Name: Annie Crooks Pardy
Written by Bill Pardy
On November twenty-fourth, our mother would have turned eighty nine. This particular year has had special significance for me, and I expect my siblings; there are five of us. June was the fortieth anniversary of her death. For me, the middle child, it means that I had her only during one third of my life. My two older sisters had her a little longer while my younger brother and sister much less. Perhaps this has little significance to most, but for me this year has been different. Mom has been much on my mind and as her birthday draws near my emotions and feelings about her are very near the surface, tears appear quite often with a passing thought.
Her very special nature and being affected us all and her death was a catastrophe to all of us; our younger siblings even moreso. The circumstance around her death was not only abnormal but for us surreal. A simple operation that became flawed was followed by aftercare much less than required. This was the physical aspect relating to her death. The spiritual aspect was perhaps even more disconcerting. The timing came just six months after our grandmother had died, but then, she was old and ill. Mom had only two years before returned for her first visit to her home in Scotland in the twenty-three years she had been in Newfoundland. For me it was just five months after my wedding and a few months before the birth of my son. My siblings will relate too many more such moments.
For our mom it was a time when life was just beginning, three children gone, new grandchildren and economic improvements after a lifetime of hard work. The golden years of prosperity, personal time and the joys of grandchildren were just around the corner. Life was to become much sweeter, less stressful and relaxed. But instead, at forty-eight she died.
But then our mom had never experienced many golden moments in her life of toil; perhaps except her children and grandchildren. Born in Scotland to a family of eight (seven girls and a boy), she was the second youngest. By the time she was in her mid teens, both her parents had passed away, also at a very young age. Then the war began and she met and married our dad, a sailor in the Royal Navy, while in her early twenties. With only enough time to get acquainted and get pregnant our dad was shipped off to the Mediterranean for the remainder of the war. My oldest sister, Rae was two and one half when our dad first saw her; in those days there were no home furloughs. And, like most, work in a munitions factory was her lot, along with raising my sister.
Immediately following the end of the war, by way of Liverpool and a troop ship she made her way across the Atlantic to Newfoundland, alone with my sister and other war brides. First they travelled to Halifax, then by train to Sydney, across the gulf, on to St. John’s and finally back to our dad’s then home in Port Blandford. One can’t even imagine the shock, even trauma, of arriving in December (1945) in deep snow to such a small isolated community with no roads, electricity or other amenities and a family of which she would have known little. Ardrossan her home south of Glasgow in Scotland must have seemed a lifetime away.
The following year my second sister, Grace arrived at the hospital in Come-By-Chance some distance from Port Blandford where our mom had been housed for a lengthy period of time during her pregnancy. The odyssey from Scotland was not quite complete, as shortly afterwards, in search of work, the whole family (including our dad’s parents and the brothers still at home) moved to Corner Brook where employment around the Bowater’s paper mill beckoned. There, over time, our dad found a job in the mill and construction of a house was begun adjacent to that of our dad’s parents. Unlike today, for our class, house construction was done as one could afford (or as material could be gleaned). Renovations were still happening when she died.
Within two years of my second sister’s birth, I was born in Corner Brook and three years later my brother, Wilf and a further three years on my youngest sister, Doll. So with a growing family, a house to build and meagre earnings life was not easy. Our mom’s family was over 5000 miles away and with the only means of communications by post, life must have been very lonely at times and stressful. This was evidenced in the chronic eczema that she suffered, often completely covering both her hands and arms. Yet she endured, obviously not one to be daunted; but then there was not much option in Newfoundland at that time. My sister Rae remembers: “There were letters every week from at least one of her sisters as they remained in close contact. Well, as close as they could; given the times. I always felt that I knew all my relatives there as stories were told about each one as mom shared their joys and sorrows.”
Our mom, who was our anchor, our support and our carer was always available; to us, our dad, his family, our neighbours and friends. She had but little her whole lifetime but shared whatever she had with anyone in need; no matter their status. She did without herself, so that we could have, she catered to our dad not only doing his biding but tending to his every need. She was the cook, the cleaner, the mender, the banker, the person to do all the errands; not only our family’s but for others as well. Our dad knew little about the mechanism of running the household, paying the bills, even buying a car – he decided what he wanted and she arranged the purchase and all the other details. Our dad was a hunter and when there was a moose or game brought home my mother became the slaughterer and butcher.
