I first met my Uncle when I was a baby. Shortly after that, he moved to Toronto to work as the recession from the year I was born in 1986 in Alberta forced him to find work out east. I think it was right after his culinary days. I first remember meeting my Uncle, we will call him Will when I was 15 years old well staying at my grandparents in Drumheller. Will had just moved from Toronto with his long-term girlfriend to town close to Drumheller. Will showed up in a 1967 (or around that year) brand new-looking red convertible mustang. I believe it was on Canada Day July 1st when I met Will, and we went and got ice cream in between doing the Canada Day festivities.
Canada Day always kicked off with a decent-sized parade. The trick was to sit by kids, so some candy would bounce right to you when people threw it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get out of my lawn chair multiple times to grab some candy kids missed. Maybe I pushed a few kids out of my way when the taffy was thrown. Afterwards, the best beef on the bun in Alberta was offered, where I would usually put back two. My grandparents went back home before the afternoon festivities had begun, and Will and I went and got ice cream with the top down across the 11 bridges in the 6 km span from where my grandparents lived in Rosedale to the smaller hamlet of where my grandpa was born in Wayne, Alberta (it holds the Guinness record for the most bridges in the shortest distance). At the end of the day, after the massive farmers market, games for kids and adults, a variety of entertainers from clowns to magicians and singers was the best fireworks display outside of Disneyland.
That has always been my favourite firework display because of the beautiful scenery of the hills, the sounds of the Red Deer River flowing below, there is minimal light pollution except what is offered by the moon and stars. When the fireworks light up the scenery, it’s like a picture is taken with the flash, and for a few seconds, the view is lit up with a light glow of whatever colour the firework is. The 18 plus firework displays I have witnessed in the valley of Drumheller, that one might have been my favourite. We were the most fabulous-looking cats in the city with the red convertible top-down. We didn’t have to squeeze in the mix amongst the many people all crowded as close to the riverbank as they can be. It the best when the firemen have to put out the small grass and shrub fires from the usual dry desert-like weather.
Within the first few days of meeting Uncle Will, I had already been growing facial hair for over a year or so, and he and his girlfriend had got me a Mach 3 razor that was battery-powered that vibrated when you shaved. I had only seen those types of razors in commercials, and I’m not sure if the pulsating razor actually helped get a better shave, but it was pretty cool looking. Ladies really seemed to enjoy shaving above the knee and below the waist with the razor turned on. We went to Calgary one day soon after Canada Day and dropped off my grandparents at my great grandma’s house. My great-grandma held a thick English accent. It was always interesting to talk to her over tea, or perhaps what they call an English eye-opener consisting of 1 pint of orange juice and one part vodka. Speaking of alcohol, Will, his girlfriend and I went and picked up enough alcohol for a small village party or maybe it was for a wedding?
We went to visit my great-grandma’s boyfriend we will call Roy Boy. He was probably as old or older than my great-grandma. He gave my Uncle a shopping list worth of different alcohols, along with a fat stack of cash. I was allowed in the liquor store as a minor at the time, and we had a shopping spree with the end result of a cartful of booze. I’m not sure if he was settling in for the winter or how often he got someone to get him supplies, but even now, it seems like it was a lot. From there, we picked up my grandparents and went back to Drumheller. We would usually leave the cooking up to Will if he was at my grandparents. His cooking was in a similar style to my grandma’s, where you were almost always guaranteed a better meal cooked by them than going to a restaurant. Anytime spent with Will and his girlfriend was a really great time. He held a Buddha-type essence, similar to his mom’s personality, meaning nothing really seemed to faze him. It is primarily a quiet person, funny and had a leadership-type personality and can explain a lot with little words, along with a lionheart.
Whether he was under the influence of 2 beers or 12, his warm-hearted personality never deviated. I’ve seen people have a bi-polar type personality where they become a totally different person under the influence of alcohol. I have seen the devil in some people’s eyes in drunk people. Will never seemed to change and was the type of person to give his last dollar to someone in need. He would always offer me his place to stay, I would have, but I’m scared of gigantic dogs, although she is a sweet, humble dog just like her owners. He called me one day shortly after my grandpa was hospitalized with a stroke. He read a letter I wrote my grandpa for his 80th birthday. I was in class, but his message he left was very complimentary on how well it was done. He offered to teach me to hunt big game animals. This is what he said quoted from a text conversation we had from 6 years ago. “I’ll get you down here shooting gophers and small shit in friends’ fields first.”
