Lynn’s handwritten introduction describes her mother’s three-year battle with cancer and her final days, and the collection itself is dedicated to her late mother, Ursula Marian Ridgway.
As everyone must surely remember, this is the collection feauring the death of Grandma Marian, but what I found more interesting was the arrival of Dee Doormat, who tried to stand up to Mike's emotional manipulation and blackmail, but didn't put up much of a struggle and just let him get away with his atrocious behaviour. I'm sure his actions were meant to be seen as sweetly romantic gestures from a young man madly in love and sure of what he wants, but it is pretty unpleasant.
Recurring characters (re-)introduced:
- Eva Sobinski (now with a first name)
- Wilf Sobinski (looking a lot stronger than he would in future strips)
- Helen (unseen), someone on the dental clinic staff (could this be the former Hélene-with-only-one-accent from the first collection? Has she been dropping accents and letters ever since? Is she now Elen or Hele?)
- Mal, a proof-reader who shares a meal with Mike, Weed and an unnamed girl who works at CPOP Radio
- “Sudsy” Ryan (unseen), a fellow RCAF flyer with Jim during the war
- a variety of unseen characters: Troy, Shawna-Marie’s ex-boyfriend, who is now dating Vikki after she moved back to their school from Westlake and got back together with him, but Shawna-Marie is now sort-of seeing Troy’s friend Craig, who used to date Shannen and is just hanging with Shawna-Marie until Shannen breaks up with Brett. Dawn tells Shawna-Marie that she can do better than this and Shawna-Marie agrees: that’s why she’s waiting for Vikki to break up with Troy any day now.
- Graham and the O’Grady’s – people / family from Liz and Anthony’s graduation class
- Elly was named for her grandmother, Elizabeth, but her parents called her Elly (I can’t decide whether this means that her real name is Elizabeth and her parents called her Elly as a nickname, or if her parents named her Elly as a name similar to Elizabeth).
- Phil was named for his Aunt Phyllis, who still lives in England
- Wilf Sobinski owns a hardware store
- Elly buys John a cell phone for Christmas (well, the box April finds says “Cell Mate Cellular Phone” but the illustration looks like a slim design landline, complete with curly cord and a cradle)
- Jim and Marian married in 1946
- Gord and Tracey would like to add on to their apartment, but want to pay John back first, but John declines, saying that he’s happy to be a part of their success.
- in a Sunday strip Liz and Dawn talk about their future plans. Well, actually Liz talks and Dawn listens. Liz was thinking of taking general arts but really likes biology so now wants to check out science courses first, with an eye towards teachers’ college eventually, but she’d like to work for a while, take a year off and travel. Her hope is one day to teach high school, so she knows that the more varied her experiences, the better.
- Liz wears an old dress of Elly’s to her grade 12 graduation, one which Elly never got to wear because she graduated from a size 8 to a size 12.
- during the summer of 1998 Mike says he’s 22
- Weed has his great-grandfather’s nose
- Anthony is the valedictorian at the grade 12 graduation (1998)
Liz is spending a lot of time driving around with her friends and is getting fed up with the lack of financial contributions from Dawn and Shawna-Marie, especially after a $26 gas bill leaves her wallet empty. She complains to her parents, who both point out that she needs to be telling this to her friends.
Liz demonstrates to April the advantages of wearing a nylon stocking instead of socks when she plays at being Sockhead, but the strip went into new-runs before we learned if April followed this up with a life of crime. What did happen during this episode was the discovery that April had lice, as did a number of her classmates: April was proud to be the first.
Mike struggles through all-nighters, preparing for his exams and helping out with the campus newspaper. Deanna is also worn out from all the work she has been putting into her courses, and particularly from the ambiguous questions on her recent biochemistry exam, and wishes for a straightforward question with a straightforward answer. Mike asks, “Do you love me?” Deanna is unable to answer, as she hopes her actions spoke more than words. She pleads with Mike to let her say it in her own time, reminding him that she almost married someone once and had told him that she loved him, so now just wants to wait until she is absolutely certain before she says them again.
Deanna accompanies Mike home at Christmas, nervous about meeting his parents for the first time (since they were kids, I assume), while Elly is nervous about meeting Deanna. Six-year old April promptly asks if Mike and Deanna are in love “wif” each other. The family dinner is a success, but when Elly and John rehash the evening that night in bed, Elly clobbers John with a pillow when he whistles and points out how cute Deanna was, justifying it as trying to see things from a single guy’s point of view. (At least Elly is smiling in the final panel as John lies under his pillow and describes this position as the married guy’s point of view.)
A few night’s later it’s Mike’s turn to play Meet the Parents and he spends Boxing Day with the Sobinskis. He bought Deanna a locket for Christmas and she bought him a ghastly diamond-patterned sweater. Dee’s parents, Eva and Wilf, stuff Mike full of food and Dee and her mother eavesdrop as Mike and Wilf bond, with Wilf dragging out his favourite anecdotes, like “when my father got off the boat”, “you young people don’t know how good you have it” and the “joke about two guys from Warsaw”. Mike laughs at the appropriate moments and is a hit with the Sobinskis.
