My Old Man and The Sea – My Hero!
This next story, will have its ups and downs, kinda like the sea, with its rolling waves and uncertainty.
What I do know is that of all of the stories that I have written thus far, I owe it all to my Old Man, my Pops, who happens to live on the sea. I affectionately call him Pops, so that I don’t get caught up in the Dad thing. He is my Pops tried, tested, and true.
Now, I can reflect back on him with pride and I am getting very worried about health. I think we all have remorse about not spending as much time as we can with our parents as they get up there in age. This old Seadog has had more adventures than a thousand men.
What I am so proud of now is that I finally understand my Old Man and it has taken 57 years to finally figure him out. He really is a Salty Old Sea dog. I think that this is one of his biggest attributes. He has an ability do things that everybody says he cannot do. I finally now realize why I am very good at the things I choose to do. A chip off of the old man’s block when it comes to tackling challenges.
With my fishing and hunting, at an early age, Pops took the time and patience to show us the right way and was hard on us when we got it wrong.
When I played soccer as a young boy, or football in high school or any sport for that matter, it was, “Do it right and do your best!”, that is what he taught us. It would all come back in the years that followed and with a big thank-you, I thank him!
I would not be the experienced hunter and fisherman today, if it was not for Pops early guidance, plain and simple, with a little help from my friends as well, who I have talked about in earlier stories.
Now this Old Sea dog, he was forced to grow up early, started his journey out at 18, as a young man, after his father came back from the war and Gramps saw Pops as a threat. Pops very close with his mother and as it turned out Gramps couldn’t have that and the usual fisticuffs occurred.
Into the navy he would go 13 years and two years shy of his pension. He learned a lot and became one of the best photographers in the world, he was photoshoping long before the idea became a reality.
Pops was so good that he was sent over to very dangerous areas of the world to take pictures by the navy. It was his years in the navy that created his life long love of the sea.
Now as my Old man had a rough side to him, (man could he fight!), he did manage to give a few navy men a wake up call and well you can’t keep beating up your superiors, no good for your future.
But what he did next is why I am here. He met the love of his life, my Mom Patricia, born on St. Paddy’s Day, a real looker, and well my dad, she likened him to Elvis (the ladies loved him!). “Handsome devil” she said, “Quite the catch!” The stage was set.
Pops had to get out of the navy for many reasons…but he did become a sharpshooter and did partake in many a mission of which he will not talk about, for security reasons.
So with his navy days behind him and with his marriage to my mom, he opened up Blue Nose Photography, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which I am proud to say still going to this day.
Now to the struggles of my Old man and why the sea is his home to this very day. Pop’s business was going well and Mom, well, things were going good on the homefront too, as she managed to give him four kids. But then it happened, my second oldest brother Ken, had leg perthys disease and Pops was forced to give up his business so we all ended up in Victoria, BC. This is also where our dear mother gave birth to my youngest brother Braden. Now five Squirrell’s in the nest with one of those Squirrells in the hospital.
God was testing him all along, I am convinced of that, Pops went on to learn and do many great things, he developed the original Barker system, in the logging industry in BC. He would be a photographer for many newspapers, and a salesman extrodinaire, making stops in Kamloops and Prince Rupert in television and radio.
Pops worked in Granisle, as an assayer in a lab. Pops designed an aluminum baseball bat with water in it and was turned down by a bank, only to have his idea stolen and patented, by the very individual that turned him down. With great adversity my Old Man persevered. Never feeling sorry for himself, he had seven mouths to feed.
After our many British Columbia moves, one day he announced we were headed to Kapuskasing, Ontario. Say where? Then he dropped the bomb, it was the GM cold weather test station of Canada.
Pops this was not funny. So off we went like the Beverly Hillbillies, loaded up the truck and moved to Kapuskasing, no movie stars, mosquitoes the size of quarters, black flies, you name it…the Kap had it! Pops had been hired as the station manager of CKAP.….Cold..brr….When we arrived on my birthday in May, the snow was up to the top of the telephone poles. Pops you are kidding right? He just laughed!
But as we always did, we made the best of it, and we hunted and fished and got stronger in character. Now as an up and comer and close to my mom, I should have seen, that I would not be there long, five years – two Alpha males in the same house not good.
I too, started in radio and went on to be a pretty good broadcaster, thanks to my Old man. But we did have our differences, and as he did with his old Dad, Pops and I said Good day and off to Peterborough I went. See a repeating life pattern here? If you have been reading all of my stories you know I never gave up my love of hunting or fishing. My family moved to Regina and well after some years there, Dad and Mom called it a day.
So where did my Old Man surface? You got it, to the sea billy!
