Reijo Robert Halonen March 10, 1936 – February 23, 2022

“Would you know my name?
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same?
If I saw you in heaven…

Beyond the door
There’s peace, I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven
” – EricClapton

On the day my mother passed 7 years ago, my daughter came to my house and brought me some flowers, and a giant bag of Werther’s caramel candies. She explained that the candies were a fond memory for her of my parents, because they always had a bag of them at their home , to offer to the grandchildren as a treat. I assume that they (my dad especially) enjoyed them as well.

Many years ago, my husband was shopping with my father in K-Mart. My father was looking at a pair of orange tab Levi’s, and was remarking how reasonably priced they were; he may have even suggested my husband buy a pair for himself. Without trying to be offensive, my husband merely acknowledged the reasonable price, and made a comment about how they were not exactly his style. My father, noting that he meant they were not exactly a popular or stylish pair of jeans, merely tapped his temple with his index finger, and said, “It’s all up here.” Now that phrase “it’s all up here”, while tapping our temples with our index finger, has become a funny mantra in our family, whenever we talk about perception, or how things are viewed.

I remember as a young girl, I loved to watch my father tinker in the garage, fixing a car or motor that always seemed in need of repair in our yard. I learned the difference between a Phillips screwdriver, a Straight Edge, a Robertson, or a Hex, as I passed them to him while he tinkered. Now I work as a dental hygienist in a dental implant center, and if I’m struggling with removing a screw with the wrong kind of driver, I hear my dad’s voice in my head, saying, “You need the right tools for the job.”

On one of my last visits home to see my father in Canada, I told him that I missed him a lot when I wasn’t with him. At this , he felt the need to tell me not to miss him when he moved on, or to feel bad for him. He reminded me to be present with those around me , and pay attention to who might need me , instead of who I might need. He looked forward to life eternal, and going to be with my mom.

I have been ruminating about these memories, and many others , since my father passed away on February 23rd of this year. His memory had been failing for many years. When he was in the later stages of his Alzheimer’s, he wasn’t always cognizant of who I was. Regardless of this, it was a blessing to see him through FaceTime. His care providers in the nursing home where he spent his last days were wonderful in helping us spend this precious time with him. The last time I saw him, he had a glimmer of recognition for me, and he blew me a kiss. A week later, he succumbed to the pneumonia that had infected his lungs.

Now that my father is gone, I realize there were so many questions that I never thought to ask him, or even if I asked them, I didn’t listen to the answers well enough to remember them. I know he was born in Finland on March 10, 1936, but I don’t know the name of his home town. He spent some time away from his family during the war. My grandfather was in the Merchant Marines and fought for Finland , and my father and his siblings were sent to live with foster families in Sweden for their own safety.

Each of the foster families my dad and his brothers were sent to, were in close proximity, assumably so they could see each other regularly. Unfortunately, my father’s foster family were physically abusive, and he was often punished if he tried to run away or visit his brothers. Understandably, my father didn’t like to speak of these times, and what little I know of his history, I have gleaned from other family members.

After the war, my father’s family immigrated to Canada from Finland to begin their new life together. They lived in the north woods of Ontario at first, where my grandfather found work in the lumber camps. Eventually they settled in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Dad was the oldest son, and he applied for a job at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, to help his father support his family. He lied about his age, so he could get hired. I often wondered if he regretted not going to school at that time, as he only had a 6th grade education, but I never once heard him complain about this. In contrast, he was proud, I think, of being able to help his family in this way.

My father met my mother after she immigrated to Canada and came to live in Sault Ste. Marie as a young woman. He immediately fell in love with her and proposed very soon after that. They were married in 1960,and were inseparable until she passed away in 2015. My father missed her terribly and it was not a secret that much of the sparkle in his eyes, and the zest he had for life were dimmed after her passing.

My parents passed away with very little as far as earthly possessions go. When we were growing up, my father worked hard to provide for our family; there were five of us and my mom was a stay at home mom. We never lacked for what we needed, however, and the love our parents had for us was always evident. My father always gave away more than he had, to all of us, and whoever else may have entered our household. I will never forget that there was always room at our kitchen table for anyone who needed a meal, companionship, or a cup of coffee. Our couch was also available on many occasions for friends who needed a place to sleep for a night or more.

These, and other memories, remind me that my father was a good man, and a good role model in many ways. He taught us how to love each other, and how to give freely, without strings. I have always been proud to say that he preached without words.

