Today is our beloved sister-in-law’s 70 something birthday. I understand you never ask a lady her age or give it away so that’s as far as I’m going.
Donna is the elder stateswoman of my sisters-in-law. I’ve known her since I was eleven years old so that is now approaching 52 years. I love all of my sisters-in-law dearly but Donna holds a special place in my heart.
She has been married to my brother for over fifty-one years. She is a mother to three magnificent daughters all of whom are successful in their personal and professional lives. One followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the RCMP and is a senior NCO; one has been a successful consultant putting her MBA to good use and one is a manager for a major pharmaceutical company. Donna is also a grandmother to four beautiful granddaughters.
She was a teacher who was loved by all her students. This was probably due to the ease with which she could become a grade school student herself. Getting down and playing on the floor wasn’t unheard of I’m sure.
She was a compassionate teacher. When she taught at a one room school in Northern Saskatchewan, she found out that some of the students had no lunch and others had lard spread between two thin pieces of bread. It was amazing how extra sandwiches starting appearing in her lunch bag just in case.
During my brother’s career, she moved across Canada as he progressed from a Constable to one of the highest ranks in the RCMP that of an Assistant Commissioner. During these moves and their subsequent retirement she was literally from coast to coast, to the northern reaches of Saskatchewan and the metropolises of southern Ontario. Not all the moves were easy and a lot of other women would have been unable to take the strain but she persevered.
She has met and dined with people in all walks of life and social status; quite literally from paupers to Princes and everyone in between.
Her sense of humour held everyone in good stead. Little fazed her. She was the first to laugh at herself and took things in stride. When they moved to a new house in Ontario, the kitchen needed the wallpaper stripped. Since they were having a dinner party anyway, she made vertical lines on the wallpaper and put people’s names on the strips. To get dinner you had to strip your section. One couple had just done a major renovation in their place so they got a very small strip. Everyone loved it!
An invitation to dinner at their place was always well received. If something didn’t turn out quite right, then so be it. It will be better next time. No point in getting upset in her view.
As I mentioned, little fazed her. I was visiting them in that same city and Donna and I went out to do some shopping. They hadn’t lived there long and she wasn’t completely familiar with the streets. She knew where she wanted to go but wasn’t sure how to get there but off we went. About thirty minutes later, all she said was “I think we’re lost. We’ll just drive around until I find someplace I recognize and we’ll get home from there. This is a new adventure. I haven’t been in this part of the city before.” And so, we drove for at least another fifteen minutes chatting all the time. No need to be irritated in her mind.
Linda and I were standing in their kitchen one day as she madly went through drawers in the island. Finally she said, “Where did Hap put those beaters?” Linda and I roared, she had them in her hand the whole time. Hap has always called these “Donna stories” and would call unexpectedly to tell us a new one. She always laughed along.
Unfortunately who our Donna is now, is not who she was then. Her physical countenance is still there but the spark has gone from her smiling eyes.
You see, our beloved Donna has a form of Alzheimer’s. She no longer recognizes dates, her loved ones, her friends or her home. While today may be a special day for us as we recognize her birthday, for her it will just be another day.
Regardless, today we wish her a Happy Birthday because she is important to us.
In closing, if you know someone caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, why don’t you give them a hug? They probably need it.