The Big Trip

It is Tuesday afternoon. Zsolt and I are knocked out and still in bed. He is working between his sniffles (the man has a cold) and I am blogging between my aches. The timer is set so every 45 minutes we get up and do some movements together. It helps a lot and the pain I felt all weekend is loosening its grip. It’s a pretty nice day together, despite our utter exhaustion. He is sick, and I should probably be 10 meters away from the man at all times, but damn I missed him so much. I cannot bring myself to leave his side.

This past weekend was the Big Trip for my father and I (I wonder how my Dad is doing today? He’s back at work while Zsolt and I get to hang out in bed!). Dad and I headed out west for the weekend to visit with family. It was a very good visit, but a challenging one too. I may as well tell it like a story rather than recounting just takeaways. After all, life in reflection is really about the stories – takeaways have little impact without them.

Thursday evening Dad picked me up 3 hours before our flight was due to leave. Normally I’d oppose this, but he felt it was important and I figured it was easier to not argue. So! We got there early and settled in. The plane left on time, we jammed ourselves like a bunch of sardines onto the flight, and then whoosh! we were off to Edmonton.

Fact: I was worried about flying. Reality: I had reason to be worried about flying. My body is not a fan!

After we arrived in Edmonton all seemed well, but I woke up in the middle of the night with throbbing shoulder pain. It got so bad I had to wake up my father in the other room around 2 AM. Poor guy gave me a treatment in the middle of the night. Thank goodness for being born into a family of health care practitioners. Not everyone can call upon their chiropractor and energy guy at two in the morning. After the treatment, I eventually got back to sleep. And the next morning, we went out and got me a very flat pillow (best for my neck and shoulder), a cute little heater, a hot water bottle and a kettle in which I could boil water for the bottle.

Take Away: My Dad was so kind. And, I’m high maintenance!

The weekend itself was all about getting to know family. I liked the little moments – things like car-ride conversations, getting tea, comparing book lists, doing some painting. The big event was the family reunion on Sunday. My aunt held it at hers, and so many people came. It was quite something. A few I had known in my adulthood years, but many not. It was very meaningful to establish these connections again. There’s just such a difference in perspective in this phase of life. As a kid and teen you want to slip away during family events, but now I want to know who these people are – what makes them them?

And I found the questions arising again and again: how are we the same? What makes us family? What in you do I also see in me? What is being passed on to the next generation of kiddos (there are many kiddos!) that I know is in myself too?

For me this weekend was about friendship, family and legacy. Growing up without sisters, it’s good to connect with my cousins – particularly the ladies. And now not having any kids, I wonder what of myself will ever ripple forward? It’s so self-focused, I know. Don’t get me wrong – I see these people and they are their own bright excited adorable ambitious surprising sparks. They are their own. But to recognize a little this or that of something I also hold is a comfort. It’s a weird comfort.

Dad caught up with his family – saying both significant hellos and goodbyes. (He had his own important journey this past weekend.)

I loved this. Everyone we met with was a keeper of a story. Everyone would recall a ‘remember that time?’ story about everyone else. One bit og history after the other, I think the older generation rebuilt their connections, and the youngsters learned a little something.

Here’s an example. My one uncle (the youngest of many brothers) once shot a pistol bullet through my Dad’s window where they lived (back when they were kids) as retribution after my Dad (one of the middle brothers) got that uncle’s baseball bat chopped into pieces. Why was it chopped into pieces? Because the oldest brother initiated a machete-vs-bat fight with my father. The wooden bat, used by my father, lost the battle.

CRAZY.

That’s the tone of many stories. 🙂

Take away: way too many things for this blog post.

Hmm. And now we are back in Ottawa. Walking off the plane, through the airport, was a struggle. An emotional struggle considering what was to be faced upon our return, and all the emotions and connections we knew we were leaving behind for a very long time.

Today was a day for being in bed. It’s now much later in the day, and I’m finishing this blog post. The doctor called today, Dr Canada. Not only am I not eligible for that study I thought I’d go on, but it turns out there are spots of cancer in my brain tissue now. Before it was just in the skull… not anymore. Turns out the game is changing once again. Turns out life can be pretty hard sometimes.

But you never know. The underdog keeps fighting – and a story much expected to go badly can something surprise you. Hey, if the Ottawa Red Blacks can shock the CFL with their AMAZING win the other night – who knows what other awesome moments are in store?

