My birthday fell on the same day as my mother’s and my maternal grandmother’s, which someone once told me the odds for were quite long and even longer as both myself and my mother were born a few minutes before midnight.
My mother, Madeleine, was a delicate, refined, and gorgeous lady with jet-black hair and bewitching eyes.
She had a passion for the movies and could name every actor in any of them.
She was born in Montreal, and her maiden name was Painchaud, which translates to “hot bread” in English, so she was teased mercilessly as a girl.
By my thirteenth birthday, my mother, grandmother, and I had been living together for a few years, at a time when my mother, Madeleine, had been suffering from ever-worsening muscular dystrophy for over two years.
The disease was getting worse faster than it should as my mother refused to be hospitalized for treatment and risk losing custody of me to my father, who’d been physically and verbally abusive towards her, causing their separation. So basically, he had no idea what was going on.
The affliction made her weak and susceptible to other ailments, so my grandmother and I would look after her as best we could in our little apartment.
But it all came to a head on my thirteenth birthday.
My mother found herself in excruciating abdominal pain just before suppertime. So my grandmother called an ambulance to take her to the Royal Victoria hospital in downtown Montreal some twenty-five minutes away.
Feeling an eerie sense of doom, I had a tantrum for them to let me ride with her in the ambulance, where I held her hand and rubbed her stomach while hanging on for dear life as the vehicle lurched about at high speed.
The road to the Royal Vic, as it’s known, includes driving down Cote des Neiges avenue, a steep plunging boulevard with sweeping curves, as anyone familiar with the city will confirm.
Once in the emergency room, my grandmother and I were taken up to the ICU and waited a few hours until they brought her up into her room.
I was in quite a state due to not knowing much besides a dire situation was at hand compounded by my chronic fear of hospitals.
Once they allowed me to see my mom, with all manner of tubes sticking out of her, and after we exchanged a few teary words with her telling me to stay calm and that things would work out, I fainted, taking the room partition drape, intravenous bottle, and rack on my way to the ground.
At that point, the nurse revived me and sent me home with my granny saying we should come back the next day during visiting hours.
Sadly there were no more visiting hours to be had the next day as my mother passed away during the night, freed from the constant torturous pain she had endured for so long.
A couple of days later, my father was summoned to pick me up without any further details, which he found odd as it wasn’t on his scheduled weekend to have me.
He arrived in his big blue Plymouth to see me standing on the sidewalk in my best - and only suit - with my suitcases around me.
As he got out of his car, he asked me what was happening.
Without blinking an eyelash and with the expression of someone of thirteen suddenly facing the unknown, I answered, “Mom died two days ago, and now I have to live with you full-time. Do I put my suitcases in the trunk?”
What do you mean she died? He exclaimed.
After three years in a wheelchair, she died, so let’s go, I replied.
It was the only time that I ever saw my old man speechless. He opened the trunk and pointed, staring at me as if he’d just seen a ghost.
My mother, at only 43, had paid the ultimate price to keep me safe from my father, whom she feared would turn me into a harsh and misogynistic man like himself.
And I made sure he never succeeded in doing that.
Excerpt from my upcoming e-book "Recollections from my time on earth" - Snackable short stories.