Not to be outdone in the adventure department he would sail around the world many times. The last, was his last, as he was caught in a typhoon and lived on his upside down sailboat (The Nutshell) for three months, with his newly pregnant young wife, yes, you heard me, Tony and Pops. Rescued by a Norweigen fishing trawler, he had broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and well most people would have just given up. Pops and Tony ate sharks, drank urine all that good stuff necessary for survival at sea. They made the paper in a full front page article. Man oh man…His son was born shortly after, aptly named Roland Flip for the sailboat that rolled and flipped shortly after they were rescued and they returned to land.
Now when will this Old Sea dog call it a day and settle down you ask?
It just happened, we celebrated his 77th birthday. Pops has had three triple bypass heart surgeries and he spends time with Roland Flip Squirrell, who got that name after they arrived and Tony gave birth to my step brother. Roland is now 18 years old and a big lad as well. Tony, well she moved into another port with a man, she wanted to have the landlubber life and her and Pops said it was time to part.
I recently got on a plane and went to see him with Sure Shot, who he took an almost instant liking to…have to watch that Old Sea Dog, quite the charmer!
It occurred to me, that Old Man, the sea has been what has kept you alive, through all of the adversities. The sea is his inner peace. Now Pops and I have discovered, we are too much alike and that is the reason why we had our earlier differences. I am good at whatever I put my mind to as well and I have him to thank as a teacher early on in life. We had an unfortunate five year time out. So it felt good to mend the fences, as I saw him greet us with his oxygen tank at the airport. Thank God for Sure Shot who said, “This is not right, we have to go see him!” It was that simple.
We all drank rum, yukked it up, we ate plenty of mussels, clams, oysters, crabs and salmon along with nonstop stories and lots of laughter and we had a hell of a visit with plenty of adventures.
It would not be a Squirrell visit-adventure, unless something went wrong, as it did on so many Father Day drives throughout my growing up years. Finally Pops said to my Mom, “No more Father’s Day drives Pat, please!” (something always went wrong with the car on Father’s Day and my dad would have to McGyver things – Once using pine tar to repair an oil pan out in the bush with all of us looking on).
So I set out for another day of deep sea fishing with Pops, Sure Shot stayed behind this time, did she know something I didn’t?
Well, on our fishing trip the impeller let go on his newest boat and the kicker back up motor…it was toast.
I had to take charge. I bailed oil and water out of the bilge area, the pump had let go as well(Not that a younger version of the Old Man would not have fixed it quick). He did not have the part. He did admit that he was getting too old for this shit and that he thought maybe he would join us in Nova Scotia especially after he met Sure Shot and learned of our new hunting camp in Nova Scotia.
So with the thought of rowing the boat ashore with me being the principal rower….I rebuilt the kicker motor out at sea and three and a half hours later we were safely back to port.
You know, the proudest moment of the whole visit was when we finally returned to shore and Pops said, “How did you do that? You get the Genius Award!!”
I had made a cotter pin to replace the one that had broken off and then I tuned the old girl up. It also helped that I had owned three of these Johnson motors before, so I knew them inside and out. That engine was purring and better than new when I finished with it and the motor took us safely back to harbour where Sure Shot awaited our return.
Now in closing, here is what I know, that the song, “Cats in the Cradle” is very applicable to the both of us and that we truly are “two peas in a pod”.
Lessoned learned was that I lost a lot of very important years with my Old Man due to the interference of others.
I am sad as I see my Old Man and the Sea, slowly getting older, but I smile when I think of all of the skills that he taught us and of how hard he was on us (I owe it all to him). He did not want to see us ever fail…period.
I am proud of my Old Man, and understand now, how hard it was on him to give up so many things for his kids, always trying to make more money so we could have more.
Pops worked so hard and gave so much.
As a father now and grandfather, I can see this now, where as a young angry man I could not.
Old Man ..You truly are AN AMAZING SAILOR..AN AMAZING POPS..AND WELL…I can thank-the sea for making you my HERO!
God Bless you Pops, may you live to be a hundred…Your stories will always live on, and what stories they are…some so unbelievable that I will chronicle them one day, on second thought, never mind. It would take me a hundred years!
In closing the moral of the story: Make time for your Old Man…You only have one and one day you may find yourself all alone and down by the sea Billy…without him. Always make time for him, no matter what he has done. Right or wrong. God is the only one that has the right to judge him. There is no Parenting Book 101… He did his best with what he was given and that’s all you can ask for.
His last words to me when I headed for the airport.
“I have always loved you son, always did and always will!”
Believe me, those words were very heartfelt and hard for him to say when he was young, tough and stubborn…from my one and only Pops.
My Old Man that still lives on the sea. Love you Pops, always have, always will..…your son and chip off the old block, Bear!
Another true tail from the Squirrell’s Nest at Big Bear Outfitters – Nova Scotia from Brian “Bear” Squirrell at www.bigbearoutfitters.co.