I knew Mother came from Alberta, Canada. She seemed to have been raised on a farm. She had perfect teeth because they ate vegetables from the root cellar and never drank soft drinks. Her brother and sister were teachers. That was about it for family lore.
Finally, in 1976, we went to Edmonton and stayed with her sister, Helen, the teacher. Relaxing in her recliner, Aunt Helen would pull a sock over a darning egg and sew worn spots on the heel. Each morning she sectioned one orange and placed the sections on a plate in a circle for the five of us to share at breakfast.
She gave a party for us to meet the family. As the younger generation socialized, I listened to Aunt Helen speak a foreign language in the dining room with with her brothers and sisters. It turned out to be Ukrainian. I learned that Mother’s parents, Wasyl and Anna Huculak had emigrated from Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century with their parents Stephan and Sanxira Tokaruk. As homesteaders, they built a new home on the Alberta plains.
My mother just wanted to get away. But even though she never mentioned her family, she missed them and took several trips back to see them.
By the time I met them, Aunt Helen lived comfortably on her pension. The oil-rich Province of Alberta treated its seniors well.
“You built the province, you should reap the benefits, they tell us,” Aunt Helen said. Every year she’d spend a week studying at a university, courtesy of the Alberta Province. She spent her final years in comfort in a nursing home, no charge to her.