Downhome magazine only has space for a mere fraction of the great stories sent to us by readers. Luckily, they're all available here. You'll find fond reminiscences about the past and personal experiences to which we can all relate.
The Easter Bunny called Mr. Bayly! (Ma Bayly Saves The Day!) Ma Bayly stood by the kitchen stove carefully removing the hardboiled eggs from the steaming pan and placing them into a large pot of cold water. Next would be the setting of the special 'Easter Egg Table,' a time-honored tradition in Ma Bayly's house. First came the plastic table cloth with Easter bunnies frolicking all over it, next the paints and paintbrush sets, with jars of water to rinse off one colour before choosing another, ... click to read moreMa Bayly stood by the kitchen stove carefully removing the hardboiled eggs from the steaming pan and placing them into a large pot of cold water. Next would be the setting of the special 'Easter Egg Table,' a time-honored tradition in Ma Bayly's house. First came the plastic table cloth with Easter bunnies frolicking all over it, next the paints and paintbrush sets, with jars of water to rinse off one colour before choosing another, and a big pile of bits of old cloth to wipe brushes and hands alike. Last, but certainly not least, a huge plate of Ma's homemade Easter cookies, each with a tiny candy Easter egg baked into the center, and a mug of cold milk for every child.
The grandkids and their friends would be arriving soon to undertake the very serious business of painting their faces on the hardboiled eggs. Once the artists were satisfied with their masterpieces, the eggs were very carefully placed in the empty egg cartons to dry and left with Ma Bayly, who assured the children the eggs would be kept under lock and key until Easter morning, when they would be judged and prizes awarded for the best faces.
After Church on Easter Sunday, there would be the community Easter Egg Hunt down at the park next to the Community Hall. There would be live entertainment of Newfoundland folk songs performed by talented local musicians, sandwiches and cakes brought from home by the folks in town, and plenty of hot dogs and ice cream for the kids.
And so it was almost Easter again in Ma Bayly's beloved community where everyone's house had a "Welcome" mat at the door and everyone was family.
Everything should have been glorious, for it usually was in Newfoundland's picture-perfect fishing villages in spring, but Ma Bayly's heart was heavy. Her grandson, Stan, had safely returned from Afghanistan last Christmas. That is to say, he had returned safely, apart from a below-knee amputation and the fact that, although his prosthetic was the finest he could have and his physical rehabilitation was doing fairly well, he just wasn't himself.
The doctors called it post-traumatic stress disorder. Ma Bayly called it heart-break disorder for the agony it caused poor Stan and the gut-wrenching helplessness it caused those who loved him and couldn't, just couldn't help him, no matter what they did or tried not to do.
Even though Stan's parents, Billy and Jean, had returned home from Alberta after Stan's return at Christmas and bought a house with a large piece of land, then quickly had a fully-equipped 2-bedroomed bungalow built on the property for Stan, he had flatly refused to move from Ma Bayly's parlour and spent his days sitting on the couch that was also his bed, flicking through t.v. channels, refusing to eat, unable to sleep and jumping at every little sound.
Eileen, who had been Stan's intended before he went to serve his country had had to slowly build up her life again with Stan. At first he had pushed her away, telling her he wasn't the man she had said goodbye to, so proud and sure of himself in his shiny new uniform. She told him over and over that she loved him now as much as she ever had and she would love him until the day she died. But still he pushed her away. "You don't want to be stuck with an invalid, Eileen. Off with you now and find yourself someone better."
He broke her heart and she lost so much weight she could hide behind a lamp post. But still she came, every day, to be with her Stan, even if it meant putting up with hours of silence with him just staring at the t.v., or losing his temper and telling her to just leave him alone.
Slowly, the love they shared won the day and they became a couple again, but only the shadow of a couple they had once been.
On a good day, she could persuade him to take a stroll down the lane to see the new spring flowers and, although she linked his arm as she always had and would reach up and kiss him on the cheek as many times as she dared, he would be constantly looking around warily, suspicious of every little noise, feeling exposed in the open with nowhere to hide, always watching his back. He had a morbid fear of any kind of crowd, and a crowd to Stan was more than 4 people walking towards him. Finally, he would snap, "I want to go back, let's go back!"
It was as if a switch had been turned on when he was serving abroad and he just couldn't turn that switch off.
Ma Bayly dutifully took Stan the pills prescribed by the doctor with a glass of water to wash them down. At first, Stan took them, albeit grudgingly. Then one day he just point blank refused. Ma enlisted the help of Stan's parents, Billy and Jean, and of course Eileen. But to no avail. According to Stan, all the pills did was make him feel drowsy and less alert and he was adamant that he needed to keep alert at all times.
