Al and Marsha's Journal
The Life and Times of
Esther Frohman (Spevack)
The words below are my attempt to tell the story of my mom's life. The anecdotes and history I describe are from my own experience and memory of our lives together and from stories she and others told me over the years. I cannot guarantee that everything is totally accurate, but I believe it is all true.
To begin this summary of my mother and her life I must start with the punch line:
My mom was the best mom anyone could ask for!
Esther was born on June 5, 1915 (more about that later) in Quebec City to Aaron and Miriam Spevack (Sak) who had immigrated several years earlier from Russia. I don't know the exact details of why they emigrated but I believe it was to escape the revolution. She had an older sister who was three years older, Sally and two older brothers.
Her early years contained some tragedy as one of her older brothers died as the result of a fall while ice skating. There had been two other boys born to her parents but neither of them survived infancy.
Aaron and Miriam were old school Orthodox Jews and kept a very kosher home. My grandfather had a wonderful singing voice and acted as an assistant cantor during High Holy days. Miriam died of cancer when I was about two so I have no memory of her. My grandfather remarried quite soon after so to me his new wife Molly was my grandmother.
When mom was about five the family moved to Montreal so that my grandfather could find work as a carpenter which is what he had trained for in Russia as a young man. Mom started school there and told me more than once that she only spoke Yiddish until she started school.
Her life in Montreal was normal and without drama until, when she was about eleven years old her remaining brother, who was now married, had a big fight with his parents. Her brother and his wife were living in Philadelphia at that time and he and his wife stormed off in the middle of a visit to Montreal never to be heard from again. I have made several attempts to track him and his family down without success.
Shortly afterward my grandfather lost his job and he travelled to Vancouver seeking work. After several months he succeeded and wired his family to join him and they did. He had attained a position building furniture at the Restmore Furniture factory, and subsequently at the Hammond Furniture factory which at that time occupied the building on the North West corner of Venables and Clark. After many years the wood dust in the air damaged his lungs and he was forced to retire.
When the family arrived in Vancouver they lived in a house at 869 East Pender Street in the Strathcona area where most Jewish families lived at the time. The house is still there. At least it was last time I looked.
I have been able to locate very early traces of my family in
editions of the Vancouver City Directories available on the Vancouver Public
Library web site.
1928 and earlier Nothing
No employer listed 869 E Pender St.
No employer listed 869 E Pender St.
No employer listed 869 E Pender St.
Here's an interesting one..... I guess accuracy was not a big
Aaron Spevack Cabinet Maker
Restmore Furniture 3010 Willow St.
Aaron Spevack Cabinet Maker
Restmore Furniture 3010 Willow St.
1935 All 3 listed 765 W. Broadway
Aaron and Esther
765 W. Broadway
Aaron (and Miriam!)
1011 W. Broadway
* Because my uncle Herb was not Jewish there was considerable turmoil around this marriage in the family. My grandfather in particular was up in arms, as was the small Jewish community. They put Sally and Herb through quite the ringer and Sally has never forgotten it.
I'm showing all of this detail for these years because of the interesting evolution of family members..
You find the most interesting things by looking back at old records..... Where was my Grandmother all those years until 1937? Didn't exist because she was "just" a housewife? Where was Sally in 1933? What is a "winder" anyway? Who is Harry A Spevack and why is he living with my mother and aunt at an address different from my Grandfather in 1934? Maybe "Harry A" means "Harry Aaron" and they counted him twice during the polling period because the family moved in the middle of it. He was known by the world at large as "Harry". They still didn't notice my Grandmother until 1937 when they started showing wives' names in brackets next to the husband's name.
One of the talents with which my mom was blessed was her musical skill. This announced itself one day when a piano arrived (rented) so that mom's sister Sally could learn to play. Sally had a serious musical talent as well. The story goes that as soon as the piano had been set up mom sat down at it and began pecking out songs that she knew. I am not sure at what age this occurred but it must have been while they were still in Montreal. Her parents recognized that they should encourage mom as well so they started her on violin lessons. She told the story often that she was a bit of a prodigy and had advanced rapidly in her skill. Unfortunately, and to mom's regret for the rest of her life, her father lost his job and could no longer afford the $2 per week for lessons.
