Saturday, July 14, 2012

Remembering Aunt Shirley

Dear Terry, Monica, Shirley-Anne, Michael, Mary and Robert, 

The Bible tells us this:

“A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

We have lived long enough to see our grandparents and their generation depart from us and we have lived long enough to see our children born and their generation that follows us. The years of our youth have quickly fled and we are now well into middle age. Our parents too have seen many years pass and they have finally become the elderly seniors that our grandparents once were. Perhaps many times we have been too busy to notice that the passing of time is relentless, mistakenly believing that there is always a tomorrow. 

Left to right: Shirley Carney, Terry Carney held by George Macdonald, Helen Macdonald and Carol Macdonald. This scene was recorded in Montreal's Cote des Neiges area in summer 1953
Since first learning about your mother’s (my Aunt Shirley) illness, and then hearing about her departure from us, I have been reflecting and recalling events from the past. While growing up, Aunt Shirley was a name we heard often but someone we never saw. In our family, Vancouver was always spoken about as a distant far away place, probably because it is. Your Mom came east to visit in summer 1967 and that was the first time I was finally able to meet Aunt Shirley.

First impressions: Aunt Shirley was thinner than Mom (your Aunt Carol), older than Mom, and she smoked, but not the same brand of cigarettes as Dad. Of course one of the first things my Mom did was cram us all into the car, including Aunt Shirley, and head east to Milan to visit their parents. On Sunday, we all went to church as we always did, but your Mom went to the Catholic Church. Now that was an eye-opener for me! Until then, I thought only French people in small-town Milan went to the Catholic Church.

I didn't really get to know Aunt Shirley until 1973 when I moved to Vancouver. I also got to know, Uncle Barney and the entire Carney family. Those three years with your family were wonderful years that I would never trade away. Saturday evenings at the Carney home were always eventful. On Saturdays, your Mom always cooked hamburgers, and one never knew who would show up and what would be going on.

Aunt Shirley had a great sense of humour and she would laugh along with the rest of us, but your Mom had little tolerance for pretentiousness. She would speak her mind, say what she wanted to say when she wanted to say it, and then leave the subject alone. I admire her for that. This was one aspect about your Mom that was very different from Aunt Carol.

Your Mom also knew how to drop everything and just have fun (Her mother - Grandma - was the same.) New Year’s Day 1975, we started playing cards in the afternoon. Your Mom joined in and without a break we were still going strong after 3:00 a.m. January 2nd

In April 1980 when Kie arrived, the Carney home was the first home in Canada that Kie visited. I have always been grateful that we had those few days in Vancouver to visit your Mom so she could meet Kie.

Aunt Shirley and Aunt Carol are sisters almost ten years apart. In many ways they were so different from each other, yet in many ways they were so alike in their thinking and in their beliefs. I could always see Grandma and Grandpa in both Aunt Shirley and Aunt Carol, at times in what they said, at other times in what they did, and mostly in how they have lived and in the values they have passed on to us.

Kie and I visited Mom last weekend. When we first arrived, she didn't remember who we were although she did seem to recognize us as people she should know. The next day, Mom was able to call us by name. Anyway, we haven’t told Aunt Carol about your Mom’s passing; I don’t know if we can or if we should.

This evening Kie told me that your Mom will be buried and that eventually your father will be buried beside her. I’m glad to hear about this arrangement. I know your Mom and Dad had their problems, but when looking back at those three years in Vancouver, I can laugh about many events and say only good things about your parents.

Life is a mystery. Events and changes we don't want come and intrude into our lives anyway. We may know and understand this hard reality about life, but we don't want or accept the pain and sorrow nonetheless.

Kie and I thought about going to Vancouver for Aunt Shirley’s funeral, but the air fares are quite a bit higher than we expected. Instead, we are sending this to help you with some of the unexpected expenses you may have. For some reason I cannot explain, I think your Mom would agree.

The Oddblock Station Agent
April 13 2009

Addendum June 2013

The passing of time is relentless. Many of those who lived these events firsthand are no longer here to provide us with intimate details the following captured scenes cannot reveal.

Milan, Quebec. Date unknown but prior to 1934 and before Carol was born. Left to right: George Macdonald, daughter Shirley Macadonald and Helen Macdonald. This photo was taken before they moved into the house next door which is visible in the background on the far left and where the 1953 Milan photo was taken.

From the back of the photo: Shirley at Eastend, Saskatchewan on July 8, 1947.

Summer 1953 in Milan, Quebec. 4 generations left to right: Shirley Carney, Helen Macdonald; May Piper-Gerrard holding great-grandson Terry Carney. This was Aunt Shirley's first visit back east to attend younger sister Carol's wedding on June 20, 1953. Aunt Shirley would not visit east again until 1967. This scene was recorded in front of our grandparents' home. That bottle of milk on the verandah meant it was late afternoon and Grandpa was about to make his milk deliveries through town.

December 26, 1956: Shirley Carney (Macdonald) holding daughter Shirley Anne. Below is what was written on the back of the photo.
Note written on the back of the above photo

August 1964 - probably Terry's 12th birthday celebration. Left to right: Shirley Ann, ???. Monica, Mary, Terry, Michael and Robert. (Someone will have to let me know who number 7 is on the front left - looks like Alan)

Left to right: Shirley and Carol. Date not recorded but probably summer 1989 when Aunt Shirley made her last visit back east.

No details recorded but location most likely Halfmoon Bay, BC. Left to right: Kathryn Warn and Shirley Carney.

Addendum July 06 2015, from Robert

Addendum April 12, 2018,

Following is another image of Aunt Shirley that I recently discovered in Mom's stuff.

Written on back: Oct 1990. Shirley in new condo.

The following undated photo found among Mom's things was taken in October 1990.

Other notes reveal the location as the Quesnel River in the Williams Lake, BC., area. This scene was most likely recorded by Uncle Barney because they went to visit him.

Aunt Shirley with Mom and Dad.

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