Tag Archives: Dad

Only Child pays tribute to Dad for Father’s Day

My Dad

When I was growing up, dinnertime for Mom, Dad and me was sitting around the table in our small kitchen. Mom and Dad would sometimes be talking about the household budget while little ears lapped it up as well as the food – often leftover roast. But Dad had one habit that drove Mom crazy.

He looked at his watch, then up at the wall clock above the table, then back to his watch, lifting up the expansion band. I expected it to go “boing, boing,” but it was silent.

Not  Mom.

“Albert, do you have to keep doing that?” she would ask.

“Have to take it in to get regulated,” Dad replied. He had good reason for this.

You see, my late father worked for the railway, CN (or CNR as it was called back in the 50s and 60s). He was a timekeeper but he worked in the head office, then in downtown Toronto. As far as I know he wasn’t out on the tracks timing the trains. But who knows. The trains came in right by his office at Toronto’s Union Station.

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

He carried this penchant for time when the three of us rode the rails travelling in the summer. It was a free ride, and not just for Dad. Mother had the spouse’s free pass and until I turned 19 I had the child of the CN worker’s pass. Mom got unlimited free rides; I was limited to seven a year. But we never took more than three or four trips a year – and one would be not really a holiday. There were a lot of funerals in my family and a few weddings.

But that’s for another post. Today’s post is all about Dad and time. When we rode the rails, Dad made sure we arrived at Union Station early – sometimes two hours before train time. Did Dad think we would miss the train?  No. He was just doing his job outside his job. No one missed his scrutiny – from the cab driver who drove us to Union Station – via a different route than Dad had dictated to who carried our luggage (not the red cap porter) to the trainman who collected our tickets once we had boarded the train. Dad’s favourite expression was “Typical CNR” which could be taken as either a bad review or I suppose even a small compliment. At any rate Dad and his watch kept close company.

But riding the rails had its fun, interesting and now looking back – nostalgic times. Nothing like the murder and other crimes that occur on the train to Hanover in my short story “Porcelain Doll” (Beyond theTripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012).

Consider the times we were travelling in – mid to late 1950s and early 1960s. Right when train travel in Ontario was still in its heyday – although not for much longer with the almighty automobile starting to take over. (Note: my parents didn’t drive so we had no car).

Our main annual trip was to visit the farm relatives on my mother’s side of the family. That took us to Mildmay Ontario (a few miles from Walkerton, the town that had the bad water scandal in 2000), and Lucknow, Ontario. Then we had to take three trains, which meant two changes. But what rides and what differences. The trains from Toronto to Guelph had diesel engines. The one from Guelph to Palmerston still had a steam engine whose noise used to scare me and my constant travelling companion, my doll Darlene. Guelph was also an interesting ride through. As that second train started out from Guelph, looking out the windows you could see the train was running on a track right in the middle of a street. It is still that setup today (although the trains are more modern) and it still makes me hold my breath when travelling through. The third train, with its short ride from Palmeston to Mildmay, was the most interesting. The “coach” we rode in was actually a sleeper car and Daddy would go into a short talk on the closed dark wooden bins above which came down and turned the area into a bedroom. I also remember the texture of the seats – they itched the back of my bare legs.

Only Child at 13 with Mom and Dad at the Lucknow farm

Dad has been long gone (he died of brain cancer, at 66. I was 16). However, I have inherited his penchant for time. I must get what is on my daily to-do list done that day and God help anyone or anything who interferes (Telemareters and long-winded acquaintances on the phone pay attention). But I also go after transit that is not on time, but not the CN, or VIA rail which has taken over the railway passenger service in most of Canada. No, it’s the city public transit, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which more times than naught, messes up on its schedules. So I sometimes complain online about the incident. Couldn’t do that back in the day.

Guess I do have my father to thank for to be aware of time. And in line with that, on this upcoming Father’s Day I will honour my late father by thinking of him and toasting him – not with his favourite drink – beer, which I don’t really like – but wine. It’s the thought that counts. I’m sure Daddy would understand.Happy Father’s Day Daddy (wherever your spirit is), from your little railway brat.

