First, thanks to all of you for your patience and support during the past few months. I’m still way behind on responding to comments, so I appreciate that so many of you are still dropping in . . .
As those of you with experience with people affected by dementia will know, moving from a familiar home is extremely difficult for them. It has been hard for my Aunty, in spite of my efforts to create at least some continuity.
We moved to the new place two weeks ago today (Monday the 13th of April) and yesterday my Aunty simply let go and left us at 1.00 pm. I’d been sitting with her on the couch, holding her hand. I got up to move a couple of things in preparation for my Mum’s planned visit in the afternoon. I was up less than ten minutes, then sat down with her again. At that time, or just before, she went home. Just the day before, she had told me she was frightened, but couldn’t articulate the cause. I asked her if she was afraid of dying and asked if she knew what happens when we die. She said, “what?”, so I reminded het that we are met by those who love us and added that her Mother and Dad would probably be among them. She was calmer after that. She was only 10 when her mother died and that loss affected her and her siblings all their lives. I like to picture her ‘home’ again with them and all the others who have gone on ahead.
My Aunty reminded me of a Bantam rooster; she was tiny, not even five feet tall. But feisty enough for ten average people! I have inherited some of the same spirit, in a much more subdued fashion, so we had our clashes. But she always reminded me that she loved me and that she appreciated my being here and willing to help. And she knew I loved her, too. I’m so glad I didn’t leave that unsaid.
Those of you who have followed the Random Harvest for a while may remember my photos of my Aunty, happy to model a shawl or hold up an afghan for me. I miss her already, even though I had no wish to hold her back.
My mother has moved here now, so starting today we will continue unpacking and getting settled. It’s good to be with her again.
By the time Mum arrived yesterday, I had taken care of my Aunty’s body and she looked so peaceful, lying in her bed wearing a lovely pink blouse and powder blue skirt suit. She had made her clothes a while ago, as usual. She had a hard time finding anything suitabke that fit her. She became a fantastic seamstress as a result and when she was young turned many a head.
She learned to knit from her Mother and maternal Grandmother, both born in Norway. When my Aunty was young, all the socks, mittens, scarves, tuques, etc. were made by the women and girls in the fsmily. The men in my Great-Grandmother’s family had been fishermen. Away for weeks, sometimes months, at sea, they passed their evenings knitting socks, etc. for themselves. My oldest uncle, born in 1912 (the year the Titanic went down), learned to knit his own socks, too. Their Grandmother or Mother would start the cuff and the child would knit until it was time to turn the heel or make the thumb. The adult would do that, then the child would continue until it was time to decrease abd finish off, which the adult would do. After a while, the child learned to do it all, start to finish. My Grandmother crocheted, too, but my Aunty never did. She didn’t take well to her oldest sister trying to teach her after their Mother was gone. Older sibs (like me 😉 ) can be quite bossy!
Like my Mum, my Aunty learned to do Artex painting, a form of liquid embroidery. Living in separate provinces, both taught classes and made a bit of pin money selling supplies. A couple of years ago, my Aunty gave me her large container of Artex paints and all the pictures she had created. She sold some of her work, too. She was especially proud of one set of pillowcases she decorated; instead of ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ on them, as was common in those days, hers said, ‘Mine’ and ‘Yours’! She sold several sets of those . . .
As a girl, before the War, she had a penpal in India. The women in that girl’s family crocheted doilies to support the family. They would send a package to my Aunty, who would sell them, then send a money order back to India. She told me about tgat family so many times. She lost touch with them once the War broke out, followed by the Revolution, then Partition. My Aunty always wondered if they received the last money order she sent; it wasn’t acknowledged as usual and she never heard from them again.
After their mother died, my Grandfather kept the family together on the farm. The oldest son stsyed home for years to help with the farming (mostly wheat for income and hens, cows and pigs, plus two gardens just to feed the famkly, with extra butter and eggs being traded at the general store or given to family and friends. The ‘Dirty Thirties’ were very hard years if you lived in southern Saskatchewan. The nine remaining children ranged from nearly three to twenty years of age. The second son left home early and it wasn’t long before the oldest sister married and went to live with her husband’s family on their farm. So the housework, cooking, baking, laundry (by hand in a washtub) was split up by the three girls who were lmd enough: my Aunty, another Aunt and my Mum. Baking was not only all the bread for ten people, but also cookies, cakes, pies, loaves, etc.
My Aunty was too small to knead the bread well, but she baked many of the desserts. The other two girls did most of the laundry, although she helped, and she did all the mending, socks and clothing. It was a hard life for youngsters, but it formed them into strong, resilient, creative women and men. This why I feel so strongly that they deserve lovibg care in their final years.
I could say so much more, but I’ll save some for another day.
I’m doing ok, if you are wondering, but these next days will be busy as Mum and I settle in here. I hope to have a computer set up later this week.
I nearly forgot to tell you of the additional craziness yesterday . . . Shortly after my Aunty died, I had a phone call from the new caretakers in our old building. They live in Mum’s old suite. There was water pouring out of my Aunty’s old place, her son was still in Fort MacMurray and no-one had a key! In the end, they got a locksmith to open the door and then spent several hours vacuuming up over an inch of water (not much in the living room; mostly in the bedrooms and storage room. It was ‘dirty’ water from a burst drainpipe serving the kitchen sinks. The water backed up through my Aunty’s sonk, then spread across the floor. The caretakers drove here just before midnight to collect a key so they could let in the workmen today. I wad SO glad Aunty and I were not there; or, even worse, that she was there alone.
A lot for my cousins to deal with this week, for sure.
Have a great week, everyone; I’ll be back on a regular basis soon.
Sorry there are no photos; for some reason, my phone isn’t allowibg that today . . .