Monthly Archives: September 2012


I can’t find it!!!

One of Dad’s stories (Jell-O – See) was about Helen O’Connell singing Jalousie – but I cannot find it anywhere.  Does anyone know that song?  Help!  

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Dad – where are YOU???

Where are you?

Why aren’t you answering the phone?

Dad, I have so much to tell you about my day today!

I called you  – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I know you were only a phone call away.

Where are you?

Why did you not answer?

Dad, I love my students – they are so challenging – but you would love the stories.

I called you – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I thought you said you were only a phone call away?

Where ARE you?

Why did you not answer?

Dad, you would enjoy hearing about the students.  I DID have to remove a student from my class today – but she is so amazing – I don’t know her story yet – but I know I will admire her for overcoming her adversities.

I called you  – but no one answered the phone.

Dad, I feel like you are so close – but so far.

Where ARE YOU?

Why did you not answer?

Dad – you would love these stories – to whom do I tell them?

I called you.

You didn’t answer.

Are you there?  Will you listen tonight? Were you with me today?

Dad – you didn’t answer.

Are you okay?


I’ll call again tomorrow.


Hope everything is okay.

You were always there…

Categories: Life After Dad | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The “Frog” Test: Study Not Needed

It was called the frog test.

According to research collected and posted on Wikipedia, mice used to be injected with the urine of the person to be tested and the mouse was later killed and dissected.  Presence of ovulation indicated that the urine contained hCG – meaning the female was pregant.  Rabbits were also used – but needed to be killed to check the ovaries.  The frog tests, however, arrived in the 1950s… allowed the frog to remain alive and the frog could be used repeatedly.  “A female frog was injected with serum or urine of the patient; if the frog produced eggs within the next 24 hours, the test was positive.”  Who would have thought?

For more information about early pregnancy tests, check out this website address:

Why the sudden interest in pregnancy tests?  I’m not pregnant – nor considering the possibility.  Been there done it – and David was our little miracle.

Today – I had enough mental energy to tackle some of Mom and Dad’s things I brought home from the condo.  There was a beautiful wooden box I discovered in Mom’s dresser drawer.  It was full of all kinds of sentimental reminders that Mom had collected in silence.  There were letters from Dad, naturalization papers for my Grandfather from Russia, pins, an anklet from Dad to Mom, buttons, receipts for some of Mom’s designer clothing… and a copy of a frog test.

At first, I thought it had to be a joke.  What the heck?  I mean seriously, who gets a frog test?  Furthermore, the technician was listed as PMS.  Seriously? North Bay Civic Hospital issued the test and test results:  positive.  Mom was pregnant in 1957.  Jamie would have had another little sibling…

I knew that Mom had lost a baby boy a week before he was born.  “Baby Duff” was his name – I think Dad was supposed to have named him – not sure what happened, but I do know that was something we didn’t often talk about.  Crazy, though, if this was the only “evidence” of Baby Duff – a frog test from 1957.

All in all, it does bring a joke to mind that Dad used to tell and we all groaned when he told it.  It goes like this – and forgive me – remember it’s Dad’s joke.

“Did you hear about the guy who stayed up all night long studying for a urine test?”

That’s it.  You are welcome.  Brought to you by Mom’s frog test.

How many frogs does it take...?

Mom knew she was pregnant because of a frog?

Ribbit or read-it…  your call!

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Everything Will Be Alright: If I remember correctly.

One of the things I miss most about Mom and Dad is their infernal, eternal, and ever-so-clever words of comfort.

Mom:  “Stacey, you’ll be fine.”

(Never believed her!)

Dad:  “A hundred years from now, we’ll all be dead.  So what does it matter?”

(This one had me stumped for a long time!)

Mom:  “Just do your very best.”

(I wasn’t reassured as a child as I didn’t think that would always cut it!)

Dad: ” If they don’t like it – too bad for them!”

(Didn’t get that one at all!)


How I miss their reassurances these days.  It really doesn’t matter who you are or how confident you are – everyone needs a cheer-leader.

I have been juggling and struggling this week to find a balance between work, home-life, Dad’s condo, a visiting German student, and play.  Play-time has never been a priority for me as my family were strong subscribers of the Puritan work ethic.  Work first – then play.  And there is too much work to do to play these days.

Play. For a long time I didn’t understand that word.  I really thought it meant have fun at work.  I think I still do.  And I think a lot of my play is my work.  Others, however, have a more realistic version of what play means… I think.  And I get the impression that play means recreation.  In any case, I am struggling to redefine my definition so that everyone in my family is on the same page.

