Category Archives: Family

Only Child on quality versus quantity of life

Only Child  contemplates quality vs quantity of life

Only Child contemplates quality vs quantity of life

Yesterday I attended the funeral service for the mother of a friend. The mother was in her late 80s and for the past 10 years had suffered from dementia. Her quality of life was not good. My friend had to put her in a nursing home eight years ago but she spent a good part of her days with her mother.

It got me thinking of quality versus quantity of life. For those of you who have been following this blog you may remember that my parents did not live to a ripe old age. My dad died of brain cancer at 66 when I was 16 and my mom died of a sudden brain aneurysm at age 63 when I was 22. Here we have my dad suffering from some form of cancer off and on for six years before he died. He was not in a good place (and I don’t mean the hospital) in the last few months. Mom, on the other hand, had a few headaches, then the aneurysm and despite surgery, she died five days later.

Two of my maternal uncles and a first cousin once removed (I hate that ancestry categorization – sounds like they are getting kicked out of the family) lived into their 90s. When the cousin died at 90, she was blind, had dementia and a bad heart. One uncle, my godfather, died at the same age. He had dementia and heart problems. The other uncle, not a blood relative, died at age 98 and was healthy – mind and body – almost up to when he died.

My paternal grandfather died in his early 70s the same year my parents were married – so before I was born. My paternal grandma died in her mid-80s of a heart attack. She still had all her mental facilities and was able to get around okay.

That’s my history. But I’ve seen a lot of other suffering from illnesses and from my observations I truly believe that quality of life trumps quantity. If your mind is gone; if your body is filled with sickness that will kill you, is there a point in carrying on?

However, having said that I believe it is up to the individual to decide if they want to end their life sooner than later if they are terminally ill (of mind and/or body). It is not up to God’s will (and how often has that term been mis-used – from the family of terminally ill people praying for a miracle, to if the person dies well, they say, it was just God’s will.)

Excuse me. It is not God’s life but yours, mine – the person who is terminally will. If God gave us free will then we should have the right, if terminally ill, to decide if we want to die sooner than later. Quality over quantity.

And that’s where the problem arises.

Canada now has given the okay to assisted suicide, although the details have to be worked out. I have a problem with that, not because it will still be up to the dying person to decide, but because another person has to get involved. For every other medical procedure and the like I believe medical doctors have to go by the letter of the law – whatever their beliefs. But not here. I think they should be allowed to go by their conscience as long as they recommend a doctor who will assist in suicide. And not interfere with the dying person’s choice.

The other problem is often a person is too sick to decide and unfortunately hasn’t made a living will. So the family members try to impose what they want and believe to be right, not necessarily what the dying person wants. And not all family members agree.

So, it is a dilemma. Maybe we should have had it built into our being that if and when we become terminally ill, we just die right away.

Of course, some won’t make it that far because of other people’s actions, from vehicle crashes to plane crashes like the German plane crashing over France because of the co-pilot’s deliberate actions.

Perhaps the only thing to do is carpe diem – something I struggle with because of all the problems in my life – and I don’t mean just health-related.

What do you think?

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Assisted Suicide, cancer, Carpe Diem, Death and Dying, Dying with Dignity, Family, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child celebrates her son’s birthday

Martin outside Allans Restaurant on Mother's Day

Martin and I outside Allans Restaurant on Mother’s Day

Today is my son’s birthday and we plan to celebrate this evening over dinner. Just the three of us, including his girlfriend, at an Italian Restaurant. Wine and pasta or maybe wine and pizza. And conversation.

My son, Martin, gives me a lot to be thankful for. Too much to list, so just a few. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but he paid for a hotel room for my then boarder, her cat and me for a couple of days in late December 2013 because of the ice storm in Toronto and its resulting power failure at my home. He’s there when my computers and their programs act up. He helps financially with some of his gifts – things I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. He doesn’t forget my birthday or mother’s day and takes me out for brunch or dinner. And we always celebrate the Christmas season with dinner here.

It’s not just a lot of food and meals. I think deep down it’s the mother-son connection. Some mothers and sons (or mothers and daughters for that matter) either have severed connections or the connections are shaky or gone sour. Perhaps the child grew up to be a criminal or drug addict, or worse. Perhaps the mother abandoned her child. You can probably imagine all sorts of heartbreaking scenarios.

