In Grandma’s Words Part 1 (FGK – 63)

When it was time to clear out Grandma’s room at the Wentworth, I was invited to choose a few things I wanted to remember her by. My items were her desk (the boy uses it every single day and it has been a most treasured item for him for most of his life), her bible, and the memory book created for her 90th birthday party. I carried all of these while we travelled, and when I felt disconnected from who I was, I’d read her bible or look through the memory book to remember. Her memory book is made up of her autobiography and photos put together (I think) by my aunt. I thought I’d take a brief break from the letters and share her story here. As I’ve been reading and sharing her letters I’ve begun to better understand what an incredible woman she was and thought it may be interesting to share her life story in her words.

I remember Grandma telling me of her adventures sledding down the hill in Cochrane with such a look of happiness on her face, until she looked at me and saw the wheels turning in my head. The stories always ended with “but it’s not safe now, you should never do that”. So instead I went tobogganing down the buffalo jumps until I got caught, apparently that also was not acceptable haha. It also didn’t make for a very smooth ride so I was happy not to have to repeat it.

Cochrane September 27th 1908

The Fairies and the Leprechauns were in Cochrane and they clapped their hands in glee

When the Doctor spanked the bottom

Of a baby that was me.

Woe is me.


“Ow”. That was me when Dr. Park spanked my bottom when I was born in our house in Cochrane. What a difference to the soft touch the babies have now when born. No wonder we’re a hardy race, it was survival of the fittest. Then I remember my mother trying to talk me into an afternoon nap a few years later. My father rocking me in his arms in the rocking chair and singing to me to ease the pain of an earache with a bag of warm salt pressed to it. The rocking chair had a coyote skin draped over it, a big hide tanned and lined with red felt with scalloped edges.

These dear old hills of Cochrane provided endless fun and adventure for a child living in the village. Picking flowers in the spring. Building play-houses out of stones just laid on the ground in a pattern etc and galloping around on my stick-horse. Then when the winter snows came there was nowhere could compare with the marvellous speed of a bob-sleigh coming down the hill, then hitting the road and flying down nearly to the front street. The only traffic was horse drawn and they panicked from us, not us from them.

It was awful having only one sister and she was six and a half years older than me. I just couldn’t keep up to her, hard as I’d try, and she tried equally as hard to leave me behind. So I amused myself with whatever was handy and that nearly always was a horse.

This is her sketch of the stone houses they’d build
Grandma and her sister: Ruth and Edna Brown

Driving and Stanford (FGK- 7)

Dad and Grandma talk about how mom got licensed to drive. Mom had to use her left leg to drive as she had no controlled mobility with her right. The sheer determination of mom and my grandparents for her to have as normal a life as possible is amazing.

Then she wanted to get a job and she took – a friend of ours who had a home oil company said we need a girl – a receptionist – at the front of the office and we’d love to have her there. And we thought, well she could live at home if she could drive a car and go in. And so she tried to take, she took drivers lessons, the whole course. And then the night before she was to have her final test the gentleman phoned me and said that she’d done very well but they couldn’t possibly recommend her to drive. And I was feeling quite furious. To let her take the whole course and then not let her have her test. And he said well we’ll test her, but I want to tell you that I doubt that she’ll pass the test. And so Margie was just furious. So she went in early in the morning for her test and she said I’ll put him through the windshield when he tells me to stop (haha). And show him. And so she did, and she got her license to drive.

And we got her a nice car and she worked as a receptionist and also she took a business course. And typing.

Dad: is that where she learned shorthand?

Grandma: I don’t know that she knows shorthand

Dad: no she does

G: that’s where she learned it then

My memory -I’m getting too old. I should have done this a long time ago. anyway she got that and it has helped her all her life having that business course. It was to one side kind of.

Then when she completed that business course, while she was working there was when she took it. She decided she’d like to go away to university. And she wanted nothing but the best so she wrote to Stanford University in the America and put her application in there.

