Posts Tagged With: celebration

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 in 2013 – nothing new

There is a showing tomorrow in apartment 1001 and so I needed to be sure that it was in good shape and I needed to pick up the mail.

I went this afternoon for a “check-up” and to wish Mom and Dad a Happy New Years.

I don’t know what I expected.

I walked in and the room was dark.

I turned on the light.

I looked around.

It smelled fresh.

The place was empty.  Mom didn’t say, “hi”.  Dad didn’t say, “hi”.  What did I expect? I knew they were both at a better address – yet, I felt their “hello”.  I felt their “excitement” to see me.  They were always excited by a surprise visit.

I went to the pantry to check things out.  Nothing new.

I went to Dad’s room.  Nothing new.

I went to Mom’s room.  Nothing new.

I poured myself a glass of wine to cheer them with.  Nothing new (grin).

I cleaned the glass.  I had a cry.  Nothing new.

I left and locked the door behind me.

I opened the door – half expecting to see them giggle sitting in their chairs – as if they really had not passed away and they were just checking to see if I’d say, “TTFN” and “I love you”.   But, there was no one.  Nothing new.

What had I expected?  I don’t know.  This is a new place and space for me in 2013 as it is for my departed parents.  It is new – but there is nothing new.

And as I exited the building – and apartment 1001, the reflection of the sunset caught my eye.  It was Dad – I know it was – saying, “TTFN”.  “I love you, Stacey.” And delightedly I thought, “nothing new”.  Thank God.

The Setting Sun - nothing new

The Setting Sun – nothing new

 

Categories: Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 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

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 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.

TTFN, Mom

Mom

Everything about Mom was gentle.

Categories: Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Dew May Kiss the Butterfly…

“The dew may kiss the butterfly,

A man may kiss his wife good-by,

The sparkling wine may kiss the glass,

And you, my friend…. farewell.”

Okay, I never liked this poem whose origin I never knew – but Dad would be called upon at EVERY celebration to recite it.

Funny how this poem’s most avid supporter is gone, the poem has now become “mine”.  I don’t know if it becomes me – but it makes people laugh.

Martin – if you read this post – I dedicate this to you – not to say farewell – but to say, “thanks”.  You showed up at the right place and at the right time.  And you know Dad’s light flickered in appreciation.  You were always a great friend to Dad and now a great support to my family and I.  Merci and… Sante!

The Elixir of Life

The table was set in the cemetery – a glass of wine for everyone. It was a celebration that Dad would have wanted and Mom would have prepared.

Categories: Duff History, Family and Friends, Life After Dad | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Tales

I was exposed to lobster tales when I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

I guess Dad’s loyalty to the industry came from his days of patrolling the Northumberland Straits during World War II.  He and his buddies, when on break, would often be invited to visit lighthouses where a feast of lobster would be served.  Some of the lighthouse operators had daughters, and, Dad would explain to me that pilots in those days were considered a pretty good catch themselves.  I guess Dad was no exception.  (He only had eyes for my beautiful mother at that time and so the lighthouse “Dads” were out of luck before they even knew it!)

In any case – it was here where Dad learned the fine art of cracking and consuming lobster.

There was no part of the lobster spared when Dad was through – other than the eyes and the shell.  Even the legs and the material already digested by the lobster itself was “succulent”, as Dad would describe it.

I remember Dad recounting a story about how he and Mom went to dine with their friends Floyd and Francis in Dundas one time.  On the “all -you – can – eat” menu was lobster.  I guess it wasn’t really all you can eat as Dad’s feast was halted after 13 lobsters.

And it wasn’t just the fact that he ate the pre-digested green stuff that had people stunned, it was that he was given everyone else’s carcus with pre-digested material too.  So – imagine at the end of the feast there would be over 20 lobsters waiting for Dad to “enjoy”.

