Second Chance Not Guaranteed

My dad grew up in Springhill, Nova Scotia. He worked as a coal miner and in the early 1950’s moved to Minto, New Brunswick to mine coal there. My mother was a housekeeper for the local doctor and his wife. While working there, Mom learned how to cook, a skill that served her well over the years. Dad noticed her one day while outside sweeping the steps and stopped to chat. Soon after, they met up again at a local dance. After a whirlwind courtship, eloped to Nova Scotia to get married. They returned to Minto as husband and wife. I was born four years later in the spring of 1955. Unfortunately; my parents didn’t live together happily ever after. My dad loved my mother and she loved him, but he also loved the bottle and when he drank, didn’t treat her very well, to the point she feared for her life. They separated when I was 15 months old and never reunited.

For the next 12 years; Mom and I lived with my grandparents. They helped raise me while Mom worked so a special bond formed between us. It would be fair to say Dad was free-spirited. He went from place to place, found work but never settled down for any length of time.  

Months passed without my hearing a word from him. A letter would arrive in the mail indicating he was working at the dry dock in Saint John, New Brunswick. Another came a few months later postmarked Economy, Nova Scotia. I never knew for certain when to expect a personal visit either. We could be eating breakfast and hear a knock on the door. When opened, there stood my dad. My grandmother welcomed him in, with an offer of a cup of tea and a bite to eat.

My memories of time spend with Dad are sporadic, but one stands out in my mind. When he came for a visit; we usually went for a walk. Up the road from our house was Belliveau’s General Store. Dad offered to buy me a treat and my choice was a tub of ice-cream. A small tub cost 10 cents and a larger one 18 cents. I was delighted when he passed me the larger tub of strawberry ice-cream. It came with a flat wooden spoon so I ate the ice-cream as we walked along. He often talked about his brother and sisters whom lived in various places across Canada and the United States. I liked hearing about my four aunts and one uncle and hoped to meet them one day.

When I was 12, my grandparents decided to move to Hamilton, Ontario to live with my aunt and uncle, and couldn’t take me with them. Mom and her long-time partner were moving to Chipman, a village 16 miles from Minto, so I went to live with them. Everything in my world was changing and I had no control over any of it. My heart was heavy, because for me I was leaving all that I knew and loved behind. I had no idea that God was watching over me, and would work it all out for my good just as the Bible says.

Dad still wrote from time to time. In June 1971, he came to Chipman and we arranged to meet so we could spend a couple of hours together. His little girl was now a 16-year-old young lady. We had no idea this would be our last visit.

On September 25th, I received the shocking news that Dad passed away. He had bronchial pneumonia and his lungs collapsed. I suspect all the years of drinking, smoking, and working in the coal mines contributed to his weaken state when he became ill. My mother hired a family friend to drive us to Parrsborro, Nova Scotia to attend Dad’s wake and funeral. It was one of those sad, yet happy times because I finally got to meet my father’s siblings. I grinned when told I resembled Aunt Gloria more than her own daughters.  

My father was 45 when he died. I never comprehended how young he was until I neared that tender age myself. In truth, I honestly didn’t know much about the man that I called Dad. I knew tidbits about him but felt there were many missing pieces in the puzzle of his life. A valuable lesson was learned through his death. How importance it is to ask our parents questions about their lives while they are still with us, we never know when God will call them home.

A second chance is not guaranteed. Seize every moment and learn all you can about your parents while they are still with you. The answers they provides about their youth, passions, and unfulfilled dreams may surprise you. No matter how well we believe we know someone, there’s often something new to be discovered. 

As Father’s Day approaches, people often lament how difficult it is to find a special gift for this occasion. I wonder if they ever considered giving their father the gift of time. No, it’s not a gift that can be wrapped in tissue paper inside a fancy bag, but one that creates a memory to be treasured in the heart for years to come. Those are the best kinds of presents, don’t you agree?  

2 thoughts on “Second Chance Not Guaranteed”

  1. Thank you for sharing this personal journey. Your story resonates deeply with me as we have traveled similar paths regarding fathers. I have learned that in everything, give thanks for we know that all things work together for our good. God will never leave us nor forsake us. I wrote about my absent father in my own testimony I recently published in my book. At that time, I did not know that God used that writing moment to heal my heart. Second chances, well sometimes people do not want the second chance when offered to them on a gold platter. This was a much harder and painful lesson to learn.

    • Yes, writing has a way of helping us heal. I’ve been writing in a journal for years. Even now when I read some of the entries I get encouraged again. I see where God has brought me through time and time again. As you say, He will never leave or forsake us. He’s the best Father ever, and I’m so thankful that He is mine.


Leave a Comment