When I was a kid, like under the age of 12, we often had Pony Club on Wednesday nights which meant Dad (who was deathly allergic to horses) was still at work when we needed to get out to the ranch to catch and load horses, so it was mom who took us. She’d drive out in our old Jeep and wait for my sister and I while we caught our ponies and got them ready for the trailer. Together we’d line up the Jeep and trailer and I’d guide her back and hook it up. Once the horses were loaded, mom drove us to Pony Club where we’d get our horses ready for our lessons.

I remember driving through Cochrane, which only had the one 4 way stop at the time, and she’d start hitting the gas as we sped on the 1A towards the bottom of Cochrane Hill because if we weren’t going for broke before we started the climb, the poor Jeep could barely make it up the hill.

There are also stores of mom racing around Europe in the little car she got the semester she studied in France.

I can’t imagine how cross she would have been at the thought of not being able to pass her test, but I know the determination she would have brought to that exam. I mean, really, the best way to ensure mom would do something was to tell her she couldn’t – and clearly Grandma was the same way.

The tape ends with mom heading off to Stanford. It ends suddenly, and I remembered that my attempts to stop mom from coming over to see what was going on failed. She never found out about the interview, but dad never got to complete it either.

However, I have the letters still to go through. I wish I had mom’s responses – and maybe they’re hidden in a box here too, Grandma kept everything.


The memory keeper 

My dad was the family photographer, in effect he was our memory keeper. Everything that we did that was recorded was thanks to his passion for photography. I appreciate it even more now that he’s gone and we no longer have someone snapping shots of the good moments in our lives.

Jenna needs a new computer for school this year and my mom said that she could use dad’s old laptop. For the first time in 2+ years it got turned on and we took a look at what dad left behind (as an aside – when I die I need someone I trust to go through my things and delete, delete, delete).

Here are some photos from their trip to Virginia in 2013 to visit us. Our lives took a HUGE turn sideways within a day of my parents going back home, and it was good to look back and see some really happy memories from a time I’ve tried to wipe out.

So, here’s a little trip down our memory lane. I’ve found it hard to look at Dad’s photos – they bring back such bittersweet memories. But today we looked at them and it was Jenna’s turn to laugh until she cried. There were a lot of good times. A lot of happiness.

This was Easter 2013


Neither Jenna nor I have any idea what this is. She says I look so proud of it, but it looks like poop. So there you have it.

Swimming was always a huge part of any grandparent visit. My kids inherited dad’s love of the water.

Day trip to Monticello – one of our favourite spots – I loved Charlottesville.

Jenna rode this scooter everywhere. Interesting that I made her wear a helmet here, but there’s no helmet on the toboggans at home.

Those of you who know me understand how emotionally scarring this was for me. Freaking mascots.

These girls love doing this still.


And these from 2010


These kids and these cats – good buddies. We lost Tawny last year in an accident 😦

I grew up being super close with my cousins – I love that this tribe of cousins has kept their close bonds even when we had thousands of miles between us.


Building bonds 

This morning we had a walk in memory of my dad. Actually, it was supposed to be a flower walk in his memory, but the weather was terrible so we ended up doing a walk of a different kind. Not what I had expected, but very good and filling and exactly what it should have been. There were memories of dad, but new ones as well, and different old memories of this town – the weddings and family events that have happened here – and ones of the ranch around it. My kids and my niece and nephew ran around squealing and having fun; my mom, sister and I were together, my aunt told stories of the movie site, friends of my parents listened and asked questions. Life keeps moving on.

This evening we had a community potluck supper which was a bonding moment in itself. This time I was able to visit with a bunch of family who I normally don’t get a chance to chat with. It’s interesting coming from this large extended family – we have so much in common and yet in many ways live completely different lives. A real blessing since coming back home has been getting to know parts of the family that I didn’t really know all that well before.

We are part of a pretty amazing tribe. I think when I was a kid I just assumed everyone had families like mine, the older I get the more I appreciate the roots that have been planted here and where I come from. My immediate family, memories of my dad, my extended family – that is happiness.