How are you honouring your Dad this Father’s Day?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

C

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Father's Day, Only child, Time management, Train travel

Only Child can’t wait for spring weather

From my front veranda March 2018

When I was a child my dad shovelled the snow. We never had eaves trough problems, freezing ice on the ground (except for the skating rink my dad made in the backyard). Perhaps a few icicles. But that was the extent of our winter weather. No worries and none of the rigamarole I have to go through with when it snows more than a few centimetres. I’ve had to get heat cables on the roof and into and outside the downspouts tand downspout extensions  – the latter several revisions by  my handyman until something (hopefully) worked. He also had to extend the downspouts on both ends in the backyard way out, placing them on top of bins. So getting onto the patio, etc. is a winding exercise. Plus I have to calculate when to turn on the heat cables, and roof and downspouts ones can’t be on at the same time or it will shut that circuit off. I’m forever looking up a tthe roof to see the level of snow still there, salting parts of the driveway, veranda, etc. The list is endless and so is my time wasted. I do have someone hired to shovel the snow. All this costs money, my money. No wonder as the month gets closer to the end, I have, as they say, more month than moneyals

It it isn’t house-related, it is health-related that steals my money.

So, while the above photo may look bleak except for the sky, I prefer the dry no snow on the ground to snow. It has been dry on the ground in Toronto for a few weeks. Sure there have been traces of rain and a few snow flakes, but they are not staying on the ground. So it looks dismal, but hey, not snow or ice – at this point.

Spring arrived today (12.15 p.m. noon with the Equinox) according to the calendar. The meteorologists’ predictions call for more snow and rain  as we get into April. Some rain I can handle (as long as it doesn’t get into my house. The gardens need the rain. And I need my gardens  0utside – soon.

Meantime, I’ve finally planned my outdoor garden, sent in my seed order to the seed catalogue company, bought a few heirloom seeds at a garden show (indoors) at the Toronto Botainical Gardens last month, attended Canada Blooms, and in the food department bave some basil varieties just starting to grow in a sunny window, am growing potato plant indoors (I get a few potatoes, albeit small), and one of the three rosemary plants I brought in last fall  is still doing well (so far). Plus tending my other indoor plants such as coleus, palm, various Spring cactus and the one begonia that has survived (so far) being brought indoors last fall. Some of these latter two are starting to bloom.

And I’m taking photographs of the dead gardens, live ones indoors (like at Canada Blooms) and looking at last year’s garden photos. Here’s one below.

How do you survive winter?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s Day Lily summer 2017

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Only child, Snow, Uncategorized, Winter blahs

Only Child says snow snow – yech!

Last evening and overnight, Toronto, Ontario got blasted with the first snowfall of the year. At 14 cm it is certainly not the biggest snowstorm, but being the first one of this season, it seemed like way too much. Especially if like me you had to shovel all the white stuff. Especially when the two guys you used to hire to shovel your snow the past six to eight years seem to have disappeared.

As a senior, I shouldn’t be shovelling the results of big and/or heavy snowstorms. Especially as I am just now getting over a 48-hour virus – which was probably caused by an allergic reaction to too much dust. I don’t have time to dust my place very often and I certainly don’t have time to shovel snow – repeatedly during the winter season. Cutting the little lawn I have repeatedly in the summer is a different story. Especially using a hand mower as my late dad did.

Dad also shovelled the snow when I was growing up – until he got cancer.

But storms weren’t as bad as now back then (1950s and 1960s) – at least on a regular basis. Yes, we had some doozy winter snowstorms. I remember walking home from school at lunch time (yes, we didn’t stay at school for lunch unless we lived too far away) and the snow was up to my thighs. But I was so much shorter then and not so wise, not so knowledgeable, and well, a kid. Now, I’d just like to skip winter – not just for the snow but we get too much of this mixed precipitation and then there are the ice storms.

Actually shovelling the snow was very invigorating. Lucky my virus seems to have either disappeared or got buried for now. But I would still rather go for a walk…in the freezing cold? Temperatures nose-diving later today and will stay that way for the next couple of days. Brr!

