Learning to Float

I wasn't sure how to write this post. I've been thinking about it for the last two hours, spinning at my lovely new wheel. I've filled a whole bobbin with single ply suitable for a sock yarn. I guess there's no way to plan it except just to write.

I had the pleasure of meeting Wilson White only once. He was a fisherman, a quiet old man of 79. We stayed with Wilson and his wife June, Robbie's grandparents, for two and a half weeks this past summer on our honeymoon. We wanted them to meet Elodie.

My first impression of Wilson was that he was a lot like Robbie. He's quiet, and much like the majestic ice bergs that travel past his front door each summer, much of his depth was hidden below the surface. He was weather beaten and worn. His skin had a look like he'd seen so much sun he'd become permanently tanned. He had a slow, easy smile and let Elodie take interest in him instead of chasing her around the kitched like June did.

Elodie sure took to him. She called him Poppy - a derivative of puppy, since he continually showed her the puppies hanging from the windchime. In the beginning, she'd walk over to his rocking chair in the corner of the kitchen, where Newfoundlanders spend most of their time, and touch his hand, then run back to the couch on the other side of the room. By the end of our trip, she was showing him toys, climbing in his lap, bringing him books and pointing out that he had eyes. He was gentle with her, and they seemed to understand each other more than anyone could imagine.

Their house was anything but quiet while we were there. June and Wilson were continually bickering, June finally wagging her finger at him and turning back to trying to force some food in us. Wilson would wink at us with a twinkle in his eye, and we'd know it was all out of love. He napped a lot, watched a lot of loud TV, but mostly, he told stories.

Wilson's stories were so exciting. He had been a fisherman and general labourer for his entire life. He told stories of whales swimming under his boat, of hunting seals, of feeding the children of Labrador raw cod hearts, of the good fishing of his youth. One of the things I remember him saying is that he rarely saw Orcas. "Only two times I seed them. Way out they were. Never in shore. Yeah, not many Orcas about." That summer, there were Orcas.

Wilson didn't know how to swim. I, shocked at this, asked him how he could be a fisherman, but not know how to swim! He stated very matter-of-factly, "I can't swim, b'ye, but I can float!" He then proceeded to tell us stories about how he nearly drowned by falling overboard, the day that he would have drifted out to sea, had another fisherman not seen him and pulled him in, and about the time the boat flipped right over his head and he had to figure out a way to get back up to the surface again. "I said to myself, 'Wilson, you got ter get your head out from under this boat and come up on the other side.'"

Two days ago, Wilson went into the hospital again. He's been in and out for the last few years, always coming out on top. Tonight, however, we got a phone call. Wilson White was not going to survive the night. We hummed and haahed, hoping that maybe he'll cheat the end yet again, coming out on the other side of the boat. Two hours ago, we got a phone call again. Wilson has passed away. He leaves behind a wife, siblings, children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and friends.

And so, you now understand why I have been sitting at my wheel contemplating this post. I'm not really sad, in an odd way. I'm sad for the loss of the stories, and I'm sad for the loss to the family, but I'm not sad for Wilson. Something tells me he's somewhere good, having many new adventures, and probably learning to float.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

That's a very touching post. I'm tearing up at my desk right now, thank you for sharing this.