As we drive through communities on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, country music streams through the speakers in the truck. The view out the window is trees as far as the eye can see. It is a province of rural communities and few towns. Labrador is a ferry ride across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Rugged terrain and beautiful views. I can’t help but think about my dad.
He was born on a farm in 1937. His father was a lumberman and farmer, his mother was a teacher before she had her children. He was the oldest of seven children – six boys and one girl.
It’s funny what I remember about his childhood stories. He had a dog named Lucky and called his grandfather Papu. I remember a story he would tell my sister and I about playing in the yard while Grandma worked in the garden. He was upset because the baby chicks he put in the water barrel wouldn’t swim. I think I got mad at him for that one.
His hair was light blonde when he was young. That has always amazed me, because he had a full head of brown hair as long as I can remember.
Dad was most comfortable outside. He loved to hunt and fish, chop firewood. He had all the toys – ATV, ski-doo, and fishing boat. He loved to putter in his shed. His face was weather-beaten from years spent outdoors, both for work and for pleasure.
The lines beside his eyes grew deeper when he laughed. His fingers were crooked with arthritis and years of working bare-handed out in the cold. When he came in the house from working in the shed, he smelled of wood and grease. Sometimes it was WD-40.
In the late 1960’s, his work with Bell Canada took him to Labrador. This part of the country left its mark on him for the remainder of his life. I have so many questions for him now that I have witnessed the land and people first hand.
When did you come? How long were you here? Where did you work? Where did you visit while you weren’t working? Not earth shattering questions, I just want to hear the story of his experiences in Newfoundland and Labrador. To hear him talk about how it felt to be here. To better understand how his visit shaped him as a person.
It has been six years since he died. The sting and ache of grief for him have faded but in this moment, as we explore this beautiful province, I miss him very much.