Monday, December 11, 2023

Margery S. Cannon - My Funeral Talk

My mother, Margery S. Cannon, died on November 13, 2023. I spoke at her funeral and gave the following talk:
Mom and I both loved animals. She embraced every bird, reptile or mammal I brought home. There were many nights she was up in the middle of the night feeding baby birds with an eye dropper while I slept. I don’t recall her ever saying no to an animal I brought home. She was my enabler.

I don’t have time to go into any details, but I had a baby magpie, pigeon,  sparrow hawk and raven, all out of the nest; a baby saw whet owl, ground squirrel and jackrabbit, that I captured; a mail order raccoon and ferret; a purchased hamster, domesticated rats and golden retriever; and various other animals I caught, such as a tarantula, tiger salamanders, mudpuppies, chuckwallas, gopher snakes, garter snakes, toads, lizards and horny toads.

Our move to Hawaii, after my senior year of high school, pretty much ended my pet experience with Mom. After my mission I married Judy and four years later we moved to California where we have lived for 41 years. We would see Mom and Dad about twice a year and had fairly regular phone calls.

After Dad died, about 21 years ago, Mom had no experience with handling finances and often looked to me for help. Mom had many tearful crises with stock fluctuations and ultimately she sold them all. Then, over time, she came to believe that our country, and the bank system were going to fail, and that she needed to get her money out of the bank. She was stashing money in her dresser drawers and her freezer and wanted to invest the rest in gold and silver. About every six weeks I would get a call from Mom about some variation of the above and it began to feel like a perpetual groundhog day, which frustrated both of us. I tried to talk her out of her proposals and started feeling like “downer Bob.” I really knew she’d about had it with me when earlier this year she asked me if I was a democrat? That spoke volumes.

I thought about what I could do to improve my interactions with Mom. Mom told me, “no one likes to visit the nursing home because it is boring. It is full of old people that are getting ready to die.” There was truth in her observation, so I decided to invite her out of the nursing home for a day trip, just the two of us. I was concerned she would find it boring, but it was worth a try. On May 5th of this year I picked up Mom at Legacy House for a trip to Antelope Island. Near the Ladyfinger Campground Mom spotted some pronghorn antelope near the car. 
We were both very excited. Awhile later we found two great-horned owls in the rafters of an open barn near the buffalo round-up site. 
We drove around the east end of the island and saw quite a few bison, then went beyond the Fielding Garr Ranch and found the road open to the south end of the island, a road I’d never seen open before. We drove down a bouncy, rutted, dirt road and saw many birds, including meadowlarks which reminded us that Dad used to say they were singing, “Salt Lake City is a pretty little place.” 
On the way back we saw various ducks, grebes and gulls along the Causeway. Then we drove to Chuck-A-Rama in Draper where we joined three of my siblings and my daughter, and their children. I got Mom home that night after a long day and she seemed genuinely happy to have been with me. I felt it was the best day I’d had with Mom since leaving for my mission 47 years before.

I wanted to do it again, but I was afraid it would be too much of a good thing. Then I ran across an August 8th blog post by Jeff Strong, the Bear River Blogger, titled “Bird Photography and Nature Blogging May Never Be the Same for Me Anymore.” Jeff talked about the passing of his mother who used to accompany him 2 to 3 times per week, for several hours at a time, on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Auto Route. He noted, “These drives soon became a cherished activity in their own right…where my mom and I could just go and have fun.” That article struck a chord with me and I thought, maybe Mom would like some more excursions.

Shortly after reading Jeff Strong’s blog post, I called and asked Mom if she would spend another two days with me, September 21 and 22. The day before I left home to drive to Utah, Mom’s twin brother Maynard died. I called four or five times that day and she never picked up the phone. I was afraid the death of Maynard would send her in a downhill spiral and I believe ultimately it did. However, the next day, as I was getting ready to leave home, I was relieved when Merilee told me Mom was looking forward to seeing me.

On September 21 I picked up Mom from Legacy House and we headed for Brigham City to visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Jeff Strong’s domain. It was a cold, rainy day and we mostly kept our windows up. We drove the 12 mile Auto Route, a dirt road. It was a poor day for birding, but we saw a few and Mom was excited to see them.

After we finished our drive we drove to Maddox Drive-Inn in Brigham City, a place we had visited several times as a family after boating at Willard Bay. We sat in our car and ordered from a car-hop and ate food under an overhang, while the rain poured down.

Then we drove to Antelope Island. There we saw the great horned owls again, saw six pronghorns in a group, some distance away, which Mom said was her favorite view of the day, and a few bison. Then we headed for Chuck-A-Rama, this time in Lehi, where we met my daughter and my granddaughters for dinner.

I picked up Mom again the next day. We drove through Tooele and out through Rush Valley and over a small mountain range where we saw a mother mule deer and two large fawns. We watched them for several minutes and Mom was thrilled. Eventually we reached the Dugway Proving Ground and took a dirt road south into the desert.

We stopped about 75 yards from a car watching a wild horse at quite some distance. 
Mom was in the right front seat with the window down and I got out of the car with my camera. The horse began to walk directly toward us, right past Mom and around the front of our car, I could almost touch it. 
The people ahead of us were standing by their vehicle, agog that we were getting this incredibly good view. Mom was ecstatic.

We moved on and saw some pronghorns which started to run off as we approached. 
But one walked up a dirt road we were stopped by and took some drinks out of a small puddle. Mom’s car window was open and she called the little pronghorn several times in her sweet, crackly voice. I stopped my first impulse which was to tell Mom to be quiet as she was going to scare the pronghorn. 
Her voice seemed to have a soothing effect and the pronghorn did not run away. It looked up and stared right at Mom, about 15 feet away. This was a magical moment, even more magical than the wild horse that had just walked right past us.

We drove on and could see 40 or 50 wild horses, spread out. 
Some of the horses were stunningly beautiful. One, in particular, had a black and gray mane, a coat of chestnut and grayish white splotches with brown and black legs. I’d never seen a horse like it.
Mom proclaimed that she was hungry. So we turned back. In Stansbury Park we stopped at Dominos Pizza and ordered a large veggie pizza with added Italian sausage. While we waited for it to cook, I bought tortilla chips, seven layer dip and a cheese ball. Mom dug into the chips, particularly with the seven layer dip, and then had two big slices of the pizza when it was ready. Mom normally ate like a bird, but this day, she ate like me.  
I spent the night at my daughters’ and the next day on my drive home I got a call from Mom thanking me for taking her out for the two days. She said, “you and I share a love of animals and this allowed me to get to know you again.” I felt closer to Mom than I had since leaving home for my mission. That was just a month and a half before she died. I will always cherish those three days with my Mom.

Before I give up my spot, I would like to publicly thank my sister, Merilee, for the love and care she gave to Mom. She got paid for some of what she did, but it was overwhelmingly a labor of love, a service which because of logistics and temperament, I and many other members of our family, could not have provided. For that, Merilee, I owe you a debt of gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. I think my favorite part of this is that she had an appetite and enjoyed eating with you as much as tracking animals with you. Sweet remembrances.