A story about my Nanny
And walking to school in the bitter cold
My Nanny is ninety years old.
Over the holidays, she was admitted to the hospital. I don’t know about you, but when a ninety year old is hospitalized while in a lot of pain, I’m typically unsure how they will leave.
My Nanny walked out with her head held high rather than being rolled out feet first, en route to the funeral home just down the road. We both agreed that this was the better of the two options.
While in hospital, she always had someone who would sit with her. There was a really nice nurse. This despite the fact that we’re in a pandemic. This despite there being a healthcare shortage. This despite restrictions due to the current pandemic.
When her mother was dying, someone was always with her as well. Someone from the village would always be there. Someone. It seems that the people down that way have caring in the blood.
Winters were more difficult back then she confided in me. Women did not wear pants. She wore a thin cotton dress, leather shoes and knee length ‘blue bloomers’ to try to stay warm.
Back then, people on the shore didn’t have the kind of warm coats we have today. Instead, people relied on each other. On the really cold days, there were three houses where the children walking to school would stop in to warm up along the road.
It was important to show up warm because the first to arrive at school had to light the wood stove to start warming the classroom.
“They wanted us to come in. We’d have a chat. People were happy to know that you were warm. People were happy to know that you were cared for”.
It didn’t matter who you were. Protestants were welcome at the Catholics houses. Catholics were welcome in the Protestant ones. When it was really cold and getting warm was important, everyone was treated the same.
When snow blowing driveways this past weekend (with only one of two augers working) several neighbours objected to my attempts to help.
“No, you don’t have to do this Jimmy,” they protested, “you probably have better things to do”.
I’m not sure what prompted these objections that I easily overcame by merely helping others. Was it shame? A sense of independence? Pride? What? One of them did mention that they didn’t want to be a ‘burden’.
Funny. I thought they were people, not a burden.
When there are huge piles of wet snow, there aren’t burdens or contributors, just people who need to move the snow.
Though I’m grateful for my cold weather gear, I wish that we all felt more welcome to cut through each others yards, stop by to visit unannounced, delight in helping each other and have the capacity to attend to and care for the sick.
It’s like the old saying goes:
Once you leave Clam Harbour, Oyster Pond isn’t very far indeed