Tuesday May 09, 2017

How well do you really know your mom?

Richard Kemick realizes he’s never given much thought to who his mom really was outside of … just being his mom 1:38

Listen to Full Episode 27:30

By Richard Kelly Kemick

All my life I have been mistaken for my mother: as a child, when I spoke on the phone; as a teenager, when I sported a winter coat and hat; and as an adult, whenever I sit cross-legged and wear an ironed shirt.

"Are you upset?" she once asked as we trudged home from the outdoor rink where our neighbour, Deborah, had told me my sons were growing up handsomely.

"Why would I be upset?" I replied. "You're the one who looks like a 14-year-old boy."

How well should a son know his mother? Perhaps just enough to assume perfection but better than to actually expect it.

Richard and mom

Richard Kemick as a boy with his mom, Kelly.

A couple of years ago, my mother lost her job, and with it a defining piece of herself. She has since slogged between job fairs, interviews and coffee dates with former colleagues, all the while keeping that trademark Kemick stoicism. It has been me who's gotten frustrated, angry — because since we are so much the same, of course I assumed her perfect.

Here is what I know of my mother:

  • She once won a pumpkin carving contest
  • She has a Horse-Whisperish connection with parrots
  • When she gives a gift, only half of the gift is the object; the other half is the five-act re-staging of purchasing the gift
  • She cannot pass an Australian flag without doing the accent
  • She is the worst bowler in history
  • We have the same bobbing haircut, psoriatic skin and narcoleptic reaction to Mozart by the Sea. Her middle name is my middle name
  • She's in a tough spot right now. But why can't she pull herself out of it? Why can't I?

I walk her through setting up a LinkedIn profile. My voice quivers with impatience ("For Christ's sake, I said home menu, not home screen") until I think back to my Grade 9 badminton tournament — how in between matches I perched on her knee, and my father leaned over and said I was perhaps a bit old to be sitting on my mother's lap, and I looked around the gymnasium and, upon not seeing any vacant seats, replied, "Well, what am I supposed to do? Stand?"

Richard and his mom

Richard and his mom.

These are dark days for the Kemicks: our captain waylaid and the rest of us rendered hand-wringingly useless. So I sat down with my mother, poured two brimming glasses of red wine, pushed the record button and asked her the question I am ashamed I can't answer: Who are you?

About the producer

Richard Kelly Kemick

Richard Kelly Kemick

Richard Kelly Kemick's poetry and prose have been published in magazines and journals across Canada and the United States. His debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run, was published March 2016 and selected by CBC as one of the season's Must Read Collections. He won a National Magazine award in 2016 for One-of-a-Kind feature. 

You can read more about Richard and his mom in Richard's essay for The Walrus, "Bowling for Mother's Day."

Richard and his mother Kelly also appeared on Daybreak Alberta to discuss their relationship and the documentary — you can listen to that conversation below.