Walking home from school to find my mom in the kitchen getting dinner started, or taking fresh-baked peanut butter cookies out of the oven onto a page of the Detroit Free Press on the kitchen table remain some of my most cherished childhood memories. We’d get to enjoy one or two cookies, but getting started on homework was priority, and not until that homework was finished could we turn on the television for an episode of the Little Rascals or Gilligan’s Island before dinner.
Then one day when we were at Aunt Irene’s in Toronto, Dad got sick. Real sick. Mum had to get a job in order to provide health insurance for our family, and our routine quickly changed. I’d often come home from school to find Dad lying on the couch with his foot propped up on several pillows. Blood clots were frequent, walking was difficult, and for the rest of my life I remember Dad having a sore foot. That might sound minor, but my Dad’s foot pained him every. single. day. And everyone we’d run into always asked, “How’s your Dad’s foot?”
Even after Dad passed away at home while in hospice, my mother bumped his foot while waiting for the funeral home to come and get him, and she quickly turned and said, “Sorry, Pete!” from a decades-long habit of being careful not to touch Dad’s foot. We laughed, and we’re certain he would have gotten a kick out of that, but looking back, I’m not sure I ever remember my Dad complaining. I’m sure he probably did with my Mom, but I don’t ever remember him complaining to us as kids.
It would take a few years, and several physicians later to finally learn that Dad had a disease called polycythemia vera. He spent the rest of my childhood, and even into my adulthood having every complication imaginable because of his disease. And the rest of my childhood I remember too often lying in bed praying that my Dad wouldn’t die. And he didn’t. In fact, I was lucky enough to have my Dad in the years of becoming a mother myself, and I’m not sure that my two sons will ever understand what a huge deal that was for me that I got to share him with them!
I’m pretty sure when Mum & Dad said their vows, neither of them had a clue what hardships were coming their way, and despite all of the difficulties, they worked so hard to give me the memories that have become so sweet today!
I grew up in an adorable little 800 square foot house. We lived on a corner lot and every winter Mum and Dad went back and forth from the bathtub to the front lawn in order to make the coolest (pun intended) ice rink in Redford Township for all of the kids in the neighborhood to enjoy. We pitched tents in the backyards and had friends sleep over. We put on silly little shows with Debbie & Julie Atkinson, Mary Poisson, Chris Scheller, and Kristen Fenski in the summers, and rode our bikes to the IGA on summer mornings to get meat for Mum that she’d scribble down on a piece of paper for us to hand to the butcher. We drove home to Nova Scotia in the summers stopping in Toronto to see Aunt Irene, and drove Route 9 on the way home. Our faces were washed, hair was combed, and our uniforms were always freshly pressed for school. We never missed a Fall Festival at St. Robert’s, nor did we ever realize people actually had homes with more than one bathroom. None of us went to bed hungry, cold, feeling unsafe, or worried about the finances, (and I’m sure there was reason to worry). I always knew my parents wanted the best for me (even when I grew up and we disagreed on “what” was actually “best”), I still knew they had my best interest in mind… right down to having straight teeth!
I’m thankful for so many things as I sort through old pictures these days, like peanut butter cookies, ice rinks, and the fact that my Dad lived as long as he did! But I’m not sure I ever thanked Mum and Dad for the braces they probably paid a small fortune for, or the over-time they both worked (gladly, too!) in order to fix the most unbelievably horrible cross-bite one could ever have. So I’m thankful for the laugh this morning at that, and for the fact that at almost 59, I still have my Mom around to thank for getting my cross-bite fixed. Thanks for the cookies, Mum, and for the ice rinks, all of your hard work, for ironing our uniforms, for parting our hair so straight, taking us to Nova Scotia, and thank you, thank you, by the way….. for getting my cross bite fixed, and keeping this picture for me to chuckle at five decades later!