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Christmas fund: Single mom devoted to son

Dec 04 2012
Parvin Lalonde and her son Alex, 17. 

Parvin Lalonde and her son Alex, 17.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

Parvin Lalonde has had a good life, she says. But everyone runs into challenges.

"If somebody tells me, 'I have a perfect life,' I laugh," she says. "I say I'm very happy for you ... but you're a liar. Nobody has a perfect life."

Lalonde left Iran at 14 and moved to Canada after four years in England.

Despite language barriers, she juggled jobs in Vancouver, working as a model as well as in the food industry. She got her first gig baking for a Cookies by George franchise when she saw what she assumed was a Help Wanted sign and marched in the door.

"I just said, 'me me me cook, cook, cook,' " she said, laughing.

Since then, her language skills have improved. She has also married and had two sons, who are now 17 and 20.

But Lalonde has run into more challenges than she can handle on her own since separating from her husband a year and a half ago.

That's why she applied to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

"Right now, we're humble," she said.

Lalonde works as a kitchen aid serving students at the University of Victoria, but still depends on welfare to support her 17-year-old son Alex, who has Down syndrome and autism and suffers seizures. After the separation, she and Alex moved into B.C.

Housing, a place she never imagined she would live.

"I used to say, 'This is for people who have nothing' - and then I realized I have nothing," she said.

Health problems have made things worse.

In January, she was struck by a car while crossing at Cook and Yates streets and sustained a brain injury. She suffered memory loss and her sense of taste was affected, which is difficult for a cook. She continues to undergo physical therapy.

Still, she's grateful to be alive.

"My God, I think somebody up there was looking down, saying, 'Who is going to look after my two boys?' " said Lalonde, who continues to have difficulty crossing the road.

"I freeze. [But] if some people come, I can walk between them," she said.

"I've become such a chicken. I used to be strong!"

Her doctor also recently noticed throat damage, she said, which was attributed to stress and anxiety. She says she swallows her stress.

"I can't be sad or unhappy in front of my special-needs son, because he's so sensitive."

Everything she does is dedicated to him now. Alex was temporarily placed in foster care when he was born, which was devastating for Lalonde, an adopted child herself. She would stare at the wall all day and wouldn't eat.

She knew there was something wrong with Alex, but didn't know what Down syndrome was.

"I don't care if he has Down syndrome - I love him like I love my first son," she said. "He only needs love and support."

Since he returned to the family at age two, he has become the centre of her world.

"I dedicate my life around him - he's so sweet," she said.

Separating from her husband was a difficult choice, but the right one, she said.

She called B.C. Housing, "a good place" that she's thankful for. But she'd like to eventually move out with Alex.

"There's never a better place for him than your own home."

Lalonde said support from the Christmas Fund will help bring her sons together for a nice dinner.

"It's like I won [Lotto] 6/49 when I see every kid happy, smiling," she said. asmart@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

• Go online to timescolonist.com

• Call 250-995-4438

• Mail or drop off in person at the Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, V8W 2N4

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