The last time I have seen my Uncle was May 18 – 20th of 2019. My cousin and I stayed at my grandparents’ house and then their trailer at the campground nearby that my grandpa and I used to look after. My cousin is a plumber and was doing some plumbing work over the weekend for the bar my Uncle co-owned. I spent some time with my cousin going through the work that needed to be done. Cousin started, and I did homework and remember drinking two diet Pepsi’s or cokes, and I don’t think I drank any beer offered. My Uncle was, of course, overly generous, and before the bar even opened in the morning, his best friend was drinking steadily by himself. My Uncle was doing books and buying supplies for the bar, and his friend was drinking into his profits as I never once seen him pay or even offer to pay for a drink. At least I the decency to offer to pay for my diet pop.
I would go and visit my grandpa and do schoolwork at the hospital as I was nearing the end of my second year of psychology. I was going to take my grandpa’s vehicle the following morning after we arrived. We looked throughout the usual key spots and looked throughout other places in the house for the key. We didn’t find it but found the key to getting us into the trailer or what I call the mobile cannabis express. Cousin and I, along with a canoe, went and met some of his friends at a camping spot along the river where we took some beer, weed and fishing tackle partially down the river, my cousin caught one fish, but it was quickly ended by the lack of sun and the cool crisp, clean spring air flowing off the river. We came back to the trailer set up and ready to sleep in at about 3:45 am. Cousin got the bright idea to phone Will to see if the bar was still hopping. He had been home asleep for an hour or so but sounded happy to hear from Cousin.
I don’t think I slept at all that night as I have pictures of the moon at 4:20 (I wonder what I was up to at that hour) and then again at 5:10. My aunt had got to my grandparent’s house the night before. We went to the house to make breakfast, and my Aunt was the maddest I’ve ever seen her. Perhaps it may have been the only time I had seen her angry. Which made me feel disappointed within myself before I even knew what the cause was. Cousin and I were not very mindful the previous day, looking for the key to my grandpa’s vehicle. Things were a lot more disorganized the last time my aunt was there the week before. In my marijuana haze, I must have made more of a mess than anything. Not only was my grandpa’s key missing, but so was his wallet. It looked horrible when in my bag were my grandpa’s old travel shave bag and Lysol wipes. My frustrated aunt had my Uncle come over, and seeing him mad for the first time wasn’t fun either. Neither my aunt nor Uncle raised their voices, but the tension was uncomfortable, to say the least.
After I helped my cousin clean the catastrophe we created, we went to retrieve the trailer, and my Uncle’s car approached quickly where he came to retrieve the bottle of crown royal I bagged as well but convinced my Uncle at first was mine. This makes no sense still, as in 2019, I drank maybe 4 or 5 times the whole year and didn’t really drink hard alcohol. The last thing he said to me was, “you can fucking find your own way home, get walking.” As I took a light but swift kick in the ass. I felt like telling him to end my miserable life and throw me in that creek bed below near where the trailer was set up. That was the last time I would see or talked to my Uncle, and he would pass away a year ago today.
It was a difficult time realizing I never gave him a proper apology in person. Luckily I was meditating during this era, and I felt I connected with him shortly after his death, where it was like it was forgotten about like nothing ever happened and seemed like the happy, loving soul he is. I took the opportunity at his funeral to apologize to his daughter about the situation. It felt like a massive weight lifted from my soul. His daughter is a civil rights lawyer for First Nations in Vancouver. I still meditate daily, and my Uncle’s strong spirit visits me often.
My uncle and I in 1987
Bottom right in red is Uncle Jeff (RIP), my mom holding my handsome ass, my Aunt in the middle, Ed (mom’s impregnator) my favourite band is on his t-shirt, top left is my Aunt Patty (RIP), her boyfriend, my uncle’s girlfriend and Uncle Will (RIP)