The snowbirds are a little late this year; due to their loving concern for me and for my family, my Mom and stepDad Grant postponed their winter escape to sunny Florida until after my Toronto trip last week. Despite health concerns of their own, they have put me first yet again, as they have done my entire life, and I wish to thank them and congratulate them on finally making the drive out of the Arctic and into their well-deserved holiday.
Their ailments are greatly reduced by the warm humid air in their other hometown in central gulf coastal Florida - plus they have a tonne of fun down there all winter. Sunshine, hot tub, pool, golf courses, fresh strawberries off the vine, orange-vanilla swirl ice creams from Mixon Fruit Farms, fresh shrimp cooked in beer and peeled by hand into juicy bowls with fresh green beans, breeze blowing through open condo windows every evening, pelicans hangin' around their afternoon walks on the beach, their exploratory day trips all around the area plus longer trips to the likes of Disney resort villas and crazy Key West, salty Gulf air doing them good all winter long.
I am so proud of them for reaching this lifelong goal and I smile every time I get a post-Margarita Sunday brunch phone call from my Mom and she tells me about their week (before snoozing off for a post-Margarita nap in the shade of the afternoon).
Since they met when I was a kid, and Grant introduced us to his dream home in Florida, I have been fortunate to visit many times, last time being when I took the girls for a visit in February 2011. I love it there too, and though my heart is achy that they are leaving, I completely appreciate why they do.
Mom and Grant have been a fixture in my life and they are always there for me when I need them. I do not visit them enough, but I have countless wonderful memories of our lives together, whether here, there, or wherever in between. I love them, and I appreciate them and all the thoughtful things they both do for us.
Here they are, in a photo from last winter, so cute and happy, married 27 years and still giggling together throughout their adventures. See my Mom specifically? Yes, there she is, laughing and generous, funny and loving, and don't let her fool you... a tough cookie. A VERY tough cookie... in fact this woman has been through a war - no wonder I call her the Warden.
Since my surgery in May many of you who don't know my Mom or have/not recently met her have inadvertently come to know her as "The Warden." I dubbed her so when she very capably became the sidekick to my cancer education and the master of my recuperation efforts when it all began earlier this year. I tend to refer to this time in my life as some sort of sentence or penitence perhaps? Some days home feels like jail, I am the inmate in my pajamas - all of the players in this chapter have roles. My loving Mom's being that of The Boss. :-)
Don't get offended Mom, I am just stating what we all already know! And LOVE.
Mom and I are alike in so many ways, and we are often teased for having the same laugh or other similarities. Our lives have several eerie parallels which we can usually laugh about, and we share all of our daily joys and problems with each other, from my parenting woes to her misguidedly considering me her technical support hotline. We have had our share of rough times together as well, but our relationship always stays strong, and I think we both grow from the good and bad that we share.
We have a pretty small family; I am Mom's only child, and I have no cousins on Mom's side. I benefitted from being the only grandchild as well, by having a close relationship to my Baba and Dido growing up with my Mom. My Mom, my Baba and I are like three peas in a pod, and we often refer to Baba-isms that have helped (or hindered) us along the way, and we value how our Baba-ness and Mama-ness wind around how we mother and grandmother my girls and eachother, and ourselves.
Before I get us too confused, let me put some faces to names. Mama=Mom of course, and Baba=grandmother, in Ukrainian - my Mom is Baba to Claire and Cassie (and Grant is GeeGee, which is a hybrid of the traditional Uky Dido and modern-day GrandpaGrant), as her Mom was Baba to me.
Here we are all three, around 1991, in Florida. This photo is famous in our family, simply dubbed "the three generations."
My Mom is awesome for family photo opps, as evidenced by this one, our last "four generations" photo in 2002. You may recognize these players. :-)
She's SO gonna swat me when she opens her computer after arriving home in Florida and sees this post.. Notice I have waited to post it 'til she's IN THE CAR? Yep, I am still a little afraid of her. teehee!
She scared lots of us around here this summer, including my well-meaning friends who would pop by to visit me in my post-surgery bedrest position in the living room, and she would in no uncertain terms limit their visits whether or not any of the rest of us thought it was necessary. She was right I know, I was on bedrest for a reason. It was the proper way to spend part of my sentence - in solitary confinement!!! Just kidding Mom.. just kidding!
I respect her. Mom's experience and education and reasoning and common sense and genuine love of others makes her a force to be reckoned with, and I am grateful to have her on my team. Cancer doesn't stand a chance around her man, the Warden has put her foot down!
Mom had a long career as a nurse, but she also has a longer career as a woman. A busy woman, with multiple practical skills under her belt from basketball championships and drop-dead gorgeous beast at her prom, Ukrainian culture promotion and European travels (I specifically followed in her footsteps when visiting the leaning tower of Pisa!) and professional adventures (plus the odd truck trip!) all over the northern wilds of Ontario were just the beginning of all the stuff my Mom has accomplished in her life.
I admire her every day, and I hope that people are right when they compare us, I would be honoured to be like my Mom.
I miss her already, and I'm not sure how we'll handle everything we're going through without her being at home just a four hour drive away, she is always at the ready to drop everything and come up here to look after us (ME) in case of an emergency. My security blankie.
The reality is though, we still speak on the phone almost every day even in winter, so after adjusting to the actual fact that it is really two DAYS driving we are separated by, we habitually fall back into the same rhythm of talking and laughing across the phone line for hours on end. Daily.
I can't even describe how grateful I am for everything you have done Mom, and always do for me - including gracefully tolerating my unfiltered impatient patient-ism and all the evil that comes with it. I promise I won't make any decisions without calling you seventeen times first. I have a feeling this winter will pass by much as the summer and fall did, suddenly it will be April and time for you to come home, and your Warden duties will still be here.
In the meantime I want you to rest and relax. Soak up that sun for me and let it sink into your bones, enjoy your time off as it is much deserved, and much-needed, in my opinion! Look after yourself and Grant, have fun and go to Bingo night - oh and poolside happy hour Thursdays too please. Have fun and unwind, stretch out and sleep in, stop and smell the gardenias for nobody but yourself.
Cheers to you! Thank you! I love you! - and I'll talk to you tomorrow! and the next day and the next day and the next day...... Choms xo xo xo