Huguette (left), Alice (center), and Rolland (right) are siblings who all live at Résidence Place Mont Roc, a retirement home in Hawkesbury. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)

It’s all in the family

Would you ever move back in with your brother or sister? What if there were three of you to live together?

That’s what happened when Rolland Séguin and his two sisters, Alice and Huguette, all moved to the third floor of Residence Place Mont Roc. Thankfully, they laugh, they aren’t all living in the same apartment.

“I call the third floor Séguin boulevard,” jokes Carole Thibodeau, the activity director and office coordinator for the retirement home.

Rolland, 90, moved to Place Mont Roc in 2011, five years or so after his wife died. Huguette, 82,  moved in February last year, and Alice, 86, moved four months after her sister.

“It definitely wasn’t planned,” says Rolland.

When I arrive, I sit in a luxurious chair—the kind only older people have—and we all have a glass of champagne in hand.

Younger days

Rolland, Alice and Huguette grew up in a family of seven children.  Their home was on Genevieve Street in Hawkesbury, right across from the Canadian International Paper plant, and all three worked there when they were young.

Huguette has early signs of Alzheimer’s, so her short-term memory fades quickly, but she remembers growing up in house that was always full of people. 

“We danced, we sang. I loved it because I didn’t have to go to bed,” she says. “But I’d still fall asleep in the stairs.”

She then breaks into song and the other two join in: “Prendre un petit coup, c’est doux.

The three reminisce a second about growing up in what seemed like a constant party.

“I don’t think that happens anymore, though,” says Alice. Huguette chimes in, “No, I don’t want anyone dropping by unless they tell me.”

When I ask why that is, she says, “I think people want everything to be perfect all the time, now.” Rolland adds, “We were always ready back then for anyone to show up.”

Growing up during World War II, Rolland was recruited into the army. He spent about eight months training in Shilo, Manitoba, but the war finished before he went overseas.

“You’re so brainwashed that you can’t wait to go to the other side,” he says.

“I remember when you came back,” says Alice. “Mom and I were painting in the living room, I looked outside and said, ‘Mom, look.’ Rolland was walking up the street in his uniform.”

Needless to say the family was ecstatic he was back.

Nowadays

The three go back and forth, adding to each other’s thoughts, agreeing, disagreeing, teasing—which is especially funny when they don’t hear it—they seem to forget Lise, Huguette daughter, and I are in the room.

The conversation falls on why they moved in.

“Well, we needed somewhere to live,” laughs Alice. Bundled in a blanket, the petite lady is quick to throw jokes and jabs to both me and her siblings.

“But you have to be ready,” she says of moving into a retirement home. Rolland agrees and adds you have to adapt once you get there.

“It’s much more social here,” he says. “If you’re waiting for the elevator and you see someone coming your way, you wait for them. You have to help each other out.”

Now Rolland says he spends his time zipping from Hawkesbury to Vankleek Hill and around—he still drives—playing bridge four or five times a week.

After more chatter and more chiding, we come to chat about family again. Huguette and Alice each have two children, while Rolland has three, and they say they all come visit frequently. And I ask what would happen if their kids wouldn’t visit as often.

“I don’t know how I’d react,” says Rolland.

“You spend most of your life with them,” adds Alice. “If they don’t come see you, there’s a big void!”

As for the three of them?

“It’s nice knowing we’re all here (Alice)… I really like it (Huguette)… We feel more secure (Alice)… Exactly, we help each other out (Rolland).”