Eulogy for a Pointe Girl
Beatrice Nadolsky (nee Henley) 1935-2011
I am honored to be able to say a few words about my mother-in-law Beatrice Nadolsky. In thinking about what got us to this moment in time I realized that I have known Beatrice for nearly 40 years. In some ways, I have known her for longer than her sons, Larry, Gary or Richard, because they were just kids when Holly and I started out. Hell, Holly and I were just kids when we got married. You don’t really get to understand who are parents are until you have lived on your own for a while and can see them from afar. And to tell the truth I am not sure if the children of their parents can ever distance themselves enough to have an objective view of who their parents are as people. So as a family member but still being at arm’s length I hope to be able to touch on the true nature of whom Beatrice was and why we loved her.
I first visited Pointe du Bois in 1967 during our Canadian Centennial where I discovered, even then, there was something special about “Pointe” girls. Once I had my driver’s license at 16 I burnt up a lot of my high school social energy travelling out to “Pointe du Bush” to party with the Pointe crowd. Between curling, skating, canoeing, swimming in the current, parties across the dam or bonfires at eight foot there was always something going on and the Pointe girls were always up to the occasion. As for me, I always had a special Pointe girl in mind and a few years after high school my opportunity finally came. I married my Pointe girl.
The one thing I had to learn very quickly and get used to was that I wasn’t about to marry my girl and whisk her away. Holly was close to her mother and that was that. I knew from the start I wasn’t about to make Holly choose between me and her mom. I knew I had to take both or nothing. I adapted to “going to Pointe” every weekend and every holiday so Holly could be with her mother. Bea’s place was our place and Bea always made me feel at home treating me as much as an adopted son as a son-in-law. She couldn’t do enough to make me feel included and, for whoever knows how difficult I can be, Beatrice made it look easy. When I came out she always had a six pack of Coors Light for the weekend and my favorite homemade pumpkin pie for the holidays. For 36 years.
It wasn’t just me; she made everyone feel at home at Bea’s place. You were welcome to sit and have a drink and something to eat. Every occasion had plates of asparagus rolls, cheese whiz celery sticks, bacon buns, Holopchi, garlic Kobasa, peeled shrimp and cocktail sauce, pickled onions, canned smoked oysters, polish garlic dill pickles, egg salad sandwiches, cold cut ham, cheddar cheese squares, Old Dutch Ripple chips and onion soup sour crème dip.
And that was before dinner: butter ball roast turkey, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, bread crumb, onion and celery stuffing, Swedish meatballs, sliced honey ham, wild rice celery and bacon casserole, and of course the famous Bea’s (originally Nelly’s) potato and cheese perogies. And for after dinner; homemade apple pie, pumpkin pie, shortbread cookies, chocolate fudge brownies, and her omnipresent butter raison tarts. That was who she was. The host. The provider.
Where Bea lived a diverse array of friends came and went and was always welcomed at any hour. And you couldn’t come without having a drink. Bea didn’t believe tea or coffee was enough. To be “really” social you needed to serve something substantial. A good stiff shot to warm you up. It was at Bea’s place I discovered Pepsi wasn’t a soft drink – it was a mix.
I was always amazed at the constant traffic of friends who would show up at the house on the hill or the house at the end of the street, sit in her veranda, looking out over the little Hydro town, enjoy a shot of Golden Wedding, light a smoke and talk and talk and talk. Her friends were whoever felt comfortable walking in her front door and sharing a conversation, a drink and an hour of their time. Old man Art, Lloyd, Walter, Jean, Margaret and Bobby, Margit and Ronnie, Marie, Roy, Cathy, John, Johnnie, Margaret, Bev and Al, Irene and George, Florence, Teddy, Jackie, Joe and Alice, Irene, Chuck, Keith and Sheila, Leona and Albert. She listened to and consoled with them all at one time or other. Face to face she accepted you for who you were.
More importantly, she was always there as a mother and grandmother. She was as solid as a Pointe du Bois rock. You always knew where to find her. Maybe that was because she didn’t drive but maybe because she didn’t want to be anywhere else. In that sense, Bea’s place was the place we all went for not only Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, but the kid’s birthday parties. Monique, Robin, Logan, Cyan all marked their early years at Bea’s place with birthday cakes in the shape of Fred Flintstone or chocolate bunnies. And there were no favorites; she genuinely cherished all her grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) equally.
