Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blog Jam from Quebec

or from "La Belle Province" as les Quebecois call it. Not seeing much of the belle as floods have taken over fields and roads. Quite the sight to see cars driving on raised sideroads surrounded by trees and hydro poles several feet deep in water. My camera ran out of juice, much to my dismay, but tomorrow I hope to record some New Brunswick sights.
I went down to Grosse Ile, however (picture above) and stood at the shore looking out at the island. There wasn't another human in sight, much less a ferry to take me out to the island in the middle of the St. Lawrence so I could walk around the hallowed (and now declared a Heritage Site in 1984) land of the Irish who arrived and died there in the dreadful Famine Years of the 1840's.
Surely one of these years a magical boat will emerge out of the mist to ferry me over. I walked through an entire hotel nearby, every door was open to the wind and the river, but ne'er a body to be found. Much trust though, I could have taken the keys to their van, their entire bar stock and some lovely desserts in a glass case.

On a sadder note, I learned that my last surviving aunt on my father's side died this morning. She was just shy of her 99th birthday. The loss has hit me more deeply than I ever would have suspected. I tend to freeze and process for quite some length of time when I hear bad news. It simply takes a while to percolate through. It hit me later in the afternoon and now I have a blinding headache from my grief.
Auntie Francie was a woman who was refused admission as a postulant to the local convent when she was a teenager because an older sister had the audacity to marry the protestant minister of the town and had been denounced by the parish priest from the pulpit for doing so.
Rather than making her bitter, it propelled her into a life, not of her choosing, but of necessity - a life of service to a Great House in the town in which she lived.
The Lord and Lady were very kind to her and I never heard her speak a bad word about them. She cooked and occasionally filled in as a sort of nanny in waiting to the regular nanny. She was full of stories of the lives of these people when she visited. A real-life "Upstairs, Downstairs" if you will, told with charm and enthusiasm. She never ran out of stories and I am glad that my daughter and granddaughter had the fortune to visit with her on a few occasions.
She retired at fifty five and the convent that had rejected her now asked her to take care of their accounting books and banking which she did until she was ninety. Tragically, while she was at Mass one morning a couple of punks/louts broke into her small cottage and damaged it and took her pension money. This scared her so badly she refused to live there anymore so wound up in a rather awful old folks' home in the town where there were no private rooms, just large wards with everything shared. That is where I had seen her last and she was, heart-breakingly, most unhappy but she always cheered up when rellies arrived.
I had looked forward to seeing her again this September, now sadly, not to be.
Sleep with the angels, beloved aunt.


  1. Very sad about the unhappy ending to your aunt's otherwise happy life. I can never understand the utter indifference of these casual criminals to the trauma they're causing the victims. They have hearts of stone. And the average old folks' home is a pretty grim place to finish up. In a civilised society, everyone should be guaranteed a happy, dignified end to their life.

  2. oh, WWW, you have made me love your auntie. and i will remember her now.

    her life sounds like it would make a wonderful book--or a piece for a journal.

    i have been to that part of Quebec and love its natural beauty, but i did not know that about Grosse Ilse.

    now i need to go back.

    i always learn something at your post.

  3. If I believed in hell anymore Nick, I would pray there would be a special place for these casual, heartless punks that destroy a sweet and trusting life.
    Laurie, she is in my first novel, alas, still unpublished. This part of Quebec is lovely but I bet you've never been north of the St. Lawrence which is incredible also - more like France than France ;^)

  4. WWW

    Your aunt sounds like a real treasure, cherish her memory. Love, prayers& hugs.

  5. Here's to auntie Francie. May she travel peacefully, as you do.


  6. I'm sorry about your Aunt.

    Gosh, I'm envious of your Quebec. So beautiful.

    Bon voyage.

  7. Gm:
    yes she was. I had a funeral update today and will post about it later.
    I am confident she is skipping amongst the stars.
    Thank you.
    I said au revoir to Quebec today and now in Fredericton.
    Gosh I love wireless, it's everywhere now.

  8. north of the st. lawrence.... i'm not sure. we have followed the river as far as Tadoussac, and we have been to the Eastern Townships....

    but i think you're right about not being farther north.

    i would like to. but i should also learn french. (when we were there, it was off-season for tourists. and we found no one, in two weeks, who spoke any english at all.)

  9. Laurie:
    Quebec has changed a lot. More English everywhere (American tourists) and less of an attitude to homegrown Anglo-Canadians.
    Gaspe Peninsula also worth seeing.
    My schoolgirl French was dispensed with as the effort alone pleases the Quebecois. I always compliment them on their fluency - and they often speak Spanish & Italian too.


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