The most awesome of moments from this past weekend was actually not a moment. It was my Dad. He was awesome. Being with him was lovely, loving and fun. I’ll cherish this weekend not only because I reconnected with far-away family, but even more so because I got to be with my father.

He’s definitely the best takeaway I could ask for.

me-and-dad

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The Coolness & Tragic End of Antoine Legros

There are some amazing stories that slip away into the past. But ever since Zsolt’s started digging into our family tree – they just keep popping back up! Today I want to share one of them with  you.

This fellow with the beard is my great-great-great-great grandfather on my father’s side of the family, Antoine Legros dit Lecount (which means, his nick name was ‘Lecount’ – i.e. The Count, a nickname often given to people who were being said to behave in an aristocrat fashion – i.e. overly proud). Antoine was a voyager – he was the man you’d imagine trekking through the pre-Canadian wilderness leading traders, exchanging with first nations, delivering mail between forts, and living off the land. He was contracted by the Hudson Bay Company in exchange for some cash, cotton shirts, shoes, one silk handkerchief and a necklace.

Antoine Legros dit LeCount

Antoine Legros dit LeCount

In short, he was really cool.

Unfortunately, his life was cut short with a double barrel shot gun. It sounds horrible – it is horrible. But one thing that nevertheless remains touching is that in the last moments of his life, he saved his son from a paranoia-crazed English man. Here is that story, taken from the original account of witness, James Bruce in 1840, later to be transcribed into Artic Expeditions (1877) by David Murry Smith.

The Murder of Antoine Legros

“James Bruce and Thomas Simpson were hired by Hudson’s Bay Co. to explore and survey along the north coastline of America between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  They were traveling with a large group of Indians and Metis (mixed-blood). The following incident happened in 1840, the third year of the expedition on the Pembina Trail, Dakota Territory.

In early June Bruce and Simpson left the main camp along with Antoine Legros, Sr., Antoine Legros, Jr. and John Bird; the last three were Metis.  The party of five intended to travel ahead of the main body, arriving at St. Peters quickly.

After a few days of travel, Simpson began complaining of feeling unwell and wanted to return to the Red River Colony.  On June 14, Simpson and the other four men turned back.  Simpson was restless and uneasy and commented that he would never recover from his ailment.  The party traveled until an hour and a half past sundown, arriving within a mile of the Turtle River.

The men then began arranging their camp for the night.  All the accessories of prairie travel surrounded them. Their horses were grazing nearby, and a cart for the outfit occupied the center of the camp. All were armed with guns and pistols, for the Sioux were on the warpath. But within themselves were elements more dangerous than the tomahawks of the savages; only two of the five would ever leave that spot again; for three it was their last camping ground.

Bruce, Bird, and the elder Legros began raising the tent.  With his back to Simpson, Bruce heard a gunshot and turning he saw that Simpson had shot Bird, who groaned and fell to dead.  He then saw Simpson turn and shoot Legros who staggered and fell against the camp cart then fell to the ground.

Immediately Bruce and the younger Legros ran a short distance away to where the horses were tied.  Simpson called out to Bruce asking if he was aware of any intention to kill him (Simpson).  Bruce replied he knew of no such intentions.  Then Simpson said he shot Bird and Legros because they intended to murder him in the night for his papers.

The elder Legros, who was still alive, asked Simpson to allow his son to leave unharmed to which Simpson complied.

Simpson then offered Bruce five hundred pounds to go back with him to Red River Colony and “keep the affair secret”.  He then asked Bruce if he knew the way back to Red River.  When Bruce said he did, Simpson gave the order to harness the horses.

The elder Legros now called to his son to come and embrace him one last time.  It was then that Simpson asked Legros if it was true that he and Bird meant to kill him to which the dying man replied, “No”.

All this time the explorer was standing in the middle of the camp with his gun in his hand.  At this time Bruce and Legros Jr. went to the horses, mounted and rode away to the main camp.   Immediately after arriving they gave the alarm, and joined by five men, returned to the scene of the murders.

Bruce found Simpson dead in the cart, shot in the head with his own gun.  In his report, Bruce stated that Simpson did not display symptoms of insanity.  There were no papers found in Simpson’s belongings indicating a reason for the murders.  Another report suggests Simpson had become a ‘madman’.

The three men were moved to the churchyard in Red River Colony where they were interred in the same grave.

The younger Lecount was never asked to give a statement.”