Ma thought her heart would break. Poor Stan. Nobody could know what he had been through and he was unwilling to talk about it.
Ma contacted the people in the army whose job it was to help lads like Stan and they offered Stan counseling with an army psychiatrist. That night, Ma gingerly broached the subject with Stan. Huge mistake!
"I'm not crazy grandma! I don't need any army quack poking around in my head!"
So that was the end of that.
Eileen was looking more pale and wan than ever and Ma took her under her wing as well, but there was no helping Eileen until she could help Stan.
Billy and Jean visited every day to try to persuade their son to come home. They called every night to wish him a good night and tell him they loved him. But there was just no moving him from Ma Bayly's side. It was as though deep inside him, through all the hell and fear, she was his one beacon of safety, his one connection to life as it had been before he went away. Inwardly, he was fighting with all his might to find his way back, but he just couldn't reach the hand he knew Ma was desperately stretching out to him.
Two weeks before Easter, Ma could stand it no longer. She only had one idea left to help Stan, but she would have to do something she promised herself she would NEVER, EVER do. She would have to grace a computer with her presence. She decided to go, (oh what did they call it), 'on line' down at the local library.
Now, the local library was a tiny room housed at the Town Hall, and Alice, the Town Clerk, would welcome anybody who wanted to use the computer, whether or not the library was open. Alice would never turn anyone away. Well, when Ma Bayly walked into the Town Hall, Alice took one look at her face and knew something was seriously wrong.
Before Ma could even speak, Alice decided this was a good time to take her lunch break. She turned the sign around on the entrance door (Gone to Lunch) and turned her attention to Ma. Ma knew that whatever was said in Alice's office stayed in Alice's office, the trust was rock solid, so she knew she could let rip and share her burden with Alice. A brief conversation ensued, not many words were needed for the 2 women were cut from the same Newfoundland cloth.
Minutes later, Ma sat in front of the computer in the library while Alice gave her the basics, in plain English, about the workings of the dreaded contraption.
"No wonder the world's going to rack and ruin," was all Ma could say to hide her nervousness at pressing the wrong buttons.
Alice left her to it and re-opened the Town Hall and sat in her office, one ear cocked towards the library for any sounds of distress signals.
Finally, pile of papers in hand, Ma walked into Alice's office and Alice made phone call after phone call. Ma's searching eyes never left Alice's face and every time Alice put down the phone on another dead end, Ma thought she would go quietly mad.
There was only one more number for Alice to contact and her hands were trembling as she made the call. She couldn't look into Ma's face, the face of sheer desperation and just a shred of hope left. How could she send Ma home without even that shred of hope.
But this time the phone conversation went on a little longer. Alice asked more questions and seemingly got more answers. Then Alice looked Ma in the eyes and smiled, "You'd better take this one Ma," she said, handing the phone over to Ma before taking a tissue out of her pocket and diplomatically leaving the room, wiping her eyes as she went, to 'tidy up the books' in the library, while Ma poured her heart out to the person on the other end of the phone.
Three days later Stan was sitting in his room at his grandma's house, listlessly flicking through t.v. channels. Ma, Eileen, Billy and Jean were sitting around the kitchen table in silence, waiting.
Finally, there was a knock at the door. Ma crossed herself, Jean grabbed Billy's arm and Eileen all but burst into hysterics out of sheer panic.
As Ma walked towards the door, she sighed and sent up a silent prayer, "Please God, please make this work."
On opening the door there was a tiny little woman with a HUGE black dog! Ma's jaw dropped. How would it fit into the hallway, let alone the house?! Apart from its size, all she could focus on was its drooling. She'd have to mop the floor if it didn't stop.
"Mrs. Bayly?" asked the pipsqueak of a woman. (How did an elf of her size keep such a massive dog in tow?) "I'm Kirsten and this is.... well, I think it's best if Stan names the dog, if all goes well."
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Bayly. Come in, come in!"
Thank goodness Stan had his door closed and the t.v. up loud.
Well, when Kirsten and the massive Newfoundland dog walked into the kitchen, Eileen slapped her hand over her mouth. Billy and Jean stared at the dog with eyes like saucers and mouths agape. They didn't know what to expect, but a dog the size of a horse was not it!
It was obvious the dog was friendly, gentle and extremely well trained. Kirsten simply said, 'Sit,' followed by 'Good Boy,' as the dog obediently did as it was told, still drooling like a water leak.
