Tag Archives: Train travel

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

Helping lost people turns into something personal

GO train on the go

GO train on the go

This summer I am making it my business to help people who are having difficulty finding their way around Toronto. I don’t actively seek doing this but when I see someone who appears lost – or if they are asking for help getting around – I do my best to help them. Some days when I’m out nothing happens; some days there are a couple of instances. But last Saturday it got personal as my friend K. from Oakville had to return home by GO train and the situation for boarding was very vague.

K, N and I had spent a day at Harbourfront and N and I walked K back to where she figured she would go to get her GO bus. It was where she had exited.

The long waiting room with windows on one side and entrances to stairwells to some of the platforms on the other side was not very helpful. Neither was the Departure schedule on one of those changing digital boards. All the upcoming GO trains and Go buses were listed, but the boarding platform was not listed until five or 10 minutes before boarding time. Instead, you saw the word “Wait” beside the trains and buses. There were no officials around to ask; no indication where the nearest washroom was, and no seats to sit on.

K has back problems and other medical issues. N has a hip problem and I have a couple of digestive disorders. We would have appreciated at least a place to sit and someone official to ask if we were even in the right place. With this Union Station in construction flux, this latter part isn’t unreasonable. Last time K came to Toronto in the fall, she boarded her GO train at the other end of the large Union Station. So it wasn’t inconceivable that there was another place with platform entrances, particularly as the ones we saw here didn’t go up very far in numbers. The wall maps were useless.

So we waited, fretted and oh, did I forget to mention – no air conditioning so it was hot and humid inside. By continually checking the departure board I figured out that all GO bus platforms were numbered in the 40s. I also figured to get to them, you would go to the end of this long room, through the doors and there would be an indoor walkway to take you across the street to the GO bus terminal. Not for trains, though.

Five minutes before K’s GO train was scheduled to leave (they were running every hour only on the weekend because of construction) a platform number appeared. By that time, there were a number of people huddling around and they all proceeded through that numbered door. K hugged N and me and followed the others through the door to board her GO train.

I was so outraged by this major consumer service flaw, that I filed a complaint with GO online using their complaint form. Besides what I mention here, I also suggested they take a page from VIA rail (also goes through Union station but in the main area), i.e., that they list the platforms for all GO trains and buses departing – all the ones on the screen as they appear. The one word “wait” which they have, should deter people from entering the platform ahead of time in case there is another GO train or bus departing or arriving there before then. VIA does this and it is not unusual if you arrive early for your train when you go to the place to line-up, there is another line-up for an earlier departing train. VIA rail also has updated announcements via loudspeaker. That wasn’t happening a this GO waiting area. So that makes you wonder what blind people do? Maybe GO is in some violation of accessibility laws.

There was a notice in the waiting area and GO online that the platforms would be changing August 10 for construction so I also suggested they implement my suggestions when they do their construction.

If they can’t get their heads around giving good customer service to regular GO riders, they need to remember this is the big tourist season in Toronto and if regular riders (K does take the GO but in her area only, not into Toronto usually) get confused, what about tourists?

What do you want to bet that the powers that be at GO Transit all drive cars?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Friends, Getting lost, Helping Others, Only child, Public Transit, Union Station Toronto, VIA Rail

Only Child has a ton of problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Just got back last night from holidays visiting my cousins in various places in southern Ontario. Visit was relaxing and enjoyable but trouble began when trying to get home.

I like travelling by train. It is in my blood as my late father worked for the railway as a time-keeper. Since he died, railway travel has changed in many ways including the company created to run rail passenger service in Canada. VIA rail has not been exactly good to me.

When I reserved my “tickets” by phone they emailed me the boarding passes and a link to subscribe to their alert system for updates to my email. I don’t have a cell phone, so text wouldn’t work for me.

No problems on the train going to Waterloo, but the return trip from Grimsby turned into another nightmare (I have had issues coming home by train before in other years). I got my alert about half an hour before train time. The alert said train was arriving in Grimsby on time. So I shut down my laptop.

At the station my cousin who drove me there and I waited and waited for ages. There was no wi-fi in the area – she checked with her smart phone. So no point turning on my laptop and checking my email. She phoned her husband and had him check it out. He texted her back with a message that he had signed her up for the VIA text alert for this train (coming all the way from New York City early yesterday morning). She got two alerts of late times for it to arrive in Grimsby and before there in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

It finally arrived one hour and 15 minutes late. I was so upset that I fell at the top of the narrow metal stairs where you board the train. True, I had bags and my laptop in its padded case (well, I was travelling) but the VIA employee didn’t help me with the suitcases. They stand at the bottom so it is kind of backwards to take your bag up the stairs. I didn’t hurt myself and it appears all my belongings were okay.

