Thursday, January 8, 2015

And just like that.....

......everything changed.    

On November 18/14, my mother was hospitalized on doctor's orders.  After scans and a biopsy (which she was awake for and never flinched!!), it was determined that she had terminal stomach and lung cancer.  She told me that she was fine with the diagnosis and was looking forward to being with Dad.  She was adamant that she just wanted to be made comfortable, no fuss.  Her wish was granted and her three daughters kept her company every day and into the evening gabbing, watching TV, discussing current events, doing crosswords with her and playing trivia....many days it was like a kitchen party.  On the last day, November 28th, she went quietly and with dignity and on her own terms.

My mother was born in Farrukahbad, India in 1935, during the British Raj.  Her father was from Scotland and was on the British Police Force in India.  He married a local Anglo-Indian and the union produced 6 beautiful children, my mother being the youngest.  She did not have a lot of fond memories of India.  She lived in a compound with other British families and true to the time period and culture, her parents were more concerned with their own needs; my mother was closer to her "Aya" than her mother.  She and her siblings were all sent off to convent boarding school as soon as they turned 5 and wouldn't see their parents again until Christmas break and then summer.  Sometimes, if her parents had travel or events planned, the children would not go home during the breaks.  It was a
Ava Gardner 1940's
lonely childhood.  My grandfather passed away from heat stroke during a riot, held perhaps during the time leading up to India's independence.  My grandmother stayed in India and eventually  married another Brit who took the three youngest sisters and my grandmother to Portsmouth, England around 1948; my mother's brothers and older sister had already left home at that point.  Times were tough.  Coming from an existence that included servants and a cook to living in a cramped apartment was a huge adjustment.  After finishing her education, my mother worked in an office.  Eventually, she became a bookkeeper's apprentice, but it was at her second job in the evening, serving and clearing tables at the Naval Officers Club with her two older sisters, that she met my father.  He became smitten with the young lady that looked like Ava Gardner.  Eight months later, they married and Dad put Mom on a liner by herself to Halifax, N.S., where she arrived on December 15/55.   I came on the scene a year later.

Although our relationship was complicated, my mother and I were very close.  She taught me to be independent at a time when women were not encouraged to be.  She forced me to buy a car when I was 18.  I didn't need one, in my opinion; I had a boyfriend that was driving me around and I was fine with that.  But my mother wanted me to have more freedom and to have my own credit rating with a bank through getting a car loan...she was looking out for my future and she was right.  She was very generous (she sponsored Lady's care for a year and bailed out another elderly horse bound for slaughter) and could be fierce if she saw an injustice being done.  She and I shared a passion for nature, music, books, bird watching and classic movies.  She was way ahead of her time in so many ways when it came to women's issues and I appreciated her strength and wisdom.  We always had something to talk about and I greatly miss our daily chats. This holiday, for the first time in a decade, I didn't make Christmas dinner...there will be a lot of 'firsts' this year....

Stepping over small logs.
LA rode Gem for me while I was with my mother in hospital.  She would send me reports on how "light" he was, or how amazing his lope was.  It made me feel good because it was something "normal" and positive.  When I eventually did get to see him, I was too drained to actually ride.  But I spent an hour with him, just hanging out and grooming.  He was quiet and allowed me to fuss over him; his eyes were soft.  A couple of days later, I got on him and we just walked and jogged around the arena, working on side passing (yes, his back legs were crossing!), backing up long distances in a straight line, obstacles and neck reining.  It felt good.

 A week later, the daughter of one of my dearest friends lost her husband to cancer after a 3 year battle.  She is now a widow at 42 year of age, with a 13 year old son  and a 10 year old daughter.  Laura and her daughter have visited Gem in the past and when I received an email from her the day after her husband died, asking if she and her daughter could visit with Gem, I wasn't surprised.  She had already experienced the curative effects of being around Gem.  We spent 3 hours together with Gem, grooming and riding.  He couldn't have been more of a gentleman.  Again his eye was soft and he was kind to Laura's daughter, who was delighted that she got to "ride" him.  They came sad, but left happy and smiling and that made me feel good.  There will be a lot of 'firsts' for them this year, also.....

Horses are sensitive.  If we are privileged enough to be able to spend time with them, we can see just how sensitive they really are.  There are numerous articles out there that explain how horses have a six sense.  They are so intuitive; they know when your heart beat increases and mirror it when you are riding.  When a rider lacks confidence, they get worried, too.  And, when you are feeling sad, they feel it and I guess in their own way share your pain and give you exactly what you need at that moment. I started this blog as a "diary" of my experiences with Gem.  As I flipped through some previous posts over the holidays, I realized that Gem has pushed me, comforted me, been brave, patient and even bossy...all when I needed it.  I am grateful that I have him in my life.  Although 2014 didn't end in a great way, I am looking forward to the next year....yes, there will be some 'firsts' but there will also be awesome memories, upcoming family and friends events and visits to look forward to....and a year that will hopefully include lots of time with Gem!