I don’t know why I thought of this, I think it came about because I was out pawn shop surfing a few weeks ago and I noticed some Canon camera gear. Looked like it was part of an ’80s estate sale.
And this post has just sorta been percolating since then.
My old man had a Canon AE1. Which apparently was a fairly decent camera back in the day.
I know he had all sorts of lenses to go with the camera, specifically a really large autofocus lens. He also had a large auto winder for this camera.
The funny thing was, except for taking pictures of hockey games on TV (yeah, he did that), I don’t think he ever took pictures of either me or my brother. I know he never showed up to awards nights at cadets.
My brother and I took part in the Battle of the Atlantic sea cadet parade at Queen’s park just before I quit cadets in the spring of 1987.
I know that as far as 21 gun salutes goes, ours sounded like 3 volleys of random machine gun fire. But what were you expecting from a bunch of 13 to 18 year old kids.
And yes, these were real rifles firing blanks. I’m not sure when cadets were no longer allowed to fire real ammunition, but in my day we had the Lee-Enfield which was originally a .303, but ours had been re-bored for .22. In addition to using these rifles for parades and drill, we used them on the range for target practice.
And I know our parade skills left a lot to be desired, but again we were all kids.
Richard brought all of his camera gear and set up his tri-pod and stuff off on the sidelines. He kept grumbling after that “the stupid camera” didn’t load the film properly.
If I had to guess, the pictures probably turned out, but Richard was more than likely embarrassed that he captured such a rag-tag performance on camera. He was always like that, praise from Richard was all but non-existent, criticism on the other hand came in spades.
For such an avid photographer, he just never seemed to take pictures.
And when he did take pictures, they just didn’t seem to have any life in them.
And the more I think about it, Richard was more about having the knick-nacks than actually using the knick-knacks.
Richard had a shit load of tools, testers, and other stuff, but he rarely used them.
He had broomball gear, but yet he rarely played broomball.
He had hockey gear, but I never saw him play hockey often.
He had a private pilot’s licence, but outside of a couple times at CFB Summerside where he rented a small airplane, he never took my brother and I on flights.
He had a motorcycle licence that he got in the early ’70s. Outside of a few rare rides he never rode his CB550-Four after 1984.
Richard had a ham operators licence, but never owned a ham radio.
Richard invested a lot of time and effort in learning the C+ programming language on his TRS-80 model IIIs and model IVs.
It wasn’t uncommon for Richard to sit down at his computers after supper and stay there until close 22:00. After a couple of hours of sleep, he’d be back downstairs typing away on his computers until something like 02:00 or 03:00.
I know this because sometime just after the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, my bedroom was moved into the basement. My stepbother was old enough to be on his own, so he got my old room, and I got punted down into the basement. The basement wouldn’t have been too bad, save for the fact that I didn’t have a bedroom door due to the fact that you weren’t supposed to have people living in the basements of the PMQs and by not putting a door on the bedroom, Richard was skirting that rule.
Just about every night, Richard would wake me up with the noise of his computer work. Said that it was his house and that if I didn’t like it, I could move out.
Except for selling a small database program to a church in Toronto, he never went anywhere with his computer programming.
Over the last couple of weeks, the more I thought about it the more I began to realize that Richard, outside of being a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, was completely lost and empty on the inside.
He hoped that his do-dads and gizmos would give him meaning. But they didn’t.
He had no goals in life. He had nothing that brought him any type of joy. And I think this is more than likely why he spent absolutely no time being involved with my brother and I.
Where this emptiness came from? I have absolutely no idea.
Sure, grandma wasn’t the ideal parent. She had a lot of emotional issues herself. She drank alot. She had a short temper. She wasn’t afraid to get carried away with corporal punishment. If you disturbed her you’d be told that “children are best to be seen and not heard” or “children are not to speak until spoken to”.
Yes, Richard’s father Arthur Herman Gill buggered off when Richard was fairly young. But Richard really didn’t seem to have any attachment to Arthur.
Uncle Doug seemed normal. Yeah, okay, we didn’t live with him. But ever time he’d come home from the oil fields and stay downstairs in the base when we lived on CFB Namao, he’d always buy my brother and I gifts and presents.
Uncle Norman seemed normal as well. In the two weeks that grandma, my brother and I spent out in Terrace, BC back in the summer of 1984, Norman would frequently take his kids and us out to the lakes and rivers around Terrace for fishing and other activities.
As soon as we moved to CFB Namao in the summer of 1978, grandma enrolled my in Beavers, Youth Bowling, hockey, basketball, and swimming.
Even when she came to live with us out on CFB Summerside after my mother left, she enrolled me in Sunday school, bible class, and various activities with the Knights of Columbus.
Did she do this out of guilt for what she hadn’t done for her kids when she was raising them in Fort McMurray, AB in the late ’40s to early ’60s?
Again, Doug and Norman seemed normal. So, I don’t think that Richard could really blame his mother for his issues.
The social services records from Alberta Social Services said that Richard couldn’t name one single activity that our family did together
And I think that is the key to understanding Richard.
He had nothing to offer, nothing to give. Something had killed him years ago.
Was it the HMCS Kootenay?
Was it the accident on the HMCS Bonaventure?
Was it the CP-140 Aurora crash on CFB Summerside in 1977 when he was attached to the Aurora Sqn?
Was it something else altogether?
I think that by collecting things and knick-knacks and do-dads he was trying to fill the empty holes inside.
And it would appear that my brother and I were also filler material meant to fill voids. He fathered us. And that was about it.
Unfortunately, children make very shitty filler compound.
Richard would often get upset at me for not raising my brother properly. But, I don’t think that’s how that is supposed to work. It’s not my name on my brother’s birth certificate.
I think Richard’s aloofness was best summed up by the Alberta Social Service records when he first stated to Alberta Social Services that he had no idea that both of his sons were having emotional issues. He then stated that his mother was hiding these issues from him. Finally he blamed his mother for these issues.
Where his emptiness came from, I don’t think anyone will ever know. That’s one of the many secrets that he took to the grave.