Below my signature are a few more photos  of the snow on my property  before I dug in and shovelled.

Do you shovel your own snow or does somebody else? Or do you live in a rental apartment or a condo?

Do you consider snow shovelling a winter sport?

You can probably guess what my answer is as I don’t take part in real winter sports. But I like to watch figure skating – probably because I used o skate as a child and young adult – nothing fancy, just enough to keep from falling as I glided around the rink – outdoors or indoors.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Recycling bins snowed in back of driveway

 

Backyard patio snowed in

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Life demands, Only child, snow shovelling, Winter Weather

Only Child says Memoir reads like fiction

Only Child and Dad few years later

In today’s Memoir Writing session I deal with the different ways you can write your memoir. It can be humorous, serious (or both), in chronological order (or not), but most of all it contains emotions and feelings and people. Although the people are real, from your life, there is a resemblance to fiction – in the way you write your memoir.

You don’t just want a list of events. You want to engage your reader. You want your reader to see your life and the family, friends, and enemies, too, in it.

So write it fiction style. Emphasis on the word “style.” The difference here is memoir is not fiction, it is your truth, your story. So the characters, the people, must be real, and the events must be real. Unlike fiction, you are not making it up. The emphasis is on how you tell your story.

Probably the best way to see how that is done is to read published memoirs. The list of memoir authors would cover several blog posts and I’m not going to post my starter list here. Just Google “memoir writers.”

Below is an excerpt from my memoir-in-the works, but I have shortened it and reworded it some, so it is not exactly as in the memoir. This particular piece of prose deals with being bullied as a child. But it covers a lot more as you will see.

The Bully Gang – Vera, Mare, Shannon (the Bully’s younger sister by two years), and the Bully – line themselves against Dorothy and me. They pursue us up and down the street. Then we run throughout the Harmon front yard, onto the street, back to the yard. This time Dorothy and I chase the others and we trap them inside the yard.

They are jumping up and down, and through the steel gate, yelling, “Nah. Nah, Nah.” I am rolling on a high and nothing and no one can stop me. I pick up a fist-sized rock from the ground, glare at them, squeeze the rock as if it is my new best friend. You’re in for it, Bully. I raise my arm over the gate and throw the rock… smack into Mare’s forehead.

No. No. Not Mare. I like Mare. I can’t understand why she’s hooked up with the Bully. I stand still and shocked. We seem lost in this sudden limbo second. The rock falls to the grass and we jolt into screamland.

Then the Bully Gang breaks free.

“You’re in for it,” they say. “We’re gonna get you now.”

Dorothy and I turn and fly towards my place. The Bully Gang is a posse on our tail. My Dad, on holidays from work, shoves Dorothy and me downstairs. He locks the outside doors for our safety. I look up and peek towards the basement window. The Bully and her followers shake their heads and waggle their hands. Then the Bully flattens her face against the window and ugly intent and uglier looks mesh into what could pass as road kill. I shiver and turn to Dorothy. If we looked in a mirror, our facial expressions would show us resembling twins. We back away and I wish Mom had made curtains for the window. But there is no bright light, no feeling of freedom in running around inside an unfinished basement with its white cement pillars and tarred concrete floors. Dorothy and I are the victims. Why are we the ones confined inside?

Excerpted and shortened from Chapter 4, Protecting the Princess – from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2017 Sharon A. Crawford).

What are some of the fiction techniques used in the above passage?

Until next week.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir

Only Child plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

Remembering Dad for his birthday anniversary June 4

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Growing up – back in the grey ages of course, I spent some time with my dad doing simple things. He seemed to take on the role of teacher as well as parent. Family members used to say he was proud of his little princess. Yes, that was me. Hard to believe it now as I’ve turned into a motor-mouth opinionated person. There is a back story there but that’s not for today’s post. Today, I want to honour my late father – Albert Louis Joseph Eugene Langevin – because the anniversary of his birthday is this Saturday, June 4.