Many of us raise our kids the best we can and sometimes are surprised when they turn out okay. In my case, Martin’s father and I split up when Martin was quite young. But – and it’s a big but – neither of us abandoned him. Martin had equal time with both parents. Not easy at first when my ex and I were fighting, but it smoothed out after a few years. This time with both parents gave Martin a more rounded growing-up period and hopefully with no feelings of abandonment. For my part, I tried to be fair and let my son work out a lot of his growing-up pains himself, often offering the listening ear and a few suggestions.

Not that there wasn’t some discipline involved when necessary, but never extreme. For example, when I had to ground him when he was 16 for something (for privacy’s sake, I’m not saying what, except it wasn’t drugs), I used common sense. He was grounded, except from school (obvious) but the other exception was he could still practice and perform at gigs with the rock band he played in. Why? Because there were others involved here and it wouldn’t be fair to them. Parenting is give and take – on both sides. I’m not saying I was the perfect parent. Far from it.

Something that came out of his growing-up years – he matured in thoughts and actions early. Others have commented on this. And he has a lot of common sense and logic in him.

But also lots of creativity.

Now he plays in another band (Beams, see http://beamstheband.com/) and is a computer programming expert.

But when you get right down to it the continuing love, the continuing bond is what’s important.

Happy birthday, Martin.

Cheers.

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Martin Crawford, Mother and Child, Only child, Parenting, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child searches for Dad’s history

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

I am trying to piece together my late father’s history – his ancestors and his life in Toronto before I came along. Not too easy when Dad was born in Montreal and the family moved to Toronto when he was a child.

A year ago I began this quest – one of my cousins had started a trace on the Langevin (and Verey – the latter her direct family connection, not mine) ancestry on www.ancestry.ca. I’m not on there yet but one of my friends is and she offered to do some checking there. She found my cousin’s partial family history and also an anomaly – further digging by my friend found another last name (maiden one) for my paternal grandmother. Which is the correct one?

I am not close to my Dad’s side of the family and it has been over five years since I talked to some of my cousins. But I emailed the family genealogist using an old email address. You guessed it – the email bounced back as no one at that address.

However, life jumped in, including dealing with the horrible boarder living here last year, house and house-related problems, plus one pleasant thing – finishing rewriting my first mystery novel Beyond Blood (published fall 2014 – Warning: plug coming. See my publisher’s website www.bluedenimpress.com for more info and my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com).

As 2014 drew to a close and 2015 rushed in, I feel much urgency to continue on this quest for Dad’s history. I have been spending some Saturday afternoons at the Toronto Reference Library looking in old City Might Directories to find where Dad lived and to try to nail down when the Langevin family did move to Toronto. (I had some idea what street so that was a start.)

And found myself on a very enjoyable but puzzling journey.

Picture me sitting at a table on the library’s second floor with Might Directories piled up in front of me. The shelves where they are stored are behind me, but I can only carry four books at a time. It is difficult with my health issues to get down to the floor to pick out the directories on the bottom shelf but I am compelled to do so.

You are not allowed to photocopy the contents – not a copyright issue but the delicate nature of the pages. These are old directories, circa early 1900s (Dad was old enough to be my grandfather) and the pages are amazing. Almost like parchment with back to back pages which appear glued together. Back then, the “technology” did not allow for any other way to do this. The print is around the same size as print telephone directories, perhaps a smidgeon larger. With my bad eyes and old glasses I have to use a small magnifying glass to read the type.

It is worth it – this going back and forth from the street listings to the name listing and I finally find my late grandfather. Thanks to my cousin’s information on ancestry.ca I now know his first name. But another Langevin surfaces in the Might Directories – a Charles Langevin and I have no idea where he fits in, except my grandfather and grandmother and their offspring lived with him for a few years. My grandfather (Eugene Langevin) shows up in the street address listing at some point and then in a later year, Charles has disappeared. Then my aunts and uncles and my dad show up living at the same addresses, including my cousin’s great grandfather (she is a cousin once removed to me). And it lists where they worked and the position they held. The listing criteria seems to be it didn’t matter if you were male or female as long as you held a job.

