Friday, March 18, 2011

Carol Helen Reed

This is something of a departure, but there has been a big departure in my life, so here goes. There aren't enough people for a true memorial, but I know people who have good memories of mom. This is her memorial from me. Those who knew her are welcome to correct details, and I want to thank her sister, Marilyn, for filling in a lot of details.

Bellevue and Turtle Mountain
Helen Carol Reed was born in the 1930's in Bellevue, Alberta, in the Crowsnest pass. In a move that would telegraph her legendary stubbornness, she refused to be called Helen, and was Carol all her life.

Nammie & Grandad
She grew up with 4 sisters and a young brother with a mother (known as Nammie to her numerous grandchildren) who taught grade school, and a reportedly strict father (none of us grandchildren could ever believe that he had been so strict). The children, in order, were Shirley Jean, Joyce, Carol, Marilyn, Linda Anne and Ron.

Marilyn says that it was always "Carol and Marilyn against the world". They were close from the time they were children, and Marilyn, 2 years the younger, says she tagged along with mom and her friends often.

Once the group of friends decided to create a club. The initiation into the club was to jump a chasm. Marilyn was told to go first. She leapt and landed on the scrabbly rock on the other side, and managed to scramble to the top with some difficulty and no doubt many scrapes. At that point the others decided that another initiation might be better.

On another occasion a group decided to walk through Skeleton Cave. Of course this had been strictly banned by their parents. The cave had a narrow trail along one side and a deep pit below, and was dark as pitch. mom was one of the first through, and Marilyn was at the back. Halfway through the girl in front of Marilyn said, "That's all, I'm going back!!" Marilyn had no choice but to go back as well.

When Mom got out the other side and everyone came out behind her, she was missing her little sister! She had visions of going home and explaining how she had lost Marilyn in Skeleton cave. But they found each other eventually.

Mom the babe
Marilyn says that she and mom used to go out at night, and had a pretty rigid curfew. Invariably mom would find a guy, and Marilyn would come home alone. (MOM!!) She would make up an excuse for mom, then wait up for her and open a window and shout down the excuse she'd made up. What a sister!

When she finished high school, my mother moved out and was in Vancouver for a time. She came back home and she and Marilyn took advantage of a government grant that paid $50 for young women to go to Edmonton and go to secretarial school. They did well, except for the weekend that they skipped school to hitchhike home. That was frowned upon as well.

Later mom met my Dad, Pat, and they got married and had my brother Lance. Mom was a stay at home mom, and they lived in Calgary. She got pregnant with me, and then Dad disappeared from the picture for a while. No one ever said where he went or why, and that section of mom's life is a little shrouded in mystery. I assume she had me alone, but I'm not positive. I know she had two aunts in Calgary who helped out for a while, but the story goes that when they gave her money she would buy toys for us, so they stopped giving her money and started buying her groceries instead.

Mel and Marilyn later in life
Marilyn was in Edmonton at the time, and they communicated through letters. Yes, snail mail, imagine! Marilyn knew mom was having trouble raising the two of us on her own and working, so she packed up, gave notice and moved to Calgary. Mom and us had been living in a basement apartment, but when Marilyn showed up we moved upstairs.

I remember that basement. Later I would walk by the laundry chute upstairs and hear a ghostly voice saying, "Melody, this is the ghost of the baseme...eeenn...nttt...t..." And I'd say, "Marilyn, I know that's you!!" and Marilyn would come around the corner saying, "What, Melody? I'm right here." They took turns, but I was just playing along, I knew who it was. I think.

Marilyn, Mom, Lance and me
Mom said they got some strong arms because the washing machine broke and they had to do laundry by hand. (Marilyn says, "Yes, and she did a LOT of laundry!") Mom was known for her clean-freakiness (sorry, mom, but it's true). She washed the floors every single day when Lance started crawling. Marilyn says that eased up a little when I started crawling.

How cute was Lance?
I kind of remember those years. They both worked at separate insurance companies, and we had a babysitter. Every now and then, pretty rarely, they would hire an evening babysitter and go out somewhere. They were young women, and they worked hard to make sure us kids had a good life. Mom would have been 24 when I was born (21 for Lance), and Marilyn was a couple of years younger.

Dad came back in '62, and we all moved back to Edmonton. Mom stayed home until we were all in at least junior high, (Tanis made her appearance in 1963). Then she went back to work. Both mom and dad gave us a great work ethic.

Mom was very loyal throughout her life and although she had her problems (and who doesn't?), she had a heart as big as all outdoors. A lot of people say I'm like my dad, and I am, but I know I got a lot of my generosity from mom. Mom loved kids, and always had fun with us. She had us all in sports and music lessons (Sadly music seems to skip a generation, Tanis' kids have talent but none of us do).

I remember she had been telling me about playing knock-a-door ginger when she was a kid. I told my friends about it, and we all agreed it sounded like fun. I don't know why. It consists of knocking on the front door (or ringing the doorbell) of a victim, then running away before the door can be answered. Apparently the game has been played since the 19th century- again, I don't know why.

Anyway, we did it, and I got caught by the dragon lady up the block. She dragged me home by the arm, and I thought I'd get into trouble. Mom took one look and said, "let go of my daughter!" The lady yelled for a few minutes, and mom said, "I'll take care of it, but don't you ever touch her again!" The lady left, and mom said, "Don't play it there again, ok?"

