Kindred Spirits at Lands End
The street was lined with people. Some stood still and silent while others waved flags. At the head of the procession was a dark car escorted by a police car with flashing lights and behind that was a hearse. Following the hearse hundreds of men marched in police uniforms from all over. There were Toronto Police officers in dress blues, Mounties in their well known scarlet tunics, officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, the Surté Dé Quebec, officers from every province and many cities south of the border including New York, Detroit, Boston, Washington and Dallas.
The procession turned into the cemetery and, after a short slow drive, stopped. A young woman in a black dress with three teenage boys in Air Cadet Uniforms emerged from the lead car escorted by a police officer in full dress uniform. As a team of pallbearers formed up behind the hearse, a pipes and drums band began to play “Amazing Grace”. At first, there was just a single piper, but as the flag draped casket was hefted aloft by the pallbearers the second verse began and the rest of the pipes and drums band began to play.
The graveside service was brief and as the minister finished speaking, the honour guard assembled nearby raised their rifles, the assembled uniformed personnel, including the three boys in Air Cadet uniforms snapped to attention and saluted. Many in the crowd flinched visibly as the first volley was fired by the firing party.
* * *
I was jolted awake by the sound of thunder outside the motel room window and for a second I didn’t know where I was, then I felt a comforting hand come to rest on my shoulder.
“Dad are you ok?” Josh asked gently in the darkness beside me.
“Yeah, I’m ok bud,” I replied.
“You were talking in your sleep and tossing and turning,” Josh said with concern as he gently squeezed my shoulder.
“I was dreaming about my Dad’s funeral,” I replied.
“You were pretty young when he died weren’t you?”
“Yeah, I was only twelve,” I replied. “It was quite a big funeral. There were officers there from all over Canada and the US and thousands of people from all over the city lined up along the streets leading to the cemetery.”
“That must have been tough. It wasn’t so bad for me when my father died because I had you. You didn’t really have anyone other than your mom and your brothers.”
“It was pretty hard, but you know what the family’s like... they made it manageable.”
“Brutus was getting upset when you were thrashing around,” Josh said.
I reached down, gently stroked Brutus’ head and smiled when I heard his tail begin thumping against the bed.
“It’s still the middle of the night,” Josh said. We should get back to sleep. “Want me to stay here with you?”
“Sure bud,” I replied. “Thanks.”
I put my head back down on the pillow as Josh climbed in next to me and snuggled up against my side. “I guess we’ll see the Atlantic tomorrow eh?” He said.
“Yeah. I’m looking forward to crossing the Confederation Bridge to PEI,” I replied with a yawn.
“That’ll be cool,” Josh said sleepily.
We both fell asleep in a matter of minutes and didn’t wake up again until the next morning. We had stopped for the night in a small motel in the city of Fredericton New Brunswick. Fredericton is the capitol of New Brunswick as was one of three major cities that we intended to visit in the province. We had arrived fairly late in the day and decided to call it a night after eating dinner at a local restaurant.
The city is set on the shores of the Saint John River. The river flows south to the Bay of Fundy and the city of Saint John. Saint John is the largest city in New Brunswick and another place that we intended to visit. Given the layout of the Atlantic Provinces and our need to maximize the efficiency of our route, we planned on exploring New Brunswick in two separate visits. Our first visit that would cover Fredericton and Moncton would lead us to our visit to Prince Edward Island, then return to New Brunswick and head along the Bay of Fundy to Saint John, where we’d take a ferry over to Digby, Nova Scotia, drive to Halifax and then eventually north to Sydney where we’d take a ferry across to Newfoundland.
After checking out of our motel, we headed to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. As we had in all of the other provinces that we visited, we wanted to be sure to visit and tour the provincial parliament building.
Fredericton is a quaint little city with mostly low-rise buildings and a small town sort of architecture. It had a distinct homey feel to it and we learned very quickly that much like in the prairie provinces, things happen here at a slower pace in the eastern provinces, than they do in Ontario or Quebec. People are very friendly, helpful, and laid back.
The New Brunswick Legislature, built in 1882, in some ways bares a resemblance to Ontario’s legislature building Queen’s Park only somewhat smaller. We parked the Jeep, ensured that Brutus was well fed and watered, then headed into the building.
As with other legislature buildings, we joined a tour group and Josh filmed just about everything he could. As I watched him interacting with the tour guide and the other people on the tour, I thought back to the mischievous little boy he was the first time that I met him. I thought about the lonely little guy that he was and marvelled at how far he had come in just a few years. I always used our first days at Camp Tonawonka and the day, almost a year ago, that I knocked on Susan’s door when we met again, as a benchmark of the person he was. Even over the course of that summer at camp two years before, Josh had changed a lot. He had blossomed in many ways. He had become quite extroverted in a socially balanced sort of way, although around me, he’d never been a shy or introverted person. He’d developed a great deal more self confidence than I had ever dared to hope or imagine and now, I could see that he was starting to think and to reason in a more adult way. He truly was beginning the emotional process of maturing from a boy into a man. Josh had become quite an amazing boy and I could imagine the man that he was on his way to becoming.
“Where to now Dad?” Josh asked as returned to the Jeep.
“Let’s take Brutus for a short walk and explore the downtown area a bit,” I suggested. The tour of the legislature hadn’t taken that long and we had some time to kill. The drive to Moncton would be fun and would feature a stop at the famous “Magnetic Hill”.
We spent the next hour wandering through downtown Fredericton and almost without exception people stopped to comment about Brutus and to pet him. Brutus, like Josh was really blossoming. I’d always thought that Brutus and Daisy were exceptional pups and Brutus was proving me right at every turn. He was getting bigger by the day and I estimated that he was probably up to about 35 pounds already. Judging by the size of his paws and what the vet had told us, he still had a fair bit of growing still to do. Not only was he growing in size, but he was also continuing to develop his personality. He wasn’t at all shy around new people and was absolutely wonderful with small children.
We had encountered a fair number of toddlers while walking Brutus and he loved interacting with them. It almost seemed that he had some ingrained sense of the need to be extra calm and gentle with babies. One little boy latched onto his tail as he was being petted by the boy’s mother. The little boy didn’t pull hard enough to hurt Brutus and Brutus took it all in stride. He turned around and kissed the little boy’s face, which made him laugh. As soon as the little boy started laughing, Brutus began to bark softly which made the little boy laugh even harder. It was pretty comical watching them and I wondered, did he remember what it was like to be a baby pup himself?
After we completed our exploration of downtown Fredericton, we headed back to the Jeep and pressed on towards Moncton. The drive from Fredericton to Moncton is less than two hours long but it is very scenic. New Brunswick is known for its covered bridges and we drove across quite a few along the way.
We approached the city of Moncton from the north via the Trans Canada Highway. Just outside the city, we exited the highway and turned onto a scenic road along a geological formation known as Lute’s Mountain. Lute’s Mountain, really a large ridge, rises a few hundred feet above the Petitcodiac River Valley. We left the main road, which headed into the city and turned onto a small gravel road a short distance to the east.
