Love Thy Neighbour

7 Apr


My last post about age made me think about Miss Hickey my odd music teacher.  Last night over dinner with girlfriends we were saying how kids are not really exposed to such ‘characters’ anymore. Requirements for university acceptance are a lot tougher, so Miss Hickey might not make the cut nowadays.  And most people live in cities where our neighbours usually have the same socioecnomic circumstances as us. In the country that is not so and therefore the most random people can be your neighbours.

My grandfather owned a very successful forestry company and at times employed nearly 100 men.  Due to the nature of the work they were not the most cultured guys (to put it nicely).  Freddy Nowe was one of them.  He was a long term employee of Grandpa and legend has it that he could cut wood like a machine.  The problem was that he could also drink booze like Usain Bolt runs a 100m dash.  He was a champ at it.  Grandpa or my Grand Uncle Hughie provided him a trailer to live in on a piece of their land which happened to be across the road from our house.

I can remember when we had a party line (we each had a unique ring and if you wanted to make a call you had to wait for the line to be free). Just the notion of that is crazy to think – talk about patience building.  I can’t remember how many houses we shared with, but we definitely shared with:

  1. Freddy – he didn’t get many calls/use the phone, but when he was drunk he didn’t use his manners.  ‘Hang up that phone you little asshole I want to make a call’
  2. The Baynes  – George was a war vet with one leg and 2 pugs.  He generally scared the shit out of me.

Over the years Freddy pulled some solid antics – showed up with a shotgun and said he was going to kill us for one.  He would always come over and apologize after the fact.  That is a pretty big tail between your legs moment.    Once he fell on his stove and burnt his ass badly.  My dear mother (a nurse) had to go over and change his ass dressings for him.  Our old yellow lab Becky just loved him.  She used to go to his house daily for a feed of steak.  She would come back stinking like smoke and over the years she packed on a lot of pounds.

Fast forward.  I am now a city girl.   A few years ago Mom called and said ‘Em, Freddy had to be taken to Halifax to have his leg amputated.  You know no one will visit him.  Could you pop by?’ Sure Mom.  Will do.  On my way to work in my high heels and dress I popped by to see him.  Now, remember, he was in the hospital so he couldn’t drink or smoke AND he had his leg amputated.  God bless the man he was sharing a room with (he must have thought he was in the movie Deliverance).  Freddy was mighty confused, thought I was my grandmother (who is 90) and wanted to show me his stump.  Freddie did not live too much longer and when he died my mother was a pallbearer  (Dad was away somewhere).  I don’t know why that makes me laugh, but it does.

I could have written about Clarence Theriault (who used to come to our school drunk, pee on the playground and yell at us until our principle escorted him off the property).  The Cape Breton Rebel.  Allan McGibbon.  Eugene  Lamoine.  Exposure to these characters have made me a more understanding and empathetic person.  Well, they’ve also given me solid growing up stories.  What do we have to say about our neighbours nowadays? Actually, most people don’t even talk to their neighbours anymore.  I am not suggesting to expose your kids to a raging alcoholic, but exposing them to people of different circumstances makes for more compassion, consideration and openness.  Freddy, I didn’t know you were teaching me something, but you did.


2 Responses to “Love Thy Neighbour”

  1. Lis Baugh April 8, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    Emilie – you are brilliant. There is a book in you.

  2. sarah April 8, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Cute story, I love that you are back:)

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