And now for something completely different

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Summer makes me think about soft-serve ice cream, baseball, swimming holes, the best friends a kid could have and a break from school that lasted longer than forever.

Sometimes, however, summer makes me think about my dad and a family vacation we didn't get to take.

It was either the summer of Grade 4 or Grade 5. I'm not quite sure of that, or a lot of the other details.

But decades later, I remember the fire.

I remember our motor home bursting into flames - with our family in it - the night before we were supposed to board the ferry for North Sydney and make our way to P.E.I.

I remember being awoken at an early hour and Dad hauling me out of the bunk to safety.

He pulled my sister out, too.

And then, as if he hadn't done enough, Dad reboarded the fire on wheels to get Missy, our poodle, the dog who could jump to the top of a doorway and I still think about, and love, on occasion.

The motor home burned to the ground where we were camping at Crabb's River, but not before the gas tank exploded.

I remember the shrill whistle and the "keppoookkkcccchhhmmm." (That's the closest I could come to a phonetic spelling of the boom.)

I can still picture the quick flash of light as we watched from an old railway caboose that had been converted into a cabin by the family in the neighbouring lot.

The fire left Dad with second-degree burns, severely scorched hair, and the unsettling thought he almost lost his children and wife, the family he loved more than himself. (My mom and two older brothers had made it out on their own.)

What he almost lost is probably why Dad hasn't spoke about the fire much, if at all.

I haven't talked about it a lot either, but I wish I had remembered it two weeks ago while mining for a column topic the week before Father's Day.

But it seems to only come to mind at the start of summer, along with the less serious stuff like stopping for custard cones and the magic that accompanies smacking a baseball off the sweet spot of a bat.

Thanks Dad, for saving my life and allowing me to have such wonderful memories.

Steve Bartlett usually writes about lighter things. This week he felt an urge to get something heavy off his chest. Email him at or follow his tweets at @SteveBartlett_

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Recent comments

  • Jess
    July 04, 2012 - 22:59

    Your dad sounds like a great man! And he raised a great son, who expresses his memories beautifully! :)