Monthly Archives: March 2013

Katarina Alexandra

IMG_0705She burst into this world on March 22, 1996.  My husband and I struggled with names for her.  Here was this angelic little girl whose spirit pounded at you from first glance.  We knew she was a gift from God – and had to be named for her gentle, yet strong character.  Her name needed to be as unique as her character was destined to be.  Yes – strong.  It needed to respect my Russian heritage as well since Ben, her brother, was representing the other sides of the family and my Moms heritage was left un-represented.

A student of mine had just previously written a speech about the sudden death of the Russian figure skater Sergei Grinkov – died of a heart attack on the ice.  His partner both on the ice and in life, was named eKatarina Gordeeva.  (Check out this fantastic website:  Her strengthand courage became iconic.  She was beautiful, intelligent, a true athlete, and humanitarian.  What name, then, could be more a propos!  We named our daughter Katarina (Katya) Alexandra. It was a name befitting of greatness.

There was a snowstorm when I went into labour and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital on time.  It was, admittedly my own fault.  Katya wanted to be born – I went into labour – while I was finishing up my last batch of report cards.  Can you imagine having a baby and THEN writing reports? I couldn’t.  And so – it went like this:  type, type, type – grooooooan.  Type, type, type – grooooooan.  Until the contractions were 1 minute apart.  Katya could not WAIT to enter the world. And she entered the world with vigour.

And it has been that way ever since.  From skating – to piano – to gymnastics – to singing – to cross-country running – to karate – to wresting – to rugby… you name it – she is in it.  I joke that I registered Katya for ballet (and she was so very cute leading her group in the final performance of  – Oh, Bear ) and ended up in wresting.  (I guess there are some transferrable skills?)  She does not enter any sport gently – it is always with vigour.

A couple summers ago, my husband and I sent Katya with her Grandma to visit her aunt in Belgium.  They travelled all over Europe.  As they travelled, Grandmas health declined.  Katya made sure she came home safe and sound – my little girl… She travelled with vigour and cared with vigour.

She is now enrolled in a program at school which takes students to a completely different academic, social, and personal level.  Global Perspectives is a challenging program seeing students study together on global issues and travel together to Cuba and Germany.  She tackles the challenges this program presents – eats them up and spits them out for breakfast – you might say.  She works with everyone in the class – no matter who.  In her eyes, everyone deserves a chance to be her friend.

I remember a time when our family was visiting a friend in Washington.  We stayed at a hotel.  Washington was much more multi-cultural than Barrie – and so – there, for the first time, Katya met a person whose skin was darker than hers.  My little white-haired blonde girl was opposite to the doorman in every way in terms of appearance.  He was tall and very dark – she, little and very white.  It made no difference to her.  He had been very good to our family during our stay at the hotel.  When we left – Katya was disappointed that he was not there.  She asked where he was to the ladies at the front desk and informed them that she would like to say good-bye.  They grinned, called him off his break, and he appeared at the front desk rather confused.  Katya rushed over to him and hugged him.  He was so touched by her that he cried.  To this day – Katya reaches out to those who others may overlook – with vigour.

From Graca Machel – Nelson Mandela’s wife for whom Katya had the opportunity to draw and give a picture, to Silken Laumann, to the random child on the street – Katya meets them all.  And they are all equal in her eyes.  Katya brought a girl home once, that she did not even know. But the girl was sad and was alone.  It turned out that she was having troubles at home.  She brought this girl home to our home so that she would be safe… After tears, much loving-listening, and a few phone calls to her Dad – the girl was returned to her family.  There was never a doubt in Katya’s mind that she would help this girl. It didn’t matter that this girl was a complete stranger – she was in need.

Katya’s birthday slipped by this year without pomp and ceremony.  She went to a wrestling tournament in Haggersville and so was not home. I bought a dozen roses to mark the occasion.  We celebrated with a small gathering and had cake and pizza when she came home.  It was a humble celebration for a young lady whose life is lived out loud.

My daughter is far from quiet.  She is far from the ballet dancer I had anticipated as a young mother.  She is far from the shy and timid child that I was when I was young.  She is far from being a follower – – Thank God.

I count my blessings when it comes to having Katya as a daughter.  She is everything a mother would hope for:  caring, thoughtful, strong, independent.  She is a force with which this world will need to recon.

