I am travelling today with a son and a daughter to visit my mother, probably for the last time. She’s 84 and in failing health.
My earliest memory of my mother was in the kitchen. She cooked wonderful food for us, simple things like peas, carrots, meat and potatoes but also the most wonderful cinnamon buns. She long ago forgot the recipe but I have managed to reinvent them, more or less. 50 years ago she found morels (Morchella esculenta) growing in the forest beside our garden and gave me a meal of them sauteed in butter. I can still taste them. She used to pickle beets and cucumbers and to preserve jellies and jams for the winter.
In those days winter was always cold and with deep snow. She was delivered of me after a long ride in a horse-drawn sleigh to the nearest hospital. The roads were impassible due to a late winter storm. In my formative years, we lived in a log house in the forest and her favourite thing was to cook cocoa for us when we returned from hours of playing in the snow. She cooked bread and buns and everything else in a wood stove. Fetching water and wood were my principle chores.
In all the years I knew her as a child, my mother never complained even as we planted our garden for food, picked rocks (they were more plentiful than soil) or milked cows. She taught me to read before I was school age. She was a voracious reader and always kept us supplied with books from a mail-order lending library.
As a teenager I was sullen and never gave her much joy but she kept on going and was supportive even into my years at university. She raised five children and three attended university and became teachers. She and my father believed education was the key to a bright future and it was for us. I am sure they were surprised when we kept going at it after graduating high school, something my father did not because of WW II.
I owe my parents for what I am today. They gave me everything I needed to get started and never stood in my way to make my own choices. They treated all my siblings fairly and were a blessing to us all. My father died long ago of cancer. My mother has had a long struggle with diabetes which has worn down her health. The circle of life is completing another cycle. My own children are maturing and today will be an important stop along their way.
Unlike the old days, winter is mild today, with a forecast low temperature three standard deviations above the normal high temperature, cloudy but with no snow. It is a good day to travel to say “Good-bye Mom.”
Mom died peacefully, 2012-1-16 surrounded by family.