Today marks the tenth anniversary of my Mom's death - it seems to have passed in moments rather than years. Last year I wrote her a letter, today I'm going to share some of her story. At least the little that I know.
Mom was on Christmas Day in 1928 to John W. and Mary Stewart (Grandpa and Nan as I knew them). Grandpa always complained the year mom was born he only got a turkey sandwich for his Christmas dinner. Maybe that is why Mom usually hosted Christmas dinner when we were children...she was still making it up to her dad.
When she was still a young child, she moved with our parents to the town where I grew up. They built a large home, in which Nan operated a rooming house, while Grandpa worked wherever he could. It was the thirties and things were not easy. Nan and Grandpa had three more children after mom, my aunts E and A, and uncle B.
As a young woman, Mom was quite the athlete (I didn't get that gene from her!). She did track and field, figure skated and played baseball. She played catcher, and had the misfortune of being hit in the face in one game, breaking her glasses. She was fortunate in the glass didn't end up in her eye but she apparently had quite the shiner.
Mom told me once when she finished high school she wanted to be a journalist and travel the world. But when she graduated, Grandpa wasn't working so she felt she had to get a job to help her family. She went to teacher's college for two years and began teaching at rural schools.
Somewhere along the line (and this is where things get fuzzy for me), Mom married, moved to Ontario and had a child, my older brother M. The marriage didn`t work out so mom returned to Saskatchewan, went back to teaching, while Nan and Grandpa carried for M.
When my brother was 4 years old, she met and married my Dad. From mom I learned the first years of their marriage were not easy. Dad was eighteen years older than mom, a man of 44 to her 26 years. He was a bit spoiled by his mom and sister with whom he still loved, and a bit set in his ways. She said he insisted that she keep track of every penny she spent. I didn`t truly believe her until we found the old ledgers when we were clearing out the house.
Eventually they had three more children, I was first, followed in rapid succession by my younger sister and brother. Although they waited five years after their marriage, mom had the three of us over a period of 35 months. I`m sure she was certain she`d never see the end of diapers!
Mom was a gardener extraordinaire. She grew a huge vegetable garden, fruit trees, and flower beds galore. Every fall she canned and froze vegetables, made jars of pickles, jams, and jellies. Her only failure was when she tried to keep chickens, between the owl and the fox, there weren`t many left in the fall for butchering.
Eventually we grew up and Mom went back to work. When I was a teenager she worked in a local hardware store, mostly over the Christmas season. I suspect her working was to help pay for the Christmas bills as she usually didn't work outside the home any other time of the year. Later, when I'd left home she got a job driving truck for a local fertilizer company through the spring months.
When Dad retired from farming, they moved to a house in town. Mom became more involved in her local church and volunteered at the hospital canteen. She had Dad work up a huge garden spot for her and three flower beds were also added. She loved to dig in the dirt (this I did inherit from her).
Mom had her first stroke on Christmas Eve 1994. (Christmas dinner that year sucked...it was the first time the rest of us tried to cook a turkey without Mom supervising, While I complain I suspect the day was worse for her). She lost some mobility on her left side, though eventually regained most of it. Unfortunately she continued to have small strokes the rest of her life and each one took a little more out of her.
The last year of her life was especially hard for her. Mom lost a lot of weight, had difficulty eating, and was in obvious discomfort. Although she was never diagnosed (she refused to have the tests) it became clear to everyone she likely had cancer. Despite her pain, she kept up her garden (with Dad's help) and in the weeks before she was hospitalized she purchased Christmas gifts for her family.
In late November 2003, she told her doctor she needed to be hospitalized or moved to a nursing home. Dr K. agreed and she was admitted to the hospital for the last time. Less than a month later, she passed away with my brother R and I by her side. She was nine days short of her 75th birthday.
Mom was an incredibly strong woman, with strong opinions and frequently a sharp tongue. She loved her family, but had difficulty showing it, hugs and kisses were not easy to give or receive. Instead she demonstrated her love in her baking, her cooking and her (often unsolicited) advice. She could be sarcastic and had a quick wit. I recall her telling me once, that I was growing faster east-west than I was north-south.
Her life was not easy, she put aside her own dreams to help her parents and her children, and often put her own needs last. Mom was my role model and although I didn't necessarily appreciate her at the time, I wish she were still here telling me what to do and how to do it!
I miss you Mom, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you and wish we had had more time together.