In continuing with my family theme, I'm wishing a happy 81st birthday today to my sister, Anne (Dupuis) Gagne. And for the record, she still looks 50! I've always had trouble remembering birthdays, though hers was the easiest; think of "May two-four weekend!" That's how I remember. And Dad's is exactly a month before. About Anne, there's so much to say, so little space to say it.
Through thick and thin, Anne has been there every step of the way for our family. Through my lifetime, she was the family matriarch with Mom having passed away so young. In many ways, she was my second mom. As the only daughter, she was definitely the apple of her parent's eye, especially Dad. Until he had a stroke, Dad always brought her a birthday cake on this day. Anne was in teacher's college when Mom informed her that she should expect another sibling to arrive in the next little while. That event, me, (a great family event, LOL!) happened on August 5th, of 1958. From the get go, Anne has been an integral part of my life. When Anne started dating her future husband, Yvon, I was the natural birth control method as I went along on most of their dates. Yvon never hesitated to mention that fact his whole life. One of my favourite pictures is of Anne and I, this cute little runt of brother, in a field of long grass and another of Yvon holding me. In some ways I was their first kid.
I was always at their house. We all were. She was and is the glue that holds the family together. We were all close to Anne and Yvon and our lives would be so intertwined. I lived with them a couple of times over the years and there was never a hesitation to take me in. Of course, Yvon used to always joke, "am I ever going to get rid of you?" and of course, Anne would always defend me. Always. Ah, Yvon was special too. They took care of us in one fashion or another over the years.
I believe the Dupuis were and are all cerebral in nature. Pat and Vin both became supervisors in their departments at the Ontario Hospital and Jimmy, (Jake) became a teacher like Anne. Pat, Vin and Jimmy were all good at carpentry. Then there's me? But Anne outshone us. She had a long French teaching career and once even taught Vin, Jimmy and me. I think she almost gave Jimmy the strap for day-dreaming in class. She grew to be one of the most respected teachers in the area but she didn't stop there. She earned her teaching BA, (I think it was BA?or Masters?) and became a vice-principal, principal and then one of the few female French schoolboard superintendents in the province. And then she came within a whisker of getting the very top job at the school board, Director of Education! Wow! After retiring she had a consulting contract in Ottawa and served on the local health LHIN.
Anne's awards and accolades are too numerous to list but she did it all while raising two children, Lise and Richard, and supporting Yvon in his job as CAO of the Town of Penetanguishene. She would receive the highest accolades the French community and province could bestow, and is still a strong defender of the French language and education. She served on numerous committees, most as chair, and helped raise funds for various causes, some even involving me. I'm not sure there's a project she's ever said no to.
And through it all, like my older Dupuis siblings, she has a love of music, especially country music. She studied music out of highschool and played in a band as a teenager. She always accompanied Vin and Pat as they sang at family gatherings and her friend, soloist Andre Boileau at his various performances. She can still make that piano sing, especially a family favourite, "Mr. Callaghan.".
True to our life together, she's edited my writing from the get go. It was so common for me to show her something I was working on and her getting her pencil out and immediately start correcting, the teacher in her just kicking in. That hasn't changed through my thirteen books and many other writing articles and essays that she's edited for me over the years. Even today, she is the first editor of my books on their journey to publication. It's just the way it is.
We all look up to her and love her. A mother, grandmother, sister, legend, friend, pillar of the community and patriarch to our family, Happy Birthday Anne, and many more. And oh yeah, this tribute will have made her cry again! I'm good at that.
The weather forecast for this pandemic is surely, 'Cloudy, with sunny breaks, chance of rain, maybe a thunderstorm." These are crazy, pandemic times to be sure. Social distancing, social distancing, SOCIAL DISTANCING. UGGH!
I had two friends come over for coffee recently and I made sure to not let them touch my doorway. We sat in my sunroom six feet apart, opened windows and didn't let them touch anything except their own coffee mug. Even then, it felt weird and slightly disconcerting. One of them even told me he had recently babysat an hour for his daughter and felt unsure about doing even that. What is the world coming to?
Of course, one could do like so many others are doing and disregard everything; carry on as usual. Have fun, come and go with family and friends at the cottage. (A dead horse as far as I'm concerned, that train has left the station despite pleas from cottage country mayors throughout the province and throughout Canada really). Many residents everywhere are having large backyard barbecues, many in town. You hear about this everywhere in Ontario, Canada and the States. But not in our family. Our family and my many friends I know realize asymptomatic people (no symptoms) and the young, and students who may not get sick but can be vectors, (carriers) that manifests weeks later in their many contacts with family and friends, not to mention with each other.
