Mom’s education

She never went to school. Not formally. She didn’t go to residential school like many relatives and friends did because her father was a white man.

Her family lived on the trap line at Parker Lake during most of the winter so they were far from town and the public school. A few of her younger brothers went to the Red Lake school here and there but not for long.

When she was in the Sanitarium in Thunder Bay for almost two years with tuberculosis she went to school. She went to grade 3. She learned to read. She couldn’t spell very well and we all helped her with that.

She could read and write syllabics beautifully in her language of Ojibwe.


A Book of Prayers; My Psalms

I’ve shared before how I lost my faith and belief in a God when my son died and the struggles I’ve had to find a belief again. Prayer has always been an important part of my life, as it should because prayer is what makes me feel like I’m not all alone in this world.

My prayers have changed because of my experiences and I pray differently or think differently about prayer. I still think prayer should be simple and from the heart; just talking to God, the Creator. I think now, that prayer is more for me than it is for God. It is something that I need.

Since I’ve recently read through the Book of Psalms which of course I love because it is poetry, I decided to write my own book of prayers. It is my prayer journal where I write down prayers about anything and everything. There are no rules, except I don’t pray for things. I once went to a church where the minister prayed for a new piano. I just don’t like that kind of prayer, even though I understand what he was saying. The church needed a new piano. I would pray for wisdom to solve the problem of getting a new piano and understanding and patience.

I prayed all the way, in a car, from my house to my son’s house, on that day in September of 2006, that my son was alive. “Lord, please don’t let this be true. Please don’t take my son from me. Please let him be alive…” And because that prayer was not answered my way, my world changed. I understand that this happens to those of us who have experienced a traumatic life altering event. If you haven’t experienced this you won’t know what I’m talking about, but, it is the worst thing that happens to you in a tragic death. You are left feeling alone.

Here are a couple of my prayers, in case you too, want to try this. Pray about anything. They don’t have to poetry. They don’t have to rhyme. God doesn’t care about spelling or grammar.  Our Creator cares about our hearts and happiness. Prayer can help.



Dad’s adventures

I spent most of my childhood spending summers on an island with my parents and brother at the Fish Camp. It was magical. I didn’t realize it at the time. My Dad was always the guy who wanted to do his own thing. He didn’t want to get rich. Obviously. He liked to be his own boss whenever possible and he tried new things. I’d have to say he was one of those gold rush people.

He grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and had his own farm there as an adult. He ended up in Red Lake by chance and loved it here and never left. He tried his hand at mining and spent many years prospecting. He could tell you what any kind of rock was. I don’t know how he learned that.  He bought the commercial fishing licence for Red Lake when I was about 8 or 9 years old. He did not discuss this change of lifestyle with mom, he just told her after the fact. She never questioned him, but just helped.

Dad bought the fishing licence and the fish camp which included two cabins, a fish shack, tool shed and an ice house on an acre of land on an island about 5 kms from the town of Red Lake. There was an old fish boat that he had to replace and of course there were fishing nets. Did I mention…he came from the prairies???

He had no clue how to run a fishing business but he learned. Mom helped him as did my uncles. The first summer there, Uncle Larry, helped him fish and lived with us. Every morning before daylight they left to go out on the lake and didn’t return until afternoon. Mom had to then help clean the fish and my brother and I had to wash out the boat and the dock.

For a couple of summers he hired a man named Simeon Angeconeb to help him fish. Simeon and his family lived in the cabin by the lake. Some summers just Dad fished with mom helping when she could. There were times that Billy and I had to go along too and I hated those long hot days in the boat.

My Uncle Tommy and his family would come and spend weekends at the fish camp with us quite often. Those were fun times. One summer my Aunt Ethel, Dad’s sister, brought my city cousins from Winnipeg to visit us at the fish camp. Oh, there were many adventures at the fish camp. I’d say a book’s worth.




Things my mom taught me

I can speak a little bit of ojibwe. She taught me to bead from a loom, how to embroider, how to knit and how to sew. She taught me to keep my house clean by cleaning up after myself. (I didn’t say I do everything that she taught me!)

