You know sometimes I struggle trying to come up with an idea for the blog I feel compelled to share every few weeks. Today’s title and blog was the easiest one I have ever composed.
My mommy was known as my mommy until my cool teenage years. I cut those syllables in half and she was only called mom for a long time. Later she was Barbara and over time just Barb. My friends referred to her as Mrs. Ford, but I never got that formal with the first love of my life.
Many of you have felt the sadness of losing one or both of your parents, as many of my friends are gently tiptoeing into their 7thdecade of life. It is understandable if one sees the following words as a little biased, and I do accept that criticism, but my mother was a saint, a mentor, an old school parent and raised 6 kids who never spent a day in jail.
My earliest memories of mommy, are smattered with cooking in the kitchen, reading stories to her children, and drawing “Tweetie Pie” cartoons on scraps of paper. Our first family house was our last family house. School was so close all the children walked home for lunch and wolfed down bologna sandwiches with smiles on are faces that would only reappear in our adulthood when we ordered lobster in an overpriced restaurant.
Our three-bedroom house with 8 family members never felt crowded, but it did feel like home. Mommy would send a selected child with a note to the corner store to pick up a package of Rothman cigarettes and Malted Milk chocolate bar. Each child hoped they were picked because we could use the change to buy our own chocolate bar. One Mother’s Day, I bought two Malted Milk chocolate bars because mommy taught us the importance of sacrifice and thinking of others.
“So smart!” That is how every old relative would describe mommy whenever I asked about her youth. She left university to marry my dad. Barbara Jane Keen became Barbara Jane Ford. Keen is a pretty good description of my mommy as she took night classes every year to improve herself until she became a grandmommy.
As the kids got older, mommy started working part time, which was a severe shock to the children’s security systems. We never took her to court for childhood abandonment, but we discussed it. A job at the post office led to a job at a factory which led to 25 years at Sheridan college literally running the Athletic department. Barbara Ford ended her working career by being inducted into the Sheridan College Sports Hall of Fame. The only non-athlete in that hall, and believe me she was a poster child for the un-athletic.
Bridge parties at our house once every few months, disrupted the messy, slovenly lifestyle my siblings grew accustomed to. Cleaning and keeping the house clean for one day was an imposition children still have nightmares about. Yes mommy cut the crusts off the triangular egg salad sandwiches for bridge night. The next morning six children rushed to bridge tables to eat leftover jelly-beans.
About ten years ago mommy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and before her memory disappeared, Dad and Mom went to Niagara on the Lake for a weekend. Before dad passed away he would retell the story of hugging mom as she cried and whispered, “I wish I had cancer.” Mommy knew what was coming, as her very young mother died from that yet named disease, when mommy was a teenager.
One of the worst days of my life was the day we had to put mommy in an assistance living home, as she had become a danger to herself and my father. With D-Day like planning (with significantly less Nazis involved) dad and the kids distracted our matriarch, with precision choreography. My sister, mommy and I watched Gone with the Wind, while others moved recognizable condo furniture into her new room. Her sadness and semi lucid thinking allowed her to beg “Please don’t leave me here” as we suggested this was “temporary” knowing its permanence.
This week mommy was rushed from her senior’s home to the Oakville hospital with a bleeding ulcer, kidney failure severely low oxygen levels. In this Covid19 world where connection is disapproved the visiting regulations were abandoned for me. I sat by her bed and held her hand for two hours. She didn’t speak but I did. I simply whispered “You’ve got that something, I think you understand. When I say that something, I want to hold your hand.”
Reality is the last 10 years have not been memorable for mommy, as memory has vacated the beautiful brain. She is still so smart, but she is now choosing to keep that to herself. She has been my mother for over 60 years now. The first 50 years were exceptional. Caring, Classy and Comforting was her standard practice. Lately mommy has been a little less supportive as a parent. I mean seriously pretending to not know who I am is fine, but forgetting my birthday for the last 8 years is starting to get to me. Mommy always appreciated my sense of humour. She would have enjoyed my final mocking.
For the last few years her name went from mommy to mom to and as mentioned, Barbara to Barb. Friends are always asking why we call our mother Barb. It seemed inexplicable and maybe even a tad disrespectful to address your parent by their first name. I never had an answer to this question until now. I think my brain and my heart had a secret meeting that I was not invited to, because sarcasm was not the tone of that meeting. The minutes from that meeting were shared later. The feeling and the thinking from my two organs made a self-surviving decision.
I finally got a copy of those meeting notes: We the brain and the heart have decided that your memories of mommy are so beautiful, loving and irreplaceable, that we want to protect them for eternity. That forces us to declare that lady you visit every week will now be addressed by a slightly different name. Hold on to your memories of Mommy. You have permission to eventually forget your memories of Barb.
Okay Brain and Heart, if you’re so damn smart answer this question: “Am I an orphan now?”
Barb Ford passed away today on February 28th, 2021. The children and grandchildren are suffering through the sadness of the loss of a wonderful lady. Fortunately Mommy was not around to witness the pain of the family who loved her so much.
I may have been less than honest with my opening. This was the easiest and hardest thing I have ever written.
Cue the Blong: Written from the perspective of senior citizens who have given so much.