I find my father not only worked as a clerk at Canadian National Railways but that previouslyhe worked with the Grand Trunk Railway before CNR gobbled it up. I finally find where his office was located – as I suspected right in Union Station in Toronto. One of his brothers, Uncle Paul also fought in World War 1, which I never knew. The directory has him still at the address but they classify him as “away on service.” And yes, he came back from the war. I also discover the Langevin family moved to Markham St. (where my cousins, their parents and my late maternal grandmother lived when I was a child) many years earlier than I suspected.

Then I get carried away and start to trace my mom’s time from when she moved to Toronto from the family farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Not sure which year so I’m working back from 1938 the year before she and Dad married. The address she lived at then (renting in a house) is in the area of Toronto where she and Dad lived when they were first married. Next investigation is to find out if the addresses are the same. An old photograph I have might give me the answer.

I can see my memoir will need some changes.

And I finally realized why I am compelled to do this family history investigation now. 2015 (November) is the 50th anniversary of Dad’s death.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

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Filed under Beyond Blood, Beyond the Tripping Point, Canadian National Railway, Dad, Family, Hereditary, Libraries, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Railways, Research memoir writing, Toronto

Only Child and the non-Thanksgiving holiday

Only Child's Garden one of the things she is thankful for.

Only Child’s Garden one of the things she is thankful for

Yesterday was the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. But it didn’t feel like it. Maybe because I didn’t do a family Thanksgiving dinner because my son was touring with his band Beams over the weekend. Maybe because my son, his girlfriend and I met for dinner instead – last Tuesday evening. We didn’t eat any kind of Thanksgiving dinner. We ate at an Italian restaurant and the closest to a bird was the chicken cacciatore I ate.
Maybe because it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving last Tuesday. We did talk about family matters but it’s not the same as our traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the roast chicken (I’m allergic to turkey). Maybe it’s because the bad still takes over the good in my life and except for a few things I don’t feel that thankful.
Don’t get me wrong. Each day I give thanks for what is good in my life. But I also do the opposite for what is bad in my life. I follow a variation of the rule learned from my Grade 6 teacher – give credit where credit is due (her rule) and discredit where discredit is due (my variation).
The odd thing was that over the weekend as I walked along the streets near home, strangers would wish me a happy Thanksgiving. I didn’t pull the snarky reply but smiled and wished them the same in return. If some people are 100 per cent thankful, I’m not going to burst their balloon.
However, I know that life is not all rosy. Bad happens and I’m still getting more than my share of it. For example, last week, despite my asking God daily to have all the six utilities work 24/7 with no disruptions in service, he didn’t listen. He is not responsible for the services going off, but he is responsible for not listening. “Ask and you shall receive” seems often to be either a crowd thing or if one person asks, i.e. me, I have to shout and shout to be heard. I am told I have to be specific in my requests, what I put out there and I am and what do I get? Nearly two days of no phone or Internet service because of Bell Canada. The ding-a-ling company had a corroded cable up a pole. That’s all I’m going to say about that now as it is fodder for another full blog post.
Like I said above I am thankful for a few things – my son and his girlfriend, my house (except for what needs fixing), my garden, this lovely summer-weather day today, my health (what is still good about it), my writing, editing and writing teaching/tutoring business.
Speaking of my writing, I am really really thankful that Blue Denim Press just published another book of mine this fall – my first mystery novel Beyond Blood. The book launch for it is this coming Sunday, October 19, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Paintbox Bistro in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you are in the area then, please come to the book launch, which also launches another first mystery novel – Dead Wrong by Klaus Jakelski. More details at http://www.bluedenimpress.com
I will be blogging more about it this Thursday on my author blog http://www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com
And check out my son’s band Beams at http://beamstheband.com/

Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, God, Health, Only child, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Only Child on summer stress and worry

Myfmother - the worrier incarnate and little worrier - me.

My mother – the worrier incarnate and little worrier – me.

My late mother was worrywart incarnate and I come a very close second to her in the worry and anxiety department. Still, my reaction to a study showing that summer may be the time for the highest stress was “what?”

 

It gets sillier.

When the news story on last night’s 11 p.m. Global Toronto news showed interviews with people on why they are so stressed in the summer, I could only think “oh, come on.”

 

Some parents were stressed out because the kids are home and not in school. This one I get. But there are ways to alleviate it.

