Monday, January 22, 2018

To Kathy with Love

We begin life with only the names our parents give us. Kathy Hansen came into the world as Kathleen Ann Wallace. She began her life as a daughter, niece, cousin and granddaughter. Before long, she became a sister, friend, spouse, aunt and mother. Later still, she became a grandmother. These were her titles, but to each of us, she was so many different things. Whether she could see it or not, within her, she was all of them. In that way, she was more remarkable than any single one of us could ever have experienced. She was complex and so much more than she gave herself credit for. In that way, one might say she was humble—a trait we all strive for.
Barbara remembers a story about her when she was a toddler. While Kathy was learning to talk, she couldn’t say banana. Instead, she would call them blemoms. Barbara would look at her and enounce with care, b-a-n-a-n-a and Kathy would look up with big eyes smiling and say, blemom, for the umpteenth time. There is some consensus that when Barbara was at the hospital giving birth to Randy, Kathy stayed with grandma Van Dusen and came home saying banana correctly.
By the time Kathy was 10 and with Barbara’s guidance, she became a caregiver, housekeeper and cook. Then she added tractor driver, wood piler, root picker, bale stacker, chicken feeder and egg collector to her many roles.
Kathy was always a thoughtful philosopher of sorts, contemplating life, as well as her place in the world. Everything she read, listened to and saw, inspired her. She collected sayings, music, movies, unicorns and fairies. She even collected her own thoughts and experiences in the form of journals. Kathy had many talents and she loved everything cute. In fact, some of the puppies she raised joined her family when they were a little larger than a mouse. Through love and play, she taught her dogs wonderful tricks, proving their amazing playfulness, intelligence and individual personalities. She loved her furry friends.
When Kathy was young, Harley and Barbara bought a Honda 50 dirt bike for the kids. That bike was the center of numerous adventures. One time, Julie and Kathy were out for a ride. Julie had partially fallen off the back and instead of stopping, Kathy called out, “Hold on! Hold on!” Julie did as she was told, and as she was dragged behind, the back tire rubbing a tire mark on her belly. Fortunately, no scar resulted, other than an indelible memory that Julie will always cherish.
That was not the only accident Kathy had. When the family dog was a puppy, Kathy ran over him with the bike and broke his leg. For a month, he lived in the house in a cast Barbara plastered on him. It was because of the cast that we named him “Hop-along Cassidy”—Cassidy for short.
Kathy seemed to love music more than most people and sang karaoke whenever she had the opportunity. Her love of music was probably passed down to her from Barbara. On the family’s numerous long trips, she orchestrated the singing in the back seat of the car using a songbook of lyrics she brought along that she and her brothers and sister sang from cover to cover on each ride.
While she worked at the studio, Kevin and Laurie recognized her love of music and provided a stereo. She kept them supplied with CD’s she loved. When certain songs came on, she and Laurie would groove out until customers came in, at which point they would stop so they could look responsible. It didn’t matter where they were—when there was good music, they would dance. Even when Kathy was hurting, and knew she would pay for it with sore feet, or knees the next day, she still danced. When she would take the kids to the river, she would often open the car doors and crank the music. They would dance with their mom with no cares in the world. Music was the backdrop for fun on so many occasions. Nearly everyone who wished to share something about Kathy, made some mention of it.
Bryan wrote a song entitled “I’m Losing You” when he was about 15 and as it turned out, Kathy may have liked it more than he did. She learned it by heart and when she hadn’t seen him for a long time, she would often sing it to him.
To some degree, Kathy was a hippy. When she was younger, she made bellbottoms from old jeans by adding triangular pieces of fabric between the seam from the calf to the hem on each leg. She wore halter-tops and chokers, and listened to Fleetwood Mac and John Denver.
When Kathy was 18, she met and married Marty Hansen. At the time, he was someone she considered a kindred spirit. Although their relationship was difficult, their union resulted in two beautiful children, Tristain and Jeremy. She later met Bob Stewart and completed her family with the addition of Vanessa.
One winter, Kathy had problems with her little finger. It would swell and cause her pain and sometimes she even required antibiotics. She realized the cold weather was part of the difficulty, so she crocheted what she called a finger toque to keep it warm. Of course, it was just that—the cutest little hat—so she embellished it by adding a bow. Before the winter passed, she had made and decorated nearly thirty individual toques for her pinky. There are so many, I doubt she would have worn them all.
When a friend of the family, Walter Wigmore, lost several fingers to a snow blower, Kathy made little finger caps for him, too. Eventually, the miniature toque movement faded and she decorated a small tree by hanging them on its branches—yet another testament of her creativity.
She was a dancer, a singer, a painter, illustrator, calligrapher, crafter, writer, outdoor enthusiast, seamstress and even a mechanic at times. Professionally, she excelled at her jobs and was proud of her work regardless of what she did. Shortly after she graduated from high school, she worked as a caregiver to the elderly at the Omineca Lodge. After the kids were in school, she became a cook at the Blue Spruce restaurant. For 10 years, she worked as a photofinisher during the era of 1 hour photography at Wallace’s Photo and Frame. She was quick and efficient, often achieving feats of amazing speed when she was swamped by an influx of film.