Our mom tended on and tolerated us five children (the boys were hyperactive and all of us were stubbornly independent) along with the many friends we brought home. We all depended on her in our own way and were dependent on her as well to salve our wounds, mend our hurts and shore us up when we were down; and this included our dad. Most of our dad’s family depended on her as well and there were many of them. My sister Grace, who married quite young, says: “We all feel the same and we all have our memories of different things that happened with mom…. She helped me so much after I was married and she showed me a lot of ways to survive and I am glad I listened to her, as today, I don't think I would have changed my way of living, she gave me strength when I didn't have any, she showed me love in so many different ways”
Mom enjoyed a cigarette, a social drink and loved to dance, which didn’t happen very often as our dad, was no socialite. She had a very spartan social life but many friends. She put up with camping when there was only a Bowater tent, a wood fire and beds made of green boughs; toilets didn’t exist in the woods. Dad would pack the car (with things our mom prepared) and all seven of us would head, over dusty and bumpy roads to Big Falls for my dad to fish. Our home for two weeks was a tent pitched beside the road where we all suffered from the effects of clouds of dust and mosquitoes. How our mom coped is anybody’s guess. Later came the cabin at Little Bonne Bay Pond, it was very rustic and pretty basic, a far cry from the cottages most have today. It was, for our mom, a place for additional work, providing not much in the way of relaxation, although she enjoyed going there.
Our mom had an affinity for those in need that was unique and a willingness to help them no matter their standing or state of being. She had a kind streak which was without limits, a way with people that was uncanny and an ability and willingness to help and to give that was exceptional. This was always the same whether she had anything for herself or not, which most often was the case until she died. Rae says: “Other families came to her with their problems and she sat and listened to them, shared tea and food, gave advice as if she herself had no problems. That was who she was.”
There is much too much detail that needs to be written to cover in such a short tribute. And then there is so much missing from all of our collective memories about our mother to even begin to write it. She died so young and we were so preoccupied in those days, like most young people with our own lives. We never dreamt that she would leave so soon. We just thought that we would all grow old together. But life and the spirit that controls such things had different plans. Our mom lived her life for her family and for all others who had a need. She never took time to share much of her inner most thoughts about her life or express much her very deep feelings to us, or I think, to anyone else. My youngest sister Doll says: “…. it doesn't matter how old we are, there are times when we could certainly use a hug from her or just to be able to talk to her . She (her passing) has left a hole in all of us, I think, and not one that can be filled.”
There are few photos for us to share, as cameras and pictures were not as plentiful in those days. As we grow older, and we are all well past the age of our mom when she died, we have only our own fond memories, our own personal stories and secrets of those few short years that we had to share her love. Instead of photo albums, stories and accumulated memories of the past forty years, we have but images, contours and silhouettes of a beautiful and warm loving person who is most of all responsible for the way we are. These were all evident, along with the attachment and deep sense of presence we all feel, in latter experiences of my brother Wilf. He describes them in the following way: “When Sue and I lived in Scotland I felt her presence everywhere with us. I never felt I was living in a different country. I always had the feeling of being home…… Daniel was born on November 16, 1983. Some time after, maybe a few months, I had put Daniel to bed in the room across the hall and went to bed myself. For a long while I just lay there thinking mostly about the boy. I felt a presence in the room. When I looked up she was standing in the doorway with that white dress with a blue pinstripe and her sweater draped over her shoulders. She was turning as if (she were) coming from Daniels room. I felt that she came to see the baby. I don't try to explain this because I have no idea.”
The gift that was our mother and the beautiful gift of life that she gave to us all continues today as if she were still with us. We know full well, just as we did when we were kids that she is always near, whether we are happy or sad. The sadness has been that she left us so young; the wonder for all of us is that we had her at all. We have been well blessed and as Doll says: “….we don't have to wonder even today if she loved us. We knew that then and we know it now.”