Well, its been a year. And what a year its been. Its been the best of times, and the worst of times.

Many years ago I was pleased to agree when asked by Mabel and Ritchie, to act on their behalf should the need arise. Mabel developed Alzheimer’s so when she became unable to handle their financial affairs I took on that task. Then Ritchie needed help because as the sole caregiver he was exhausted. They managed for almost a year with two staff coming for five days a week. As time went on more staff was added until there were nine.

By July of this year Ritchie could no longer be responsible for the household. That meant that I had to be there, a lot, so they agreed to go to a nursing home. We chose St. Andrews so they would be near me. They arrived on July 21
st. Mabel died October 22nd and twenty-two days later, on November 13th Ritchie died. They had a wonderful life together doing just what they wanted. To only spend three months in a nursing home was a small percentage of their life.

My experience doing this for them these last few months by times was an overwhelming responsibility. When we had talked what the future might hold they wanted me to promise to never put them in a nursing home. My response was I could not promise that but I would promise to make decisions in their best interests.

The last three months with them handy to me meant that I could simply be their grand niece. Two moments stand out in my mind. For each it happened just the day before they died. The staff had phoned to ask “Could you come, they are agitated”. Yes. I went. With each of them at the end of the visit they patted my cheek . Those pats on the cheeks were the best gift they could have given me.

Group of Seven had a busy year. We met regularly and spent much of our time making presents for the gift bags for theThornton Family Reunion. We made jams, jellies, and shortbread cookies. Now some of you, who weren’t at the reunion are probably thinking I thought the Hastey’s are a part of this group so why would they be so supportive of the Thornton Family Reunion. Well, they just are but more importantly, they have been a constant within our family. When Maurice and Mum died the same year we started a new tradition of spending Christmas Dinner together. We had always spent Christmas night together in Rolling Dam. So… the Hastey’s were attendees at our Thornton Family Reunion and were affectionately referred to as the Non-Thornton’s. Every family should be so blessed to have such wonderful non-family.

The Group of Seven on the long weekend in August hosted the Thornton Family Reunion at the Algonquin Hotel. We had 94 people in attendance from all over North America. We had a meet and greet on Friday night and gave out the gift bags to each family. Saturday some went on a Sentimental Journey to Gleason Road and environs, whale watching, golfing and shopping. Saturday night was our banquet dinner and the kids had pizza and a movie.

Sunday morning we had our own church service at the Hotel including music with the newly formed Thornton Family Choir. Cousin JoAnn Dell sang a solo. Janet gave a homily tracing the family roots from Charles and Bertha (Graham) to present day.

Some had to leave for home but the seventy-two remaining joined us at 235 Queen for a backyard buffet dinner complete with tables and chairs. The children played games and cemented their friendships while the adults had another good visit. A good time was had by all. The nest is 2005 in Philadelphia. Can’t wait.

Real Estate this year was another highlight. Jeff would tell you that I had a strong conversation that we were NOT going to buy any more real estate…we were going to have some down time from acquiring. We had reached the age when we should be downsizing. Well, I will never hear the end of it as I raised the subject that I felt we should buy the family farmhouse in Rolling Dam. Oh, it is tough when you say we shouldn’t and then suggest we should. I did mention to Jeff that this was the first time that I had made the suggestion that we buy property. Just didn’t cut it with him. Hmmm…Anyway, to make a long story short, Irma and Eddie, were ready to sell and on May 31
st we became the new owners.

I have a special feeling for that house and we are both glad that we made the decision to go for it. Dad’s new neighbours are the prospectors for the Free West Mining Company who are searching for gold in the Rolling Dam area, more specifically, Clarence Stream. They are on the Internet if you want to learn more about the gold in them thar hills.

We’ve also inherited Mabel and Ritchie’s house. Mabel’s comment to me once was she didn’t think if was any gift, as she did not envy me the task of cleaning out a lifetime collection of things.

Despite what Mabel said there has been an element of fun to cleaning out the house. I’ve found wonderful letters that she kept from Uncle Lawrence during the War, notes from people to thank her for her kindness to them, notes from Sunday School students who adored her, and a collection of letters from Ritchie when she was in the US taking a hairdressing/cosmetology course. Those were precious.

It was the same with the house in Rolling Dam. Having a family history gives one a great sense of knowing who you are. It creates hope knowing that family has lived in the same place for over a hundred years. It means things like that the sun will rise tomorrow, it did for them, and it will for us.