But I was very angry and I screamed, but said “I don’t need medical aid – this train has been delayed enough.”

Then someone helped me carrying my bags to an empty seat.

Once settled and the steward came to check my boarding pass, I asked what caused the delay. He said something vague about at the US/Canadian border. I clarified that it was the Canadian border police, but he wouldn’t say what – just a vague answer that it can depend on the official at the border. He did say (in answer to my question) that it didn’t happen often.

The young woman across the aisle had heard all this and she came over. She said she got on at St. Catharines, Ontario (stop before me), the station there was closed and there was just a robotic announcement that there was a delay but no time given. The Grimsby station is just one of those tiny enclosed shelters that seats a dozen or so people, often not even open. It looks like a pop-up retail place.

The young lady went back to talk to the steward. She returned and told me there was a problem at the border – one family when talking to the border police (who come on the train) said they couldn’t find the husband on the train. There was a bit of a language problem (obviously not French as VIA rail employees are bilingual English/French – Canada’s two official language). Apparently the “missing fellow” had gone to another coach and had been processed by the border police okay. Finally the border police found him – we figured by taking a family member through all the cars until they found them.

The young lady and I agreed that the whole family causing the problem, in particular the man, should have been tossed out of the train and not allowed to stay in Canada for causing all those problems.

As the train arrived in Toronto (one hour and 15 minutes late), the arrival announcement was made and again (they did this last year too) they gave the farthest away place to get a taxi. VIA still doesn’t know that taxis line up right outside the west front door of Union Station.

VIA didn’t cause the problem; but they don’t handle all their notifications so passengers can find out.

Heads are going to roll here – when I have time to do something about it – at the very least send a complaint about VIA rail procedure – notifications and closed stations in particular.

But I have another problem – when I turned on my laptop and desktop computers this morning the Internet wasn’t connecting and then it came and went. Could get into my email program on both computers, though – so far. Called Bell Canada (my ISP) and they did some checking at their end. They think it is a cable at my end and are sending a technician who is supposed to be here today between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. He better show up and fix it. I have work to do and some of it requires being online and some requires phone calls which I had planned to do this morning. I also have to run errands to get some groceries.

I think that God might have it in for me – he didn’t cause any of these problems – but he didn’t listen to me when I asked that everything be working right with the train service home and my Internet service. At least I got home okay – finally. Now God has to make sure this Internet Cable problem get fixed pronto today without complications and it must stay fixed.

All these unwanted problems raise my stress level which affects my precarious physical health.

My garden is still lovely, though.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Alphabet list, Anger, Anxiety, God, Holiday Travel, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Railways, Stress, Train Stations, VIA Rail

Only Child on railway customer service

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren't steam anymor

Only Child loves train travel when it runs smoothly.

Last week I returned from a one and a half week holiday visiting cousins in southwestern Ontario. Holiday was great; the train trip home was not.

For this railway brat, a two-hour wait in the middle of nowhere in the dark (outside, not inside the train) did not go over very well. Remember what I said in last week’s post about the stupidity of others and how I act. I put that into action last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

Yes folks, a nearly two-hour train ride that should have deposited me at Toronto’s Union Station by 11.20 a.m. dragged into early Thursday morning.

It all began about 10 minutes or so after leaving the Guelph station when suddenly the train slowed to a stop. The steward quickly announced that we were waiting for a green signal to continue and it would just be a few minutes. About 10 minutes later she announced that we would be here for longer than expected. Half an hour after we stopped, the steward announced that we had to wait for the two engineers to be replaced by a new crew and it would be another hour’s wait. She walked down the aisle to answer questions, but to my question “Is one of the engineers sick?” she replied “None of my business.” (Unclear if she meant whose business – hers or mine)

I felt every anxious and worried. As much as I like train travel I don’t like the uncertainty and also not being told all. If one of the engineers was taken ill or injured, and we knew, we might have a little more sympathy. If he was drunk – no. A young guy was also concerned and started complaining to Carol (the steward) and I joined in. I said that it wasn’t their (the two stewards) fault; I didn’t know whose fault it was but VIA rail as the corporate owner owed us. I pulled my senior’s card and said I could not afford to take a cab home from Union Station and I was going after VIA Rail for my fare to be reimbursed. The young fellow and I were concerned that we would not arrive at Union Station in time to take the public transit home.

