News from Vermont # 305 Got Sisu?

January 24th, 2014

Hello again Maple People,

As a group, there's none more maligned than our poor "mothers-in-law"...yup, any comedian worth his salty attitude pulls the "mother-in-law" card early and often. Down through the ages, there were no doubt a few who deserved their bad rap but now to set my record straight, my mother-in-law was not one of them. I loved her and so did everyone who knew her.

Helvi Rauha Vienna Enola Parker was a Finn right down to her sauna-loving pores, even though she never stepped foot on her ancestors' homeland. Her parents Sammy and Hannah Enola came to America like so many others through Ellis Island, looking for a better life. They settled in Brooklyn, New York but the depression soon pushed them northward to Mount Holly, Vermont. There, Sammy found work as a master carpenter but life was not easy; they lived in cold, dilapidated farmhouses and walked everywhere. Helvi was one of five children who shared a fierce love for each other. She spoke often of her mother "making something out of nothing" like the delicious meals she always put together. Helvi gained her nickname, "Sunny" at a young age...all the old photos portray her and her sister Impi as lovely, smiling blonds. The sisters shared a special kinship, frolicking in the pastures and on the back roads of 1930s Vermont.

"Foreigners" were looked down upon in those small towns which no doubt contributed to Sunny developing a strong and stubborn attitude at an early age. Her own father did not want her to attend high school saying, "all you will bring home is a baby!". Sunny however, "leaned in" and graduated near the top of her class. World War Two minimized opportunities around Mount Holly so she went back to New York City to live with her half sister. She got a job as a mimeographer until she was accepted in the St. Luke's Hospital Nurse Cadet program; dreams of a nursing career had suddenly materialized. Nursing never lost its magic for Sunny, who specialized in "labor and delivery". She loved babies and their mothers including her own eventual grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Fast forward to Rowan Court Nursing Home on a cold October day in 2013. My wife Betsy sat by her mother's bedside reading from one of several letters. This particular letter was from the mother of a child born in 1970 in Central Vermont Medical Center..."you attended the births of all three of my children" Betsy read. I sat nearby and could have easily "filled in the blanks" to finish the letter: "I'll never forget your kindness during the birth of my children" or "Jason is now a strapping 250 pounder but you ushered him in as a tiny baby", or, "you called me on your day off just to see how I was." I'd heard it all so many times...Sunny Parker was the "first to greet" many Central Vermonters born between 1958 and when she retired in 1978. She held many a laboring mothers' hands with complete faith in everyone of them.

After her husband Gil Parker died in 1996, Sunny lived alone until she moved in with Betsy and me in 2003. She was a good housemate but, alas, had a fall in 2008 which required her move to Rowan Court. Sometimes folks lose their will to live at this juncture in life but not her...somehow from her bed at Rowan Court, Sunny Parker's "sunny" attitude shined throughout the whole nursing home for five more years! And, I might add, it was reciprocated by a wonderful staff with a "sunny" attitude of its own. Her children, grandchildren, and many loving Rowan Court folks had taken turns holding her hand those last days. On November 25 at approximately 6:00 PM through a combination of age and frailty, Sunny Parker, the one who specialized in ushering people into this world, left for another.

The Finnish word "sisu" means "determination, grit...making the best of every situation". That describes Sunny Parker to a Tee. In fact I can picture her in her "new situation" right now. She's there with a broad smile, offering bits of great advice, but more importantly, helping folks get born into that new place. Here's to my mother in law, Helvi Rauha Vienna Enola Parker, "Sunny" to all those who knew her. She was a "Finn full of sisu" right to the end and served me for thirty-six years as my wonderful mother-in-law.

Hei Hei (goodbye in Finnish),

Burr (or today that's "BRRRRRR")

ps: Smoke rises from our chimneys thick and pronounced on this frigid January day. As you can imagine, business here at Morse Farm stays "cold and sluggish" with the weather. Things'll start picking up as Spring approaches but until that happens, we hope some of you folks will be needing something from www.morsefarm.com. We were recently able to lower our shipping charges to make it easier for you...we know how important it is to give you the best possible price we can. Thanks so much!