Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!
William Butler Yeats
Two bald eagles, six mule deer, one black bear and 850 kms between Surrey, B.C. to Jasper National Park, Alberta, all in one day.
Mt. Robson has one of the highest elevations in the Canadian Rockies so we thought it would be an appropriate backdrop for a photo. Dad would appreciate the irony. He was terrified of heights, but not as frightened as he was of flying. That didn’t stop him from seeing the world.
He joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952 and retired from the Navy in 1977. He travelled the world on many ships: the H.M.C.S. Chaudiere, MicMac, Restigouche, Saskatchewan and the Bonaventure, just to name a few. He sailed twice to his beloved Belfast, the birthplace of both of his parents who met in Toronto, married and had four children. The Navy transferred him from coast to coast, and because of his fear of flying we travelled by car, all over, to each new destination. We’ve driven through 8 of 10 provinces, moving frequently. We experienced the peeling of our skin off of the bumpy vinyl seat covers of the Datsun 510 in Arizona at high noon; we drove past the Grand Canyon and didn’t stop because the gorge was too far down; we drove up mountains and back down the other side when there wasn’t a Plan B, with Dad’s knuckles clutched in white line which only a stiff drink in the next tavern could remedy. We were plucked from our classrooms mid-year only to be plunked into new schools in another province three weeks later. Our friendships were intense and fleeting and Dad always seemed to have itchy feet. My mother said that he never found his place.
He fought demons for his first eighteen years as a father, and spent the last thirty-five making up for it. He was fortunate to get to know his first-born son forty-eight years later, and cherished every minute he had with him to make up for those lost years. His kids inherited his sense of humour the way he inherited the Irish knack for story-telling. Never one to settle down, he moved to the west coast (again) at the age of seventy-five, but decided to return to Ontario less than two years later in part because he had a new granddaughter to get to know.
He didn’t make it. The day before his last road trip was to begin that big heart of his gave out. He wasn’t sick and we didn’t see it coming.
We didn’t get the chance to say good-bye, so we thought it would be nice to drive him back to Ontario so he could complete that final road trip. We are driving him in his car, through the mountains and prairie, past the Great Lakes to the place he was born and spent the rest of his life leaving. We’re not taking the straight eastern route which he would have favoured so he could avoid as many nasty elevations as possible; no, he’s coming with us and we love the mountains. We’re driving northeast to Jasper, right through the middle of the Rockies and into Banff.
Too bad Dad. You don’t have to worry about flying or driving now, so sit back and enjoy the view for a change. It’s so beautiful. We know you’re going to get a kick out of it.