Everyone knows that typical sitcom mom. She’s the one who lets all the kids from the neighborhood come over and hang out in the basement. The one who brings snacks and checks in just regularly enough to give you space, but not so much space that you can get into trouble. She’s quick witted and always ready with a comeback, but kind-hearted and always has advice when you need it the most. For most of us, that was Deb. She was the second mother to an adopted band of misfits. A mom away from home.
Growing up, we all had a lot of difficulties. Some of us didn’t want to be around our own homes for various reasons. We found each other through circumstance, and for a few of us, that circumstance was as simple as being in school together. Ryan Hauser, Ryan Cates, and I were in a last-ditch high school, as were a few others who we lost touch with along the way. We spent a lot of time in the basement of Deb and Sonny’s homes. For me personally during those years, I was going through a lot of stuff at home, and I tried to spend as much time away from that place and its problems as I could. I always knew that, so long as Ryan would answer the phone, or not tell Deb to tell us he wasn’t home, we always had a safe place to go. There were no judgements. No harsh words, unless we went too far, and often times we did, but she still didn’t give us guff. She would shake her head, sigh deeply and that was enough to let us know we had done something wrong. If we needed advice, she was always willing to listen and gently guide us, with a kind hand and an open heart. She would never tell us what to do, but instead suggest how we could do better. If we just needed to get away, she offered a hot meal, a place to crash and often even a ride home in the morning.
We were forgotten kids in a lot of people’s eyes, but never in Deb’s. She never turned her back on us, even at our worst, and there were more than a few times she could have. When raves were the great evil of the late 90’s, she made sure we had turntables, stereos, and mixers as fast as we could go through them. I remember the first set of DJ equipment we had, and how we’d spend hours in the basement of the condo just off 14th St, bass pounding until as late as she could stand, sounding horrendous by any standards as we first learned to play records. She would let us go for hours on end, rarely telling us to turn down the clanging mish mash that crept up the stairs with no door for cover. I remember the day we came back to the Hauser household to find the “DJ in a box” kit waiting for Ryan and subsequently, for us. She had given us that opportunity. She gave us that chance to have a hobby, albeit one that most parents would never even consider, let alone at that time. But that was Deb. She did what she wanted, and she made people happy wherever she went. I remember countless car rides home from raves. Deb would come and grab us after we had spent the night dancing away our cares among other activities. And even though she knew what raving meant, she didn’t judge. She’d ask some questions, maybe poke at us a bit, but then she’d crank up her country music and just drive us home in silence, making sure we were safe. If we needed to call in the middle of the night, she was there. Hell, one time she even let us throw a rave in the basement of their new home. A bunch of unruly teens, banging bass music, and there was Deb, hanging out, smoking in the garage and chatting everyone up. That was just Deb. No one was off limits. No one was ignored. If you were within range, she made you part of the conversation. While she may have only had one child by birth, she had a gaggle of us every weekend, sometimes from Friday into Sunday. But Deb didn’t mind.
When I got the news that Deb was sick, I had just left Calgary having moved to Victoria, and couldn’t make it home to see her. The first time I came back, Covid was still a little too touch and go for a visit, especially for someone in her condition. But from what I heard; she was still the same firecracker. She turned down typical cancer treatment, never stopped smoking or turned down a drink. She gave the middle finger to the whole idea and that was the most Deb thing ever. She didn’t give up. She didn’t roll over and say take me. She went on living and defied the doctors, living two and a half more years, despite the sickness.
I was lucky enough to come home just before she passed. A vacation that was going to be difficult for me, as I had finally been facing the list of problems from my childhood, but it quickly became something else. The day after I arrived, staying with Ryan and Sarah, the news came that it was time to move Deb to the hospice, the last step as we all know. I had hoped to get a visit in, but that quickly became questionable as things deteriorated. On the last day, I got the news that I could pop by before I headed to the airport to fly back to Victoria, and I jumped at the opportunity. When I walked into the room, there was Deb, and while she may have spoken a little slower, she was still Deb.
“DEB!” I started, “Quick, grab your bags, I’m springing you from this joint and we’re heading to Mexico!”
“Perfect” she replied with a chuckle, “I’m ready.”
We chatted for as long as I could before I had to rush to the airport, and it was like nothing had changed, like we were still sitting in the garage just catching up. Deb was Deb, asking how Bronson, my dog, was doing, how my wife was, and wishing they could be there. We talked about life on the Island, and wise cracked about the pace of life there. We joked and laughed, and to me, even with the machines, the meds, and the slow speech, she was one hundred percent still Deb. At the last minute I stood up and said remorsefully that I had to go. She looked up at me and said how nice it was to see me. I got to say “I love you”, unfortunately the only time I ever said the words out loud to her. She said them back and we both welled up as I moved to the door. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.
The next day, the news came. Nearly three years after being told she had six months left, Deb packed it in. She had fought for as long as she could, and boy she was a fighter. In the following days after speaking with Ryan, I found out about Deb’s wishes around a funeral and all I could do was laugh with tears in my eyes. In classic Deb style, she refused to spend a cent more than necessary on a funeral, she didn’t want to waste money on it. She wanted to be cremated and wanted the cheapest urn available. Even then she was a pistol, and to be honest, I just wish I could have sat in on the conversation with the funeral home. I’m sure she gave them all of the gears, cause that was Deb.
I think I speak for all her adopted children, us band of misfits, when I say, I am so very thankful that she was there for us. I’m so thankful for every car ride, every meal, every smoke in the garage and the conversation that went with it. She changed a lot of lives, and she was one of the most powerful personalities I ever got to know. Deb will live on in all of us, in our hearts, in our minds, in our stories and in how we treat the world, hopefully just like she did, with care, compassion and the odd middle finger when necessary.