Dad was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1899. The Langevin family moved to Toronto when Dad was five – or so I’ve been told. Doing research in the Toronto City Might Directories for the early 1900s doesn’t show the Langevin family living anywhere in Toronto until  a few years later. And believe me I have looked in all the earlier directories – bending on my knees and moving four heavy directories at a time to a table on the second floor at the Toronto Reference Library. But some of the family history I didn’t know comes out in these short, simple directory listings. For example, I knew Dad didn’t serve in either World War – too young for the first war and too old for the second. But one of his brothers, Uncle Paul, did serve in the First World War. Considering Paul’s age at the time it wouldn’t surprise me if be lied about his age to get in. That was done back then.  From 1918 Dad worked for the Grand Trunk Railway and then the Canadian National Railway when the latter swallowed up the former. Dad worked in the main Toronto office, then on Front Street and connected to the big Union Station on Toronto’s Front Street. Most of his work life there was as a time-keeper. That might explain his penchant for insisting everyone and everything always be on time – no excuses. But his job gave Mom and I free train rides and that’s how we travelled for our summer holidays – to my Mom’s family farms near Lucknow and Mildmay, Ontario and longer trips to Detroit (more of Mom’s relatives there), Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Quebec province.

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Dad married my Mom, Julia, when he was 40 in November 1939 and by the time I came along he was 49. He was often mistaken for my grandfather with his then grey, and later white hair. Yes, he spoke French in his earlier years, but lost that ability over the years living in Toronto. It was actually embarrassing when he, Mom and I went for a holiday in Quebec province when I was 14. We got away with English only in Montreal but not in Quebec City. Dad had to find a bilingual cab driver who helped us find a bed and breakfast to stay.

Only Child's late Dad under Mom's rose archway

Only Child’s late Dad under Mom’s rose archway

Mom was the gardener in the family – with me learning the green thumb tricks from her. But Dad had a few up his sleeve. When he mowed the lawn – with a push mower – he also showed me how to do it and let me do a bit. Same for watering the lawn. But when it came to the trees and shrubs in the front and back yard, he could be a bear.

You see, my friends and I used to set up our dolls and their “houses” (turned over doll or small people suitcases) for rooms. We would have kid-sized dishes and then we would go get “food” for our dolls. “Food” wasn’t berries from the garden, but we would pick and pull leaves from the big and small shrubs. Dad caught us at it once and came charging out into the backyard and gave us you know what for doing damage to trees.

Dad also taught me to ride a bicycle – but not until I was almost 10. I would sit on this 28 inch wheel bike with my short legs and feel barely reaching the peddles and feel terrified that I would fall off. But Dad held onto the front handle with one hand and the back of the seat with the other and steered me along the street. That got me some teasing plus from my friend the Bully. But I did learn to ride the bike on my own, albeit just on the immediate neighbourhood streets which had little traffic. My favourite place to ride a bike was on country roads by my cousins near Lucknow, Ontario. I would ride one of the boy’s bikes or one of the girl’s bikes – depends on whom I was riding with. The terrain might have been tough (gravel roads, not paved) but the only traffic – if any – was the odd car and tractor.

Dad also was very protective, perhaps over-protective as shown by his teaching methods. But I still loved him.

But, when he got cancer in his brain when I was 12, things changed so much. I found myself distancing myself from him. In hindsight I think it was a protective measure for when he was gone. Mom and I knew that the cancer would eventually kill him and it did when I was 16. He was 66 when he died.

I still miss you Dad.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child with her parents at grandpa's farm near Mildmay, Ontario

Only Child with her parents at grandpa’s farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Sharon is holding one of her many dolls

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, cancer, Gardening, Mom and Dad, Only child, Toronto, Train travel

Only Child celebrates birthday

Birthday_birthday_cake_3Today is my birthday. Didn’t the Beatles have a song that started out something like that? Which would be appropriate as I was and still am a Beatles fan. And yes I went to a couple of their concerts at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and screamed my throat out – back in the mid 1960s.

