Posts Tagged With: family

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

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

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

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

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 “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:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnancy_test

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!

Categories: Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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