July 1st marked a decade since my Mother died. She regularly told me “I’m going to die when I’m 89”. When I’d ask her how she knew, she’d say “That’s how old my Mother was when she died”. I’d try to convince her that she was healthier than her Mother and that life expectancy had increased. She’d just laugh it off. I’d warn her to be careful what she wished for and laugh with her. Her 89th birthday was June 30 and she died on July 1st. The kicker was that Mom had been lost to dementia for 3 full years before she died, exactly when she had predicted!

My Mom married twice and had 4 children over 21 years. If she would have had access to reliable birth control, we may not have been born. She was smart as a whip and beautiful and enjoyed being in the work force more than taking care of her children. She detested staying at home when the children were young. She regularly read 5 books a week and felt that her job was to provide 3 square meals per day and to keep us out of jail. She did have to do some fancy footwork to keep my big brother out of legal trouble. He was the bad boy and her absolute favourite child! 

I’ve been remembering each of the women who stepped up for me as a child. I can’t recall all the names of these nearby neighbours. We moved every two years, so there were many. Other women at home who enjoyed crafts and invited me to join their daughters in creating something (mosaic coasters, silk screened T’s). I don’t remember being close to a few of these daughters, but these Moms knew that I loved crafts and was interested in them. So, I’d be invited to create. I was so grateful to them and to be able to explore this creative world. When I had my own children, we did all sorts of craft activities and I would invite the neighbourhood children to join us.

My Dad would tell me as an adult “We were largely inattentive parents”. It was an accurate way to describe it. Do no harm is another way. My parents relationship was the primary one and us children were trained not to interfere. I envied other children who could rush to greet their father when he arrived home. At our place, my parents sat down for a pre-dinner drink and talked about their respective days. Then, we could greet our Dad, quietly. Once we turned 16, we were treated as adults. My friends began calling them Mary and Bob and we evolved into an adult relationship in the 70’s. 

When I was 13 years old, we moved near a subsidised housing project and I got a new perspective on my childhood. Some of my new friends grabbed potato chips for breakfast. They were hit for things that wouldn’t cause a stir in my home. One friend called me to ask if I had any money that I could give her when she was being taken away by Children’s Aid. I emptied my piggy bank and met her at my front door. That was the last time I ever saw her. She whispered in my ear that she was pregnant, with her father’s child. I didn’t understand. I hadn’t even started my period and knew nothing about sex. My life suddenly felt very safe and secure. There were so many things that I could count on. And, I held on to that for a long time. 

In the last decade, I had some resentments emerge and I’ve explored traditional counselling and some alternative healing modalities to free me from the disappointments and anger towards my Mother. It’s been an interesting and circuitous journey. The details matter less than the life changing results. I kept searching. 

I’ve been able to get in touch with the wonderful gifts I got from Mom. She signed me up to volunteer from the age of 13 as she didn’t want to pay camp fees. I have continued to volunteer throughout my life and may have developed more skills from my volunteer work than my paid employment. And, that led me to becoming self employed in my 20’s. 

I got my curiosity for problem solving and my love of reading from my Mom. She modelled how to easily meet people. Mom maintained friendships for 40+ years, even with our moves. My Mom was a sexual being. She knew how to flirt with her husband and be playful with other men. Her belief was that everything will work out in the end and if things haven’t worked out, it’s not over. She taught me that if I don’t like the way things are, I can change them. That’s shaped my life. I’m self motivated to figure out what I want or need. I trust that I can make it through tough times and may be better off for it. I look for the silver lining after the tough times are done. 

My upbringing had an impact in all areas of my life. I always knew they loved me. I tried to become the Mother I wanted to have. I’ve made some of my best friends in random places and kept life long friends. I’m a curious person who knows how to make my own fun. I’m a braver person as a result of needing to do things on my own.

Her attitude towards tough times has become more evident to me as I go through the COVID lock down. During this imposed quiet time, I took on a couple of business projects that I would have been too busy to do in regular times. I embraced self development, reading and Netflix. I’ve become more comfortable spending time alone. I’ve even streamlined my apartment and I’m happier for each of these small changes. Satisfied with the steady progress in my life. 

Grateful today that she was my Mother. It’s made me feel capable to make it through. And, I’m more than ready to get back to the activities that feed and nourish me. I’ve decided not to pick up some activities that kept me busy, pre-COVID. What do I need or want has become my focus as I build my edited life.

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