The title of this piece is not a reference to any particular trait possessed by our Mother. It is, rather, a nod toward the dilemma we faced as a family in reducing the life span of the irrepressible & unsinkable Marion Josephine Franklin to a mere ten minute dissertation. So, this is the Readers Digest condensed version of the book of “Josie”, the Coles Notes of the best seller known as “Jo” as it were. As an aside, I will refer to her variously as Mom, Jo, Josie, and Joey throughout. All of you here today knew and loved her by many or all of those names, and others, including Grammie, Great-Grammie, friend and neighbour. On her behalf, and that of her family, I welcome you all to this celebration of a life well lived J
Back to the subject of books: Jo loved books, reading, and writing, anything to do with putting or reading words on a page. She read books to us at a very early age, and engendered a love of reading that persists to this day.
Having worked in the field of adult literacy for some ten years now, I can testify to the power of words in shaping the future lives and prospects of children when the parents engage in reading to, and with them from an early age. Mom did both, and then some. She introduced us to the wonderful world of Beatrix Potter, and the myriad creatures and personalities of field and forest, including two personal favourites, Danny Meadow Mouse and Grandfather Frog. She even created her own stories about Pipsy-Doodle & Chucklenut, the ongoing adventures of two chipmunks. Although some of these sagas were recorded for posterity in later years, at the time of first telling they were simply pulled out, dusted off, and updated on a nightly basis from memory. Amazing!
Her love of words also manifested itself in other ways. Some of my earliest memories of learning about spelling, and words in general, come from sitting opposite my Mother at the Scrabble board. And, as my brother-in-law Lyle will attest, after more than five decades of high-spirited competition, she never failed to confound and delight by coming up with words that we had never heard tell of…but you didn’t dare challenge her. Why? Because if you did, lo and behold, those words were always there to be found in the dictionary.
There is another “W” word for which Mom had a special fondness, and that would be…Wood! Specifically the sorting, hauling, chucking, stacking, re-stacking, and ultimately burning of wood. Josie was a self-styled and absolutely authentic expert on the homely science of extracting heat from wood. Particularly in the years after our Father (and her husband) George passed away, she elevated this pursuit to an art form, routinely sorting, hauling, chucking, stacking and re-stacking four or more cords of wood every year. By herself, unassisted….and this went on well into her nineties…in fact, in approximately her ninetieth year, along with going sledding as a birthday present to herself, Jo managed to grab third place in Nova Scotia in terms of wood stacking prowess. Her picture appeared, alongside one of her neatly packed mini-mountains of maple and ash, in a provincial publication about the pleasures of rural living (the name of which eludes me, but I digress, and time moves on…this risks becoming the 11 or even the 12 minute Mom!).
So, one more venture into the tales of Josephine the wonder-mom, and then, I promise, a quick wrap-up…
Mom also had a thing for things that fly. Birds and bats, primarily. She loved the former, faithfully tending her finch and hummingbird feeders for years, while watching her feathered flock from a kitchen window.
Bats, on the other hand…Josie had two quite remarkable encounters with those leathery-winged varmints, the first involving a single bat which she and our Father were able to vanquish quite easily through clever team work and her expert broom handling. The second set to was more of a solo act on her part, although the bats brought in reinforcements. Seventeen to be precise. She had to resort to a shovel, and other implements of destruction on this occasion, but still managed to emerge triumphant. For those wishing more details on this earth-shaking battle, please see my niece Tanya at the reception afterward, as she was a witness to the mayhem.
Before sprinting to the finish line, I will just list, in no particular order, a few other people, places, and things which held special significance to our pal Joey:
· George Rodney Franklin…OK, I fibbed…he had VERY special significance, and should be at the top of the list.
· Walks, anywhere, anytime, for as long as she could manage them
· Molasses cookies with thimble circles on top…and donut holes, long before Tim ever thought of Timbits.
· Horses. She loved horses.
· Cats, especially those named Garfield…she had at least three by my count, including a stuffed toy modeled after the comic book feline.
· England, and all things English, especially the Union Jack, right side up, or upside down
· The original “Little Women” and “Jo”, much like Mom and sisters Margaret, Louise, and Penny
· Going bare foot, whenever and wherever possible, the first of three things that apparently led to long life…I will not speak of the other two here, and don’t ask me afterward, because I’m not telling!
· ET, the Extraterrestrial, who lived on her bed for years, along with the stuffed (and sometimes real) Garfields
· Climbing trees. I don’t think that one made it into her nineties, but the eighties for sure.
· Music, Dr. Zhivago, and “Lara’s Theme”, more commonly known as “Somewhere My Love”, which greeted you today, and will serenade her once more as we depart.
· Last, but by no means least, living independently in her own home to the age of 98.
In closing, I will make reference to several of Josie’s favourite sayings, ones that she chose to live by, and in some cases brought forth when she felt we or others needed a special boost, advice or encouragement.
One has hung on her kitchen wall for years, and goes: “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without”. Sounds vaguely “green”, does it not? This signified not only her thrifty nature, but also that she was an environmentalist at heart long before the word ever became popular.
The second saying is “It t’is what it t’is, and it can’t get no tisser”, which in her recollection apparently came from her Gramma Bell.
And the third, being “This too will pass”.
So, while Josie’s life journey now “T’is what it t’is, and it can’t get no tisser”, we may also say about any transient grief that we may feel at her passing that “This too will pass”.
What WILL NOT PASS are the memories of this dear, special, spunky lady that we collectively knew as Mom, Jo, Josie, Joey, Grammie, Great Grammie, friend and neighbour. Those will endure forever. And to borrow from her favourite song, we will indeed meet again, someday, somewhere my love.
copyright r.b.franklin 25/03/09