Stories … Just stories … Kinda personal ones … From my world and other special places … But they’re really just for fun! … And just for the love of telling stories!
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I Miss You, Mom!
By Lisa Lysen
I don’t wish you back suffering the terrible illness that stole you slowly, day by painful day.
I don’t miss watching the fear creep into your eyes when you realized through the fog in your once brilliant mind that something was horribly wrong.
But I do miss the way your face lit up whenever you saw me.
I miss your sweet, sweet personality, even as you battled a devastating disease.
And I miss your adorable sense of humor.
I will always miss your singing. And I’ll probably always fight tears when I hear the songs you loved singing.
I miss having that person in my life who knew me so well and sometimes understood me better than I understand myself.
I miss showing you my new clothes or the way I’ve re-decorated a room. I miss telling you when something good happens, or a cute story I’ve heard, or just about my day.
More than any of those things, I miss telling you about how my kids are doing because no one in the world ever understood my pride in them, my fears or my unconditional love for them better than you did.
I miss you, Mom.
You didn’t know us by name anymore but you always seemed to know you loved us and that was huge. I miss that. I miss my mother’s love.
I miss knowing Dad was okay because at least in part you were still with him.
I love him, too with my whole heart but nothing about me will ever give him the happiness he found with you.
I miss that spark in him. I miss seeing the love in his eyes as he watched you. I miss the teasing way he laughed when you were angry with him. He still does that sometimes when he tells stories about your life together.
And I say “life” not “lives” because you two truly seemed to be living one life together.
I miss your gentleness, your kindness and the way your illness couldn’t touch what was always so alive in your beautiful heart. Somehow that always seemed a win to me!
So much “you” was disappearing before our eyes but the soul that made everyone love you couldn’t be erased. It never changed. And that felt like a “so there” to the evil we couldn’t stop from taking you away from us.
I don’t miss witnessing the brutality of the disease that robbed you of so many things, including the ability to read, one of your greatest passions! I don’t miss knowing the beautiful lady who spent her days so patiently teaching me to read, giving me books, encouraging my writing couldn’t make sense out of words on a page anymore.
I don’t miss realizing the wise woman who taught me such clever games to help memorize the most difficult passages had no access to memories of her own.
And I don’t miss being afraid there would come a day when you didn’t know how to swallow. I read somewhere that happens with dementia and the thought terrified me. I’m thankful you left us before that cruelty became a reality.
I don’t wish for you to still be here suffering. I really don’t!
On some level, I think you knew you once could feed yourself, use a fork, a spoon, or hold a glass to your lips.
On some level, at least sometimes, you seemed cruelly aware of your horrible illness. You’d be smiling, singing and happy and then suddenly a look of pure panic, desperately horrible sadness would cloud your beautiful face.
And I couldn’t do anything to help you, to make it better or to ease your fear.
I couldn’t comfort you when you were aching for help.
And how unfair is that when there never was a time I can remember that you didn’t comfort me when I needed it.
No. I don’t miss that. Any of that! I don’t miss those last tragic years of slowly losing you.
But I miss you.
I miss you, Mom.
By Lisa Lysen
Some form of dementia has stolen her brilliant mind
But has kindly left us her beautiful soul.
From a hospital bed, finally she knows no limits;
Layers of life’s woe stripped away, her eyes filled with love,
All worries, self-doubts have vanished.
she sings and is happy.
Her truest self, revealed?
And In This Corner …
By Lisa Lysen
Thank you SportsLife Manitoba for publishing this story in your magazine.
Always an inspiration with his “never give up” fighting spirit, it was obvious Gus Tonnellier wasn’t about to quit this time either as he battled two flights of stairs up to the gym.
With a love of boxing beginning in the‘40’s, Gus is no stranger to the solid determination and stamina it takes to belong in the ring.
Now at 85, with equal determination and stamina, he fights a very different battle.
He began his amateur boxing career as a teenager, eventually replacing fighter’s gloves with coach’s gloves. Over the years Gus dedicated countless hours spanning decades to being a trainer at Winnipeg’s Pan Am Boxing Club.
These days he’s stepping into the ring to face a new opponent, one his boxing background gives him an unexpected edge over.
Characterized by the loss of dopamine in the brain, Parkinson’s comes with many challenges, physically, mentally and emotionally.
A debilitating neurological disease, PD affects young and old and has no known cause or cure. In Manitoba alone, there are approximately 6,000 cases. That number is expected to double over the next 15 years.
