A little girl in a family of many, she always had a sister or brother to play with. Growing up on a western Newfoundland farm wasn’t easy, but she had the love of her parents to keep her safe and happy. Running in the hay fields, playing with the dog, her homemade dolly under her arm, she was always the feisty one. Those were the easy years, probably the only easy years for poor Jeanie.
The family moved to a more populated area, thanks to the poor health of her daddy. From there, things changed. Jeanie was of age now and searched for someone to love her. At first she met a man who loved her to pieces, and she loved him, but something or someone put a wall up that separated the two. Her first chance at happiness gone forever. Then she met him.
They say evil comes in many forms, his evil was there for all the world to witness. His charm hid the ugliness that he carried with him, and she was swept off her feet. The two married in no time, because that was the way back then. No sex before marriage, or the Devil will get you!
Things weren’t easy from there. They moved into a small, dingy house that should have been demolished, but wasn’t. The roof leaked, the floors squeaked, and it lacked any sort of insulation. His controlling ways drove her family away, and he kept Jeanie to himself, when he wanted her. They were in the house only for a few years, and that was all it took to break her soul and her heart.
Four babies in four years, a boy and three girls. The boy was strong, as were two of the girls; the fourth wasn’t so lucky. It was cold that winter, and one morning when Jeanie went to feed the little one, she lay still in her crib. With Daddy out drinking, possibly waking up in the arms of another, Jeanie was found lying on the floor crying, a dead baby in her arms.
Her family intervened and took her under their wing, until he came home. No remorse for the fallen child, he blamed Jeanie for everything. Her fault the baby froze to death, her fault the others were nearly starving. He wasn’t concerned, his drinking buddies came first, and the little money they received from welfare wasn’t for Jeanie and the kids, it was for him and his buddies. Eventually his drinking and cheating ways ended the marriage, and he moved on.
Left with with a boy and two girls and no place to live, Jeanie depended on handouts from her family and a bit of welfare from the stingy hands of the government, poverty was her only friend. With a broken heart and no choice, Jeanie spent a lot of time alone. She found a friend in a box of cigarettes and a lighter, and spent many a night smoking her life away.
Bars and nightclubs were her newest friend, someone out there might actually be looking for a good woman who could love them, but she never found them. Instead, she found Richard. Oh, he was quite the bluff; that or she was naive, or both, but after a night of dancing and a short courtship, she was back in front of the minister, hand in hand with a man who loved her and her three children. A fourth child, his first with her, was born.
This time she had a house on the coast. A lonely, forlorn place where nobody knew you and the nearest neighbour lived miles away. This was where he kept her. No chance for her to attract anyone, no place for her to run. He worked away, and sent money to care for the kid, his kid. The others didn’t matter. One day the phone rung. It was a woman. Jeanie was confused at first, then hurt. The woman claimed that Richard was her lover, and that she was fed up with him leaving to go to the arms of another woman, even if she was the mother of his child.
They say a heart breaks only once, but Jeanie proved this wrong. She was ready to throw it all away, and she did. Years of moving from one shit hole to the next, she lived by her wits alone. Her kids had grown up and moved on, and she was alone once again. Maybe she drank and smoked too much, but who cared? Everyone had their life to live, why bother with someone who has given up on God, and on herself as well? She never wanted to burden others, and she didn’t. And then she got sick.
The doctor warned her to quit smoking, but with a heart that was broken so many times, why heed the advice of yet another man telling her what to do? Years of abuse to her body left her in the hospital, after suffering a massive heart attack. Her ticker couldn’t take it anymore. The doctors performed surgery and she recovered nicely. A warning to quit smoking again was heeded, at least while she lay in the hospital bed; but that ended quickly afterward.
The heart attack actually brought cheer to Jeanie, as family and friends, and even her kids were at her side, in her hospital room holding her hand, talking about the ‘good times’ and supporting her. It was here that she seen some hope. She moved in with her brother, living in a basement apartment in the community where most of her sisters and brothers called home. She was happy again. Some freedom now, she found happiness didn’t depend on having a man at your side. She kept in touch with her kids, and their kids as well.
A grandmother! Who would have thought? As much as she celebrated her new lease on life, she knew it wouldn’t last, nothing did. A pain in her chest, she thought for a minute she was suffering another heart attack. She was wrong. This time it would be much worse. Cancer. Her constant smoking had brought on another curse. Her lungs were filled with tumors. The doctor recommended treatment, which made her sick and weak. With the love of her family behind her, she went through numerous radiation and chemo treatments that made her feel worst than the pain of Cancer, but she did it anyway.
It took months of treatment and even longer to recover from the radiation, but she pulled through. A talk from her doctor involved her throwing away the very thing that caused the cancer in the first place. She did try to quit smoking, but the habit and the addiction to the drug called nicotine overpowered her desire to stay healthy. She told others she had quit, but continued to smoke. A pain in her back a few months ago, a visit to the hospital, and news that wasn’t what she had hoped for put yet another nail in her coffin. He gave her three, maybe four months to live. She offered to quit smoking, maybe prolong her days, but he told her to smoke if she wanted to. Not only would it do her no good to quit now, but the pain from quitting might actually end her life even quicker.
Today she lies in a hospital bed, weak and dizzy from the drugs being pumped into her body. Cancer had spread into most of her body now, and its just a matter of time. Yet she seems happy now. She spent the last few days getting her affairs in order. Her kids and grand kids are here now, and so is everyone else who have supported her in the past. The men in her life are long gone, thankfully. They only hurt her anyway.
Just the other day, with her entire family standing around her hospital bed, she lay holding a cake that read “Happy 70th Birthday Jean”. She had a smile on her face because in this room, love was present. Love you Aunt Jean.