 

The other stressors mentioned in the study are so run-of-the-mill and common year round – trying to balance too much to do came at the top of the list. None of the stressors were abnormal, just people having difficulty getting through their day. And while I should be one of the last people to complain about people complaining about their problems, at least some of my problems are a bit weird. In a nutshell, lately it’s been computer problems, which is common – but Skype hanging and causing other programs to hang? And having to shut down and restart the computer twice to get everything up and running. And yes, I did a full virus scan and it showed all clear.

 

Another one some travellers may emphasize with – at least those who travel by public transit and not car. VIA Rail, Canada’s passenger rail system in its wisdom cut back some service in late 2012. I’m just catching up with that for my holidays this summer. The early evening train no longer runs from Toronto to Grimsby. The morning train is too early for me to deal with because of health problems that are worse in the morning. Then there is the morning rush hour(s) to wade through to get to Union Station (with construction in and outside as well) to catch the train. I might be able to do it if I stayed at the very expensive hotel across the street from Union Station – even manoeuvring the walkway and stairways through the construction. (My late father who worked for the railway as a timekeeper is probably turning over in his grave.)

 

GO Transit doesn’t run buses or trains that go all the way from Toronto to Grimsby. So, I’m left with something called Megabus which runs throughout North America. Must be something relatively new in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I took a bus (not a Megabus) from Toronto to Walkerton and it was a lovely ride and experience. True, we stopped at many places on the way to let people on and off, but the driver was so friendly that the atmosphere in the bus was relaxed and friendly. I remember the driver letting me off across the street from my motel (and that wasn’t the official bus stop) and telling me to be careful crossing the busy street.

 

Megabuses have so many boarding rules that they are almost as bad as airlines. At least we don’t have to remove our shoes – I don’t think.

 

I haven’t booked my tickets – just done some research, including talking to a friend who has travelled on them. I have to phone the company for more details.

 

But it is the only way (short of hitchhiking) I will get to my cousins without a lot of transfers. Will the travel experience be worth it? I’ll believe I get on the bus and get to Grimsby when it happens. The ride by the way is about an hour and a half.

 

At least the problem is a little different problem.

 

Silliness and weird problems aside, the people who really have big worries are those who have cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, those who are homeless, those who lose their homes or part of their homes due to flooding, fires, and wind. And those who worry about these disasters happening because of where they live (read anywhere in the world today). These are bigger concerns than worrying about trying to do everything or even the kids driving you nuts at home. Put them in summer camp for part of the summer. That’s what I did with my son when he was a child and in his early teens. He loved it and learned some new skills such as photography, sailing, painting (the art kind, not house painting).

 

Let’s get realistic. Go to the peace and quiet. I do – my garden. I sit out there, eat meals out there, read out there. And garden.

 

I just try to ignore staring at what was destroyed by the ice storm and the extremely cold winter.

 

My garden provides a little solace time. So does writing, walking, reading and even a bit of TV. And the garden is also providing lots of fresh fruit and veggies to eat. (Lots of weeds, too, but you know what I do with them. As I pull them I imagine they are my problems or the people/organization causing the problems). Helps me and it isn’t illegal.

 

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Gardening, Health, Holidays, Life demands, Megabus, Problems, Railways, Travel, Union Station Toronto, Worrying

Only Child on the creative side of writing memoir

 Only Child as a toddler  with Mom in the backyard

Only Child as a toddler with Mom in the backyard

Memoir is non-fiction so it has to be factual and perhaps dull? No, no, no.

True, you have to get information you include such as statistics and dates of birth of family members correct. However, you are telling your story, what you remember. The key word is “story.” In fiction, stories are made-up and  creative (or should be). And that creativity (but not the made-up part) can be applied to certain types of non-fiction such as narrative non-fiction and memoir. For narrative non-fiction consult an expert writer in that area, such as Ken McGoogan who has written several award-winning books in that vein and teaches the subject at the University of Toronto. See http://kenmcgoogan.blogspot.ca/p/home_11.html

Your memoir should be your truth but should read like fiction. Here is a brief example from my memoir-in-the-works You Can Go Home: deconstructing the demons (and I want to change that title as well).

One night, late, loud pounding on the front door wakes Mom, Dad and me. Like the servant heeding the master, we all trip out to the front. Mother turns on the veranda light and yanks the door open.

