|Julie Belair with her granddaughter Yvonne, 1958.|
I get sentimental whenever I look at this photo of myself with my grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair. It’s only one of two pictures there are of us together. Julie was my beloved Mémère, the only one I knew, because my maternal grandmother Juliette (Beauvais) Desgroseilliers died ten years before I was born.
When I was a little girl, my family lived in a basement apartment, while my grandparents Fred and Julie lived directly above us in an upstairs apartment. A few years later, we moved two houses away, so we were still very close to each other.
I loved to visit my Mémère and Pépère in their modest one-bedroom apartment. I’d have a snack, explore yet once again the trinkets Mémère kept on her bedroom dresser, and sit by her side while picking out clothes for her for fun from the Eaton’s (or maybe it was Sears') mail-order catalogue.
Mémère Julie suffered for years from asthma. I still remember the day when, coming home from school one afternoon, I saw a delivery truck bringing an oxygen cylinder to her apartment. Later that day, I was allowed to visit her for a few minutes. How unusual the scene was to me. My grandmother was resting with some difficulty in her bed, a clear plastic canopy covering her. The room was dimly lit. I could hear the sound of the oxygen being pumped into the tent. I don’t remember if I spoke to her or if she to me.
I remember another occasion when Mémère was sick and had to go hospital for treatment instead of staying home. At that time, young children weren’t usually allowed to visit patients, but because it was Easter Sunday, we were able to see our grandmother.
One day in late winter of 1967, Mémère had a serious asthma attack and was taken to hospital. While getting dressed for school one morning, I noticed how sad my mother looked and how quiet my dad behaved. I asked Mom what had happened. She told me that my grandmother died the night before. My beloved Mémère would not come back home to us anymore.