Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Ice skater. Born Oct.10, 1926, at Maple Valley, Ont.; died Dec. 22, 2016, in Collingwood, Ont., of natural causes; aged 90.
The doctor had been sent for, but when he finally arrived at the little wind-swept farm, Eileen had already been born. She once said, "I've been ahead of people ever since. I don't wait around."
When she was just a slip of a girl, a neighbour dropped off some old skates and Eileen discovered the joys of skating and it became a life-long love.
At age 13, Eileen was allowed to drive the Model T – with no license or insurance and, sometimes, with no brakes. Once, while driving her mother to the village of Creemore in Simcoe County, the car suddenly sputtered to a stop. Nothing she tried could get it going. Distressed, Eileen watched as her mother calmly closed her eyes and said a prayer, and advised her to try again. The engine coughed back to life and they rambled on to their destination. Divine intervention? Eileen never knew, but the event would prove fortuitous years later.
Eileen worked as a waitress when she was 18. One day, a man came into the restaurant. Tall, handsome and shy, he ate his lunch and hardly said a word, "but he did a lot of looking," she would say later. A short time after, Eileen was skating at the rink and he suddenly appeared and asked if she wanted to skate. She did, and they never stopped. Eileen and Elwood Lloyd Dodd were married in 1947. They lived in Glencairn, Ont., and raised seven children: George, Ronald, Sharon, Victor, Marilyn, Peter and Angela.
In 1950, while she and Lloyd were visiting her parents, Eileen felt contractions and knew that her third child was on its way. They hopped into their car and sped for Creemore. Half way there, the engine conked out. Lloyd leapt out and raced away into the night for help.
Eileen was left alone in the car, in the dark, with a baby on the way. Then she realized where she was – the exact spot where the old Model T had conked out so many years before. Eileen closed her eyes, said a prayer, and tried the key. The engine roared to life. Frantically, she honked the horn to signal that she had the car going again but there was no sign of Lloyd. Eileen wasn't one to wait around, so she put the car into gear. Just then, Lloyd ran back breathless and hopped in, and they burned rubber for Creemore. Sharon was born 10 minutes after arriving at the doctor's office.
Eileen was the quintessential unashamed, stay-at-home mother who focused on raising her children and instilling in each of them a strong, moral compass. She was the gentle, firm anchor of the family. My grandmother had a down-to-earth practicality that cut through the complexities of life and revealed simple truths to those who would listen.
In moments of solitude, she enjoyed singing and writing poetry. Her kitchen was her special domain. There was always hot tea to drink and I enjoyed listening to her good-natured banter with my grandfather. They would often poke fun and gently scold each other and laugh.
After Lloyd's passing in 2003, Eileen accepted her role as matriarch. She cherished those times when the entire family could gather around her like a big, happy hurricane. Her childhood taught her to be resilient and self-sufficient for as long as possible, and when it came time for her to go, she went.
My grandmother wasn't one to wait around.
Christopher Dodd is Eileen's grandson.