Some people reflect on their year and what is ahead at the end of each year. I do some of that, but the annual birthday may be just as appropriate, if only for the “I’m getting older” factor. Birthdays are a reminder of that. When you are a senior, like me it is very mixed.

Yes, I would like to be  around 10 to 15 years later – if I could have my so-called wisdom and experience and my son would be the same age as he is now.  And be in good health and afford to live.

First the bad side of getting old and I will paraphrase my neighbour from down the street (also a senior). When I mentioned that I had been experiencing a lot of health issues the past five months, she said that this time in your life it is supposed to be when we can retire and enjoy life. She said it as if she didn’t believe it anymore.

She is right. Life in the senior lane can be awful. The body fails; the mind fails and for some people it can be very lonely. Add in living in poverty, despite all those glowing retirement ads and stories. Not all of us are rolling in money. Some (myself included) live below what Statistics Canada states is the upper level for singles (all ages) living alone.

Heck, last year when I had that dreadful boarder living here (I finally kicked her out and am glad I did), my net income was lower than the year before when she was living here only five months, not 10. Turns out she drained my electricity and water and that upped those bills.

And utility bills, with or without boarders, are high. So are property taxes and not just for seniors. Many of us live on a budget and certain things (like extra health coverage for health areas not covered by government health plans). Many of us don’t have access (via our or spouses’ retirement plans) to extra health plans, so we do without. We may have to choose one extra area to focus on. Eventually the others will fail us in old age.

And more things happen. So far my memory and forgetfulness haven’t worsened – I don’t think. On days when I have too much going on, too much bad being shoved my way to deal with, I wonder about that. That’s why I’m continually trying to prune what I do and also get rid of the clutter still left in my home. Right now I’m focusing on all the excess paper in my home office. The laundry room and storage there is next – but a lot of that is garden stuff dumped inside now that garden season is about over. I say about as there are still a few more things to do out in the garden and the weather might just be co-operating this coming weekend.

So, what do I give thanks for on my birthday? What do I still like in my life?

My outside garden obviously. In winter I try to compensate with lots of plants inside, but it’s not the same – so I do plan for next year’s garden.

My writing – particularly my Beyond mystery series and personal essays. And promoting my books. And something new I just started and enjoy – doing short skits as public presentations where I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character Dana Bowman.

Teaching writing workshops/running my East End Writers’ Group and helping and connecting with other writers.

Reading (and yes, print mainly although I do have an e-reader), walking, watching favourite TV programs and movies on TV. I’m old-fashioned enough to want to watch TV on a TV, not a computer, although I do watch short videos about the weather, gardening, health, writing and the like on the computer, also like cooking, and dining out with family and friends, going to street festivals, going into unique shops with crafts and the like (mainly “window shopping). And living in this house which I love (despite all the things that need fixing).

What do I want to do in the future?

Continue collecting info on my late father’s ancestry and reconnecting with cousins on Dad’s side of the family (particularly another one doing some genealogy research in that area), travel more – but not by plane. I don’t like all the excess security for those of us who are not security risks. I think my ex put it best when he said something about removing shoes was what got to him. But he and his current wife do still travel. Me, I want to travel more by train to Quebec province (where my dad was born), the train trip out west to BC through the mountains, and to my cousins’ in a medium-sized town in Michigan. One cousin has offered to pick me up at Windsor or Sarnia and I’m hoping to take him up on that later next year.

And more money to come in to pay for extras including house problems and travel.

I also wish for my health not to get any worse.

To tag on to the above two -house and health. If the latter gets too bad I don’t want to hang around. And I don’t want to go into a nursing home or even a retirement home. My next stop, I say, is the urn.

If I have 10 to 15 more good years (see above for what I consider good/not good), that will be fine. Living to an old age for most people isn’t worth it if you are sick in mind and/or body and are just wasting away.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Gardening, Genealogy, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Old Age, Only child, Poverty, Reading, School reunions, Seniors and Happiness, Seniors Hobbies and Interests

Only Child searches for Dad’s history

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

I am trying to piece together my late father’s history – his ancestors and his life in Toronto before I came along. Not too easy when Dad was born in Montreal and the family moved to Toronto when he was a child.

