Wednesday, September 7, 2011


         The family moved to a village near Montreal, called Nitro.  In many ways it resembled sleepy little Frensham, and the family was happy there, despite the hard life of near poverty.  Allan worked at night stoking furnaces, and attended classes at McGill during the day.  He graduated with a degree in English Literature about the same time as the Korean Crisis. By then another boy had been added to the brood. Perhaps because of his growing family he rejoined the army.
         We were moved to CFB Petawawa  (then called Camp Petawawa) where we lived for three years.  It was an idyllic place to be a child.  Mother was always happiest when she received letters from Korea.  Always they began with “Beloved” and ended with “Your adoring Pete.”
         Dad was typical of a career officer who has seen too much war – stern and undemonstrative with we children, but always loving with Mother.  He grumbled about the amount of food we ate, and we were dressed in second-hand or hand-me-downs for the most part.  There never seemed to be enough money.  Only now does it occur to me that he may have been supporting someone besides his family, or perhaps paying someone off.  We’ll never know, now. 
         And so our family grew, to finally include two girls and five boys.  We moved many times, never really putting down roots.  We older children left home as we reached adulthood.  Eventually our parents retired to Vancouver Island.
         Mother died first.  Dad moved to an apartment in Victoria, were he enjoyed life beside the ocean, as well as being close to the children who had also chosen to live on the coast, as well as s favourite grand-daughter and her boys.  Too soon it seemed his health started deteriorating.  Living with family members became problematic, and so he moved to an assisted living facility. 
         It seemed like a pleasant enough place, but that is where the real trouble began.  Because of his deafness he relied on his computer to communicate.  He began to receive amorous e-mails!  Why do you ignore me?  We were so close once.  You said you loved me.  I have followed you all over Canada.
          We were rather tickled about this, but Dad’s reaction was grim.  He answered none of the messages, and became reclusive, drinking heavily.  He only ventured out with his walker to cross a busy street for more booze, or if a family member was with him.  He began to fall and injure himself.  Our upright, soldierly father was becoming a problem.
         Dad was eventually admitted to a veteran’s care home.  Now sober, he became courtly and cheerful again.  One day he shared with the family the story of his postwar fling with the red-haired nurse.  It seemed she had been the resident in the assisted living facility who had sent him those desperate e-mails.  We’ll never know how she had found our father in Victoria, or how many other times she found him as he moved around the country.  We never learned how long the affair had actually lasted.  Had it caused his moodiness, or his drinking?
         When Dad died a woman we did not recognize attended the funeral.  She used a walker, and left immediately after the service.  As my sister said, “If she catches up with him in the afterlife, where mother has already taken up residence, Dad will have a lot of explaining to do!”
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         And so the life that began this story has produced a living legacy.  Scottish on one hand, English on the other, many of our generation and the one following us, bear the family names that recall their long-ago owners.  And now two of the great-grandchildren have brought their Scottish and English great-grandmothers to mind, in the persons of Sinclair and Eileen.

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