I know little or nothing about my parents’ lives. I know that as a young man my father for a time worked as a lumber jack in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, that he got his doctorate degree from the University of Iowa and earned money there printing and selling business cards. I also know that during WWII he worked for the Navy doing something behind closed doors at Purdue.
I remember his sharing a few tidbits about his experience across the border — that most of the lumberjacks were French, that they were very superstitious and, as such, didn’t venture out of the camp at night, and that he was the one assigned to transport boxes of dynamite on a rickety horse drawn cart.
On a family fishing trip to Canada one summer I also learned that he had picked up conversational French. Having a need to restock camping supplies, we had driven to a local grocery store. At the time I took little notice of the two employees speaking French behind the counter and I was taken aback to see Dad step to the cash register, toss a loaf of bread at the taller of the two men, and begin to rattle off a few angry words in French. They turned white, took a noticeable step back from the counter, and became very apologetic.
I know even less about my mother. In fact — the only thing I think I know about my mother is that she worked as a normal school teacher somewhere in Maine before she married Dad.
Thinking back, it could very well be that my parents did go out of their way to share their stories with me but I may have just been too young or just too self-involved to notice. Sadly, there’s a bookcase in my brain where those anecdotes should have been stored but it just stands there in the corner – empty, gathering dust.
Hopefully, in sharing my stories my estranged children will come to have a greater understanding of their father.
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