“Why are we taking this road?” Josh asked.
“It’s kind of scenic. Besides it’s magnetic,” I said.
“Magnetic? How can the road be magnetic?” Josh asked.
“Watch, I’ll show you,” I drove the Jeep about one kilometre down the gravel road towards the base of the ridge. I then put the Jeep in neutral and released the brakes. Slowly at first, the Jeep began to roll backwards.
“How is this possible?” Josh asked in an astonished voice. “We’re rolling up hill!”
“It looks that way doesn’t it?” I chuckled. “It’s called Magnetic Hill. It isn’t really magnetic, it’s an optical illusion. The angle of the ridge makes it look like we’re rolling up hill. Really, we’re rolling down hill.”
I hit the brakes to stop us from rolling any farther and then drove back to the crest of the ridge. “Pretty neat eh?”
“Yeah, let’s do it again. I want to film it,” Josh replied excitedly.
We spent another fifteen minutes on Magnetic Hill as Josh filmed us appearing to roll up hill from both inside and outside the Jeep. Once the novelty began to wear off, we headed into the city of Moncton.
We timed it perfectly. We arrived in Moncton at high tide. Moncton, located on the Petitcodiac River has one of the few true tidal bores in North America.
“Get the camera bud,” I said as we parked the Jeep in a small park overlooking the river.
I snapped Brutus’ leash on and we climbed out of the Jeep. “Look at the river. See anything weird?”
Josh looked for a moment and then his eyes lit up. “Hey, there’s a wave going the wrong way!”
“That’s called a tidal bore. The tide is so high that it overflows back into the river that actually empties into the ocean. It’s kind of a mini tidal wave and it happens every day.”
“That’s pretty weird,” Josh said.
“Wait ’til you see how high the tides are when we get to Saint John. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. It’s supposed to be an awesome sight seeing the difference between high and low tide.”
We had only a limited amount of time to spend in Moncton so we decided to make the maximum use of it. We spent some time touring some of the major landmarks such as historic ‘The Notré-Dame-dé-l'Assomption Cathedral and the Aliant Tower before continuing East.
“I wish we could have spent more time in New Brunswick,” Josh said as we headed out of town.
“Me too. We have to hurry this last part of the trip though if we’re going to make it to all of the provinces and still be back in time to take the twins Fishing.”
“It’s another place that we’ll have to come back to with Mark and Bryan!” Josh remarked with a small smile and sighed. “Ya know, I still miss them.”
“Me too son. For sure, it’s a place we have to share with them. We’ll be back to New Brunswick tomorrow of course. We’ll spend tomorrow in PEI and then cross back over tomorrow night and head to Saint John.”
It was a very short drive from Moncton to Cape Tormentine and the start of the Confederation Bridge. The Confederation Bridge is a 12.9 kilometre long toll bridge, built between 1993 and 1997 providing a fixed link between New Brunswick and the island province of Prince Edward Island. The bridge forms part of the Trans Canada Highway and allows vehicles to cross the Northumberland Straight in less than ten minutes. Before the opening of the bridge, it used to be necessary to cross the straight on a ferry. In fact, the ferry service was constitutionally guaranteed. When the ferry service was replaced with the bridge, it actually required a constitutional amendment.
As we drove onto the bridge, I looked over at Josh. “Well bud, that’s our third ocean. We’re officially driving over a portion of the Atlantic right now.”
“Amazing,” Josh replied thoughtfully as he looked out his window at the rough blue water below. He seemed lost in thought.
“What’s on your mind bud?”
“I was just thinking. This has been the best summer of my life. I’m kind of sad that it’s almost over, but I can’t wait for us to get to Newfoundland and reach the end of the trip. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. Everyone should do this at least once in their lives.”
“It would probably lead to a much better understanding between people from various parts of the country wouldn’t it?”
“No kidding,” Josh replied. “The provinces are bigger than many countries and it takes longer to cross Canada than it must take to cross all of Europe. I knew from Geography class that Canada was big, but I never really knew just how big before.”
When we finally reached the far end of the bridge, we entered the tiny island province of Prince Edward Island. PEI is a beautiful place, perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. The entire province has a population of only 139,000, which is less than many towns and cities in Ontario.
We headed south towards the capitol Charlottetown. Charlottetown was founded in 1764, almost 100 years before confederation. It has a population of just over 32,000 and it represents one of the most historically important cities in Canada.
Our first stop was Province House. Province House, built in 1843, has housed the PEI provincial legislature since 1847. It’s Canada’s second oldest legislature building. In 1864, it housed the Charlottetown Conference that led to Canadian Confederation – the uniting of the British Colonies of North America into what is now Canada. Province House is now a national historic site for that reason.
“This is where it all began Josh,” I said as we parked the Jeep.
“I’m getting that tingly historic feeling again,” Josh replied.
“Well Josh, it was in 1864 when delegates from the various colonies met to discuss the union of the British colonies. It was in this building where the initial conception of Canada as a nation took place. From here they went to further meetings in Quebec City that led to the adoption of 72 resolutions that later became the British North America Act. Delegates then went to London with their proposal in 1866 and the BNA Act was passed by the British Parliament creating the Dominion of Canada effect July 1, 1867.”
“It wasn’t the whole country all at once though was it?”
“No. Initially it was the United Province of Canada, which is now Ontario and Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Other provinces were formed as the West was opened and joined Confederation in the years to come. The last was Newfoundland, which joined in 1949. One of the delegates from the Province of Canada was none other than our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald.”
“He’s on the $10 bill!”
“Right. He was one of our greatest nation builders and he was also known to be a bit of a drunk.”
“Really?” Josh asked incredulously.
“Oh yeah. He’d be three sheets to the wind even in parliament from time to time. I once read a really funny story about him. He was campaigning to be premier of the Province of Canada and he was attending a debate with his opponent. He was drunk as a skunk at the time and trying to hide it. As his opponent was speaking he threw up all over the stage,” I chuckled.
“Oh, it gets better. MacDonald, quick on his feet came up with the best comeback ever. He composed himself, turned to the horrified audience and said, ‘See how my opponent’s ideas disgust me so?’ and managed to turn the tables on his poor opponent.”
We had a good hearty laugh at the expense of our first Prime Minister and then we headed into the hallowed and historic building to start our tour. Josh was quite right; the place had that same goose-bump inducing historic feel that the Parliament buildings in Ottawa did. It was truly a moving experience for both of us to walk through the halls of the building in which our nation was conceived.
After we left Province House, we took Brutus for a short walk around the grounds.
“You know bud, there’s somewhere else that we need to visit sometime. Maybe next summer even.”
“Where?” Josh asked.
“We need to visit Europe, in particular France, The Netherlands, and Belgium. We need to visit Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Dieppe.”
“Those were the sites of famous battles weren’t they?”
“Yes they are. Canada’s backbone was conceived as much there as it was here. Although Canada was born in the parliament of the United Kingdom, most historians agree that it came of age as a nation on the bloody slopes of Vimy Ridge. I have a book that I’ll lend you. It’s called ‘A Nation Forged in Fire’ and it’s all about Canada in the wars. If you like history you’ll like this book.”
