Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Father’s Day 2010

June 16, 2010

My Dad, Daddy, Pops, died in 1979 at the age of 68. I was 36 at the time and even though he had been sick for a year with prostate cancer, I was shocked and angry.

I was shocked that this “bigger than life” man with a booming voice, and huge physique had wasted away to a shadow and I was angry that he didn’t fix it, like he fixed everything else for us.

He was a true character.  “Get the thin edge of the wedge”, he would say.  I needed to put his advice and pearls of wisdom , into contemporary terms and apply it.

Mother said that she thought he could have done anything in life, if he’d had an education. I think she was right. He went to the school of hard knocks, a product of the 30’s, worked hard and provided us with a decent life, frill-free as it was in the 50’s for most. As luck would have it, “frills” would have added nothing at all to our childhood experience. The presence of  Daddy was everything! He played, cajoled, taught, encouraged and supported. I don’t remember him ever being critical. (is that the key?)

I still miss him. I wish he could see the person I have grown up to be, now. He would be proud, and wonder that it took so long! 🙂

What he left me with was self-esteem and a sense that I could do anything I set my mind to. Navigating the road of life need only those tools.

My message on Father’s Day. Be good fathers.


PS: I chose a wonderful person to father my children. He has all the same great skills as my Dad. It may be a coincidence.

Elmer & little Patti 1946

The Perfect Gift

December 15, 2009

Okay!  It’s here again.  I get it.  Warp speed is real.

Please read OMG, it’s Christmas again (Dec 2008) and A Heart’s Desire (Dec 2007). I have nothing to add to that!

The holiday season is here, I’m ready for it in mind and spirit.

I  wish my wonderful family and friends,  a joyous holiday season and peace and blessings for the new year. Every day is a gift.

Every good gift

and every perfect gift

is from above…

James 1:17

Ironing and other things

September 21, 2009

My Father’s line: “When I got married, I promised I would give her the best of everything. I bought her a glass wash board”.  That was one of his favourite lines. As far as I could tell, it was a popular joke as everyone would burst into laughter. I didn’t get it for a long, long time.*

I hated ironing because that’s what my Mother would say, but I was always fascinated that she was so meticulous, almost artistic, when she ironed every seam and corner. Fabrics were horrible back then. She would hang her clothes on the lines out the back door, summer and winter. She always made us laugh when she stood Elmer’s long johns in the corner when they came in on a freezing day and we would watch as they sank to the floor slowly but surely. Then the laundry would hang all over the kitchen and on a rack over the grate that was pumping hot air into the house from some unknown source. It smelled delicious.  She would sprinkle the dry clothes and roll them up in a basket until it became their turn to be ironed. The iron was heavy and she would work away at the little smocked dresses and puffy sleeves until they were perfect. I loved to watch her. She would say that she hated ironing, but I learned that she must love us so much to work so hard.

Of course I grew up saying “I hate ironing” too. Fabrics became more washable & wearable in the 70’s & 80’s, so I didn’t have to iron too much, and lived one piece at a time or not at all. There was always a basket or two of  laundry to be folded and ironed…someday.

I learned the secret of ironing in 1997 just a few days before my Grand daughter was born. I unpacked a few precious clothes that I had packed away left over from her Mom & her Aunt. (my daughters). I washed them in Ivory Snow and then I stood over the ironing board and meticulously ironed all the little dresses, the corners the frills and puffy sleeves. I didn’t need to sprinkle them, my tears flowed down my face. I don’t cry very often and I made up for it that day. I was crying because I was happy, excited, nostalgic, and lonely. I discovered that I could love ironing, but mostly that it was an act of love.

*Some wash boards were made of tin. The better ones were glass.

Getting there…

August 12, 2009

“Getting there is half the fun”. I agree. I guess that I have a wander lust, because I feel like a kid when I get out the suitcases and start making my lists. I pack and repack to be sure that I don’t fall into that much-criticized category “taking everything but the kitchen sink”. We have a truck, so it’s hard to keep it simple with all that space that can be filled up.

