Most that have followed me on a regular or semi-regular basis, know that I had 9 siblings; a large family. I was the youngest of the 10 of us, and my oldest sister was ‘H’. There were 25 years between us, so she could have been my mother, and in a sense when I was young she seemed more of a mother than sister.
‘H’ was one of two of my siblings that graduated from University; the other being my oldest brother; the second born child. She and my brother must have had a great desire to go as far as they could in school, but it was very difficult for them. In high school, they used to have to often take turns taking some days off school, to look after some of the younger siblings, in order that my mother could find some kind of work; cleaning houses or doing laundry for others. They also of course had to share books, because they couldn’t afford two sets. Our father called ‘Pop’ was unfortunately a gambler and an alcoholic and while he always worked as a barber, he squandered so much of the money he made, therefore making it harder on our mother and their children. I won’t go into the whole story, as I have written about it before.
This post, is just about ‘H’. While she could have been so many things like a teacher, she instead decided to devote her life after marriage to raising their 5 children, one adopted; and their successive grandchildren making herself available to each an every one, to care for when their parents had to work.
‘H’s husband got Parkinson’s and suffered deterioration for the last several years of his life. ‘H’ was the only one he truly responded to, and she cared for him until the last year when he had to go into a Vet hospital, where she would go and stay with him the whole day. She was not especially healthy during those last years, but willed herself well in order to care for him, until he passed away. After he did, her own health declined within a few months. The last time I visited her in the hospital before she died, as I gave her a kiss and I guess looking concerned, she smiled and said, “It’s okay dear, I’m not sick…. I’m just dying”. She of course was a devoted Christian and knew where she was going. She passed away in the next couple of days.
The reason she has come to mind, was that I am still finding letters etc. that I wrote different times in my life, and I came across this last letter I wrote to her about 5 months before she died, and it brought back memories. Here’s what I wrote to her.
There are so many things that I can think of, and yet over the years probably have never said to you. We try to buy cards that say exactly what we feel but somehow they never fully do.
You were the firstborn in our family and therefore have so much more insight what went on through the many years. Somehow you have taken more time than anyone else (in my humble opinion), to keep in touch with everyone that you possibly could. It wasn’t that you had more time than the rest of us, it’s just that you made time.
I think that I mentioned at some point in my “adult life” that I was a wee bit intimidated by you, because you seemed to have it all together . I can’t ever remember, (even though there may have been times) you losing your temper. Maybe you had a secret that the rest of us didn’t! With the kind of things that I have encountered in my life at first I felt so down on myself. Often though, you were there, listening and saying comforting things to me. Sometimes I was too embarrassed to talk to people, but I soon learned that you didn’t dwell on the negative but instead, just spoke to me with no conditions and no judgemental attitudes.
Your family has grown and had a wonderful stability in their lives; your children and of course your grandchildren and even now great-grandchildren. There is a lot of wisdom that you gave, probably only if requested. I’m sure that you had to grow up fast as there were so many other children after you. Anyway dear, as Mother’s day approaches, I acknowledge you as one of the best!