 “Do you know this man?” A police officer stands on our veranda. His right hand supports the shoulder of a dishevelled man.

“Uh, home,” the man says.

The stench of his breath assaults my nostrils and I jump back behind my mother, but nudge my head out. The man’s black hair lies flat and oily. Night shadow and red compete for attention on his face. He is bare from his neck to his dark trousers and when I look closer, I see blood streaking down from a deep slice on his left cheek and dribbling onto his chest. His eyes look bloody and vague, at least what I can see of them. A black mass hovers above his left eye.

“Home?” he asks again.

“Sharon, go back to bed,” Dad says. “This is not for little girls.”

But I am both fascinated and repulsed. I lean out a little further. Who is this man?  Copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

This reads like fiction, but it is what happened (as far as my memory can well, remember). Fiction tools used are:

Dialogue – although with memoir you don’t have to remember it word for word. Dialogue shows the reader how you saw the people in your life and how you spoke then. Try to make your dialogue consistent with your age back then. Unless you were a child genius you probably didn’t talk like an adult. Also remember to use appropriate slang for the time period. “Awesome” wasn’t used back in the 1950s and 1960s – at least according to my memory.

The people involved are presented as characters with traits. For example, I’m shy and hide behind my mother. Dad tries to protect me. The man at the door is shown as drunk with how he looks to me and there is one word of dialogue from him.

Point of View – usually with memoir it is the memoir writer’s  (you) POV but if you are writing about your parents and their story, you can use third person. Here it is my point of view. And as mentioned in last week’s post, your point of view can change now from when it was then. The trick is to put yourself back to that child you were at whatever age your story occurs and write from there. This is what I did here. With some of your scenarios, what you know and think now may be scurring around in your mind. It’s okay to add a bit of that, but make sure you word it as today’s take. This often works for comparison. But I wouldn’t use it for every scenario as it can get tedious. Some memoirs will cover the time-line gap, so today’s view could go in chronologically.

With fiction, I find many authors whose book manuscripts I edit, mix up their point of view use. Point of View doesn’t usually present as much of a problem in memoir because you are telling your story.

You can combine scenarios to a certain extent. For example, at the reception at home after my Dad’s funeral, I combine something one of my aunt’s said at another time (no story with the actual time she said it) with certain other things actually said at the reception. I was contrasting Mom’s country-born family with Dad’s city-born family and the interaction of the two “species.”

Which bring me to my final tip – as mentioned in last week’s post, each chapter should focus on one topic and its theme. For example, I have a chapter that focuses on gardening with my mother and father and its connection with our religious beliefs back then. So, no going on tangents here about what happened in school – those stories go into a different chapter or two or three. However, I do get into some of my friends I hung around with where it is connected to gardening and religion. When my friends and I played with our dolls outside in the backyard, we used to pull leaves off the trees and shrubs for the dolls’ food. My dad would charge out into the backyard and give us hell for doing so. Next day we’d be over at one of my friends in her backyard and get into a discussion about religion – she was Baptist and I was Catholic.

You see, how you can weave in your stories.

The above should give you some ideas about writing your memoir creatively. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more, I am teaching a memoir writing workshop, Saturday, February 22, 2014.  Here are some details:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

Check out the full details on my website at

http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Memoir content, Memoir writing, Mom and Dad

Only Child back to memoir writing

Only Child and her parents  in another time and world

Only Child and her parents outside her godmother’s farmhouse.

Yesterday I returned to my memoir to give it a face-lift. With my pre-quel novel rewrite off to the publisher for yet another looksee, it is time to get back to the other book manuscript-in-the-works.

I’m taking a new angle to it and have already rewritten the Prelude beginning and the start of Chapter 1. It is more edgy and suspenseful to begin with, although I will keep the poignancy, etc. throughout the memoir. However, nothing is sacrosanct as far as rewriting it is concerned.

Sometimes you have to take your writing by its horns and turn it around. With memoirs that happens often for various reasons: you want to focus in another area, family flak, or you just want to rev up the writing and interest.

My other motivation is I’m preparing to teach a one-day Memoir Writing Workshop in Toronto, Saturday, February 22. Previously (I sound like a TV show here), I’ve taught hour and a half Memoir Writing Workshops at Toronto Public Library branches or  six half day session Memoir Writing Courses through my East End Writers’ Group.