I miss him more than words can say. My hope and prayer is one where his legacy for love and good deeds will live on in this broken world, through each of the lives of those who knew him.

“Those who walk up rightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” — Isaiah 57:2

Restoration …Again

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for

the light that is you.”. L.R. Knost.

Earlier this spring, My husband and I were planned a trip to Minnesota, to visit our grown children who live there. Our daughter was graduating from grad school, and it was also Mothers’ Day weekend. It would be the first Mothers’ Day in several years that I had spent with both of our children, so of course, my excitement meter was high.

Prior to our road trip I took the car in to the dealership to have the oil changed, and I learned that the tires were bad and needed to be replaced. I cheated and replaced only the back two tires, intending to replace the other two at a later date. The tires on my car are “run flat” tires, meaning they are designed to not go flat even if you drive over a nail or puncture them. For this reason, my car doesn’t come with a spare tire. It is deemed unnecessary, because you are supposed to be able to safely get to a place where the tire can be replaced or repaired. I thought that cheating on the tires would be okay.

We packed up our car with our belongings and our dogs, and were set to have a fun road trip. We were having a lovely time until we drove over a large pothole in Illinois. The sidewall of our front tire blew out and the hole was catastrophic.

We pulled over beside a field of dirt in the middle of what felt like nowhere. We were stranded until roadside assistance could get to us, because, you know, we didn’t have a spare tire.

The next several hours were spent waiting for a tow truck to arrive. We stretched our legs occasionally by walking our two dogs along the dusty roadside. It was also less than three weeks after I had had full knee replacement surgery, and I was more than uncomfortable because of the waiting around, and inactivity in the car.

A moment of clarity came to me when I was stretching my legs. I was feeling very happy that our incident didn’t result in anything more catastrophic than a hole in our front tire. We were inconvenienced and would miss precious time with our kids, but I wasn’t feeling anxious or angry. I realized at that moment that there had been a change in me over the past several months. The anxiety I would normally have felt in a time like that was non-existent, and was replaced with silent prayers of thankfulness and a feeling of well-being.

It has been a year since I wrote my last post called ‘ Restoration ‘. That was the beginning of a slow process of change for me. What many call mindfulness and meditation, I will call prayer and worship. This, and a prescription from my doctor has helped keep my anxiety at bay.

It’s amazing to me that I am able to rationalize my experiences quite clearly. I spend less time getting caught up in what I refer to as the muddiness of my thoughts and emotions. I’m able to let things go without feeling as if I have to fix what I think is wrong around me. This, I realized when I used the restroom at work and saw that someone had hung the toilet paper in the “wrong ” direction. I was able to just use it without fixing the roll first! Progress is a beautiful thing, and the realization of it totally disarmed me.

I am thankful for the life I have. I am giving angst and turmoil less space in my head, and will embrace each day as it comes with thanksgiving and hope for the future.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”-Jeremiah 31:25

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”-Psalm 147:3

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”- Philippians 4:6

Mothers and Daughters

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend.”~Ecclesiastes  3:1-7

I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with my daughter over the last few weeks. I speak with her almost daily  about anything under the sun.  My conversations with her remind me of conversations I had with my own mother when I was younger, and had moved away from home.  Whenever I was missing her , or wanted to share my day, or ask about a recipe, she was only a phone call away, and always willing to spend a few minutes with me. Now my conversations with my daughter are very similar.  They can consist of only a few words, or they can be quite lengthy.

I have had much time over the last few months to think and contemplate in a way that I have not had time to do in the past, and for this I am grateful.  It has been a rare gift for me, and one that I have treasured. This time has allowed me to settle in to our new home,  to rest, to reflect, and to grieve.

I have always been busy studying, working, or being a wife and mother.  Not since the carefree days of my youth, have I had this much time at my disposal. After my husband and I moved to the state of Georgia, and after I finished unpacking our boxes, I would have loved to dive in and look for a job, but I couldn’t. I was not licensed  to work as a dental hygienist in this state, until last week.  I was waiting for the board of dentistry to grant me my state licensure, and I’m relieved to say that finally, they did.  Now I have started applying for jobs, so although I have enjoyed this time , I need to get back to work.