But there’s perhaps nothing as contagious as a success story when battling an illness. And in 2006 an encouraging discovery was made by two friends, one reaching out to the other in a gesture of support.
Scott Newman had been suffering the onset of PD with cruel swiftness after his initial diagnosis. His friend, a boxer, invited Newman to join him for a workout.
What happened next surprised both men.
Newman was not only unexpectedly able to keep up with the workout but at the end held out his arms and without any evidence of the tremors or rigidity that plagued him declared “Look at me! I’m rock steady!”
And from that simple beginning a program that has gone on to help so many, the Rock Steady Boxing Program, came to life.
The program has since won several prestigious awards, gained recognition and spread across the United States, throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and now into Canada.
United Boxing Club has brought the basics to Winnipeg in its own adaptation of Rock Steady. It’s called “U-turn Parkinson’s CounterPunch”. Open to anyone interested, no experience necessary, the program is completely non-profit.
Anytime an organization gives back to the community is worth celebrating, but when that “give back” can only come from a specific organization it’s even more meaningful. And knowing Winnipeg’s boxing community is interested in doing what it can to fight Parkinson’s is very encouraging.
More exciting is that the help the program promises is real.
Watching my father shakily climb those stairs the day he made his first visit to United Boxing Club I couldn’t make myself even hope a workout might be possible. But I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After a short rest at the top, an introduction to the wonderful people running the program, this elderly gentleman who relies on a walker or cane to get around made his way over to the heavy bag.
Refusing a chair he began slowly at first to hit the bag. Before long the symptoms he normally displayed seemed somehow less. Before long he was throwing jabs and doing footwork with the expertise befitting someone of his experience!
Although not a cure, CounterPunch, an off-shoot of the Rock Steady Program is certainly a help in delaying and diminishing Parkinson’s symptoms.
And for my Dad, being able to enjoy engaging his children and grandchildren in his love of boxing and trade stories again at the gym is perhaps every bit as helpful as the workout itself.
Better yet is the sparkle it has put back in his eyes!
Rambling Memories of A Beautiful Soul
By Lisa Lysen
So in the quiet of this incredibly beautiful, lonely, lonely apartment, graced with far too many mirrors, which invite far too much self- loathing, I find myself wishing I was sharing my deepest observations and thoughts with someone … anyone.
Hence this crazy piece begins, quite possibly with thanks deserving in part to a full moon and most definitely in part to a not-so-full-anymore glass of wine.
I’m reading “The Cellist of Sarajevo” today and thinking about how lucky I am to have been born into a country where peace is simply a taken-for-granted way of life.
Canada is, after all a beautiful place to grow up.
And although it’s been part of my gratitude journal from the first day my husband and I moved into this gorgeous apartment, tonight I’m even more awestruck & thankful to be looking out, 21 stories high, at the peace, serenity & safety that surrounds me.
Although this city certainly holds its perils, we are at least not being bombed and I guess I’ve always been very thankful for that.
I’ve always been thankful for that because I grew up knowing the person I felt closest to and most loved by as a child, my Grandma, had watched her parents die in a bomb blast in London, England during the 1st World War.
I loved her stories!
But hearing them, with my four-year-old ears and in my four-year-old imagination, tales of the explosion that destroyed her life also exploded ferociously in my safe little world – with quite an impact. I was morbidly intrigued by the drama of her life.
And I asked for her stories over and over whenever I was with her.
I’ve never been sure which part horrified me more, the fact that she saw her parents, her security and all the love she owned disappear before her eyes in one fateful moment as she watched from her window that evening, or the naked knowledge that her life was forever changed from that moment forward.
And suspecting that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
I loved everything about my Grandma. As imperfect as she always humbly joked about being, she was perfect in my eyes and even more perfect in my heart.
I loved her smile, her laugh, her slight English accent that always embarrassed her, her soulful brown eyes that flashed with such fierceness when she was angry and danced with so much life every other minute of the day.
I even loved her dry, over-cooked roast beef dinners; the ones my Dad incessantly complained about having to eat every Sunday in her cramped, love-filled little apartment on River Ave.
We ate on TV trays in her living room, laughing and chatting and watching Walt Disney, then Bonanza, playing, teasing each other, building houses of cards and knocking them down again. And how does a kid not love times spent like that!
My Grandma … Lily Amelia (Haines) Hogg … She may be haunting me right now, preparing to send down lightning bolts, for even mentioning her name.