Mom could sit at a piano at any time and play a song she knew, or one that she had just heard for the first time. A great ability, but unfortunately for me, of the many fine genes she passed on to me, this was not one of them.
When she was about fifteen mom met a tall, handsome (according
to her) boy to whom she was immediately attracted. His name was Bill Simmons
(real name Bernard - I have no idea where "Bill" came from). They were
married when my mom was twenty-one in 1936.
When they married they lived in the little apartment building on the North East corner of 10th and Cambie which is still there and is mentioned in the City Directory for 1937..
When I came along they were renting a small house at 18th and Quebec When we moved out her sister Sally, her husband Herb and my cousin Herb Jr. moved in. Later we moved to Stanley Park Manor on Haro Street, which is also still there. There they lived until mom and Bill parted company.
This event is the one, when I understood it later, made me realize how strong my mother was and continued to be all her life.
Mom made the decision that she and Bill should divorce. It is important to realize that she made that decision in 1942, in the middle of WWII when there was zero social safety net, and no one who could help her. In addition the concept of a single mom existing in 1942 was not exactly a common occurrence. It took great strength and determination for her to take that step.
For the next year and one-half or so mom had to place me in a boarding house for young children located on the Crescent in Shaughnessy. This house is also still there. This was the only level of care she could get for me that she could afford, and be able to work. She worked at a ladies dress shop called Cordell's on Hasting St. for a number of years. I clearly remember waiting for her every Wednesday and Sunday at a hole in the fence overlooking the road from the Granville Street streetcar. These were her days off and were the highlights of my week.
After about 18 months mom retrieved me from the boarding house and took me to live with her, Harry and Molly at a big house on Parker street a block and one half West of Commercial Drive. The house was within walking distance of my Grandfather's work.It is now part of the schoolyard in the Britannia Community complex.
My best memory of that house was one very cold winter day walking home from Commercial Drive. Mom at the time had a very warm fur coat (not mink). On the way to the house mom wrapped me inside her coat in front of her and we waddled down Parker street together to home. The picture below was taken about that time, on Commercial Drive I think and that was the fur coat I remember so well.
I remember another event from the time we lived in that house. I mention it because mom figured in the story. On March 6, 1945 the ammunition ship, the Greenhill Park exploded in Vancouver Harbour. It was a massive explosion. I clearly remember being in the basement of the house, near the door to the back yard when I heard an enormous boom. I had no clue, of course, what it might be and as there was no such thing as instant news it took some time for us to find out. Where mom comes into this story is at the time of the explosion mom she was on Hastings Street, a few blocks away from the waterfront on her lunch break.
Eight longshoremen were killed in that explosion, 19 other workers were injured, seven firemen ended up in the hospital and hundreds of windows in downtown Vancouver, some as far west as Thurlow and as far north as Dunsmuir, were blown out. Whole office blocks had scarcely a pane of glass intact. Mom instinctively ducked into a doorway just as glass began raining down from the building she was in front of. It was a very close call.
When I was about five the family moved to a little house at 23rd and Ontario. This house is still there also. At the time mom was spending a lot of time in the evenings out on what I now assume were dates. Some of the pictures I have on the picture page are reflective of this.
Near the end of WWII my Grandfather and I would go into the living room, entry into which was strictly forbidden to me except for the 6:00 CBC news from Europe. Eventually as things progressed and the war began to draw to a close, word of the holocaust began to emerge. I remember as if it were yesterday sitting on the living room floor listening to the news reports and watching my grandfather with tears streaming down his face as the horrors were unfolding in the news. Those evenings with my grandfather and pain the news brought have affected my thinking ever since.
Mom, of course was still working, and my step-grandmother looked after me. In September of 1946 mom took me the few blocks up Ontario St. to General Wolf school for day one of first grade. I have some recollection of standing on the street looking into the school yard with mom at the swarm of kids playing and running around. I remember feeling quite outside of all of this as almost all the kids were new to me. After about three months my teacher realized that I couldn't see and that was the beginning of me wearing glasses.