In the last three and a half months, I have joined a book club, attended church, become friendly with our neighbors, and socialized with my husband’s coworkers, all with the intent to establish roots and nurture new relationships.  People in the South are welcoming and friendly. It’s impossible to walk our dogs without having someone walk by, or drive by without a neighborly “stop-and-chat”.  I love that about our new neighborhood. I wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom to tell her all about it.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had one of those moments; I was baking some Finnish coffee bread because  I wanted to send a care package to my kids.  The  yeast-based dough grew exponentially, and spilled over onto my counter top.  I vaguely remember having a conversation with my mom about baking bread in warmer climates, and how the humidity and warmth can make the yeast work double time.  How I wished I could call her up and tell her she had been right about that.  Why is it that these simple things cause me to tear up on such a regular basis?  My daughter loves to cook and bake and  she will often call me for quick cooking advice, or to discuss recipes.  It reminds me of how my mom and I used to be. I loved being able to call her at the drop of a hat, and tell her the most mundane things; it didn’t matter that we rarely saw each other or that so many miles separated us. 

Our move to from Minnesota didn’t go swimmingly; the moving company was terrible.  So many things were broken , furniture was scratched or dented, my husband’s  dumbbells and toolbox are missing; lost forever.  These things are insured and replaceable, but the whole ordeal is annoying, and I would have loved to call my mom and complain to her about it, but fortunately for me, my daughter is willing to listen to my woes, and for that I am grateful. 

I was unpacking a crate of my mother’s China, which she had gifted to me several years ago.  She had been downsizing her things; she had no use for it and wanted me to have it.  My mother passed away just one short month prior to our move, and with that wound still fresh, I was unprepared for the onslaught of emotion that I was hit with when I unraveled her China from amongst the brown paper packing.  So many memories of my mother’s Sunday roast dinners and Christmas turkeys with all of us gathered around the dining room table sharing a meal.    Unwrapping her China was a grim reminder of how unavailable she was to me now; how I could not call her to share my experiences in this new land that I find myself navigating.  I couldn’t handle it anymore; I had to wrap up her China again and put it away where I couldn’t see it, where I could deal with it another day. Procrastination, in the guise of another project, was in order.

I had some decorative wall hangings that needed a coat of paint, and as little effort as I could muster.  Painting is not my forte, and I remembered a friend telling me about  a product called chalk paint, which sounded wonderful.  No primer was necessary; just a coat or two, and a light sanding, and you’re done.  Exactly what I was after.  I googled where I could buy this wonderful product, and it turns out, a retailer was very close to me, so off I went.  An antique dealer sold this paint, and google maps pointed the way.  I walked into the store, and on the display case right near the front door, what did I see?  Chalk paint? Certainly not.  It was an entire set of “The Friendly Village ” by Johnson Brothers, my mother’s  China pattern! As soon as I recognized it on the display case, I walked up to it and started bawling my eyes out. As I was standing there, wiping the tears and mascara out of my eyes,  a very worried looking antiques proprietor came scurrying over to me asking, “Ma’am, ya’ll doin’ ok?”  I responded, “Yes, I’m fine.  I’m just here to buy chalk paint!’ My goodness gracious…..I am not one to usually cause such a scene….

My daughter called me that day and I was able to tell her all about it.  I love that I can talk to her about these things. I love my baby girl. I can’t be sure but I suspect that she was crying too, on her end of the phone, as I told her my story.

In the end, when my mom got very sick, I felt very guilty for being so very far away from her, because I was unable to help her in the way that I wanted to. When I called her, I would apologize profusely. She would tell me, over and over again, that she understood, and not to worry, but that did not alleviate how I was feeling. After I moved from Minnesota to Georgia, I also felt guilty for leaving my children behind. The fact that they are young adults should have assuaged my guilt, but at the time it didn’t.  Now I see that they are thriving and doing well; perhaps they are doing even better than they would have if we had stayed and helicoptered them their entire young adult lives.

It wasn’t until recently, after my  mom passed, that I realized- life circumstances happen and sometimes we cannot control them, no matter how much we would like to.  This is just the way it is, and my mom  understood. I am sure she would not have wanted me to suffer the guilt I felt inside my own head. I was the one who felt guilty for  reasons that were out of my control, and I needed to let it go.  My  mom immigrated from Finland to Canada and was far from her own mother; of course she of all people understood how things were. I know she may have liked it if we lived close by, but we didn’t. She enjoyed our telephone visits, and she loved it when we had a chance to visit in person even more.  I now get it that she understood me in more ways than I ever gave her credit for. I wish I could have shared this epiphany with her before she passed. Our conversations would have been that much more peaceful, at least for me.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”~Jeremiah 31:25