A quick discussion took place. As Ma had learned over the phone, Kirsten represented a program that rescued animals from abusive situations or shelters, then cared for them and trained them to become service dogs for people with disabilities of all kinds, including veterans returning with both physical and psychological war wounds.
Kirsten gave Ma a handful of brochures and a list of contact information. Apparently, there would be someone coming to the house three times a week for a month to help Stan and the soon-to-be-named dog get to know each other and each other's needs and capabilities. Both Stan and the dog needed to be trained in each other's ways.
There was only one more thing to do now and frankly even Ma was quaking in her boots as she dreaded Stan's response to the plan that had been hatched for him behind his back.
Kirsten looked at Ma and whispered, "Courage Mrs. Bayly...courage."
The 3 of them, that is Kirsten, Ma and the dog, walked to Stan's door and knocked. The t.v. volume went down. "I'm sleeping," came a surly voice from the other side of the door.
Ma looked at Kirsten, who looked back at Ma and down at the dog, who looked up at both of them and decided to take matters into his own hands or they'd be standing there all day. He pawed at the door and whined very loudly. The t.v. promptly went off as Stan sat there, wondering what on earth was on the other side of the door. When the dog barked, there was nothing else for it. They opened the door and in trotted the huge black dog, leaving a trail of drool all the way to Stan and, on reaching him, promptly sat down by his side and looked up at him with smiling eyes and a big pink tongue lolling out with pleasure, as though Stan was the one person he'd been waiting for all his life. For the dog, it was love at first sight.
Stan's face was an absolute picture of frozen shock. The dog barked at him and promptly laid a huge paw on his bad leg. Ma held her breath. Stan stared into the dog's face and, despite himself, grinned. So engaging was the dog, that Stan forgot about everyone else and said, "Well who in God's Green Earth are you?!"
The dog whined and barked and drooled before putting his front paws on the couch, reaching up and licking (aka slurping) Stan's face. Stan said, "Urgh," and wiped his face, but at the same time laughed (and I mean actually laughed) for the first time since anyone could remember. The more Stan laughed the more the dog kissed (aka slavered) him.
Kirsten took the reins from here and Ma left her with Stan and the dog as things were explained to Stan.
Of course, everyone sat in the kitchen listening to every word and when the final crunch came, i.e. did Stan want to commit to entering the program, everyone held their breath until Stan said, "Can he stay with me now? You don't have to take him back do you?"
Kirsten disappointed Stan when she told him she would have to take the dog back today and someone would bring him back in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the dog and him would have to get to know each other slowly, for both their benefits. But when she took the leash and tried to take the dog from Stan's side, it wouldn't budge.
"Come," she said as commandingly as she could. "Come."
The dog was not "coming" anywhere and he made it quite clear by placing a paw on Stan's lap and leaving it there. Both Stan and the dog looked at Kirsten as though this was a gun draw in a spaghetti western.
Kirsten knew when she was licked. With great dignity, she cleared her throat and asked if they could give her a minute. She walked out into the back yard and made a phone call from her cell phone. Minutes later she came back in and, to Stan's absolute delight (and the dog's), she said that although this was highly irregular, given the circumstances (i.e. if the dog wouldn't 'come,' there was no way she could fling it over her shoulder and carry it out against its will) the dog could stay.
She and Stan carefully went over the details and requirements of the program and Stan eagerly signed the paperwork. The dog barked and wagged his tail so hard he almost gave himself whiplash!
Officialdom out of the way, Kirsten smiled warmly at Stan and the dog, a match made in Heaven if ever she'd seen one, and wished them both luck in their future together. She explained that in a couple of hours someone would arrive and bring all the supplies they would need to get them started. A huge dog bowl for food (along with a huge bag of food), another bowl for water and a special vest telling the world what a special dog he was. Someone would be in touch in a day or so to set up the first training session for Stan and the dog.
All that needed to be said having been said, Kirsten left to a triumphant chorus of 'Thank you,' from everyone.
Ma reminded Stan to let the dog out to do his business. Thankfully, there was a fenced back yard.
"But grandma, aren't you going to help me with him?"
"Oh Stan me luv, he's your dog, I'm afraid you'll have to look after him." As she turned to leave the room, she said, "You'll have to think of a name for him luv."
Her heart skipped a beat of relief and happiness as he promptly yelled for Eileen. "Eileen, where are you? Come and meet our dog. We'll have to think up a name for him." Eileen's face lit up like a golden beam.
The dog was so humongous that she was a little afraid. She gingerly sat down opposite Stan and the dog, and almost shrieked when it came over to her.
"Relax Eileen, he's a gentle soul. He's more likely to drown you than bite you!"