A year ago I began this quest – one of my cousins had started a trace on the Langevin (and Verey – the latter her direct family connection, not mine) ancestry on www.ancestry.ca. I’m not on there yet but one of my friends is and she offered to do some checking there. She found my cousin’s partial family history and also an anomaly – further digging by my friend found another last name (maiden one) for my paternal grandmother. Which is the correct one?

I am not close to my Dad’s side of the family and it has been over five years since I talked to some of my cousins. But I emailed the family genealogist using an old email address. You guessed it – the email bounced back as no one at that address.

However, life jumped in, including dealing with the horrible boarder living here last year, house and house-related problems, plus one pleasant thing – finishing rewriting my first mystery novel Beyond Blood (published fall 2014 – Warning: plug coming. See my publisher’s website www.bluedenimpress.com for more info and my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com).

As 2014 drew to a close and 2015 rushed in, I feel much urgency to continue on this quest for Dad’s history. I have been spending some Saturday afternoons at the Toronto Reference Library looking in old City Might Directories to find where Dad lived and to try to nail down when the Langevin family did move to Toronto. (I had some idea what street so that was a start.)

And found myself on a very enjoyable but puzzling journey.

Picture me sitting at a table on the library’s second floor with Might Directories piled up in front of me. The shelves where they are stored are behind me, but I can only carry four books at a time. It is difficult with my health issues to get down to the floor to pick out the directories on the bottom shelf but I am compelled to do so.

You are not allowed to photocopy the contents – not a copyright issue but the delicate nature of the pages. These are old directories, circa early 1900s (Dad was old enough to be my grandfather) and the pages are amazing. Almost like parchment with back to back pages which appear glued together. Back then, the “technology” did not allow for any other way to do this. The print is around the same size as print telephone directories, perhaps a smidgeon larger. With my bad eyes and old glasses I have to use a small magnifying glass to read the type.

It is worth it – this going back and forth from the street listings to the name listing and I finally find my late grandfather. Thanks to my cousin’s information on ancestry.ca I now know his first name. But another Langevin surfaces in the Might Directories – a Charles Langevin and I have no idea where he fits in, except my grandfather and grandmother and their offspring lived with him for a few years. My grandfather (Eugene Langevin) shows up in the street address listing at some point and then in a later year, Charles has disappeared. Then my aunts and uncles and my dad show up living at the same addresses, including my cousin’s great grandfather (she is a cousin once removed to me). And it lists where they worked and the position they held. The listing criteria seems to be it didn’t matter if you were male or female as long as you held a job.

I find my father not only worked as a clerk at Canadian National Railways but that previouslyhe worked with the Grand Trunk Railway before CNR gobbled it up. I finally find where his office was located – as I suspected right in Union Station in Toronto. One of his brothers, Uncle Paul also fought in World War 1, which I never knew. The directory has him still at the address but they classify him as “away on service.” And yes, he came back from the war. I also discover the Langevin family moved to Markham St. (where my cousins, their parents and my late maternal grandmother lived when I was a child) many years earlier than I suspected.

Then I get carried away and start to trace my mom’s time from when she moved to Toronto from the family farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Not sure which year so I’m working back from 1938 the year before she and Dad married. The address she lived at then (renting in a house) is in the area of Toronto where she and Dad lived when they were first married. Next investigation is to find out if the addresses are the same. An old photograph I have might give me the answer.

I can see my memoir will need some changes.

And I finally realized why I am compelled to do this family history investigation now. 2015 (November) is the 50th anniversary of Dad’s death.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

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Filed under Beyond Blood, Beyond the Tripping Point, Canadian National Railway, Dad, Family, Hereditary, Libraries, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Railways, Research memoir writing, Toronto

Only Child honours Dad on his anniversary

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

Losing a parent can be devastating, but particularly if you are a child. My dad, Albert Langevin,  died from brain cancer at 66 on November 15, 1965. That is a double whammy as I was only 16 at the time. But if truth be told, Mom and I had lost Dad years before that to cancer, starting with the first cancer hit in his lungs a few months before my 10th birthday. Surgery of half a lung removed got rid of it there, but cancer being cancer, it spread to his brain two and a half years later. Mom and I thought he would die. And we had the talk.