Anxiety.  This emotion seems to be two emotions attached to each other:  stress and anticipated failure.  I find myself anxious these days about a lot of things.  It happens usually when things pile one on top of another.  I forget to isolate the projects and so they blurr and give me an overwhelming sense of .. anxiety.  Dad’s condo. insurance – moving furniture, marking assignments, making muffins, cleaning toilets… you get the picture.

Comfort.  I long for Mom and Dad’s words, “Stacey, everything will be okay.”.  We offer these words to our children – or we ought to offer these words to our children… but how often do we hear them as adults?  Will everything be okay?  I know, in the long run, things always find resolution.  It’s the process that is sometimes derailing, debilitating, confusing, and frustrating.  But, as fate would have it – there is always a better resolution that falls than one that could really ever be planned.

Yes.  I miss my Dad’s casual, “Don’t worry, Stacey.  You worry too much.  100 years from now… ”

I know, Dad, we’ll all be dead.  Kind of puts things into perspective.

Patience.  Perspective.

Everything will be alright.




Categories: Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

C’est un fait accomplis…

At the time it made my stomach churn.

I have never felt that sort of absolute discomfort in my life – until I took things from Mom and Dad’s that I thought – believed had no right coming home with me.

Today was the day.

Mom and Dad came home with me… I think.

My biggest question has always been, “Where are they?”.

If I take their things home with me – do they come? Or do they stay in their own place / space?  I feel Mom and Dad when I ‘m there – and I don’t necessarily feel them when I’m home.  In fact – it’s easier to decide the fate of their “things” when I bring the things home.  The things seem to become mine – and not so emotional – when they are here.  Does that mean they are really only things?

Oh, this was a day.  It will be one that I shan’t soon forget.

I served a Sunday dinner off Mom’s plates – and I sit in the front room writing this post while watching the picture frame flash me images of our lives that Dad used to watch.  There is the property – there is the Officer’s Mess – there is Dad opening his last Christmas gift – there is Mom celebrating her birthday – there is Megan’s graduation – and there is Dad’s inurnment celebration…  I don’t know how he did it; I don’t know how he watched his life flash and continue… But he did.  And I am so appreciative of that – it made my life so much easier when he got up and out of bed to “live”.

There is an image of Dad in Grade 8.

There is Mom eating off Mary Anne and Jamie’s “good” dishes in St. Catherine’s.

There is Mom, Dad, and Auntie Helen eating –

There is Jan, Jacquie, Jamie, and me as a baby.

And there is Dad and his sister Peg on the deck of the condo. that I just gave the keys away for… so that it would be on the market for sale tomorrow.

Dad is in the plane – flying.

Mom is looking beautiful in her Hawaiian outfit ready to go out to a party.

It just doesn’t stop.

I love the photos and I hate them.

Dad and Leonard Birchall….

The pool on the farm…

What did people do before technology?  What did people do before cameras?  Memories are fantastic!  And they are painful.  I guess in time – the photos will become easier to watch…

Today I thought a box that indicated its contents was a glass bowl turned out to be a box full of super 8 films… another job for Costco.

Today the letter from Revenue Canada asked me to do more paper-work.

Today – the request for help from the Cancer Society went back into the mailbox with a giant, “Deceased” marked across the front of the envelope – as did the requests for money from McLean’s, National Geographic, Parkinson’s Society… and so on.

Mom and Dad at the beach… flashes on the screen.

Mom and Dad celebrating their 61st anniversary (the last one…) with each other, Ben and I.  We had such a nice time together.

Fran and Floyd and I, on the occasion of their son’s funeral….

Today is the day – the keys to the condo have been picked up.  The final vacuum has been done (thank-you Mary Anne and Megan!) and the Royal Dalton figurines have been transported to my home.  There are safe – snuggled in a place worthy of their prominence.

We ate Sunday dinner off Mom’s plates tonight.  And they were all washed, dried, and returned to their rightful “new” location without incident.

It is all new – and it is all old.

The inurnment again.

A photo of Mom and Dad kissing.

And – it’s over.  A new day will dawn tomorrow.  For tonight though, c’est un fait accompis!






Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Rainbow: It Only Comes After the Storm

My morning walk with Barb began with a message from Mom.  I didn’t notice it at first, nor did I put the pieces together until several houses into our walk.  It was Barb who first wanted to just “stop” and look at the rainbow.  It was Barb who said, “this is a gift”.  Her words flooded my soul and cleansed me as I understood this was a gift from Mom.  The rainbow meant, “Stacey – it will all be okay.   You can’t get the rainbow without first having the storm.”  I felt this rainbow was meant for me.  It was not meant for anyone else in the world – just me.  Of course that is ridiculous – but at the time Mom was speaking right to my soul.  And had Barb not knocked on my door to get me for our walk, I would have missed this message.

