I did not grow up with a silver spoon. Didn’t have pet corgis, waiters, servants, nannies or an ancient and revered heraldry. No, we weren’t royalty and never will be. Yet my mother is a King. A King of Cape Breton. She was born and raised in Sydney Mines, Cape Breton – a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, Canada. She was christened Mary Cecilia King – and was one of a large family of 7 children to Robert and Elizabeth King – my grandparents. Growing up in the 1930’s and ’40’s, in such a large family, couldn’t have been easy – especially given the difficult financial straights they faced – which only intensified with the sudden death of their mother at an early age.
As an adolescent, I was drawn to the stories of the King clan – from their summer days of blueberry picking and selling of the same to the local co-op – to the ghost stories that foreshadowed or followed an intimate death of close friends or family – to the regaling of tales of loves won and lost. I also vividly recall the stories of her parents who obviously left an indelible mark on her life.
Today, the “Kings of Cape Breton” who are still living have, save for one, all dispersed to other towns and cities across Canada and the United States. They have all had families, loved and/or lost spouses, had children of their own, settled into their lives. Likely, they’ve gone on to share some of those same stories that my mother has shared with me. I don’t know for sure but I imagine my cousins have been enriched in much the same way.
Like many from Cape Breton, the prospect of decent employment in Ontario brought my mother to the bustling Toronto area in the mid-1950’s. Here she met and married my father and had two children. All the while my mother worked as a school teacher and, eventually, one of the first female Principals of the local school board. It’s a testament to my mother’s strength that I recall very little of any difficult times our family faced in those early years.
In my teenage and early adult years, I know I threw down the proverbial gauntlet and challenged my folks on more than one occasion. Sometimes with good cause, oft times with folly. What strikes me looking back from the perspective I have today, was how my mother’s support of me never wavered. Even when placed in an awkward position, or knowing full well that I might be in error, she gave counsel but ultimately, gave me the freedom to chose the path that lay before me. I didn’t realize what a gift that was ’till much later.
As the years have gone by, I have had many life events or challenges – the death of a partner, a new marriage, children, a chronic illness and the loss of a career. Throughout all of this, my mother has been there to offer her support. She has, like any good King, dolled out riches – of which I could regale you ad nauseam – the gift of family heritage, gift of support for our children, gifts of charity and generosity, gifts of love and helping.
This is especially so since I was diagnosed with PD. While deeply saddened at my diagnosis, she has been nothing but a source of strength to me since the begining. She takes great interest in PD – reading up on all the latest news and developments and supporting Parkinson’s organizations. She helps with me with errands, cooks a weekly meal for our family, supports our children in their studies and in their lives, drives me to swimming for my exercise, and so much more. Truly, I cannot imagine getting through the past 16 years without her.
Regrettably, not everyone living with PD can claim such fortune. Then again, not everyone is from royalty. Remember, my mother is a King.