The Ghost of My Father

My father died of multiple cancers from smoking, working in mines and his time at the Bruce Nuclear station in Ontario under the leadership of Maurice Strong. He was sixty two at his death, I was eighteen. My father was a genius, but lacked ambition. He was deaf from blasting in the mines, but sometimes I think he used that to ignore people.

I remember one summer day, I was banging away at the piano, just trying to come up with something new, he was reading the paper in the next room. He shouted out to me, "Johnny, Johnny." I stopped and waited for  him to continue. He said, "it's a damn good thing your my son or I would kick your ass".  My father was a gentle soul so I paid no heed and continued.

The night my dad died was awkward, we all knew it was near. At about 2:30 am the nurse called and we went to the hospital to say our last good byes. He was hooked up to various life support systems, my mother gave the nod and he took his final breath.

There are two things I can remember him saying, "I feel like my body is on fire and wish I could drink a bottle of whiskey. The second thing he said, " the best advice I can give you, is never get married." He had a great sense of humor. Shortly after he aspired away.

My last year of high school was lonely and it was in that year my father died. I remember the guidance counselor approaching me with genuine concern, but I could not find the strength to discuss the matter with him. I ran from the school, sat at the base of a large tree and cried away.

In the last semester after my fathers death, I had a vision one night as I slept in my bed. I was startled and awoke to see my fathers back to me sitting at the foot of my bed.  He didn't look back at me because, I thought, that might frighten me. He said, "Johnny I want you to build a boat like the dory I knew as a child".

The next day I went to the library and researched the dory of the east coast. I photo copied the plans of a traditional dory and brought them to school. I was able to get some private time in the drafting room and machine shop to develop my model of a east coast dory. I couldn't build a full scale version so, instead I tried to build a scale model. I had plotted all the parts to scale, I used the scroll saw to cut them out from various scrap lumber.

After a few weeks of having the shop to myself, I got careless. At the time I was a smoker. As I started to assemble the dory, I took the chance and lit up a smoke in the class, about 7:00 pm, as I couldn't take the time to go outside. The one teacher in the school caught me and banned me from the school after hours. I don't hold it against him, he did what he had to do. I never finished the project, but kept all the drawings and pieces in my bottom drawer.

Over time, the drawings and the pieces were gone, I do not know how for they were precious to me. Shortly after I was married my wife went to Vancouver on business. I went to bed in the first home I did rent. It was an old house over one hundred years old. While I slept, I was awoken by a sound from the window. It was my father. I somehow was not too frightened, it had something to do with his previous visit and it tempered me. He said, "Johnny, you must build the boat."

 I did build the boat. It was a design I thought reminded me of the East coast dory, but was something I could store and carry to various destinations. The name of the design is the Cosine Wherry, you can look it up on the internet. The boat I built was displayed at the Science Museum here in Ottawa and many other fairs. The museum offered me a healthy sum for the boat but I refused.

Instead I rebuilt a trolling motor and battery system to power the boat. I even dabbled with solar panels to recharge the batteries. Regardless the boat performed extremely well and I enjoyed many adventures.

I didn't spend much time with my father. By the time I was born he was supporting a family  of eight. I still remember how my father would stop along the highway on the way to visit relatives.
He would see a stream, pull over, get his fishing rod and disappear into the bush for hours as we waited for him to return. Very rarely did I get to fish with my father, I had to wake myself and be prepared to go or I would be left behind.

The most extraordinary thing happened after I built my boat. My father in law and I would go fishing as often as we could. He had the time to show me things my own father had no time for. My father in law truly loved my boat as I would imagine my own father would have.

My own father had little time for me as was the circumstance, but through his ghost he provided a path for which I could forge a closer son father relationship with my father in law.  



Uploaded 01/03/2011
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