One of my brothers and his wife dropped by earlier in the week and we spent a lot of time telling stories about our Uncle Ed, Dad’s oldest brother. Edwin Lensley Roache was born on October 6, 1913. He was profoundly deaf and mute and lived with his parents until their deaths.
Uncle Ed knew every nook and cranny of West Head from a lifetime of daily walks along the shore. He was a master at finding and picking blueberries and cranberries.
WHO LET THE HENS OUT?
In the early seventies, Uncle Ed came to live with our family. He was intelligent, but it was difficult to determine his level of maturity. Mom and Dad could not leave him home alone because the moment they left, Uncle Ed would do things he would not try if they were home. For example, he would fill the electric kettle and plug it in, but couldn’t hear when it boiled creating a fire hazard. In winter, he would load up the wood stove to the covers, another fire hazard. On one occasion, he decided to let the hens out.
THE SMOKING DEBACLE
Dad was critically injured in December 1979 while using a haul-out engine to pull his boat on the slipway when something when terribly wrong. The tail of his coat got caught in the engine, pulled Dad into it, snapped every rib, punctured a lung and tore his shoulder which led to months in the hospital.
While in Roseway Hospital, Dad thought he was dreaming when paramedics rolled passed his door with Uncle Ed on a stretcher. As it turned out, he had some health issues that required a hospital stay. One evening, Jim, a young man from our community who was also patient, came to Dad’s room.
“Gene,” he said, “I had to get out of the room.
Everybody’s smoking and the room is blue. I can hardly breathe.”
“Whatta ya mean?” Dad asked. “Ed’s smoking too?”
“Yup, all hands are smoking.”
That did not sit well with Dad. He drew it to the nurses’ attention and Ed’s hospital smoking ended abruptly. As far as I know, he never smoked again.
RECIPE FOR SALT BAIT
Salt bait is rotted herring or mackerel used as lobster bait. Dad put layers of herring or mackerel and salt in a barrel. Next he added brown sugar or molasses, put the lid on the barrel, and left it to rot. Apparently, this is like caviar to lobsters. There is no single word that captures the stench of salt bait. It is pig farm, chicken farm, skunk, raw sewage, rotten eggs, cat pee, body odour, Limburger cheese, and every rank smell known to man rolled into one.
As the mixture rotted gases built up. The pressure could cause the barrel to explode. To prevent this from happening, Dad would lift the lid slightly to allowed some of it to escape. Sometimes, the putrid juices would spill on the ground.
HUSH PUPPIES: SHOES YOU CAN LIVE IN
On the day in question, Uncle Ed, freshly bathed, dressed in clean clothes and wearing a pair of Hush Puppies, arrived on the scene in the middle of the procedure. You can predict what happened as Uncle Ed walked through the juices in his Hush Puppies. The spongy soles absorbed copious amounts of the foul smelling liquid.
The situation went sideways when Uncle Ed returned to the house. Dad, Chesley and Edsel watched to see what would take place. Within seconds, the door flew open and out came the shoes and everything Uncle Ed had been wearing. Poor Mom rose to the challenge and Ed returned a short time later looking like he just stepped out of the catalogue. You can be sure he kept his distance from the salt bait
The time came when Uncle Ed’s health issues became too much for Mom and Dad to care for at home. He moved to the local nursing home which had a wonderful view of the ocean. He could sit in the sun porch watching the boats coming and going day after day. Uncle Ed lived out the rest of his days at Surf Lodge. The angels came for him on April 14, 1986 at the age of 72.
That was more than thirty years ago, and we are still telling his stories as if it were only yesterday.
It’s true that every life tells a story.