Family and Friends

They danced together under the shade of the trees

They danced together under the shade of the maples as they had done so often before.

Mom and Dad were such good dancers, but of course, they came from an era where dancing was a part of life.  If you weren’t dancing, you weren’t living.

I reached out to touch their names and was confident that they spoke directly to my heart.  “Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.” I whispered.  I was alone at the cemetery but yet, not alone.

They danced through life much like they danced on the dance floor – they were in harmony with one another.  When one lead, the other followed and when one turned the other turned.  That’s not to say that they didn’t sometimes step on the other person’s toes – but they were more often aware of the other person than not.

Today, in my mind, they danced together under the maples.

How did they do it?  How did they stay married for such a long time?  How did Dad survive for 18 months without his bride of, what was then, 62 years?  They would have marked their 64th anniversary today.  There would have been a party – a celebration – a dance.

The farm that they built together was half-field, half-forest.  The field yielded raspberries and the forest yielded maple syrup.  They worked together to produce a hobby-farm that thrived and where friends and family would always be made to feel welcome.  Under the hot, blazing sun, they toiled to rid the gardens from bugs and weeds.  But under the shade of the maples… they danced.

The life they built together was so entwined that it was difficult to see where one ended and the other began.  They lived harmoniously – for the most part – always taking care of each other, supporting each other, dancing together.

And so, on this day, on this occasion, I wish Mom and Dad “this dance” today.  Enjoy Glenn Millar’  Moonlight Serenade.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JQ0ifSjgAE)

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Categories: Duff History, Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Gift

Dad's 89th birthday 010

It has been a long journey – three years since we lost Mom and nearly one year since we lost Dad.  I have l learned to be patient, to breathe, and to accept.  It was the final “acceptance”  that has been the most difficult. 

I have now, however:

– accepted that I am now the one who must take up the role of the family elder

– accepted that life carries on even when it changes

– accepted that things always work out of the best

– accepted that there is a season for everything

– accepted that I cannot always get what I want – but I tend to get what I need

– accepted that true friends are always there to support and guide

– accepted that it can be difficult to age and lose your friends

– accepted there is a difference between growing old and being old

– accepted that it is important to accept gifts – as much as to give gifts

The greatest gift Mom and Dad could give to my brother and I was to be raised in the culture of family they crafted for us.  Our culture is unique; We cry at the drop of a hat.  We can be so terribly sentimental and attached to things. We can be sad when meals are not shared with our children or partners.  We have faith in each other. We like to use good dishes.  We like to cook from scratch.  We like to quote Robbie Burns. We recognize celebrations and we celebrate – any occasion can become a celebration.  We value life.  We respect others.  We always say please and thank-you.  We like to make frugal purchases.  We love being outside with our hands in the dirt.  This is our culture.  This was our gift. 

TTFN

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , | 11 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. 

Categories: Family and Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I’m sorry, but I can’t help but throw in one more memory!

Here is a very poignant memory of backwards and forwards:

It used to be… that I would take a plunge with my hubby and then when they grew up – children – into the freezing cold pool or lake (if it hadn’t frozen over yet). You know, a polar bear swim of sorts – but in the dark.  One year there was no snow and we were able to drive the car right up to the beach in Collingwood.  A group of us joined hands and wading into the icy water as the snow began.  Almost immediately “ice burg” kind of clumps of snow drifted towards us.  The rule was – you had to fully submerge before you could get out.  The water felt like a knife cutting our legs – but we did it.   I have no photos of these days..

Now: I go in the hot tub and watch the kids do snow angels.

Here’s to progress!

Happy New Year everyone.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

That was then and this is now…

I am still intrigued with the notion of forwards and backwards.

I know this theme is repetitive from yesterday’s post – but I would like to take a moment to reflect on the concept once again. ( You knew it was coming!)

What if I were to construct my posts according to then and now?  How would that look?  Here’s a sample of what “could be”.

Looking Back:  It seems that a lot of my childhood time was spend outdoors.  My parents were very strong environmentalists – before their time.   Dad was a farmer at heart and during the summer would pride himself in stirring the compost pile that sat beside his 1/2 acre garden.  At the time I thought it was disgusting and avoided at all costs the trip to the compost pile to empty the organic kitchen scraps.  Oh, the stench!  But Dad knew that a good pitch fork to add oxygen to the pile would keep the smell in check.  I often now think about Robert Service’s poem:  Ode to a wee mouse and wonder how many plans of the mice Dad had interrupted by stirring their inevitable home?

Now:  My husband and I keep five composters in our back yard.  They are the ones that can be turned to aerate.  We faithfully collect kitchen scraps and still reluctantly take the trip to dump the scraps into the composter.  No matter how many turns they get, however, they still smell.  But each spring, they get emptied into my garden.  And with pride, I mix the soil and wonder how the heck Dad was able to keep 1/2 acre free from weeds as my little backyard garden is plagued by weeds!  I love to garden and burst with pride when I carry in tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini to the kitchen.

