Mom

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!

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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

Apartment 1001 re-visited

Looking out onto Kempenfelt Bay, you would never know anything had changed.  The waters were calm.  No Serendipity – the local tourist paddle-boat – yet, but other than that it looked just the same as it did a year ago. 

I turned to my oldest son, Ben, and took a deep breath.  It was time to leave apartment 1001.

They say your life flashes before you just before you leave this earth – snippits of my life with my family flashed before me as I walked through the patio to the dining room where we were always so careful that Dad did not lose his footing while climbing over the step to return to his pink chair after enjoying the night air.  It was a ritual almost – Mom would cling onto his belt buckle (as if she could hold him should he fall) and I would hold on to his walker to secure it from moving forward un-expectantly. 

I walked past where the dining-room table was – where so many meals were served.  Here too, was the place where toasts were made to life, anniversaries, birthdays, births… even commemorations of deaths.  But I heard joy in the voices in my head – I remember the good times, the laughter, and the oh, so delicious food Mom had so lovingly prepared. 

I walked past where Dads pink chair had once been – where David climbed onto the walker in front of Dad so that he could be so much better positioned to hop on Poppas lap and give him a hug.  The pink chair was the focus – the inhabitant (my Dad) was always the centre of attention.  Was he warm enough?  Was he hungry?  Was he able to hear the conversation? Did he tune us out to read? 

I walked past the couch – where we had danced.  I watched my daughter, Katya, twirl and spin and laugh.  I heard David giggle with delight as Nana ordered a steak and baked potato from his make-believe restaurant.  I knew she hoped that his culinary interest would continue and be her own little legacy. I saw Katya standing there, dressed in Nanas black lace dress – hand-made so many years ago.  No one but Katya could fit into that waist line anymore… but three generations had worn that dress – and Katya was the last of the lineage…

I walked down the hallway to peer into Moms room as Dad had so many times before.  Was Paula there?  Was she asleep?  Was she ironing or sewing?  The room was empty – and full all at the same time.  I thought if I looked quickly I could see her smiling at me as she was waking up from a quick afternoon rest… rarely did that happen, but it always seemed to comfort me that she could rest.

I walked down the hall to Dads room – the room where it had all ended — I expected to see him there.  But, alas, neither bed, nor Poppa were to be seen.  Ben heard me and came to see if I was okay – my 6 foot son put his arm around me and we both stood there knowing how happy Nana and Poppa would be that he grew up to be such a fine, young man.  You done good, kid, I heard my Dad say.  And with that, my son Ben and I turned around and left.  Buenos noches, Poppa – hasta manana – TTFN.  Sleep well. I love you both! 

It was odd, locking the door for the last time.  I did not cry.  They were not there.  I did not feel compelled to open the door quickly to check to see if I could sneak a peek.  Bill and Paula had definitely left the building. 

And so it was that today was our last glimpse of what was once a very happy household.  It was now my turn to provide that stability, comfort, and sense of belonging in my  own home.  I always said to my parents that my home had been wherever they were – now it is with my family and I.  Apartment 1001 is now us.. my husband, three children, and I. 

Categories: Duff History, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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

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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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

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

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49 Reasons to Be Thankful

Dear Mom and Dad:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  This is the first time – ever?- that you and I won’t be sharing dinner.  I must confess it didn’t hit me until this morning when a friend of mine was talking about her parents coming to her home for Thanksgiving.  She had a coffee with her Dad this morning, she said, and talked about how much she enjoys talking with her Dad.

I don’t feel envious.  I feel like I am in unfamiliar waters.  Thanksgiving will be different without either of you.

Mom, who will Kevin tease when it comes to your stuffing wars?  I still think yours was better – wish I had payed more attention while you were making it.  Maybe I’ll have to make some cranberry sauce like you taught me the last Thanksgiving we shared together.

The image of you looking at Dad, with your head resting on your hand, is forever ingrained into my mind.  The scarf you wore – I gave to Auntie Helen and she brought it here this summer to wear during the Malloff reunion.

