Diana, my father’s sister, was always the unappreciated or misunderstood person in the family. Like her sister, Léda, she never married. I remember that most of the discussions she had with my father turned into arguments. She always said that life never favored her, and my father, tired of hearing her whine and complain incessantly, started calling her “Diana Lamenteuse” (Lamenting Diana) – the misunderstood.
She lived like this throughout her life, feeling persecuted and talking only about her diseases, sicknesses, and ailments, real or imagined. Others unnamed in the family also have these hypochondriac tendencies. She needed someone’s help, but we didn’t talk about such things and neither psychiatry nor psychology were in vogue. Everyone kept problems and issues to themselves in those days.
Today, she might have found help. Diana never got along with anyone in the family but especially not with Léda and Delphis. Their whole lives they fought like cats and dogs, which is too bad since they might have been more individually successful and happier had they cooperated with each other and not feuded.
Without a doubt, the biggest, longest lasting fight ever between my father and Diana was over her meat pies (tourtières). This dispute lasted a long time and fueled years of fights and bad blood between brother and sister. With all my power of memory, I’ll try to remember this saga as repeatedly retold to me.
After visiting Diana in Issoudun, my father received several meat pies to take home. Delphis must not have liked Diana’s cooking because on his way home, he threw them out the car window into a snow bank, just like a Frisbee (Freezbee).
I can see Delphis doing it, flinging the pies into the snow with no hesitation at all. He was not a man who held back his feelings. Sometimes, he did not care about the consequences of his actions.
Spring came, the snows thawed, the snow bank melted, and Diana’s tourtières reappeared. One of her neighbors found them and brought them to her. Outraged, Diana swore she would find the guilty party (or parties) and bring them to justice for this premeditated, heinous, crime against her cooking.
Since my Tante Marie had been in the car with Delphis, Diana didn’t have to search long to find the culpable party. Once again, it was her hated brother, Delphis.
Diana was always a big believer in natural products. Today, she would be running a natural foods and products store. When you visited her she always had something drying, be it in the fresh air on a line or in her oven, be it apples, bread, or some mysterious herb.
At the beginning of the colony, when there were no real doctors, this is how people nursed themselves, with plants found “in the wild.” My father also foraged through forests and fields, looking for particular herbs or plants.
One day, my brother Denis made fun of my father’s martel which he would gather up, dry, and drink in a tea. He told us that it lowered his “arterial blood pressure.” He had as much confidence in his tisanes as he had in the chemical compounds and pills his doctor provided him, if not more.
One day, Diana decided to try her hand at making dandelion wine. Gilles, my brother, who was still drinking then, was one of her clients. When his wine order was ready, she would send him a letter telling him his “ketchup” was waiting for him and ready for pickup.
In August of the same year of the tragic aircraft disaster, Diana decided to put all of her possessions up for sale and move out of Issoudun. For a small, backwater village like Issoudun, it was big news, a huge event, since the town knew her character well. No one wanted to miss the chance to go through her possessions and knick-knacks.
Diana shadowed the auctioneer she had hired to sell her worldly goods, just to make sure that everything went along smoothly. The auctioneer wanted us to put her stuff together into lots, so he could get bids and finish quicker.
Diana pouted and sulked at his proposal since it wasn’t her idea. Thinking that things were not moving fast enough, she decided to sell everything in one big lot, and started to go through all the items in the piles, rearranging things while telling no one in particular the benefits of each item. Listening to her talk about the stuff would have taken a week.
She did not appreciate someone’s low bid for some of her intimate objects, like her bathing suit, her chamber pot and some underwear, bras, panties and the such.
Diana was in the habit of aggregating things, no doubt from a childhood where she often went without. It’s not something I do myself, but there are several in the family who exhibit this same trait, prone to buying things at flea markets.
After the auction, we had to listen to her complaints about theft, especially the theft of her mannequin. We found out a few years later that it had been the petit Fric who made the mannequin disappear, burning it in a field.
After attempting to liberate herself from her worldly junk, she sold the house in Issoudun, and moved Québec City, on the Rue Marie Bourgeois. Soon after she settled in, Maman and I paid her a visit and realized that in spite of the auction, she had still accumulated a large amount of other junk, odd and irregular objects, old clothes and shoes, stuffed in cardboard boxes, leaning up haphazardly against the wall.
