My mom, Lori and I, 1956
I just spent a highly satisfying Saturday morning, washing the outside of all the windows with vinegar water, while Lori planted a rose bush and mowed the lawn. It was fun, both of us busy working around the place.
When we were each maintaining separate places, the workload was too heavy for either of us to manage. Here, where the load is shared, it is easier to keep up, not so overwhelming. Plus there is more motivation for me to, say, wash the windows, with someone else outside working too. Too easy to put it off when I lived alone and it felt like I would never catch up anyway.
As I went up and down the step stool and moved the squeegee up and down the panes, I reflected back to when this house was our mom's. In the last few years of her life, she got the small farm she had wanted all her life. A time or two, when she was young, she realized this dream, but lost them to financial woes. She had given up on it, and was living in the city, when my sister found this small two-acre hobby farm, with barn and pasture, and even a pond, for sale for a song back when real estate prices in Port Alberni were low. Mom sold her place in the city, paid cash for this place and banked a tidy sum.
She gloried in the farm, the chickens, baking her own bread, for a few happy years before her health began suddenly to fail. At that time, an addition - the one I am living in now - was added to the house, and Mom moved into it, Lori moving into the house itself to look after her. Mom died unexpectedly the next year.
I remember Lori taking me, in l988, for a zodiac tour to see the whales in Tofino. As the boat coasted up and down the sides of huge waves, I remember Lori saying, "We could end up the two crazy sisters, living together on the West Coast, in our old age." I laughed, but she said, "It could happen." And look at us - it did. I never would have predicted in a million years that I would have to leave Tofino, a loss I still mourn, and be forced to settle in Port Alberni, the least likely place for me to locate. But that's how it turned out.
That trip she took me on to see the whales that year sealed my fate, and made me know I had to follow my heart and live in Tofino. When I was wrestling with the hugeness of the change and the precariousness of not having employment and housing waiting for me, my mom phoned me and gave me her blessing, which allowed me the courage to make the leap into the unknown, yet heady, joyous life that awaited me there. She had worried about me, as a single mother of four, always poor, always struggling. I had only just moved into a management position at my job, was for the first time making good money. The choice was to stay where I was, where my soul was dying, for financial "security" (of which there is none, trust me!) or to follow my heart.
My mom told me, "This is your dream. You have wanted this for years. Go for it. You're not alone in the world. You'll be okay."
My mom helped me a lot while I was raising my kids, so this was a generous and compassionate thing to say, knowing I was giving up a good income to throw my fate to the winds of chance.
I moved to Tofino in the spring of 1989 and lived there for the ten most gloriously happy and fulfilled years of my life. As it turns out, when you follow your heart, the universe supports you, and time after time, as I lived those years, I recognized that the universe was holding me in the palm of its hand. There is no other excuse for the things that came my way there, in the place where I belonged.
It was a magical ten years.
And now I am here, in Mom's suite, Lori and I both happy with the new arrangement, which provides each of us with the support, help and companionship our lives otherwise lacked, while still allowing us our space and solitude, which is important to both of us, and of which we are both respectful.
I was thinking there were likely smiles in heaven today, Mom and Grandma looking down to see the two sisters, busy about the place, dogs all lounging happily, watching us with half-closed eyes, dreamy tail-thumps any time we came near.