The next few years were a normal life for all of us. When I was about nine, for the first time mom introduced me to her current date.His name was Bernie Frohman. Did you notice that both of the main men in my mother's life had the first name of Bernard? Hmmmmm?
When I was eight mom enrolled me (with considerable encouragement from Bernie) in the Peretz School. This school was totally secular and its political and social attitudes were very far to the left, especially for that time. I spent six years attending the Peretz School after regular school and on Saturdays learning Yiddish. Our family social life was wrapped entirely around the Peretz School, and its associated organization the United Jewish Peoples Order (UJPO). If that name wasn't enough to separate its adherents from the rest of the Jewish community I don't know what would. Consequently I grew up amongst a small section of the community so entirely socially isolated that when I later began being part of the mainstream Jewish community everyone thought I was from somewhere else.
After a suitable waiting time (this was 1948 remember) they were married and we moved to an apartment in an big old house on Barclay Street West of Denman Street just a couple of blocks from where I had lived with mom when I was much younger.
Bernie and his step-father owned a laundry and dry cleaning place on Denman St. and Bernie worked there full time, as did my mom. Mom did the front of store stuff, alterations, and brought in a few bucks making and selling fancy aprons.
We were not exactly poor in the modern sense, but there was not much money to spread around. I didn't have a clue about that of course, and thought, if I thought about it at all, that our way of living was just normal. It probably was for many young families at that time.
What I realized later was that one of mom's most impressive attributes was how much mileage she could squeeze out of a dime. She always made life work with whatever she had available to her. We were never without a good meal, clean clothes (although we had a great discount at Famous Cleaners) or basic entertainment. Hockey Night in Canada on the radio Saturday nights with Foster Hewitt was an event to look forward to each week.
We went to the occasional movie and one very funny event occurred when we went to the Studio Theatre to see Disney's movie Fantasia. Bernie had bought himself a chocolate bar which soon disappeared. A little while later Bernie too disappeared for quite a while. I thought it very strange but thought no more about it. Later mom told me that the bar Bernie had purchased and eaten was actually a laxative called Ex-Lax. I guess he didn't think it was very funny.
During the next few years mom and Bernie were very involved in the political and social activities surrounding the UJPO. The members staged a play from Yiddish folklore every year. They both participated in these plays and seemed to enjoy themselves.Bernie had a natural talent for the stage, and in my opinion may have missed his true calling.They also sang in the UJPO choir directed by Claire Osipov (Klein) who has a marvelous voice, and who is still singing at events and concerts around the community.
At one point the choir performed a one-half hour live concert on the CBC, which I attended as a nervous audience of one in the control room. There was a record made of the concert, but we lost our copy. We recently learned from Claire that she had a copy (somewhere) and would dig it up for us.
We moved homes quite often, at the time it felt like every year. In all but one place we lived somewhere in the West End.
In 1951 Bernie sold Famous Cleaners and began working as manager of the first Kamlo Hotel at Denman and Comox. That summer, at the age of twelve I began my working career as a bell-boy and occasional telephone switchboard operator at the hotel. Yes they still had switchboards in those days. High tech for the time. The purpose I started working so early was so that I could save money to go to University later. After a few years the owners of the hotel built a second building across the street and the first one became an annex. Before the second unit opened my cousin Herb and I worked at the hotel delivering and installing all of the kitchen stuff, furniture, bedding and linens. After it opened we were both bell hops.
I can't remember what mom was doing during this time, but it is probably a good guess that she was doing alterations.
When I was eighteen mom came down with a serious case of hepatitis. At the time the cure involved almost a year of total bed rest. I took over running our home, cooking, etc during the ten months that she was bedridden. I learned to cook via her instructions from the bedroom.
Unfortunately during my later teenage years my relationship with Bernie became more and more contentious, much to mom's sadness. Just after my nineteenth birthday I moved out on my own, which made mom feel very badly. It was the best thing to do in the circumstances.
