Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Bury Me At Sea" 6

“Bury Me At Sea”: A Father’s Final Voyage

A WW2 Navy veteran’s request becomes a son’s great adventure 

Previously on Bury Me At Sea...

Today, though he has been gone for eleven years, (my father and I) are very close and have very much in common. But when he was alive we kept very busy with our own lives, including our homes, hobbies, sports and hundreds of other activities, and very seldom shared serious conversations about important matters. Such is life, my father would say.

About my ‘no worry, no hurry, Dad’ attitude in 2001, I say I got lucky.

As well, I say my mother’s death broke the history of silence between us and helped make the impossible possible.

*  *  *  *  * 

The Impossible Is Possible 

‘Round about 1953, during a Sunday drive on the only south-bound road out of Burgessville, Ontario the family car caught on fire. My mother expressed heated concern about the smoke entering the car so my father pulled over to the side of the road and hit the brakes. Everyone important to me jumped out of the car and, with me, stood safely in a nearby ditch. Dad then popped the hood and smoke flew everywhere.

I was four or five years old at the time and cannot recall how long we stood in the ditch or how we got home. But I do know this - that car ride was the most exciting of my short little life.

The most exciting car ride of my adult life took place during the early months of 2001, not far from Burgessville as well.

[Exciting rides. The car caught on fire near the fiery red tip
of the toothpick. Quaker Street, if drawn on the map, would
run east to west, where the word 'Norwich' appears above.]

My father and I were heading east together on Quaker Street, toward Norwich, and looking at a few of his bluebird houses located on a family farm that was also home to a wee golf course. Conversation was steady, friendly.

[One of Dad's birdhouses on Bertrand's farm, Quaker St.]

And he turned to me and said, “I’ve decided about where I’ll be buried.”

He could have picked a better road before telling me. Quaker Street is very narrow and hilly where we slowly cruised, not a shoulder within miles, just steep-banked ditches. I felt the moment was very dramatic but I sat still in my seat, didn’t white-knuckle the steering wheel and kept the car safely on the road. I just turned my head toward him for a second and nodded.

“I’m going to be buried in Norwich with Edith,” he said. He didn’t go into details.

Surely I said something wise and discerning, like “That’s a good decision, Dad” or “I think you’re doing a really good thing”, but I honestly forget if I even spoke a word.

He couldn’t have picked a better road before telling me. Shortly thereafter we remarked on spectacular snow-covered scenery on the south side of the road where a railroad line from the Norwich Co-op to Woodstock used to be, where his mother used to walk to take meals to his father at the old tile yard. And a minute after that we passed the new Quaker Street cemetery where mother would be at rest in a few months.

With his decision made I felt relief. My family could go ahead confidently with plans for our mother’s interment and I could get final arrangements made related to particular notations and symbolic etchings on a double gravestone. And I found consolation in the knowledge that my mother’s burial wishes had been granted, that she would not be buried alone.

Had I been a wiser, braver son I might very well have turned to my father and asked how he felt about not being buried at sea, or what factors helped him choose the one over the other. But I wasn’t that son. While he was alive we never discussed the matter again.

After his death, however, it came up - and not out of the blue - one more time.

More to follow.

More photos of Doug Harrison's birdhouses at Bertrand's farm.

Please link to Bury Me At Sea 5 

Photos by GH

No comments: