Celebrating Mom

My mother, Dolores, would have been 67 today. She died after a horrible battle with pancreatic cancer, early on Christmas morning in 2010. I debated as to weather I would write this tribute post to her on the anniversary of her death, or today on her birthday. It didn’t take me long to decide. Today is all about her birth – and her life.

She had just turned 21 the day after I was born (my birthday was yesterday). It would have been an honor to share a birthday with her, but Mom didn’t like to share much. I remember when I was growing up that she loved to fry up canned mushrooms in butter, but she never shared them. That was HER luxury to herself. And she loved cheese. Homemade stove-top mac & cheese with canned tomatoes was a favorite of hers. She would painstakenly grate a huge block of cheddar cheese that then sat on a plate on the counter until the noodles were cooked. I knew I was taking my life into my hands whenever I’d sneak a pinch of grated cheese and stuff it into my cheeks behind her back. It’s funny now that I too, as a mother, forbid my family from stealing cheese off the plate when I make the same dish.

Mom was a slim, petite, attractive young woman when I was a young girl. She had this shimmery, silver halter-style formal dress she wore out now and then, topped off by her clear acrylic, silver strappy high-heels (they reminded me of adult glass slippers). I would watch her get ready in her bedroom and would wish that one day I would grow up to be as pretty as my mother.

Scan 11

Until she shattered a knee-cap later in life, Mom lived in high heels. I would always make fun of the shape of her feet that naturally took on the shape of high heels. I’d often try to bend them into a straight position. She’s squeal in pain and slap me on the head. “That hurts, Kelly!” and we would both crack up laughing.

Mom hated rodents, especially rats. Anything of the rodent family was a big, fat “rat” to her, including a pet hamster I had when I was 16 years old. I lied to her in order to even have the hamster in the house, saying it was a school science project. I convinced her it was only temporary, so I didn’t bother with asking to buy an appropriate cage and thought a cardbord box would suffice until she got used to having it in the house. I ended up in hospital for a week one time. I got a phone call from Mom while still in hospital and to say she was in a panic is an understatement: “KELLY! THE DAMN RAT GOT OUT AND IT’S RUNNING AROUND THE HOUSE!”. “Well, find something to capture it, Mom, and put it back in the box. Please!” “I’M NOT GONNA TOUCH THAT FU@%ING THING! I’M STANDING ON THE COUCH AND I’M NOT GETTING DOWN UNTIL I KNOW THAT THING IS DEAD!” Needless to say, I never seen the hamster again.

She wasn’t fond of cats, either, and apparently hated fleas even more. When I was 8, my first real pet was a cat named Sunshine. Sunshine managed to pick up fleas. Mom was bitten one too many times and convinced me that we were taking Sunshine to the vets for flea treatment. On the way, while I witnessed from the back seat, mom opened the door and tossed Sunshine out onto the sidewalk while we were stopped at a light. “Oops! Sunshine jumped out of my arms, Kelly”. I watched Sunshine dodge gingerly off into the sunset, on what I later realized was a Sunday afternoon (when the vets were closed).

Mom was far from perfect but she really did the best she could. Despite the trauma as a child, I can now look back fondly as an adult and laugh at how rediculous and silly she was. Just a few years before she died, Mom lived with me and my family. She smoked all of her life and would stand on our front covered stoop and have a cigarette. One day she came in from outside looking very puzzled and said to my husband and me, “The strangest thing is happening outside…It’s raining, but only on half of the walk-way!” I replied with, “I guess rain has to start and end somewhere”, knowing that the sprinkler was going on the front lawn. Brad and I still laugh at that one.

But the thing that still makes me smile when ever I drive past is this story: On our way to Calgary from Red Deer one day, we drove past a huge concrete structure on the side of the road. Mom said, “Kelly, what is that place?” “A grain silo,” I replied. “Hmmm”, she said.

One our way back to Red Deer we passed by once again. “Kelly. Are you sure that’s an insane assylum?” I looked at her and nearly spit when I broke out in laughter so hard I almost pee’d myself. She actually heard “INSANE ASSYLUM”, when I said “GRAIN SILO”. She must have wondered for hours about all those crazy people locked down in that horrible concrete, windowless, building.

But that was Mom. She was incredibly funny and naive. Her family was her whole life. She adored her grandchildren, accepting and loving her step-grandchildren as blood. Children loved to be around her because Mom had a gift of letting go, having fun, and becoming a child herself when she was around young people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Her nieces and nephews cherished my mother, many times appreciating her more than I did. Hindsight is a gift sometimes. When she was living, I found too many occasions to criticize her, and not enough occasions to wrap my arms around her and tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. Oh to be able to do that now. All I can do, however, is write words to express how much I love and miss her and pray she understands that now.

Delores 29

Happy birthday, Mom. XOXO

Advertisements

Chiming in on Christmas

I’ve never felt so unsure about Christmas. I mean, I’m sure there IS a Christmas, but I’m not sure WHAT it is…to me, anyway.

I grew up in Newfoundland, and in my little family, there were clear and steadfast rules when it came to our Christmasses. Mom and Dad always put up and decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and it always came down on January 6, or Old Christmas Day.

There was no opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, but my Dad was the first one up Christmas morning, usually before the break of dawn, to wake Mom, my brother, and me up so he could take pictures on a real old-fashioned camera. Being a parent myself now, I know the joy of watching children opening the gifts they wished for but weren’t really expecting.

My parents split when I was 19, and I moved away from Newfoundland when I was 21. My mother eventually moved here to Alberta in 2004, so I got to enjoy about six Christmasses with her and my own family until she passed away on Christmas Day in 2010.

Being married in a blended family, and having to share our Christmas seasons with the in-laws and my stepchildren’s family, it was becoming impossible to continue with the traditions I grew up with. My husband likes to put up the tree a week or two before Christmas, and we eventually¬†slipped into the habit of opening our gifts on Christmas Eve night, saving just the stockings for Christmas morning.

Losing my own traditions leaves me secretly yearning for something more meaningful to do at Christmas. Over the years, we had invited lonely shut-ins for dinner and adopted needy families to bless with gifts, but it feels forced. I’m no longer religious (that’s a whole other blog) so going to Christmas Mass or church service isn’t what I’m looking for.

Maybe I’ll find it this year. It will be the first Christmas in 25 years that I will be spending Christmas with my dad. It won’t be on Christmas Day because I won’t see him until the 27th of December. And there won’t be snow…we’ll be visiting him in Florida where he winters.

Right now we are planning on having a big Christmas celebration on the beach in Clearwater. Maybe this will become our new Christmas tradition. Who knows. But it better be a pretty special day on the beach if it’s going to satisfy this need I have.

December 25th will always be a bitter-sweet day because it will always be the anniversary of my mother’s death. It’s a struggle to keep that particular day joyful. December 29th is the anniversary of the death of my husband’s father, who passed away in 2011, so for the same reason, that day seems to belong to his memory.

Is it wrong to celebrate the spirit of Christmas on ¬†any other day? Maybe that’s what’s missing…a whole new day that is earmarked for us to celebrate the pure joy of Christmas, unblemished by the memories of our parent’s horrible deaths.

I’ll let you know what Day we choose to celebrate Christmas when we finally do choose. Maybe Christmas on the beach in Florida will give me some clarity.