Thursday, May 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Mum

Today, May 28, is my mother's 94th birthday.  I've just come home from Winnipeg where I visited her, along with my sister and her family.

Mum, several birthdays ago

Ninety-four years is a long time to live, but not so unusual in Mum's family where they routinely live to well in their 90s.  Both of Mum's parents lived to be almost 95 with their minds and personalities intact.  Something seemed to go wrong with Mum's generation though.  Mum and four of her siblings have been striken with Alzheimer's Disease, the other four having predeceased her at an earlier age.

It seems like a cruel fate to live to a great old age without any memories of what has gone before and with no knowledge of loved ones, friends and home.  It has been about six years since Mum has recognized my sister and me and our families.  It makes us sad.  We care for her and visit her and talk to her though because we still remember her and the special person she used to be.  Occasionally she makes eye contact and seems to smile at something we say.  Those occasions are treasured.

A visit with three of my daughters, three years ago

Wendy and I wheeled her out to the courtyard garden of the nursing home where she lives...she always loved to be outside where she could hear the birds (she used to talk back to them in her younger days) and see the beautiful works of nature.  On this occasion we sat on a bench in the shade with her facing us in her wheelchair.  She would glance up at us occasionally and finally I took her hand and said, "Mum, you recognize me don't you?  I'm Pat the Brat".  She looked up at me and smiled.  I like to think that for a brief instant she did recognize me.  It made my day. Its a hard thing to have been forgotten by someone as important to you as your mother.  It is up to us now to keep her memories alive.

Mum and Pat the Brat

Mum was born at home in a little country village in Nova Scotia, the fifth of fourteen children - seven boys and seven girls.  As the second daughter in the family she was given responsibilities as she grew up and helped her mother with the new babies and keeping the house clean.  She used to tell us that she and her siblings didn't know there was a depression on during those hard years.  She and her sibling used to hunt and fish and set traplines during the winter.  Gardening was essential as was picking berries for canning...something she taught us to do as we grew up.  Hers was a happy family.
She still enjoyed fishing

Mum (on the right holding the cat) with her mother
and five of her younger siblings
During the Second World War she worked at the offices of the Ministry of War Transport in Halifax, doing her part in the war effort.

The working girl

When the war was over she met my Dad, who had served overseas in the Canadian Army with several of Mum's brothers, cousins and an uncle.  They were married in 1946, and it wasn't long before Wendy and I were born, less than a year apart.  The family was made complete by the adoption of our beloved brother, Ken, in 1951.

August 10, 1046

Being in the Army, and later with the Post Office, Dad was transferred around every two or three years.  This was exciting stuff for Mum having been born and raised in one little village, but I never heard her complain and she always made a comfortable home for her family. It instilled a love of travelling in her and she was able to later travel to England, Scotland and the Netherlands, as well as the US.  The most memorable of Dad's postings was when his regiment was sent to Germany in 1960 and wives and children went along with them.

We travelled to and from Germany by sea

Mum and Dad retired home in Nova Scotia where once again they were surrounded by their siblings and their families.  Mum developed several hobbies during those years...sewing, quilting, liquid embroidering, and crafts of just about every kind, and her lucky children and grandchildren were the recipients of many of her projects.

Mum playing with my two oldest babies and Lad, the dog. She made
a tent out of blankets for them to play in.

Her life was not without sadness, but her optimistic nature always helped her rise above it and move on.  In 1991 my brother Ken was killed in a mining accident.  He was 39 years old.  Then two years later Dad suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.  She lived alone in their home until she was no longer able to be on her own due to the onset of Alzheimer's.  She has lived under Wendy's care in Winnipeg since 2006.

Mum was a happy person, loved by all, energetic and fun loving.  And she always had a cat!  Dad claimed not to like cats but he saw to it that she was never without one.  They were a great pair - a wonderful example to their children of how good a marriage can be.

So, Happy Birthday Mum.  I hope on some level you understand how much love your life has been filled with and how important you have been to so many people.  Until we meet again.




HAPPY 94th. What a lovely tribute to your mom on her birthday. It is sad indeed that Alzheimer's Disease ravages the mind. But it is wonderful to know her memories will live on in you and your siblings.

Mickey said...

Have happy memories of visiting your Mom, with you Pat, in Winnipeg.
She was still living on her own and and it was such an enjoyable visit!
Happy Mickeyxo

Anonymous said...

A nice post Pat! I'm really glad we took that trip in 1999 so I got to spend some time with your mom and her family. She's lived a pretty interesting life. Like you I look forward to visiting with her again someday. As Anson would say 'big hug'



I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

94 years is something to celebrate for sure. It's so sad that she doesn't have memories of those days. It's wonderful that you have found a good place to care for her and that you try to keep the memories alive for her with your visits.

Bouncin Barb said...

Pat, I'm giving you a virtual hug ((( ))). This was such a beautiful post and what a tribute to your Mom's long life. What you shared was very moving. Your Mom had a lot of love in her for sure. The photos are amazing. I love the glimpses into her past and yours. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I especially loved the picture of her fly fishing! I hate that she has Alzheimer's and pray that there are glimpses in her mind of her beautiful life. Perhaps when she dreams. We can only hope. XX

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