Stories of Uncle Gordon

We are heading to Moosomin, Saskatchewan for a funeral on Friday for Gordon Whelpton.  Uncle Gordon passed away suddenly on December 22nd, 2011.  And I’m still in a bit of denial.  The morning after I found out I woke up hoping that I had misunderstood; hoping that I would feel ridiculous when I was told that he hadn’t really died.  He’d had a heart attack or a lung infection or some other serious but manageable malady.  The truth, however, has been confirmed over and over.  But until I drive up to the house, knock on the door and he isn’t there to give me a hug and welcome me in I don’t think I can believe it.  He has always been there.

Uncle Gordon was a farm neighbor of my parent’s.  He was at our house talking to my Dad the day before my Dad was murdered in 1976.  Uncle Gordon was there when I learned to speak and I called him Dad.  Uncle was there to show me where the chickens liked to hide their eggs around the barn; lifting me up to get them out of the 90 year old crevices in the stone walls.  He was there to fight with over who would get the blue cup at dinnertime.

Nearly every time I saw him we would exchange our stories and memories.  They were usually the same but they never got old to us.  He would tell me about how he would “feed me, spank me and put me to bed”.  We both knew that Auntie Doris did a lot of the work in taking care of my sister and I, mostly me being the infant, but I loved to let him think it was all him.  Another story was when I went out to the barn barefoot, which was a lot, and one particular time when I was 3 or 4 I had stepped in some nasty stuff and he found me just in time before heading to the house for lunch.  He knew my Mom would be upset to see what I had gotten into and that Auntie Doris wouldn’t let me in the house so he lifted me up and washed my feet in the rain barrel.  And it was our little secret.  The third story is when I was just learning to speak and my Mom was bragging and asked me, “Who’s your Honey?”  Thinking that I was going to point to her, but instead I pointed to Uncle.  He was very proud but she apparently hadn’t been very impressed at the mutiny.

In the winter Uncle would hitch the horses to the hay rack filled with straw and take it out to the pasture to feed the cattle.  If we could get up and dressed quick enough and it wasn’t too cold my sister and I would hop onto the hay rack and “help” feed the cows.  We usually couldn’t feel much by the end but it was worth it just to be out with Uncle.

Apparently my sister and I would race each other to sit in his lap on the black recliner while he watched TV in the evenings.  And if whoever won left even for a moment the other was right there to take their place.  I do remember a few rare times when we both sat on his lap at the same time.  I don’t remember those times ending as well.  I don’t remember being disciplined but I’m pretty sure I’m blocking something.

What I do remember is the safe and secure feeling of the farm.  Nothing bad could happen there.  Then the barn burned down when I was a teenager.   The news hit me like a stone.  It felt like a friend had died.  That barn was my sanctuary.  I had spent so much time out there and I couldn’t imagine the farm without it.  Uncle, Auntie and I talked about the barn burning for the first time this past summer and I was amazed to see the look of pain on both of their faces after all this time.  There was an impromptu moment of silence like in remembrance of an old friend.

These are only a very few of my many stories of Uncle Gordon.  He was a quiet, unassuming, generous, hardworking man of God who will never really leave the farm, or our hearts.

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