“I love history, especially after all the stuff we’ve seen this summer,” Josh replied.
“You see Josh, on paper, the fathers of Confederation formed Canada as a country, but it was the Canadian men of that time, who went to fight overseas for our beliefs in freedom, that formed us into a nation among the nations of the world. Historians like to say that we ‘punched above our weight’ in the wars.”
“That means that we did more than anyone could have expected from us, right?”
“That’s right. In WWI, the Germans were most afraid of the Canadian army. They called Canadian solders ‘Sturmann’ which means Stormtroopers. That’s what they called the best of their own troops and they referred to the entire Canadian Corps as the Sturmann of the allies. It was the first time that Canadians from every province had come together as one and accomplished something great. Vimy Ridge is officially Canadian soil. It was given forever to Canada by the French government in recognition of our war effort. When Canadians visit the Netherlands, we receive the warmest welcome of anyone because it was primarily Canadian troops who liberated that country from the Germans in WWII.”
“If it’s part of Canada, we have to see it!” Josh said with a grin. “What you’re saying is that the war, as terrible was it was, cemented Canada together and made the world notice us right?”
“That’s it exactly. When the war started, we were automatically involved because Britain was. We didn’t have any choice. By the time it was over, we had earned our own seat at the peace negotiations with the Germans.”
We left Province House and headed to our accommodations for the night. We had booked ourselves into a quaint little cabin overlooking Northumberland Straight. The view from the front porch was breathtakingly beautiful. In the distance, we could see fishing vessels and cargo ships making their way into and out of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
We got Brutus settled in and then we headed down the road to a local restaurant. We elected to go out for an authentic Maritime lobster dinner. Both Josh and I loved lobster and we figured that if we wanted a good lobster dinner, this was the place to get it. We weren’t disappointed.
The restaurant was done up in a country style with wooden furnishings, stucco walls and all kinds of fishing gear, stuffed fish and pictures of ships and the sea adorning the walls. At the front of the restaurant, there was a live band playing music with a distinct Celtic flavour. We both ordered extra large lobsters with all the trimmings. The waitress brought us plastic bibs and various implements for cracking open Lobster shells.
When she brought our plates, we both stared wide eyes at the massive red-shelled lobsters that were placed before us.
“This thing is huge!” Josh exclaimed.
“I’m sure you can handle it bud,” I chuckled.
“I’m not sure that you can though,” he laughed.
With a frenzy of cracking shells and the flash of shiny picks and cracking implements, we went to work on the giant shellfish. The taste and texture of the meat was heavenly - far better than either of us had ever eaten before. We tore into those lobsters like there was no tomorrow and we both managed to finish every scrap.
“Did you boys enjoy your meal?” The waitress asked when she returned to collect our plates.
“Did we ever,” I replied. “I’ve never had lobster that fresh before!”
“Those lobsters came out of the ocean just this morning. They don’t get any fresher than that. Where are you guys from?”
“We’re from Ontario. We’ve been driving across the country,” Josh replied.
“Fantastic. Enjoy your stay on the island,” she said with a smile and then headed off with our dishes.
After we paid our bill, we headed back to the cabin and settled in for the night. Josh phoned home to check in with Susan and Andy called my cell phone.
“So bro, how are you guys doing?” He asked.
“Not bad at all. We just ate the biggest lobster dinner I could ever imagine.”
“Sounds good. Are you guys on track time wise?”
“Yeah, we’re spending tomorrow on PEI and then heading back to New Brunswick for another day. We’ll spend two days in Nova Scotia and then we’ll be off to Newfoundland. We’ll be at Cape Spear on the 27th.”
“Then it’s a pretty direct drive home eh?”
“Yeah, we’ll be back in time to take the twins for a one-day fishing trip and then it’s back to school on the 5th and back to our normal routine.”
“We’re all looking forward to having you guys back. By the way, Professor Markinson has lit a fire under this lawsuit mess and we’ve a motion hearing set for November 20. Good chance he’ll get the whole thing dismissed at that time.”
“That’s great news,” I exclaimed.
We talked for a few more minutes and then hung up.
“What’s the good news?” Josh asked.
“It sounds like we could be very close to having that lawsuit thrown out. Andy’s professor has been working hard on it and he’s got us a hearing before a judge on a dismissal motion on November 20.”
“I hope that’s the end of it,” Josh replied.
I sat down in from of my laptop and spent some time working on the multimedia authoring program while Josh watched some television. It was hard to believe that we were just about a week away from resuming our normal lives. Of course, there was nothing routine about our lives to begin with and I had an obscure feeling that after this trip, things were going to get even more interesting than they were before.
The next morning, we headed back out onto the road. Heading north towards the north shore of PEI, we spent the morning at Prince Edward Island National Park which includes the world famous Cavendish Beach with it’s iconic red sand. The two of us waded into the water and took turns throwing a Frisbee for Brutus who paddled out into the surf to retrieve it. We could have done that for hours and the little dog would have happily played along.
Another place I wanted to show Josh while we were in Cavendish, was the famous Lucy Maude Montgomery home - best known as the back drop for her famous novel, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ - The story of a fictitious young girl, Anne Shirley.
“Look familiar?” I asked Josh as we walked toward the house. I think I was only eight when the TV show about the site was aired. I’d read the book since then.
“Yeah,” he answered. “It was a TV series that Mom said she watched when I was just a baby. She liked it so much that she bought the video and we watched it together a few years ago.”
“Well Josh, the beach we were at and this little farm is where that story was filmed. Lucy Maude Montgomery was the author and she based a lot of that story on how she wished her life had been while she lived here.”
According to the story and the video, Anne Shirley was a very precocious, imaginative thirteen-year-old, who, only in part, reminded me of Josh’s attitude towards the problems he and I had observed, just in the short time we’d been together. That thought prompted me to ask, “Did that girl in the video or the story remind you of anyone?”
“Well Dad....” he thought for a moment, “I think that when she gets a bit older, Shelley might be like her in some ways. I know girls are really chatty about every little thing and so is Shelley, but she talks about the important things in life, ya know, like kindness to animals, the importance of medical research, the trust of friends.... stuff like that.”
I smiled – I wanted to laugh, but I held it in. There was something adorable about his serious demeanour when he spoke of Shelley. His answer wasn’t what I’d expected.
“Well son, do you think that maybe you’re not much different yourself?” I asked.
“Daaad!” he exclaimed innocently. “I’m a boy!”
That did make me laugh. “Yes son, that’s true, but what do you think Anne Shirley OR Shelley for that matter, would have said to the Prime Minister?”
“Well....” he laughed, “they might have said the same things, but maybe they’d get angry when they said it.” His giggles ebbed to a serious grin. “Shelley’s very strong when it comes to what she believes in.”
I smiled again and nodded. “Yes son, and so are you.... just like any kindred spirit.”
“We’re all kindred spirits Dad,” Josh said with a slight grin. “You, me, Bryan, Mark, Mom, your Mom, Andy, James, Rachel, the twins, Shelley and her folks.... we just have to think about them and you feel comfortable.”
