My trip to the Labrador Straits, June 2017

I took a quick trip home last weekend, which actually extended ‘up along’ to the Straits. My parents and I drove as far as L’Anse au Clair because Dad wanted to go to the hardware store, and we slowly worked our way back down. My only requests: I need to see the lighthouse again, look for sea glass, and see my grandparents that I haven’t seen in years. It was a quick trip home overall, it never really is long enough.

I learned that my great (and great great) grandfather Yetman were light keepers on Saddle Island. There’s so much history in Red Bay involving my family alone, not just the basque, that I would love to take more time to explore. I feel like I know next to nothing about my mother’s side of the family, because I grew up in St. Lewis which wasn’t connected by road to the rest of the province until I was already in high school. My formative years were spent away from my relatives on my mom’s side, and much time was spent with family on my dad’s side.

Every time I visit Red Bay I kind of get this little twinge of excitement, like perhaps if I left on foot from my grandparents door I’d find something – some artifact or scene that would somehow fulfill this mystery that I always look for when I visit. I remember way back (1997 maybe? or earlier) when The Matthew sailed into Red Bay. I remember walking the deck of the boat, and I remember the huge crowds of people. There aren’t a lot of memories I have with Red Bay, but there are lots that I hope to make in the years to come.

M.

The things that I know.

It’s 12:36 on a Thursday night, but it’s okay because this is holiday time. It should be okay at any time; feelings are important. I’m here, tears in my eyes, thinking about my grandfather.

As I type, my grandmother is sleeping in her bed, where she’s been for over five years since my grandfather died. At first I wrote ‘passed on,’ but I’m still not exactly sure where or what we pass on to.

I’m sitting here wondering what my pop would think of of what I’m doing in my life today. If he’d approve of my choices, my work, my hair, my truck, every last little thing. I know he’d poke fun at me for still being fat haha. I can joke about it now, but it was a tough pill to swallow growing up.

I remember shortly after he died I visited his shed alone. That’s where I go to remember him, where I remember him best… leaning over the counter tinkering with a wood project. I walked into the shed, no longer alive but still with the same scent, and the floor made a big crack sound. I burst into laughter then and there, that was his way of saying, “yep, still fat I see.”

I don’t know why all of this is coming to me now at this time. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because my Nan’s health is on a steady decline and we’re all pretty powerless to stop it. I have very fond memories of both my nan and pop, ones I’ll hang on to as the days get harder.

When I was leaving home for the first time (my failed attempt at art school circa 2004) pop wanted to speak to me alone. This was a buzz amongst the family because he never made such a request outright. I recall the blisteringly hot day sitting down on the steps outside, Aunt Lucy peering through the storm door. Pop took my hand and told me to ‘be a good girl,’ and handed me a roll of quarters. He said, “I want you to promise me one thing,” and I said, “name it,” and he said, “Never ever ever, ever, start smoking.”

Some of you might have read that and had a little chuckle, some of you might have taken it super seriously; me, I took it seriously. I’ve never had a cigarette in my life. My pop smoked and chewed tobacco for many many years and this caused him to have severe lung problems. While it was not his cause of death, it caused him to have breathing problems and he suffered every day because of it.

There are things that come to my mind daily that make me thankful for the lessons my grandparents taught me. Sometimes it’ll be something simple; i’ll be standing in the doorway at the bar where I work on Friday’s and someone will blow smoke in my face or make a rude comment, and I’ll hear nan say, “turn a deaf ear to it…” or I’ll be preparing dinner for myself and I’ll notice I’m timing my ingredients and stirring things the exact way my nan taught me.

Tonight turned into much more of an emotional time than I thought it would. As I sit here re-reading this blog post and thinking back on all the good and bad times my family has shared over the years I always come back to one thing: appreciation. I would not be who I am, where I am today if it had not been for the love of two ironbound Labradorians, two soft spoken, secretly funny, forever caring young people. I will always love my grandparents because they are me. And I am them. These are the things that I know.

M.