A mother first and foremost, if any of us needed a place to crash, or to wash our clothes, or store our motorcycle she made room. And if you needed to borrow money she’d give you everything she had. She’d clean out her bank account to bail family members out of trouble. Forgot to pay your mortgage, needed a new engine for your car, cash to buy groceries – no problem. And when you went to Bea she kept your financial problems a secret. Guilt free with no judging.
More than just “not being judgmental” she was fiercely defensive of her family. There was no dis’ing her boys. God forbid if an outsider said anything that might be construed as criticism of Gary or Richard or Larry. Even for me, who she equally defended, it was taboo to say or even hint that Richard might have played the wrong note or Larry sang off key or Gary was being overly sensitive. She defended her boys like a mother bear with cubs.
As for me, the guy who married her only daughter, Bea was my biggest supporter. I am sure at times she had her doubts with me being away so often and I am sure she didn’t like me taking her daughter away for long periods at a time but she knew our life was a balance between our desire to travel and our need to have a home. So often Bea’s place was our home. We had a place we could go back to.
I eventually bought our place in Lac du Bonnet so Holly could be close to her mom. When Logan was growing up Holly would take him out to Pointe for the weekend and I could stay at home and work on my projects. And when I was overseas Holly and her mom could support each other. It was how it had to be. I honestly believe Holly and I would not have made it this long without Beatrice being there for us. She helped us through the long tough stretches by giving us the center from where we could set forth from and retreat to when necessary.
But where Beatrice really excelled, however, was at being a friend and counselor. Actually she was more of a consoler. Beatrice’s place was where you could curl up on her well worn comfy couch, relax, upload all your troubles and not be judged. She knew how to listen and say just add enough to make you think she understood what you were going through. After an hour or so and few drinks you felt lighter. You felt unburdened. You felt like you better understood where you were at. And yet she would hardly say a word. In this world of confusion she was the touch stone. I was always amazed at how Holly, Gary, Larry and sometimes Richard could always be found at Bea’s. If you were looking for anyone in the family you could just phone Bea and either they would be there or they would eventually show up.
That was the Bea we knew and loved. But it didn’t occur to us that Bea was, for 44 years, also a Pointe girl who loved Elvis and Roy Orbison too. When Holly was phoning Bea’s “friends” over the past week (since her passing) she heard many stories about the early days when Bea was the life of the party. The party stories were based on just having fun; hanging out, drinking, smoking, driving around, house parties, New Years at the Hall, bonspiels at the curling club, boat trips up the river. That is how her friends from her Pointe days remember her.
For Holly that was a bit of a realization. Bea had a previous life. Bea may have been a product of her upbringing, her early years, her family, her social, but not always cordial, small town community circle, and her need to be always working at the Pointe Store or the Hydro Residence. But it was that “Pointe life” that defined her – it became who she was. Beatrice was one of the original Pointe girls.
In the end when she retired and moved back to Lac du Bonnet she may still have had her family and loyal friends but life was no longer a close knit shared community. I believe when the party was over and her family was grown up and self sufficient she decided it was time to quit. Bea wasn’t ready to struggle to the bitter end. She was tired. To some that may sound sad but Bea accepted that as her fate.
Beatrice’s death should not be about “why she died” or the “cause of death”, but rather about whom she was in life and how we remember her in the final days. At the end in the hospital she held Holly’s hand and whispered, “Let me go.” Holly was in the room when Bea slipped away. She went so quietly she didn’t even sigh. She lived her life selflessly and that is the way she went. She would want you to know she was ready. So let’s do what she wanted. Let her go. Remember her as the loving and generous person she was and celebrate her life by living yours.
(Eulogy delivered on Dec 23rd, 2011 at the celebration of Beatrice’s life.)
Winnipeg Free Press Obituaries “Passages” Beatrice Nadolsky
In lieu of flowers, a donation in Mom’s memory can be made to the Siloam Mission on 300 Princess Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba.