Gwendolyn Carson (nee Martindale)

June 19, 1926 – March 2, 2017

Dear Mum,  

Mum, you surely know, in dad’s eyes, and in his heart still, you are the beautiful young woman he married years ago. Many of us here know, all too well, marriage is not easy. But, through your years together, you both worked hard and built an enviable life for our family. I am so appreciative of both of your efforts for us. 

You lived an extraordinarily full life and I can’t do it justice here.  So, in your honour, I would like to share a few of my childhood memories of you and what I know to be true.

 Saturday, June 19, 1926, your life begins. Your stories of your early years, and old photographs of you in your twenties, show you to be a spirited woman in the context of a world which would bear witness to unprecedented change. As your first born, my formative experiences with you took place in the 1960s and 1970s. My god, what times those were.

Mum, you excelled at many things but you were especially a fantastic baker… Nothing has come close to the birthday cakes you made for me when I was little. For my celebration, you baked my favourite — an Angel food cake, from scratch. It had 7 layers and was iced and filled with chocolate-flavored whipped cream. I had no idea then how much work this was. And I had no idea then that not everyone’s mother did this for their child’s birthday. You tried hard to make things special. And you know, mum… they really were.  

 You liked to work with your hands and you did things as well as they could be done, as well as any master crafts’ person. When Mary and I took figure skating, you famously designed and sewed dozens upon dozens of costumes for our annual skate show. That you did this, as a self-taught seamstress, was astonishing.

 In your “African” phase, you constructed a jungle inspired diorama for the space under the rec room stairs in the basement of our house. A 50s bungalow. You made mini stands of Palm trees for your set. You wrapped cardboard tubes in burlap for the trunks and used large plastic leaves for the trees’ heads. Under your Palm trees were real coconuts. Ceramic African animals crouched at the edge of a round mirror which served as a pond. Plastic plants were ripped apart and filled in for jungle foliage. Years later, on a school trip to the Royal Ontario Museum, when I saw the displays of the taxidermy animals in their habitats, I remembered being unimpressed, thinking… we’d had one of those.  

 Every kid on our street played with Mary and me in your creation until, finally, it succumbed to the ravages of Barbie’s adventures in the jungle and from little people squishing into its tight space. This memory I have shared — with pride — many times over my life. That you did this, mum, is remarkable. Your house was an experience.

Mum, you were a talented person with enormous drive and no outlet that gave you your due. I realize now, in your efforts you were either perfecting something or you were pursuing a vision. This is something artists do.

My interest in the visual world and the creative process is so much a part of me, too, that any other way of being seems pale, lacking. I can honestly say, even through my own struggles, I have never envied anyone else’s life.  This is because you bequeathed to me the capacity for a rich inner life. One so sustaining, I can’t thank you enough for this gift.

Black Lake.

On the Friday of the last week of school before the summer break, you had the station wagon packed ready to go, the dog in the car, a pot of chili in the cooler. Pulling up to the government dock on a hot sticky night, unloading the car, swarmed by mosquitoes, I remember how excited I felt. We were at the cottage again. That first day, was the best day. The whole summer, ahead of us.

Through those many July and August months, the extended Martindale clan got together at three cottages on the lake. Our family’s, brother Bill’s, Brother Bob’s and Aunty Doreen’s with their kids, our cousins, Robby, Desta, Joan and John.

When your sister Mary and Uncle Ted with their kids, our cousins, Mark, Paul, and Lisa visited, everyone was scrunched in no matter the lack of notice, beds, or even food. You made due.

 And then there was the Martindale potluck dinner: a 24 of Molsen’s Export, bottles of 410 (mystery wine), steaks on the barby, a vat of potato salad, dozens of white rolls, and dessert. Dessert was Uncle Bill’s contribution from the bakery in Coby: 2 large creamy Banana cake rolls coated in toasted almonds. Best. Ever. 

Thank you for being this way, mum. You embraced any opportunity to bring family together. My memories of those days are my favourite ones.  

 You loved your brothers and sisters. And you treated their children, my cousins, like they were your own. They in turn, say, to a one, they felt loved, accepted, and supported by you. Mum, you never judged.

You cared about the extended Carson family, too. And they in turn have an enduring place in their hearts for you. You cared for your friends. You cared for many people. You put yourself out for everyone. This is your true legacy, mum.

 My children, Tess and Riley, were so lucky to have you and dad as their grandparents. They have their own memories of being at the lake with you and Poppy. Because of you, Tess and Riley’s connection to Black Lake runs as deep as yours and mine.

Black Lake was your refuge, and your joy, as it is for all of us to this day. I know it would make you so happy to be there again, mum. We will find a resting place for your ashes there so you can become one with the place that gave you so much pleasure. 

Dad, at 88, has been in the late stages of Alzheimer’s for years. He is resilient in the face of catastrophic memory loss. I choose to believe, at some deep unconscious level, dad is trying to stay here for you, mum. It’s okay now, dad, she has gone, you did everything you could for mum and for all of us. You’ve done enough.

You had a strong life force, mum. You squeezed every ounce of vitality from your 90-year-old aging body. No miraculous rebound this time, Lyn. No one ever thinks this day is going to come. And then it does. You slipped away from us in the early morning of Thursday, March 2, 2017.

Rest peacefully, mum. There is no one like you and there never will be.

I love you and I will miss you.

Bye Mum,