This one will combine the two. The blurb goes like this:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

What does that tell the memoir writer? Besides, it is not a piece-of-cake one- time shot. Nor is it all creativity.

You have to be organized

You can’t just sit down and write or you will be all over the place. You need to decide just what exactly you want to focus your memoir on and write that down, then do a chapter/subject outline, then…

You have to do research

Our memories aren’t 100 per cent. Although you are telling your story, you won’t remember everything going on for each segment of your life back then. And if back then covers your childhood, you certainly have a different perspective then from now. As a child you probably didn’t know much about the issues surrounding what went on in your life. For example, if you are writing about when your parents were divorced, what were the divorce laws then? You will even have do some digging for some of your family background. Family trees, relatives, particularly of the senior variety, and old family photos can be most helpful here. These conjure up all sorts of necessary research, which can be interesting in itself.

And of course, with your research, you also need to be organized. You don’t want to suffer from researchitis (over research with tons of paper and electronic files in your possession).

So, you can see that writing your memoir requires using both the left side of your brain (logical, analytical) and right side (creative).

We’ll cover a little bit of the creative side in the next post. Meantime, if you are in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area and are interested in my workshop, you can check out the full details on my website at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Memoir writing, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Organizing Memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child looks at weddings back then and now

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

November holds a lot of close family anniversaries – sad and happy. Last week I posted about the anniversary of my dad’s death. Mom’s birthday was November 9; I got married November 13 – and with that date it’s no wonder it didn’t last. But my parents’ marriage lasted 26 years. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but that was because Dad died in 1965.

Mom and Dad were married November 25, 1939 in St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Toronto. Weddings back then were very different from now. Besides the World War II factor, couples getting married weren’t so greedy – insisting that guests not only bring expensive gifts but cough up money to pay for their too expensive wedding. Considering that many marriages don’t last “til death do us part” these two penchants for money, money don’t make sense. And I thought weddings were supposed to honour the bride and groom, not pay their bills.

I’m not going to delve into this much further, but here is a link  from a very recent Toronto Star story about a wedding gift issue that gets the (wedding) cake  (for the brides to choke on) for stupidity, crassness, rudeness – all bad traits and no good ones from these brides.

http://www.thestar.com/life/2013/06/19/wedding_gift_spat_spirals_out_of_control_after_bride_demands_to_see_receipt.html

And smart advice from the relationship expert – Ellie – in the Toronto Star on this issue. http://www.thestar.com/life/2013/08/30/wedding_gifts_shouldnt_cost_more_than_you_can_afford_ellie.html

 When you read the first one (and it is linked from Ellie’s column), you may reach the same conclusion as me. Abolish lavish weddings and elope.

In 1939 with the Second World War just started, weddings focused more on the basic raison d’être – celebrating with the bride and groom. Fabrics for white wedding dresses weren’t readily available. Mom wore a satin blue suit. I remember this suit – and no, I sure wasn’t around then (and not for nine years after) but the suit sat in Mom and Dad’s bedroom closet – I think it was even in my bedroom closet for awhile. No idea where it went but I suspect it got swept out with a lot of stuff when Mom downsized in 1968 and the two of us moved to a two-bedroom apartment.

Mom didn’t say much about the wedding and its reception. From photos I have outside the church and inside the reception hall (and they are mostly too small to post, so you get one of the happy couple a few years after they were married) , I gather it was a small family affair. The reception was held at 10.30 a.m. (I remember hearing that – I’d never make it to a wedding, let alone a reception, at that time) and it was a breakfast. The fiancé of Dad’s youngest sister was manager of the dining hall at a small hotel near the church, so that’s where the reception was held. The funny part is the way the small party attending was seated. Tables were put together in the shape of an L – with Mom and Dad at the head in the middle – on Dad’s side for the rest of that part of the L, sat all his blood family members (and outlaws, I mean, the inlaws, too) and on Mom’s side it was her family.

I have no idea what gifts they received but it sure wasn’t stacks of money. I suspect it was maybe some place settings for their good dinner set, maybe a lamp – something useful and thoughtful.