Today my mom and I looked at old photos of both of our childhoods. It was fun to see hers as most of the photos I had never seen before. Cool to see how she really does look so much like my sister and also one of my cousins. Fun to talk about some of my childhood events (and a huge heart hug as I saw photos of our beloved cat Torts – he was a cool one). 

And there in the photos was an old friend I haven’t seen in over 40 years – ever since he went missing on a family trip. My old blankie. I loved  him and was devastated when he got lost. It was a wonderful happiness moment seeing him again. 


Sitting with the memories 

Today Dad would have turned 76. I still can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since he died – I keep expecting him to walk in the door like he was just away on a trip somewhere. Except Dad would have never, ever gone away for so long and left us behind if he hadn’t been called by God.

I’ve been sitting with the memories of Dad today, it’s been a bittersweet happiness moment, but I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything. I really didn’t realize until much later in life how extremely fortunate I was to have been gifted the Dad that I had. I grew up kind of assuming that every father was as involved in the lives of their children as my Dad was.

I have a lifetime of memories of Dad being such a strong influence in my life. He made sure we went outside and played hard, he often got up at the crack of dawn and caught nasty ponies for us to take to shows, he taught us not only work ethic – but how important it is to love what you do, he showed me how important it was to live with integrity, he showed me what it was like to live life with an open and loving heart.

I miss him so much. I miss him for me, but even more I miss him for my kids who really, really need to have the influence of a man like he was. And then I realize I can still show them that through stories of what he was like, they have their memories, and they understand that we live our lives with love and integrity because that is how he taught us to be.

What a legacy to leave behind – how amazing to have so many people whose lives he touched, who miss him, who love him. It makes me really think about the kind of person I want to be and how I want to be remembered. It is so important to live life being true to my values and my heart. I’m so grateful that God opens doors for me, and that He closes some doors for my own protection.

My dad……..


he was allergic to horses, and I’m not even sure how much he really liked them, but he sure spent a lot of time around them because of his daughters. 

there are so many memories of him reading to us in this old (maybe even corduroy?) chair. When he was done he would grab us and make many failed attempts at hauling us all up. It always resulted in giggles and in us pleading for more. And you see – there he is with Torts the cat, whom he was deathly allergic to and yet loved so much.

always the first kid down the hill

teaching his grandson to skate on the slough. I have many childhood memories of skating around this slough with Dad – it was so fun….

If you were looking for Dad, you could always find him doing whatever the kids were doing. Actually, usually he was the one dreaming up the fun.

I love this photo. Jacob and my Dad had such a special bond. 

teaching Jacob how to ski – these poor Southern children had to be taught all about snow every Christmas.

Probably the thing Dad loved the most was being at the creek. I think he would have spent the entire summer there if he could have. 

You can’t see him, but this was his greatest Dad/Grandparent trick of all. Flipping kids over on their rafts – he was known by the grandchildren as the Creek Monster. This always brought shrieks of laughter. 

Happy Birthday Dad. We all miss you so much.


The photo album

I have this stack of old photos that have moved thousands of miles and sat in piles for years waiting for me to organize them and put them in albums. Today I realized I’ll probably never properly organize them, but some of them at least should get put into albums.  

They’re photos of fun years. The kids were little, tiny things and we were living in Quebec. I loved our years spent in our cul de sac in St. Lazare. We had great neighbours, most of whom became close friends. The moms and kids spent hours visiting in the woods in the middle of our houses. I somehow managed to attract this awesome bunch of amazingly strong, smart girlfriends and we used to do things together all the time. It was mostly kid focused fun, but sometimes the ladies would get together for book club (the best invention ever) or a meal out no men or kids allowed. 

