Remembering (Joseph Stanislaus Carroll)

When Jack came to me this morning and said "How is your Dad doing these days?" I knew I would write this week's memoir about philos love, familial love, my Dad.

My Dad was born on November 20, 1899. He loved to tell us that he was the only member of the family who had seen two centuries. My Mother was born in 1900.

My Dad died on October 16, 1977.

There are many things to tell you about Joseph Stanislaus Carroll. His father come to Canada from County Cork, Ireland, and settled in Canada's Ottawa Valley. He married a French Canadian Catholic girl, who bore him seven children, four sons, Herbert, Reginald, Stanislaus and Vincent - and three daughters, Minerva, Kathleen and Antoinette.

When Stanislaus was five years old, his father died in a typhoid epidemic whereupon his mother herded her wee brood together and moved to Fort William, to raise her family, alone, by running a boarding house for Canadian Pacific Railway workers across the street from the C.P.R. depot on Syndicate Avenue.

She was eventually to marry one of her boarders, but only when her youngest was a lady, and ready to marry herself. I was never to call her second husband anything but Mr. Ouilette, though I did know Daddy's Grandma, as we called Dad's mother, called him Frank. He was quiet, unobtrusive. He and Grandma usually spoke French.

Dad's brother, Reg, was a casualty of World War I, having enlisted by lying about his age. Dad had a particularly vivid story of a quarrel he and Reg had had while young boys. They were in the wood shed. Dad, a very gentle and soft-spoken man, had thrown an axe at his brother in a fit of rage Thankfully his aim was poor. He used that story to illustrate the terrible tragedies that could occur if we did not learn to control our temper. I told our boys the same story.

I remember the skating rinks he made in the backyard - how he iced the banks - and made the ice as smooth as possible.

I remember how he loved to garden - his dahlias that he would carefully winter in the basement - the blue pansies at the cemetery, the nasturtiums, the rasberry bushes, the green peas, the Indian squaw corn, hilling the potatoes, the green tomatoes ripening on the window sills.

I remember blueberry picking - fishing for rainbow trout - his chuckles as we tried to bait our hooks - how he was in demand as a square dance caller.

I remember how impressed I was with his rapid two finger typing, at how swiftly he could sort mail when he practiced for his final exam for the post office - where "my dad" worked.

He worked hard for his family, the depression ever looming in the background to spread unease, and sleepless nights. He sold turkeys at Christmas time - shipped in from the prairies, enabling us to have turkeys for Christmas and New Year's. He sold tickets for hockey games and the Canadian exhibition.

I remember how children loved him. I remember his joy in our children. I remember his pride that I was valedictorian in high school. He was so pleased and proud I was a school teacher.

I remember him comforting me when I was so sick with hepatitis, holding me as if I was a little girl again.

He holds me now.

He was afraid with me when Jack was missing. He loved my Jack. They were best friends. He came with joy when Jack was baptized, and when Rod chose his name in Confirmation.

I remember his pain when his only son died so suddenly. My parents' pain was my pain.

I remember his visits to our Quonset huts - his pleasure in our first home.

I remember a particular visit to the hospital during his final illness. I was determined to spend every single second I could with him, for we lived so far away. I was feeding him supper. The nurse looked in and said, "I've never seen a more beautiful picture." What a wonderful gift she gave to me!

I remember my daughter coming. I remember her arms around me.

I remember walking from the hospital at dusk. It was cold. There was snow. I was crying. I remember stumbling. I was grateful I was able to tell him so often how proud I was to be his daughter.

This is such a sketchy remembering.

And the beauty of remembering. It is never done.

P.S. We have a grandson now, Eliot Stanislaus.

by Colleen Gordon

Send Comments to Greg Gordon MD, CFI, cydoc@earthlink.net
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