Throughout her life, Kathy took every opportunity to learn new skills. When she got her first computer, she was unstoppable, buying drives, more computers then collecting and copying movies and music. She worked as a drywaller by mudding and painting. Amid all of this, she volunteered at Neighbourlink. People she worked with remember what a fun loving and hardworking person she was. For a while she worked for Vanderhoof Community Services driving children to see their families and later returning them. Most recently, she came full circle by combining her experience of working with the elderly and cooking by making meals for the residents of Riverside Place.
She was more than a friend in the way she sometimes helped others develop their own creativity. When Randy was in grade 5, she helped him write a poem for a school assignment. They were both proud of the final creation, and although the teacher felt the piece deserved no more than a C+, that mediocre work was the creation of a memory that has lasted for more than forty years. Who knows? Had the teacher been able to predict its significance, she may have marked it differently.
Kathy’s motherly instincts developed at an early age when Harley and Barbara entrusted her with the care of their children, including Kevin, their youngest. One of his earliest memories involved sitting on her knee while playing with a blue car he received from Santa at Kathy’s elementary school’s Christmas celebration.
Kevin’s babysitter was not the only way Kathy was involved in Kevin’s life. When he was 5, Kathy added the role of coach as well. His athletic future must have been of great importance to her, because she took it upon herself to teach Kevin an acrobatic move that shall henceforth be known as the “bunkbed dismount.” This complicated maneuver involved sliding off the top bunk headfirst. Kevin’s subsequent broken arm ended his season and terminated both, his gymnastic and Kathy’s coaching careers, simultaneously.
One of Kathy’s favourite classes was art. When she was in grade 12 and Kevin was in grade 7, she took him to her art class where Kevin made a clay version of “The Fonz” from the sitcom Happy Days. Kathy fired and painted it for him and he still has that sculpture to this day.
Julie will always think of herself as a normal little sister, because she was into everything Kathy cherished. Most of the time the two girls got along very well. They had to. They worked together preparing meals and cleaning the house as part of their daily routine. But when Kathy got old enough to wear makeup, everything changed. Whatever Kathy had, Julie also wanted and sharing a room made getting into Kathy’s belongings that much easier. From then on, continual complaints of “Mom, she won’t stay out of my makeup!” ensued.
Caring for others seemed to be a theme throughout Kathy’s life. During the winter 2006, Barbara was hit by a pickup in the intersection by the theatre. Once she was able to return home, she had terrible troubles with balance and strength. Kathy took time to be with Barbara and help her with her daily routine, which included everything from preparing meals to getting in and out of the bathtub. It was an act of love Barbara will never forget.
When Randy suffered a massive brain bleed and was finally able to leave the hospital, he required constant supervision. Kathy spent hours at his side making sure he followed the strict protocols the doctors had given him. Later, when he developed a cerebral spinal fluid leak, and was sick all the time, she was right there taking care of him, making sure he was getting his daily doses of Gatorade—one of the only beverages he was allowed to drink because of the electrolytes it contains.
Kathy was very generous, even though she had so little. Some of the gifts she put together must have taken days or months to complete. Kathy was always giving little gifts tailored to each person. Sometimes it might be a scarf, a necklace, a little pair of earrings or even Tupperware. When Megan had Alice, Kathy collected a bag of baby toys from the thrift store and washed them up for Megan and the baby.
Kathy was an amazing cook. At family gatherings, we knew she would bring the stuffing and gravy. We all really appreciated the stuffing, and of course, an added benefit was that it simplified the baking of the turkey. Until this past thanksgiving, Kathy had not shared her secret for making perfect gravy, but now we know that in order to achieve success, the flour must be cooked for exactly 12 minutes. Kathy truly was amazing. She could make even the gamiest tasting moose into a gourmet meal.
She often cooked for others as well. This spring, Kathy fed Megan’s family for two weeks after Alice was born. Krista still remembers the cookies Kathy made. When company came over, Kathy would take bags of cookies out of the freezer and put them on top of the wood stove where she warmed them up. Somehow, they were better that way. They always tasted like they were fresh out of the oven.
And if all those virtues are not enough, Kathy was a jokester, too. She seemed to have a never-ending supply of jokes and one-liners for every occasion. Every conversation at the kitchen table would remind her of a joke and she’d add to the enjoyment of family get-togethers by sharing them.
Kathy loved a great bargain. She loved good shoes and shopping, so she had the best supply of good shoes. Her feet were a little smaller than Laurie’s, so when she got a new pair, she would often have Laurie wear them for a little while to stretch them out. A couple of weeks ago, Kathy was at the studio showing Laurie how easy online shoe shopping on eBay was. Together, they ordered a pair. When the shoes came in, Kathy brought them into the studio all brushed up to look like new. It was the sort of act-of-kindness that Kathy was known for.
