Back when (“Back in the day of it”) I was just a puppy, there was so much information to take in. Stuff in the form of names, places and social structure… Ya, I know, back then I didn't even know what social structure was, but you soon learned your place in family and life. Those were different days. The time was mid 1950’s and the 60’s. I likely have shared that family was a fluid sort of structure that seemed to flow with the needs of individuals and community. There seemed to be a lot of coming and going in those days, including within the construct of our direct family. That is just the way it was then, but we all seemed to survive somewhat intact!
The one more stable area for us was the names of places. Sitting around the older men, and later to a certain extent the women of the area, we soon learned all the childhood haunts that became the memories we would cling to. They would float their way to the surface in later years as I happened to drive by them on our way home for a visit. “The Rock” was our first special place. It was nothing more than a boulder the size of 2 car tires piled on top of the other, but to us it was a tower from where we could survey life and wait for Dad to come home from work. It was located just over half way between us and Burns Oickle home on the Ohio Road. That rock shrank as we grew, and it was finally removed when the new road came through in the late 50’s.
Morine’s Brook, named for someone who I can’t remember, was one of the landmarks and a place to catch frogs and polliwogs… never large enough to really fish, but for me it was a whole new world to explore as I made my way west along its stream toward the river. To the east it ran up into the Blueberry Hills. Now that held for me a place of mystery, adventure and a never-ending opportunity for a new quest as the days of summer opened the door to spare time. You see, those so-called Blueberry Hills were filled with paths beat down over decades of use, by not only the ladies and children who roamed the rolling hills for blueberries, but the deer and before that the moose, who browsed on the young plants and hardwoods that dotted those barrens during that time. All the paths seemed to lead somewhere and the adventure was to find where… usually to a wood road or out to the Ohio Road’s entry point to the hills.
Two massive structures, one man made and the other natural, were out of the zone of activity for a long time, but oh how they called my name. Ipicca Mountain was a huge pile of cut granite which I believe was brought in when mills were being built, so that water could be diverted through granite raceways to power the mills and so on. Remnants of such a mill could be seen near this granite pile and that section of the river became one of my favorite fishing spots. There is now a wonderful set of rental cottages located near there and I know the owners value both the history and the beauty of the area.
The other natural structure was the Rock Mountain. It has a steep incline, but much to our joy it housed an old shed that was for some time perhaps a radio shack for early two-way radio, used by a cousin who lives in the area. Back then it had to be a secret adventure to climb the steep incline to the summit and there pretend that you were at the top of the world. Oh what a feeling … what a rush. Days spent in exploration between chores and time for afternoon and evening swims made summers the most exciting time of the year for us. Life was an adventure and bikes gave us freedom to go further afield and get there faster to afford us a lot more time to see and do it all.
My Dad came to the point where he needed help every day. My brother and I took that task on and gave our time and ourselves to see that he wanted for very little. Putting him to bed at night was for me the hardest part. He wanted to be so independent and put his pyjamas on by himself until near his 96th year. We would hold him upright so he could stand to finish the job and then get him tucked in, in that particular way he liked, and then with these closing words he would ask, “How long Edwin… how long?” It wasn’t the fact that he feared the end coming, it was the knowledge that it might go on too long and he was tired. He remembered home, he told short stories some nights about special places and he always said, “This is how I started out in life… in a crib with the sides up… I've gone full circle Edwin!” I tried never to cry, but would joke those moments away… that is how I handled Dad… I sometimes challenged his opinions and he never knew what to expect.
One day, as I was asked to give him a bath, I thought that I would come dressed in snorkel gear. At the last minute I decided not to, but told Mom about the thought that had passed through my mind. I found out later, I think after Dad’s death, that she had told him what I had planned and he said that he wished that I had gone through with my plan, so that we could have had another great laugh together. Life becomes an adventure and around the corners on life’s trip, there are so many to be had. Not all of them are comfortable trips, that we look forward to, but some become necessary and lend us both strength and stamina, showing us how strong the binds that ties us together really are.
Dad gave us boys a map to the future, but also a link to his past and that was more than mere paths through the woods. He gave us critical information that would keep us safe and likely never even realized what he was doing. He lived the life, from our perspective anyhow, that made sense; one of a responsible parent, citizen and believer. He wanted to remain true to it all and held it in balance as far as I could see.
I guess I may never be quite so successful, but I want to have been. We can spend so much time trying to make amends for failures, that perhaps we have trouble being part of what is taking place now. I guess my path lead me away, rather than towards stability of place and old haunts. We moved a lot and my call in life took me away when family life was really more important to them perhaps. But today I want to spend time with them and I for a time wondered if it would be more like the popular tune of the 90’s where the son wanted time with the father, but the dad had not time then. Later in life when that dad had more time and he wanted to spend time with his son, then the son’s life was busy and he had no time for his dad. So it is in the circle of life. Here are my Dad’s words to me back in 2000 after I had moved to a community just 30 minutes from home just 3 years before; “When are you going to move again Edwin?” Rather rattled I answered, “Why don’t you like having me around?”… His look was sad and he seemed for a moment longing for an answer, and this is how he finally voiced his thought; “I figured if you moved away, I might see you more!”
I now walk among those hills, along those brooks and climb those piles of granite rubble in my mind and realize that one day in the not so distant future … oh in perhaps 30 years or so, it will be my turn to look back from a different perspective. I too will have come full circle. The joy of the journey at this juncture in life for me, as I choose to take time, is the constant review of the little things that have made the trip thus far worth the taking. I try also to visualize those moments with mistakes, things I might do differently and then formulate what may be better done and given, so that my legacy to them will be as meaningful as that of my Dad to me. God gives us so much to give thanks for and we need to glance at the clock sometimes and see where we are on the timeline. No matter the placement in any one given moment, it holds for us opportunities to make a difference and in so doing we are being true to what "is life near the edge".
Note: Today has been a nostalgic moment for me in more ways than usual, as I celebrate another birthday very soon. A few days later my sweetheart and I will celebrate our 40th year of marriage. She figures that I owe her for over 40 years of haircuts now, and if I am going to live to be 100, I will never get out of debt, so I have decided to just keep on letting my hair grow and see what happens.
Be blessed! I am!