Been thinking a lot about my mother lately. Of course, that brings to mind my father as well. They were always together, through good times and bad.
She had patience that bordered on the inhuman. She lived a life of near constant disappointment. She survived her residential school ordeal. Her children made questionable choices. Her husband was at times a violent alcoholic. But she endured.
She smiled. She laughed. She could joke. She made the best bannock. She could walk for kilometers.
These were all traits that I absorbed from her. Except the walking part. And the bannock making ability.
Every year, I would help her set up the X-mas tree. We always used the same ornaments, year after year, only buying new ones when an older one broke. Every year, I would untangle the long string of tree lights and I would wonder how it get to badly wound up. I would silently curse whoever just stuffed the whole string in the box all willy nilly.
As a child, I would eagerly await the day when I could open my gift that I found underneath the tree. When I got older, I would in turn buy gifts for my mom and the various members of my family who happened to be in town during the season. I always struggled to buy her an excellent gift. I always have, when it comes to people I care about. Gifts for people I wasn’t overly concerned about were far more easily obtainable. I would merely walk down a gift isle and grab a selection, even if they were more expensive then a thoughtful gift.
Every year, I would silently pray that the season would pass uneventfully. More times then I care to admit, my prayers were unheard. My most vivid memory of the holidays was when my father drunkenly threw out the entire tree, gifts and all, outside and onto the front lawn.
My mom patiently waited until he passed out, then sent us children out into the cold to recover what gifts we could and to see if we could salvage the tree. Money was tight then, so we had to have a high barrier for what was an unacceptable amount of tree damage. One side was completely flat, so we simply turned it so that side faced the wall. My mom was a master of making do with what we had. She made it work. We were happy.
She deserved so much more than the life she was given. But she, as only she could, made the best of her situation. She had strength without limit, endurance without end. She built her family and held it together. Without her, I would not be here.
She gave me the strength to endure my own trauma, and the wisdom to seek help when I needed it. She was never cruel, nor cowardly. She taught me to see the beauty in the moment, even when it is as ugly as it can get. Lessons that saved my life.
When dementia took her, it took all of her. She was a fragment, a shadow, or a whisper of herself. And yet, she could still be found, smiling and laughing. A lifetime of bad memories, seemingly gone.
As the holiday season rolls upon us once again, I find myself thinking of her. The old X-mas tree, now long discarded. The ornaments and tinsle and lights, all gone. Her lessons remain though.
I am here, now, because of her.
My eyes are open because of her.
My heart, though wounded by her absence, remains free because of her.
I live now, because of her.