Looking Back:  The winter was a time of magic and wonder when I was a child.  Mom would always talk about the beauty of a snow-filled forest.  And it really was spectacular when the snow stuck to the branches and created a delicate veil.  Day in and day out, Mom and I would click into our cross-country skis and “do the loop” out the back door, through the woods, through the field and back to the house.  Our cheeks would be rosy and our spirits lifted by the beauty of nature.

Today:  My family and I just created our own little loop – out the back door, around the pond, over the bridge, and home.  We returned with rosy cheeks and lifted spirits.  The woods were so beautiful and the snow so crisp!  What a joy it was to take “my” family and friends out to enjoy something I remembered so fondly from my own childhood.

Maybe the joy we experienced in the woods today and in the garden in the summer were shared by those who live on in our hearts and memories?  Maybe they come alive when we remember the joys of childhood?  Whatever it is – there is definitely something to be said about living for today with the spirits and joys of “then”.

Mom and Marion out to do the loop

Mom and Marion out to do the loop

 

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

Forwards or Backwards?

Lessons my Dad taught me

David and Poppa

My daughter was excited this Christmas to open up one of her gifts from Mountain Equipment Coop:  a slack line.  I wondered where she would be able to attach it in the middle of winter – now that the basement poles are no longer exposed.  Of course, we needed to explore the possibilities anyhow.  My daughter is quite driven to find solutions to problems she has.   After there was a “no go” decision for the basement, she turned her eyes to the front yard… and voila.  The street-light was a good distance from the maple tree and it would be perfect.  The snow below would also serve to cushion the multiple falls that we were advised she would have initially.

With snow pants, boots, mitts, and all the winter garb, Katya was ready.  She hopped up on the slack line with great caution and focus.  And fell.  She tried again, and again, and again.  Finally, she called it a night and unhooked the line.

My husband and I watched from the front room.  I thought about how my mom and dad would have been so excited to see her tackle this new sport.  This was something new – something that they had not seen before… much like New Year’s will be for my family and I.  I recall I was anxious to leave the year 2010 (the year Mom passed away).  I don’t want, however, to leave 2012… the year Dad passed away.  Moving forward will mean leaving the past.

I have always found New Year’s to be somewhat nostalgic.  It is a time to think of highlights, things for which we can be thankful, and things that we want to improve.  How important is it to not forget the past and to reflect?  I think it is vital to pause and reflect.  It is not easy, though.  Sometimes mistakes we’ve made – mistakes I’ve made seem unforgivable.  But these mistakes have also been such powerful lessons.  Mom taught me, for example, what not to do – and by learning from her – I was able to help Dad depart this world with dignity.

What lessons did I learn from Dad?  I’ve learned that everyone needs a purpose – no matter how old you are.  I’ve learned that that purpose can be as simple as what Dad had decided.  “My purpose, Stacey, was to make people happy.”  I’ve learned that to forgive people, you first have to be honest with them and tell them how you feel.  I’ve learned that it is vitally important to count your blessings.

It is a tricky balancing act – to not fall too far on either side of this line that sits between history and future – the stroke of midnight between 2012 and 2013… the “dash” between one’s birth and one’s death.  It is tricky, but not impossible.  And tomorrow, Katya will, no doubt, be back up on that slack line… finding her own balance – just like me.

Thanks to all of you who have supported my Dad and I through this blog – our sentimental journey.  I hope that this journey has allowed you some insight into your own lives.  And so, I will write the last post for 2012 and bid all of you, “Ta-ta for now. ”  (TTFN) from Bill Duff, (Dad) and I (Stacey).

All the best in the new year!

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Sentimental Journey Continues: The Christmas Season

The Snowman sits at his piano and pounds out three melodies:  Oh, the weather out side is frightful,  jingle bell rock, and finally have a holly, jolly, Christmas.  And David, my youngest son, still delights in watching the motion of this battery operated Hallmark toy.

Today, however, he didn’t do laps around the room.  David sat and reminisced about Nanna.  “It’s not the same, Mom.”, he said to me after the Snowman had entertained in his historical fashion.  The Snowman was so much more fun when he was at Nanna and Poppa’s house.

And then only seconds later, he and I were back at decorating the tree… Nanna’s artificial tree that she had given to us when she down-sized to a foot-tall model that sat on her stereo cabinet.

Was this the same tree that sat in a box for years in our basement?  Hmm.  David thought it was much smaller than he had remembered it being at Nanna’s house.

Yes, it is the same tree.  It’s just that now, this tree is the tree that Nanna gave to us – and that makes it special.  More special than a tree that we could chop down ourselves.

As David and I assembled the pieces, spread the malleable limbs,  and then wrapped the lights around it, we talked about Nanna and Poppa.  “What I like most about Christmas David …. is tradition”.  Tradition anchors us to our roots, our memories, our heritage.

“What I like about Christmas, Mom, is family.” , said David.

God bless him, that little boy.  His Christmas list that I opened to read today asked for hugs and kisses.

He is a sentimental little guy, our son, David.  I love to spend time with him – and I love lighting the tree with him – and talking about his memories of Mom and Dad.  I feel much more reassured that their memory will live on through our children when we remind out children about the wonderful things we shared.

