Dad's mother played piano and according to one family friend, was a gentle, loving woman. She had nice things, such as a beautiful dining room set, china cabinet, lovely china dishes and a piano. These were not common place at that time in Newfoundland and certainly not with my mother's family.
Dad's mother got sick with uterine cancer and it seemed like she was sick for a long time according to my Aunt Angela, (deceased 2013); I got to know her in the later part of her life. Angela described a chair that my grandfather adapted so that Ida could work around the kitchen, having the chair attached to one leg so she could put her weight on it. Her knee rested on the seat and her leg went through the hole in the back of the chair. Ida was determined to keep going as long as she could. By the time she eventually took to her bed, she died quickly.
My father was athletic and really loved soccer. It occupied his time and he played when he was supposed to be in school. The school contacted my grandfather when he got home from work, often after days away, to report on Dad's absence. Dad was having a hard time with one of the teachers at school and when the news of Dad's absence reached his father, Dad got in worse trouble at home. Physical punishment was the solution both at home and school. Dad quit school, found a job, and eventually boarded with a family just up the road from where my grandfather lived. He played soccer through it all. It kept him going and on the right path. Then he met my mother after he started to work at the railway.
I never saw the side of my grandfather that my father knew. He was always patient and loving with my brother and I. My father had a close relationship with his father eventually; my parents lived with him after they got married. Dad was twenty-seven by that time. Young Sam eventually spent a lot of time with his father later in life as well. My grandfather's housekeeper, Juanita, who became like family to him, eventually worked at the School for the Deaf. My grandfather became the chief cook, and every work day, he'd cook lunch for himself and Dad while Juanita worked. Dad enjoyed this time with his father. I always say that I learned forgiveness from my father. The motherless child in him forgave the father who didn't know how to cope with his son any other way. I can only imagine what happened with the other children but I know it was very difficult for my father after his beloved mother died. Eventually though he met my mother and his life changed forever.
Thoughout their early married life, my father continued to play soccer. When I was young I remember being on the sidelines during games, playing with other children. Mom and I always went to the games. The players and families on the Holy Cross team were all friends and they knew each other well. Life revolved around soccer, Church and home. This continued when we moved to Maddox Cove and then to Mount Pearl.
The following articles appeared in the St. John's newspapers after Dad died. I don't know which papers they are from. Dad died April 8, 1986.
Our father enjoyed a long career in soccer, won lots of trophies and awards. In Mount Pearl, he worked with a committee of older players to form a soccer association there. The Mount Pearl Soccer Association still maintains a soccer league for the numerous young people of that city. Dad played on the same team as Frank one year before he retired. Then he coached Frank's team for a number of years. Soccer was a lifetime pursuit for our father.
Our father was a patient man. The way he handled Frank's illness for three years was evidence of his demeanor. I never knew him to get really upset about things or raise his voice. He was quiet, religious and never gossiped. You'd never find out any "news" from Dad.
While he worked, Mom took care of the money. Dad always said that if he brought home one dollar, Mom could make two out of it. Mom was good with money and while Dad rarely had any money in his wallet, he knew that when we needed something, Mom had money "poked" away. Her wallet always had compartments with money in them, which was always "different" money, her way of allotting money for things we needed. I never remember our parents having credit cards though they had loans for things. We didn't have a lot but we always had enough.
Sam read a great deal and brought home classic comics for Frank and I to read. Dad and I always talked about them as well. I remember the book EXODUS by Leon Uris in particular. Dad brought it home and we both read it and talked about the book in light of the politics of the day with respect to Israel. While Dad didn't have much education he was well read and could talk about any issue of the day. He enjoyed history especially and was very knowledgeable. For example, on the occasion of the death of Winston Churchill, Dad could speak about Winston's life and what he had done in the United Kingdom during the war.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Chartwell, Churchill's home in Kent, England. How I wished Dad could have been with me! I saw everything for both of us that day.
Marie and Dad, August 20, 1976
Movies were another favourite of Dad's. The first movie I ever saw in a theatre was "The Ten Commandments" which Dad took Frank and me to see. I watched all the old movies with Dad and enjoyed them immensely. The best part always was talking about the movie with Dad. When I was in university, Dad, also a night owl, and I spent many nights into the wee hours watching movies together.
Frank and Dad shared a love of soccer and we attended the games. Being good Canadians, of course, they also watched hockey together. The Summit Series was memorable in our house because when Hendersen scored the famous winning goal, Frank jumped up off the couch, hitting the light fixture in the ceiling, breaking it. Luckily neither Frank nor Dad was hurt by the flying glass.
Dad was a man ahead of his time in that he did as much around the house as my mother. With the amount of sickness that both Mom and Dad suffered, the hospitalizations or the incapacity of one or the other on different occasions, Dad cooked, cleaned, did laundry and anything else that Mom did. He took charge when she was incapacitated. We helped out too.
One year in particular comes to mind. Dad added an extension on our house. He started in the spring by tearing down our garage, digging out the basement and adding on two rooms. I helped him as much as I could. It was before Christmas and Mom was in hospital but the house wasn't finished. . Dad and I finished tiling the ceiling, and put down the carpet in the dining room. We finished it by the time Mom got home from the hospital. I remember the three of us cleaning up just before Mom got home.
Dad holding Claire, Marie, Frank, Mom
You could describe Dad as a bit of a handyman as well. When something broke and needed repairs, Dad often fixed it. He was good at carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. He could look at something and figure out a way to make it work. He always had parts and pieces saved and adapted them for a new purpose. In different circumstances he could have been an engineer.
Dad accepted the cancer the same way as he handled everything else in his life. He was determined to fight it but when he realized he wouldn't beat it, he prepared as much as he could. He organized everything he could for Mom. Like Mom did with me, Dad did with Frank, showing him things and talking about them. He was home until the day before he died, at sixty.
It's hard when you lose an important part of yourself. I think that losing Dad was my first serious encounter with grief. Prior to this time, I had only lost my Grandfather O'Brien, who had died suddenly at seventy-two. However I expected his death due to his heart problems and it seemed to me that he had lived a long life. I didn't feel that with Dad. He seemed too young, and the depth of the grief was overwhelming at times.
At that time, I was principal of an all grade school. When I got back to school after the funeral I was very upset that everything was going on as it always had. How could that be? Everything was different now for me but not for the teachers and the students of course. It was about two years before I could think about Dad and not be sad. Then it lifted, like a veil, leaving only the positive memories.
Patience with grief is important too, hey Dad?