“You two should get to bed, you’ve had a long day and you need to sleep and so do I”. These were some of the final words of a Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother and Great Great Grandmother who two hours later breathed her last breath at the beautiful age of 99 years and two months.
These ‘kids’, nine in total, mostly all senior citizens themselves, were all very devoted to this lovely woman who became my mother-in-law 37 years ago. Saskatchewan born, this lady had been a one-room country school teacher until such time as she had enough children to start a school of her own.
Such a large family meant that in their early years, times were hard and money was scarce, but most of the kids don’t even remember being without. With the drive and determination their mother had, they have many good memories of doing things together on their farm in Northern Saskatchewan; things like their care and affection for horses, cats and dogs and such, and chores related to them as well as gardening and berry-picking, writing to pen pals, and swimming in a nearby river.
So why a story like this in relation to the street? Simply put, the way that this family grew up under this woman’s determined guidance, shaped the people they are today. Not without problems and difficulties of course, and any one of them could have turned out differently; possibly even landing on the street, but I believe that the patient and loving teaching of this mother helped to set them on the right track to make better determinations for their own lives.
How often have I not written articles where through conversations with those who frequent the kitchen, people have disclosed that fact of parental abuse; some physical but mostly mental and emotional.
Although physical abuse is one of the largest contributors to the street population, the ones that have suffered emotional abuse, especially at the hands of a mother, are the most difficult to reach, or to work with.
How do you convince or lead someone to believe that they have great worth and beauty when for the first many years of their lives they were led by those closest to them that they no value or even a beneficial purpose in life?
For many, this attitude shaping was even reinforced physically. Or, how do you quell the anger of a young man who has been physically abused all of his early years. Sometimes alcohol or drugs help it somewhat, but usually they make it even worse.
This past Tuesday, there was a young girl asleep in a business doorway. When she woke up, she put her pet cat into a pet-carry and came over to the kitchen to use the washroom.
Her arms were a series of cut marks suggesting that she was abused before. The white lines on tanned arms told a story that we often do not wish to hear, as a matter of fact, we mostly go out of our way to avoid association.
Often, when I hear their stories, my blood just boils. Whatever happened to that parent that through their actions, their child would be so emotionally crippled for life? One lady I have written about before, had a grandmother who called her ‘the girl down the street’. That does not build character!
As I write this, my thoughts are filled with thoughts of this wonderful woman who through her building up of a young girl gave me one of the most precious gifts any man could receive. The beauty of it all is that her daughter, my better half, treats her own children the same way.
A mother’s determined love and encouragement is the most important ingredient in any person’s life, and this woman in her 99+ years just proved it.
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.