She hated her name, but, just like everything else about her, I loved it. So much so that I used to love telling her someday I was going to have a little girl and name her Lily Amelia … and then I loved waiting for her reaction.
She never disappointed! She would give me her most contrived, harshest look and teasingly scold … “Don’t you ever look at a beautiful little baby and say those ugly, ugly words!”
And I’d laugh back “I’m doing it, Lily Amelia”! She’d swear again to haunt me forever if I dared call a child those horrible names.
So, in her perfect memory, I named my beautiful, very vibrant, and so very creative daughter “Laura Melissa”. She also has the most wonderfully expressive brown eyes I’ve ever seen, I might add.
My Grandma was sixteen when her life exploded in downtown London, England.
I’m not going to pretend to be a historian and give accounts of that horrific time because I’m simply not as educated about it as I would love to be.
But it’s a page in time we all know of and not even the least educated of us reads that page without feeling some twinge of pain, of that much I’m sure.
The facts that were laid open to me as a child, though … raw, and honest … were made terrifyingly real by the look in her eyes whenever my Grandmother talked about those days.
Selfishly, or perhaps innocently, I most remember the horror I felt as a child realizing your parents could be stolen from your life.
And so I was drawn into my Grandma’s world … a description of life as an orphan in the streets of London, England … A young family was suddenly left parentless and some huge decisions were made far too quickly, although with most likely the best intentions attached.
Four heartbroken children were separated.
Two stayed in England. The two youngest, my Grandma and her brother were loaded on a ship and sent to Canada to start new lives.
I never met her brother, my great-uncle. He did make me a beautiful rocking horse from a prison somewhere in Canada.
It was pretty and I really loved horses, especially rocking horses, although I didn’t much like bad guys and I didn’t know why my family had one.
I remember whispers and secrecy floating in the air all around my rocking horse and his name, “Uncle John” … Whispers and secrecy and an undertone of love shrouded by hints of injustice and sadness.
The story that eventually unfolded in my young and very vivid imagination was the tale of an innocent man who had wrongly been accused of murdering his family because he couldn’t save them from dying in a fire.
Later, as an adult, I learned what is possibly closer to the truth … a fight in a bar, an angry push, a man knocked unconscious and left to die. I think maybe my great-uncle’s family later died in a fire that he might have saved them from had he not been in jail?
I guess I’d like to take a moment and say I’m sorry I don’t know more about you or your life or its circumstances Uncle John. You must have wanted someone to understand there was goodness in you or you wouldn’t have made a child you were never to meet a rocking horse from prison. For what it’s worth I know your very vibrant sister, Lily Amelia always loved you.
Lily landed in Canada after a miserably long, seasick-ridden voyage. Terrified of the ocean and never having been on a ship, she was a child horrifically scared and alone, a little girl who had lost her parents, her security, her 2 oldest siblings and now in charge of her baby brother as they traveled together to a world they had no experience with or understanding of .
Her life had been forever altered.
I’m sure she told me a million stories of her early years in Saskatchewan. I wish I remembered them all and I especially wish I remembered her spell-binding words because she could tell a story!
My Grandma could tell a story like no one else I’d ever met, although now I can see my handsome, charismatic, very talented son also has her gift. It’s amazing to see how characteristics thread through families! Almost as though we’re somehow the same person, each making our own separate choices.
She simply brought her every memory to life and laid it out before you to look at and live right along with her. Her life was that big and so was her heart.
I wish I had listened better or had appreciated more what she was telling me was truly historic but I was listening with a child’s ears and a child’s innocent heart.
All I remember for sure of what she told me about coming to Canada is that it was very hard working on a farm for a sad and lonely little city girl from London, England who had just lost everyone and everything that ever mattered to her; that the sun was hot and the heat tremendous; that Saskatchewan was flat and dry and ugly and that no man should ever be allowed to do those things to a little girl, especially when she was all alone and scared, in a new country and had nowhere else to live except in his house.
But when she met her “Billy Boy” she didn’t have to live like that anymore.
“Billy Boy” was my Grandpa.
Tall, witty, exceptionally good-looking and very dynamic, William Daylesford Hogg, saved my Grandma from a world she hated and then, sadly went on to become the reason she hated all men.
A railroader, first a coalman, a fireman and then an engineer, he was quite a charmer. He was a man with such a great sense of humor and so good a repertoire that bartenders in whatever town he happened to be in would buy him drinks and pay for him to sit and joke all night so people would stay and party.