The second time we visited, she was not in the best condition. This did not keep her from spouting negative and incoherent things about absolutely all things – especially my father, who by this time was long dead.
She would tell me stories of times past, of her life as a youth. She felt that some people in the family visited her just to ask for money, and this didn’t surprise me knowing the nature of some of the people in the family. I often stopped and shut down her monologue by telling her to let my father sleep quietly. In time, I broke off all contact with Diana, choosing not to associate with her.
July 1, Canada Day, is a traditional “moving day” in the province of Québec.
Diana often moved from one apartment to the next. She always needed help packing up and transporting her boxes full of stuff. It was not an easy job. The cousins would volunteer their time to help her, not driven by charity or good heart but by pure, monetary self-interest.
Even with this service rendered, Diana was never happy, she still complained about everything. After the cousins came home from their chore of helping her move again, we had to hear talk of their time with Diana, which was never flattering. Everyone had their fun searching and sorting through the contents of Diana’s many boxes.
Diana would always tell my father the same thing – she was going to bury them all. It would always set him off to hear her say it. In July 1994 – after 89 years and 10 months, it finally happened. Diana passed on, outliving her sister Léda by twenty years and Delphis by thirty.
True to her word and constant predictions when alive, she did bury them all. Since she was the last of my father’s generation, I made a point of going to the funeral. This permitted me to live through some very peculiar moments I saw behind the scenes.
Before her coffin showed up behind the church, Cecile, my wife, asked Ti-Marc where he was going, why he wasn’t going to be a pallbearer for Diana’s casket.
Ti-Marc said something like “The bitch, let her walk to her plot!”
«La chienne, qu’elle marche pour se faire enterrer.»
This was an interesting comment coming from someone who expected to be in Diana’s last will and testament.
Something was up.
After the funeral mass, Diana’s executor invited us all to eat at the Tour de Lobtinière, a local restaurant. It was well understood up front that we were on our own for lunch. Everyone thought that they would to read her will during the meal.
But the little cheat, estate liquidator, notary, lawyer, or whatever he was, sat silent eating, reading nothing. We theorized he was silent out of embarrassment. Her last will and testament was warped in some of the family’s favor at the other’s expense.
I felt they made us pay for the meal to see our reaction. How did we, the excluded, behave ourselves. Our side of the family was happy to pay for our own meal; it was worth watching the rest of the family eat like vultures over their carrion.
Midway through the meal, Laurent, my brother, dramatically pulled a green envelope from his jacket while loudly stating that he had just received his just due from Diana, his inheritance!
You could feel the commotion in the restaurant as fear crept into everyone’s eyes, as if someone had ripped precious treasure from their hands. Of course, he had inherited nothing. Laurent, of all my brothers, is the only one I know who could pull off a stunt like this.
This was classic Laurent. He was always the practical joker in the family and saw humor in absolutely everything.
Diana’s will unread at the restaurant, everything about it became even more secret and mysterious. I had to get some information, so I went to the notaries office to get informed and the details on the will.
I must have forced their hand and gotten someone’s attention. I was asking too many questions. The two ex-seminarians, Ti-Fric and Ti-Frac decided that something had to be done to stem my curiosity.
To execute their plan, the caught up with me where I was every Sunday morning, at the gym working out. They cornered me as I was showering and took me to the Restaurant St-Germain. This was a nice and quiet public place, where I could raise a fuss in isolation – no one would see nor hear us. What a great scenario! I only wish some other members of the family had heard the conversation.
The Ti-ti’s had worked to have a new will put in place by Diana after having her pass tests to verify that she was mentally competent by a social worker they hired. They pushed it, not allowing anyone to see her during the “assessment” period. They knew what they were doing.
The new will stipulated that a certain amount be left for charity with the rest being split up equally between Tante Marie and her offspring. No one from Delphis’s brood made it into her will.
A long list of names, appended to the will, detailed all from the eldest to the youngest under that branch of the family. When I read the list my first reaction was to blurt out that not even Diana was crazy enough to change her will to read as it read that day.
I think that the two emissaries were anxious to put this caper behind them – to finish affair. To this day, they have always been vague and evasive in their answers, only saying what their lawyers must have advised them to say.
Someone in the family told me that we should forgive people when they stray. I forgive them personally, but I can never forgive what they did. I’ve always understood that before forgiveness and redemption, you must admit guilt to the act, which they never did.
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