Tag Archives: big family resposibilities

An Icicle to the Heart


1186264_10151828279107022_1341115404_nYesterday Rolly and I were out and about with my beautiful 84-year-old mother. We had decided that we needed a day away, and as my mom loves the USA, land of her birth, we headed across the border at Sarnia to Port Huron, Michigan. There were no delays at the border crossing and in less than an hour we were at our first stop, a good old Dollar Tree store. We have them here too, but their deals are even better there, and in twenty minutes both Mom and I had each picked out about two dozen  miscellaneous greeting cards to stock up our stashes again. They are always only fifty cents rather than a dollar, as they are here, and the quality and variety is very good too.

Mom is like a little Miss Congeniality in her Seniors’ Complex. She is all of five foot nothing of caring, love, and compassion for those who are hurting or lonely. She is never one to forget her kids’, grandkids’ or close friends’ birthdays either, so she is always in need of cards. Some of them she sends by mail, others she gives with gifts of her homemade chocolates (or muffins for under the weather neighbours.) The bright dinosaur or animals holding balloons cards are meant for taping to gifts for her little treasures— those great grandsons, Finley, Joshua, Jacob, Ethan, and Brayden.

Another grandbaby is on the way in early May and Mom can hardly bear not know whether she should be buying a gift for a baby boy or baby girl. (Later on in our shopping excursion she buys both.) She has confessed to quizzing little Jacob, the future big brother, as to whether he is going to be getting a baby brother or a baby sister. She knows her granddaughter, Andrea, told us all that she and her husband want to be surprised. Still, Mom is so desperate to know, that she is hanging onto the remote possibility that they may have changed their minds and that by now little Jacob may have overheard something. He is not quite three, but he never forgets a thing.

I, for one, have not stooped so low as to try to pump the poor little potential stool pigeon for information. It somehow just seems wrong! Great Grandmas on the other hand are probably under some kind of special dispensation for this kind of uncontrollable behaviour—a kind of “Need to know! Need to knit!” compulsion. But then again, my mom doesn’t knit. She gave it up for lent 75 years ago and lost the knack. (There has to be some explanation for this apparent deficit in her otherwise overabundant skill set!)

Off we headed to the shoe store, where both Mom and I tried on several pairs apiece. I was able to find a great pair of brown suede boots which actually fit very well, in addition to two pairs of shoes. The much greater range of shoe widths led to almost immediate success. After a discouraging half dozen trips to London in search of anything in my elusive size it was a real victory. I can finally throw away my leaky boots! Mom is fun to shoe shop with because she is still so trendy in her fashion sense, despite her age. She likes lots of bling and a bit of a heel, and if it even hints of orthopaedic, it’s straight back into the box. No shoes for her this time, but I suspected that it was because she was hoping to spend her permitted cross-border shopping dollars on gifts for the little ones on her list. A little while later she proved my intuition entirely correct.

If the rest of the world could be so blessed, to be able to spend an afternoon every now and then with the kind of person my mom is, the pharmaceutical companies would likely go broke. There would be a whole lot less anxiety, depression, and general sadness in the population as the ratio of smiles and laughter increased. The conversations between Mom and I were both interesting and comic at times.

Mom: “Do you think an icicle could ever come down and stab you to death?”

Me: “Not unless I decide to lie down underneath the edge of that building and wait until one comes down and stabs me in the heart.”

Mom: “I don’t think I can eat spicy soup so late. I might get indigestion when I go to bed!”

Me: “But it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon Mom. What time are you planning on going to bed anyway?”

Mom: “Do these look like old lady shoes?” (She has a terrible fear of old lady shoes.)

Me: “Aaah! These are the most comfortable shoes in the world! I don’t even want to take them off!”

Mom: (only half under her breath) “Yuck!”

I had a great day yesterday, a day that was special because of the things it reminded me of. Our Mom is happiest when her kids, and her grandkids (and all of our spouses too) are happy. She knows that this one, and that one, may have their struggles and trials at times, but she counts on us supporting one another through them. That’s the way she and Dad raised us, and she is trusting us now, even though we have become large in number, to continue to do that in the same way as we always did. She takes great joy in hearing from each of us about how that is actually playing out in our lives. I for one would never want to be the one who disappoints her. It would pretty much be like that icicle stabbing me in the heart!

He Made Us Proud!

Mom and Dad, with 7 of us kids. Number 8 is still just a glimmer in Dad's eye.

Mom and Dad, with 7 of us kids. Number 8 is still just a glimmer in Dad’s eye.

Today is the birthday of a real hero. He is my father William Peter Stephenson. He was born on June 7, 1925 and left this Earth on October 7, 2004. He was a modest man who didn’t ever think that he had accomplished very much with his life. Somehow, he always felt diminished by his lack of education because he was only able to go to school until grade 8. Because of the Great Depression most farmers were too dirt poor to board their children in town when necessary, so that they could attend high school.

It bothered all eight of us kids very much that he couldn’t appreciate in his own mind what a difference everything he had done, in and through his life, had made to those around him. Despite his own feelings of inadequacy, he was in fact quite well educated. He enjoyed reading the entire newspaper front to back daily whenever possible, The National Geographic and Time Magazine cover to cover, and watching the national news every night before bed. He could hold his own in any conversation, and had amazing math skills. I always felt proud to be in the presence of my father, at any social occasion, because he was an honest, honourable and loving man.

The following poem was written for my Dad for another reason, but I want to use it here as a tribute to his life. I am confident that I will see him again one day and when I do I want to tell him that I kept the promise I made when he passed away— to write for him.

To Dad,

Nobody could have ever loved us more than you did Dad

When I think of all the many things in life you could have had,

If you hadn’t always put us first and seen to all of our needs.

You will always be our hero Dad, because of your unsung deeds—

Putting shoes on sixteen feet not counting yours or Mom’s,

Paying at the counter for those dresses for our proms,

Putting more gas in every time you needed to move your car,

Even though we said we never drove it very far!

Paying for tonsillectomies before OHIP covered the cost,

Or glasses or retainers that some of us constantly lost.

Keeping our cupboards full of food, you worked so hard to be able

To provide a bounty for all of us, (and the neighbour kids at our table).

School clothes, class trips, insurance for driving boys,

Christmases unforgettable with special longed for toys

And keepsakes carefully crafted in secret late at night!

Your love for us seemed to have no end to its depth, its width, its height.

And so again on your birthday, we your family express our love.

To have you as our father was a special gift from above!

If you have a Dad, then even if things are difficult between you right now, make sure you make every effort to let him know you still love and  appreciate him. If you are blessed with a great relationship with your father, then surprise him and tell him before Fathers’ Day how much he means to you. It will be all the more meaningful for him because it is unexpected.

Count your blessings and have a wonderful day!