Since I was a child, my dad always had a little stack of Downhome magazines on our coffee table in the living room. Some of them would be years old, crumpled and pages folded in, but he would read them and reread them. He also would share them with family and friends once he was done with them. The unique part of this situation is that my dad was not from Newfoundland, didn't live in Newfoundland, and has been a resident of Quebec for most of his life.
That said, my father loved Newfoundland with all his heart, from the time he stepped foot on the Rock until he died suddenly in February of this year.
My father proudly attended St. F. X. University and upon graduation, went to Newfoundland to work construction for a summer. It was during this time that he met my mother Sandy, they fell in love and were married, my brother Jamie was born, and moved to Quebec. As a family, we made the long drive and took the ferry to visit our Newfoundland relatives every year. For my parents and my two brothers, it was the highlight of our year. Christmases in Clarenville were magical, summers were full of adventures, and every trip left our hearts full of love.
My mother died suddenly in 1988, but we continued to make visits to Newfoundland, even after my father remarried. My older brother died in 1995, but Newfoundland still was always part of our lives. From time to time, our Uncle Vince and Aunt Cathy would come to Montreal and visit us too; they even made the trip for my wedding. With time, my visits became less frequent as we all grew up, went to university, and started our lives as adults. But my father's love for Newfoundland and my mother's family never waned. He continued to visit with my stepmom as frequently as they could, mailed Christmas cards every year, and enjoyed his regular phone calls with my Uncle Vince, where they would chat about everything, from the Habs to the deepest wonders of life.
My dad loved everything about Newfoundland. He loved the long drives and the landscape and the smell of the ocean. He loved the way Newfoundlanders speak, and after a few weeks of visiting, would often somehow come home with an accent, a rarity for a French Quebecer! He loved the cooking and the music. The kitchen parties. And the jokes, which he would often tell at our family parties. Above all, though, my father loved the people of Newfoundland. He would often say that Newfies have the biggest hearts of anyone on the planet, and that the community spirit is unparalleled. He admired how everyone takes care of one another and do not hesitate to lend a hand to anyone in need. It is this spirit that my father also had in his heart, which is perhaps why he fit in so well, and loved the province so much.
When my father died this year, we were all shocked and heartbroken. He was the patriarch of our family and the glue that held us all together. The days that followed were a blur of phone calls and visits, making funeral arrangements, and taking care of our stepmother. And one by one, the cards and handwritten letters started coming in, from relatives in Newfoundland, sharing their favourite memories of my father and recounting the stories. As much as they were difficult to read, they were also healing and powerful, as our relatives shared their versions of their love for my father.
Today, I called the Downhome office with shaky hands and tears in my eyes to inform them of my father's death and cancel his subscription. But in speaking with Cathy on the phone, decided to redirect the subscription to my house. So, my children and I will now happily receive the magazine and enjoy the stories within.
Thank you Downhome, for being a constant for my father, and for making Newfoundland a part of our lives for all these years.