17 Years

Today marks 17 years that my mom has left this world.  The second time, not the first.  I don’t know the exact day she left the world the first time as it was a slow burn, slowly taking away every memory and every thought she had.  Alzeimer’s disease is a bitch.  There.  I said it.  I can sit here and dwell on all the horrible things that it did but the bottom line is, it robbed me of every opportunity to apologize to the mother for the absolutely horrible teenager I was.  It robbed my mother of the chance to see that I did actually turn out ok, and because of her, I was a loving mother myself.  She didn’t get to see her grandchildren grow and become the wonderful adults that they became.  I have felt robbed of my mother my entire adult life, and I have worked hard to let go of that feeling.

I have made a conscious decision though, to not allow “grief” to rule my life.  You see, I also lost my father to ALS.  Both were equally horrible and devastating.  I’ve chosen to try to remember the good and not the bad.  Neither one of them was perfect, and I try to remember that they weren’t.  They were human.  I think that is the best gift I could give myself.  I know that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved or remembered.  These are the things I do in their memory:

  1.  Laugh.  I can still hear my mother’s laugh when I laugh.  I was reminded of my father’s laugh by a cousin.  He said he could remember my dad coming to visit and having a good laugh with the family.  His stories were never dull.
  2. Think about what they might say at major events, or just every day.  Every day.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about them at some point. And that is ok!  It doesn’t make me sad, it makes me happy that I have memories of them.  Some people are not so lucky.
  3. Give.  I give to the Alzheimer’s Society and to the ALS Society when I can, but I don’t dwell on the fact that they had these diseases, the memory of them with the illness is awful enough.  So I also try to volunteer at other organizations and donate to other organizations as well.
  4. Time.  I spend time with my kids.  These will be what they have as memories of me.  I try to cherish the time we have…every minute. Even if it’s an argument.  :). (I have two daughters, there are going to be disagreements) I don’t post about the loss of my mother every year, and I don’t dwell on the fact that she is gone, I
  5. Smile.  My parents wouldn’t have wanted me sitting here crying every year.  Especially my mother.  I hope she would be proud of me.  I hope she knows how much she was loved.  I hope she knows that I am thankful every day for how much she loved me.  I smile when a song comes on the radio that she used to like, or just thinking about holidays past.  I have fond memories, and for that I am thankful.

I don’t post on social media any Happy Birthdays, or miss you posts.  I would rather remember how she was here for a short while rather than feel sadness about the loss.  Love ya Mom.

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Spring Cleaning

Every year, ok, every couple of years, I go little crazy and start cleaning out closets and purging all the useless stuff I seem to acquire over time.  How is it that I only have ONE purple sheet?  Where did the other one go?  Toga party?  Not likely.

This year, that magical day of discovery was yesterday.  It was a gorgeous day outside so naturally, that is the day I decide to stay INSIDE and clean out the linen closet.

This process began innocently enough.  I began to match all the sheets together, locate pillow cases that matched the sheet sets.  Asking myself (again) where is the sheet set to these green pillow cases?  Trust me, having two children who have just recently launched into adulthood really makes me wonder if the toga party was a reality.  Then I would just shake my head and try NOT to think about the things my daughters did when they were teenagers.

As I was finishing organizing the linens, and getting rid of mismatched and frayed items, I found something in the veeeerrry back of the linen closet.  Pillow cases.  That’s right.  Pillow cases.  But these were no ordinary pillow cases.

These were pillow cases made by my mother.  She believed in changing pillow cases every couple of days.  And growing up, nothing matched, which is probably why I am the way I am today.  She would make pillow cases just out of white cotton and she would EMBROIDER these beautiful designs on the ends.  She would scallop the edges and finish the edge with her embroidery as well.

I have not used these pillow cases since she went into the nursing home.  They have been sitting in my closet, moving with me from place to place, with me through divorce and remarriage.

Now I know that these aren’t my mother, but for me they are like a piece of her.  I have fond memories of her sitting having tea in the afternoon and embroidering the flowers on these pillow cases.  I remember sleeping on them when I was very young and throughout my own turbulent teen years.  I never fully appreciated them and to be truthful, I never really appreciated my mother until I didn’t have her anymore.  Which I guess is the reason I have stored them in my closet.  It was my way of preserving that memory.

