Yesterday at 4:30pm my father took his last breath. He died peacefully surrounded by many friends and family. I’m so glad that so many people got to see him, as he was afraid of being alone.
We got the news just after we landed in Buffalo. Somehow, I already knew it. I had felt it. On the plane, I was drawn to writing stories about times spent with my dad.
Like the time I was helping my parents move from Kitimat back to Welland (about 5000km). I drove their RV with my dad as copilot and their two small dogs to keep us company and ensure that we stopped often for pee breaks. One beautiful sunny afternoon as we were driving along the North Shore of Lake Michigan, we stopped by a roadside stand selling smoked fish. We choose a nice package of fresh smoked white fish, then sauntered ofter to the gas station store and picked up a couple of root beers. We hopped back in the van and found a nice park along the lake shore, where we sat at a picnic table and enjoyed our smoked fish and root beer … it wasn’t smoked salmon and real beer, but hey, it worked. It was a special moment that sticks in my mind.
My dad was definitely creative at solving problems (especially when the reduced the amount of work/effort he needed to put into a task). He was forever creating a jig to do this or that. After moving to Welland, he created a system to get the wood pellets for the pellet stove from the garage to the basement that involved using the shop vac and a bunch of conduit.
Dad also really really loved to fish. I have a vivid image of a specific fishing hole. We walked through the woods for 20 minutes (or at least that is what I recall), to a large rock that created a whirlpool in the Kemano river. It was ‘the’ spot for salmon fishing. I was never any good at salmon fishing, but dad often caught large fish. I remember one particular day, where he kept catching sockeye – humpies we called them because of the prominent hump on their backs. They were protected, so we had to put them back. We continued to fish until we caught a coho or spring. I don’t know if we came home with anything that day, but that’s OK. It wasn’t really about the fishing.
Another fond memory I have is going out to the dump to watch the bears. I wonder if it was just to get us out of mom’s hair for a bit. Or something to entertain us, and keep us from fighting, while mom was at work. I don’t know, I just remember that we’d hop in the truck and go watch the bears at the dump. We lived in a very small stereotypical remote northern town.
I remember driving down from Sandifer cabin, and dad letting me sit on his lap and steer the truck. I recall there being on particular corner where he said, let me take it around this corner, as it is a long way down! We were driving along logging roads which had no barrier, and we were high up in the mountain.
And then there were the times we went sailing. In my teen years we owned a small 24 foot sail boat. We would go out for sailing / fishing trips. My brother would get annoyed because Mike wanted to sail the boat and dad kept making him spill the wind because the boat was going too fast for the fish. We would troll two lines behind the boat. When we caught one, all hell would break lose on our tiny little boat. My job was to ‘get the net’. The sails were moved to “hove to” so the boat wasn’t going forward anymore. Somebody had to grab the second line and bring it in so we weren’t trying to land two fish and so they didn’t get tangled. Landing a salmon on a moving sailboat is no small feat. The whole bout of craziness would take about 20 minutes, and then we’d release the jib and sail away again, and out the lines would go in hopes to catch another one.
I remember our first overnight trip on the boat. It is hard to imagine how we managed two teenagers, a large dog, and two adults on our tiny sail boat. We went out to Eagle Bay and anchored. I remember my father talking about the phosphorescence and checking to see if the anchor line would glow. Unfortunately it didn’t, and I didn’t discover the phosphorescence until I was trying to sink beer bottles off the docks at cadet camp (it was both cool watching, but also we found ourselves hoping they would disappear before the contraband was discovered!).
Those are just a few of the childhood memories that are popping through my head.
Feature image: A picture of my father taken shortly after we moved to BC in 1996. It was his first BC fish.