When Kathy was quite young, she began to cut hair for her family. Most of the time, the work she did was thoroughly appreciated, a gift everyone had probably become too complacent about over the years. It was too easy to take for granted her acts of kindness. Unfortunately, the haircuts did not always go as planned. One such incident happened for Randy during her early stages of haircutting practice. His hair was particularly curly when he was younger, so when she cut the hair over his forehead and failed to take into account what would happen when it dried, it curled into a tight line, high line on his forehead. His embarrassment at school was only comforted by the knowledge that his hair would eventually grow. Fortunately, she improved and he loved all the subsequent haircuts.
At least for Randy no blood was involved. For years, Harley was the beneficiary of her haircutting talents without incident, and it’s a good thing that quality shears are surgically sharp. For one, it makes cutting hair much easier. For another, it means that cuts usually heal quickly. On this fateful day, while she was cutting Harley’s hair, her shears slipped. Suddenly, Kathy’s mouth dropped open. In an instant, blood was everywhere. Fortunately, Barbara was close by. She recovered the piece of Harley’s ear and with Kathy’s help, they reattached it. It is important to mention that Kathy was much more upset about the incident than Harley was, and to this day, it’s almost impossible to tell that part of his ear had been chopped off at one time.
Having a hairdresser in the family was a luxury and for the hundreds and hundreds of haircuts, only a handful were ever a disappointment. It was a gift of both time and talent, and throughout all those years, she never expected payment.
Kathy enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren and Vanessa will always be grateful for time they were able to share. Both Kathy and the kids were particularly proud of the fairy garden they built last summer and except to protect all the little figurines, furniture and other paraphernalia, Kathy would have preferred to have left them out all winter long. Although, Kathy wouldn’t have had it any other way, Vanessa remembers with fondness Kathy’s support throughout her Crones illness and all those years of pain.
Although she was generous, Kathy was not always the giver. There were times in her life when she was the recipient of wonderful gifts. In the spring of 2012, Tristain decided to treat her mom to a trip to Hawaii, but they were devastated when Kathy broke her ankle just two weeks before they were scheduled to leave. At first, Tristain couldn’t figure out a way to bring her mom on the plane, but one night a solution came to her, and in the end, they were able to go. When they arrived, Tristain rented a wheelchair. The trip was a challenge, but together, they triumphed over each obstacle. They went everywhere. Tristain pushed Kathy around like she was a racecar. They jumped curbs and had a great time having fun and laughing. Kathy was even able to swim in the ocean without a problem. What made the trip most memorable was that Kathy seemed to enjoy herself in every way that Tristain had hoped she would.
There were numerous times when Kathy seemed to have all the right priorities. The year Jeremy and Krista bought their house, they had a wiener roast. Kathy came wearing little white sandals. By the time the evening was over, they were completely covered in dirt and soot. That evening she clearly cherished her time with others so much more than the clothes she wore.
When Jeremy first began dating Krista, Jeremy bought her a locket. He got together with Kathy and convinced Krista they were going to do a photo shoot. Krista went right along with the charade, unaware until later that it had been a ploy to get a photo small enough to fit in the locket.
One time, Kathy showed up at Krista’s house without warning. When Kathy suggested she bring Krista to her house as a surprise to Jeremy, Krista went along with it. It was another kind gesture Krista will never forget.
Kathy struggled with the sorts of troubles most of us will never have to deal with. It seemed she was faced with one health problem after another for her entire adult life. To make matters worse, a serious infection seemed to accompany each surgery. She was always in pain from a knee joint she needed to have replaced and a year ago, Kathy battled breast cancer. Kathy’s battles in life were often heroic.
Of Kathy’s creations, her legacy and most important accomplishments will always be her children. Throughout their individual struggles, Kathy has supported them to adulthood. Each of them, in their unique way, has become a successful, caring, adult.
Tristain’s hardworking nature has served her well throughout her life. Her perseverance has been a strength through her educational endeavours and has led her into a career she loves and is proud of. Her caring nature makes her a wonderful friend and wife to her husband Chip.
To Jeremy, she gave the freedom to explore his many interests, which have included motorcycle riding, learning to mechanic (even when he didn’t need to take things apart), building, camping, hunting and fishing. He has become a hardworking provider for his family and a loving husband and father. Jeremy has become a man of quality who is proud of Kale and Kinley. Each day he is grateful for his loving wife, Krista.
Like her mom, Vanessa is incredibly artistic. The two of them often did art and craft projects together. Because Vanessa lived in town, when Kathy needed something, Vanessa was usually the one to call. Eventually, Vanessa met Jason. Together, they had 2 beautiful girls, Claire and Alycia.

She was the one constant in Tristain, Jeremy and Vanessa’s lives. These wonderful people did not become who they are by accident, and their broken road has brought them to where they are today. The world will always have been a better place because Kathy was part of it, and we will always miss and love her.

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