“Josh, I couldn’t have said it better.” Once again he amazed me with the depth of his thoughts.
After our tour of the grounds and the home, with our time running ever shorter, we left Cavendish and headed back south to the Confederation Bridge. We crossed the bridge back into New Brunswick and headed south to Saint John, the largest city in that province.
Saint John is a surprisingly hilly city that overlooks the Bay of Fundy. It has a small modern downtown core and a sizeable industrial area dedicated primarily to shipbuilding. We parked the Jeep on a street in town and went to explore the Saint John City Market.
Entering the market off the main street, for all intent and purpose, it’s exactly what you’d expect in market specializing in seafood. One of the first stores that you encounter in the market is Billy’s Seafood. They sell a variety of fresh seafood including Bay of Fundy Lobsters packaged specially for transport. They’ll even ship fresh lobsters and other seafood to other parts of the country.
We spend some time walking through the market before we found ourselves at the far end. We went through a doorway and down some stairs and found ourselves in the Brunswick Centre. The Brunswick Centre is a modern underground shopping mall located beneath the streets of Saint John New Brunswick. It is interconnected with a number of other shopping malls and retail centres via a series of underground pathways. We spent a couple of hours exploring the underground portion of Saint John and managed to pick up some more souvenirs for various people back home.
After we found our way back through the market, we returned to the Jeep and then headed to the ferry docks to catch the Digby Ferry that would take us to our second last province, Nova Scotia.
Once again we found ourselves standing on the railing of a ferry as it carried us across a small portion of a major body of water. The sun was just beginning to set and we stood watching it.
“That’s beautiful,” Josh remarked.
I stood next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. “It really is,” I said. “I’ve never watched the sun set from the ocean before.”
The sky before us was a brilliant orange that was reflected spectacularly off the rough waters of the Bay of Fundy. We stood side by side and watched as the disk of the sun slowly sank below the horizon of the mainland.
“It’s going to be different being home,” Josh said.
“Different, but nice nonetheless.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing Mom again. I’m even looking forward to going back to school. Since I’ll be in 8th grade, I can run for student council president. Do you think I should?”
“Of course bud. You’re a smart guy and people like you. I bet you’ll be a shoe in.”
“I was on student council last year and I liked it. I kinda liked running in the election. It was interesting and in the end, a lot of fun.”
I smiled to myself and thought of my dreams of Josh’s future. Perhaps there was something to them.
“You need to do what makes you happy kiddo,” I said.
“I guess we’ll be busy trying to put all this video and all those pictures together somehow too.”
“That’s going to be a big project,” I replied. “This program that I’ve been working on should really help.”
“You should really look at selling that or something. It could be worth a lot of money,” Josh said enthusiastically. “Remember that guy that we met at the campground, the guy with the software company?”
“I remember. That was Emmett Hastings from Texas.”
“Yeah. They had the big dog named Rudy. I’ll bet Brutus would have liked to play with him.”
“Brutus likes to play with everyone,” I chuckled.
“That’s one thing that I like best about dogs. They don’t judge anyone. They like everyone unless they give them some reason not to like them.”
I marvelled once again at Josh’s maturity. That was quite an observation from a 13-year-old boy.
By the time the ferry docked in Digby, we were both dead tired and ready to grab a quick bite of dinner and then turn in for the night. We headed straight to a motel and ordered supper from the burger joint next door.
We ate and then turned in for an early night. We had a full schedule the next day and we needed our rest. We didn’t even bother to turn on the TV in the motel room. We took turns in the shower and then hit the hay. Josh, Brutus, and I all piled into one of the double beds and all of us fell asleep almost immediately.
“Love you Dad,” Josh said just before sleep claimed him.
“I love you too kiddo,” I replied.
The next morning, I awoke first. I was on my side with Josh draped over my from behind. I could feel the thump of his slow and regular heartbeat between my shoulder blades and I just lay there enjoying the sensation for a moment. In front of me, all sprawled out on his back was Brutus. It was good to see how secure Brutus felt with us. A dog who feels happy and secure will lie on his back like that while an insecure dog will always keep his belly protected. As soon as I began to untangle myself from Josh, Brutus woke up and greeted me with a puppy kiss.
“Hey Brutus, want to go outside?”
His madly wagging tail answered my question. After hitting the washroom myself, I threw on some pants and a shirt and took Brutus outside to do his morning business. By the time we returned, Josh was just beginning to stir.
“Morning Dad,” he said sleepily.
“Hey bud. We’d better get a move on. We’ve got a big day today. First it’s Peggys Cove and then it’s Halifax and the naval base.”
“Cool, I can’t wait to see the base.”
The drive to scenic Peggys Cove took us just a little under two hours. Peggys Cove is a well known tourist site in Nova Scotia. It’s located on the south coast not far from Halifax. It features a famous lighthouse that has appeared on probably thousands of postcards over the years.
The approach to Peggys cove afforded us our first view of the open Atlantic. The highway turned northeast right at Mahone Bay, which is just east of Peggys Cove. Rather than stopping, we pushed on to Peggy’s Cove.
We parked the Jeep and made our way to the lighthouse. The Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is located just off the scenic Lighthouse Route, which runs for 339 kilometres along the south shore of Nova Scotia from Halifax to Yarmouth. The lighthouse, situated at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay, is officially known as Peggys Point Lighthouse. It’s operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.
The lighthouse is brightly painted red and white, located directly on top of a large granite outcropping at the tip of Peggys Point. Warning signs posted around the lighthouse warn visitors that the granite rock can get very slippery when wet.
“Watch your step there bud,” I cautioned Josh.
“I will,” he replied. He was holding Brutus’ leash in his hand and the growing puppy walked nicely beside him as he ventured out onto the rocks.
We took a lot of pictures at and around the lighthouse. While the lighthouse is fully automated, it actually contains a post office in the lower level. The post office is used by visitors to send post cards and each item mailed there receives a special Peggys Cove Lighthouse stamp on it.
We got back into the Jeep and drove approximately one kilometre farther along the road towards an outcropping of land known as The Whalesback. We parked the Jeep once again, made our way to the top of the Whalesback and arrived at one of two Swissair Flight 111 memorial sites. The other site is located on the far side of St. Margaret’s Bay in Baywater. The crash site where the plane went down is located at the point of an imaginary triangle with the base formed by the two memorial sites. The Baywater memorial is where the remains of the unidentified victims were buried.
“In memory of the 229 men, women and children aboard Swissair Flight 111 who perished off these shores September 2nd, 1998. They have been joined to the sea, and the sky. May they rest in peace." Josh read from the stone tablet at the centre of the memorial. “I remember hearing about this crash,” Josh said.
“Me too. They were flying from New York to Geneva. When it crashed, fishermen who live around Peggys Cove heard the explosion and went out in their boats to try to rescue passengers, but there were no survivors.”
We took a few moments to explore the memorial site and then we piled back into the Jeep and headed back onto the highway. Halifax and the massive naval base there was to be our final stop in Nova Scotia before heading off to Newfoundland.