Mom has been the biggest influence in my life and continues to be. I am still learning from her. I am learning how to survive, how to grieve, how to keep going on when times are tough. And I’m learning how to be sarcastic while doing so.

She taught me how to be a mother and for that I am grateful. She was not a perfect mother, nor am I. She has also taught me how to be a Kookum and when the time comes, I will try to be to my grandchildren the Kookum she was to my kids. I say “was” because she is different now with the dementia in some ways but she still loves her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I learned how to be a woman from my mom.


A pink dress in happy days

Flash back to 1977. It was the summer that Elvis died. I spent more than a month with my older sister, Shirley,  at her apartment in the city of Brandon. It was a summer of memories.

At the time my dad was commercial fishing and we lived in a cabin on an island at the Fish Camp during the summers. That summer of ’77, I was invited and allowed to go and stay with my sister was like being able to go to Hollywood for me. My younger brother, Bill, stayed behind at the Fish Camp with mom and dad and our dog,  Bruno. I was thirteen years old that summer. My sister was twenty-one. She was working at an eye glass place in the mall which was basically across a parking lot from where her apartment was. Our grandparents lived in the same complex, only in a different building.

I was a teenager that summer. I slept in late every morning and then watched TV all afternoon.  I watched all of the soaps and the game shows! Remember that we didn’t have TV at the Fish Camp and we only had CBC in town. Cable was heaven to me. I fell in love with The Bionic Woman. She was my hero. When my sister came home from work she  cooked me supper. I couldn’t cook and was quite lazy. Sometimes I would walk over and meet her after work.

Her apartment was very cute; I think a studio apartment. The kitchen was small and separated from the little living room by a counter. The bedroom was off of the living room and separated by a sliding door that had plastic opaque panels. I slept in the bedroom and she slept on the sofa. It must have been a pull out sofa, I’m not sure.

We had many little adventures that summer together. We went to Winnipeg one weekend to see our sister Joyce and her family. Shirley left me there for the week and then picked me up the following week. I loved spending time with my two cute little nieces.

On another weekend, Shirley’s friends, an older woman and her husband and their two daughters, picked us up and took us to a beach. The beach was over an hour’s drive away. Yes, all six of us could fit into the car because thats how big cars were back then and you didn’t wear seat belts. I had to sit in the back seat with the two daughters who were a lot bigger than I was and it was hot outside. We had the windows rolled down to get some air.

Dad phoned occasionally to check on things and on one call I told him to tell my brother that I bought an ABBA record. I knew Bill would be interested because we both liked the same kind of music. I could hear my dad relaying the message to Bill who was in the background, “Kathy bought a BABBA record.” I laughed my head off! Oh dad, such an old fogie, not knowing who ABBA was!

One Saturday, Shirley took me to the International Peace Gardens which is located on the US and Canada border south of Brandon. It is probably about an hour and a half away. Shirley bought me a pink dress and she wore a blue striped dress. I loved my pink dress. I felt fabulous when I put on that dress and we walked around the beautiful gardens. I wore my knee high socks with my sandals. It was a great day. It was a great dress.

Great memories.




One year at at the Lodge

A year ago we moved mom from her home to the Lodge. We lied to her to get her there. It’s cruel but there was no other choice, she would not have moved. She’d been living in her house alone since dad passed and living with dementia. Every day she waited for him to come home, she wasn’t eating very much, bathing very much and didn’t like to have the home support workers come over so she would often lock them out.

I was her primary care giver, making sure she had food, house cleaned, driveway shoveled, lawn mowed etc. Then a room became available at the Lodge, so my brother, Billy, flew to Ontario from BC and we moved mom. We told her that her house needed a new oil tank and she would have to stay at the Lodge for awhile. She agreed to that so we moved her over there and while she wasn’t looking we moved her TV, dresser, a mini fridge and suitcases and bags of her belongings into her room.