Normal life soon settled down for mom and she and Bernie managed to stay together for quite a long time afterward. Well, normal is a subjective word. At some point after I moved out on my own mom and Bernie moved into a new apartment complex at Davie and Cardero called Robson Arms. There was a recent TV series called Robson Arms. Any reader old enough to remember Jack Wasserman, the very well read gossip columnist for the Vancouver Sun may recall his stories about the goings on at that complex. It was filled with young couples who were full of piss and vinegar and knew how to party. Jack Wasserman's reports in the Sun about the parties, the pool adventures and other group "activities" soon became the talk of the town. Mom and Bernie were in the thick of it and had a blast.
Just after I got married in 1964 mom left Bernie and struck out on her own again. She told me once that she didn't think she had very good taste in men.
She had wisely waited until she had a secure job, and an income before making the move. It was good planning on her part. She managed to save enough to buy herself a car, a Corvair, once deemed the most dangerous car on the road due to its rear engine and the risk of fire after a rear ender. I was not happy with her choice.
As it turned out her job as room service cashier at the Bayshore Inn was a major boost for her. The title doesn't really describe her job. She was the person who answered the phone when guests wanted to order room service. Mom took her job very seriously and not only did she place the orders in the kitchen, when the "boys" (they were all men at the time) were ready to deliver the tray she would inspect each one to ensure that it was correct, and that nothing was missing. Some of the boys didn't appreciate that but most did. Mom absolutely loved that job. She worked there from 1962 to 1975.
Mom became quite friendly with the boys, and over time came to be regarded as the "den mother" of the gay community in the West End. She was included in their parties and when there was a costume party she would sew costumes for them. She loved every minute of it.
One night in 1972 or 1973, after a late shift at the Bayshore, about one in the morning she was driven home by another worker who let her out of the car across the street from her apartment on Beach Avenue. As it was the middle of the night mom didn't think and walked around the back of the car and started across. She got seriously wacked by a car coming the other way.
Her injuries were very severe... smashed up left knee, dislocated left shoulder, scrapes cuts and bruises everywhere, and some internal damage as well. Mom spent several weeks in St. Paul's hospital. A nasty side effect showed its head about a week into the process. The violence of the hit jiggled loose a very large gall stone and she had to have emergency surgery to remove it.
She even had the gall (pun intended) to file a claim with ICBC for personal injury even though the accident was 100% her fault. They paid her off to get rid of her.
After she was fit to leave the hospital she came to live with my wife and I in our apartment in Kits. She stayed with us for about three months before moving to her own apartment and returning to work. Her damaged left knee bothered her for the rest of her life and became the starting point for a slowly progressing arthritis problem.
It's quite amusing what strange things people get attached to. Mom at some point, in one of her apartments, had a horrid green shag carpet installed over whatever was there when she moved in. When she moved from that apartment she insisted on taking her carpet to her next place. As I was her moving staff, I had to gather it up and install it at her new place. Needless to say, the floor shape at her new apartment was different so I had to cut up the carpet and piece it together to fit using double sided tape. This continued through several apartments, and soon became a joke between my son Mark and myself. Every time she moved the carpet pieces got smaller and more strangely shaped. We always managed to make it look semi-decent so mom always had her pet carpet. After a few moves we put our foots (feet?) down and refused to do it again.
When she was sixty she retired and began receiving her meager government pensions which she supplemented with her clothing alteration work. She had a good client base and so did fairly well at it.
At some point she decided to travel and required a passport. Remember up at the very top next to her birthdate I said "more about this later"? Well, this is later. All my life, and hers too, we had celebrated her birthday on June 10th. To get a passport you have to prove your birthdate and that you are Canadian. When mom was born in Quebec City the only records, if there were any, were kept in the local church records. Needless to say, mom's family didn't belong to a church. No birth certificate, no proof that she actually existed. This was in 1967 and at this point she was 52. She did remember the name of the school she went to in Grade 1.
So I put on my detective hat, searched out the school and found that it was still there. Next I called the school and got the principal and told him my story. He promised that he would look at the archives in the basement but he held out little hope because some years earlier there had been a fire which destroyed most of the old records. A few days later he phoned to say that he had found her original school registration form. It showed her birthdate as June 5th. This document allowed us to get a birth certificate for her from the Province of Quebec. It was issued on July 21, 1967. From then on we celebrated her birthday on the right date.
After her time at the Bayshore, except for travel, and the regular trips to Reno to gamble, mom's life was quiet. She was always healthy except for the ever increasing pain in her legs.