Not with my significant other coming and going from her nursing job and my daughter working in Emerg, the ICU and the OR. She showed me a picture of how the team had to dress to perform a recent operation or any operation. I almost cried. She looked like a creature from another planet. Masks under masks, under shields, under gowns, under caps, thicker gloves - a million layers. It was a father's nightmare. The pic took my breath away. She was wearing so much protective gear I didn't recognize her (except for her eyes). She said it was unbelievably hot to wear. I can only imagine. My friend's wife is a cleaner at GBGH. That's as exposed as one could get. I'm sure she dresses the same way. My son won't come near me, hasn't in months. I don't know when I'll see him again, maybe outside sometime when it warms up. But with my health issues, he's paranoid of coming near me. I'm thankful and pleased that he's taking it serious. I'm sad for him too and his fiancé. They've recently cancelled their Jack & Jill and the upcoming wedding is very much in doubt. And they're not alone.
On the bright side, I saw my daughter and two grandchildren visited yesterday. Except for a quick car "window hello" a few weeks ago, it was the first time I'd seen them since this all started. Well an 8' distance perimeter visit is better than no visit at all. It was so great to be with them. I got to watch them play on the beach here at Peekaboo and they had fun but it was so weird; no hugs, no kisses, not touching anything of theirs, they not touching anything of ours - anything. Even 6' apart talking was difficult with my terrible hearing. When my granddaughter got out of the car, my daughter asked her, "Why can't you touch or hug Pepere?" she said, "Because of the bad virus." It was so sad. It was certainly better than Facetiming or Zooming. My daughter showed me (without my touching her phone) the 'possible' or suggested social distancing measures if there is school in the fall. It's awful. She said she wanted to cry and not sure she wants to send her. I'm sure will be traumatic for the younger ones.
But we have to take it seriously as awful as it is. Nobody is immune. Like someone said, " wearing a mask now is better than wearing a ventilator later." With more cases popping up in Barrie, the region and even here in Penetanguishene and Tiny, this is such a dangerous and complicated virus. In some victims it causes loss of taste and smell, unexpected blood clots, something called "Covid toes and fingers", strokes from blood clots and neurological issues, liver damage, attacks the lungs and weakens the heart, death. These are the extremes for sure but who wants to be 'the one'? And it doesn't just attack old people.
As one epidemiologist said just this morning on CNN:
"This virus is so wily. There is no other word for it. Every day and every week, we're discovering new things about how it attacks the body, and the types of disorders it causes. We now know that it can latch onto numerous organs, not just the throat and the lungs like we initially thought, but we're now seeing kidneys, intestines, these very strange syndromes. The news this week . . . we learned how its causing post-inflammatory syndrome in kids, but we're seeing a long and very prolonged course of recovery for many people, not just those in intensive care, but also those who may get a little bit sick and may not need to be hospitalized. I think that we're just starting to see and realize the long-term effects of this virus and why it's so important to protect ourselves and those we love, from infection in the first place, because the science still does not know everything yet about what the symptoms this virus causes."
With things starting to socially open up, here, there and everywhere, we'll know in two to three weeks whether we've been too paranoid, too careful, too strict or if we haven't been enough. I think no matter what, our lives have been changed forever. Things will be different. That's for another day and another blog.
For now, be safe out there. If not for yourselves, then for those you love and those around you. The weather is unpredictable. And it sure messes with a Hildegard writer's concentration!
I was just 16 years-old when my mother died at the age of 55 in 1975, forty-five years ago now. A few years after that, my father sold our house on Robert St and we had to move. Being the only one left at home, a lot of the packing fell to me. I happen to be taking some pictures off the wall one day, when one of the frames came loose. Placing it carefully on the table, I noticed another picture beneath the one displayed. Taking it apart, I found hidden, this beautiful 8x10 photo of my young mother with her first born, my sister Anne. It took my breath away. It had to be one of the most beautiful portraits that I had ever seen. My sister seemed to be about three or four at the time, so the photo was taken environ 1942. Wow! Mom would have been around 22 years at the time. This was a mother I had never known. She was so beautiful with so many great years ahead of her. A young mother sitting proudly with her young daughter. Wow. After I had found it, I gave my sister a copy of this picture on her next birthday. Anne must have cried tears of joy and some sadness for an hour! She proudly displayed it immediately.
But it got me thinking; why had Mom hidden such a beautiful portrait? I came to the conclusion, it made her sad of a life she once had, the promise of her young life. By the time I came along in 1958, Bernice Dupuis had four more kids, she was 38 years old and her future had turned out different. Life had gotten more lonely for her I think, the promises of better days and bliss not quite realized but through it all, the love she had for her children, and the few grandchildren she got to meet, brought such joy to her. She loved to knit and bake, quilt and oh yes, pickle. When we moved there were so many pickled things in the cellar. Some of it there for many years. Good penicillin I'm sure. But she was an enormously loving and devoted mother and grandmother.
Sadly, she would never live to see so many occasions, weddings and birthdays. She would only get to meet seven of her thirteen grandchildren and never got to meet any of the 24 great-grandchildren. I wish she could have. She would have loved them, been so proud and amazed how everything turned out in our family.
But this hidden picture, said so much about her life at the time and about our lives to come. I would have loved to have met her then. But all I have is a picture. You were such a great Mom! We all still love you! Even those of us in your family who never got to meet or know you.
Happy Mother's Day. You're far and yet always near . . . in our hearts, our thoughts, our tears and our joy!