We then packed up the house and gave away some things and got it ready to sell. A very emotional time. It was the house we grew up in. You can see all of those blogs:

Mom continually asked when she was going home and was very angry when I told her that the Lodge was her home now. I think I told her that her house was unlivable or not affordable or some lie like that for a while but then I had to tell her the truth. She would yell at me when I went to visit and demand to go home. She would phone me five times a day and yell at me. She would phone me at work and yell at me.

So it’s taken a long time but she is now quite settled. She still demands to move to another apartment at times but she is nicer about it and I just have to tell her that I will look into it. She doesn’t phone as often. I don’t cry as much.

I keep my visits short, and usually before she is about to have a meal so that I can walk her to the dining room before I leave. There are times that we have great visits and just watch TV together or talk about the old days when she was a child. These times are precious! And she will kiss me good-bye and tell me she loves me.

At lot of the times when I get to the Lodge, she is sitting in the common area watching TV with other residents!  She is not alone anymore. Lately, I’ve been told that she sits with her friend and plays cards. She has friends now.

I still pick her up and take her out for rides but this has been the coldest winter here in years so we have not been out since Thanksgiving (That’s October in Canada). She had a cold all through the Christmas season. I’ve noticed that she is more frail now than last year, as she is a year older after all, but she is still walking with her cane. She is now 85 and a half.

Pulling up the ice

Large, very large and heavy and blue. It was a workhorse of a machine! Our Snow Cruiser was wonderful. You could easily fit two kids and an adult on it and it could pull a sled behind with no problem. It was fun when dad let you drive it. It didn’t go very fast but it was stable and didn’t tip over. The yellow ski-doo was smaller and more tippy.

Many times during the winter, our family (mom,dad, Billy and I) went by snow cruiser and ski-doo to the Fish Camp in the winters to check on things and of course for the yearly pulling up of the ice. The snow cruiser came in handy for that as well.

Ice had to be cut out of the lake in the winter and hauled from the lake into the “ice-house”. This took a bit of effort. Dad usually needed help with this job. He had a giant saw and a power saw which he used to cut large blocks of ice from the lake. The thickness was important. If the ice was too thick, it wasn’t good because he couldn’t cut all the way through. It had to be the right time of the year and the right depth.

When the large blocks of ice were cut from the ice they had to be dragged up a ramp from the lake at the end of the dock into the ice-house and then positioned in there. Sawdust was used to cover the ice. Believe it or not, it lasted all summer long. We would get ice from the ice-house, chip it up and throw it in the fish boxes that had to be transported to town.

The ice-house was an old, very large building. The walls did not reach the roof, which was made of tin. We kids loved to play in the ice-house, even though we were not allowed to. We would climb the walls and jump onto the sawdust covered ice below.

One ice block was always left on the dock and we would use that for our personal use. Of course we were not allowed to play in the ice-house, but…it was such a fun place! So we took the opportunity to play in there whenever we could. We would climb the walls and jump onto the sawdust covered ice below.  It was nice and cool in there on hot summer days! The fun changed one day for me when I jumped onto a nail that went into the bottom of my foot. I ran down to the lake and stuck my foot into the water, watching blood come out. Even though I knew we weren’t supposed to be in the ice-house and was afraid to tell  my mom, I was afraid of the blood and the pain so I sent Billy to go and get mom.  She fixed up my foot, soaked it in salt water and wrapped it and it was fine in a few days.  Just a lot of hopping around for awhile.

During one winter when dad was pulling up the ice, Billy and I were skating on the skating rink we had made on the lake which was near the spot dad was cutting. He had warned us not to go near him and we were aware that he was there. I guess it’s just being a kid that is the reason I totally forgot about the thin ice section.  I had taken off my skates and was wearing my boots and walked over to where dad was cutting ice and walked right over the spot where he had cut earlier and had frozen over an inch.  Down I went into the water. Dad turned around and pulled me out! I’m afraid of ice to this day! Or at least respect it!

My brother also remembers a time when he drove the Snow Cruiser into the dock during an ice pulling day. But I don’t remember that!

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