I have mentioned mom's sister Sally a number of times in this narrative. They had an interesting relationship, the seeds of which appear to have gone back to their childhood. Mom took some delight in telling me that she did not have to go through the turmoil caused by girls growing up in Canada, rather than the old country. The issues such as lipstick, skirt length, dating, boys, etc. were the subject of much argument between Sally and her parents. When mom got to each of those stages the battle had already been fought by Sally, so mom had a much easier time with these issues. Sally, mom says, was not happy about that.
As the two of them got older they would periodically get into arguments about some silly thing and then spend anywhere from a couple of days to weeks not speaking to each other. It got to the point where whenever my cousin Herb and I would speak or meet the first question was: "Are the sisters Spevack speaking to each other this week?". It really was quite funny and always petered out after time.
All of her life mom had an amazing gift of memory. One feat that always impressed me was her ability to recall the characters and movie stars who played in any movie she had ever seen. She would sometimes also tell stories with verbatim dialogue from as far back as her childhood. I never heard or saw any information to say that her memory was flawed, so I assume she was right.
Another of her special skills was looking very well turned out with her hair and choice of clothes. She wisely chose clothes which she could mix and match so that she seldom wore the same combination twice in a row. She took particular care with her hair and until the very end never could be seen with a hair out of place. I think she alone kept the hair spray industry profitable.
In her eighties mom's gift for story telling, complete with accents and gestures propelled her into a new career. She became a sit down comic. She was asked to tell her jokes at various events around the Jewish community, such as Hadassah meetings, etc. She had a great memory so all she did to prepare for a "jig", as she called it, was to write the punch lines of the jokes for that day on a 3x5 card, and away she went. She had a gift for segueing from one tale to the next without missing a beat. We have a video Marsha took of one of her later jigs.
At the end of her eighties she moved into a subsidized apartment building at the South end of Ontario street. As she still drove, much to my horror, she was able to get around pretty well and keep up her contacts in the community. At one point she suffered a severe set-back from the damage to her body from her accident and had so much pain in her left leg that she couldn't function. We were able to arrange for daily help for her so that she could stay at home.
She recovered from that after about six weeks, and took up her life again. Unfortunately for her, the older she got, the fewer old-time friends were still around. She became increasingly isolated and we began to be very worried about her future. A while later she had another leg pain attack the same as the first one, with the same result. This time we arranged for the BC Social Services department to "assess" her so that she might qualify for subsidized Assisted Living, and she was approved.
Not too long after she recovered from that bout of pain she began talking about Assisted Living, and in particular the Weinberg Residence which had recently opened. I recognized an opportunity when I saw one and went right to work.
I phoned the manager of the Weinberg and she told me that they had recently concluded an agreement with the BC Government for a portion of their units to be subsidized for approved persons from the community. I immediately called the Social Worker who had assessed mom and told her that the Weinberg was where mom wanted to go. Sometimes serendipity does actually work. It turned out that this Social Worker was on the committee which assigns approved persons to available places. As she had already approved mom, and the Weinberg being a Jewish institution she would submit her name. Another bit of serendipity.... the committee was meeting that very evening to allocate the Weinberg units and they would have space for mom. Talk about timing!
As soon as I heard that she was accepted I seized another opportunity. I pulled a trick on mom. I went over to her place and said that I would make a deal.... If I got her into the Weinberg she had to agree to give up her car. She agreed. I waited a suitable number of days and told her the good news. She was thrilled, as were we. Mom never did figure out that I had tricked her.
Very shortly after that mom had selected the unit she wanted, which was of course brand new. It was a very large one-bedroom with everything she would need, plus the features you would expect from an Assisted Living place.
She moved in quickly (and I snatched her car keys equally quickly. Whew!!!) and took no time to settle in. Her gregarious nature took hold and she became one of the crowd instantly. She had been released from isolation and loved it.
I am convinced that the last eight years of mom's life would have been much shorter is she had not been at the Weinberg. It was a perfect environment for her. She had no need to cook, clean or otherwise take care of many of the basics which she didn't much like anyway. About her cooking.... not so hot... her baking on the other hand was world class. Nobody has ever made rice pudding to match hers. Sorry Marsha.
