91 years young
I was born in 1926 as Ester Ruth Hicks in Port Arthur, Ontario which is now Thunder Bay. It’s a northern community, so the people who lived there were required to be self-sufficient and hard working in order to survive the isolation and the long, cold, harsh winters of Northern Ontario. My dad was an engineer and shortly after I started school in Port Arthur, he got a job to build the hotel in Jellicoe, a small mining town in Ontario. I remember the preparations for our move to Jellicoe…how mom had to buy me and my younger sister Fran a brand new wardrobe at the only store in Port Arthur in order for us to survive the winters of Jellicoe. The store sold mostly boys clothing but I remember how mom did her best to make the boys clothes as suitable as possible for the girls to wear. This was no easy task, and I was so impressed with mom’s ability to change a boy’s brief into a girls underwear.
My first memory of Jellico was staying at great Aunt Grace’s house which was across the lake of our new home in Jellicoe which was actually more of a “shack”. I always marveled that we didn’t freeze over the winter months in that tiny “shack” that was our home.
This is where I learned how to make real sauerkraut…in a large barrel…a process that took over a month to ferment. I really thought this was fantastic as I had only ever tasted sauerkraut from a can…and after trying real sauerkraut, I swore I would never have sauerkraut from a can again! When I was 16, my dad got a job in Toronto. Our parents left for Toronto in order to find a home for us, and sent for Fran and I once they settled. We stayed in Jellicoe with our grandma until then. I got a job as a homemaker for a doctor’s family in town. I loved that job and saved enough money to purchase our train tickets to Toronto and new outfits and a new outrageous straw hat for the journey. My mom used to tease me because she remembered seeing me coming off the train carrying our luggage, holding my 10 year old sister’s hand, while sporting this ridiculous straw hat! I couldn’t believe the size of Toronto…the largest town I had ever seen was Port Arthur and Toronto was nothing like Port Arthur.
I met my first husband Arthur in 1946, we married and had children. Life was tough for us as it was for most young couples post war. We struggled to find a good home to raise our children, struggled with employment and struggled with good health. My youngest son passed away at 11 months old from tracheitis. Later, my youngest daughter Peggy suffered from a severe bout of the measles as a baby, infecting her ears. The damage in her ears resulted in 75% hearing loss in both ears. She got over the measles, but her hearing never returned. I spent most of my time learning ways to teach her how to speak and communicate and how to function independanlty.
Years later, after all the children had grown my oldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer. I became her primary caregiver and companion, travelling from Etobicoke to Burlington every day.to take care of her. It was so difficult and traumatic to witness my own daughter disappearing before my eyes. She passed away before she reached the age of 40.
I was widowed twice. After the death of my second husband in 1978, I began painting. I had never painted before but knew I needed to try it, so I purchased my supplies and tried painting for the first time. I intuitively knew what to do and I loved it. I showed off my work at local exhibitions, always learned new techniques from other artists and then created artwork that still hangs in our homes now. I am fortunate to have found painting as it helped me to learn so much about others and myself.
My advice to others would be: You can feel the hurt, but you must carry on as best as you can. You can’t forget the loss, but you have to let go of the hurt of the loss. You only have one life to live…so you have to make the best of what you’ve got.”
I have been a client with PSL for 2 years. They have been so helpful. Some days I can’t do anything but there is always someone there to provide the help when I ask for it. The support from Peel Senior Link is invaluable.