My Great Grandparents, Euzebe and Eunice lived at the end of the road in our community. Theirs was the first house built when the community was nothing but a hay field and a bunch of trees.
Prior to moving to the community, Euzebe was a farmer in town. This was before the United States set up an airforce base in the area. When the army came to town, all residents were forced out of the area. My great grandfather was given $25 per acre for his land, take it or leave it. He took it.
Forced out of the farming business, Euzebe tried something different. at 32 years of age, and with six children, he went into the convenience store business. Knowing virtually nothing about this particular venue, it wasn’t long before Euzebe gave it up and went back to farming. Since all the fine farmland was now paved and used for an airstrip on the army base, he had to set up shop elsewhere. He found a large parcel of land that the army had little use for, and the rest was history.
My dad said that his grandparents were the biggest tightwads ever. I guess that came from having it all, having it all taken from you, starting over, and struggling to make ends meet afterwards. Euzebe and Eunice had eleven children, so times had to be tough.
I remember when they were alive. They lived in the same house Euzebe built when they first moved here. The boards were rough, no doubt sawed by the man himself, and the roof looked like it would collapse at any point. The house was white with green trim, and the yard was surrounded with giant trees that must have been at least sixty years old. Out back there were hay fields where Great Grand Pap’s kids must have spent hours playing and working, and where he made the hay that fed his livestock that eventually ended up on their supper table.
I remember once, the entire community was up in arms. Apparently Euzebe and Eunice were involved in a car accident. Driving his very undependable Renault, Euzebe took a wrong turn and ended up flipping his little car, the two of them sitting upside down in the ditch. My dad was first to find them, and without panicking, he simply turned the little car over and they were on their way. People back then were tough. Nowadays they would be claiming whiplash and suing the Renault Automotive company.
The thing that stood in my mind most was Halloween. Going to their house was always a surprise. On one occasion, my great grandparents peeled oranges, and gave each kid a piece of orange, which eventually made all their candy a sticky mess. On another occasion, I received a big hunk of Duncan Hines Orange cake, simply dumped into my pillow case (we couldn’t afford fancy Halloween bags) and creating quite a mess in the bag.
My great grandmother died at the age of 88. Euzebe would see many more years.
In his later years, we would discover many things about the man. The first thing we discovered was that way back when the army claimed his land at $25 per acre, he really did receive a tidy sum of money. Some $80,000 dollars in the very early forties made him a rich man at the time. Still, he lived the life of a man with no money. Everyone wondered what he did with his money. Some of his younger grandkids thought that maybe he buried his money in his hay field, and many of them were found digging holes out back as the old man slept. Some thought that maybe he stuffed the money in his mattress. He came home once to find his mattress cut to bits, the thief making away with stuffing and maybe a cut or two from the old rusty springs in his bed. Nobody found anything to prove that he wasn’t penniless.
One day, the truth came out. It usually does. It was discovered, mostly by word of mouth and other gossip, that Euzebe had a secret. A secret so secret that even his beloved Eunice knew nothing about it. Euzebe had another family in another community. It had been rumored that he sent all his money to this woman to care for his ‘other’ family. He bought her a boat so that their kids could earn a living as fishermen, an occupation quite satisfying in outport Newfoundland at the time.
I met one of the kids once. He looked like a carbon copy of my grandfather. Same age too. The old bugger lived a double life, one with my family and the other with his other family. Of course he couldn’t be questioned about this at the time. At 99, he developed a form of dementia, forgetting almost everything he had ever done or learned. At that time, the family voted to put him in a retirement home.
There are still stories about his time in the Long Term Care Center. Apparently dementia didn’t stop his sexual urges, and at the ripe old age of 100, he could be seen running around naked, chasing pretty nurses. The old bugger!
Euzebe passed away not so quietly at the ripe old age of 101, the same age that his dad was when he died, and the same age that his father in law was as well. He lived a life filled with adventure and worry and everything that went with it, and left us with so many questions…any other families? The old bugger as mom always called him.. Go figure!