The Weinberg has about forty-eight apartments and a common dining room. The meals were prepared in the same kitchen and using the same two week rotating menu as the residents in the Louis Brier Seniors home to which the Weinberg was attached and were, of course strictly kosher.
Many of the Weinberg residents complained at some level or another about the food. It was bland, it was boring, it was repetitive, it was too hot, it was too cold. In other words, the usual institutional whining. Mom however was happy with the food, and never complained. She would often argue with other residents about this which endeared her to the Weinberg staff right away. Her big excitement at the Weinberg were the bingo games held several times a week. It was a big deal when she won a card or two.
Marsha and I were so pleased with mom's happiness and success at the Weinberg that we decided to see if we could contribute something lasting to the home. On their "wish list" was a desire for a Judaica Cabinet for the common area. I spoke to Vanessa, the head of the Weinberg and she was very happy for us to do that. We wanted to dedicate the cabinet to mom, and to keep it a secret until it was finished and unveiled. I engaged a talented cabinet maker who built the cabinet in place to exactly match the wood, colour and design of the surrounding walls. When all was ready Vanessa posted a notice of the dedication. Mom was curious why Marsha and I, my son Mark and the great grandkids happened to be there. She was astonished when I got up and made the unveiling speech. It was very satisfying to honour her in this way, and to provide something of value which would be there forever.
When Marsha and I were married in 1994 suddenly there was a real family with kids, grandkids, and great grand kids. Mom loved every part of this family life and enjoyed being with all of us at our frequent family dinners. She was also invited to many occasions at dinners and parties at our friend's homes. Her sunny disposition made her welcome everywhere. She was never happier than when she was with us all. She was always ready to tell us all a new joke (sometimes an old one). Invariably one of our friends, nephews, nieces, grandkids and great grandkids would sit with her and talk for extended periods of time.
As the years went by her legs gave out more and more and about the time that she moved into the Weinberg she needed a walker to get around. When she had her walker she scooted right along and I had to work to keep up with her. Her recliner and her TV were her home entertainment but she almost never missed an opportunity to attend the frequent entertainments arranged for residents.
As mom aged she began to show signs such as fading hearing. She got a hearing aid and that helped for a while, but her hearing continued to deteriorate. She only wore it when I was with her because she said I mumbled. When I said something to her she would look at me and you could see the wheels turning while she tried to figure out what I had said. Many times, when she couldn't get it her puzzled look would suddenly disappear and she would get a little half smile and say "Vat did you said??". I can't convey the accent on paper. This became one of the favorite bits she I would pull off together. She also had some pretty goofy attitudes about other things. She almost had a heart attack when Marsha or I would take her shopping and she saw the prices of things. Outrageous! Actually her favorite word was "Terrible!" spoken with a lilt that I can't convey on paper. Pretty soon it became a family joke and we teased her about it.
One of her funnier bits of goofiness was around some medication she was given for her shaking hands. It was an affliction called "essential tremor". (Side note - What the hell is "essential" about a tremor in your hands?) This tremor condition is one of the bad genes I inherited from her. No music genes but essential tremor. Where is the justice in that? In any case she became convinced that the medication made her constipated which is not one of its known side effects so she wouldn't take it. She instead lived with her very shaky hands and learned to function around it.
Another funny one was at times she would get a rapid heart beat, a syndrome called tachycardia. She convinced herself that she could cure it by drinking ginger ale.
We all quickly learned not to argue with her about stuff like that as there was no use in it. At one point recently I said to her "You're acting like a silly old lady". Her reply was to smile and say "I am a silly old lady". That was the end of that discussion!
As the years went by she started eating less and less. She lost considerable weight in the last five years. She had always been a healthy eater, but I guess age took its toll. A half sandwich was a lot for her. There was one notable exception to that however. Whenever we took her for a Chinese dinner she would always ask for a prawn dish and would stuff her face with prawns until there were none left. Now there is a clash of cultures!