Nevermind. We are leaving for the Maritimes and a family wedding. It’ll be short and sweet. Our grand daughter has decided to come so there’s an added plus to this trip. She is very entertaining and will inspire us to do things…swim, site-see, and dance. (and watch a DVD while travelling) (?)

 Kids add another dimension to everything around us, I forget that sometimes. Thankfully I can be reminded.

Au Revoir





A Switcheroo

January 31, 2009

It’s no big secret-my parents got stupider and stupider once I turned 12. They apex-ed around my 16th, and since there was no where to go but up, they became increasingly wiser, slowly but surely until I can finally admit, they were brilliant by the time I was 25.

And P.S. It is no coincidence that at age 12, I became more and more brilliant etc…

I had wonderful parents. They were dedicated to their family, taught me to be moral, and say please and thank you. Their job was done by my12th birthday.

All the damage, I did to myself whilst I was in my most brilliant phase from 12 to 18.

I’ve had a long, long time to think about this, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching other people’s kids experience the same phenomena. (No,no, not mine). (?!)

I thought there must be some solution: A SWITCHEROO. Everyone should get a new set of parents at age 12. Preferably “cool” strangers. I think I would have done well with Elvis and Priscilla and my parents would have knocked some sense into their Lisa Marie. (and don’t write and remind me that my chronology is wrong…I’m just thinking).

Today, all kids should turn out perfectly. There’s TV and numerous talk shows that tell them what to do, how to do it, and how to fix it, if by some misfortune they mess it up.

There’s OPRAH, DR. PHIL, DR. RUTH, MARTHA, JUDGE JUDY, and last but not least, JESUS. (I purposely put Him last, because He’s forgiving.) If any of them had been my SWITCHEROO parents, I would have gotten much smarter, much faster.

All of the above (except maybe Elvis), are people I would have looked up to, good role models, with sterling advice that I would have followed to the letter. Obediently.

Well, NOW, I listen to all of them, but it’s a little too late for Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Ruth, Martha & Judge Judy to actually affect my daily life, but they are all entertaining and informative.

Jesus on the other hand, may have a message for me.

OMG! Christmas…again!!!

December 7, 2008

It’s the same time every year but it always comes up as something of a surprise. I am never fully prepared (maybe we should celebrate it every four years, like the Winter Olympics). The panicky part is just like a bad habit, after years and years of wrapping gifts at midnight Christmas eve, ready to drop with fatigue and that wee bit of  Sherry which was a family tradition.

I don’t panic much anymore. My gifts are more thoughtful, less extravagant, and wrapped well enough in advance. The decorations can be done any day now and I passed the mini tree to my Grand daughter. One artificial tree is plenty and perfect so I wonder why I didn’t discover that  years ago. Maybe it was the Sherry that clouded my mind. “Too soon old, too late smart”.

I still love Christmas, but I am starting to understand older folks better, now that I’m one of them.  I am understanding myself better too…I always tried to “create the perfect Christmas memories”. All the little things I loved about Christmas were replayed year after year and every year, I found more to add. Like new pajamas for the girls on Christmas eve, meat pies, candles, flowers, all too numerous to mention.

It’s all passing into history now, along with the mini tree, and Christmas dinner that will be at my daughter’s home this year.

I thought that I would miss it all. I don’t. Other “traditions” have flooded into my life to replace the void, like giving to charity, taking a bubble bath on Christmas day, baking fruit cake and watching my daughter panic. I don’t have any advice for her and I don’t think that she drinks Sherry. Neither have I for many years, but this may be a good time to recapture that tradition.

May you have all the joy of the season, along with all the stress and aggravation.

Take time out to count your blessings.



P.S.  To my family and friends: I LOVE YOU, love you, love you!