Then I had an epiphany.

Why am I hiding these in the closet?  Why am I not using these EVERY DAY!  I think I feared that if they got worn out, then so would my mother’s memory.  I want every memory, every thing she made to stay pristine.  She wouldn’t have wanted that.  She was not a wasteful woman.

So I put one my pillow.  Not just the decorative pillow but the one I ACTUALLY sleep on.  Then I took it off.  Then I put it back on.  It’s what she would have wanted.  I took a picture of it, and I will continue to take pictures of them when I change them.

When I went to sleep last night, I am positive I could still smell the Emeraude perfume, Aquanet hairspray, and Ponds cold cream.

Thanks Mom.  Xo

The reason I called this site positive grit

I am not very experienced at this blogging thing,  but I do have a story to tell as do most people.  This blog is not to sell anything, or gather recipes or crafts (although I do those too).  I have found in my relationships with others (some good, some bad) that EVERYONE has a story.  It may not always be positive or negative, but it usually is a bit of both.  Whatever the story though, we are always learning, and that is why I decided to begin documenting mine and my mother’s journey.

It isn’t easy, and quite honestly, most of the time I feel inadequate.  I don’t post often, but I’m hoping to change that.  In that quest I thought….what IS my direction for this site?  I want to tell my mother’s story without hurting or exposing the mistakes of others in her life.  She is no longer here to give details, and I feel it is wrong to show the follies of others. That is definitely not the point.

The point is…that life can be hard.  Painfully hard.  We experience so much and so differently that sometimes our perception of certain events transfers to the decisions we make presently.  I believe that we all have our own journey, and our journey, and how we choose to experience it, is what leads us to where we are at any given moment.  While my mother getting early onset Alzheimer’s disease was not something I chose, it was instrumental in creating my life.  All that I appreciate today is mostly due to the experiences with my mother.  I often wonder where I would be had she not been sick, and I feel that I would have been in a very different place – and it wouldn’t be positive.  This experience gave me the courage, perseverance, and empathy that I have now.

I called this site positive grit because the hardships we experienced, while not positive, ended up being positive in the outcome.  There are so many things I would have taken for granted, and it would have made me soft.  Ok.  I’m still soft.  But the outcomes from the negative aspect of illness were most definitely positive.  And I’m proud of that.

Daily Prompt: Gone

via Daily Prompt: Gone

Ruminations of Christmas

Christmas is difficult for some people.  My mother died just 9 days before Christmas 15 years ago.  My best childhood friend passed away 2 days after Christmas (on my birthday) 2 years ago.  A person I know lost their father on Christmas Day in the morning; the kids woke up to find their father packed and left in the night.  My dear friend’s mother passed away 2 days before Christmas, this year.

For me, Christmas and the New Year brings about a feeling of nostalgia and reflection.  This feeling hit me hard this year after the passing of my friend’s mother, a beautiful soul.  Every time we think of a loved one “leaving”, in whatever form that may be, we always tend to think, “I hope they hang on until after Christmas” or “I hope it doesn’t happen around Christmas”.  As I reflected, I decided it was time to change that frame of mind, because…does it really matter WHEN the person is gone?  No.  It doesn’t.

In the loss of my own mother I remember feeling melancholy the year that she died.  I was sad, but I also was reminded of all the good times we had during the holidays.  We didn’t have much but I remember the fun we had, and that is more meaningful to me.  I LOVE remembering those times, and every time I may open a photo album during the holidays, there is some evidence of those good times.  They happened, and they are a part of life, a wonderful part of life!

As I observed my friend’s mother’s passing yesterday at her funeral, I looked around and saw all of the people who were touched by this beautiful woman.  The family, reminiscing about the good times, also had the excruciating feeling of resignation that she is gone and out of pain.

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My mother (Helen) and I (Laura). I was about 9 or 10 here.

I know it takes time.  But when someone is gone, we can choose to think about what they have given to us, that is the gift.  It doesn’t matter when we lost someone, Christmas is a time where we can remember those gifts, even though those we care about may no longer be with us.

The Beginning

So you need to know the beginning, not every detail of her life, but the main points so it is easier to understand some of her reactions later in her journey.

