When you grow up in Halifax, you grow up knowing what 200-year-old gunpowder smells like.
You poke at beached jellyfish by the half-buried shipwreck on McNab’s Island, in the shadow of the point where they used to hang pirates as a warning at the harbour mouth. Your elementary school’s hot dog picnics are at fort ruins, where you scramble and screech victoriously atop shiny, blackened cannons.
This is my Grampa Joe.
Seaworthy, salty, impossibly clever. All the things a maritime grampa should be. He’s sick right now, so we bring Evan to jump on his bed and spit up on his floor and grab his glasses off his face and give him kisses and hopefully bring a few smiles.
Grampa had a boat called Pygargus who lived at the Armdale Yacht Club, an island of mortar and rock that was once a jail. When I was a girl I used to wander through the old prison, fascinated by the stone walls and iron gates, cells now filled with coils of rope and sails in heaps.
Armdale was the best place to go junk fishing. Grampa Joe attached a giant magnet to the end of a rope and every time we went sailing, Andrew and I would crabwalk along the edges of the piers, jigging for junk.
We’d land all kind of fabulous things. Rusty old nails, bits of wire, coins. Sometimes the magnet would get caught on the pier cables and I’d tug and tug, hoping I’d snagged an old treasure chest. A treasure chest would be too heavy for a regular-grade junk fishing tackle, so who would expect I’d actually land it? Just tugging on it was exciting enough.
I can’t wait to be alongside Evan as he discovers his own junk and treasure. Will he find any at Martello Tower? Or in the waves of Shediac Bay? Perhaps under the watchful eye of his own Grampa Joe? I hope so.
Happy five-month birthday, kiddo.