We made it thru

26 05 2006

Last weekend we had the memorial services for Grampie and Uncle Walter. It wasn’t going to be easy, I, as the family eulogizer had double duty to perform. No problem I thought until I got to the end of Grampie’s. That’s when as my Great-Aunt Edith from Montreal said “You fucking cracked”. You can’t buy class like that!

Here’s what I said about them both.

Grampie’s Eulogy
There is a saying “Death is more universal than life. Everyone dies but not everyone lives.”
My grampie lived his life and lived it well. He may not have changed the world and he may not have made his fortunes but he still leaves us with a legacy that impacts on our daily lives. Grampie was born in Gabarus in 1919 but grew up here in Fourchu. He completed grade 8 and went to work with my great grandfather as a fisherman. In 1941 he joined the Army as a RADAR operator. It wasn’t until recently that he really opened up about what he experienced in the war.

Upon returning from the war in his words he fished with his dad every day and chased the girls every night. He then joined the Dept. of Fisheries and worked for them for 30 years. With that came even more stories. It’s funny to think now about all he experienced with that job. I was amazed to hear about the Fourchu Rammer and the shipwrecks and everything he saw and did. When he retired from the fisheries he opened his store which started as not much more than a little shack and soon grew to a “Superstore”.

When we were kids one of the highlights of the trip was always Sunday dinner when Grampie would come in with large grocery bags for Chantel and I to fill with candy for the trip home. It’s a wonder we have any teeth in our heads for all of the candy we ate down here. Did you know that Cape Breton candy would go bad if you passed the causeway. I’m sure that’s what I thought because it was always gone as quick as it came.

In retirement Grampie kept himself busy working his woodlots, fishing and hunting. He trapped up until his 70s and fished up till recently. I think that’s probably what I’ll remember the most is the times spent in the lake with him. The last thing I said to him was to “keep his line tight” like he had told me since I was a kid. He loved that lake and knew it like the back of his hand. Dad and I always knew we were in trouble Sunday mornings when the fishing was good and we would be coming home late and see Grampie’s truck at the head of the lake. Mom was mad and Grampie likely wondered if we got the big one from Northern arm.

On a good day he would have me call Truman or Bernie to let them know of our catch. I seemed to get more responsibility in Fourchu than I did at home. I think I was 12 or so fishing with him when I was told to push the boat off. No problem I said. I should have watched more closely and remembered when to get in as I was soon in the lake. I also should have listened about the fire ants on the rock in Northern arm. Great memories coming home in my underwear with Grampie shaking his head. He loved it when we would come down.

I spent a lot of March Breaks here. A new 4 wheeler greeted me in Grade 7. I was allowed to drive from the house to the road and to get the newspaper at Delores’ every night. Not very far you would think but the first day I did 48km. It took a long time apparently to get my tracks off the driveway. Every week here was great. A trip to Sydney and off to the card games at least once a week. Good times indeed.

I’m very proud to day that I’ve inherited the crib board he’d had since 1942. I’m glad he didn’t notch each win as there wouldn’t be a board left. I can count my victories on one hand. He was a great card player and ruled at darts and bowling too.

He served his community as well with the church, legion, golden K and the mason’s which of course I have no idea about. He also got back overseas twice on trips that I would have loved to have gone with him to listen and learn.

He was a very busy guy. Not many people put a piece on their house in their 70s pretty much by themselves. He did that so Dena wouldn’t have to do the stairs as much. He worshiped her. When she passed it took the wind out of his sails as to be expected but he kept himself busy. He got sick and we thought we were going to lose him but he made what I called his candy comeback. I’m sure he was healed by all of the sugar flowing thru him. He went from a little old man into our own version of Santa Claus. Last summer when we were down for Philips funeral, sitting having lunch I reached over and rubbed his belly. He laughed and told me he was expecting. With Doug being sick it was really hard on him. I’m not sure what his death certificate said but I think he went out with a broken heart. He’s in a better place now that’s for sure. A lot of friends up there to greet him.

