Thursday, April 26, 2012

Goodbye Dad....

My Grandmother, grandfather and Father
I've just returned from Ontario. I was there for my father's funeral. My father had Alzheimer's, but his death was unexpected. My Dad was really funny and a lover of slapstick. I come by that very honestly. It's a recurring theme in this blog. Everyone who spoke of him, during the funeral and after the services, said what a gentle, kind man he was. It was really nice to hear. The funeral was beautiful. The reverend gave the most touching and beautiful service. It was comforting. My Dad's brother, my Uncle Harvey, passed away in the fall. I like to think that they are together somewhere talking about gardening and politics.

The services took place over three days. The final day was the burial. We drove up to The Muskoka area where another service occured and my father was lowered. I noticed a man in coveralls off to the side. I assumed correctly that he was the man who owned the tractor that would push the soil back in. I noticed him looking at me. Someone mentioned to me that the man's coveralls had the name F. Schell on them. When he was done with the tractor, I approached him and pointed at my Grandmothers headstone, and asked him if he was related to my Grandmother (the most beautiful person to ever live on the planet) Mary Schell. He said yes, she was his grandfathers sister. Floyd is my cousin. Floyd also knew my father. It was, again, so comforting. Floyd started to tell me about the family tree and was pointing at stones. I had been to the cemetery before to visit my Grandmothers grave and noticed that we had a lot of family buried there. What I didn't know, was that over 100 years ago, Floyd's grandad (or great grandfather?) sliced a piece off of his farm and gave it to the family for a private family cemetery. I am related to everyone in the cemetery. Floyd told me that he knew when he saw me that I was family. Apparently I look exactly like his mother. Floyd was then pointing at the surrounding bush (forest if you aren't from Ontario) and telling me which land belonged to which family member. The whole area is being farmed by my family.
Cousin Floyd's tractor

My cousin Floyd
All of a sudden I get the gardening, the urban farming urge, the love of tractors, the canning.... I feel so connected. I come from real sturdy farm stock. I knew my grandparents farmed, but wow, there are...I don't even know how many family members farming there. Well that sure explains me tearing my yard up for veggies and making pickled beets and jam last fall.
Old family photo, not sure who. But aren't
the horses beautiful.
My sister Jess and I went to my Aunt Helen's place in Muskoka on our last day. Aunt Helen is moving on Friday. She is a professional gardener. She took us on one last tour of her yard. I believe it's about 50 acres. My cousin Brad joined us on the tour. He was pointing out little wild strawberries that grow all over the property including the lawn. Brad said that they are small but have the flavour of ten normal strawberries. I don't know if they'll grow on the coast, but Helen dug a dozen out of the lawn for me. Then she dug out two clumps of what look exactly like miniature daffs, but of course they are narcissi. They grow all over Orillia just like the Stella day lilies. I had to squish all of it completely flat in my suitcase. Today they look poofed out and much better.

Well Dad. Goodbye. We loved you and will miss you. God speed....And say hi to Grandma for me.

20 comments:

Jane and Chris said...

Erin, you would have been most welcome here. If you ever are this way again...just let me know.
Jane x

Erin said...

Hi Jane. Where are you located?
I really want to go back and spend time with Floyd's mom and get tons of family info. Check out the farms. I would love to see you when I go back.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Hi Erin! I am so sorry for your loss.
What touching story you wrote. I know it is sad time for you, but I also think how lucky you are to have such a family with strong roots and even your own cemetery! I hope those strawberries will grow in your garden!
With sincere sympathy,
Tatyana

Erin said...

Hi Tatyana...thank you for your very kind words. I consider myself very lucky to have known this very funny man. He built a playground for us. And a really cool playhouse. It had glass windows which were eventually replaced with wire cuz my brother kept breaking the windows.
The strawberries are under my lights and are already sending up little leaves. I am going to try to propagate a bunch of babies before I plant them out. But I do think they will be fine.
Thank you
Erin

Jane said...

Hi Erin, sorry to hear about your Dad. In your loss you have gained a cousin & a whole host of family history to discover. It really is a small world...take care... jane xxx

Erin said...

Thank you Jane. It is a small world. My fathers parents had 25 siblings. I find family everywhere I go. It is amazing. However, to have that concentration of family in one area.....was.....so soothing.

Gardeningbren said...

So sorry to read this Erin. What a touching post.
Happy to provide some history for you, and hope that helps make the connection stronger.

Caro (UrbanVegPatch) said...

Erin I'm very sorry to hear that you've lost your Dad unexpectedly and hope that you're right that he's found his brother and they're talking gardening somewhere. A very soothing thought. How fitting that, through this, you've rediscovered a large extended family - and some wild strawberries to remind you of them every time you have a bowlful in the summer! I hope you get to go back and hear the family stories, there's nothing quite like it to feel you truly belong. Wishing you all the best.

Erin said...

Thank you so much Brenda and Caro. I am still reeling a bit from the experience. I have moments where I'm so sad...and then moments when I am elated at finding new family.
The wild strawberries will always remind me of this trip east.
Thank you again...you are such dear people.
Erin

Joan said...

So sorry for the loss of your dad. Nothing can take his place but you now have new-to-you relatives to meet and learn about. How nice to have the plants to remind you of your family far away. Take care.

Erin said...

Thank you so much Joan. When I was little, I used to pick up stones everywhere that we went. Now I look for seeds or plants.
I would love to spend some time with these wonderful farmers in my family. A blogger/friend has offered to do some genealogy for me. It's looking like it goes back into the early 1800's or so. I'll post when we find out how long my family has been farming, again, it sure explains a lot.

Mark Willis said...

Fascinating family history, Erin. I'm sorry for you in one way, because of your bereavement, but I admire your philosophical acceptance of the situation. When you know about family history you understand that life goes on, generation after generation, and that can soften the pain of loss. I'm hoping to be a Grandpa again today (or at least within a day or two)!

Erin said...

Thank you Mark
I am so happy for you. Being a grandparent must be the neatest thing ever!!

charlie b. said...

My sympathies Erin on the loss of your dad. I lost my dad (as you know), so I know it's hard and hope you're doing okay. As I read this post, your similar circumstances were interesting... my dad's brother also died not long ago (they both died at 89). And my family - on both my parents' side - were also long-time farmers and gardeners. How nice that you were able to connect w/your cousin Floyd and learn all that family history. P.S. I wonder if those are Alpine strawberries. I grew them once from seed.

Erin said...

Hi Charlie...I am curious about the berries. I ordered some Alpine st. From Richters in Ontario. They were here when I got back from the funeral. I basically came in the house, changed my clothes and headed outside. I started digging some holes and they are in. They seem to adapt and grow really fast. The berries I got from Helen, seem smaller and flatter. Could they be wild strawberries? I always thought they were one and the same. Maybe not?

Elephant's Eye said...

Coming home, in many different ways. If we dig back a few generations there are Canadian cousins on my mother's side of the family. But, as my mother says, we lost Uncle George.

Christine @ The Gardening Blog said...

Dear Erin - I'm sorry for your loss. I lost my Father recently so I know what you are going through.
*Virtual Huggs*

Erin said...

Thank you Christine and EE. It has been a hard week, but today I spent all day in the greenhouse potting up tomatoes and somehow, I feel a bit more in balance. I'm pretty sure my dad would approve.

Jane and Chris said...

I'm in Kirkfield, one hour from Orillia.
Jane xx

Erin said...

Next time I'm in Orillia, I would love to meet you. Could I check out your garden while I'm there?