The young lady sitting across from me asked about us being bussed to our destinations but Carol said that normally they would do that but we were in the middle of nowhere with no way for a bus to get to us and no place for us to go if we got off the train.

I could not concentrate on the book I was reading and alternated between sitting with arms crossed on one side of the table and moving to the other side. VIA Rail now gives us reserved seats and because we had a business class coach, I was at the end with a table in between the facing seats (two on each side). No one else was sitting there. A lot of good reserved seats do you if you are stuck.

The replacement crew finally arrived – two hours after we stopped. And when we pulled into the next stop – Georgetown – in six minutes I was furious. That close so why didn’t the second engineer “drive” the train into Georgetown where the other engineer could get “medical” attention promptly and we could be bussed home much sooner. Somebody higher up who was on the phone to Carol and probably the engineers was giving bad decisions. And probably going by the VIA Rail rules and regulations – probably requiring two fit engineers. Sometime rules need to be bended a little for the best results for all concerned. Sometimes a little common sense is the best route.

After several calls with her supervisor, she announced that we would get 50 per cent off our next VIA rail trip if we gave our ticket number when ordering them – by phone or in person – if we travel within the next six months. I’ll do that when I go to Cobourg, Ontario in a couple of months. We were also told to see the station master in Union Station to get chits for a free taxi ride.

The train arrived at Union Station two hours and 10 minutes late. I had to ask the station master where to get the cab because off all the construction on Front Street. She said across the street – it’s always been there. Could have fooled me with all the construction you can’t see over it and the walkway is very narrow, made narrower by construction crew working on it at 1.30 a.m. I was furious and started complaining out loud. But I made it over and got a cab home.

Will I still take the train? Yes. But VIA Rail gets only a 70 per cent (and that’s generous) for damage control. What happened with the engineer is out of their control, but making us wait for two hours until a replacement crew arrived when we were just six minutes outside Georgetown is plain stupid and gets a D in my books.

My late father, who worked as a timekeeper for CNR (they had the passenger service then) is probably rolling over in his grave.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Consumer action, Holiday Travel, Only child, Problems, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on summer stress and worry

Myfmother - the worrier incarnate and little worrier - me.

My mother – the worrier incarnate and little worrier – me.

My late mother was worrywart incarnate and I come a very close second to her in the worry and anxiety department. Still, my reaction to a study showing that summer may be the time for the highest stress was “what?”

 

It gets sillier.

When the news story on last night’s 11 p.m. Global Toronto news showed interviews with people on why they are so stressed in the summer, I could only think “oh, come on.”

 

Some parents were stressed out because the kids are home and not in school. This one I get. But there are ways to alleviate it.

 

The other stressors mentioned in the study are so run-of-the-mill and common year round – trying to balance too much to do came at the top of the list. None of the stressors were abnormal, just people having difficulty getting through their day. And while I should be one of the last people to complain about people complaining about their problems, at least some of my problems are a bit weird. In a nutshell, lately it’s been computer problems, which is common – but Skype hanging and causing other programs to hang? And having to shut down and restart the computer twice to get everything up and running. And yes, I did a full virus scan and it showed all clear.

 

Another one some travellers may emphasize with – at least those who travel by public transit and not car. VIA Rail, Canada’s passenger rail system in its wisdom cut back some service in late 2012. I’m just catching up with that for my holidays this summer. The early evening train no longer runs from Toronto to Grimsby. The morning train is too early for me to deal with because of health problems that are worse in the morning. Then there is the morning rush hour(s) to wade through to get to Union Station (with construction in and outside as well) to catch the train. I might be able to do it if I stayed at the very expensive hotel across the street from Union Station – even manoeuvring the walkway and stairways through the construction. (My late father who worked for the railway as a timekeeper is probably turning over in his grave.)

 

GO Transit doesn’t run buses or trains that go all the way from Toronto to Grimsby. So, I’m left with something called Megabus which runs throughout North America. Must be something relatively new in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I took a bus (not a Megabus) from Toronto to Walkerton and it was a lovely ride and experience. True, we stopped at many places on the way to let people on and off, but the driver was so friendly that the atmosphere in the bus was relaxed and friendly. I remember the driver letting me off across the street from my motel (and that wasn’t the official bus stop) and telling me to be careful crossing the busy street.

 

Megabuses have so many boarding rules that they are almost as bad as airlines. At least we don’t have to remove our shoes – I don’t think.

