I debated, and the thoughts rolled around in my head, as I drive home from work today.
I was tired, but exhilarated after being on my feet all day, assisting customers, and rearranging shelves, but I was missing my Mum, and thinking about her during my day.
She had owned, and worked at selling Teddy Bears in her shop in Kleinburg, for 10 years. I know she has had a great passion for these furry creations, and has bought and sold many plush works of art throughout the years.
Her Store was a great spot for her to release her creative energy, meet the public, and cope, I believe, with my Dad, as he declined into the debilitating illness of Parkinson’s Disease.
It was a sanctuary for her, and a place to grip tightly onto her sanity, as she had to bare witness to her husband’s brain being ravaged by this insufferable condition. I can’t imagine how it must have been for her to watch her adored husband slip deeper into the abyss where she could no longer find him.
These soft, gentle sculptures with their black beaded eyes, and friendly smiling faces must have brought her great quiet, as she clung to their embrace. Many of these “ Teddies,” as she affectionately called them, had stories. Tales that were begging to be brought forth from their stuffed insides.
Some she acquired were antiques, and rough around their edges, but she saw great value in these well loved critters, and her personal collection of stuffed bears grew, and overflowed into her home, filling her barnboard walled basement room with their ever watchful, and thoughtful eyes.
She would bring the grandkids into the “ Bear room” downstairs for a make believe “ Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” set at a little pine table and chair set, adorned with plastic silver tea service, and pretend baked bread.
This was a world where she knew all of these creations intimately, and enjoyed speaking of their individual histories with great passion. This was a friendly space, where there was no disease, no hurt, just a make believe world filled with lots of luxurious little faces to greet you, that would never disappoint, and were always ready to be loved.
These Teddy Bears were safe…
They could be counted on. Where you placed them, they would stay. Whether it was a glassed in cabinet, or sitting in an old wicker Victorian baby carriage, they were not going anywhere, unless she moved them.
This was sanctuary..
I see this now more definitively. I didn’t before.
My Mum and her Dad put up the barnboard in this downstairs room most probably over 45 years ago. This was long before it became as popular as it is today. This bedroom was very still, and quiet, and it held a peaceful feeling within its walls.
It has a built in bookshelf, with lower cabinets for storage that is painted a Country blue colour. I’m not certain, but it’s entirely possible that they also built that together.
My grandparents, Nan and Papa, would travel out east from Regina, Saskatchewan, to stay at our house generally during the cold winter months. They stayed in this room, before it became “ The Bear Room.”
My Mum, and her Dad built many things together. They were very clever, and I could see as a young girl how much satisfaction they gleaned from working side beside one another discussing the project, and then traveling to the Lumber store before there was a Home Depot, or Lowe’s.
I really enjoyed accompanying them on their escapades to find the right tools, and pieces for their projects, and the scent of fresh cut wood still evokes a spirit of expectation, and welcome to my spirit.
Even the sound of an electric saw slicing through the grains of pine gets me giddy to see what it will become.
My Mum likes projects.. no wait.. she loves them.
She likes to fix, to figure out new ways to use things that has never been thought of before. She was always clever at making something new from something else. She was the Queen of Repurposing, before it became the thing to do.
I used to tease her about writing a book for “ Readers Digest,” entitled, “ 101 Things to do with a Coathanger.” She would take out her needle nose pliers, which seemed to be handy, and twist, and bend until this little coat hanger was re fashioned to hang up the broken eaves troughs by the hoyse, or lift the drier hose to its desired location. There was always something useful for a coathanger, and hanging up clothes was only their beginning…
She saw possibilities, and uses in generic items that were so inventive. She had a very engineering mind. She enjoyed these challenges, and I think it gave her great pride to find a way to fix something that cost very little money.. if any to accomplish.
Today when I called to check in, and say Hi she was in very good spirits. She was marveling at all of these photo albums that she had, and had been looking over them, and remembering. She exclaimed with wonder about me making them for her… I agreed.. they were wonderful… I had not made them… she did…
I could hear it in her voice that this brought her great joy, as she looked at photos from her parents 50th wedding anniversary, where I squeezed myself into my grandmother’s wedding gown to surprise my Nan that day.
I recall my cousin helping me to fit into the lovely satin gown, in the hospital bathroom, where my grandfather was living. I was kind of a stuffed sausage…. but when tears filled my Nan’s eyes, and she clasped both of her hands together in joy, this made me happy…
Such a glorious memory… memories are precious, and I can’t inagine how it feels when they fade into the grey zone, and become fuzzy , and lacking clarity.
I want to remember all of the good stuff, and erase the bad, but often it seems as if the harsh memories clamber up to be in first place, and seek to eclipse the good ones.. I wonder why this is?
I like when Mum is happy… this bring her contentment. As she thumbs over her photo album filled with precious loved ones… she is emotional.. I can hear it in her voice when she breaks into tears through the phone that is held so tightly to my ear, that is hot and sweaty.
She wonders what to do with her “ Bear Collection” now… “ What will become if it?..” she ponders in a whisper.
I respond with…” it will all be well.. they will be loved.”
I’m not sure if this is what she wants to hear, because I can sense it in her voice.. this loss.. of knowing all of their details… where she travelled to find them, and the adventures she went on to search them out from England, and Germany, Austria, Australia, and the US.
This became her sacred world, her sanctuary when my Dad was ill. People need things like this to control, when disease takes their sovereignty over life.
The sense we have any control to begin with over these things is misplaced. We don’t… All we can control is how we respond to these challenges in our lives.
I, certainly have struggled with trying to make sense of the how and why of affliction. It is one of the many mysteries of life, but what is never a question, is that to just keep loving when it hurts seems to transform disease into something palatable. I can overcome when I keep focusing on the love that transforms. It is the answer… the only one tat I can swallow..
When I keep loving, as the person I love slides towards an abyss is the only choice I can make. When did I observe that love did not come without sacrifice… it does… it did… it will.