To anybody looking at this picture of a simple coffee mug, it wouldn't seem like anything out of the ordinary except that it's personalized. But it's more than that. To me, it represents 35 years of a big part of my life, my working life. If only a coffee mug could talk. Let us digress...
On Monday, October 16, 1978, (yeah I'm really dating myself!), I started my new job at the Penetanguishene Mental Health Center, or "The Bug House" as we locals sometimes referred to it. It was in fact a provincial psychiatric hospital, one of only a few in the province. A co-worker from my previous job at the Penetang IGA, Perry Leduc, had gotten hired along with me at the PMHC and were set to start on the same day, the same hour and as it would turn out, the same ward. We were both inexperienced, "off the street" (a term I would use repeatedly for years when asked).
When we emerged from the elevator of the Toanche Building onto old Ward 6 that fateful morning, let's just say our eyes were opened wide, an understatement. We were assigned to the geriatric ward, the "psycho"-geriatric ward it was called at that time, where older patients who were either difficult to manage at home or at nursing homes were sent to get them settled with meds, somehow! In that first minute, Perry and I saw patients screaming, some half-dressed, some naked, most seemingly lost as they walked around aimlessly, in obvious and various stages of dementia, many of them angry and hard to control. A few tried to get on the elevator as we got off. Perry and I looked at each other and laughed . . . this was about as far away from the Produce Department of the Penetang IGA as one could get. By a country mile!
That first morning after we had helped with feeding and bathing and yes, some wrestling with those who didn't want to shave, bathe nor get dressed, this was definitely something I had never done in my life. Later that morning, we stopped for a coffee break. The first thing our assigned staff, Ken Sauve, told Perry and I: "Now you have to go buy yourself a coffee mug, and one with your name on it, so that everyone will know it's yours. It'll be your mug to use." That very night I went to the local Zellers store and did just that.
I eventually took the RPN course and became a psych nurse, and that mug travelled many miles with me. For over thirty-odd years, it travelled with me through different wards, situations, different jobs, fights, dilemmas, celebrations, different co-workers and friends, some girlfriends, some who broke my heart, some good times and bad and certainly lots of laughs. But through it all, I still had my coffee mug from that very first day, okay well, second day.
Like me, it got scratched and weathered but never broken. When I retired, my trusty mug came home with me and I still use it today. Who'd'a thunk it? Every time I use it for a 4.00 a.m. coffee, it brings back so many memories. Oh the stories it could tell! I'll have to tell them one day...
If he were living, my father, Celestin Dupuis, would be 105 years old today. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted to still be living. A few years before he was eighty, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed, unable to stand or speak, so his last few years of his life were frustrating and demoralizing, and spent in a nursing home. But what a life he had led.
Being the youngest by a long shot (there are 19 years between the oldest, my sister Anne, and myself as the youngest of five), by the time I came along, Dad was forty-three. Though he was only halfway through his life at the time, he had already accomplished alot. There's so much to say here and so little space and time to say it.
Born in 1915 to parents, Lucille and Paul Dupuis, he grew up in a family of seven on the farm on Methodist Point near Lafontaine. He would quit school at a young age to work on the farm. As he grew, he worked in the lumber camps near Barrie, cut wood with his cousin, Celeste Robitaille, (they apparently were the fastest twosome around), made moonshine, became a car mechanic at Gropp Motors on Main St. and worked at the Breithaupt Tannery on Fox St. until he met my mother, Bernice Roi.
They married in September of 1936. He built a small house on Park St., where they had two children, Anne and Pat, (which is still there), built a garage on Robert St. with his friend Eugere Lalonde, (which is still there), and started raising a family at 49 Robert St. West, where they had another son, Alvin, and yes, (the house is still there). With his father-in-law, Albert Roi, they built Albert his first log cabin in Cognashene the summers of 1939-1940. (It too is still there). In the house on Robert St, came along my brother Jimmy (Jake) and myself.
A mechanical genius, the man could do anything he set his mind to. Dad built houses, garages, motors, his own 24 foot wooden boat, a large steel snow-blower that he attached to his truck, cut a car in half and made it a truck and once, built a white sportscar for a rich fella - a story unto itself one day. Dad had even developed and installed a powerful hydraulic system in the cement floor of his shop behind the house on Robert St. to straighten out frames of cars that had been totalled in accidents. To Dad, almost every car was salvageable. He developed such a good undercoating concoction he applied after repairing a car, that they never rusted. He was kind of shooting himself in the foot really, but he was an honest and honourable man. He had such a good reputation that when he retired, he had a two-year waiting list for customers wanting him to fix their vehicles.
He even built us a large, 4'x8' plywood pool table. I remember the Christmas in the late 1960s when it came into the basement in pieces. We were almost the first ones in town to have our own pool table. Though it was in the dungy, cramped stone basement, many hours were spent down there and I believe we all became not too bad at pool. Even though there wasn't much room and the lighting poor, we got used to shooting with short cues at odd angles, around posts, the chimney and the furnace. But hey, we had our own pool table! Many of our friends honed their pool skills on that table!
Dad played the fiddle, loved to laugh, had lots of friends and for a time, along with my mother and a group of friends, ran a popular dancehall near Balm Beach called "The Chateau Gai." My brother Pat and sister Anne, both teenagers in those early years, played in the band.
So yeah, my Dad had quite a life. There is so much more to say, but for today, that's it in a nutshell. Happy Birthday, Dad.
So this is my first blog. I'd always wanted to do a blog. So I thought I'd start it off by saying Hello! Hope you stay and come along for the ride. This is one of the views I've seen from my deck in the last few years. I take daily sunrise pictures and Sister Sunrise has afforded me some pretty spectacular shots that I've posted on my Facebook page.
On this blog, I'm going to be talking about me, my life, my experiences, my writing, Hildegard and my series, The Seven Keys of Hildegard. Yeah, especially my series. I think it's now my reason for being. The thing about The Seven Keys of Hildegard is that at first glance, it seems to be a religious story, which it is, and yet it's not.
I didn't want to write a "churchy" story. I tried awfully hard not to. I wanted it to be a wide ranging, thrilling, historical story about prophecies, the church and world events, murder, betrayal, hope, love and yes faith. It's more than that though. I wanted it to have appeal for all readers who would embark with me on this journey in Book 1 "Of Mercy & Of Death" from 1938 to 1958 and in Book 2, "Of Love & Of Betrayal" from 1958-1978. and then onward in the rest of the series to our time and just beyond. I wanted it be a spiritual journey because at the end of the day, we're all spiritual, in one form, faith or another.
I wanted The Seven Keys to be a story and a journey where we discover ourselves really and all that's right and wrong with the world, to find if there is hope for mankind. I believe there is. So did Hildegard. Join me on this journey.