“Dad how safe is it to fly?” Josh asked.
“It’s very safe actually,” I replied. “Are you thinking about the crash?”
“Yeah. That’s an awful lot of people who died on that plane.”
“It was, but the thing is it doesn’t happen very often. There are tens of thousands of flights every day and crashes, especially major ones like that are very rare. Think of all the flying we did this summer.... the trip from Calgary to Ottawa and back... remember Air Combat Canada and our trip beyond the Arctic Circle... we were safe the whole time. Statistically you have a much better chance of dying in a car crash or by being struck by lightning than you do in a plane crash.”
“That’s good to know. If you were on a big plane and the pilot and co-pilot were sick, would you try to land it?”
“What made you ask that?” I replied.
“Nothing. I was just thinking, that’s all. That happens sometimes on movies.”
“Well I guess I’d give it a shot if there was nobody on board who was qualified in that type of plane. I’d need a lot of help from the ground, but I think I could do it. The principals are the same no matter what type or size of plane. The differences are in the details, landing speeds, stall speeds, the location of instruments and controls.”
We drove on from there and within an hour we reached Halifax. Regrettably, we didn’t have much time to spend in the city itself other than to visit the provincial legislature and the memorial for the Halifax Explosion.
Halifax is the largest and most modern city in Atlantic Canada. It is the capitol of Nova Scotia and it is a major business hub for the entire region. It has a modern albeit small skyline and a population of around 100,000. Halifax is also a major port city and during the two world wars, it was a major stepping off point for the trans-Atlantic convoys that kept the war effort supplied in Europe.
During World War I, Halifax was devastated by a massive explosion in the narrows of the harbour. On December 6, 1918 the SS Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship loaded with munitions collided with the Imo, a Norwegian ship. The Mont Blanc caught fire and exploded twenty-five minutes after the collision. Several square miles of the city was completely destroyed, 2,000 people were killed and more than 9,000 more were injured.
We visited the memorial bell tower that was erected as a memorial to the disaster and the great loss of life.
“It was kind of like the war came home to Canada on that day, eh?” Josh asked.
“Yeah that’s pretty much what happened. What was really amazing was people’s response,” I replied as I read from a plaque near the bell tower. “It says here that the City of Boston played a major part in the disaster recovery. Their emergency planning department along with the Boston Red Cross were among the very first responders to come to the aid of the city. As a result, the government of Nova Scotia sends a giant Christmas tree to Boston every year. The tree is used as Boston’s official Christmas tree and it’s given in recognition of the great assistance that they provided following the disaster.”
“Check this out too,” Josh said. “A man by the name of Vince Coleman was working as a train dispatcher for the Canadian Government Railway. After the collision and the ship was burning only a few hundred yards from the train station but he remained at his post and warned off an incoming passenger train that was loaded with over 700 people. Had the train not been stopped all of the passengers would have likely been killed. He was killed when the ship exploded.”
“Amazing. I saw a ‘Part of Our Heritage’ clip about that on TV.”
We left the Halifax explosion memorial and made our way to the provincial legislature called “Province House”. Built in 1819, it is Canada’s oldest seat of government. In 1848, it became the site of the first responsible government outside of the United Kingdom.
“What does ‘Responsible Government’ mean?” Josh asked as we left the building following our tour.
“It’s what our system of government is. Basically, it means that the government, meaning the Prime Minister and the cabinet is responsible and accountable to parliament rather than to the sovereign. It means that the Prime Minister can remain in office only so long as he retains the confidence of the House of Commons.”
“I think I get it,” Josh said.
“The government is different from parliament. The government is essentially the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, which is also known as the executive branch of government... the parliament is the legislative branch. When we have an election, the party that wins the most seats forms the government and the leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister then picks his cabinet from among the elected members of the House of Commons or from the Senate.”
“So we don’t vote directly for who we want to be Prime Minister?”
“That’s right. We elect our Member of Parliament and the party that wins the most seats, in most cases, a majority of seats, forms the government. In other countries such as the United States, the president is elected separately from their House of Representatives and really doesn’t have to answer to them. In fact, very often one party might control Congress and the other might control the White House.”
“We studied some of that stuff in Social Studies class last year. It was pretty interesting, but seeing it in person is even better,” Josh remarked.
“When you vote you have to decide whether to base your vote on your local representative or based on who you want to be Prime Minister. You can end up with a situation where you don’t like the local candidate for a particular party, but you want that party’s leader to be PM. In that case, you might vote for that party’s candidate who you really don’t like in order to get the PM and government that you want.”
“That’s pretty complicated.”
“At least we only have to worry about it every four years or so.”
“I wonder... what it would be like to be the leader of the country?” Josh asked thoughtfully.
“Pretty stressful I’d imagine.”
“Probably. It would probably be a lot of fun too,” he said with a grin.
I appreciated his enthusiasm, and with all the dreams I’d had about him, I wondered about his feelings towards politics. “You know bud, that’s actually a job that I could imagine you doing.”
“Me?” Josh laughed. “You just keep thinking Dad, that’s what you’re good at!”
I smiled to myself as I wondered if I’d actually planted a seed.
We exercised Brutus briefly and then headed towards Canadian Forces Base Halifax in the Jeep. CFB Halifax is the headquarters and home port of the Atlantic Fleet. Guided missile frigates, area air defence/command and control destroyers, submarines, coastal defence vessels and other ships are all based there. We hoped to be able to see some ships either arriving in port or departing.
It took only about five minutes to reach the base and we parked at a scenic lookout that overlooks the narrows between Halifax Harbour and the Bedford Basin. CFB Halifax is spread over several installations surrounding the harbour. The main docks are located to the south, the barracks along the narrows, the secretive Defence Research and Development Canada facility to the north and the Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Bedford on the north shore of the Bedford Basin.
The narrows, where we were parked allowed the best view of ships entering and exiting the Bedford basin and it wasn’t long before we saw a small fleet heading out to sea. The fleet, probably heading out on a NATO exercise of some sort, included a large supply ship, an area air defence destroyer, three guided missile frigates a number of coastal defence vessels and a submarine.
“Check out that sub!” Josh exclaimed. He was busy filming the departure and had focused in on the black submarine. “I think it’s going to dive, there were people on top and they’ve all gone inside.”
Sure enough as soon as the sub cleared what were evidently the shallowest portion of the narrows, it began to submerge. It didn’t take long and the whole vessel was under water.
From there, we pushed on, heading northeast towards Sydney. It was a long scenic drive through central Nova Scotia. It truly is a beautiful province and we resolved to return one day.
We arrived early that evening in Sydney just in time to catch the last daily crossing of the North Sydney-Port Aux Basques ferry. The ferry carried us across the Cabot Straight in just less than seven hours and we arrived in Newfoundland at just after 6:30 AM. We had booked ourselves into an overnight cabin during the crossing and we’d had a pretty good night’s sleep during the crossing. By the time we disembarked, we were ready for a hearty breakfast.
“I’m starving,” Josh said.
