Tag Archives: rights

Being an orphan

tumblr_m0kvlehwjS1r09zijo1_500I was thinking about International Women’s Day today and about the strong women I’ve had in my life and how damnably awful it is that so many of left life so soon.
There’s my mum, a ferocious lawyer woman with a witty twist of the tongue and the ability to argue paint off a wall. I used to schedule arguments with her when I’d come home just to get them over with. She’d best me and we could be friends til the next time. It was like a momma bear cuffing her cubs to remind them she was still the boss.
She passed away 21 years ago from cancer, just about. She was only 60. I’ve been a motherless child for so long.
Then there was my mother-in-law. She was a survivor, the type of woman who could take a bit of fluff, some salt and a twig and make a house and a full dinner out of it. She cared and laughed in equal measure. I loved that there was no task she wouldn’t take on, from biking to volunteer to help the old folks at a local pool (in her 70’s) to concreting patches on the garage floor. She just up and did things. She passed away a few years ago with ALS, leaving a huge hole in my heart.
Then there’s my Aunt Mary. Mary was a nun for a while, bringing spirit and fun to even those cloistered halls. She could laugh with her whole body and with the joy in life shining through every chuckle. She left the convent and worked extensively with death and dying issues until she eventually found love and then died, too soon. I never spent enough time with her, I know. She was strong and vibrant and alive and full of hope.

I was so fortunate – I had many aunts and other women in my life that were strong examples of femininity.
They were all completely different. Yet each offered a different vision of what a woman could be.

International Women's Day rally, Melbourne1_11410104_tcm11-17964

Now they are all gone.


il_fullxfull.393422852_n9twSometimes, I need an aunt. Or a mother. Or a mother-in-law. Someone like the Dowager. Someone who knows where the iron bar rests under human behaviour and can line my toes up with it and set me to fly from there.

Today, it’s time to take a breath and honour all those women we know – aunts, mothers, friends, cousins, sisters – and look at what we can do, what we have accomplished.
Then we have to shake our heads and say, no, it’s not enough. We need to grab the reins from those women who led us and step forward, make things better for those who can’t. Use that sharp tongue, that persistence, that hope, that strength to change the world.
We could.

If we ever tried.
Yes, we could.
Maybe we should start with the Stephen Lewis Foundation.¬†I love that guy. He, amazingly, fights for women’s rights. ¬†Endlessly.
Listen to this and be moved…http://music.cbc.ca/#/concerts/Hope-Rising-2012-2012-11-07

Women’s Day, International and Intentional

Hey you women and men out there!

It’s international Women’s Day! Now before you men get started, I know there’s no International Men’s Day and all I can say to that is my response to Child Day – well, whenever you get all of them, you don’t really need a special one! I know, not strictly speaking true, and I really hope we get to a point where we can just have an “International Human’s Day” and let it go at that.

But we’re not quite there yet. I could rant about how we’re still underrepresented, abused, paid less, tossed away, wasted, etc., etc. but really, we hear all of that all the time. So let’s focus on the positive, shall we? Let’s raise a glass to those wonderful impossible women who were just out there, pushing their agenda, pulling others along with them willy-nilly.

Like Anna Leonowens, who founded NSCAD and travelled the world changing things after reinventing herself entirely.

Or Mrs. Humphrey Ward, who didn’t believe in suffrage but still started educational institutes for women at Oxford and refused to let anyone say nay.

Or Florence Nightingale, who fought her way through several glass ceilings to actually humanize health care.

Or Alexa McDonough, who stepped into the leadership of a federal party – the first woman to do so in Canada (Okay, it was 1980, and one could have hoped it would have happened before then).

Or the formidable Mrs. Thatcher – still so obvious in the political photos of that time.

Indira Ghandi. Maya Angelou. PD James. Jane Fonda. Jane Austen. Mary Shelley. Edith Piaf.

But more so than that, the women who just get up in the morning and make the world a better place for their being in it.

I can’t help but think of my grandmothers. Two more different women couldn’t be imagined. My Grammy, my mother’s mother, was a ferocious lion of St. John, NB, who gave birth to almost a dozen children, all of whom went forward and took control – in their city, in the country, in the world. They became nurses, lawyers, doctors, priests, accountants, businesspeople, pillars of the community, and parented another generation of the same. Grammy held them all to account. I didn’t know her well, but I always saw her as a bit of a bombastic person, given to expostulations that shook the ceiling, but maybe that was only after she became deaf. I still remember cringing in Filene’s as she argued with the sales girl about corset sizes. She had a great sense of humour and a strong sense of religion. She did ensure that her children went on to do great things, despite what must have been a pretty ropy existence with all those kids and not much money. They grew up and fought mightily and loved mightily.

My other grandmother I remember for her soft smile, her gentle ways. Yet she had power, too – she could speak to my dad with a twinkle in her eyes and he’d do whatever she asked. Her life wasn’t easy, either – my grandfather often wasn’t well – and she looked after her own large family. Yet she encouraged them, pulled them along, probably even lost her temper once or twice. They grew up to be marvellous people, too – but with a different feeling. Unlike my mother’s family, there was less competition between them. They didn’t always get along, but they were always supportive of each other. Even now, their first response to seeing me after many years wasn’t “where have you been?” but “welcome back!”

In their own ways, they made the world an infinitely better place, through their children, their children’s children, and now their children’s children’s children. I’m so grateful to them – I benefitted from all of my wonderful uncles and aunts and cousins and sister and brothers.

All over the world, women do this every day, in every way, in so many different situations and with so many different challenges. So yes, let’s take a special day to recognize that fact, and make a choice to support them, more and more.

And yeah, let’s stop all that ugly stuff. For women, men, and children, too. My grandmothers would have wanted it that way. Probably yours, too.