It was the “Dirty 30’s” after all, the Great Depression. I imagine a sense of humor and a few laughs were very much appreciated. And what I do remember of my Grandpa was that he honestly, passionately loved life … no matter the cards he was dealt!
My Grandma once told me she never swore in her life till she married my Grandpa.
Understand I used to carry a “Cuss Box” I envisioned funding my college education, solely for the purpose of my Grandma tossing in quarters every time she swore, so that was quite a huge testament to the state of their marriage.
I have to say, I could never really understand condemning all mankind because of him. I loved him as much as I loved her. My Grandpa was fun. He sang and told jokes all the time. He had a beautiful voice, twinkling eyes and he always hugged me close and made me laugh! Any room simply filled up with his personality whenever he entered it.
He would pick up my baby sister, sit her on his lap and proclaim with so much love and enthusiasm “this one’s my favorite”. As a child, all I knew was the love and happiness I could feel exuding from him. And although I grew up to be a normal, jealous teenager who gave her little sister so much grief, when I was little, in complete innocence, I understood, felt, accepted and loved the happiness he expressed.
When he wasn’t singing, which was rare, he actually may have been an even better storyteller than my Grandma. He was witty and his life was a very interesting one.
But nevertheless, there was an unspoken agreement in my family, an “elephant in the room” kind of agreement, that it was NOT okay to like him very much.
We could love him, of course, because that’s just what good families do but liking him was just a little bit bad. He was a sinner, after all, God forbid!
He must have been 50 or so when he left my Grandma, the woman who had selflessly raised his four children during the depression, through the war, stood beside him in his railroader’s life, faced hardships and disappointment during the depression, moving constantly from town to town … he was about 50 when he left her and moved in with another woman.
He eventually regretted his choice, asked my Grandma’s forgiveness and begged her to take him back.
And take him back, she did; but forgiving never quite happened.
And when a stroke left him permanently paralyzed only a few short years later, earning her the responsibility of being his primary care-giver, forgiveness was forever taken off the table.
In my Grandma’s defense, her health was actually so much worse than his. Plagued by anemia and angina, she suffered many years of heart trouble.
As a child, I remember being terrified she might suddenly blow up when she would put her nitroglycerin pill under her tongue and tell us to go play quietly … she was just going to lay down for a few minutes.
And along with her angina attacks, she seemed to me to be hospitalized every few months for a major heart attack. Her life was certainly never easy, although she always stressed she was “one of the lucky ones”.
And that brings me back to the point of these crazy ramblings … She was lucky for reasons I’ve thankfully never have had to consider. She had 3 sons who went to war and 3 sons who came back home to her. That was very rare and she always stressed, it was a gift beyond measure … a gift to be cherished every moment of every day.
How very different our expectations are now … how very much we have to be thankful for in every single day that we may not ever even think of.
And so, in memory of a beautiful soul, of a beautiful, imperfectly perfect woman, and to end my ramblings, I’d like to say thank you, Lily Amelia for the stories and the time you shared with me, for the values you tried to teach me!
And thank you also to those who serve and have served; to those who are among us now and to those who came before and paved the way for us to have so much today – may we never be ungrateful for all that has been given or take one beautiful moment of life for granted!
With so much love and gratitude
by Lisa Lysen
Long before I’d ever read about the loving power of “The Universe”, heard of Quantum Physics, learned how through meditation one can connect with an Inner Being or Higher Power … Long before I knew the difference between new age or old age or ice age … I had discovered that if I was in desperate need of love and guidance, consolation or wisdom, I could call out with my innermost thoughts and I would receive an answer.
I was a very little girl when I learned this and since my parents had taught me to say my prayers and told me we are never alone; that God and Angels are always with us, watching and waiting to help, I came to know this experience as prayer.
And I came to believe my prayers were being heard and answered by God.
I say this because I want you to know I don’t challenge other beliefs or ideas on this subject. I only want to explain where mine comes from.
50+ years ago and up until relatively recently my claim that my prayers are always answered, I felt, was viewed as naïve, preachy, sometimes foolish, insecure, often, I’m sure as “crazy” and I think maybe occasionally as being quite full of myself.
And so I learned quickly not to talk too much about it.
When people would comment that I always made good choices, I often felt guilty not owning up to why. But experience had taught me that I’d most likely be dismissed or laughed at or that any number of other uncomfortable situations might arise if I tried to explain, or, really “give credit where credit was due”.
And my happiness and everything about the security of my world has always depended on my prayers and my knowledge that my prayers are answered.