When the dog placed his head on Eileen's lap and looked up at her, doe-eyed, she carefully placed her hand on his head and he let her pat him. She was lost from that point on.
"Well, what shall we call him Stan?"
"Well Eileen, he's going to be a Bayly for the rest of his days. No doubt about that."
The dog's ears pricked up at the word, 'Bayly,' and he sat between Stan and Eileen, looking from one to the other, eagerly awaiting their next bright idea.
"Bayly? Would you like to be called Bayly?" Stan asked the dog, who cocked his head to one side. The dog didn't seem sure. He barked and looked from Stan to Eileen, as if to say, "Now look here, I may be a Bayly, but I'm certainly not any old Bayly. I'm the one in charge of looking after you! I'm important!'
For reasons unknown, both Stan and Eileen understood and Stan said, "What about 'Mr. Bayly.' Does that sound better?" Well, he'd hit the jackpot. The dog barked, jumped up and slurped Stan's face and wagged his tail eagerly.
Ma smiled broadly as Stan and Eileen announced they were taking 'Mr. Bayly' out for a walk. She then rushed into the kitchen. She'd better have something ready for Mr. Bayly when he got back. A dog of that size wouldn't want to wait a couple of hours for someone to bring him something to eat. She warmed inside at the name they had chosen. It was a good name. She set about carving chunks from yesterday's beef roast and putting it in one of her big bowls, before filling another huge bowl with water and setting them down in a large space beside the back door.
Easter morning was, indeed, a sunny, happy affair. Stan readily agreed to judge the children's Easter eggs in Ma Bayly's kitchen and made a very good job of hemming and hawing and going back over each egg, with eyebrows knitted together in agonizing indecision, with Mr. Bayly matching him step for step as they both paced up and down the table scrutinizing each egg, finally announcing that they were all so good it was humanly impossible to choose, so they all must get a prize - a chocolate egg each!
Mr. Bayly lapped the whole situation up. The kids adored him and he obviously returned the feeling.
Later on, down at the Community Hall Easter Egg Hunt and community get-together, the whole town was gathered, enjoying the fun.
Stan told Eileen that they should go, but she knew he was only suggesting it thinking that she would enjoy it. She knew he wasn't ready for such a big crowd and all the noise, but he wouldn't be put off and so they set out for the Community Hall.
As they approached the crowd and noise, Stan, holding Eileen's hand on one side and Mr. Bayly's leash on the other, started to slow his step. Eileen said they should turn back. But no, Stan was adamant he was going to conquer his fear once and for all. However, Mr. Bayly had other ideas and, after barking up at Stan, started pulling back on the leash. His master was in distress and he could sense it a mile off.
Eileen spoke softly, "Stan, I'm not really that keen on going. I'd much rather the 3 of us take a nice stroll through the field together on the way home. The daffodils are beautiful at this time of year." Mr. Bayly was still pulling back on the leash. As far as he was concerned, this was not open for debate.
Knowing that both Eileen and Mr. Bayly were right, Stan agreed and the 3 of them turned around and walked away from all the hullabaloo.
Ma Bayly spotted them from the park and felt a sense of relief. She knew Stan wasn't ready, but at the same time she knew now for certain that, all in the fullness of time, she would get her grandson back.
As they walked, Mr. Bayly now content beside his beloved master, Stan suddenly said, "You know Eileen, Mr. Bayly is a bit big for grandma's house. Maybe I should think of moving into the place ma and pa built for us."
"Us?" Did Eileen hear him right? "Us?!" She turned away to hide her tears.
Stan continued, "I mean, it's a good-sized 2-bedroomed bungalow in a nice spot away from their house, so we'd have our privacy, and it's on a big piece of property, so Mr. Bayly can run around to his heart's content." He hesitated for a moment before turning to her and looking deeply into her eyes in a way he hadn't done for so long. "And we really have to start thinking of the future Eileen."
Well, if he hadn't been holding her hand I swear she'd have floated away on a cloud of sheer joy and love.
Ma Bayly stood with her friends, dishing out tea and coffee, along with a cheeky word or two when she felt it was warranted, for she had never been one to mince her words. "Get yer hair cut Jimmy Piercey, you look like a cave man," to a teenage boy she'd babysat since he was born. She was rosey-cheeked, as always, looking out at her community with complete, unconditional love.
As she soaked up the beauty of her surroundings, she looked out over the field at Stan, Eileen and Mr. Bayly walking together in the distance and, as her heart soared, she offered up a heartfelt prayer of pure gratitude to God that He had helped them once again.