret to say she passed on last week, peacefully and surrounded by many of her family. She was a remarkable woman in many ways, not the least of which was her ready wit.
I thought I'd tell you a little about some of her escapades.
Perhaps my favourite has to do with the day she and my father decided to go caribou hunting on the Topsails. I've written about this before but it bears repeating in this context, I think. They were both in their 80s at the time. Dad and I had hunted all week unsuccessfully and when Monday came, I had to go back to work.
"No problem," said Mom. "I'll go with him."
So they packed a lunch and off they went. OH and I watched them go with great grins on our faces to see two octogenarians setting off in an ancient Chevy to hunt caribou. Three o'clock that afternoon they were back with as fine a stag caribou as you could wish in the trunk of the car.
To make a fairly long story short, they drove around the woods roads until suddenly a large caribou jumped right in front of the car and stopped dead in its tracks. Father got all excited and had trouble getting the ammunition clip in the equally old .303 rifle and the caribou decided to vacate the premises.
Mother grabbed a white sheet from the backseat, jumped out of the car and began waving it wildly up and down. Caribou are inquisitive creatures and this one no doubt couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, so he stopped again. Mother kept waving the sheet until Father got the rifle loaded and promptly killed the animal.
When they began courting in St. Anthony, my dad used to love to ski on the hill back of the hospital. My mother decided one of the ways to impress him was to learn to ski herself.
So she took herself to the top of the hill, laced on her skis and began the descent. It wasn't that steep but she had no idea how to control direction or how to stop. Consequently she came to grief up against the fence that surrounded the building in which Dad was working. When he heard the commotion and looked outside, here was his new girlfriend with her skis stuck in the pickets and totally unable to move.
When she was in the nursing home this last time, her condition had deteriorated to within a couple days of her death when suddenly she became quite agitated. My niece was sitting with her at the time.
"Hurry, hurry. I need to be washed. Hurry."
"But Nanny, why do you want to be washed right now?"
"Well," she said, "I'm either going up or I'm going down - either way, I need to be clean."
She was visiting Gander with some friends one day when two of them announced they had to go to the liquor store. Mom forgot all about the fact that she was the minister's wife and that, to put it mildly, association with liquor by either Dad or her would be heavily frowned upon, so into the liquor store she went with the others.
They were on the way out when mother almost ran into one of their parishioners who had a most horrified look on her face.
"Mrs. Smith!" she exclaimed. "Whatever are you doing in here?"
Mother didn't miss a beat.
"Same as you," she replied pleasantly and kept right on going.
We were visiting my parents for Christmas in one of his pastorates one year when OH and Mom decided to go mummering. The first house they went into was one of the church stalwarts who promptly gave them two glasses of rum.
Mother was petrified. She knew the old fellow would be embarrassed to death to have the minister know he had liquor in his house, and he would have dropped dead if he realized he had offered it to the minister's wife. So she did the only appropriate thing. Every time the old gentleman's head was turned, she poured some of the rum down the kitchen sink near her chair until the glass was empty. Then she and OH fled without ever revealing who they were.
Some years after my father died, a gentleman in one of the neighbouring apartments took a bit of a shine to her and began leaving her little gifts outside her door, although he'd never enter the apartment.
Among the various items one day was a barbecued chicken straight from Cosco. Later she was telling OH about it.
"He's still too shy to come in," she said, "but yesterday he left his bird tied to my doorknob."
She was planning a visit with us in Springdale when OH reminded her of her tomato plants and the need to get someone to water them while she was away.
"No problem," she said. "When he finds out they're tied up with strips from my pantyhose he'll be watering them four times a day!"
She was near death when a lady she hardly knew came in to visit. This kindly woman solemnly placed her hand on mother's head and intoned, "God bless you, my dear, and may we meet again."
Mom, who was anything but sanctimonious, looked up at my sister.
"Am I in hell?"
I believe my mother enjoyed life to the fullest. She certainly saw the funny side of almost everything and wasn't slow to pass comment on it. If that meant being a little irreverent or risquÉ, so much the better.
I like to think she's still at it, still entertaining people who need to laugh.
Can't think of what heaven would be like without her.
Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org