An “Elmerism”

April 3, 2008

Elmer and Patti 1946 Elmer  1947 Columbia Ice Fields

I am frequently reminded of my Father, Elmer. He passed away in 1979 at the age of 67 and we still miss his unique contributions to the planet.

He was a very good father, even though he didn’t have the experience of good parenting himself. He was a good provider and was proud of his children even when we were most unworthy. He encouraged us to be our best and cheered us on, at the best and worst of times.

He had a “wicked” sense of humour and took great pleasure in egging us on to perform hilarious feats that we were seriously set on performing anyway, and destined for failure. One Sunday morning when I was about three and dressed-up, he was asked to look after me outside while Mother dressed the others for Church. As he told it many times “there was a huge mud puddle that Patti was sizing up and planning to jump over”. “after a series of false starts, and backing up as though it would make a difference, she took a running start, jumped and landed right in the middle of the puddle.” He enjoyed telling the story, and every single time we could see him reliving that moment, with his eyes sparkling. Many years later, even my Mother thought that it was funny…but that took some time! He recited poetry to us, The Cremation of Sam McKee,* and Casey at the Bat and a few risque poems that would cause Mother to yell out “E L-M E R!!!”

Just like a good movie director, he had a natural instinct for making memorable moments, and the talent to tell of them in such a way that his listeners would be rooted to the spot, hanging on every word. Mother said that she thought he could have done anything in his life if he had had the opportunity for an education. I agree.

I always liked his special prayer:

“Dear God, Please come down here and see what a mess we’ve made of this (life/world), and don’t send your Son, this is no job for a kid!”


He was sure that God had a sense of humour- “Just look at us!” he would say.

You can read more in “Elmer, the miner & the man” July 6, 2007

Elmer and Family 1948

*The Cremation of Sam McGee can be found on Poems by Robert Service website-from there, go to Youtube where Urgelt does a very good recitation video.
















Happy Easter

March 24, 2008

When I was a child, Easter was a time of year that we could look forward to getting some new clothes. Since we lived mostly in Northern communities, Easter NEVER came early. March, April and May were mid-winter to us. Most of the time, there was still some ice on the lakes in June, and I have seen snow in July. Imagine my surprise, one year when I came to Montreal from Chibougamau for an Easter holiday: I had borrowed a shorty fur jacket, China Mink, (what the heck was that, anyway?) I was freezing when I boarded the bus in Chibougamau and I had to find more appropriate clothes while in Montreal, which was 80F. I felt as though I had been dropped off on another planet!

Back to the Easter clothes. People didn’t buy clothes as often as they do now. Easter, Christmas and Back to School was pretty much it, with a few emergencies in between once in awhile. Closets were smaller, we didn’t have credit cards, and we wore the clothes we had whether we liked them or not. Hand-me-downs were pretty ratty by the time anyone passed them along once they had gone through the family.

The Easter I was eleven is etched in my repertoire of crystal clear memories. It was 1954 and times were getting better, I guess, because I got a new dress, a coat, shoes, a hat, white gloves and a draw-string straw purse. I was so proud and excited, I could barely walk down the street to the church. And then of course I could barely walk home…those new shoes made blisters on my heels! And yes, by the way, I have been humbled on more than one occasion in my life! Just in case anyone is wondering about that.

I often wonder what it is about a memory that makes it “stick”. More often than not, the unhappy, embarrassing, wretched experiences seem to find a little corner of my brain to nest in. Maybe, it’s because those times are so few compared to all the happy times I have been fortunate to have had.

As I sat in church this morning and listened to the Pastor preach his sermon about the Resurrection, I reminded myself to be thankful for my life, my family and friends, my memories and my faith. Amen.

The Luck of the draw (In-laws) Part 3.

February 10, 2008

Those boys! Just imagine 4 boys aged 4 months to 4 years in the sole care of their Mother for 5 years while the Dad went to war. Many families faced exactly that, at the time.