In November, 2011 her damaged nerves in her leg caught up with her again, and this time it was even more severe. After a few days it became clear that she needed to be in the hospital so she was sent to Vancouver General. After a couple of days in Emergency she was admitted to the geriatric ward. It took about three weeks for the doctors there to get her pain medication balanced so that she could function to some degree, then she was sent back to the Weinberg. The staff in emergency and in the Centennial Building were outstanding and we, including mom, were grateful for their care and understanding.
It became clear as soon as she returned to the Weinberg that she would need more constant care than could be provided there so we had her admitted to the Louis Brier Home for the Aged. The senior staff and those on her "ward" were exceptional in their caring and treatment of mom. She soon settled into a routine of sorts, but kept forgetting herself and falling. She moved around mostly by wheelchair at that point. She taught herself how to propel the wheelchair down the halls to the dining room. Another example of her ability to adapt.
After about two months, in February, 2012 she had a nasty fall which landed her on her butt. The result of that was a broken hip and another emergency trip to VGH. This time she was on the Ortho-Trauma ward in the Pattison Pavilion, and again all of the medical staff and the other specialists were wonderful and treated mom with kindness and understanding. Her great personality came to the surface and the staff all got to love her. She had a new hip replacement the next day, and began her recovery.
Unfortunately, as we all sort of expected, having a 96 year old recover easily from such a trauma and major surgery was probably not going to happen. It became clear fairly soon that she was not going to recover very much, if at all. Once the surgery issues had subsided and her medical situation settled we had her moved back to her room at the Louis Brier.
I can not remember any time in my life when mom shouted at anyone about anything (with one notable exception just after she married Bernie and we moved to Barclay St. when she and Bernie had a "discussion" about something). I cannot remember her getting mad at me enough to raise her voice, but that could just be selective memory on my part. Anyway, one day at VGH while she was still recovering from the hip replacement surgery I arrived for my daily visit and she was sitting up in a wheelchair looking very unhappy. Before I could greet her with the usual "Hello mom, its me, Sonny Boy" she started complaining that she was not comfortable and wanted to go back to her bed. I went talk to the duty nurse about this and she told me that the physiotherapist wanted mom to sit there for an hour.
I advised mom of this, without any change in her mood. A few minutes later a couple of the nutritionists came into the room to talk with me. We were standing and talking when the duty nurse came and asked mom how she was... Big Mistake! Mom raised herself up in the seat, looked at her and said: "I want to go back to my bed, now!" The poor nurse looked stunned. It probably didn't help mom's mood at all when the three of us on the other side of the room started laughing. In any case, she won and was shortly settling happily into her bed.
She continued her slow downward slide to its inevitable conclusion. She never lost her sense of humour though, One of the many issues she had to deal with was that she aspirated much of her food and drink into her lungs. This problem apparently had been building for quite a few years, evident in the form of a years long persistent cough. None of her doctors prior to the last trip to the hospital had picked up the cause. The risk this created was pneumonia or choking to death.
In any case, she could not be given any food or water except by an RN, and even that always produced a coughing fit. Near her last days when I visited her, which I did daily, she would beg for water, which I could not provide. One day she started chanting "I need water...give me water....I want water!" every few minutes. I had to stand by and feel guilty for not giving it to her. After a few rounds of this one day she added "if you don't give me water I won't think you're a good son anymore!" Fortunately she said that with a big grin on her face. She tried the same trick on Marsha a couple of days later.
On April 28th I was having my usual visit with mom, sitting on the side of the bed and talking about not much at all when she suddenly perked up and said "Give me a hug". I almost fell off the bed because while it was always obvious that she loved all of us she was never a hugger. When I recovered I leaned over her and we had a good hug. The next words out of her mouth are ones that I have never heard her say before, ever!
"I'm proud of you, and I love you".
I'll leave it to you to figure out what effect that had.
That night at 3:15 in the morning she died.
These are my memories of my mom. Each reader will have a different set of memories and I hope you enjoy them.
She's gone and has left a hole in our lives.
All is not lost as we can each play our own personal Esther movie in our heads whenever we wish.
That is the legacy she left all of us.
Thank you for reading my story of this wonderful lady.
If you haven't already please take a look at the pictures on the Esther Pictures page by clicking here.
If these pages look weird and do not line up properly it is likely that
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