It was a more innocent time before most of the shit hit the fan in our family, actually in hindsight it was hitting the fan then – I just didn’t acknowledge it. Had I paid more attention to the incident and really listened to my gut I could have saved myself years of heartache. But some lessons needed to be learned the long, hard way I suppose. My girlfriends kept telling me to pay better attention and do something – but I hadn’t yet found my strength. 

It was fun to sit with some of those old memories. Fun things I used to do with the kids when they were in a completely different stage of life than they are now. They were so innocent and fun and cute. I consider it such a blessing I was able to be at home with them and watch them grow and begin to discover who they are. Happiness. 


Old times 

I had a quiet evening at my mom’s house – sitting in Grandma’s Kitchen – looking at old photos. Last year when dad was in the hospital I started taking in old albums and going through them with him. After he died I couldn’t finish going through them. It seems enough time has gone by that I could bear to open them again. 

We had such a fun, weird, busy, horse filled childhood. It was heart warming to look at old Pony Club photos of our little gang of riders doing things that would be considered much to dangerous now to even talk about. Yet somehow we all survived and turned out to be an incredibly strong bunch of women. 

As well as the horse photos I found some good ones of play times with my sister. Like the day I decided to turn her into a knight 

And one of my favourite skating memories at the creek with my sister and cousins 

My mom and uncle tied rope to the back of the truck and pulled us kids down the creek. So. Much. Fun. 

I love being back here for so many reasons, but near the top is the fact that my kids will get to grow up in this tribe and will make it their own. Jenna spent the afternoon with her cousins down south on the ranch pulling chamomile weeds. She came back tired and full of stories which exactly how it should be. 

Family memories – a heart bliss happiness moment. 


The heart of a father 

The closer we get to the first anniversary of dad’s passing the more I feel all these emotions coming up. I think there was a lot about the last couple of weeks of his life that I wasn’t able to process. There was so much going on, we were so in the moment and also fearing the moment at the same time. I still can’t believe it’s been almost a year. 

For the first time since he died, today I sat at the computer and went through some of his “best of” photos. Dad was an amazing photographer and looking at the memories he left for us made me cry and feel joy at the same time. It wasn’t long before one by one, everyone in the house joined me in an impromptu memorial. We talked about dad, shared memories, shared feelings, laughed at old stories, discussed what a talented photographer he was, and honoured his presence in our lives. 

I’m so grateful we have each other to work through this with. There were many tears today, and I’m sure there will be many more over the next couple of weeks. But I am so grateful he was my dad and that he was such a good dad

This is one of his photos of a place where he loved to walk. We went up and down this path countless times together. Some of his ashes are now scattered here so he can always be close to one of his beloved spots. 

Two happiness moments today. The big, spiritual one was quiet time shared with my mom and sister as we talked about dad. 

The other one was a crazy, messed up game of Twister after supper. 

I am so thankful for my tribe. 


Peace within

These past few days have been filled with jumbled emotions for me. I’m nervous and excited about completing my Ayurveda course, I’m being filled with bittersweet memories of where We were a year ago, and I have this deep sense of peace that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Maybe I will never process all of the emotions that filled me at this time last year. Even now, looking back as we entered into the last week of Dad’s life I couldn’t believe we were there. I was beginning to understand that it was part of God’s plan, but I couldn’t imagine life without him. Here we are a year later and I still can’t believe he’s not here. There are still tears shed on a regular basis as I drive back and forth on that gravel road. 

And yet here we are, here I am a year later and so much has changed. I feel like a completely different person and yet more like myself than I ever have. This year of growth has allowed changes in me that have been waiting to burst forth for a lifetime. 

I’m sure the next couple of weeks will be filled with more random tears than normal. They’ll also have me sitting with old memories, happy memories, of things we used to do with Dad. Best of all, it’s his time of year, which makes it easier to get out and celebrate his memory. The wildflowers have appeared, the blossoms are on the trees, there is new life and new hope everywhere. 

My happiness moment today is being with the kiddos and their friends in Canmore. The drive here is always phenomenal, their laughter lifts my spirits, and I have this deep peace in my soul.