 

I haven’t booked my tickets – just done some research, including talking to a friend who has travelled on them. I have to phone the company for more details.

 

But it is the only way (short of hitchhiking) I will get to my cousins without a lot of transfers. Will the travel experience be worth it? I’ll believe I get on the bus and get to Grimsby when it happens. The ride by the way is about an hour and a half.

 

At least the problem is a little different problem.

 

Silliness and weird problems aside, the people who really have big worries are those who have cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, those who are homeless, those who lose their homes or part of their homes due to flooding, fires, and wind. And those who worry about these disasters happening because of where they live (read anywhere in the world today). These are bigger concerns than worrying about trying to do everything or even the kids driving you nuts at home. Put them in summer camp for part of the summer. That’s what I did with my son when he was a child and in his early teens. He loved it and learned some new skills such as photography, sailing, painting (the art kind, not house painting).

 

Let’s get realistic. Go to the peace and quiet. I do – my garden. I sit out there, eat meals out there, read out there. And garden.

 

I just try to ignore staring at what was destroyed by the ice storm and the extremely cold winter.

 

My garden provides a little solace time. So does writing, walking, reading and even a bit of TV. And the garden is also providing lots of fresh fruit and veggies to eat. (Lots of weeds, too, but you know what I do with them. As I pull them I imagine they are my problems or the people/organization causing the problems). Helps me and it isn’t illegal.

 

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Gardening, Health, Holidays, Life demands, Megabus, Problems, Railways, Travel, Union Station Toronto, Worrying

Only Child focuses beyond the four-letter words

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child contemplates then and now

Last week I posted dark. Maybe because a lot of what I’ve been experiencing lately is what is described as “going to hell in a hand basket, ” although the basket keeps increasing in size that it is now too big even for the Jolly Green Giant. My postings, my feelings, are a micro reflection of what is going on in the world today – from terrorism to wars to the weather. I’ve posted about that before, too.

Back in the “good old days” when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s life was simpler but not perfect. In the macro realm, most women stayed home with the kids and didn’t work; there was a lot of racism, and the extreme weather conditions were flukes not every-day occurrences. The only extreme weather I lived through was Hurricane Hazel. Our house didn’t experience any flooding. My late Mom said it was because we lived on a hill.

We also didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, and other social media that get abused today (think cyber bullying) and no Internet. The latter, along with email would have been useful. Instead we had landlines (rotary dialing which I couldn’t do now if you paid me), and transportation – we actually had trains going into rural areas carrying people not oil tanks that exploded.

But I’m a railway brat. My late Dad worked for the CNR so Mom, Dad and I got free train rides, a bonus for our holiday travel.

Behind all these good things in the past, there was underlying darkness. I was bullied but it was the in-your-face type of bullying and despite my intense shyness (thanks to being an only child of elderly parents), I did fight back, often more like a clown. In my memoir which I am currently rewriting, I write:

Mom’s uses subtler tactics. How else to explain our silent collusion when one day the Bully and I get into it with words?

I don’t remember the issue, but we’re standing outside on my front veranda. The Bully is letting me have it; I am burning hotter and hotter inside. Mom must hear us because when I run inside to get a knife, she hands me a ruler. The Bully knows she’s in trouble and she runs down the steps. Brandishing the ruler like I’m Zorro without the mask, I tear after her down the stairs, down the street, and around the corner. I’m steaming with how good it will feel to whack her one across the back and head, but she is too far ahead of me. Unlike Zorro, I have no horse, only my short eight-year old legs. I go right up to the side door of her house after she dashes inside. I yell and shake my ruler. I wish I had the nerve to run into her house and finish the job, but what will her mother think and do?

Maybe Mom is trying to protect me by teaching me to stand up for myself. (excerpted  from You Can Go Home, Copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

And maybe that has something to do with why I became a journalist.

The biggest darkness of my childhood was when my Dad got cancer. I was almost 10 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. It spread to his brain. Six and a half years later he was dead. Compounding living with this was living with betrayal – I found out Mom had lied about the lung cancer – Mom said Dad had TB. The Bully told me the truth.

So, life is never 100 per cent rosy or 100 per cent crappy.

But the balance of rosiness to crappiness has changed drastically since we entered the new millennium. Something is off there and hence the big big (and growing “basket) taking us to hell or whatever you envision as hell.

Shouldn’t the good be more than the bad? Or am I relying on life “back then” instead of  “life now?”

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel, Uncategorized, Weather

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