And so the subject has just been too close to my heart to risk opening up to ridicule.
This is where I have to make a very important point.
And I have to make it because I’m sure my inexperience and shy awkwardness about talking about my answered prayers has often sounded as if I’ve been saying I always get what I ask for or that God always gives me what I want.
That is completely NOT what I mean!
It’s 100% NOT what I’m saying and it would most likely have made a total disaster of my entire life if it were even remotely true.
I’m talking about when I’ve had a problem or needed help in any way, when I’ve been sad, when I haven’t known who to talk to or where to turn, talking to God about it has always provided me with the perfect and the best solution.
And whether or not I follow the advice I’m given has always been up to me, too and that’s also very important to say.
I’ve learned that if I pray, or maybe you might call it think: “XXX” is happening … I don’t know what to do. Please God, how do I fix this / make it right / what should I do?” the first thought, and I mean, the very FIRST thought, the very first instinct I have as SOON as my question is out there is ALWAYS the best thing to do.
And I know this because far too often I haven’t done it.
And this is important, too. Because when I haven’t done it, there’s been no repercussion from an angry God. There’s no lightning bolts or dire punishment. Sometimes things fall into place and sometimes they don’t.
But without fail, at some point, I’ve always realized that if I had only done what that first instinct or thought was everything just would have been so much better so much sooner because, honestly, clearly, the best solution had been shown to me, just as I’d asked.
And as I’m writing this I’m realizing I still can’t find the right words to explain what I mean; to properly describe this beautiful phenomenon. It’s not tricky or difficult by any means and I don’t understand why I’m having such a hard time expressing myself.
I should add, though that I pray lots. Much of my thinking is prayer, actually. I thoroughly enjoy my conversations with God.
And now I’m rambling a bit but I’ve learned from this that God (or The Universe or Higher Power, Inner Being or Source … or whatever name you call this rose), along with tremendous wisdom, also has a pretty cute sense of humor.
For example, quite often when I’m sure the sky is falling and I’m ranting in my head about it, my “first thought” is something ridiculously cute or funny and before I know it, I just stop taking myself so seriously.
When my kids were small I was desperately trying, and so often failing, to pay the bills with a commission retail sales job. One evening I was especially stressed and as I was ringing in a teeny tiny little sale, begging God for the biggest sale of my life … NOW … PLEASE … I REALLY NEED IT … suddenly the 14 digit barcode showed up in place of the price.
I couldn’t stop laughing, as I broke the news to my customer that the $25 gold pendant he was buying was actually $14115008325412 … that damn sales tax??? … he started laughing, too and now, 30-some years later, I have no memory of what was actually so wrong that I’d felt that stressed … instead I have a cameo of a sweet and funny moment reminding me it’s really going to be okay, it’s never actually as bad as I think … I’ve asked for help and that help is coming so … “Don’t worry; Be happy!”
And, really that in itself is often such good advice and often the only solution I actually needed!
The serious answers come, too, though and they come much more often.
I’m also very sure praying as often as I do isn’t necessary. I know there are amazingly great thinkers out there who use their thoughts for so many more useful things than I do! And I think I’d be very scared if I didn’t believe this.
So I’m not saying do it my way – Pray all the time. Not at all!
I think I’m saying that in the quiet recesses of our minds, if we can learn to trust it, there is guidance and there are answers.
This isn’t a new revelation, I know.
And I’m sure you can call this intuition, give it any number of different names and explanations, or think of it as my parents taught me, simply that we are never alone because God and Angels are always watching over and helping us.
I’ve been told I should learn to believe in myself and not think something so other-worldly is at play and I do think there is a lot of merit in that, too.
Confidence and self-love are extremely important. And being encouraged towards these things is empowering in ways that are life-changing!
But I really do very much enjoy my conversations with God and since I’m a stickler for being stuck in my ways and this really works for me, it’s just the way I do things.
What I’ve also come to understand as well, is that whatever your own beliefs are, your own beliefs are incredibly important. Your fundamental belief is your fundamental belief and it’s that for a reason!
It’s our fundamental beliefs that make us individuals after all.
And the fact we have so many different beliefs is all part of our charm as humans.
Having said that, I hope if you continue to read my stories I won’t offend or be dismissed for calling what I do praying and for saying God answers my prayers.
What I do know is that what I experience is very real and that it happens all the time for me and believe me, I’m no one special, so if it happens for me it’s available to us all.
And I think maybe that’s also the biggest part of what I’m saying here that really matters.