Those boys! The oldest, still referred to as #1, was just a little guy when he peed on his brother in the adjoining crib. Without further ado, brother #2 picked up the hammer that Ruth had left on a dresser from hanging curtains, and crowned #1. Prong side in.

#3 was the quiet one who Ruth took in the boat with her to calm her nerves. He turned out to be an accountant. Sometimes, the future is evident. Fortunately not in the case of #2 who did not turn out to be an axe murderer, but learned to strike a chord on a guitar perfectly or #1 who excelled at sports and aimed at a goal or a flag instead. #4 trailed behind, and saw plenty! He developed the keenest sense of humour and was multi talented. If you can’t join ’em, laugh at ’em, until you can. They were always into something, from burning down a hay field and nearly the town, to “borrowing” a few drinks from a 7UP truck, they had each other to “fan the flames”. What one didn’t think of, three others could. Stories, far too numerous to write. Suffice it to say, it was any boy’s life amped x 4! Thankfully, it was at a time when the local police would give them a scolding or look the other way, and not lock them up! The raucous behaviour continued well into their teens. Never the choir boys, they were all industrious. They had paper routes, shined shoes, caddied and set pins. They earned their own spending money and always contributed to the family grocery bill.

They learned to fish and hunt and took advantage of the lakes and forests around the mining towns they lived in. Their appreciation of nature and boyhood camaraderie shaped their lives and built the solid foundations.

They were very individualistic, bright, competitive and talented. They all married lovely women and had lovely children. (Isn’t that the way it should be?)

To this day, when they get together all hell breaks loose. I look forward to it every single time.

Click on the photos for full size.


PS: Several years after the end of the war, Ruth and Frank were blessed by two daughters, (my lovely sisters-in-law) and later on another son.

The Luck of the draw (In-laws) Part 2.

February 4, 2008

My Father-in-law, Frank

Frank grew up in Montreal. He was an all round great athlete. Hockey, Baseball, and La Cross were his favorites. He also enjoyed ball room dancing with his sweetie, Ruth, who he married in 1936 and was well known for his poker skills which came in handy from time to time:)
Frank joined the Black Watch 1940-1945 and saw action in Europe as a motorcycle dispatch rider until he was wounded* just before the war ended.

He, like many veterans didn’t talk much about his war experience. He shared the more light hearted, interesting anecdotes, such as, he had learned to reassemble a motor bike from scratch, blindfolded. *Although he had suffered severe burns to his hands and face, he was fortunate to have been treated in the largely experimental operating theater, where he underwent plastic surgery. The expert skin grafts to repair the damage was nearly invisible. The subject was fodder for much laughter. The grafts had been taken from his behind area and applied to the hands and face. “Just kiss me”, he would say. He may have the distinction of being the shortest man in the Black Watch, he was 2″ shorter than the minimum requirement when he signed up. He was nevertheless sent to training camp where he “measured up” and brought an additional talent to his unit: he was a winning baseball pitcher, and was invaluable to the force and their competitive nature!

Frank was overseas for five years. When he returned, he couldn’t get enough of his four boys, and they remember playing with him endlessly. One day, he arrived home with balls, bats and gloves and started to teach the fine art of baseball to his “near team”. Skiing instructor, “par excellence,” saw the boys into local competition in no time.

Frank made his living in the early days following the war, carving and painting Mallard ducks, made into pins and plaques, which he sold to big department stores, and building stone fireplaces. He couldn’t tear himself away from his family. When we reflect back, it was probably a form of self-enforced therapy. He later became an accountant and found his way to the mining town circuit, I have described earlier. At that time, mining towns offered a unique life style-company houses, good salaries, good schools and a safe environment for a family. They also offered a curling rink and a baseball team, so Frank would have been in his glory!

He was a very nice person. He was always supportive and encouraging, and like my own parents, never critical, and always generous. Thank you!

And thank you Frank, for your service to Canada.

Frank in the Black Watch WW2