Dad, you were always so gracious at these dinners.  You never said much, but, as you would say, “Wisdom is knowing what to say and not saying it anyway.”.  The grace, “Some ha’ meat and canne’ eat – and some can eat but want it – but we ha’ meat and we can eat so let the Lord be thanked” will INDEED be recited tomorrow.

So – it brings me to consider the things for which I am thankful – one for each year of my life would allow me to offer thanks for 49 things.  Here they are:

  1. health – and the ability to look forward to good health
  2. family who gathers around our dinner table
  3. faith – when the going gets tough
  4. hope – what would we do without it?
  5. freedom
  6. friends who still reach out – even though time separates us
  7. fall – well, actually, spring
  8. history – and being a part of it
  9. future – knowing that great things are still yet to come
  10. my talents
  11. my humility
  12. roots
  13. a home filled with love and laughter – and sometimes tears
  14. education
  15. colour – especially in the fall
  16. good food
  17. the ability to cook
  18. my kitchen
  19. laughter – sometimes remembering how a joke goes
  20. wine – mainly white
  21. music – especially Nat King Cole!
  22. the ability to play the piano and sing
  23. harmony
  24. pianos
  25. the ability to teach
  26. students who love to learn – or learn to love learning
  27. learning how to teach better
  28. being open minded
  29. being a wife
  30. to Kevin – my partner, my friend, my inspiration
  31. love
  32. being a mom to Ben, Katya, and David
  33. compassion
  34. adulthood
  35. photos
  36. blogs
  37. the ability to write
  38. to tell stories
  39. to have people who tolerate my stories
  40. maple syrup
  41. maple trees
  42. colourful leaves
  43. memories of the farm
  44. memories our first home in Collingwood
  45. learning to mud and tape from Dad
  46. learning to sew – and being able to give up sewing as it is way too frustrating – from Mom
  47. midnight talks with Mom
  48. midnight talks with Dad
  49. holding hands

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mom and Dad.  We will definitely raise a glass of wine to you and be grateful for all that you have meant to so many!  And I’ll count my blessings.

Here is the “master blessing counter”, Bing!

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qmMaPTuTEE

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

The Photo Frame in the Front Room

My first greeting in the morning flashes as a random light from the front room.

The source of the light is clear and I welcome it as equally as it welcomes me.

“Good morning, Mom.”, I say to the photo of Mom that flashes up on the digital photo frame.  “Good  morning, Dad.”, I say to the next image of Dad that appears on the screen.  The light from the photo frame seems to be getting brighter as the morning light begins to appear even later.

The images light up the room as much as they light my heart.

I move closer and stand by the frame for a while, just watching as my childhood flashes before me.

  • There’s lady – our first dog, anticipating a treat that Dad is holding to reward her for “sitting pretty”.
  • dad and I sitting on the balcony of his condominium
  • Mom – making her first attempt at using her new computer
  • Mom – wearing the neck brace that she had crafted to support her neck
  • Norman Kee at the farm
  • Mom, Dad, and I on the beach in Cuba.  Dad was standing without his walker then
  • Dad walking me down the aisle to marry Kevin.

And then reality hits – its time to go to school.  I turn away and think, “oh, just a few more.”  And I’m trapped by history again.

I love the frame – I hate the frame.

The memories are comforting and disturbing at the same time.

I visited Mom and Dad yesterday – prompted by seeing a little old lady at the grocery store who reminded me so intensely of Mom.  I had to leave the store quickly so that I would not draw attention to myself as I began to cry.  Funny how the emotions can be so suddenly intense.

  • There’s Tessie and her family at Dad’s condo – all of us enjoying each others’ company for Wednesday night dinner.
  • Mary and Dad toasting with a glass of wine on our front walkway just after Mary lost her own Mom.  Dad was a source of strength for her during that time too.

It’s time to go.  It’s time to say good-bye.. or at least TTFN.

My first greeting in the morning continues to flash as a random light from the front room as I walk away and move on with life.

“TTFN, Mom and Dad.”, I say to the photo of Mom giving Dad a peck on the cheek on the occasion of their 61st wedding anniversary.  TTFN

Bill and Paula Duff

Summer Smiles

 

 

 

 

 

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

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