Friday, August 29, 2008

My Mother's Sacrifice

After my Father died at the age of 28, my mother had a big decision to make. Should she stay in Canada, or go "back home" to Finland? At that point, they had been in Canada for only three years.
Why would this have been a difficult decision? Several reasons: First, the reasons for staying in Canada. The 1960's saw the greatest number of Finnish immigrants. This was mainly for economic reasons. Canada had many jobs in forestry, mining, construction and other trades. These were jobs that Finns were trained for. Canada was low on workers and was making it easy to make the move. Those who had already emigrated were settling in and socializing with other ex-pats. My mother thought it would be better for us to grow up in Canada, instead of being uprooted at a difficult time.
The reasons to return to Finland were greater: My mother was 27, recently widowed, with two young daughters, 3 and 5. She didn't speak English, did not have a job outside the home, or any education in a profession. She was currently living on a farm that she couldn't manage alone. The meager life insurance paid for my Father's funeral and a downpayment on a small house. She gave half of the money to her Father to bail out his business back in Finland.
A year after my Father died, the three of us took a trip to Finland. I had no idea that her parents were trying to encourage her to come "back home". It would have been easier, for her. But she thought of us, and decided to make our home in Canada, even though she was alone.
When we got back to Canada, she took English lessons, and got a job as a waitress. We bought our tiny 1-1/2 story house for $10,500.00 We moved in the summer before I started kindergarten.
We were poor growing up, but we had food and shelter. It's only now, as an adult, that I appreciate how difficult and lonely her life has been.
When my husband had cancer 10 years ago, I feared becoming a widow, like my mom. But even then, I knew that if he hadn't survived, I would've been better off than she was. I was educated, employed, and well-looked after, financially. I would not have had to suffer as she had.
My mother sacrificed her comfort and security for my sister and I. As a new immigrant, she worked hard, and lived vicariously through us; proud when we both graduated from college. She's an amazing woman and I love her very much.

No comments: