Today is a banner day! My mother, Laurel Joyce Turner, turns 93! Who knew she would live this long? Even she is amazed that she has lasted this long.
Mom was born in 1925 in Sandwich, Ont., an extremely historic town from way back in the War of 1812, which amalgamated with Windsor in 1935. She grew up on Brock St., about a block away from the old, scary Windsor Jail, which is right across the street from St. John’s Anglican Church’s large graveyard. She went to General Brock Public School and St. John’s, and when coming home in the dark after school or Guides, it was past that block that she ran as fast as she could.
Five doors down the opposite way on the same block, was the house my father grew up in, although she didn’t really get to know him during high school as he was in the same grades as her older sister Betty.
She left high school early for Beauty School and within a year or so got a mortgage to buy Doris’ Beauty Parlour. Now that attracted my father, Ronald F. Turner, who was entranced with someone who owned their own business and had a bus pass!! Dad was a wild one and Mom was innocent. I still don’t know why her parents let her marry him. But marry they did and loved each other for over five decades.
When she couldn’t get pregnant, as she was on her feet all day at the Parlour, she was told by the doctor to sell the business and her body would then be able to deliver. It did too. Didn’t need fertility drugs back then.
Mom has always been a lovely, kind, generous, giving person and I am often told she is like a saint. Well, maybe if she isn’t your Mom she’s a saint, but to be honest, she is all of those things and always has been.
She has had however, many very difficult times. As much as my father was always a very funny person, much of that was a defence, as he was always ill and in pain. He contracted tuberculous during the war and couldn’t serve, and the TB caused his adrenal glands to stop working. It is called Addison’s Disease. There was no cure then, but there was a very experimental drug he agreed to try. It was called cortisone, but it was not yet refined. It did keep him alive, but he was not the same man she married. You know the pump adrenaline gives you, image having too much or when you don’t have enough, you just keel over.
So, Mom had to raise two babies with, what was called 65 years ago, a drug-induced schizophrenic husband who was nice one moment and a monster the next. A man who had what I would call a full body cramp, which would fling him out of a chair and unconscious on the floor. My brother would undo Dad’s collar and I would wet a face cloth, lay it on his forehead then Rob and I would go play again. Mom managed to make us believe that it was never Dad that caused him to act badly or weirdly, it was the disease or the drugs. We all learned to laugh at the ugly things in life instead of crying over them.
There was no counselling back then or at least none she could afford, but she had her faith and a minister who held her together doing the rough years, and she believed in the ‘in sickness or health’ vow. With all the medical problems Dad couldn’t work all the time. Although Ford never sacked him, the money wasn’t always there. Mom made do and also tried selling Beauty Counselor makeup and even mutual funds.
After about 10 or so years, the disease was under control and life became more normal with Dad, but unfortunately, I had problems. I was always called lazy for not wanting to play sports or run, until they realized my feet and knees were not normal and in pain, so I had to go through some major surgeries. Mom of course had to handle that on top. Thank goodness my brother was healthy.
Even with her hands full with Dad and I, Mom still managed to help neighbours, friends and their ailing parents.
They managed somehow to buy a cheap cottage up north and Dad would drop her, Rob and I off for the whole summer while Dad drove 13 hours back and forth splitting up his vacation so we could stay the whole summer. She needed the time to paint and rejuvenate to be able to handle it all.
Eventually the family settled down and Mom could enjoy life. Mom was an artist, good enough to sell paintings, even making me buy the ones I liked!
We didn’t have much but we had enough and a lot of love. Okay I take it back, she’s a saint!
They moved to Tillsonburg in 1990 so I could help with Dad’s declining years. Mom immediately joined St. John’s Anglican church here and the ladies group. She taught oil painting in the basement and because she was a backdrop artist with Windsor Light Opera she joined Theatre Tillsonburg, painting and managing Front House. They fit in just fine! It was another new adventure in life.
She now lives at the Tillsonburg Retirement Residence, still goes to church, still loves to eat out and still hosts a bible study once a week at which she still imparts some great pearls of wisdom.
She is happy, still loves life, has an inner joy and still is more concerned about other people rather than herself. We still laugh at our infirmities and life. When she says to me, “I’m getting old,” I always reply, “No Mom, you are really old!” and we always laugh. I am very proud to be her daughter and to share her name. (No one will ever call me a saint though!)
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