Lobster – which is why Red Lobster was our dining choice after Dad’s inurnment – has been an important meal to the Duff family.  It would be served to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and the arrival of special guests. Of course, accompanying the lobster would be Dad’s home-made wine – the body-builder.

Dad always said the best part of the lobster is the tail – but I’ve always liked the lobster “tales” better.  Grin.

TTFN

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Video Camera

It’s almost too much sometimes.

Interested in whether or not Mom and Dad’s rather vintage video-camera , of which they had taken such great pride in when it was freshly purchased, was still working – I asked my son Ben to plug it in.  The battery pack – naturally (as Mom was so very well organized) was right where it should have been tucked neatly into a side pocket.  Ben plugged the battery into the wall – rewound the film that was inside and hit play.

There he was – Dad – smiling at the dinner table.  Ben and I didn’t get the sound on right away, but we could tell he was interacting with whoever it was filming him.  The camera panned to the mirrors in the dining room – and then back to Dad.

Then, it happened.  The camera moved into the kitchen.  There was Mom.  Cooking.  She was always in the kitchen cooking.  This time, however, not only was she wearing her neck brace, but also her body brace that supported her spine.  It was at this time in her life when she really struggled to walk.  Her spine had disintegrated through loss of calcium to the point where it was literally collapsing on itself.  There she was – cooking.  I remember so well how challenging it was to let her do that.  Any outsider would have scolded me for allowing Mom to cook.  But Mom found meaning and purpose in cooking for her family. To take this away from her would have been to sentence her to death.

BTW:  Shortly after this clip was filmed she received a “cement” injection that filled in her spine and allowed her to walk for several years afterwards without pain.

The movie-maker moved down the hall to capture Mom and Dad’s first care-giver “Rou” in the midst of trying to organize Dad’s bathroom drawers.

This must have been taken at least three years ago.

Oh, how time changes all.

Rou has moved on – and so have Mom and Dad.

How utterly wonderful it was to find this clip – and at the same time how utterly painful.  The images have immobilized me.  I am useless today – other than to express my experiences in this post in the hopes that this experience will help someone else to feel they are not alone.  Or maybe to help me feel that way.

How strange to have been in their home only this morning… no Mom.. no Dad.  And to see them in the same location this afternoon on film.  I don’t know if film is good or bad at this point.  I’m sure that time will offer me a more clear perspective on the truth of the matter – but my brain is fuzzy today – here and now.

What do I do with the camera?  That has pretty much been my rate-limiting-step today.  It has been the window to memories so far.  It has defined itself as quite useful – but disabling at the same time.

The camera will sit in the front room with the collection of other “don’t know what to do with items” until I get further “clarity” of mind.

Mom and Dad’s winter coats… I was able to pack into a bag headed for the Salvation Army today – but the camera will sit in limbo … for a while anyhow.

Really.  Sometimes, it is almost too much.

I know tomorrow is a new day – and if I’m lucky – I’ll see Mom in the sunrise and Dad in the sunset – and my life will be in synchronicity once again.

 

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

“That moment” with Dorothee

It seemed so unattainable at first.  Her Mom said, “Stacey, you will bring Dorothee to work for your Dad.  It is easy.”

Okay – so it was not so easy.  The application  forms for a foreign  live-in caregiver changed three times in between one step of approval to the next.  I am not a good paper-person to begin with and so having to re-do application forms almost killed me.  Dorothee’s Mom said, “Stacey, it will work out.  You will see.  Don’t worry.”  Dorothee’s Mom, Tessie, you see was also anxious to have her family reunited and Dorothee was the last child she had to bring to Canada.

Dorothee landed for another employer in British Columbia.  She didn’t really understand how BIG Canada was and so, thinking that she could visit Barrie, Ontario on week-ends was logical.  She paid her fees to a nanny agency and was all set to babysit for a family of five.  As luck – or no luck depending on how you look at – would have it, the family cancelled their contact the last minute and Dorothee was left in a new country with no job.  Well – there was a job – it was just in Barrie.

