The view from here -
Aunt Cassie is 90 years old today. Please don't refer to it as 90 years young. That's inordinately silly and quite obviously wrong, and it bugs me every time I hear it. Aunt Cas is as young as they come for any age, but she's still 90 years old. Get over it! She has!
Today is May 22, but you are reading this much later, and now it's too late to call and make a big deal of it.
On the other hand, she may still be happy to hear from you. Or she may be even happier if she never hears tell of you again. Aunt Cas isn't really that kind of person, but most of us have people like that in our lives. I, myself, have two dozen or more. They play hockey for the MontrÉal Canadiens.
Isn't age an interesting thing? While I was still in university, someone asked me how old my parents were. To me they were teetering on the brink of advanced old age. But when I told this person they were in their middle 40s, the response was, "Gosh! They're still young people!"
What a peculiar attitude, I thought, and believed that right up until the time I was in my 40s myself. Now I have daughters who are touching 40 and to me they are still children. To me, I am still young. Other Half may feel differently about it.
My Aunt Cas is unique. She was married to my mother's brother, Uncle Joe, and enriched my life more than she will ever know. Everyone has a few people in their lives like her, if they're lucky, and I was fortunate enough to have several.
I can't name them all because I'd miss someone who always thought he or she was that kind of influence in my life and they'll be royally peed off and never speak to me again. That could be a tragic loss. Or not.
The day Uncle Joe hauled Aunt Cas out of Cook's Harbour was a lucky day for him. You know this eHarmony crowd that matches people on the basis of their compatibility? These two would never have been paired up.
Uncle Joe was quiet and had that kind of silent strength people come to lean on. Aunt Cas could talk a mile a minute and still have enough time left to read a book. She was all energy and movement and gave the impression she could handle anything or anyone. I never once saw evidence to the contrary.
Most summers of my childhood and teenage years were spent in St. Anthony. I spent most of my time in her house and that of Uncle Doug (my mother's younger brother) and Aunt Naomi, just across the cove under the Gully Bank.
There wasn't a moment in all those years that I didn't feel at home or welcome. They must have been really good at hiding their feelings. Really good.
St. Anthony, for me, was largely those two houses, especially in my younger years, because that was where I always stayed and visited other relatives from there. The Smiths were always good as gold to me, too, but my Penney relatives had something they did not - The Old Black Cat!
The Old Black Cat was a punt left over from their fishing days that I came to regard as mine for July and August. She had a black outside, but I don't know if that was black paint or a mixture of paint and tar to cut down on the amount of water that was always streaming in between her planks.
I have no idea where she got her name.
I have had many beautiful moments in my life, but among the best were the days spent in The Old Black Cat stabbing flatfish in the cove and feeding them to my uncle's dogs, penned up for the summer. When I was older and working on the Grenfell Mission for money enough to return to university in the fall, my golden moments in St. Anthony usually took place later in the evenings.
I wish I could get to St. Anthony more often. It was the birthplace of my parents and my sister and me. And although it's been more than 60 years since my father got called by the spirit to wander off to preach to those in dire need of the Good News, I still have a soft spot for it.
Someone thought those people were in "dire need" of the gospel. The other night, a friend and I identified six (if you include me, six and one half) ministers to come out of that town. And that's not counting Anglican clergy, Roman Catholic priests, Salvation Army officers and Pentecostal pastors. Perhaps others.
That's not a bad contribution to the salvation of the province. There are those unkind souls who might suggest that some of them would have been better off staying home and contributing to the salvation of St. Anthony, but I'm not one of them.
My United Church first cousin, for example, plays organ for the Anglicans, the church Aunt Cas is still active in. My other cousins are, well, somewhat supportive although I'm not quite sure of what or who.
Nevertheless, I'd put my crowd in the greater metropolitan area of St. Anthony up against the saved of any other community in Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, most of my crowd, anyway. There are one or two I'm not quite sure of. Relatives by marriage, of course.
I intended to talk about Aunt Cas and her birthday, but I sort of got sidetracked into the larger subject of St. Anthony. Truth is, the two are inseparable for me, especially as a young boy, because of the two houses below the Gully Bank. She lived in one of them.
Bless you, Aunt Cas, and thank you!
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is email@example.com.