Yes My Dear

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - Harold Wal­ters Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com

“Yes My Dear” (Archetype Print Ltd.) is not hot off the press.

The book is 15 years old. I hap­pened upon it be­cause it was time to fil­ter Mis­sus’s wine.

We stopped at The In­side Scoop in New Har­bour and while Mis­sus made a bee­line for brew­ing sup­plies, I idly spun the book rack spin­dle and spied “Yes My Dear … the Life and Times of Joan Mor­ris­sey — New­found­land’s First Lady of Song.”

I tucked it among the pack­ages of fil­ters and wine-mak­ing para­pher­na­lia Mis­sus placed on the counter know­ing she’d love to buy me a book.

In her ded­i­ca­tion, the book’s au­thor — Joan Mor­ris­sey’s daugh­ter Deb­bie Mor­ris­sey Stafford — says, “This book is ded­i­cated to my mother’s grand­chil­dren. They never knew their grand­mother.”

Place a book­mark here while I speak of syn­chronic­ity.

Maybe it isn’t so much true syn­chronic­ity as an ex­am­ple of the spooky na­ture of in­ter­net browsers track­ing ev­ery move you make. Nev­er­the­less, I’d vis­ited Mr. Google’s house, keyed in Joan Mor­ris­sey, and tapped Go.

Two im­ages ap­peared broad­side of­fer­ing YouTube videos — Joan Mor­ris­sey and Joan Baez.

Be­cause Joan Baez was an old friend of mine — kinda — I open her video first. It was her ac­cep­tance speech at the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in­duc­tion.

At the time, Joan was 76 years old. Ad­dress­ing the au­di­ence, she opened with words to this ef­fect — “Some of you are too young to know who I am … sure, my grand­daugh­ter had no clue who I was.”

See where I’m go­ing, b’ys? Joan Baez’s in­duc­tion and Joan Mor­ris­sey’s story are both means of grand­chil­dren not only get­ting to know of their grand­moth­ers’ fame but also of ap­pre­ci­at­ing their grand­moth­ers’ last­ing renown. Any­way…

It’s been 40 years since Joan Mor­ris­sey’s sui­cide. If the world had been dif­fer­ent, if at­ti­tudes to­wards men­tal ill­ness and de­pres­sion had been less stig­ma­tiz­ing, Joan Mor­ris­sey — surely as a grande dame — might still be alive.

Joan Mor­ris­sey’s death was tragic but tragedy is not the fo­cus of this book. Mostly the book is a com­pi­la­tion of mem­o­ries. Deb­bie Mor­ris­sey Stafford asked her sib­lings, her ex­tended fam­ily, Joan’s friends and pro­fes­sional as­so­ciates to share their mem­o­ries. Us­ing those mem­o­ries the au­thor has pro­duced a book that sings her mother’s praises — as a mother, as a songstress, as an all-round en­ter­tainer.

Shame on me, I didn’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate Joan Mor­ris­sey’s place in New­found­land’s en­ter­tain­ment his­tory. Oh, sure, I’d heard her on the ra­dio singing “The Mo­bile Goat” and “The CN Bus,” and seen her in a num­ber of tele­vi­sion shows. But I had no idea of the im­pact she made on the lo­cal, and to some de­gree the na­tional, en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

I de­serve a smack.

Joan Mor­ris­sey’s en­ergy was awe­some — awe­some mean­ing likely to in­spire ad­mi­ra­tion, not awe­some as an ex­ple­tive at­tribu­tive, a word that con­trib­utes noth­ing to mean­ing but sug­gests the strength of feel­ing of the speaker.

Ex­ple­tive at­tribu­tive!

Yes, for frig sake, b’ys, you know I looked that up.

Joan had a house full of young­sters that she man­aged to look after, along with work­ing full-time as a ca­reer en­ter­tainer. All that, of course, while qui­etly strug­gling with de­pres­sion caused partly — well, truly, who knows what causes de­pres­sion? — by chronic heart prob­lems.

Here’s my favourite vi­gnette from the book.

At the time, Joan lived in Long Pond, scrub­bing the fam­ily laun­dry in the pond’s own muddy wa­ter … life was hec­tic.

Daugh­ter Bev says, “I was young and was al­ways run­ning off so when mom went in­side the house she would at­tach or tie me to tree.”

B’ys, lodge right and wrong on the shelf for a minute — can you pic­ture the car­loads of so­cial work­ers con­verg­ing on Long Pond to­day in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion?

I laughed out loud at the con­clu­sion of Bev’s fond mem­ory: “My sis­ters even now rem­i­nisce and joke about how mom would hang a pork chop around my neck so the dogs would play with me.”

Here’s an odd bit of trivia. Joan (Learn­ing) Mor­ris­sey was born Jan. 27, 1933 but her birth was not reg­is­tered with Vi­tal Sta­tis­tics un­til March 10, 2003. Fig­ure that one out.

Think about this. At 77, Joan Baez has re­cently re­leased a new al­bum — “Whis­tle Down the Wind.”

If the world were dif­fer­ent … who knows, eh b’ys?

Thank you for read­ing.

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