“Me too. Let’s see if we can find something open for breakfast this early in the morning and then hit the road.”
We found a Tim Horton’s that was open in the town of South Branch and we ordered some of their breakfast sandwiches and we each had a large orange juice. We fed Brutus some of his puppy kibble and he munched happily as we began the final drive of our eastward excursion.
We regretted that time was so short that we would not be able to visit Labrador, the mainland portion of Newfoundland, but we aimed to make the most out of our time in Canada’s eastern most province. Our route took us along the Trans-Canada Highway and covered the northern portion of the island. We passed through Corner Brook and Gander and shot a lot of video footage and digital photos along the way. We stopped often, talking to people, enjoying the company of the very friendly and always helpful islanders.
We spent the evening of August 27th at a camp ground near the small town of Arnold’s Cove. Saint John’s, the Newfoundland and Labrador capitol city was less than two hours ahead and just beyond that was our final eastward destination, Cape Spear.
The next morning we awoke to a glorious sunny day. As we broke camp and prepared to cover the last miles of our excursion, there seemed to be something in the air. We could both sense it, but neither of us could nail it down. That sense of importance seemed to increase the closer we got to Cape Spear.
We’d eaten breakfast at our campsite and our plan was to head straight to Saint John’s. Our first stop at Saint John’s was to be Signal Hill. Signal Hill is a strategic chunk of land that overlooks Saint John’s. It is also a national historical site. On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi had received the first ever trans-Atlantic wireless broadcast.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Josh said as we toured the Signal Hill grounds. “I mean we only just invented trans-Atlantic radio less than 100 years ago and look where we are now!”
“Tell me about it. Cell and satellite phones... satellite TV... can you imagine where we’ll be in another hundred years?”
Signal Hill, besides being the site of the first trans-Atlantic broadcast, also contains a fort. The strategic importance of the location was easily evident. You can stand on Signal Hill and look down on the entire city of Saint John’s. The Queens Battery Barracks were built there in the 1800s and today they have been restored and preserved to 1862 condition.
Another prominent feature on Signal Hill is the Cabot Tower. The Cabot Tower was started in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s 1497 landing. During the Second World War, anti-aircraft guns had been installed to aid in the air defense of North America. The concrete bunkers are still there today.
We departed Signal hill at around 11AM and headed into Saint John’s. Located on the Avalon Peninsula, Saint John’s is a modern city overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is mostly a low-rise city with the rocky geographic features of Newfoundland itself providing the majority of the skyline. It is an old and historic city. It is the oldest English founded settlement in North America. In fact, there is a plaque commemorating the founding of the British Empire. In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert had claimed Newfoundland as the first overseas colony of Great Britain.
We took some time to explore the downtown area before we headed off to the provincial legislature for a tour. The provincial legislature is located in the Confederation Building, which was built in 1959. It’s 11 stories tall and set on a hill overlooking Saint John’s. The newer west block was built in the early 80s and the rest of the building underwent major renovations in the 1990s . A unique feature of the Newfoundland and Labrador house of assembly is that unlike the other assemblies in Canada, the governing party sits to the left of the speaker’s chair.
After we left the legislature, we made a stop at the Mile One Centre and took a quick tour. The Mile One Centre is a sports and entertainment complex located in Saint John’s right at the eastern end of the Trans-Canada Highway. In many ways it was a symbolic stop but it was certainly less significant that our next and final stop in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We drove a short distance south from Saint John’s and parked the Jeep on a largely barren and windswept chunk of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was still high in the sky and the temperature was very pleasant. A strong salt wind rolled in off the ocean. We had arrived. We were at Cape Spear. We were at land’s end.
Josh and I looked at each other silently for a moment. “Let’s go take a look shall we?” I said.
“Ok,” Josh replied softly. He snapped Brutus’ leash on and we climbed out of the Jeep. Aside from one other vehicle parked on the other side of the lot, we were alone. Up ahead we could see the brightly painted Cape Spear Lighthouse. We could also see the crumbling gray pillbox structures that had been coastal gun emplacements during the Second World War.
We quietly approached the railing overlooking the rocky shore of the Eastern most point of land in North America. For a moment, we stood silently looking out at the rough ocean, reveling in the feeling of the salt water air washing over our faces. Brutus sat down quietly next to us and joined us while we gazed out over the vast North Atlantic.
I put my arm around Josh’s shoulders and he did the same with me. “We did it bud,” I said softly. “We made it.”
“It feels great Dad. This has been the best summer of my entire life,” Josh said. “I love you so much Dad. It’s been amazing being with you for all this time.” He turned and wrapped his arms around me and squeezed as hard as he could.
I wrapped my arms around him and leaned my cheek against his short cropped hair. We just stood there holding each other lost in our own thoughts. “I love you too Joshy. I can’t think of anyone else I would want to have experienced this summer with.”
We stood like that for several minutes. We contemplated all the things we’d experienced over the past two months and considered what may lay ahead. Over the course of the trip, Josh and I had grown even closer. The bond that tied us together became even stronger and more pronounced. Together with our various relatives, the Masons, Mark and Bryan, we’d forged a strong and close family. We’d experienced almost everything that the country had to offer and been to places and seen things that most people would only see on TV or experience in their dreams.
“Things are going to be different now aren’t they?” Josh said thoughtfully. “In a good way I mean.”
I gently rubbed his back as he continued to snuggle against my chest. “I think so Josh. We have quite a family around us now and you’ve really grown up a lot this summer. Actually, we’ve both changed a lot. A trip like this gives a person a new insight to life. We’ve learned how other people live, what they think, what they like and don’t like. We’ve made beautiful friends along the way. Most important though Josh, without knowing it, you’ve made so many people happier than they were before they met you.... me included. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that you are going to be someone to watch. Knowing that, I have to say that I’m very proud of you. You’re going to be a man who will make people take notice and who will change the world.”
Josh sighed deeply. “I’m proud of you too Dad. You’ve made it all possible because you cared. Not just me, but Mom, the twins, Mark, Bryan.... everyone.”
As we continued to stand in each other’s arms, Brutus suddenly stood up and faced back towards the Jeep in an alert posture. He wasn’t alarmed or anything it just appeared that something had caught his eye.
Josh and I looked in that direction and saw two small boys racing towards us at full tilt.
“UNCLE TOMMY! JOSH!” they shouted in unison.
We only had a few seconds to do a double take, our mouths agape in astonishment, before the twins were on us. Richard jumped into my arms and Matthew into Josh’s. Brutus, with his tail wagging at warp speed barked happily. I looked over Richard’s head and saw Andy grinning broadly as he approached.
I set Richard down and he went to Josh while Matthew reached up for me to pick him up. I scooped the little guy up into my arms and he hugged me fiercely around the neck.
“Uncle Andy brought us on a plane to come and surprise you,” he said happily.
“You sure did surprise us,” I laughed and returned the little guy’s hug.
“You’ve got a puppy,” Richard exclaimed happily as Josh set him down.
As Richard and Matthew made friends with Brutus, Andy finally arrived. I embraced my brother as did Josh.