This is the first time that we will not share it with Nanna and Poppa… yet they are everywhere … when I open my heart to them.  They are in the tree, the wreath, the photos, the children, the decorations… the list goes on.  Christmas is a season of memory – of tradition – of hope – and holly – jolly … or so the Snowman says.

TTFN

 

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

10 000 and counting: Thank-you

A toast to life!

Mom and Dad toasting at their 40th anniversary

Yesterday was Remembrance Day and to honour my Dad, Flight Lieutenant WJ Duff, I tried to promote readers to check out Dad’s WWII stories.  I made an appeal to have 1, 000 “reads”.  He never thought anyone would be interested in his stories.

Yet, yesterday, with the help of fellow bloggers, Dad’s stories reached 2, 000 of you and that brought his total reads to over 10 000:  my goal.

A million thank-yous to all of you who helped me to remember Dad and his efforts to establish peace.  What an honour it would have been for Dad to see this kind of response.

Although my heart remains heavy as it has only been since June that he has, “moved to a better address”, I know that he is a peace and thankful for his remembrance.

Today happens to also be the day – two years today – when Mom, Paula Duff (ne Malloff) passed away very unexpectedly.  It was very difficult on Dad to lose his bride of 61 years but he was a trooper.  He remembered her every morning when he got up out of bed – every meal at the dining room table – every glass of wine – every celebration – every night as he lay down to rest.  And so did the rest of us.  She was with us as Dad remembered her to intensely.  It seems that our memory of Dad remembering her is now imprinted firmly into my mind.

Mom.  Paula.  Wife.  Daughter.  Nurse.  Aunt.  Teacher.  She was beautiful.

Today – we will remember Mom.

We will, as my daughter Katya advised me, remember her for her warmth and security, for her caring friendship and the memories that will live on in our hearts.  She is in pain no longer.  She will cook and sew to her hearts content.  I think there is quite a bit of “Nana” in my daughter.

So – here’s to all of our Moms and Dads who we hold dear in our hearts.  And here’s to one day when we will all meet again.   TTFN

Categories: Family and Friends, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

They are everywhere… they are everything…

He sat.

In his chair.

He smiled.

For there – beside him was his grandson who placed the graduation cap on his Poppa’s head.  The sun’s rays warmed their exchange.

He sat.

In the pilot’s seat.

He smiled.

For there – beside him was his son who took him for “one last flight”.  The sun’s rays warmed their exchange.

She sat.

In the restaurant’s seat.

She smiled.

For there – beside her was her son-in-law who shared one last meal with her.  The moon’s glow warmed their exchange.

They sat.

On their front porch.

They smiled and sighed.

For there – in front of them were the fall leaves.  The glow of autumn warmed their exchange.

He sits.

In his walker.

He shivers and smiles.

For there – in front of him is the approaching winter.  The wind off the bay warmed their exchange.

It sits.

On the corner.

It is.

It provides shelter for the many who gather to collect mail, to buy supplies, to now buy pizza.  The door swings open and permits others to exchange a warm welcome.

They sit.

Sisters, mothers and daughters, cheering, flying, soaring, poppas and grandchildren, sons, fathers, care-givers and care-needers, chefs, and hosts.

In the frame.

It offers snapshots of history, roots, smiles, tears, colour, family, cousins, anticipation, scenery.  The images offer warmth to the heart.

 

Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Does the Journey End?

I have not had much to say lately.

Mom and Dad continue to be on my mind – often – but I just don’t know what to write.

Maybe it’s writer’s block?

Maybe it’s grief?

Maybe it’s time to put closure to something else?

This blog, and all you wonderful readers, have been a great source of comfort for me through a very challenging time.  I’ve lost both parents in less than 18 months.  To me, this has been traumatic.  It has been a long, long, journey.

I wonder now, though, if the journey is coming to an end?

Is it time to put this blog to bed?

The condo up for sale.  I have a difficult time going back there to even check in on it.  It’s difficult to go “back” in time.

Yet, I sit faithfully in front of the digital photo frame as images of our lives fade in and fade out.  I sent some new photos to it the other day and I enjoy watching those fade in and out too.

What would it feel like to say, “good-bye” to this sentimental journey – or rather TTFN?  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, yet I think I need to know my limits and not stay too long.  I feel like the guest that never left… not knowing when enough is enough.

I need to move on – but how much of the past do we need to break from?  Does the past propel us to the future?

Does the past help us to build a foundation, yet anchor us to the ground?

It is inescapable, haunting, yet at the same time it is still my greatest source of comfort.

Should I stay or should I go now – I believe someone else used that phrase and sang a tune along with it (grin).

Maybe the falling leaves have brought this feeling of loss to front and centre.

Where is my faith? What is my purpose?  When will “this” sentimental journey end?

I guess today is a day of questions.  And having said that – maybe today begins a new “quest” for closure.

How is closure best achieved?

And the photo frame flashes images at me like pieces of a patchwork quilt.  They all blend together in an odd, yet harmonious blanket of comfort.

TTFN  – for now.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.