This wedding gift setup still existed when I got married November 13, 1971. My fiancé and I registered our good dinner set choice at Eaton’s and Simpson’s and received a number of place settings (cost from $20 to $29 per – there was a sale on part of the time), wine glasses, bed sheets. It was unthinkable then and when Mom and Dad married for guests to fork out cash to pay for the wedding. And we didn’t have a lavish reception – but that was partly by choice. We married in a hurry (no, I wasn’t pregnant – my Mom had died suddenly three months prior and my fiancé and I had moved the wedding forward three months) so we didn’t have much money and the tradition of the parents of the bride paying wedding expenses obviously didn’t apply. We did use the downstairs dining room of the restaurant Mom and I had picked –fortunately Mom had booked the room, albeit it for the later date, and the restaurant owners just changed the date. It wasn’t the Ritz, but Mom and I knew the family who owned it and it was in the neighbourhood.

I’ll leave you with one question and please comment.

What do you think of the current trend of the wedding couple (gay or straight) insisting that guests help finance all their wedding expenses and then also expect an actual gift?

You know what I think.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Eaton's, Family, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child honours Dad on his anniversary

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

Losing a parent can be devastating, but particularly if you are a child. My dad, Albert Langevin,  died from brain cancer at 66 on November 15, 1965. That is a double whammy as I was only 16 at the time. But if truth be told, Mom and I had lost Dad years before that to cancer, starting with the first cancer hit in his lungs a few months before my 10th birthday. Surgery of half a lung removed got rid of it there, but cancer being cancer, it spread to his brain two and a half years later. Mom and I thought he would die. And we had the talk.

One day Mom corrals me in the kitchen.

“Sharon, I have something to tell you,” she begins, as we stand, facing each other. This isn’t sit-down business. “Your father has cancer of the brain.”

“Is he going to live?”

“I don’t know.”

Our hug does not reassure. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

So Mom called in the “troops” in the form of one of her older sisters to help out at the house so she could spend more time with Dad and often I joined her.

Aunt Gretchen now joins the litany of worriers hovering around Dad as he continues to vomit and endure the headaches. She brings her dumpy flowered housedresses, straight black hair, black oxfords, and bricks of blue cheese that stink up our fridge and would probably kill Dad if he were home and could keep anything down. I don’t remember Gretchen ever setting foot in the hospital, but she rules the home front. She commandeers the cooking and washing up after dinner, supposedly a blessing for mother and me…

 

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.

     

St. Michael’s Hospital radiatesa friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

 

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says. [Author Note: not blue cheese]

     

Soon after Dad returns to our house and Aunt Gretchen returns to hers. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That wasn’t the end of the cancer but four years later would be Dad’s end.

I like to remember Dad for more than just his cancer. He taught me to ride my bicycle, leading me along our street and the dead end crescent adjoining it. I was nine and a half, maybe a bit old to be just learning to ride a bike as my best friend The Bully told me. Looking back I realize that Dad holding the bike bars and leading me around along our street helped neutralize this Bully’s remarks. True, Dad was overprotective, as elderly parents often are, but he tried to protect me from The Bully.

Dad gave me the gift of being a railway/train-riding enthusiast. Dad worked as a timekeeper for the old CNR (when CN was CNR and had passenger service) so Mom and I got free passes. Our annual holidays to Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms near Walkerton, Ontario, trips to visit the Detroit, Michigan relatives, and tourist trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City were all courtesy of Dad.

Dad’s railway job (an office one at the CNR office when it was in Toronto) may have induced his obsession with all things (including the kitchen wall clock and his watch) being on time. We had to arrive at Toronto’s Union Station very early so he could be first in line to get on the train. Once we were allowed on, Dad cased the joint by walking up and down the coach aisles until he found the perfect seat. Then he would grab the top of the seat back and slide the seat backwards, creating two double seats facing each. I know, this dates me, but it was a great answer to keep families travelling together.

One of our trips to Detroit, when I was five was memorable because when the train arrived at Windsor, Ontario, a boat took us, train and all across the Detroit River.