She was born in a place called Ansonville, on May 3, 1938.  Ansonville was just south of Iroquois Falls and ended up amalgamating with the larger town.  Quoting Kerry Abel, Ansonville was considered “as a dark den of foreigners engaged in regular street brawls, illegal alcohol consumption, and other unsavoury activities”[1].  So that is an interesting part of history!

When she was young the family moved to Toronto.  I’m sure it was due to the fact that there were likely more opportunities, and they could consume alcohol and participate in whatever unsavoury activities they felt like – in relative anonymity.  Just kidding.

My grandfather held very Victorian values and had a deep rooted belief about they way life should be, so I doubt he would have taken part in any shenanigans while living in Ansonville.  He worked as a carpenter.  My grandmother, of course, was a mother to her children and kept care of the home, as the social norms of the period dictated.  My mother told me once how my grandmother was trying to teach her how to kill and defeather a chicken and told my mother that she would have to know this one day so she’d better pay attention.  My mother replied that she would be buying her poultry and other meat from the butcher, and all the work would be done for her!  I laughed because I could see my grandmother and my mother having this actual conversation.

My grandmother was the type of woman who got out of bed at 5 every morning to make homemade bread!  Her home and her children were her life.

My grandfather was the provider.  But he and my mother argued.  My mother was good at math – he told her she didn’t need it, she would be married and her husband would take care of everything.  In fact, she really didn’t need school past grade 8.  She stayed until grade 10.  She had two jobs, in which order I am not sure.  One job was at a bank, and another was at a dress factory in the garment district of downtown Toronto.  I tend to think this was the second job because I can’t see my grandfather allowing her to work downtown when she was only 16, but it is difficult to say.

She spoke fondly of her time in the dress factory, and about her boss.  She always LOVED the city with all of its smells and sounds.  This would be one of the deepest memories for her.

She met John Richardson and they were married on May 12, 1956, just 9 days after her 18th birthday.

Reference

  1. Abel, Kerry M. (2006). Changing Places: History, Community, and Identity in Northeastern Ontario. McGill-Queen’s University.
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Frank and Louise Ostroski with baby Helen.

The Day I Realized This Was Real

It was a beautiful day in October.  You know…the kind where the sun is shining with all its tenacity as if fighting the inevitability of fall.  The kind where the heat is not so overwhelming to make you want air-conditioning, rather you desire the day off from work to enjoy one of what you know will be the last beautiful day of the autumn season.  I was walking home from work for lunch, as I did quite often as I only lived a few blocks from work.  I saw my mom walking with purpose up ahead of me, with an obvious destination in her mind.  I knew she was on her way to my apartment.  My dingy, small, apartment only a  newly independent young-adult-wanna-be could love.  Located right downtown, it was not a palace by any meaning of the word.  Seeing as I didn’t want her to arrive to find nobody home, I called out to her…”Mooooooooommmmm!”  Nothing.  “MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!”  Nothing.  I began to run, actually sprint.  Obviously there was too much street noise and she couldn’t hear me.  As I ran I continued to call her. It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t recognize my voice.  But when I reached her  my disillusionment continued.  I caught up to her and said, “Mom!” now breathless from running…she turned around and looked at me.  There was this void, this complete blank stare looking back at me.  “Who are you?” she politely inquired.  My shock rendered me speechless.  In the matter of about 5 seconds I had a million thoughts running through my head which were not limited to…What?  How could you not remember your own daughter? What is happening right now?????  My verbal response was simply, ” Where are you going?  Can I walk with you?”

“I guess so,” she replied begrudgingly, not totally understanding who I was and what I was doing there.

“Well, I’m going that way too,” was all I could muster the courage to say.

So she let me walk with her and told me all about how she was going to see her daughter, Laura.  How every day she meets her for lunch and usually they go out but today she decided to go right to her apartment.  She just wasn’t sure if she remembers which apartment is Laura’s.

My response:  “I think I can help you with that.”

She gave me a long, interrogating look.

Then she started to laugh…”Laura!  When did you get here?”

“I just caught up to you mom.”

Then we laughed and I brought her in to have lunch.

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My mother (Helen) and I (Laura). I was about 9 or 10 here.