So true does this ring in life.  How often is it that the darkest moments we flood our brains with feelings of doom and gloom.  The storm brews.  There is chaos – emotional chaos.  Last night was my storm.  The feeling of having to take Mom’s dishes away from the condo was just too much.  They are only dishes to everyone else… but to my brother and myself they are so much more.

They were carried in Mom’s hands as an extension of her love to us.  She served us literally and figuratively on those dishes.  We needed the food as much as we needed her love – and both were served in generous quantities.

It takes time to organize an emotional storm into something that is beautiful – just as it takes time for the rain and sun to produce a rainbow.

The rainbow reminded me that when one door closes, a window opens.  The dishes will be moved from Mom’s loving reach at the condo today – to Mom’s loving reach in my own home.  It’s my turn.  Mom may no longer be literally serving us – but we have been well served with her memory.



Everything about Mom was gentle.

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Beautiful Dreamer…

Do you remember it?

I do.

This is the song Mom sang to me when she tucked me into bed.

How lucky was I?

And her voice far surpassed Bing’s.   And the best part was that she didn’t remember all the words so she made them up.  And that makes all the difference to me now.   That was  “her” song.

Check it out.. Beautiful Dreamer  at:


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All in the name of Mom’s dishes…

In all honesty, I think sometimes I must be going crazy.

This past week I was obsessed with Mom and Dad’s deaths.

What a pleasant topic.

If I woke up in the middle of the night – I couldn’t get back to sleep as I obsessed over what I could have done to make their “journey” more peaceful. (Really?)

If I woke up in the morning, I had to get out of bed as I couldn’t shut off my thoughts about their final moments and how I could have made those moments better.

Seriously – what the heck?

My last trip to see my therapist – I was Hell – bent on finding out answers.

Who would have thought that the answer would come in the form of “dishes”.  Remember those dishes that I spoke of last week?  Well, it’s all about the dishes… Mom’s dishes.  They are the last things to go from the condo.  I just cannot bring myself to remove them.  Why?  I came to understand that their removal represents that Mom is no longer there to use them.  I never did grieve Mom as I was thrown into taking care of Dad.  I am able to remove all other things from the condo – but not Mom’s things.  The last Mom icons:  her pantry, her kitchen, her dishes… are like mountains.  When they are gone – it’s over.  She has really gone.  I am pretty good at denying that.  I used to think I didn’t remove them because I didn’t want Dad to suffer.  I now realize that in my own mind I could pretend that Mom wasn’t really gone as her dishes were still there waiting for her to cook her turkey, her roast beef, her chicken…

Tomorrow is the day.  The dishes will be packed.  I am sooooo not looking forward to it.  No matter how I candy – coat it (I’ll just bring them home and then decide what to do with them…) they are leaving “Mom’s” domain.  That means that Mom no longer needs them.  Why?  She is no longer there.  STOP!  Really???? But what if she is?  What if she is there and I’m taking her things? SILLY.  What if she disappears after all of her cooking things are gone?   STOP!  What if she thinks I’m taking her world apart?  REALLY?  What if she is screaming, please, Stacey, stop … and I don’t hear her?  EGAD.  Can I hear her screams?  I didn’t hear her when she died.  How do I know?

But, still, in spite of all this … tomorrow is the day.  The dishes will be packed.  Life – time – progress?  How does it all work?  Where are they and what will they think that I am invading their privacy?

Tomorrow is the day.


It’s almost like preparing for another funeral – tomorrow.

Honestly – all in the name of Mom’s dishes.

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Setting the Table for Sunday Dinner

It took me nearly all day to make room for Mom’s dishes.

She was so very proud of them and they came out on special occasions.  The dishes meant business – but it was all good.

Billingsley Rose by Spode.

Her glass pattern:  Pinwheel.

I always thought, “how old-fashioned!”.

So – when Kevin and I were married, we (well, I with lots of persuasion) chose a more modern pattern – black and white.  Mom wasn’t a fan, but regardless, she was the one who purchased most of the pieces.   She was pleased that we were interested in “good dishes”.  Kevin (my husband)… not so much but he went along with the “tradition”.

Sunday was family day when my brother and I were growing up.  It was a day when the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding were presented.  If it wasn’t roast beef, it was chicken.  If it could be roasted, it would be good for Sunday.

We were all expected to be home – to make time for each other – to eat together.

The table-cloth was pressed and we were each given fresh, clean napkins.  I always thought, “good grief, what happens if I wipe my mouth after eating Mom’s pickled beets?”.  Nonetheless, the napkins were there.