And so – although late – I wish my little girl a very happy birthday.  May you continue to live life to the fullest with both grace and passion – as only you know how.  I love you, Katarina.

( Now, if you would only do something about cleaning up your room… grin )

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Mom and Dad were finally layed to rest…

Since I remember, Mom had her nursing graduation photo above her bed and Dad had his pilot’s grad. photo above his.  They indicated who slept where – on which side of the bed.  They were icons.  Everyone who saw the photos commented on what a handsome couple they were.  “Your Mom was  a real looker” they’d say – and, “wow – what a mischievous smile your Dad had.” 

Any comment that was repeated in their company would be met with a blush and a grin.  “Oh”, Mom would say bashfully.  “I don’t know what happened to that gal”.  Dad would say, “yeah, cocky young pilot with the world at my feet.”

Those photos were as much Mom and Dad as Mom and Dad were.  They were the first things to come off the wall when they moved and the first to go back on the wall when they arrived.  They were legend. 

Tonight – the stager came to the condominium.  She was wonderful, kind, and sensitive. She kept watching me to see how I was reacting to the suggestions she made – but she missed my reaction – gut -wrench – when she took Mom and Dad’s photos off the wall.  They had been watching vigil over Dad as he passed and they had been watching vigil over the empty place as prospective buyers passed through.  What the stager knew had to happen, happened.  I knew it – and she knew it.  There was just too much Bill and Paula in that room. It took someone else to “do the deed”, but I knew it had to be done. 

I left apartment 1001 tonight knowing that things had changed.  Mom and Dad were no longer there – they never had been in the material things – always there in spirit in my heart. 

Yes – things were different – I was more peaceful.  Now, that’s not to say a few tears were shed as I entered into yet another stage into adulthood (finally).  But, it felt good. 

And I think they finally felt free to leave apartment 1001.  Finally, they were “off the wall”. 

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Is it time to move on to the next stage?

IMG_2601It has been a long time that Mom and Dads condominium has been on the market.  I did not know for the longest time whether to rent or to sell.  So, recently I did both – hoping Mom and Dad would guide the direction of the sale.

IMG_2606I am now realizing that if it is to be  – it is truely up to me.  I think this means I have reached another benchmark in my grief.  I asked, I waited, I anticipated a sign from my parents – hoping they would make yet another decision on my behalf.  Growing up, I never had to really take a lot of responsibility as Mom and Dad bailed me out.  If I was too tired to bake the loaf of bread for 4 – H club (as if any of you readers know what that is….) Mom would bake it for me.  Any dress that I did not finish (which was often as I had no patience for sewing) Mom would finish for me.  This could go on and on – but I think the pattern is quite obvious.  The condo is not selling and I was waiting for Mom and Dad to come to my rescue once again.

Tonight – I took the bull by the horns and called a stager.  I had no idea what that was until my real estate agent explained it – someone who can help make the place look more modern…. and I guess more sellable.  Anyhow, I feel like I have taken a big, bold step forward – on my own.  Imagine.  Maybe I am finally growing up?

Mom was always very proud of her home and I thought it looked very beautiful.  She had originally enrolled in University to become an interior decorator.  The war, however, broke out and her program was cancelled.  She took nursing instead.  Good thing because she turned out to be a wonderful nurse and put her talents to use her entire life.  Nontheless, here I am hiring someone to redesign what she had taken such time and loving care to design herself.  IMG_2593

What will be changed?  Will I remove Dads montage?  Will the stereo cabinet go?  Will the sheer curtains come down?  What about that chandelier?  It is all these things that I so heavily associated with Mom – yet it could very well be these things that need to be removed.  I think I am okay to let go now.  I did not think that I would ever be at this stage of the game.. but I believe now that it is time to move on.   I hope.


Categories: Life After Dad, Mom | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Home is Where the Family is …

For the second year in a row – Ben, our oldest boy/ man will not be coming with us to Myrtle Beach.  It is not that he does not love us anymore.. I hope.  He is now in college – and the colleges have already had their break.  This leaves him home – alone – for a week – with a car.  Hmmm.  Am I too naïve to be worried  – nay.  Trusting.  Life is changing.