When going through papers in each of these houses it was interesting to know just how much we are all interconnected. At Mabel’s I found connections to the Orr family, Dad’s mother’s family. At Rolling Dam were found connections to the Thornton family. In fact, it was an autograph book belonging to my paternal great grandmother Jeannette Mooney, Dumbarton 1881. In it is an autograph that reads: To Jeannetta – May flowers of love, Around thee be twined, And the sunshine of peace, Shed its joys o’er thy mind. Your loving friend, Bertha M. Graham, Dumbarton, December 28
th, 1882. Bertha is my maternal great grandmother. I wonder what they would think had they been at the Thornton Family Reunion to see what all has happened since that day.

Another biggy this year was the convention I co-organized with a friend from St. Stephen. Maria and I had known each other, superficially but I can tell you that has changed considerably. We’ve spent a lot of time together these last few months.

We organized the Annual Meeting and Convention for the Business Improvement Areas in New Brunswick which falls under the organization of Downtown NB. We had the largest turnout to date and to quote others “it was the best ever”. Our convention was organized for Marketing and Promotion and our themes changed daily to match the day…the first evening was “Getting to Know You”, the second- “What a Difference a Day Makes” and the last on Saturday morning, “I Will Remember You”. Frankly, I don’t think they will forget us for some time.

One usually volunteers to take on something like this and in 1999 Maria and I were sitting together and she swears I leaned over and whispered I think we should do it together next year and in a moment of weakness she said yes. I’m not sure who really did the leaning but the fun part was spending time with her. We are dangerous together, as we are too much alike. One egging the other on…we could do this….or how about that.

Thanksgiving the Howson’s and Uncle Ken joined us again. It is always such a treat to see them. You need close family like that to share some of our wonderful Mum/Marjorie memories. When Mum died Aunty had another couple of girls thrust on her. She’s a good person to be able to call when you need a second opinion on a variety of subjects.

Jeff’s family is not as big as my side but we did have a visit from his Aunt Rita (90) and her daughter Sharon for a few days. Aunt Rita is a real “card”. We had the family together one night for dinner followed by Aunt Rita sitting at the piano belting out tunes for a great singsong.

Aunt Ina , Rita’s sister celebrated her 93
rd birthday at Lincourt Manor. We packed a picnic lunch and had a great time with her. They are both wonderful role models for us all on how to get the most out of life. Their sense of humour helps!

Other news? Jeff’s cousin Carol visited again this year. We had a fun time together again this year playing tourist and chatting up a storm.

We didn’t get away this year for our trip to Ellsworth until mid-November. Jeff’s business was just too busy and things were hectic with Mabel and Ritchie. Jeff and I then snuck away for a few days to the White Mountains in NH. What views.

Dad keeps busy as usual with church, prayer group, his garden and the occasional foray to the woods. He keeps us supplied with fresh vegetables, picks our crops of fruit from our new property for us, to say nothing of the raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries that magically appear for us to eat. He spoils us. So much so that after almost twenty years of marriage my dowry of firewood continues. (I am beginning to think Dad wants to ensure that Jeff never returns me. I think Dad is thankful to be rid of me on a long term basis!!)

Blaine went back to the Algonquin this spring and will be through soon until it gets busy next spring. He continues to escape to his beloved Camp on the Digdeguash River, still weaves and volunteers for the Civic Trust and Cancer Society.

“Mady” is still the cookie and fish chowder queen. She again had us all for Canada Day for a chowder feed. She continues to volunteer for the Charlotte County Cancer Society and regretfully, is kept busy, as cancer is such a prevalent disease. Her shoulder she broke last year has mended nicely. Her health has its ups and downs. We keep encouraging her to use her Aunt Ina and Rita as role models.

Us? Jeff has been flat out busy with his business. (OK , I’ve been busy too.) He’s still volunteering at Sunbury Shores and is the Vice-President of the Legion. I have stayed for the third term as President for the St. Andrews Business Improvement Area (lots of projects I want to see completed). We’re glad we know how to read and write as a lot of times it seems we only communicate with notes left by the bathroom sink. Our other big chore we did this year was rewrite our wills. It took almost a year.

So that is our year. We look forward to hearing about yours. Our wish for you- good health, friends and family to enjoy and last but not least,