Monday, February 27, 2012

#6 Mildred Harris

Today's post, #6, is dedicated to my mother, Mildred Harris.

Dad, Mom & Alice at the Hibernia construction site, Bull Arm, Newfoundland, 1996.

Composing a list like this at any other time of year, Mom would have been my very first post, but I thought I would reserve it for today, which would have marked her 89th birthday. Therefore, this being the 6th day of Lent, she ended up being #6!

Mom passed away in December, 2003. That's over eight years ago, and rarely, if ever, does a day go by when she is not spoken of, and certainly when she is not remembered.

There is no way to adequately describe her. I've typed lots of things here and then deleted them, because they sound so pathetic and maudlin and inadequate.

Those who knew her, knew her as someone with a great sense of humor, style, a true lady in every sense of the word, modest to a fault yet with steely strength of her convictions, a writer of letters to the editor that got even the the Evening Telegram publisher in a spin, and a lover of life, especially the life of the unborn.

With no fanfare, self-congratulation or self-promotion, she would try to make a difference. She would man the crisis phones at Elizabeth House, the home for unwed mothers, offering support to girls and their families at a most difficult time in their lives.

It was that love of the unborn that brought my mother to the attention of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. John's, Alphonsus Penney.

Archbishop Penney bumped into my brother in the Halifax airport one time, and instead of asking how my father was - who in his day was very active and involved in the Church - he instead enquired after my Seventh Day Adventist mother, "Millie" as he would call her. We still get a big kick out of that! Poor Dad!

When it came down to it, she was really more Catholic than anything else, but refused to convert because, as she would say, she was a member of "the round church where you can't be cornered". As children, when Sunday morning came and Dad was taking us all off to Mass and Mom got to stay home and cook Sunday dinner, we all wanted to be Seventh Day Adventists!

Any writing ability I may have was very likely passed down to me through my poor mother's genes. I have boxes of old newspapers in the basement that feature Mom's letters to the editor on one topic or another - politics & Right to Life, mainly - and my personal favorite, "Santa, Please Change Your Phone Number". CBC Radio featured a call-in show in the lead up to Christmas many years ago, where children could call and speak to Santa on the air. Unfortunately for Mom, the phone number for that call-in show was only one digit away from our home phone number, so she was getting inundated by hysterical children wanting to talk to Santa! Instead of having a fit about it, she got out her pen and paper, and wrote her own letter to Santa, in care of the Evening Telegram editor. It was a funny work of brilliance.

My friends always said how much they liked my Mom. More than me, in a lot of cases!!

She was always the one who would drive bunches of us where we needed to go, especially for school outings. She was automatically volunteered by us, and never said "no".

But, she was very good at saying "no" when out shopping. We got everything we ever needed, as well as our birthday presents, and our Christmas and Easter presents, but certainly did not get everything we cast our eyes on and 'just had to have' throughout the rest of the year. We got what we needed, but not everything we wanted. We DID do pretty good, though, but certainly not the way it is by today's standards!!  

If it wasn't for Mom, God only knows what I would be doing right now. I went to the College of Trades & Technology and did the Nursing Assistant course. I wanted to be a nurse, but as far as I was concerned, there was no way on Earth I could possibly ever give anyone a needle. In her "don't be so bloody foolish" way, she went and got an application for St. Clare's Mercy Hospital School of Nursing one day, and when I came home from wherever I had been, there it was, on the table for me to complete. And I did, because throughout my life, even the teenage years, I always knew Mom was right. It is because of this very story that my nursing school pin is buried with my mother, and rests on her heart to this day.

She survived the death of a child, and thrived on the arrival of seven grandchildren.

She spoiled my father so badly!! In the years since she's been gone, he bemoans the fact that "your mother would get up in the middle of the night and wash and dry my back and put powder on me." Come ON, MOM!!! Talk about a hard act to follow!!!!

She loved nothing better than going to lunch, or having me or my sister call her and say "I've got to run around and do a few things, do you want to come for the ride?" She'd drop everything and go.

If I start to list off my regrets, I'll be in a puddle of tears, so the only one I will own up to is the fact that I wish I had half an idea how to cook while she was still here. Not that I'm any great chef now, but she, like (I'm guessing) 100% of all mothers, was taken for granted in the kitchen, and I wish I could have done that differently.

I do thank God that I asked her how she did her roast beef, and her pickled beets, before she died. To this day, when I walk in the house for Sunday dinner, it smells just the same as when Mom was still here. My sister definitely has 'the knack'!

I dreaded her wake and funeral, but what I anticipated as being pure hell, turned out to be a very comforting, moving, illuminating experience. To see so many people who I never knew, but who knew her, and to hear their stories, was so wonderful and unexpected. For all she did for the Catholic church, while raising us and supporting Dad, she was honoured with four priests on the altar at her Mass of Christian Burial. I'm sure some of her non-Catholic friends were a little shocked, but if they were, they didn't know my mother.

Reading this over, it is hands down the most inadequate writing I've ever done. This could and should go on for chapters, not just a few paragraphs. However, there is no way to capture the essence of who Mom was well enough for someone who didn't know her to appreciate her. But, to any readers of this who did know her, you know. She was a smart, wonderful, remarkable, loving woman who had class and spirit and humor, and was unlike anyone I have ever or will ever know.

Happy Birthday, Mom. See you again one day.
All my love,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome here! Just keep 'em clean, that's all I ask. I welcome differing opinions, but it IS my blog... I'm going to have the last word!!