Monday, February 04, 2013

A Tribute

You may have noticed that I haven't kept up with blogging lately. I've been busy with other things, and frankly I just haven't been all that inspired to write.  Sorry about that, if you've been missing my little contributions to the blogosphere. If you're looking for sports or broadcasting news/commentary today, sorry. This post is much more personal. So, if that's not your thing - you may as well keep clicking.

It was two years ago today that my world was turned upside down. I received a phone call at work telling me that my mom had died at University Hospital in London, Ontario.  The next two weeks were a blur, as I raced home to make the necessary arrangements, and do all the things an only child has to do when his widowed mother passes away. I wish my son had been there to say goodbye to his grandma, but that's another topic for another day.

Helena Paczko was born November 10, 1932 in a rural part of Poland that kept flipping back and forth between the jurisdiction of Poland and the Ukraine over the years. Which is likely why my aunt considers herself Ukrainian, while my mom was Polish. Just one of the many little quirks in our family!

To say my mom (and my dad) had it rough during the war years is an understatement. However, like so many of their family members, they persevered. What else could a person do? My mom encountered more than her fair share of heartbreak along the way - including losing an infant son to pneumonia, and giving birth to a stillborn daughter. 

In 1958, my folks came to Canada with a couple of bucks in their pockets, and a couple of suitcases full of clothes. From those exceptionally humble beginnings, they built a life through hard work and self-sacrifice. Along the way, they brought another child into in the world in 1965. That would be yours truly.

The rest of the story is fairly typical of European immigrants of that time. My parents worked tirelessly to provide a better life for their family (in this case, me) and took great joy in their offspring's accomplishments - limited as they were! It must have broken my poor mom's heart when I announced my intentions to pursue a career in broadcasting, rather than law or medicine. But, if she was disappointed, she never said so. I was gonna do what I wanted anyway. Pretty sure I acquired that trait from her.

The heartache wasn't done for the heroine of this story, though. On Friday, May 13 (yes, Friday the 13th), 1982 my dad died of a massive heart attack. It was exactly two weeks before my 18th birthday, and mom  took a long time to bounce back from that one. In some ways, she probably didn't get over it. But she moved on. She persevered.

The next dose of heartache came in 1992 when I moved out west to pursue my dreams of fame and fortune (!) in the broadcasting industry. You know what sucks? Pulling out of the driveway while your mom is standing in the front window of her house waving and crying. Yeah, that was not a personal highlight.

There were happier times, though. Perhaps none happier than March 26, 1999 when I called mom to announce the arrival of her first (and only) grandchild, Jacob. Despite being in poor health, she flew out here for Jacob's first Christmas, and ending up staying a month! And thus the unbreakable bond was formed.

Once my boy was a little older, we began the annual tradition of flying to Ontario to spend a couple of weeks with mom each summer. Those visits meant so much to her, even more than I knew. Suffice to say the boy was doted on! 

Of course, this story wouldn't be complete without one more cruel twist of fate. The day my mom died, she was actually scheduled to be released from the hospital and sent to a seniors residence, while we started the process of finding a comparable place for her to live out here. So much for that plan.

Please don't mistake this prose as a plea for sympathy. Don't want it; don't need it. This post is just a small way of stating my admiration for a lady who overcame one hell of a lot to provide the best life possible for her family in this strange land. I'm sorry it took me so long to work up the nerve to write and post these words.

Thanks, mom.

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