To put it lightly the past few years have been a bit of a nightmare. Contrary to what social media would lead you to believe, things have not been great.
I made a lot of money (at least in comparison to what I’d been making). The money I made for the work I did kept me away from home a lot... and I liked that. Not just the salary but the being away. I’d been waiting my whole life to work on set and finally I was there.
It was three years of back to back films and tv shows before people in my family started dying or almost dying.
I didn’t go to the first funeral because I was on set. The second funeral happened directly after we wrapped the third season of Letterkenny and so I went.
I worked continuously for months after until we finished a hallmark Christmas movie and my dog got sick. I tried to save her. When the vet said it would cost $4000 to buy her some time I paid upfront, in cash with my per diem from work.
The problem was that the money could only provide comfort, not a cure and she died. This loss led to a nearly compulsive need to make more. It was my safety net. I didn’t take time off. If something bad ever happened again I would be ready for it.
I booked another 4 week show and left. I travelled with the last stuffed toy I ever gave her. A penguin. It’s fur felt like hers. In the morning I would tuck it away so room service wouldn’t be tempted to touch it. When I met (my now boyfriend) I warned him not to touch it either.
I never took a break despite being told I seemed sad. I did my job and I did it very well. I wasn’t laughing or enjoying myself. I cried in the hotel shower before work in the morning and carried on.
That spring we wrapped another movie of the week and I found out my cousin had cancer. I spent a bit of time with him but not enough. I tried to bring treats and fun things with me when I would visit. When his illness turned his handsome body into a living corpse we decided to smoke a joint in the backyard, covered up in the super hero blankets we loved as kids. We talked about movie stars and how messed up the world is. I left two days later for a shitty job I didn’t care about and he died while I was gone.
I found out we had lost him via text while I was on set. I remember going to the trailer and wanting to cry. I called my aunt (my cousins mom) and she couldn’t cry either. Not because we didn’t care but because it hurt that much. That kind of pain can take everything you have including your tears. I could have left the show but I didn’t. I just became more detached. Not even the toy penguin could console me now.
I had a few weeks off after that show. I spent a lot of time getting facials and massage therapy. Beauty services that don’t require you to talk.
I was living mostly at my boyfriends by the time the next show started and I was starting to feel slightly more human again. He’s funny and nice and no (thankfully) he hasn't died.
The show lasted about four weeks and in addition to my work on set I was still running my shop. Incase you don’t know I own and operate a business (both online and in a salon setting) doing hair and makeup.
On the morning that we wrapped, I had already worked a 19 hour day. My mom volunteered to watch the retail side of the store for me and I crashed at my parents house. I woke up at about noon, got myself a glass of water and my Dad asked me to take him to the hospital because he was having a heart attack. I won’t get into what that experience was like (out of respect to my father) who by the way is doing really well.
The money I made on that previous show paid for the 7 days I spent in the hotel next to the Sudbury hospital. It paid for the food I ate there too. When my Dads surgery was over I booked my first show as head of department makeup and left.
I liked being in charge because finally I had some say (or at least advance warning) of what was happening around me. It seemed like the shows would never stop and I never turned one down. I still called home to touch base even when I couldn’t remember what city I was in. I also started taking courses to upgrade my skill set. I wanted to be hard to replace.
I was out of town (for a training course) when my friend fell and became paralyzed. I didn’t come home because there was nothing I could do to help. That course ended and I went back to work.
At this point my grandma started telling me “don’t work too hard”. She told me that a lot but I didn’t listen. I thought she didn’t understand and her concerns were unnecessary because I wouldn’t burn out and I didn’t. In fact, I started working on bigger shows, in bigger cities until they told me she was sick.
I stayed in Toronto, worked on set and visited her in the hospital. I wasn’t there when she had surgery but I was there when she came home. I don't know why I wasn't there.
The nice thing about film is that there is usually a hiatus and it happened at the same time she was sick. I stayed home and I cooked for her as often as I could. I wish I had stayed with her to eat what I made but I was afraid to accept what was happening. I would drop the food off, give her a kiss and leave. To this day it's my biggest regret.
When it got really bad I was there to hold her hand and kiss her cheek. I had a line up of different drinks to keep her hydrated. I sat there for hours, not talking just watching her sleep. I took a shameful amount of pride in being one of few people who could get her to eat or drink. V.B (her alias) was my hero, I wouldn’t let her down.
I like to tell people that the V (the initial of her first name) actually stood for violence and that she would slap the shit out of anyone who bothered her family. Small, mighty and riddled with phobias she was still fearless in her pursuit to overcome them. Now I like to think that her initials actually stood for very beautiful which she was.
My grandma is the only person to ever love me unconditionally, sometimes condoning bad behaviour knowing I would do the same for her. I would excuse anything she did. She would cancel doctors appointments without telling anyone. Dangerous... but I saw the humour in it. Why not allow her some freedom to make choices. She was of sound mind. A pizza at 10 am? Done.
I wasn’t just a grandchild, she was my friend. She was my best friend.
I hated the palliative care doctor. She did nothing “wrong” but drove a white Porsche SUV in a city of 50,000 people and that pissed me off. She was all too comfortable with death. Death was her business and her job but it wasn’t ours. My grandma and I made fun of her behind her back. We made fun of a lot of you behind your backs... and we enjoyed it.
When she died, I drove to her house at 4am. I somehow knew I wouldn’t make it, but I was going to be there as soon as possible.
They say even after you die your brain is still somewhat aware of what is happening around you, for a time. She was safe and warm protected by my uncles and my aunt. The blanket I got her resting at her feet. Still as beautiful as she was in life. Perfection even in death. I didn’t say goodbye, I told her “See you later”.
At the service her eyebrows were on like I promised. Her roots were covered and her hair colour slightly auburn, the way she liked.
She wore her own pink MAC lipstick, it was slightly bright for the occasion (but she was French) and her nails I had recently manicured.
I had nothing left to give. It was my job to make sure she was taken care of and presented in a way she would have liked. She was the most glamorous and generous person I have ever known and at least I can say, at that point, I was there to give her the star treatment.