Stories

Aunt Rene

Shared by Susan Stronge on February 16, 2020
My mother is the last of the Milroy girls and I would like to share with you the memories of Rene that have impacted by life. I would like to start out with a quote from the poet Siegfried Sassoon. He said that, “Life, for the majority of the population, is an unlovely struggle against unfair odds, culminating in a cheap funeral”. Rene’s life owes itself this universality: in many ways it was unlovely and it was difficult. There are moments in her life where she must have felt she was fighting an uphill battle. It would be easy to sweep those moments of difficulties under under the rug and focus on what was good about her life. But if I did that, if I focused on only the good things I would be missing the important moments that shaped her into the person she became. Rene was always a warrior. This woman who probably has never weighed more than a hundred pounds her entire life was nevertheless one of the strongest people I know. Her courage does, and always will astound me. I always was proud of the fact that she defied a social norm and left a marriage that was unhealthy for her and for her children. She raised her children, and to a certain extent, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren alone. She did what her own mother couldn’t and built her own autonomy with a child in each hand. 

You could not know Rene without knowing the incredible dedication that she had to her family. This dedication extended past her immediate family and onto the lives of her extended family. Her siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews all experienced some aspect of her seemingly endless supply of love. Of course, watching her sit and talk with her siblings and cousins, you would never know they liked each other. Milroy get togethers are always marked by two things: loud opinions, and a salad with a total of three ingredients. Maybe four if someone was feeling adventurous. Rene was as opinionated as the rest of them. Perhaps even more so depending on who you asked. She had no problem giving people her opinion, especially if she disagreed with you. I think she even revealed in disagreeing with her family members. Yet despite the loud and forceful exchanges of opinion, no one ever left permanently scarred or angry from these events. Despite any and all disagreements, you were still family. In fact, you were quite possibly more than family. Rene always said her best friends were her cousins Peggy and Frannie. Spending time with family was an intentional choice for her that was not bred out of a sense of duty or responsibility. Her dedication to her family was there because she wanted it to be there. If a woman has the determination and gumption to quit smoking after over 50 years then she can easily decide who she does and does not want in her life. And she chose us. All of you here today she chose to put her time and energy into and we are all better for it. 

Her profound love for children, all children was felt by myself and my siblings when we were young. We would go over to her house every Saturday to a house full of food. Her grocery shopping excursions were legendary for the sheer amount of food she would buy. You knew there was no way that she would be able to eat everything she was buying, But that was the point. Like many things in Rene’s life, the effort she put into things was not for her benefit but for the benefit of others. Those shopping trips were one of many examples of the ways in which she would show you that she loved you. Those tangible expressions of love and of plenty were so important to me growing up. The simple act of eating sugar cereal in front of the TV watching Scooby Doo on a Saturday morning with my cousins and siblings was one of the highlights of my childhood. These were things I was never allowed to do in my daily life and that made aunt Rene’s home seem all the more wonderful and exciting. I have always supposed that there was a reason behind the bounty that her house became known for. I remember one Christmas when my kids were still little we had opened presents and my husband Ken had begun cleaning up and putting things in the car. He had gone to take the toys Rene had given to Ben and Robyn so they could be packed away and she slapped his hand and told him not to touch those. “Those toys are for the kids. They are not for you” she said. 

I think Rene’s desire to show love was a direct result of her own childhood. she was. Growing up, her family was made to pick tobacco for a week just so that they could spend a week renting a cottage.  Anyone who knows anything about her parents, especially her father, knows that the tangible expressions of love she was known for and that she needed were not given by him. But Rene was not defined by the hardship but instead by the way she reacted to it. Her childhood was not easy, and her life was not easy. But she could make life a little easier for others. She could make sure the people around her knew that they were loved. She could make sure that someone else did not have to go without like she did. She derived so much joy from making sure others were happy and never had to go through the things that she did. Rene was known for making candy houses at Christmas, much like her own mother did. But I always thought of her actual house as a candy house. I never spent time there where it wasn’t absolutely bursting with candy and food. Her house was known for being plentiful, not just in the food that she bought, but also in the love that she showed to the people who entered it. 

Here we sit at the cheap funeral Sassoon was sure the majority of people must have in order to grieve. To honour a woman who all of us have known. A woman who has touched all of our lives in various ways and I can’t help but thinking that this experience is far from cheap. Not because of the amount of money that has been spent to have you all here and not because of the amount of money that you have donated to a charity in her name. This moment is rich in the love that we all shared for Rene. I can not repay her for the kindness she has shown me over the years and I am sure many of you feel the same. So I hope you will take this last opportunity for us to collectively honour this amazing woman to take a page out of her book. Life will always be full of struggles. It will be unfair and sometimes it will feel like you are fighting an uphill battle. We cannot change that. But we can change how we react to a situation and even if things cannot be better for us, we always have the opportunity to make things better for someone else.

Woman Of The Week

Shared by Christine Nayler on February 5, 2020
  1. In the70's and 80's Mom used to listen to a country music radio station called CFGM. The morning DJ was Big Jim Marshall and he did this feature called Woman Of The Week.  Mom really loved listening to Big Jim and all her favourite country music. I thought she would love to be featured as the Woman Of The Week. I wrote a letter to Big Jim and included a poem I wrote for Mom and Big Jim decided Mom deserved to be his Woman Of The Week
 Mom was surprised and delighted by the honour. She got flowers delivered to the house. A night out at a fancy restaurant and a song dedicated to her each day. When we were going through Mom's boxes of memories we found the cassette they sent her.
 



Candy Houses

Shared by Christine Nayler on February 5, 2020
Mom and Granny used to make candy houses together at River Drive Park and they would donate them to charity. Every year at Christmas Mom would make a big beautiful candy house for us and she carried on this tradition through her grandchildren's , and great grandchildren's childhoods as well. This last Christmas Mom wanted to make a candy house for the great grandkids. She wanted this to be a group project with Janice and I so she could ensure that this tradition would continue and we would pass it on to my daughters who in turn would pass it on to their children. Mom was so happy to learn that this tradition was also being passed down through the Kornblum family as Mom had taught Bev the art of candy house making many years ago when they were neighbours on Driftwood

Share a story

 
Illustrate your story with a picture, music or video (optional):