A woman on her own

I grew up surrounded by strong women. My Mom was an only child and so Grandma’s sister’s and Uncle Jack (her only brother) were a very strong influence all throughout my childhood. One of the stories that has come down to us is about Grandma’s younger sister, Aunt Helen. She never married, had no children of her own, but instead dedicated her life to teaching. At the time it was apparently a big deal for them all since it would require money; which was somewhat scarce for them growing up.

Aunt Bea, Grandpa & Aunt Helen
At the train station, c1940’s Aunt Bea ( think), Grandpa, & Aunt Helen

So the story goes that Grandma promised Aunt Helen she would help her pay for her education and that she would always take care of her. The idea was that Grandma’s family would be there for her in the ways a husband or your own children would be when you grow old. Strange to think today that a woman would need that sort of reassurance; but those were the times.

This is the story I was going to tell. About my Aunt Helen and all that made her such a neat woman. I had the details of what I wanted to say jotted down, I had found a title I liked and saved it as a draft to come back to today. Even had some storytelling techniques I was using from “22 rules of storytelling from Pixar”. Then I saw todays DAILY PROMPT:

Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to.

So that changed the whole pie into a crumble. Than I remembered something my sister and I were discussing last week, about regrets. It was when I was trying to convince her that it was a good thing I wasn’t going to London, or going to an interview, or whatever it is I was supposed to be doing three weeks before Christmas.

Mom and ?
Mom & ? No one knows who she’s with, but I know it was taken in the Living Room at the Homestead…Mom is maybe 16 years old. I’d love to know what record she was listening to.

A year or so before Mom died just her and I were in her kitchen at the house and she was upset. She was feeling regrets about not pursuing a career in Graphic Arts like she’d wanted to out of High School. You see, any talent I have I owe to her. Not just genetically, but by her encouragement and her passion that I pursue what she was unable to. It was her that insisted I go to BealArt rather than go back for Grade 13 and maybe University. She saw in me a talent she said. Even from the time I first held a pencil in my chubby little baby hands, she said I held it the proper way; never just grabbed on like you would a club or a bat. No, she said I held it just like I saw her do, and I was very careful and very creative.

You may recognize that guy in the middle - I was 16 (right) working at that same Newspaper -- I did that for 2 summers
You may recognize that guy in the middle – I was 16 (right) working at that same Newspaper — I did that for 2 summers

Now at the time I told Mom that was all poppy-cock. She hadn’t had to go to Beal, she had taught herself and had nothing to be ashamed of. She had worked 25 years at this point at our local rural Newspaper. Grandma had started it with the old owner, in the 50’s. Mom had worked there for years. I told her she worked on a Mac designing ads everyday. No, she didn’t make the money she would if she had been with some big graphics firm, but she had been there for us. From my point of view it seemed ideal. She was a Mom, a loving Wife and she worked in a field she had wanted to since she was young. Seemed like she had been very successful and hadn’t had to compromise anything.

You see where I’m going with this though. If Mom were alive today, I would, well, I’ll just say it:

Thank you Mom. Thank you for sacrificing your dreams. Thank you for helping me to fulfill mine. Everything I hold dear I have because of you. My photography is my oasis, the stories you told my comfort. You taught me to dream, to look more closely at things. You taught me to slow down, take my time.

The night before we took her home, I spent the whole night on a cot beside her hospital bed. In the morning Dad came in and so he told me to go home for a quick shower – get refreshed, it was going to be long day. I had been gone about 2 hours at the most. As I walked into the room I caught the tail end of another massive stroke. This one took her voice. That night, I thank God for. I wrote down everything she said that night; even the drug induced nonsense. Those were her last coherent words.

During that last week, those last 8 days of her life, Aunt Helen and Aunt Jo (Grandma’s last remaining sisters) came to say goodbye. I can still remember them both standing there looking at her lying there. This was not how it was suppose to be.

Aunt Helen lived another 2 years, Aunt Jo turned 95 this year. Someday I’ll tell you their stories.

This post is part of the Daily Prompt

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