Wednesday, 18 September 2013
In the Still of the Night
It is my mom's birthday today. When the winds of fall creep around the corner, I know it is time to celebrate yet another milestone in her vibrant life. She was born in 1939 - so is forever connected in my mind to the war years - the second of four children and the only girl. She grew up on a farm near Killarney, Manitoba and her life's ambition was to be a nurse - one of few career options available to women at that time but I can't imagine a more fitting vocation for her kind heart. The other night she told me about one particular shift when she was a young nurse in the very small hospital in Pine Falls, Manitoba when she found herself the lone person on staff during the night-time hours - with not even an orderly to lend a hand. Unfortunately, expectant mothers don't often have the luxury of waiting for a more convenient time so my mom, who had only ever been on the sidelines for such an event, found herself delivering a baby alone. The stress she experienced was compounded by the fact there were other patients - including babies - who were in the hospital at the time but because she couldn't leave the delivery room, they were left to their own devices. She must have done a decent enough job as both the new mom and her little one were just fine. The doctor did eventually show up and observed that she appeared to have things under control. (Thanks for nothing, Dr. Whoever-You-Were!) Still, this was one of the events that stood out in a long and varied career. This story, which frankly she might have told me before but had slipped from my memory banks, falls into the category of the "things you didn't know about your parents, because you didn't take the time to hear". All little clues into the things that shaped them - that changed their little window on the world. She survived many things - a childhood with no money, a mom who was never really present due to her struggles with post-partum depression and treatment that left her incapable of dealing with the most pedestrian tasks in their home, losing her first husband to cancer while she was still in her twenties, a son with Down's Syndrome - many, many things that might have broken a person in two. On this, the anniversary of her birth, I celebrate not only her capacity to triumph but the many gifts she has given me - a love of reading, British sit-coms, and a heart that unlike the Grinch was never "two sizes too small". And I hope on this day, that baby born on that long ago night, understands how fortunate he or she was to be born into such tender, loving hands.