by Debby Frost
We called our grandmother Mommy Susie. We called my grandfather Daddy Bill. Dad was Daddy Jack and Mom was Mommy Renie. She was born Susan Margaret Ross in 1901 at Oak Point and married Bill Bowie. A formidable woman, she was married at 18 to a man who was 14 years older. She had one son, my father, when she was 20. She loved music and loved to dance. My grandfather played the fiddle and she would accompany him on the piano.
Mommy Susie always worked and was always busy at a time when not many women went to work. She was a midwife and delivered a lot of babies in Oak Point. She drove ambulance in the First World War. My grandfather used to work at the base and she worked right along with him. She cooked for several restaurants in town and always said the best tomato sandwich was made by someone else because it was a pleasure to sit down and have someone else make her meal.
My grandmother helped raise us seven kids as she got older because she lived with us and Mom worked. I remember when I was small, travelling around to the neighbours with her when we went to visit before we lived there. We would go to Donald and Virginia Ross’s or Tick and Meely’s and have a meal. Donald made really great homemade bread. Sometimes we’d go to a house party and they were great, lots of fiddling, guitars and stepdancing.
Mommy Susie was such a good cook. Molasses cookies always abounded in the buffet. There was usually sugar cookies too and cake. She cooked up a storm at Christmas time with gumdrop cake and fruitcakes. She used to make wedding cakes for people too. My father was a good cook too. He must have gotten it from her.
My grandparents were one of the few in the old days who had a car so if anybody wanted to go somewhere it was her they called.
In 1959, she was with my grandfather and some nieces on their way home from town and there was a bad accident. They hit the side of the Bartibog Bridge and went through it into the river. Everyone had minor injuries but Mommy Susie had a compound fracture of her leg. Daddy Bill splinted it until she got to the hospital but the bone had pushed through the front of her leg. She had multiple surgeries on it and at one point they wanted to amputate but she wouldn’t let them. After a year or so of casts etc. they fashioned a brace that went from her toes to her knee. She wore this and used a walker for the rest of her life. She learned to walk again with the walker and never let it keep her back. She had a stroke in 1960 and even though she lost the use of one side, she came back and made the most of the movement she did have. She learned to walk again, this time with the added burden of having a hand that wasn’t doing too good hold her up on the walker.
She lived with us at the base after she came home from the hospital. I remember I was scared of her cast (I was only 5) and so before I went into the room, we had a little game. I’d knock on the door and she would call out, “Who’s there?” I would say, “It’s the happy gang!” (From the TV show) and she would say, “Come on in.” While this was going on, she would hide her cast with a towel or blanket. We would then proceed to play cards. She taught me to play rummy. We played a lot of games of cards during that year.
My dad was in the Air Force and when we moved back from Bagotville, Quebec in 1967, we moved in with my grandmother. My grandfather had died when we were in Bagotville in 1965.
Every night she would climb on her hands dragging the bad leg up the stairs. One of us kids would take the walker up. She would unlace the brace and take it off to go to bed and put it on in the morning and make her way downstairs the same way she went up–pulling with her hands and body. Perseverance personified. She would not give in and sleep downstairs.
She never complained but she did get short tempered sometimes. I remember her being upset one time and she took off down the driveway and back the road. The road was muddy and her shoe stuck and came off the bad leg. She waited for someone to come and get her out and by then the temper was gone. Sometimes she would just go out to the garage and sit on a chair. Stubborn was a good way to describe her and that’s what got her through life.
She did for everybody. From the days when she delivered babies or when she drove the ambulance, to the days she cooked in the restaurant or when she drove people to town for their groceries. She was a member of the St. Anne’s Altar Society church group in Bartibog.
When we lived with her, she was crippled but still wouldn’t let it get her down. It was a familiar sight to see her sitting at the end of the table with a board wrapped in cloth, ironing. She still cooked some and loved us kids. She would do anything for us that was in her power. We were the usual children, good and bad by times. Trying her patience was one of our pastimes.
In later years she had another stroke and couldn’t stay on her own so she went to Mount Saint Joseph nursing home. By then she was in a wheelchair and was quick to say a word or two to anybody she knew, and she knew a lot of people. My son was a baby and my mom and I would take him to see her every Saturday and she would put him on her lap with pride and show him off to the other residents as she wheeled him to the fridge to pick up a dish of ice cream.
She was a kind brusque old woman, who grew from a kind hardworking young woman with many trials and tribulations along the way. Many people came through her life and nobody forgets her. We named our youngest after her in the hopes that she will have the strength that Mommy Susie had.
Born in Chatham, NB, Debby Frost has also lived in Oak Point and for the past 35 years or so in Barryville. She is a Provincial Registry Coordinator for Service New Brunswick and has worked in the Land Registry for 32 years.