To make a long story short, Dorothee’s first day with Dad was – how shall I put this – quiet.  She was shy – very young – and homesick.  What an ordeal to have flown so far away from her husband and daughter to a new country with a different language, different customs, and different food!  And what was even worse was that Dad ate POTATOES every day… not rice.

It did not take long, however, for Dorothee to find herself at Dad’s home.  She and Ana would take turns on shift with Dad.  Throughout the week while they were on duty, I never had to worry about what was happening, whether Dad was happy, or whether Dad had care.

Dorothee adopted my Dad as her own.  Her quiet manner would sometimes give way to comedy as she and Ana giggled at some of Dad’s expressions.  “Bologne!”  Dad would respond when they told them how in the Philippines they whistled for the wind to come.  They teased Dad that they would prepare a nice fish for him – and especially the eyeballs. “Yum, crunchy!”, they would say.

Dorothee involved my Dad in her life and he would advise her how she should save her money.  “Did you go shopping and spend money?”, Dad would ask.

“Yes, but everything was on sale.  I got some very good deals, father.” Dorothee would answer.  And Ana would remain silent behind Dorothee hoping she would not be asked the same question.

I would often pop over to Dad’s house for a brief visit – unexpectedly – and ALWAYS be welcomed with gracious hospitality by the Dancing Nannies.  Dorothee would always know the answer to the question, Stacey, would you like a glass of wine.”  And the dance began.

“Are you having one, Dad?”  I would inquire..

“Only if you are.”, came the response.

Dorothee knew this dance well – and the wine would already be beside my Mom’s former chair where I took up residence when I came to visit.

They were happy, the three of them:  Dad, Ana, and Dorothee.  They were a family.  They laughed together, cried together, worried together when Dad became ill, and they celebrated together.

I will never be able to thank Dorothee, however, for what she gave to Dad during his final moments.  If I could capture her the way I see her in my mind’s eye in words I would be forever grateful.  The memory that defines “Dorothee” for the person she is was created during the final day of Dad’s life.  My brother, Ana, and I were getting lessons about how to administer morphine.  I was anxious.  I hate needles and I knew where this was headed.  Morphine, in Mom’s case, signaled the end.  There were few words exchanged.  There were a lot of glances exchanged.  There was a great “understanding” among all of us that this was it.  Dorothee watched as the stint was inserted and the first needle injected.  And that was all it took.  Ana was right beside her.  And my brother and I shook.  It was was it was and it needed to happen.  Every two hours, we administered the morphine – whether it was needed or not.  That was a decision that we arrived at after much discussion and prayer.  At one point – I seemed to be in a daze.  One slips almost into a robotic state when faced with circumstances such as these.  Here is my memory. Dorothee – almost floated into the room.  She did not exchange glances, did not talk, but went right away to Dad.  She lovingly examined him to ensure that he was comfortable.  She was graceful, gentle, and her movement reassured me that he was in good hands.  Then, she tenderly pulled up his shirt – only far enough to have access to the stint – and inserted the morphine.  As quietly and tenderly as she arrived, she left.  She was angelic in her movements.  She was almost more pure energy than form.  I saw the love between my Dad and Dorothee.  He had adopted her too.  Their exchange was certainly not something that anyone else could have seen had they not had the history – but I saw it – and I was deeply moved.

This post, today, is dedicated to Dorothee.  It is her birthday today.  And she will celebrate it – too – without Dad.  This will be a first for her – it would have been a second birthday celebration with Dad … and I know she will note his absence.

Dorothee has become a part of my family now.  It is difficult to describe the type of relationship that I have with her as a result of her compassion for my Dad – but there is no other person who shares “that” bond and “that moment” with Dorothee other than me.  Dorothee is well loved by her family and friends.

Today – I celebrate Dorothee and offer her my most heart-felt, “thanks”!

Happy birthday Dorothee!  I wish others the opportunity to have a “moment” with Dorothee.

TTFN

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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