I have mentioned in several of my blogs that I was the last of 10 children born into our family. I was thinking today of my brothers and sisters and decided to write a little about each of them. I will warn you, that by traveling down memory lane, or at least what I can…it is a longer blog than normally I would write. But I hope if you do read it, that you enjoy it.
The first child born was my sister H. She was born when my mother was only 16. My mother was indeed a ‘child bride’. I guess that wasn’t unusual back int the those days. H. was one of only two of my siblings who managed to somehow go to University. She used to have to often stay home and miss school often when she was old enough to look after her younger siblings. And she and my oldest brother had to share school books in high school. While she went to University she only worked a while before marrying and having children of her own. She married during the second world war years and her husband was in the army. They had 4 boys that were biologically theirs and adopted a two and a half little girl. She had determined that she would be a stay at home Mom and raise their children, and also baby sit all of her grandchildren so that they were cared for by family. I didn’t get to know her well because she was 25 years older than I was and was married when I was born. But in latter years I came to know her as a woman of faith, love and compassion She was a no-nonsense kind of woman but respected very much. Her health was not good for the last few years, but she willed herself to live until her husband, who had Parkinson’s died. She was the only one that he would relate to and she knew she had to stay alive until he passed on. She died within a year after. Her body was tired. I remember the last thing she said to me as I left her hospital room …she said “don’t worry dear, I’m not sick, I’m just dying”. She went in the next week.
My brother R. was next in line. Again I didn’t get to know him too well because of the age difference. He managed to get through University also but would have had to put himself through because my mother and father certainly didn’t have the money to do so. I used to babysit for his children when they were small. During his last years I did spend more time with him and talked a bit about the past. He was a navigator in a bomber during World War two with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Different family members said the war really changed him, and his faith in God was altered somewhat. He had seen so much destruction and friends losing their lives. During the last year of his life, which was taken by prostate and bone cancer, he said that if the war hadn’t ended when it did, within a few months we would have been speaking German. He lived a long life and had a dry sense of humor that I remember and he died with his faith renewed.
My brother D. was the child born after R. There was still an age difference so didn’t know too much early in my life. But what I do know is that one year when my mother was struggling, the last three of us went to live with him and his family for several months. He had 8 children in total….some born after they moved to the States because his wife had severe winter asthma and needed to live in a warmer climate. He went there with no job beforehand and started driving a bus, and working at a second job in order to support his family. His wife wasn’t able to work and besides they had a big family to be looked after. He died of heart failure when he was 73 but his wife is still living and is well. I keep in touch with many of their children mostly through emails.
M. was the next sister born. She had 3 children and two of her children were around my age. She used to take care of me and my other brother and sister a lot, especially in the summer months, when my mother would have to work. She taught me how to swim in cold Lake Simcoe. Through the years I would spend many times in the summer with her and at that time two children. They were more like a brother and sister than nephew and niece. At one time when I was 16 and she was living in British Columbia, my mother and I took a trip on the train through the wonderful Rockies, to visit. When I got back from that trip I started working full-time. She lived in the States at the time she died of cancer.
B. was born and he was number five in line. I became very close to him because I spent many summers with him from about 10 to 14 years of age. While he was my brother sometimes he would take on the ‘father’ role. He had 5 children and they lived in Guelph, Ontario, a small town about an hour from Toronto. I guess I had my best friend there and looked forward each year to going there. I used to babysit for him and his wife, and in turn he would give me an allowance so I could go to the show with my friend. Those were happy summers, except for missing my Mom, but she used to come and visit and was always sending me letters to ask how I was doing and letting me know how much she missed and loved me. He gave me ‘away’ on my wedding day. My brother B. died when he was 73 of cancer.
Next came my sister C. She was a beautiful person inside and out. She had 4 sons She was so vivacious and so full of laughter. There are a couple of bloggers that remind me so much of her personality. Her eyes just sparkled with life. C. was such a loving support through a lot of my ‘difficult’ years. Often she would just call me up and ask me to go out for lunch and listen to whatever I wanted to say. She had a period in her life when she suffered also from depression and so she could really relate to how I was feeling. She wrote me a poem once, which I will share in a blog at some point. Unfortunately her life was cut short by cancer when she was just 63.
The brother that was born next in line was D. He had 6 children but lost one to meningitis when she was only 2 years of age. Her death brought about a despair in him that started a road to destruction. That of alcoholism. He suffered terribly and his family became broken. Through the years he had times when for a while he would seem to have overcome, but it never lasted too long. The disease progressed until he was drinking quite heavily. Even though he had the problem he managed to always keep his job and do it well. Mostly it would be evenings and weekends when it would surface. The beautiful ending was though, that 10 years before he died he was a ‘recovered alcoholic’. He determined one day to just pour out what was in the house and he never touched a drop since. He moved within 15 minutes from where my sister and I live, and for the past two years the relationship was wonderful. He however became quite sick. He hadn’t been going for regular check ups and when he finally did, within two weeks of the doctors finding a spot on his lung we were taking him into the hospital. He had a ct scan two days before and when we took him in because of trouble breathing, they found he was ‘full of cancer’. He had converted to Roman Catholicism when he married and although he hadn’t been to church in a very long time, asked to see a priest while in the hospital. The same night we took him to the hospital, he was given ‘last rites’ and died the next day but the peace on his face after confession was beautiful. He sat up in his bed and looked at his loved ones gathered there as the hospital told us to do…and he said laughingly but lovingly…”this is great, I get to be at my own wake”. It was much too fast. He was 75. Those last two years we had with him were so special. He was a changed man.
Well, the last three children including myself are still living. My sister M. was the 8th child born. She is my angel here on earth. She is my confidant, my friend, my sister and I love her so much. Whenever I needed someone, she was and is there for me. She smiles, cries and rejoices with me. I always looked up to her as my ‘big sister’. When she first started work, also at 16 for the Bell Telephone Company she treated my mother, brother and me to such a special Christmas. She bought us our first television and many other gifts and treats. She helped my mother, as did my other siblings when they got older and got jobs…with financial help, but more than that…emotional support. I often wonder how on earth I would manage without her in my life.
My brother D. lives not too far from my sister and I, who live in the same small town in Ontario. He is the next closest to me and we were the last two together at home with my mother. He was very quiet growing up, but he was a bratty brother sometimes too….aren’t all brothers? He used to treat my teddy bear and stuffed animals with no respect, and give them a punch once in a while. We have become much closer the past few years and he opens up more than he ever used to. And when I was in the throes of depression, he tried to comfort me even though he didn’t understand it at all. He was never so inclined. But as I said we are close and try to remain so because I guess when we enter our senior years, we don’t know exactly how many years on earth we have to live.
Well, there you have it and I have spent the time writing, remembering them all and it has been a very special time. Even with all the challenges my mother had, raising 10 children, we remained a very close family, because God is so faithful.