 

Enter the Landsdowne Ferry in 1891, at 312 feet, the longest ferry on the Great Lakes. That summer of 1954, Mom, Dad and I were fortunate to take one of its last runs because in September 1955 or 1956, depending on your source, the CNR pulled the plug on passenger railway/ferry service. Once again passengers had to disembark from a train at Windsor and board an American train at Detroit. This time a bus carried them through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

 

But to a five-year old, the river run is a big sea adventure filled with rollicking train coaches and the screech of metal wheels on steel rails as the train jerks and jolts onto the long open freighter. Instead of the train whistle, we get the foghorn call of the boat and the floor seems to zig and zag. I hang onto the seat, but I also look out the window. The train appears to be moving on water, as if its wheels are kicking through the river…

 

We head to the back of the train and I gasp. The doorway is wide open and an expansion gate blocks our exit out onto the boat. On the other side of the gate the top of the boat sits level with the tracks, and beyond is the city of Windsor, fast disappearing as the boat-train sloshes and kicks its way through the dark green Detroit River. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford.

Sometimes in November I can feel Dad’s spirit here in my house. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of his death, I heard his spirit rush through the house, through the back hallway.

I don’t know if he will re-appear so dramatically this year, but I know he is here.

Love you and miss you Dad.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Dad's last picture

Dad’s last picture

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Elderly parents, Family, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Vacations

Only Child on family help and support

Only Child and son, Martin on the Danforth in Toronto.

Only Child and son, Martin on the Danforth in Toronto.

When Mom’s baby sister, my godmother’s first husband died and she had to raise seven children under nine years in age, my Mom stepped in to help. She couldn’t be physically present 24/7 – she had my Dad and me to look after in Toronto, the house and garden, and her sister lived miles away on the farm near Lucknow, Ontario. But we had Canada Post.

The sisters wrote back and forth a lot and Mom used to show me my godmother’s letters, but not her replies. Instead she made a big fuss out of playing Goodwill to help her little sister, something that people did then.

When the snow piles up in Toronto and stacks up on the farm, boxes of hand-me-downs, mother’s old clothes, my no-longer fitting clothes, and I suspect some store-bought ones find their way from our house to theirs (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

This family help and support appears to be following in my family’s footsteps – albeit from the other way round. And it gave me a reminder that maybe not all is so bad here (excluding basement leaks, sinusitis and the like).

Sunday my son Martin came over for lunch and to help me with computer stuff. He not only helped with the latter, he also fixed and helped with a few other repairs, etc. around the house. No, he didn’t fix the basement water leak. Some of that is humidity and the rest – where it is actual puddles of water getting in – is the fault of the a****** who did the excavation, etc. two years ago.

But some things and worries are out of the way.

Martin figured out how to use my knife sharpener, despite the instructions being in German only. My son is studying French and German and said his German isn’t that good. He sharpened my large garden clippers with the knife sharpener, explaining how it works as he did so. Not that it will stick in my non-mechanical brain.

He also fixed the battery in my wireless phone handset. After having The Source put in the new one last month (I had a three-for-the-price-of-one deal), it slipped out of my hand one day – that’s how bad my nerves were over all the worries – and its tenure in the handset was slightly out of kilter. It connected to the phone’s cradle- if I removed the cover and then I had to place the cover back on when carrying it around.

He changed the battery in the basement smoke detector. I did the main floor one (not completely mechanically-challenged here) but I can’t reach the ceiling one in the basement without standing on a chair. The main floor one is actually on the overhead of the doorway, so that gives me something to grab when I’m standing on a chair. Freefalling from the basement ceiling doesn’t appeal – a side effect from having vertigo.

Martin helped me sort out my accumulation of electronic extra gadgets – from adapters to ?? to various wires and cords, to an old router no longer used to a very old hard drive which I have no clue as to its origin. Most got chucked in the electronic-labelled plastic bag from the City of Toronto. I can place this at the end of my driveway for pickup on garbage day.

And he removed the Styrofoam from and broke down some of my “collection” of cardboard boxes and tied them together so I can put them out at the end of the driveway for collection on recycling day.

Maybe the best was when Martin and I cooked lunch together – he cooked the pasta and sauce (Note: sauce was from a store-bought bottle and pasta was store-bought, but he does have a pasta-maker at home and makes pasta there sometimes) while I made the salad with most of the lettuce coming from the garden. We didn’t sit outside to eat but sat at the kitchen table. We had spent a bit of time sitting outside on the back patio before lunch.

Lesson learned: sometimes family can help – even if family doesn’t consist of a partner or any siblings.

I am grateful to my son for helping me. And yes I told him so – verbally and in an email after he left.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Help and Support, Home and Garden, Martin Crawford, Mom and Dad, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford