Matt Blouin

It’s been over a year since Barbara died. I have lost my wife to leukaemia this spring, April 2022, and my son and daughters and I continue onward. There has been a lot to process this year, death does that to us, forces our hand into playing the game we may have been unaware we are at the table of. Now however I’d like to state a few things, for the record. Barbara legally adopted me when I was 9 years old, so that there would be no legal doubt that she was my parent, so that should my biological mother mysteriously arrive and lay claim to me there would be no grounds to do so. Barbara and Denny were my parents til they died, that was a choice she committed to. I’ve learned that commitment for wealthy people is often a challenge, but Barbara did not relinquish any responsibility for me she took on, ever. That’s a big deal, worth appreciating. A part of my strong moral compass is the direct result of hers. I’ve known what injustice is, I was taught about racism and sexism from day one by my parents, but Barbara always seemed to be emotionally attached to the driving feelings of empathy and anger at cruelty and discrimination, she carried the pain of these things inside her, which I think is what drove her to take the actions she did, as well as use her educational prowess to learn more ways to change the world for others. One Saturday while shopping at a Sobeys Barbara pointed to a shelf filled with canned peaches, I was small and could just barely reach the cans, and she explained these cans are all from South Africa. The product label stated it in big letters, for no one to notice. She saw, and she showed me what to do. We spent half an hour turning every can on the shelf we could find so the label stating “product of South Africa” faced the customers. Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned, Botha was still leader and apartheid was still very much destroying lives. Barbara saw a simple little thing, an inconsequential label, that could be used to awaken others. Did it do anything? Who knows, but it did make a mark on me. She showed how to subvert, how to steal power from systems, how to destabilize the status quo in clever little dangerous ways that can touch an individuals heart. Powerful moves for a little Jewish/Buddhist lady. It took Barbara and I close to twenty years to begin to get along however, and she could be the most difficult and petty person you could meet. She had no appreciation for the importance and emotional validity of having fun, it wasn’t in her to seek fun, she didn’t appreciate it when it was happening around her, and we struggled about this for many many years. Barbara also created and thrived in her own drama, her own attachment to a negative perception and a stubborn refusal to change that perception. Much of her life was spent in sadness and miserable attachment to negativity, a curse I wished I could have shown her a path from towards open hearted mindfulness and being ever present in the moment. She was a great person, but she also was pretty lousy at actually practicing Buddhism sometimes. In an effort to be honest with this I also need to point out this. Barbara wrote a book called, like a second mother, ironic huh? I don’t know if she ever connected the dots on that. Her book was about Nannie’s and servants raising rich kids. There is a lot I could say about the negative experiences of my youth that can only be attributed to Barbara, a lot. But the only one that still stings, the only facet of our relationship that irks me still, is the title of that book. She was my second mother, and she lacked the skills to be nurturing and comforting, affectionate and warm. We would have benefited from a much closer relationship for far longer had she seen the hypocrisy in herself and acted upon changing it as hard as she acted to change hypocrisy in the rest of the world. I’m grateful my father married Barbara, way back in Boulder long ago, when Reagan was coming to power and the first Cold War was swinging. I’m stoked she died too, she was done with this world, she wanted no more of it, and she left knowing she was proud of the father and activist I have become, she was proud of me for my humour and compassion, my artistic perception, my commitment to skateboarding as a tool for changing lives for the better, my abilities as a fun father. I am grateful she was my step mom, and that eventually we took the step to drop the ‘step’ from her moniker. Now go find something little and innocuous and spin it around for Barbara.