my father's gift   22 comments

Posted at 12:33 pm in Uncategorized

my father in 1953 – about two years before I was born

Today, I was going to post a few photos and an update on happenings here at the house. Instead, I’ll hold the photos for a few days, and post these instead, as they actually do relate to what is going on here.

By day, I have been working on the woodlot and trail project. Weather permitting, I get up early and take saws, weed cutter, extension lopping shears, and other tools, and head into the bush for the day. This property is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 acres, with an irregular shoreline that runs for several hundred feet. The vegetation and woodlot are very dense and likely have not seen much maintenance over the years – probably not for several decades. Unfortunately, in this region, the wild cherry trees are, for the most part, badly diseased. There are many of different sizes on this property, and most should really be taken down as they are quite unstable. I have been sawing down the ones that I feel comfortable with, and marking the larger ones to have taken down by an arborist later this summer.

This past week, I bought a new weed cutter machine. I also bought a changeable brush cutter head. The weed cutter saw plenty of action on Thursday and Friday as I used it to hack a trail through very dense blackberry canes. It did an awesome job, and that was just with the weed cutter head. In fact, the machine is so aggressive and effective, that I have decided to return the unused
brush cutter head as I know it’s even more aggressive and fearsome, as it somewhat resembles a Ninja’s shuriken weapon on the end of a pole. Maybe that’s not such a good thing to be using.

my father’s racing car around 1952

Anyhow, in the midst of this week’s activity, I’ve dropped by at my closest neighbours’ place a couple of times. They have ceased to be surprised by much of what goes on over at my place, but they do ask how it is that I know how to use all of these different saws and machines, or how to fix this or that. The simplest answer is probably that my Dad always encouraged me to try just about everything. He involved me in his construction and repair projects from the time I was kneehigh to a grasshopper. As I grew older, he showed me how to use various tools. By the time I was 18, I was working beside him repairing automotive radiators when he started up that business after retiring from the corporate world in Montreal in the early 1970s. He taught me to solder with torches, and use all kinds of other tools. When we built our house and barn, he taught me most of what I know about plumbing and electricity.

my father’s racing car around 1952

As a teenager, he taught me how to drive a car, start and run boat motors at our cottage, and operate a farm tractor and loader. I learned how to use all kinds of power saws, chain saws, etc…, and to be unafraid to use them, but always respect them. Now that he is gone, along with my husband, Don – both of them taken away from me at an early age by terminal cancers – I am left having to do everything on my own. Life would have been more of a struggle for me – and definitely would have allowed fewer options and opportunities – if I had not learned so much of what I know from my Dad. He did well to have shared so much of his knowledge with me.

my dad and I in 1956 with the rockinghorse that he and my mother made for me

The other thing he taught me is that the words, “I can’t do that” don’t belong in my vocabulary. I can’t recall even one instance of him saying he couldn’t do one thing or another. He expected the same from me, and never looked back to check and see if I wasn’t doing what he had just shown me. He just knew that once I was shown, I would manage to do that thing one way or another.

my dad around 1990, building one of several radiators destined for vintage airplanes being restored by Parks Canada for the Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa

When he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, I came home to help him navigate through the world of hospitals and chemo. It was the natural place for me to be. During that few months, I also learned to build the grain sparging mills that he was manufacturing, so that he could pursue cancer treatment without havng to worry about his business. In the end, I was also his primary caregiver so that he could stay out of the hospital in his final days. It was very difficult for me as he was my Dad, and also among my very closest friends. Sometimes I wonder why he left – the man who could fix anything and put everything right – couldn’t fix himself and left it up to me to take charge. When a short few years later, Don was also diagnosed with terminal cancer and I had to do an even harder thing in caring for my husband and best friend, I think I found the answer. My Dad’s death prepared me for an even more difficult challenge. I often think of how, if not for caring for my father first, I might not have been as able a caregiver for Don.

Now that I am alone, I sometimes wonder if there is anything to be learned from all that has occurred. I will be the first to admit that, many times as I look back at the whole thing, I wonder whether there was any point to what we all went through. In truth, in retrospect, how things ended still seems nasty, ruthless and stupid. However, as I carry on alone, there is one redeeming thought that prevails. It is that, perhaps my ability to keep going in the face of all of this outrage, can show some other person who is facing their darkest hour, that it is possible to survive and carry on. If so, then that is the gift from my father – that I can pass along.

my father working on a generator in a communications tower in northern Ontario in the 1950s

Written by bev wigney on June 19th, 2011