For the first year in a long time I have not had to plan, plan, and plan care for Dad.  I was always so worried that one of Dads caregivers would not make a shift and then Dad would be left alone on a week-end.  So – I over-scheduled and had back up after back-up.  The food was all prepared, packaged, and frozen for the week.  The bills were all paid in advance.  Phone numbers and contact information was thoroughly communicated… you get the drill.  Dad would also be a bit worried I would imagine – although he was in such good hands – none of us really needed to be concerned.  This year I am so under-planned it is ridiculous.  Yet – here we are – without Dad… I would rather have the plan, plan, planning to do!  Two very special men are out of the Myrtle Beach plans this year.  Weird as it is – there is a giant hole that is left behind.  Not sure what to do with it yet – can it be filled with books, rest, wine (grin) or good conversations with friends..

This is the first year that a dear friend of mine will not be joining us and our families reuniting.  She has a new life with a new partner and there is no Myrtle Beach in her blood it seems anymore.  She deserves this happiness as her life has not been easy as a single parent.  Again, there is a hole – a divide. 

And this is the third year that Mom is not around.  There will be no one asking me for contact information – to watch for sharks – to be careful on the roads and to watch those crazy drivers!  No one will be buying me a bathing suit as Mom always knew what would look relatively civil on me and I hated buying it myself.  No Mom to take me out to spoil me with a meal from Red Lobster – just because – and fight me for the bill.  No Mom to call and explain that we have arrived safely  – not to worry.  No Mom who will wish my family a great trip – and to not worry about a thing!  To have fun.  To get some rest (you look so tired, Stacey, you do too much!) But each time I pass a white rose … I will think of her.

Life happens.  It happened to my Mom and Dad and now it is happening to me.  I remember so well when my parents spoke about the changes their lives had endured.  Some of their friends passed away – others divorced – others grew apart… I thought nothing about it at the time as their lives were so far apart from mine. 

It seems that distance has almost been bridged.  I am so glad I remember them talking about life changes – talking about firsts.. growing older… it makes my divide seem like it is a part of life.  They survived it – I guess so too can I.

Mom and Dad were always there for my brother and I. In fact, I remember thinking that wherever they were – that was my home.  Now that they are no longer here there are times, I must admit, that I feel a little homeless.  But – other times I feel that life is happening to me the way it happened to my parents – and that it will all be okay.  I wish they were here to talk to – to listen to my epiphanies as I age.  Aha – I get it – moments.  I wonder if they felt the same way? 

As time passes, it seems I become more distant – yet closer to my family on so many dimensions.  Life has a way of bridging gaps.  Ben, Dad, my friend… my Mom.  Through it all – I still know that I am home – home is where the family is – forever in my heart. 

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A Dozen White Roses

A Dozen White Roses

A dozen white roses always marked a special occasion for Mom.

(This post is written in Bill’s voice)

They surrounded her in life – and they surrounded her in the life here-after: white roses.

No matter what the occasion, Paula loved white roses. I would always pretend to cringe at the cost of them – but that was part of the game. And what made the cheese more binding was that Stacey, my daughter, would always order them “arranged” and “delivered”.

On her birthday, in particular, Paula anticipated those roses and we all enjoyed the roses for weeks afterwards. This Wednesday would have been Paula’s birthday… I won’t tell you her age as she would have thought that to be impolite. She was as beautiful on the day she died as she was the first time I met her. She was stunning. She would often tell me the story about when she was 16 and was told she was the ugly duckling of the family. You know the story – the ugly duckling didn’t fit in with it’s family – and then realized it was actually a beautiful swan. That was Paula. My Paula – the swan.

Roses were so appropriate for her as they were so strong, yet delicate. Their aroma filled the air to the extent that one could not help but breathe in a deeply. I always pretended to not be impressed with them – you know, I’m the cheap old bugger… she’d giggle. White was the colour of her life – Paula was a nurse. She took great pride in this profession and the care she took tending to her patients was reflected in the way she’d care for the nurses uniform itself. She was quite to remark on any nurse that looked sloppy and unprofessional. Her cap was crisp, meticulously ironed, and she looked fine in it. The uniform itself was always white – rose white.

My Paula left this good earth to a better address nearly three years ago and she has been surrounded by roses ever since. I’ve just never had to have them delivered!

(Stacey’s voice) You are remembered, Mom. And you are always loved.

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