I’ve tried so many times over the last week to find the words. I’ve been at a loss to express what I’ve been feeling despite my ability with words.
I can remember how the trips to Snow Lake seemed to take forever and how my mom would tell me to sleep because the sooner I would go to sleep the sooner we’d be there. I used to always wake up at the same place coming into town which was driving just past Elm Street (more popularly called Main Street) before starting down the hill towards Our Lady of the Snows Catholic church. I can remember how you would come out even at 5:30 in the morning to make tea and toast for everyone and that I would fall asleep to the sounds of you and mom talking at the table for hours after we had arrived.
I remember the Donald Duck nightlight tucked away in a drawer for me to get whenever I needed it during those tender years of being afraid of the dark. I can remember you reading in the twin bed just across the room from mine while my parents slept in your room. I can remember listening to you breath and being re-assured you were there. I’ll never forget how these memories swept over me when I put my head down next to yours in the hospital when I was so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
I’ll never forget how I wept, overwhelmed by the fact that the sound of your breathing might not be a good thing this time. Eventually the sound of your breathing would breed a sense of empty hope for me because I desperately wanted your pain to stop and for you to have the peace you told me you wanted when your time came. I hope that over time the memories won’t be tainted.
I adore the smell of fresh baked bread, apple pie and muffins. To this day all these things make me think of you. Kevin recently started baking our bread and every time I smell it start to bake I think of the evenings you spent baking, of fresh baps and pie crust pieces dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
I remember how you came in 2006 when I was very sick with an arthritic flare and you baked. I remembered the comfort that came from your care then. I remember crying when you finally arrived after a bus adventure which included a door falling off.
I had the benefit of having a second home, a sanctuary in the North because of you. I learned the joy that is popcorn made on the stove top (that wasn’t Jiffy Pop) and watching Jeremy Brett on CBC every Friday evening. Over the summer I am hoping that Nathaniel and I can embrace that tradition. I remember watching Seeing Things, Hardcastle and McCormick and Airwolf. I remember life with CBC, CTV and if it was a clear night and we were lucky HBO.
I learned to swim in a lake and can still remember swimming from what seemed so far out towards your feet as you sat on the dock with them dangling in the water. I remember learning to ride a bike with no training wheels. How you always had quarters for the jukebox when we ate at the restaurant you always called “George’s McDonalds”. I remember fresh berries from your yard, raiding peas from other yards and blanket forts on the front step as the sun went down.
I was always sure that you loved me. I never questioned it. Snow Lake remains my sanctuary. My touchstone. My safe place and you made it that way for me. The north will always be my second home.
I already miss you dearly. Hell it has taken me days to put these words together and there is so much more I wish I could say but the words elude me.
You always said I never wrote you enough though you wrote to me every week since I was 4 or 5 years old.
Last week was the first time a letter never came for me. It was one of the hardest realizations of my life.
I love you and I’ll miss you always,