The final approval visit takes place at Gord and Tracey’s New Year’s eve party where, as the clock strikes twelve and with the hosts, baby Paul and Brian looking on, Mike tells Deanna he loves her. When she begs him to stop telling her that, be goes outside to shout it to the world, then climbs up onto the roof, still shouting that he’s crazy about her. He refuses to come down until she promises that she’ll still be with him the following New Year’s Eve. Deanna promises and Mike asks if this means that she loves him. She agrees and finally says “I love you”; they embrace as Gord watches and Mike thought-bubbles, “Hah! I knew it all along!!!”
Connie advises Elly on natural remedies to relieve menopausal symptoms and other herbal remedies she takes on the advice of her hairdresser. John tells Elly that her breath smells like grass (a euphemism?) when she tries taking some for herself after another evening of flapping nightgowns. Connie doesn’t believe that men would be able to handle all the reproductive demands women go through.
Liz can’t concentrate when she does her homework at the dining room table, surrounded by family, but says it’s too lonely to do it in her room, although she tries to take her books upstairs when Anthony comes over and finds herself ordered to stay and work downstairs. Anthony notices how tired Elly is looking and asks Liz if her mother is feeling well. Liz tells him that Elly is worried about Marian.
Elly flies to Vancouver where she learns that Marian’s condition is serious and Jim confesses that he couldn’t find the words to tell Elly just how sick her mother was. Marian is frail and too tired to sit up, so Elly gets Marian’s doctor to arrange for her to be hospitalized. Marian takes the opportunity to flirt with the handsome young ambulance attendants, thinking that she has always wanted to make a pass at handsome young men and is now free to do so. In a very touching strip, Jim returns to their bedroom for a moment and touches the spot where she was lying and thinks how it’s still warm.
Phil calls John to let him know that he’s on his way to Vancouver and Liz understands what this means, but John tries to keep her from letting April find out; April is eavesdropping and thought-bubbles that they always think that she won’t understand. Elly, Phil and Jim take walks around Vancouver and around the hospital with each other, talking about their mother and her courage and humour in her final days. Elly sits and watches over her mother in her hospital bed and asks her to look after the children from heaven. As Elly and Jim, unable to sleep, sit and watch the sunrise, the phone call from the hospital comes with the news that Marian passed peacefully in her sleep. At the same time, as Liz makes April breakfast in Milborough, April tells Liz that Grandma Marian feels closer. (Liz looks gobsmacked, but she is later shown not to be sensitive to the presence of spirits when Grandma Marian, cursed by Elly to haunt the Pattermanse for all eternity, is stuck helping with the wedding dress alterations.)
Speaking of wedding dresses, on page 61 is a picture of Jim and Marian’s wedding (and the real dress) as Elly recounts to John the story of her parents’ early years after Jim refused to take off Marian’s wedding band. They had been too poor to spend much, so Marian chose the least expensive one – $10 – and, since she never took it off in 50 years, he wasn’t about to take it off now.
Elly asks Jim to come back to Milborough with her and he is given Liz’s room and Liz takes over Mike’s room (this despite the fact that in the previous collection Mike’s room is turned into a guest room in anticipation of Grandpa coming to live with them). Jim bonds with April, who feels left out when Liz won’t tell her about Mike’s e-mails, calling April a blabbermouth who’ll run straight to Elly with any news, and when Elly is too busy to do anything with her. Jim shares his war stories with Liz and April and Elly comments wryly that she’s heard her dad’s story about the enemy pilot and the parachute over 2,000 times – all four versions of it. Jim finds the days bearable as he tries to look happy and be funny and overall cope with his loss, but the nights are so hard, alone in bed and missing Marian. Edgar decides to climb in and keep him company and Jim tells Edgar what he feels unable to share with anyone else: his indecision about what to do next with his life. He visits the local seniors’ centre to take a look around but felt that there were too many old people…then was invited to join in a game of cribbage and stayed for a while.
Jim spends lots of time taking Edgar for walks and confiding in the dog, telling April that Marian had never wanted a dog in the house because they were noisy, messy and always wanted attention – and she already had Jim. He and April look over old family slides and there’s a picture of Elly holding Liz as a newborn. April feels a bit left out that there aren’t any of her, but Jim comforts her. Liz e-mails Mike with descriptions of some of the pictures of him doing dumb things (when he and Gord blew up pink rubber gloves and acted like cows, the sock-sniffing contest) and asks how much it’s worth to him to keep them off the internet.