The table looked beautiful on Sunday.  Nothing was too good for family.  And my God the dinner was delicious.  There would always be mashed potatoes and corn from the garden – either fresh or frozen.  Always, the pickle tray was loaded with olives and home-dilled pickles.  Delicious.  Sometimes Mom would treat us to an appetizer of shrimp – in special dishes that HAD to be on the matching saucer.

I opted today to go and visit Mom and Dad rather than take the dishes from the condo.  I am ready for them – but it is tough to pull them away from their rightful place.  It seems wrong to remove them from Mom and Dad’s place.

I purchased 12 white roses.  I kept 10 and took 2 to Mom and Dad – I placed one on each of their niches.  The sun was warm.  I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings today, though.  I placed the roses.  It was important that Mom’s rose had baby’s breath and Dad’s had something more masculine.  I don’t know why.  1921 and 1924, I read.  The roses framed their plates and made them look very distinguished on this very special Sunday.  I felt the roses prepared them for Sunday dinner.  The other 10 roses are on my dinner table – just to be sure that Mom and Dad are with us on this very special Sunday dinner.

And so here we are – an hour from dinner and the table is set.  Our good dishes are out and the wine glasses sit ready for action at each place setting.  The pickle tray is loaded and the roast smells delicious.

It is Sunday night and the family will be here to dine together.  Nothing is more important than making sure that Sunday dinner is special.  There is just more to it than meets the eye.  Cuz today, nothing is more important than setting the table for Sunday dinner.




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I am Larger Than a Bread Basket… What Am I?

I Am Smaller Than a Breadbox

The “Vase” that stopped a million deaths…

I am larger than a shoe box, but smaller than a piano.

I can hold enough liquid to nourish a giant.

I am blue.

I have a base.

I am “open” at the top.

My lip is smooth.

I am larger in my middle than anyplace else.

I was a gift.

What am I?

If you guessed a giant brandy snifter from the 1960s – you know the decorative ones that you hated as a kid but parents seemed to love – you are right!

I emptied the pot pourri that Mom had had in it for the past 10 years in total.  There was likely a bit of the smelly mixture from 3 years ago, mixed with some from 4 years ago, mixed with some from 10 years ago.  There was no scent left – but she thought it looked pretty.

I washed the vessel carefully.  This startled me – that I was so careful.  My entire life I’ve hated this thing.  It had been the source of angst for me for years as I encouraged Mom to, “get rid of that ugly thing”.  And yet – there I was being so careful.  It’s entire fate was in my hands – is in my hands and I cannot believe that I am treated it so … yes, carefully.

Mom always loved it.  I’m not sure she loved it because of it’s beauty – really, who could love it?  I think she loved it because it was a gift from the people she worked with and loved at the Simcoe Medical Group.  It was a gift to say, “good-bye” to her when she “retired” from nursing.  I parenthesized nursing because she actually never retired  and was often back in the office filling in for nurses that went on holidays or were ill.  She loved these people.  They had grown up with her – and it was these women who also claimed to have trained all the new “green” doctors who, at that time, were just beginning their careers.

I turned the thing upside down to dry and stared at it.  Like the Pier One Import commercial, the stupid thing seemed to speak to me.

“Stacey, I have so many stories to tell you.  I have been in your life for so long – just sitting and observing.  I watched as your Dad received news about the death of his Dad… I watched as your parents received news about the birth of their first grand-daughter, Megan, then JJ, then Ben, then Katya, and then David.  I watched as your Mom and Dad celebrated with their friends during summer swims, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day.  When we moved to the condo I was moved to the bedroom where I saw as your Dad rose in the morning and retired at night.  I watched as your Mom nursed him back to health from pneumonia, from his stroke, from his hip surgery, and then throughout his Parkinson’s.  I was there, Stacey.  I am a part of their lives.  Finally, I watched as your Dad took his final breath.  I was with you – and I’m with you now.”

Okay – so the Pier One Import commercial may not have their things speaking exactly that intimately – but, crap, that ugly blue bowl suddenly became important to me.  It got to me.  It is staring at me right now as it dries upside down in the sink.

What do I do with it?  How can I dispose of this “treasure” that Mom loved so much?  It’s big and it’s blue!!!!  For Heaven’s sake.  Do I put it beside the samovar – or the type-writer or Dad’s straw hat?

Good grief.

I am larger than a bread – basket but smaller than a piano.

I am sometimes blue with grief and sometimes red with anger.

My main role in this family is “Mom” and to my husband I am “wife”.

I have a heart larger than life and a memory shorter than a snail is fast.

What am I?

…A sucker for sentiment.

Categories: Life After Dad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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