I’m going to miss him a lot. I loved him dearly and looked at him as one of my heroes. It’s never easy to lose a hero. They don’t grow on trees like they used to.

Walter’s Eulogy
My Great Uncle Walter was a kind and loving person who led a very interesting life. Walter went to work quite young at the age of 15 at the lobster factory here in Fourchu. After some time he went to work in Sydney at Point Edward Chapelle Ltd and MacCurdys. When retail fashion didn’t do it for him he began his career in the mines.

Walter epitomized of the long distance Cape Breton work ethic. His first mining job was near here in Stirling at the Mindamar mines. Next stop was at Heath Steel in New Castle, NB. Ontario soon called but unlike a lot of us who might go to Toronto Walter was off to the Wilroy mines in Manitouwadge and the Umex mines in Pickle lake. Just when we thought he was as far away as you can get he went further to Stachona Minerals in Nanisivick, Baffin Island. It was from there that he retired. So needless to say as a kid I never got to see him very much but he always stopped in on his way thru or we’d see him down home.

While away he was never out of touch with Fourchu he always knew all of the gossip and all of the latest news.

He retired to his little house on the hill that he loved so much with his flower gardens. His passions in life were needle point and his piano. He also spent his time visiting with friends. He was always on the go. Unfortunately that meant he was on the roads. I don’t think he got to drive a lot while he was up north. When he retired he bought a Grand Marquis, knocked the corners off it and then got a Taurus, the cars then got smaller and smaller. He generally let others drive and I think we are all better for that.

I’ll wrap up with a story about his piano. Ten years ago when the First Fourchu Reunion was held on the Friday night I was on my own. This new girl Jen I had just started seeing was coming down tomorrow with Chantel and Jeff so I was free to do whatever I wanted. Accomodations were tight with the big event in town so I booked Uncle Walter’s minibarn. Nice digs huh? As the evening was wrapping up I was wandering around with Uncle Doug and Aunt Deb, I’m not sure who had the clearer head at the time among us but somehow we wound up at Walter’s house. Actually I think Mom sent me to bed. Well as night was becoming early morning it was time to really wind down. Walter thought it was best if we ended with a hymn. So we did. AMAZING GRACE. My personal favorite always has been. So there we were the four of us singing away with me playing the piano. Beautiful except I forgot to mention I can’t play the piano nor can I really sing.

Aunt Winnie found a poem that Walter had chosen for today and I’d like to read it now.

Somewhere beyond the rainbow there’s a land where sorrows cease, a land of joy and happiness – beyond the rainbow – peace.

Anyway, after the service a reception was held at the hall. I greeted folks with Mom & Dad. By my side was Liam, it struck how odd this was to be in this hall where I have stood in greeting lines since I was a boy. I think that’s why I magically connected to Fourchu, I’ve been going there longer than anywhere in my life. We moved around a bit when I was younger but there was always Fourchu. After the reception we saw Grampie off by sprinkling some of his ashes in the lake and toasting him with Pepsi and wings his favorite snacks. With that done it was time to bury them. There’s something not everyone has on their list. Follow that up with plenty of rum and stories. Sunday started as a grey day. The only fine weather was the time at the lake seeing Grampie off. Fitting.

Sunday afternoon we all went to the lake to go fishing. We got some amazing pictures I’ll post when I scan. I caught a trout on my first cast. Tell me I didn’t get some help there? The kids love it down there and I am so glad that they’ll get to spend more time as I take over Walter’s place.

Tomorrow we are moving Grampie’s stuff out of his apartment likely not easy but like always we’ll make it thru.

Now if the clouds will clear I’m taking the boy to the races. Another lasting family tradition!

Mood of the moment ~Busy little beaver
Tune of the Moment ~ Sweet Thing – Waterboys
What’s for supper ~ Race Track Trash

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