Mike wrote stories about the subjects of the photographs in Weed’s gallery showing and the duo are profiled in Portrait magazine. They wonder of they will end up working together, but Mike feels that he isn’t aggressive enough to be a journalist but would probably starve as a novelist. Later he explains to Weed that he isn’t cut out for journalism but feels compelled to write and is willing to starve to do what he wants to do. Mike decides to stay in London for the summer and work on a project with Weed, so Liz applies for – and gets – Mike’s old job at Megafood. Mike and Weed sunbathe together on the roof of Mrs Dingle’s and Weed tries to get Mike to relax through rhythmic breathing and chanting. Mrs Dingle, not knowing that they’re on the roof, shuts their window and leaves them trapped. Mike tries to climb down and manages to pull a screen door off its hinges with its weight. Mrs Dingle lets him into her home to patch up his injuries – “Better than letting you bleed all over my rock garden” – she tells him. Mike sees a photo of her husband and Mrs Dingle says: “That’s him. Bobby Dingle. One of a kind, he was! He loved to work, he loved to drink and he loved to fight – an’ when he wasn’t workin’ or drinkin’ or fighting…he loved me.” She sent Mike back to his apartment with a tin of butter tarts.
Deanna drives Mike to the bus station so he can catch the bus back to Milborough in preparation to fly out to Marian’s memorial service in Vancouver. Mike talks about his two families: his friends in London and his family in Milborough, and tells Deanna that he’d choose to be related to her if she’d choose to be related to him. She doesn’t respond, so he continues to push and tells her that he knows she’s pretending that she didn’t hear him and he knows that she’s not ready to make the commitment, so will stop dropping hints about it, then says he’ll give her a ring when he gets home (pun alert).
Jim sends the Pattersons to go stay with Elly’s cousin Cheryl and her family, and walks through his house, three months after Marian’s death, musing how everything looks the same but his life has changed so much. Marian’s memorial has more than 60 people attending, with the service at the botanical gardens and the reception at the Masonic Hall. Liz sings one of Marian’s favourite songs, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, accompanied by Phil on the guitar. Phil also read the eulogy and other family members shared stories about her, read poems they’d written and talked about how she’d influenced their lives. Jim said that he was the luckiest man on earth to have had her choose him as her partner.
Mike and Liz take April to the beach and talk about their respective relationships. Mike is ready to make a commitment with Deanna and frustrated that she doesn’t yet feel the same; Liz tells him that she has the rest of his life ahead of him and tells him that he’s not ready to get married. She also says that Anthony is a really nice guy “an’ everything”, but she doesn’t think it’s forever. Mike agrees: Anthony is just her first love and first love isn’t really love, just practice. Liz reminds Mike that he called it love when he was with his first love, Martha, and he defended himself saying that it was just puppy love. Liz retorts that, “No matter what you call it, love is love until it’s over.” Mike asks how she got so smart and she replies, “I’ve been in love a few times.” As the Pattersons prepare to leave Vancouver, Jim declines their invitation to live with them, but says that, after his stay with them, he has decided to get a dog.
Mike drops by to see Gord and Tracey and learns that they’re adding another work bay to the garage and a coffee shop, but their big news is that Tracey is expecting again. Tracey’s parents had just bought a condo, so Gord and Tracey will rent their apartment to one of their mechanics and move into Tracey’s parents’ house. Gord is starting to lose his hair and Tracey has heard from Liz about how serious Mike is about Deanna. Mike insists that he’s not ready to get married, but getting engaged is a possibility.
Recurring themes / This strip conserves punchlines
I don’t understand this modern technology stuff: Liz tries again to teach Elly how to use e-mail.
Speaking FOOBian: for no apparent reason, Liz, Dawn and Shawna-Marie think it’s hilarious to speak backwards for a few strips.
Tongues: Liz proves how mature she is on her grade 12 graduation day by blowing a raspberry at Mike.
There’s no place like home: Elly arrives in Vancouver, thinking about being 3,000 miles away from her husband and children, only for Jim to say, “Welcome home!” Jim packs most of the things in his room in Milborough in preparation and announces, “I’m going home.”
Appearance: Elly complains to Connie that she is starting to get a double chin and Jim tells her that she looks just like her mother. Connie’s jaw is becoming increasingly square in the drawings. Elly would rather struggle to read the print on a menu than admit she needs to wear glasses.
Trust in fate: Elly regrets that she was laid off at work, but tells Connie that there must be a guardian angel looking after her because now she has time to fly to Vancouver to look after her parents.
Recycling and hypocrisy: Elly stops John from throwing out used Christmas wrapping paper which has been carefully smoothed and folded and can be re-used, but John points out that he’s throwing out last year’s paper which didn’t get re-used this year.
Flap’n’honk Woman: Elly has now been going through menopause since 1993-4 and is still flapping her nightclothes. By page 75 we have our third (possibly fourth – I don’t care to look back) nightgown-flapping strip, this time accented with a giant “WHONK!” as Elly blows her nose after gargling and before resuming flapping.
What’s in the crawl space?: Outdoor Christmas lights, a 5,000 piece gigantic puzzle and clinic files from 1995-6, unsorted photographs and slides (boxes labelled old house and baby, 1972-?, holiday ’85, farm trip 1989, renovation pictures, duplicates, university stuff, 1981, 1986, 1990, some puppy pictures, dental lectures & family, unknown people, odd projector attachments.