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My Mother – Darinka Protich

Darinka PYesterday, July 19th, was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 88 years old. She died in 1982 and was buried on my 32nd birthday. The day before her funeral was my father’s birthday. Much better that she should be buried on mine, and not on his.

My mother and I had a very difficult relationship. We were like chalk and cheese. She was very emotional and everything was black and white. I was more intellectual and enjoyed debating every shade of gray. Like many immigrant mothers she was relentless in driving me to achieve. Nothing less than the best was ever acceptable either in her children or herself. She had had a very difficult life. An orphan at 12, left with a stepmother with 3 daughters of her own. A prisoner of war in a German work camp at the age of 18. A trip across the ocean where she met my dad and started her family. Lots of ill health much of it the result of suicide attempts in her youth. I really never remember her as well or happy.

Recently, following the death of my father, I had a chance to read his collected letters including the almost daily letters he wrote to her during their courtship and the early years of their marriage. How gay and bright she seemed in those years, before the accumulated pressures of life as a new immigrant to Canada, toiling two shifts a day as a waitress to support her family and years of ill health and misfortune could grind her down. I wish I could have known her then – perhaps through the letters I do a bit.

My mother left me many legacies. Some of them are painful such as a feeling of never quite being praiseworthy. My tenacity in striving for and achieving my goals comes directly from her. She once called a potential employer of my father to tell him he couldn’t hire a better person for the job. The original cold call. Every time I look at my hands I think of her – still, after all these years. Our hands are exactly the same. My daughter is almost the spitting image of my mother, as was I in my youth. Now that I am a mother I understand much more about her.

Posted by Milena Protich

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