Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BEATRICE MARY CORMIER

My aunt Beatrice passed away on May 22, 2014, and upon hearing the news I drove to see my partner and cried in his arms. Beatrice, my father’s sister, had been like a mother to me, and a very important part of my childhood. She was the first person to show me the reward of hard work, the gift of giving, and the importance of never giving up.

Beatrice Mary Cormier was born on February 20, 1928. She was a burly woman with short jet black hair and dark eyes. She had the eyesight of a hawk, the swiftness of a fox, and the strength of four horses. She was a heavy walker and plowed through life. Her never-ending energy kept her up all hours of the night. It was said that she was a night owl, but I always thought she was something more. And everything she did was hurried and so I was hurried, and I guess that’s why everything got done. She wasn’t a believer in wasting time. "Chew on both sides!" she would tell me. She wasn’t a believer in wasting anything. If I needed toilet paper, she gave me two squares and expected it to be enough. I would have to wrap brown paper or leaves in it, so my fingers wouldn’t go through!

I first remember Beatrice coming to visit my family in Flat Bay in the early 70s. I believe that she was the main reason why we moved to Robinson’s Jct.  Looking back, I can’t remember if that was the smartest thing to do, since our father abandoned us shortly after. However, she was dedicated to me and my two younger brothers and she and our Uncle Hubert, my mother’s brother, helped to care for us when our father left. She helped clothe us, put food in our stomachs, and shoes on our feet.

Growing up with Beatrice and Hubert was quite the experience and I wouldn’t change a thing if I could. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had my arguments and troubles with her, but in the end she inadvertently taught me a great deal about life.

Beatrice was the Mother Teresa of our time. She was a great humanitarian and philanthropist. She gave more than what she should have and never asked for anything in return. I remember her as Mrs. Claus, driving down from Robinsons with a truck full of presents at Christmastime. I don’t know where she got the money from, but it seemed to me like Beatrice had a bottomless wallet where money just kept flying out. Everyone got a gift. She was a very generous person and thought about everyone. She was always concerned about others. Some may have called it meddling, but I believe that she was genuinely worried about people and wanted to help.

She would always say that I was sitting on my fortune and at the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but perhaps if I had my life would have turned out differently, I might have become a millionaire by the time I turned 21. Instead of explaining to me what she meant by “sitting on your fortune” she took me with her to work at the Midway Motel, where I learned how to clean the rooms, make a bed with sheets and pillowcases, dust, and vacuum. I also did laundry and hung the sheets out to dry on the clothesline. There were only ten rooms in that motel, but the work was hard because she was the only one who worked there. I remember sitting to the table with her after all work was done, patiently waiting for my share while she counted her pay. “One hunded, two hunded, tree hunded…” It was only natural that my first job after high school was in a motel as a housekeeper. 

You could always get a lunch and cup of tea when you went to visit and you ate what was offered no matter what it was, whether it was chicken baked in a ½ cup of lard, or bologna just warmed up in a frying pan full of butter.  I don’t know how Hubert didn’t get heart disease. However, he must have gotten fed up at one point because after seeing a TV cooking show called Wok Wit Yan he went out and bought a wok and started cooking and, apparently, he was quite the chef.

One time I remember, I was about 12 years old, my Aunt Ruby, who was a year older, and I were craving for some take-out but we didn’t have any money. Now the owner of the motel also ran a gas station and restaurant, so one day we got it in our heads to go over and order a couple of snack packs of fried chicken and fries and charge it on Beatrice’s tab. So we went over and told the cashier that Beatrice wanted two snack packs charged on her tab. We got away with it so the following week we went again, then a few days later, we decided to go again, but this time we got two snacks each because we tried to make it look a little different so the cashier wouldn’t get suspicious. Of course, God, in his infinite wisdom, decided to punish us by giving one of us diarrhea, I won’t say who squatted in the bushes, but it wasn’t me. After that, we learned our lesson. I have always wondered if she ever found out that it was us who did it.

Beatrice and Hubert lived in quite a few different buildings before their forever home. I remember visiting them in an old school bus, then later they bought the small house next door, which burned down, then they lived in a small trailer while a new house was being built. 

I used to visit them at the small house and try to play Hubert’s organ and when he bought a new one, something called a one-man band, he gave me the smaller one. I was really disappointed when their house burned down, not because their home burned down but because that little organ burned. One time they came home from shopping and I went there. She hadn’t put away all the groceries yet, and she was cranky from being out all day. She opened one of the bags and gave me a dress she had bought for me. I looked at her as if to say, “You didn’t have to do that,” but she interpreted it the wrong way and she went ballistic! I ran home feeling so bad that I hurt her feelings, but I didn’t know how to explain that to her. Heck, I was just a kid! Later she came to the house and told my mother what happened. They were not pleased, but I got the dress anyway. Those two memories and something about jumping beans is all I remember from when they lived in that house. 

“Jargie, Jargie!” Beatrice raised George King. I’m not sure what the problem with conception was, but Beatrice and Hubert didn’t have any kids and I believe that is why she gave so much to everyone. She treated everyone as her own. How we used to tease Jargie when we were kids, it’s a wonder that man never shot one of us! She took care of Jargie up until he moved away from the area, and she still visited him whenever she went into town.

Oh, and she was such a woods-woman, netting the river for salmon, picking berries, snaring rabbit, a real native. That woman never stopped. She kept going until the very end. I would consider myself lucky to live a life as full as hers.

I never knew what her medical condition was, but the words epilepsy, fits, seizures, come to mind. I don’t know if she had an actual medical condition, or if it was some kind of defense mechanism to get Hubert to stop arguing with her. Hubert used to drive a truck and mostly on Sundays he, Beatrice, my mother, and us three kids, would go visit my grandparents. Now, one time I remember Beatrice mouthing off about some thing or another, she was always doing that, and Hubert got mad. He packed us up in the truck, and was driving us home, fast. Well, we weren’t in the truck two minutes when her arms and legs went flailing and flapping like a drowning person. We tried to get out of the way, but we were packed like sardines in that truck. Hubert pulled over and we fell out as soon as the door was opened. He tossed Beatrice on the ground and we waited. When we finally got back into the truck, Hubert drove slowly and Beatrice kept her mouth shut. That woman worked in mysterious ways.

It’s not going to be the same without her, but nothing ever remains the same. Change is ongoing and there can be no life without death.

I will always remember this woman for her goodness and unselfishness, her incredible knack for exaggeration in story-telling, her way of instigating trouble, and her sometimes “foul” mouth. She was certainly one of a kind and I will miss her all the days of my life. Farewell, Aunt Beatrice, and Godspeed.