One day Mom corrals me in the kitchen.

“Sharon, I have something to tell you,” she begins, as we stand, facing each other. This isn’t sit-down business. “Your father has cancer of the brain.”

“Is he going to live?”

“I don’t know.”

Our hug does not reassure. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

So Mom called in the “troops” in the form of one of her older sisters to help out at the house so she could spend more time with Dad and often I joined her.

Aunt Gretchen now joins the litany of worriers hovering around Dad as he continues to vomit and endure the headaches. She brings her dumpy flowered housedresses, straight black hair, black oxfords, and bricks of blue cheese that stink up our fridge and would probably kill Dad if he were home and could keep anything down. I don’t remember Gretchen ever setting foot in the hospital, but she rules the home front. She commandeers the cooking and washing up after dinner, supposedly a blessing for mother and me…

 

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.

     

St. Michael’s Hospital radiatesa friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

 

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says. [Author Note: not blue cheese]

     

Soon after Dad returns to our house and Aunt Gretchen returns to hers. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That wasn’t the end of the cancer but four years later would be Dad’s end.

I like to remember Dad for more than just his cancer. He taught me to ride my bicycle, leading me along our street and the dead end crescent adjoining it. I was nine and a half, maybe a bit old to be just learning to ride a bike as my best friend The Bully told me. Looking back I realize that Dad holding the bike bars and leading me around along our street helped neutralize this Bully’s remarks. True, Dad was overprotective, as elderly parents often are, but he tried to protect me from The Bully.

Dad gave me the gift of being a railway/train-riding enthusiast. Dad worked as a timekeeper for the old CNR (when CN was CNR and had passenger service) so Mom and I got free passes. Our annual holidays to Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms near Walkerton, Ontario, trips to visit the Detroit, Michigan relatives, and tourist trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City were all courtesy of Dad.

Dad’s railway job (an office one at the CNR office when it was in Toronto) may have induced his obsession with all things (including the kitchen wall clock and his watch) being on time. We had to arrive at Toronto’s Union Station very early so he could be first in line to get on the train. Once we were allowed on, Dad cased the joint by walking up and down the coach aisles until he found the perfect seat. Then he would grab the top of the seat back and slide the seat backwards, creating two double seats facing each. I know, this dates me, but it was a great answer to keep families travelling together.

One of our trips to Detroit, when I was five was memorable because when the train arrived at Windsor, Ontario, a boat took us, train and all across the Detroit River.

 

Enter the Landsdowne Ferry in 1891, at 312 feet, the longest ferry on the Great Lakes. That summer of 1954, Mom, Dad and I were fortunate to take one of its last runs because in September 1955 or 1956, depending on your source, the CNR pulled the plug on passenger railway/ferry service. Once again passengers had to disembark from a train at Windsor and board an American train at Detroit. This time a bus carried them through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

 

But to a five-year old, the river run is a big sea adventure filled with rollicking train coaches and the screech of metal wheels on steel rails as the train jerks and jolts onto the long open freighter. Instead of the train whistle, we get the foghorn call of the boat and the floor seems to zig and zag. I hang onto the seat, but I also look out the window. The train appears to be moving on water, as if its wheels are kicking through the river…

 

We head to the back of the train and I gasp. The doorway is wide open and an expansion gate blocks our exit out onto the boat. On the other side of the gate the top of the boat sits level with the tracks, and beyond is the city of Windsor, fast disappearing as the boat-train sloshes and kicks its way through the dark green Detroit River. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford.

Sometimes in November I can feel Dad’s spirit here in my house. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of his death, I heard his spirit rush through the house, through the back hallway.

I don’t know if he will re-appear so dramatically this year, but I know he is here.

Love you and miss you Dad.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Dad's last picture

Dad’s last picture

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Elderly parents, Family, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Vacations