November fifth, 1970 was a very bad day.
I think the accident happened on November second. Don't remember for sure but I'm fairly sure she lived for three days and died on the fifth.
Back then it was difficult for a man over 50 to get a decent job. We were living in Hamilton Ontario and Dad managed to get a job in Pine Point North West Territories with the help of my cousin who already lived there. As an electrician I think, although I'm pretty sure he didn't have a license at that time, so I'm not sure how that worked.Pine Point was a mining town. Other than a hand full of houses owned by the government to house teachers and nurses, every building in town was owned by the mine. Miners are generally a transient lot so when someone first arrives in town to work for the mine they are given a bunkhouse room. This is where you live for at least a few months because they want to be sure you're going to stick around before they give you a house. So no family until you get the house.
I don't remember how long dad was away but after a few months dad was assigned an apartment and sent for us to make the trip. I don't think I did much of the packing other than my own stuff. I had just turned 12 at the time. My next older brother was 17 so he and mom purchased a used Econoline van for us to move with. Most things went into storage and just the personal stuff went in the van.
Dad's idea of a vacation was usually to drive across country, trips usually took days to get there. I generally slept almost the entire trip. This was normal for us. The van Mom and Brian purchased had only two seats so, knowing I was probably going to sleep the whole way anyway, they left a space about the size of a small coffin on top of all the stuff with some padding and blankets for me to sleep in. I could still see out the windshield so I was good with it. There were no seat belts or vehicle inspections back then.
The Trans Canada highway was not yet complete so in order to get to western Canada (Pine Point was north of Alberta) it was necessary to go through the states. Gas is cheaper in the states anyway. We crossed the boarder at Sault Ste. Marie, about 8 hours from Hamilton where we started. Mon and Brian were taking turns driving and it was Mom's turn to drive. Both Brian and I were sleeping when the van started to sway, it swayed more and more and both of us woke about the same time. Brian reached over to stop Mom from fighting the wheel, but it was too late.
The van rolled about 6 or 8 times. Brian was thrown out the windshield and landed on his feet in a willow bush and I was knocked out on the first roll and ended up buried in all the stuff. I woke up just as Brian dug me out. I think he kept digging looking for Mom but something told me to look along the path of the roll marks. I don't know how long I searched, five to ten minutes I would guess. I found the windshield intact, then I found mom, barely awake. Judging by where she was found and the condition she was in it was determined she had been thrown out of the van on the first roll and the van rolled over top of her. I called Brian over and somehow I knew enough to get some blankets from the van to keep her warm. Maybe all that TV watching paid off. I don't think it was too long after that that the ambulance arrived.
After examining the van it was determined something in the steering broke. Not a good thing to happen when traveling at 60MPH.
The ambulance driver put me in the passenger seat of the ambulance so there I waited, pretty much in a daze I think. After a while the driver gave me Mom's glasses and I lost it. With teary eyes I prayed "please let her wear these again". No. I prayed again. No. Then a dream I had six years earlier popped into my head and I immediately saw the correlation. In real life we lived in Deseronto Ontario and I had a friend who lived five or ten miles out of town. I knew exactly how to get there and could probably drive myself if I could reach the peddles. In the dream (I was six but the memory stuck) I knew who we were going to see, my friend, but had no idea how to get there. Mom pulled up in front of the house and I got in the passenger seat. We drove for a while then Mom stopped the car. I got out and turned around to look at the car. The whole time Mom just stared straight ahead and never said a word. Then the car and Mom suddenly vanished and I woke up screaming.
Now back to 1970. I knew who we were going and who we were going to see but I had no idea how to get there. That was the last time I saw the van or Mom.
I cried till we got to the hospital.
At the hospital the nurses kept asking me if I was in any pain. I didn't understand why they persisted. Eventually I mentally scanned my body and told them my lower back hurt a little. It always hurt. An x-ray showed the tail bone that I broke four or five years earlier in a toboggan accident. An old injury. Turns out the reason they kept asking was I had blood all over the right side of my face. My right ear lobe was torn. This must have happened when I was knocked out but I didn't feel anything. It was inconsequential. I was fine and they released me as soon as my cousins showed up to take Brian and I in. They lived not too far from the accident. Brian didn't have a scratch. Mom had 21 fractures and massive internal bleeding.
I don't remember what I did for the next three days but after about three days Dad came to me (he had flown down a day or two earlier), took me into the den and told me that Mom had died. I didn't cry. I already knew and had already had my main cry. Or perhaps the amnesia already set in, I don't know.
I'm 60 now and I still only have a couple of vague memories of Mom and little more of my life before I was twelve. About fifteen years ago I was thinking of this story as I was working in the yard and suddenly had a flash of a memory of Mom. It only lasted a split second and it was gone. I don't know what the memory was, it came with a feeling of extreme emotional pain and I think due to the pain my subconscious immediately shut it down. So I still have very little memory of her. Because of this incident I'm afraid of doing anything, hypnosis for example, to try to get the memories back. It's like she never existed, which I don't like but I think it's best to avoid the pain.
The picture above was taken while packing and is the last picture ever taken of her.