Happy Father’s Day

It was a day to get away.

We went in search of blue skies and dry ground.

We didn’t find it.

I did, however, find the connection and a little of the clarity I was seeking on this day.

It was, in fact, Father’s Day.

And I didn’t want to be in viewing distance or earshot of happy little families, feasting on eggs and pancakes and bacon and juice.

So, we hit the road to do a little sightseeing. After a stop at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, we made our way over to Crowsnest Pass and site of the Frank Slide.

On the early morning of April 29, 1903, an entire section of Turtle Mountain gave way and 82 million tonnes of limestone came crashing down on the tiny village of Frank. An estimated 70 of the people living in the path of the falling rock perished.

An opportunity to learn about the slide drew us to the area. But it was the Hillcrest Mine Disaster that drew me in.

A section of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is dedicated to another tragic event, just five minutes away from Frank.

On June 19, 1914, a methane/coal dust explosion killed 189 men, the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. It left a legacy of 130 widows and 400 fatherless children.

One man, David Murray, survived the blast and got out. But when he realized his three sons were still inside, he went back into the mine and was overcome by toxic gases.

He and all three sons died.

Charles Elick climbed out of the Frank Mine ruins after the massive rock slide, only to die at Hillcrest 11 years later.

And it was upon learning of this disastrous loss of life that I realized how lucky I was.

I had my dad for 25 years — and that’s a lot longer than some of those 400 children had theirs.

No matter how much I missed him on Sunday, or how much I miss him every day, he was a part of my life for a quarter of a century.

He wasn’t perfect. He was mean sometimes, distant and detached most times. We know why and we are left to remember and bear some of his pain.

But he taught me about strength, about never settling for second best and how to put in a hard day’s work, no matter how bad your feet have to stink at the end of it.

And as time goes on, I realize I am more like him than I ever thought.

And it’s a darn good thing, too.

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