Her day would begin at 10:45 pm. That’s when my wife would have to hook our son up to his night feeding device, pumping 74 millilitres of formula per hour directly into his stomach throughout the night.
You see, in addition to his intellectual disability, our boy suffered what is called a Volvulus—the entanglement and asphyxiation of his intestines—when he was just 16. It very nearly killed him. And after six months in hospital and three retractive operations, little of his intestinal tract remained.
That’s when being our son’s primary, full-time caregiver became my wife’s destiny.
The gut, not the stomach, is where all our food nutrients and hydrating liquids are absorbed. And because he had so little left, he needed to eat four to five, Olympic athlete portioned meals a day, and guzzle water every half hour in addition to his night feed, to sustain the trifling 120 lbs holding up his 6-foot, 2-inch frame.
After getting him in bed and starting his g-tube feeding, she would get only a few hours’ sleep, having to check on him and his pump after he would get up to the bathroom two or three times through the night. I would try and provide some relief at night and on weekends, but the overwhelming burden of his care was his mother’s 24/7 job for these past 10 years.
But on Jan. 7, very suddenly and unexpectedly, she left this world.
And then that job, with the unwavering support and inspiring strength of my daughter… became my job.
Which is why I have been absent from The Message and silent from the industry for these past eight months. Only over that time have I begun to realize the weight of the burden that my wife bore for an entire decade, and how resolute she was in keeping our son well, while always upholding her love and care for his sister and me.
That said, if there was one thing my wife did stop caring about when she went on mat’ leave 30 years ago, it was the advertising business.
And so, I can almost guarantee that she never read any of my 94 articles for The Message. Regardless, I always bounced my story ideas off her because, like pretty much everything in life, she was a much better judge than I of what was good and what was shit.
Surprisingly, she was unusually bullish on the potential of this particular story—the last one I wrote. “It might be not bad,” she offered, as always, with her wonderfully sardonic indifference. The story wasn’t published given the circumstances. And doing so now has much less to do with industry currency and much more to do with some closure for me.
I’m not sure if this will be the first of more stories to come. Or the last I ever pen.
All I know is that Pauline thought it might be not bad, so it’s probably worthy of your eyeballs too.
Please enjoy. And thank you everyone for your unending kindness.
Martha, Martha, Martha.
My Grandmother had some awesome sayings. Whenever anyone confessed their error with the excuse that they had “thought this” or “thought that,” Gran would hit them between their deer-in-the-headlights eyes, with this 90-mile-an-hour splitter.
“Well, you know what ‘thought’ did?” she would say with no expectation of a reply. “It shat itself and thought it had only farted!” she’d chortle.
Christ, she was a whip. But the feisty old bird also served up some life navigating, pearly wisdoms in them zingers. Words to live by that have been passed on from Redmond generation to generation.
Her favourite maxim by far was one that balanced a teetering tightrope walk between her rigid Protestant temperance and her conflicting fondness for a not-so-wee dram of whiskey now and then.
“Everything in moderation,” Gran preached, “Including moderation, itself.”
I was reminded of those wise words when watching this vodka venerating OLV for Tito’s, brought to us by the legendarily dry-humoured Martha Stewart.
Martha didn’t always have a great sense of funny. Insider trading felony charges, imprisonment, and a crumbling media empire will do that to a person. Unfortunately, that was around the same time when our paths would cross, albeit tangentially.
I was at BBDO at the time. And after a painfully protracted six-month root canal of a pitch, we won the Sears business just before Christmas. The department store giant had just taken the enormous gamble of buying up all the prime retail real estate across the country from Canada’s failing institution, Eaton’s. And frumpy old Sears needed to dust its shelves and boost its profile to earn some Yonge and Dundas street cred. Quick.
That’s why, on the first day back from holidays, our battle-beleaguered pitch team was told that we had to start all over. This time we had to pitch on behalf of our new client, Sears, to convince Martha Stewart to sell her famed housewares brand exclusively in their stores. And we were up against Hudson’s Bay and another hoity-toity US chain looking to launch in Canada. We were classily outclassed.
So, rather than try and elevate the Sears brand to Stewart’s exalted standards, we decided to bring Martha down a few notches closer to the Canadian middle-class reality. We didn’t pick her up at the airport in a stretch limo and chaperone her to our shiny agency boardroom. Instead, we picked her up in a family mini-van and took her to our strategic planner’s modest new home, which we had decorated with Sears home furnishings. And that’s where the team made a plausible pitch about profits over perceptions. This is where she was going to make her money in Canada, we pragmatically proposed.
And while she wasn’t terribly fond of the Dodge Caravan escort, and may have even originally believed she was being kidnapped for ransom, Dame Stewart eventually descended to earth and gave Sears her business. It bought us a least a couple of years representing the retail behemoth before it finally suffocated under the weight of that $30-million Eaton flagships purchase.
Who knows, maybe we even had a small part in awakening a more genial version of Martha that had been suffocating under the weight of 500 thread count linen all those years. Not as much as her time with Snoop Dog getting cooked on their cooking show, but perhaps we helped her loosen up just a bit.
Now, this effort on behalf of Tito’s may piss off a few of you who have committed to a dry January and to cleansing your soul of its evil 2022 toxins. But while I may not join Madame Martha in having a mid-morning vodka martini giggle (I’m more of a gin martini kinda guy), I will align with her cheeky tongue twirls. Because she might as well have ended the spot by paraphrasing my old Granny Redmond.
“Fuck it. Everything in moderation. Including moderation itself.”