Getting Your Howdy On: SIV Week Is Here

It’s my mother’s birthday. Were she still shuffling, flat-footed and bunion-aching, along this mortal coil of frayed and ravelled rope, she would be turning 95 today. She would be steamed. I’m so angry I could spit! she used to mutter when one of us, not always me, would race heedlessly past the wide but certainly finite fields of her patience. She loved life, doted on her family and especially those teeming crowds of grandchildren gathered around every Howden turkey. She’s a woman who suffered, and yet got pretty much what she had hoped for in life. In her last months, though, she’d had enough, and was quite-content-thank-you to be DONE with sleeping and waking and eating and all these things. One day in a hospital bed, she awoke, looked around with confusion and (at least the way I read it) growing dismay, and said, “Am I still here?”

Today is Enid Day. She died in 2006. (I remembered her, in one of my favourite and least-saleable pieces in JHdotCOM history, here: . Sorry, still unable to hyperlink.) Her birth-day is when we most remember her. I got a note from Big Sister that looked forward to her third Enid Day in Nunavut, where she her last few years of “retirement” teaching some of the damaged and despairing children and youth of Cape Dorset. She was enticed there by my ex-wife, with whom she lives. (That’s a pretty good story, I figure, though not mine to tell, not yet.) So, happy Enid Day to them, to all my relations, and to you and me.

In memory of her, I have declared this SIV Week. I’m not sure who was more stubborn, Enid or my Dad, though I’d say both changed astral planes more easily than they often changed their minds. The stubbornness I rue with such arm-waving in my fourth son informs me — eventually, ruefully, guiltily — of just how cement-headed I so often and so chronically am. Solution? StubbornnessIsVirtue Week. SIV. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; if you can’t alter it, exalt it! Winston Churchill was stubborn. So were Gandhi, King, Teresa. So am I, if only I could beat that adamantine forehead of mine against more meaningful walls.

Therefore, this having been declared SIV Week, I’m taking several half-finished things that I’ve written over the past while — and, for various reasons, chief among them cowardice, fatigue and cerebral untidiness, haven’t had the poop to complete — and I’m GETTING THEM BLOODY WELL DONE. (I also remain, certainly, cursed by Enid’s endlessly repeated counsel that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, which has led to more procrastination and dismayed unfinish-ing than either of us can abide.) So, first you’ll see, in the It’s All About Sports section, my final Final 4 basketball thoughts, though that American college hoops lollapalooza finished three weeks ago. Other gottawritems are even older, but won’t look so obviously out-of-date because they’re less particular.

So: I’m finishing stuff. I’m clearing the decks. Spring cleaning of the neocortical kind. Purging. Loosening my load, in hopes that new and fresh things might follow, but mainly out of brute determination to do-stuff-my-way-even-if-it-makes-no-sense-to-readers-’cause-Mum-never-gave-up-and-mulishness-should-sometimes-bear-fruit-even-if-it-looks-like-a-dungpile. It’s MY dungpile. I made it all by myself! Happy Enid Day, and Happy StubbornnessIsVirtue Week!!

The rest, below, is in explanation of what this site has done and does when it’s not SIVW.

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Mothering On

Nobody names their children Enid anymore, although I did christen a backyard crabapple tree with that early-20th century moniker two springs ago. We’d always had a messily dropping but spring-briefly glorious crab in our yard when I was a kid, and my mother loved those evanescent pink blooms much more than I begrudged raking up the apples in the fall.

Enid Mary Elizabeth Howden was born on April 27th in a distant 1920. The Great War still haunted many thousands of men who didn’t know that what they had was post-traumatic stress syndrome. The Spanish influenza pandemic had already killed most of its 60 million victims. The League of Nations was a brand-new baby that hadn’t yet been thrown out with the fascist bathwater. (Speaking of leagues, the NHL was a toddler with four hockey clubs we wouldn’t recognize, and the National Basketball Association wasn’t even a glint in anybody’s eye. But my Mum loved the Cleveland Indians forty years before the Blue Jays came along, and that American League baseball team had been born 20 years before she was.) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’í community’s leader and best Example, was still alive. (So was Thomas Edison. So was Enrico Caruso. Legendary Canadian Sir Wilfrid Laurier had just left the building. Elvis wouldn’t show up for another 15 years.) I like to think of my Mum and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sharing the same planetary dust for a few months, way back there in the ‘20s. Whole ‘nother century, much different world.

I love my Mum. I didn’t get it in writing for her birthday, but I’m a day ahead for Mother’s Day. Interexistential greetings, Enid! Thanks for all that laughter, all that bloody tolerance and dogged hope, all that thin-lipped endurance and all those wide-open welcomes to friends, wives, spiritual inclinations and especially to More Boys.

She always grinned (eventually) when she claimed that the only reason I kept you and your brother Bill around is ‘cause you made me laugh. She didn’t even play at grudging acceptance, though, when the grand-kids came. It was bright-blue smiles, bowls of sweets and rosy admiration, even at the end when she didn’t always get the names right. My first three boys only have to think of “Mama Hoe-ney” (was that Dave’s toddler-attempt at “Grandma Howden”?) to get a shot of spiritual warmth and belonging, even as they prepare to say farewell to their other lovely granny. Sam’s only 9, though, and he’s starting to lose track of her. We’ll get out the photos tomorrow while we celebrate his own sweet Mummy, in so many ways “a girl / Just like the girl / That married dear old Dad”: blue-eyed, excitable, loving, determined as hell. (That song’s even older than my Mum — 1911 — but it’s inerasable on my mental J-Tunes. A syrupy sweet prophecy.)

Hug your mothers, kids. Pray for them as they pray for you.