“Love you bro. This is a great surprise!” I said.
“Rachel gave me a few days off from Camp Tonawonka and I wanted to do something with the twins, so here we are. Tom, this has to be a special moment on your trip, and we wanted to enjoy it with both of you.”
“It sure is a special moment. I didn’t think it would be as special as this. It’s really been a summer to remember.” I replied. “How long can you stay here?”
“Just overnight. We’re scheduled for a flight back tomorrow at noon. I know it isn’t long, but I wanted to be able to say I’d been here and it’s something that I thought the twins would enjoy.”
“Good timing Andy,” I said. “We’ll be able to see you off. We have to catch the evening sailing back to Sydney.”
We stood there at the railing looking east over the Atlantic, contemplating the vastness of the ocean between Europe and us and all the history, both in war and in peace, that lay beneath it’s wavy surface. Josh had the twins and Brutus beside us as he explained to the boys where we were and the importance of this outcropping of land. I was amazed again at how well Josh related to adults from every walk of life and yet, had the ability to talk to the youngsters without talking down to them. He was able to let them feel they were important equals.
After about five minutes, I had Matthew standing directly in front of me looking up. “Uncle Tommy, we’re hungry,” he said quietly.
“I’ll bet you are,” Andy said. “We only had a sandwich on the plane, so what do you say bro, let’s head back into St. John’s and get these little bellies filled.”
“Hey, I’m all for that!” Josh exclaimed.
“Me too!” Richard added.
“Well I guess that settles that!” I said laughing as I picked up Matthew and Andy picked up Richard. Together the five of us, six including Brutus, made our way back to our vehicles.
Once we put the twins down, they exclaimed, “We want to ride with Uncle Tommy and Brutus!”
“You do!” Josh answered with equal enthusiasm. “Well I guess I’ll have to clear a spot for you two in the back seat. It’s OK Dad, I’ll go with Andy. How about we head for the Holiday Inn we passed? There’s a nice restaurant right next door to it.”
“Good idea Josh,” I answered. “How about you and Andy follow us.”
“Very good idea Josh!” Andy added. “I haven’t a clue how to get around this town.”
Once the twins were secured with their seat belts on, Josh coaxed Brutus onto the back seat sitting between them. Each boy got a light face lick before he too, settled down on the seat.
As soon as we were under way, Matthew said, “Uncle Tommy, Uncle Andy has something he wants to ask you. I hope you’ll say yes.”
“Please say yes.” Richard said quietly.
“Well boys, I don’t know if I’ll say yes until Uncle Andy asks me,” I replied, full of wonder as to what they could be talking about.
We parked in the Holiday Inn parking lot and walked over to the restaurant. As soon as we were comfortably seated – Josh at one side of the table with Richard and Matthew on each side of him – Andy and I on the other side – the twins started to stare at Andy as we chatted about our immediate family.
During a short lull in our conversation, Matthew quietly asked Andy, “Are ya gonna ask him?”
I looked across the table – the twins looked worried – Josh had a slight grin on his face, then I glanced at Andy. He had his index finger to his lips. ‘Hmmm...’ I thought, ‘this must be a biggy.’ However, as I looked across the table at the three of them, another idea was taking form in my mind, but the thought was interrupted when the waitress came to the table to take our order.
We ordered the specialty of the day – five orders of halibut and chips. Again Josh surprised Andy and I – with his innate ability to relate to youngsters, he had the twins order milk to drink instead of Coke.
As Andy and I continued our conversation and Josh kept the twins chattering away, but with another lull in our visit, Richard was staring at me.
“Please.... say yes,” he said just above a whisper. I looked at him curiously, and then stared at Andy.
“Alright now boys, take it easy....” Andy said seriously, “not until later. OK?”
The twins smiled as they nodded their heads. Josh still had that knowing grin across his face. Then came the first course of our dinner – five empty salad bowls and one huge bowl filled to the brim with fresh salad together with four salad dressings.
Scrumptious and plentiful – the best words I know to describe the Atlantic meal of fresh halibut served on five platter sized plates. The twins had some difficulty clearing their plate, but between Josh, Andy and I, their plates were empty before we settled down to the last swigs of our drinks. We all declined the offer of dessert, but enjoyed the after dinner mints.
While Andy and I settled the bill, Josh took the twins over to a somewhat large souvenir area. Andy and I sauntered over to the entrance while we waited for Josh and the twins to make some purchases, before we went back to the Jeep and took Brutus for a walk and gave him his kibble. Brutus interacted with the twins so well. Then it was time to check in. The first thing I needed to confirm – did they allow pets.
“No problem sir,” the young lady responded, “we have three special suites on the first floor that we reserve for our clients with pets. So long as your dog is normally quiet, he’s more than welcome here. Now, how many are in your party?”
“There’s five of us,” I replied as I pointed to each of them in turn. “My brother Andy, my nephew Richard, my other nephew Matthew, and my son, Josh. Would you have two adjoining rooms?”
Not to be outdone, looking cute as a button, Matthew looked up at the receptionist, pointed at each of us and said, “Uncle, uncle, cousin, brother, me.”
With a big laugh, we accepted the keys to our rooms. Leaving the lobby, Richard said, “I want to sleep with Josh and Brutus.”
“Me too!” Matthew exclaimed.
That pretty well settled our sleeping arrangements. Andy and I got the boys settled into their room, which had a queen size and a double bed in it. Andy’s and my room had the same. While Josh kept the boys busy watching TV, Andy and I started our trek back to the vehicles to retrieve Brutus and our luggage.
Half way down the hall, the restaurant thought came to me again. “AHA!” I said, even startling myself. “Andy, how would Anne and James feel if Josh and I were to take the twins home with us?”
Andy immediately burst into uproarious laughter. He balanced himself with a hand on my shoulder as he started to hold his stomach. I started smiling because his laughter was contagious, and then it came to me and I started to laugh as well.
Between bouts of laughter, I said, “Did you ask him yet?” Still laughing, all Andy could do was nod his head.
Once we calmed down and came to our senses, we carried on to the Jeep. Finally Andy said, “I’ve already cleared it with Anne and James and they packed all their gear to bring with us. I was sure you’d like the idea, but I was teasing the boys about it all the way here, that maybe you wouldn’t. I’ve already mentioned it to Josh and he thought it was a good idea to get their fishing trip in while you were driving home. The twins thought it would be better if I asked you... their thought being that I could talk you into it.”
“Well we both thought about it, so it’s a great idea bro.” As we gathered the luggage and Brutus on his lead, I asked, “Do you think we should keep teasing them?”
“Just for a little while,” Andy answered with a big grin. “My thought was that if I kept holding off, they would get their nerve up and ask you themselves. That’s really what they should have done in the first place.”
As we entered the boys room, Brutus started making a big fuss over seeing the twins and Josh again, but the boys started staring wide-eyed at Andy again. Andy just looked at them seriously and pointed his index finger. Their sigh was almost audible as their shoulders slumped slightly. Andy and I closed the door between our rooms.