She had a green thumb and we had a big garden most places we lived. She helped relatives and friends many times, and she threw great parties. Family was important to her. She loved to be outdoors, and we would go on long hikes and go looking for crystals in canyons or looking for shells on the beach.

She was endlessly fascinated by nature, and had a great curiosity about many things. She read the Koran in English to better understand that religion in the 70's. She worked at the University of Alberta and was excited to be in that environment of learning.

Mom in Cape Breton
I get my love of water from her. She loved to be next to a river, ocean or lake.  Mom and Dad were great parents; very supportive and fun to be around. My friend Corrine, who I went to high school with, said, "You had the coolest parents. They were the ones that came to chaperone at the dances. We welcomed them. Better than old farts. I remember your mom trying to teach us how to jive. That fifties stuff was all the rage in the early seventies.
Your mom was a great role model for me as a parent! How to be a cool mom? Be like Mel's mom."

Mom and dad made it to their 50th anniversary.

We loved them both very much. They are both gone now, to join Linda Anne, Ron, and Joyce who tragically died the same day as my mother. They also will join Bobby, Ida, Donny, Sammy and George, my dad's siblings. It must be quite a party up there. Goodbye, mom, I love you.


  1. Thank you so much Mel for sharing this with us. Your mom was a big part of my growing up and our families were close. I have many wonderful memories of her and your dad. I cried really hard when I read the last lines (though with a bit of happiness and comfort in those tears). We all know there is a party going on somewhere in this universe that includes a fiddle, a bunch of happy people, and a whole lotta love….…. With loving memories, Rhonda

  2. I have so many wonderful memories of both Auntie Carol and Uncle Pat (not to mention my great cousins). Seeing particularly the pictures of Carol brings back so many great childhood memories. While there is no dispute we have a pretty nutty family, we are blessed nonetheless. I know my Mom Linda Ann, Ron, Nammie, Grandad, Ron, Joyce and Carol are enjoying their time tigether (sans scorecard - all of the cousins wiLl know what I mean!). Thanks for doing this, Mel - it's one example of what makes you the special person you are. Love, Erin

  3. Mel, So sorry to hear that you lost your Mom. What a wonderful tribute you have written to her.

    With Love

    Shirl and Larry

  4. Rhonda- thanks, it was hard to edit this and not make it 5 times longer, lots of good times.

    Erin, thanks, we have a special connection, don't we? No scorecards! LOL.

    Shirley, thanks so much. We lost her three weeks ago today.

  5. Thank you for sharing some of your memories of your mother. She was a very special lady and will be missed very much.

    Kenny and I are so grateful that she and your dad moved to BC, they arrived on her 49th birthday. As you said she loved the water, she would spend hours walking the beach at White Rock looking for special rocks, etc.

    She and your dad loved to explore new places. They would catch the ferry early on a Saturday morning and go to Vancouver Island or over to Sea Schelt and spend the weekend just enjoying nature. We were lucky enough to go with them once in awhile. They taught us more about the area that we lived in than we could have ever learned about on our own.

    Carol loved life and really lived it to the fullest as long as she could. She will always have a special place in our hearts and will always be remembered with a lot of love.

    Thanks again, Melody. Love you.

    Donna and Kenny

  6. Thanks, Donna, it's great to hear other people's stories about her. I know her and Dad valued you and Ken and your family very much, too!

  7. Here are some comments from Marilyn, mom's sister.

    I think you did a great job with the blog. You did your Mom proud as you always have.

    I am still trying to pull up memories - there are so many.

    One I think of readily is when we came to Edmonton and had to decide what shorthand we wanted to learn. The instructor said Pitman was much harder to learn but also harder to forget, whereas Gregg was easy to learn. Of course, your Mom, who had been told after the High School I Q tests that she was near genius intelligence, opted for Pitman. I, forever the follower, took Pitman too but had great difficulty with it whereas your Mom breezed through it. She was a very intelligent lady, along with her other good qualities.

    I remember so many Christmas dinners spent with your family as I, and later we (Shannon), were always included. Your Dad would pick us up and drive us home. For Shannon, Christmas Day really started when we arrived at your home.

    Your Mom had her hands full when she looked after Tanis and Shannon, only seven months apart and Shannon used to call her Mom too. I don't know how she managed, but she did, and at one point, took George in too.

    Then Ron came to work in Edmonton for a while and he stayed with us too.

    She also always had an affinity for dogs. I just ran across a picture of Tanis and Ticky the other day. The big boxer you will remember I'm sure.

    You might want to mention your Mom was very active at the Seniors Centre in Oliver, and greatly enjoyed it, before her loss of sight put an end to it.

    I have many more memories, some of which are more private. She was a great sister to me, and I have already missed our weekly phone call. Whenever I need help, she didn't hesitate to step forward. I loved her very much, and know she is in a better place now.

  8. Mel, sorry to hear, but your love shines through in what you write.


  9. Thanks, Michel44. What name do I know you by in real life?

  10. What a great idea, Mel.
    My earliest memory of Aunty Carol is awe. She was always so happy and loving which made it such a pleasure coming to your house as a kid.
    She always had such a huge loving smile and yes, she loved children. She was like a surrogate grandmother to my children by babysitting and teaching me how to be a mom. I spent many hours at her home and always felt welcomed. Later, she taught me how to be a grandmother by how dutiful she was with her own grandchildren.
    I will surely miss her loving smile that shone through her eyes with so much love.

  11. What a wonderful tribute. I wish I'd known her.

  12. Thanks, Sharon and Cheryl. I do miss her.