The six offspring of a Vermont couple celebrate their parents’ devotion to family, religion, and a rigorous work ethic in this debut memoir.
When Jeannette and Bob Clavelle died two years apart after a marriage of more than 60 years, they had little of monetary value to pass on to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. But they left behind a rich legacy of love, honor, and strong family ties. Both parents—who were Roman Catholics—were descended from French Canadians who immigrated to Winooski, Vermont, in the early quarter of the 20th century. The American Woolen Mill provided jobs and security for the working class, and Winooski became a bilingual, French Canadian enclave. The siblings grew up surrounded by two sets of loving grandparents and within the arms of a tight community. Bob, who co-owned a grocery store, was an outgoing charmer. He was never wealthy but always generous. He also had a serious problem with alcohol for a good part of his adult life. The bulk of the narrative focuses on Bob and Jeannette’s later years, after retirement, when they began to endure the vagaries of old age. There are many trips to the hospital, the rehab center, and finally the nursing home. Although the workmanlike account is weighed down with details of illnesses, there are some touching passages that involve Bob tirelessly caring for Jeannette at home. The authors also pepper the memoir with some lighthearted anecdotes, such as Bob’s struggles with a computer his kids bought to keep him connected with “modern” life. He complained that his email wouldn’t work after he “set up” his passwords: “When I try to type them in, all I get is a string of asterisks.” The most heart-rending sections—and yet in some ways the most helpful to those who are dealing with aging family members—present the elaborate details of trying to ensure the well-being of parents who have been fiercely independent throughout their lives and now need the help of others.
This volume recording one family’s history should strike a responsive chord among those caring for aged loved ones.