“So Tom, how are things going between you and Bryan?” Andy asked.
I smiled at the intent of his question, however my answer came back to an image of the Josh and Mark. “Andy, it’s not so much how things are going between Bryan and me,” I smiled. “It’s more important to us how we feel about Josh and Mark. We both think there’s going to be miracles come from those two boys and we’re doing our best to expose them to everything we can to make those miracles happen. Other than that, Bryan and I.... Andy, we’re soul mates. I just can’t see it any other way. The boys come first and as much as we’d like to be together, we come in second.”
“That makes for a tough relationship bro.” Andy said seriously.
“Not really Andy,” I said. “They’ll be coming to Toronto for Christmas and after Josh turns sixteen, we’ll be moving to Calgary. We still have spring breaks and summer vacations to spend together in the meantime, but we’re both very sure of ourselves and our future together.”
With that, a knock came to the door - Richard opened it and stood there. “Did you ask him yet?” He asked quietly.
“No Richard!” Andy exclaimed. “The right time hasn’t come yet! Now off you go and watch TV.”
Richard’s shoulders slumped as he said, “Ahhh.” He walked out closing the door behind him.
“Oh you’re bad,” I said as I looked at Andy with a smile. “Ya know bro, this is an important lesson for those boys.”
Andy nodded with a smile as the door opened again, this time without a knock. It was Matthew. “Please say yes Uncle Tommy.”
I grinned and then looked at him seriously. “Matthew, go back in there and get your brother, Josh, and Brutus and come back with them right now.”
It took ten seconds and there was the four of them expectantly standing before Andy and me.
“Well now boys,” Andy began smiling. “You’ve wanted me to ask Tommy a question, but it’s not up to me to ask for something that you want, is it?” Josh stood behind them with a big grin on his face, a hand on each of the boys’ shoulders, while the boys shook their heads, then smiled nudging one another.
Finally Richard asked, “Uncle Tommy.... d... do you think that it would be OK if Matthew and I went back to Ontario with you and Josh....” He started nodding his head up and down, then added, “and Brutus too!”
I started laughing at the innocence of their actions - Josh grinning with the twins’ heads nodding up and down. “....and I thought it was my idea! Boy’s you are just too cute....” I finally said, “of course you can come with us. We’ll get to have a fishing trip on the way. How’s that?”
“Yippee!” they screamed together. Right away, I had both twins on each side of me, both of them hugging me at the same time.
“You see boys,” Josh said, “it’s like I said, if you want something from someone, you can always ask them nicely and they’ll usually say yes, but never be afraid to ask.”
Andy did a double take as he looked at Josh. Smiling, he said, “Josh, you amaze me. I can tell that these boys are going to learn a lot from you on your drive home.”
Josh just smiled. “Do you think they would like to learn French?” he asked as he pulled a CD from his shirt pocket. “I found it in the souvenir shop Dad.” It was the Michael Thomas CD on French.
“Oh won’t that be a surprise for Anne and James!” Andy laughed.
“OK boys, its time for us to take Brutus out for another walk and then we have to get to bed.” I said. “You’ve come through a few time zones and it’s almost your bedtime.”
No sooner said, and Richard started to yawn. Then Matthew followed, finally Andy too. They’d had a long day and a long flight from Toronto. We clipped Brutus’ lead on and took him for a quick walk around the nearby park. Although tired, the boys remained exuberant with the thoughts of their trip back to Ontario.
Back in the motel room, bathed, changed into their pyjamas, and into bed, one on each side of Josh in the queen sized bed, Andy and I gave them all a kiss goodnight – a pat on the head for Brutus – before closing the door to our room.
I picked up my cell phone and called Anne and James. After I confirmed that Andy and the twins had reached us safely at Cape Spear and that the twins were just as cute as could be, I handed the phone to Andy. He chatted for a few minutes, again telling them how well the twins behaved on the flight to Newfoundland, and that they would be travelling back to Ontario with Josh and me. After he closed the phone and handed it to me, he smiled.
“I think we have the best sister-in-law in the whole world. Nothing ever seems to faze her. Her and James are always positive.”
“Don’t I know it!” I added. “Just look at their kids and for me, it was the way they accepted Bryan and me being in a relationship. I was amazed at how accepting they were.”
“Tom, Bryan’s a great man. Never fear, everyone likes him and it makes all of us happy to see you happy. I can tell... you and Bryan are a matched set.”
“Thanks Andy,” I said as he headed for the bathroom. “It’s good to know that.”
By the time I’d finished brushing my teeth and came back into the room, Andy was lying under the covers, eyes closed, gently snoring. No doubt about it – although it was 10 PM Newfoundland time, and only 8:30 PM in Toronto, it had been a long day for him and the twins.
I awoke first the next morning, so I hit the shower and was shaving when Josh came in to join me. It was something we still enjoyed doing together.
“I was awake early,” he said, “so I took Brutus for a walk before the twins woke up. He’s back in the room playing with them now. The three of them are so cute together.”
“Joshy, you gave Richard and Matthew a good lesson last night. I was surprised they didn’t want to ask me by themselves.” I said as Andy walked into the bathroom.
“Good morning gents. Couldn’t wait, I have to go real bad and yes, we have to get an early start so I can get to the airport on time.”
“Morning Andy, be our guest.” I said as he stood in front of the toilet.
“Morning Andy. Dad, maybe they’re coming into a shy stage.” Josh said thoughtfully. “I think when you have a twin, you expect your brother to be the strong one. Maybe, when it doesn’t happen, you both become more introverted and shy. I think they just need a good poke of self confidence.”
“Josh!” Andy exclaimed. “How does a thirteen-year-old boy come up with these things?”
I was giggling to myself as Josh answered simply, “Been there, done that Andy.” I looked at Andy with a big proud grin. He looked at me with a wide smile nodding his head, as he understood the things I’d said to him last night.
“Thirteen going on twenty-one,” Andy said smiling, shaking his head as he got into the shower.
Josh and I made short work of packing our bags, then went into the other bedroom and got the boys dressed and packed while Andy followed suit. As Andy was getting dressed, Josh and I grabbed the luggage and made our way out to the Jeep and started to rearrange a few things as we made room for boy’s duffle bag. When we’d finished, Andy came out with the twins and Brutus. He opened the trunk of his rental and handed us the boys smaller sized rods and tackle boxes. After another quick walk around the park, we loaded Brutus into the Jeep with a small bowl of kibble and water and went to the same restaurant for a hearty breakfast.
By the time we got to the airport, Andy still had half an hour to spare. He explained to the ticket clerk that the twins wouldn’t be going on the return trip. The airline was happy about that – they had two people waiting on stand-by. The lady assured him that he’d have no problem getting his money back when he reached Toronto, after she attached a special tab to the tickets.
Although we’d be seeing Andy soon and we’d seen him at camp and in Ottawa this summer, there’s something a bit tearful when you say goodbye to a loved one at the airport. With a few hugs and kisses for the twins and a promise to be on their best behaviour, we watched as Andy went through the security gate.
Our trip home was about to begin.